A Hard Day’s Night: Nightlife Victorian Style

October 27th, 2016

Before electricity, what did Victorian families do in the evenings?  For some the answer was simple – they went to sleep.   Others did a variety of activities by candlelight, oil lamp, or gas light.  Like today, children had homework.  Without texting, social media, etc. people kept in touch through letters, and evenings could be spend catching up on correspondences.  A must- have in any middle and upper class home was piano so singing, listening, or playing music was a common activity. Most people spent time reading and in many homes people read aloud from popular novels and magazines like Harper’s Monthly and Atlantic Monthly.  People also played board games, cards and other parlor games.  The Swans at Rose Hill, for example, played backgammon and “Lotto,” a Bingo-like game.

Painting a party in a Victorian parlor

The Tea Party by Henry Sargent

Of course, people didn’t have to stay home.  One could visit family and friends.   Churches, fraternal societies, and other community organizations held evening meetings and events.  Public entertainments could also be attended.  Concerts, lectures, plays, dances and athletic events were held in local venues like Linden Hall, Dove Hall and Collins Music Hall.    Of course, Genevans did not have to rely on local talent alone for entertainment.  Located between bookings in larger cities and along two railroad lines, Geneva attracted national and international celebrities.  Tom Thumb, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony and Ignacy Paderweski are just some of celebrities who came to Geneva to speak or perform.

Curious about night life in the late 1800s?  Joins us on Friday, November 4 for Rose Hill By Candlelight  and see the mansion in a whole new light!  Visitors will discover how the Swan Family spent their evenings while viewing the first floor of the mansion by (electric) candlelight.   Tours will leave every 30 minutes beginning at 6:30 p.m. The tour will last approximately 45 minutes and the last tour starts at 8:30 p.m. This special event includes light refreshments. Admission is $10 per person and $7 for members of the Geneva Historical Society. As space is limited, reservations are suggested, but not required. Call 315-789-5151 for reservations.



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