Unlike past Victorian Days when visitors watched actors performing skits at the Old Courthouse in Redwood City, this year’s attendees will be encouraged to mingle with the costumed performers and eavesdrop on their chatter.
Never put your pinky up.
For those enjoying tea during the Victorian era, the proper way to hold one’s cup — fingers grasping the handle between them and never looped through — was a key element. Such etiquette dos and don’ts will be shared this Sunday at the annual Victorian Days inside the Old Courthouse in Redwood City.
Attendees of the afternoon Victorian tea will also learn the language of fans — how young people communicated at parties — and eavesdrop on period reenactors gossiping about the goings on of the time. For instance, the Duke of Manchester in England visiting Sen. Milton Latham in Menlo Park and President Grant visiting William Sharon at Belmont. And did you hear about when Grant’s son visited the Floods of Menlo Park or tidbits about the Athertons and the Crockers?
“Some juicy stuff,” said Mitch Postel, president of the San Mateo County Historical Association.
The Victorian era was named for Queen Victoria who ruled from 1837 to 1901. The Victorian Days is a way to discover just what life was like in the 1800s.
Unlike past Victorian Days when visitors watched actors performing skits, this year’s attendees will be encouraged to mingle with the costumed performers and eavesdrop on their chatter. Participants will sip tea — using newly learned tips like placing the spoon to the right of the cup to signal a desire for more tea — and nibble on finger sandwiches and scones. They will also learn and practice the fan signals and see models in vintage garb.
The models are all high-school-age girls, said Carmen Blair, deputy director of the San Mateo County Historical Association.
“They’re the only ones who fit the sizes of the era,” she said.
The tea is just one component of Sunday’s afternoon of fun and culminates months of Victorian walking tours around San Mateo County. Saturday will also be the last docent-led tour through the 19th century Union Cemetery in Redwood City.
There will also be children’s crafts including tea cup decorating, designing old-time hats, fashioning picture frames and creating fans and toy pocket watches. They can also make thaumatropes which are moving picture playthings and learn the “code” of using calling cards.
Once visitors get their Victorian fix, they can also enjoy the rest of the museum for free that day.
Victorian Days dates back to 1979 when it began in San Mateo’s Central Park but moved to the historical courthouse in Redwood City about 10 years ago. The interactive tea component is a first, Postel said.
“We just wanted to try something different,” he said.
Victorian Days are noon to 4 p.m. at the San Mateo County History Museum, 2200 Broadway, Redwood City. All events aside from the tea are free. The tea is $5 for adults, $4 for children and will be held in historic Courtroom A at 1 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:15. RSVP for a session at 299-0104. The Union Cemetery walking tour is 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 at Woodside Road and El Camino Real.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102