“Greatest Mark of Civility”:
“ . . . the greatest mark of civility and welcome they [Americans] can show you, is to invite you to drink it [tea] with them.” Abbé Robin, chaplain in Rochambeau’s army, 1781.
“Don’t you sometimes feel the world has lost it regard for civility?,” asks Davenport House director Jamie Credle. She continues, “We intend to correct that with our tea program! Well, maybe not for the entire world, but for one participant at a time.” The Davenport House’s tea programs in March* and May** provides attendees with a generous dose of the history of tea and tea drinking in America, with an emphasis on the early 19th century, and is highlighted by a tea with gentle folk from the period. Costumed interpreters guide the conversation to the topics of their day or as one historian writes, “During the tea hour social and economic affairs were discussed, gossip exchanged and according to Barbe-Marbois (French politician and commentator on American life in the Federal period), ‘when there is no news at all, they report old stories.”
Tea was an important part of the social reciprocity which took place in the homes of Savannahians in the time of the new nation. The Davenport House’s programs provide glimpses into that world and a setting for learning about the role tea played in households of the day. “It is a bit different from the famed `high tea’ of the Victorian era. Along with showing off their finery, tea was an opportunity for family and friends to gather at the end of the day with a cup of tea and communicate with each other,” offers assistant director Jeff Freeman, who is one of the costumed interpreters visitors will meet.
Along with conversation, participants will become acquainted with the accoutrements of the tea table from the caddy and waste bowl to linen napkins and dessert plates. “These items seem for many like relics from a stodgy age. But when you actually use them for their intended purpose they take on a new meaning – hopefully civility and welcome – for our guests!” concludes Credle. For the March program, tea will be taken in one of the museum’s rooms and in May, weather permitting, tea will be taken in the garden.
For information or to make reservations for one of the Davenport House’s tea programs please call 912/236-8097 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, see the website www.davenporthousemuseum.org.