Thursday, July 17, 2008

Etiquette In the Old West

Copyright © 2008, Steven E. Houchin

I've recently done more research into styles, phrases, and slang from 19th Century America. I found a great book at the library tailored for this purpose: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s, by Marc McCutcheon (1993, Writer's Digest Books). It lists all sorts of things by category, such as Slang, Fashion, Travel, and Crime. In the section on travel, there is a great sidebar entitled "Stagecoach Etiquette", which is from an 1877 Omaha Herald article. Here is a fun excerpt from it:

"... Don't smoke a strong pipe inside especially in the morning; spit on the leeward side of the coach. If you have anything to take in a bottle, pass it around; a man who drinks by himself in such a case is lost to all human feeling. Provide stimulants before starting; ranch whiskey is not always nectar. ... Don't swear nor lop over on your neighbor when sleeping. Don't ask how far it is to the next station until you get there. ... Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team and the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous. Don't discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed, if delicate women are among the passengers. ..."

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