Pin Party from 1905

Melissa at Two Threads Back has been on the historical trail of pins recently, with one post about bachelors’ pin cushions, and another with an 1863 story from the viewpoint of a pin!

She made me remember my hero, that woman who could plan a party on any domestic or moralizing theme, complete with decoration ideas and activities — none other than the imitable — Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott.

Mrs. Linscott wrote 30 articles on entertaining for Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, and sometime around 1900, she came up with 170 more ideas and published them in a book, Bright Ideas for Entertaining.  It must have been very popular, because I have the 1905 edition, which is the 18th!

A hostess or fund-raiser chairwoman could have entertained for years based on Mrs. Linscott’s  varied ideas — besides the regular holiday ideas, she offered plans for a Violet Luncheon, a Ping-pong Party, an Ice Festival, and a Mystical Evening.  Other themes I have written about include her Football Dinner , Spinster’s Tea, and Feast of Seven Tables.  Honoring the homely arts, she offered details for a Spinning Party, a Sock Sociable, and a Handkerchief Bazaar.  And today, to tie in to Melissa’s posts, the spotlight is on the Pin Party.


The invitations to this were written on large sheets of paper, and the sheet was then folded up small, and pinned with a large black pin. Each guest was requested to bring a fancy stick-pin which he or she was willing to have disposed of as the hostess saw fit.

On entering, these were given to the hostess, who thrust each into a small card bearing the name of the person bringing it. While her guests were removing wraps in the guest-chamber, she put these by twos (one brought by a girl and one by a man) into small jeweler’s boxes. The name of the girl who brought the one pin was put into the box, but no man’s name was enclosed. When the time came for supper these boxes were passed to the gentlemen, who each selected one. The name inside indicated which lady he was to take out to supper. One stick-pin went to each of the pair, and these served as souvenirs.

It so happened that no man had the pin that he had brought to the entertainment, and of course no girl had hers, for she would insist that the man take the pin she had provided. As many of these pins were the quaintest ones to be found by the persons bringing them, they created not a little amusement.

But we are getting ahead of our story, for before supper the time was filled in with various games.

The first of these was an entertainment in which all the guests took part. A fancy tray contained as many slips of cardboard as there were guests. This was placed on the centre-table, and the hostess called upon one of the men to pick up one of these slips at random, and read what it contained. He did so and read: “The tale of a pin.” The hostess then informed him that he must tell the story of a pin, and do it in two minutes. The surprise was so great that he scarcely recovered enough to begin his story before his time was up. Then he had to call on some girl, and she must take a slip, and do whatever it bade her, for the period of two minutes. And so on until all had taken part. Some of the slips read thus:

  • Speak a piece with something in it about a pin.
  • Name twenty-five kinds of pins.
  • Tell a story about a girl and a pin.
  • Give an oration on points.
  • Give a talk on pinfeathers.
  • Improvise a poem on “The boy and the pin.”
  • Point out the various pins you can see in this room.
  • Tell twenty uses for a hairpin.
  • Sew with a pin. With this was given a piece of cheese-cloth and a pin with a long thread tied to the head.
  • Count the pins in a heap. (All sizes and kinds.)
  • Make a pin stand on its head.
  • Draw a picture of a pin. (Breastpin of huge pattern.)

Play a game of “ring pins.” This was a variation of the game of quoits or ring toss. Into a foot square piece of soft pine had been stuck twenty pins about an inch apart. The victim was given ten small brass rings, and made to stand two feet from the edge of the table, and see how many rings he could make catch over a pin.

If only the gentleman who got the first slip of paper, had read and remembered the 1863 “History of a Pin“!  He would have been able to fill much more than two minutes.

I like the prompt — “Name 25 kinds of pins.”  I can think of about five.  I’ll keep them to myself so you can come up with your own list, but if you can think of more than five quickly, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.

No menu is given for this party, but if I were to create one in Mrs. Linscott’s style, it would have to include pintail duck (which I’m guessing would have been more numerous in 1905) and “pin”apple, but definitely not a “pin”t of ale!  Mrs. Linscott and her friends were all strict teetotallers.

I would love to know if anyone ever went with this theme.  In my o”pin”ion, it is not one of her stronger ideas.  But I love it for the glimpse into the past.

If you would like to read more of Mrs. Linscott’s ideas, the whole book is online at Project Gutenberg.