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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Banquet: 1920

The Banquet: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Civitan Club." Caught in the middle of the soup course. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Black tie vs. White tie

What this picture shows is the gradual replacement of traditional white tie formal dress by black tie. At this point in history, the invitation would probably have simple said formal, or, I suspect, it would not have made the designation at all. The attendees at a function like this would have automatically known what to wear. Events like this would have seen a mix of white tie, with a sprinkling of black tie. The tuxedo, as we know it, was first worn around 1890, as a more casual form of formal dress for men (I know, an oxymoron.) At this time the dinner jacket would be worn with a black waistcoat. Later on the cummerbund became more popular.

A few more interesting details here: there is one man with a white tie and a black vest. This would have been much more common in the late 19th century, but was definitely passe, but not proscribed, by 1920. The variety of collars and ties among the black tie wearers is also interesting. With white tie you only wear a stand up collar and white bow tie.

The black dinner jacket (aka tuxedo) admits a greater range of acceptable collars and ties. Two gents in the front have interesting lay down collars with some sort of criss cross tie that doesn't look like a standard bow tie.
And of course everyone knows that an outfit like this is NEVER worn before 6. Before 6 (really up until 4) a gentleman would wear a cutaway coat (tailcoat with tails that curve away in front, as opposed to the sharp right angle of the white tie tailcoat), with striped trousers, a gray vest and a cravat.

BTW, I DON'T think those are spats. I think those shoes have patent leather on the lower part and calfskin on the upper part. But I'm not sure. True spats would show a strap under the sole of the shoe.

Japanese lanterns

They are light fixtures -- thin brass or some other gold-coloured metal frames with lacquered paper or parchment fillers and painted designs.

Oh, sorry, wrong banquet

It was too late for apologies. Machine Gun McGurk and his Thompson had spoken.


It's amazing how little the style of tuxedos has changed in the past 90 years.

Young club

According to Wikipedia, Civitan was organized by a group of men in Birmingham, Alabama in 1917. These men broke off from a local Rotary club, because of differences they had with the direction they perceived it was going. Civitan is very active today and still headquartered in Birmingham.

Civitan Clubs

My father, Fred T. Massie, was very active in the Civitan Club of Dallas. They were a civic group, which meant they did things for the good of the city. Such as provide for orphans to go to camp. They met once a month at the Adolphus Hotel. Most of the powerful men in Dallas were members of "The Civitan." It was a way to give back to Dallas.

My mother, Mary Massie, was involved in "The Ladies of Civitan." I remember going to the Christmas meeting with her. We had lunch and then put Christmas stockings together for needy children.

I don't know where this picture was taken, but there were Civitan Clubs in cities all over the nation.

[As noted in the very first word of the caption, this was taken in Washington. - Dave]

Japanese Lantern

What are those suspended boxes?

The Shining

Where are Lloyd and the caretaker?

Civitan Club Luncheon Minutes

Washington Post, Feb 24, 1922

The Civitan club held its weekly luncheon at the City club yesterday. E. Barrett Prettyman won the attendance prize. Ernest Greenwood announced that a hat will be given the member who produces the best slogan for the club. Robert Armstrong, president of the National Press club, was speaker.

Washington Post, Mar 10, 1922

Better and cheaper automobiles and clothes are now on the market, Chester Warrington, automobile dealer and H.S. Omohundro, tailor, yesterday told the Civitan club at its weekly luncheon at the City club. Three-minute talks by members featured the meeting.

I.L. Goldheim, haberdasher, said that once again men are getting quality clothes. Ira La Motte, manager of the Shubert-Belasco theater, told the club that Washington was the only bright spot in a disastrous season for theaters throughout the country. Oliver Hoyem, connected with the publicity department of the American Federation of Labor, and Dr. Grant S. Barnhart, physician, also spoke.

Washington Post, Mar 13, 1922

The Civitan club is strongly opposed to the recent action of the board of education authorizing the use of branch libraries in the public schools by white and colored children indiscriminately, President Rudolph Jose announced yesterday.

Resolutions adopted by the board of directors of the club describe the action of the school board as "vicious" and detrimental to the interests of both white and colored.

Washington Post, May 19, 1922

Work has been started on the new additions to the Civitan camp, it was announced yesterday at the weekly luncheon of the Civitans at the City club. It will be decided during the present week the exact time that the camp will open to receive poor children of Washington.

Dr. S.M. Johnson delivered a short talk on the necessity of completing the Lee highway, citing the great help and money the road would bring to business men of this city.

Washington Post, Sep 8, 1922

Future plans for the "Ladies' night" entertainment, on October 12, were discussed at the luncheon of the Civitan Club in the City Club yesterday, Charles Crane is chairman of the committee on arrangements. It was decided to visit the Baltimore Civitan Club on September 22, at which time a special golf match between the local club and Baltimore will be held. Chester Warrington is captain of the Washington club team. A report of the camp, which closed last Saturday, was read and approved. Rudolph Jose presided.

The club will meet Thursday night in the City Club, instead of in the middle of the day.

Washington Post, Oct 27, 1922

Stricter observance of the regulation regarding the signals to be made by motorists at the street intersections was urged by C.J. James at the luncheon of the Civitan club yesterday at the City club. Mr. James asserted that many drivers merely drop their arms on the outside of the car, no matter what they intend to do. This sort of signal, he said, means nothing, emphasizing definite signals required by law should be used.

C.H. Warrington declared that pedestrians should be regulated as well as motorists. He declared also that the proposed reduction of the automobile speed limit to twelve miles an hour would cause great congestion in the business district.

Washington Post, Dec 26 1922

The Civitan club will hold a luncheon meeting at 12:30 today at the Lafayette.

Farewell dinner

The massive floral arrangement at the back of the room would have me peering over my soup plate wondering if a casket was hidden in there.

So which is it?

Is this a white-tie affair or black-tie? Apparently the invitations weren't specific and assumptions were made. Thank goodness the gents in front remembered their spats.

And what's up with the two guys off to side? They look quite a bit younger and they are not in Evening Dress - maybe that is the Civitan Children's table.

And at the kiddies' table

Maybe they were banished there for showing up out of tux. After all, there ARE two empties inside the horseshoe next to the head table. Presumably those two no-shows were powerful enough to warrant choice seating and our two lads were not. At least they weren't told, "No soup for you."


I love a man in spats!


Reminds me of the Louisville Slugger scene from one of the mafia movies. I believe it was 'Capone' or the like.


I can't find anyone in the picture that seems pleased to be there. But I do like the design of those chairs.

!!!Ring Ring!!!

Wonder if the phone jangled during the proceedings? It wouldn't go to voicemail, that's for sure.

Back Seat

The two guys without black or white tie seem to be relegated to a separate side table. I guess they just didn't know how to dress for the occasion.

So formal

The spats are spiffy!


The two guys up front wearing spats.

Carrot soup?

So few of these gents are bespectacled that I am wondering if the carrot soup truly aids the eyesight. I can't imagine a group of this style today with such a minimum of visual aids.

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