BY LAURIE TOTH
The Chicago Daily Tribune of February 16, 1902 reported of the growing popularity of having dinner parties in personal homes. Each society lady trying to outdo the other. There were some rules that they all followed and were considered proper. The number of guests considered appropriate in Chicago was between eighteen and twenty. Twenty four was the regulation number in New York. The traditional time always had been 7 pm until Delia Caton (Mrs. Arthur) changed it to 8 pm. Bertha Palmer (Mrs. Potter) always started her dinner parties at 8:30 and sometimes as late as 9:00 pm. Flowers were a signature item for each of the ladies; Delia Caton’s was the Rose, Evaline Kimball’s was the Orchid and Mrs. MacVeagh’s was the Violet. Each of the ladies reported that the first prerequisite of a successful dinner was “a good cook”.
Bertha Palmer was the reigning Queen, boasting entertaining the largest number of distinguished guests in her opulent red and gold dining room in her North side castle overlooking Lake Michigan. Her dining room was able to seat 100 people for dinner.
Delia Caton had an addition built to her home on Calumet Avenue, which was in the near South side, during the summer of 1901. This new addition could seat 70 people for dinner and was second in size only to Bertha Palmers. It was dedicated in December 1901 when she gave a dinner dance for her niece Catherine Eddy. This room had a skylight of colored glass. The walls were hung with old French tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries. There were two large paintings on either side of the English fireplace from the 15th century Palace in Holland. Both were paintings of fruit pieces in round gold frames, There were two columns of Florentine marble supporting vases from the Palace of the “Mad King” Ludwig of Bavaria and engraved with his monogram. A bowl once belonging to Napoleon sat on a table. Delia Caton’s pride was her gold service, the center piece was part of an old Russian altar set. The chairs were covered with Tapestry matching the tapestries on the walls. Sir Frederick Leighton’s matchless bronze “The Sluggard” was one of the Art Treasures in the room.
Evaline Kimball (Mrs. William Wallace), possessed the most wonderful collection of Old English Silver in America. Collecting Silver was her hobby and she would tolerate nothing in her Old English Silver Collection which was less than one hundred years old and did not have a historical interest. She also owned the largest collection of Chinese White and Gold porcelains in the country. Her dining room was finished in red leather and English Oak with a large fireplace of African rose marble, large mantel and sideboards. The Kimball Mansion still stands on the corner of Prairie and 18th street. It is now the offices of the US Soccer Federation. There is a room in the basement that is still there that at one time held her prized Silver collection.
Emily MacVeagh (Mrs. Franklin) had the most unique dining room in all of Chicago. One side of the room had three large arches made of rose-colored marble, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston. The marble coming from the upper Nile in Egypt. On the mantel sat a Moorish vase 1000 years old. The ceiling was made of glass that a collection of ruby and gold Venetian glass bulbs showed thru.
It would be difficult to turn down a dinner invitation at any of the above dining rooms. Each having its own spectacular collections.