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Finger Bowls (Set of Six)

Not on view

Finger Bowls (Set of Six)

Maker: Tiffany & Company (active New York, New York, 1837-present)

Date: 1883
Medium: Sterling silver
Dimensions:
Overall: 5 1/4in. (13.3cm)
Signed: Monogram 'CCS' on bottom of each bowl. New-York Historical Society accession number on base in red: '1975.12A, C-G.' Marked on bases and numbered: 'TIFFANY AND CO./7818 M7609/STERLING SILVER'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, in part, with the Sarah T. Norris Fund
Object number: 95.6.1-6
Label Text
As dictated by nineteenth-century etiquette books, finger bowls were an important dinner table accoutrement. Produced in silver, glass, or ceramic, they provided a genteel way for guests to wash their fingertips if they had become soiled during the meal.

Fingerbowls are explicitly addressed in advice books indicating the confusion that often surrounded their usage. They were brought out before the fruit and dessert course so diners could freshen up.
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“When finger bowls are sent around, dip a clean corner of your napkin into the water, and wet your lips with it. . . . Dip you fingers into the glass, rub them with the slice of lemon, or the orange leaf that may be floating on the surface, and then wipe them on the napkin.”
--Eliza Leslie, The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners; or, Miss Leslie’s Behavior Book, 1864.

“Don’t dip the whole hand into the finger bowl, but touch the water merely with the tips of the fingers.”
--Lille d’Angelo Bergh et al, Correct Social Usage, 1906.

“We have heard of a man who saw finger-glasses for the first time in his life, when dining at one of the New York Hotels. A slice of lemon floating on top, he took up the bowl and drank the water, exclaiming as he set it down—‘Well, if this isn’t the poorest lemonade I ever tasted.’”
--Eliza Leslie, The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners; or, Miss Leslie’s Behavior Book, 1864.