Antiquarian Supper will bring together old-time food, dress, heirlooms
A hundred fifty-five years ago, like other New Englanders in a changing world, some Bethel residents longed for the simpler past.
So in three successive years in the 1850s, local residents dressed in old-time clothing, brought relics and heirlooms to display, shared old stories and enjoyed a bountiful meal. The events, like similar ones held throughout New England, were known as Antiquarian Suppers.
On Saturday evening in the 21st century, Bethel residents will again gather for the same purpose. And their 19th century predecessors now represent that simpler past.
The Bethel Historical Society will host an Antiquarian Supper beginning at 5 p.m. at the Moses Mason House Exhibit Hall.
In this case the past, according to BHS Executive Director Randy Bennett, extends to within relatively close reach of the present.
“We could have Martha Washington sitting next to Mama Cass,” he said.
While participants are encouraged to dress up in attire from those eras or any in between, doing so is optional. “If people simply want to come and listen, that’s fine,” said Bennett.
Billed as a BHS fundraiser, admission is $10 for adults and $5 for 18 and under.
In 1855, when the first such supper took place in Bethel, there was no historical society. But Dr. Nathaniel True, the founder of Maine’s first Farmer’s Club, spearheaded “a supper after the olden times” at winter club meetings. Among the “relics” brought for display were an 18th-century catalog from Harvard and a handwritten manuscript by Ben Franklin.
An account on the BHS website notes that in 1856, “After an examination of the antiquities, the young people were entertained with an exhibition of the grandmothers at the spinning wheel. Flax was combed, and wool carded, an entirely new scene to many young persons present.”
After a trio of suppers from 1855-57, the practice faded away here. In 1887, it was revived for that year by the Ladies’ Circle of the Congregational Church.
In 2005, it was revived again, this time by the Historical Society, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first supper. Relics brought for display included a bed frame from the 1840s and a 1706 book on shorthand.
BHS plans to hold a supper every five years.
Like the 2010 clothing guidelines, requirements for any relics or heirlooms participants might bring Saturday are also relaxed. “Anything unusual, old or collectible,” said Bennett.
As for the menu, guests will sample bean porridge, parched corn, sage tea and Election Cake, all of which are similar to those served at the 1850s suppers.
Other activities will include a sing-along and a Magic Lantern show (utilizing an early form of slide projection).
For reservations call 824-2908.