The social season
by Kimberly Keagan
The Social Season was that time of year when society's "upper crust" held balls, reception, dinner parties, and charity and sporting events.
The annual time period differed, however, between cities. In Paris, for example, there were two two parts to the season: from December until Easter and then from April to mid-June (called the Grande Saison). In New York, the Astor 400 had a winter season that began in mid-November and concluded at Lent. Most big cities in the United States followed New York's lead. And in London, the season began after Easter and went through August.
City Hall Park and New York's Newspaper Buildings: The World, Tribune, The Times, 1901
An integral aspect of the socials season were the reports on the comings and goings of the rich and famous. By the 1880s, most newspapers in the United States had a society column with titles such as “Society,” “Society Notes,” and “Items of Interest,” During the social season, these columns became entire pages of the newspaper and often included a calendar of upcoming events.
In England, the lives of the beau monde were scrutinized and sometimes ridiculed. Full names were often redacted, but it wasn’t difficult for the public to decipher who the article was about. The Gentlewoman called their society column "The Social Peepshow"!
The primary target audience of society columns, whether in the U.S. or England, was women and the common thread was fashion. Paragraphs were filled with where so-and-so went and what she wore.
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