Reserved for Ladies
Rare antique porcelain “This Table Reserved for Ladies” sign, c. 1890s. North Shore Massachusetts dance hall provenance. The vintage sign is salmon and cream colored porcelain and is made of sheet iron in a tent form for tabletop display, the interior of which is coated in navy blue porcelain. The style of the lettering along with the thickness of the porcelain and substantial weight of the sign indicate an earlier manufacture, probably late 19th or turn of the 20th century.
This piece dates to a time in American culture when unaccompanied women in public settings were still unusual – and often the cause of concern for the moral high-grounders of the day. Spaces were often set aside for women in public places to protect them from the unsavory influence of men, such as the “Ladies Parlors” found in contemporary department stores and train stations. Gender segregation must have seemed especially important in a social setting like a dance hall where the point was for men and women to intermingle, and the serious size and hefty weight of this piece seems to speak to a desire to control the interactions. Dance halls – along with the liquor served at them – were the common targets of those self-appointed defenders of late 19th century womanhood, who argued that the purity of women could only be secured in the bosom of family and safety of home. Although one could say the sign represented a male attempt to circumscribe the behavior of women, one could also argue that this object lit some of the first flames of women’s liberation, however constrained to a particular table, and created a space where women could dance, flirt, and drink as they pleased in public. The piece is an important piece of Americana and may be the only one in existence of its kind.
15 inches long
9.5 inches tall
6 inches wide
Excellent condition, bright colored porcelain, a few tiny chips in the porcelain and minor corrosion to iron. Please see photos.
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