New technology calls for new etiquette

This 24-page booklet, published by the Bell Telephone Service in the 1950s, was distributed to teach children how to use the telephone and the correct manners for telephone conversations. Suggested activities are even included in the back. The rotary phone is obsolete, but have telephone manners (p. 16) also changed? If so, what are the new expectations for polite behavior for smart phones?
Ask students to consider why a society should or shouldn’t have standards for behavior (manners or etiquette). How does one learn manners in the 21st century? Who teaches these lessons in correct behavior – parents? teachers? peers? Should students have more lessons in polite behavior? If so, what behaviors should be covered? Student may or may not have very different views from adults.
The entire booklet is available here “Classic Rotary Phones


Full-text etiquette and advice books online:

Glory of Woman: An Introduction to Prescriptive Literature, Duke University Libraries
This excellent website provides additional information about prescriptive literature and an extensive bibliography of works

Mid-nineteenth century Advice Books

Coronet Instructional Films.
Short videos on marriage, dating, and other topics from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  Titles include What to Do On a Date (1951); Dating Do’s and Don’ts (1949); and Are You Popular? (1947). Many more are available at Internet Archive


A few recommended secondary sources:

Peril, Lynn. Pink Think, Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2002.
Highly recommended for the teacher but some content may be too mature for middle and high school students.  The author combines her own experiences growing up in the mid twentieth century with an examination of various items from that period – advice books, teen magazines, textbooks, toys, clothing, beauty products and fiction  – that conveyed the “pink think” message.  “Pink think” is defined as “a set of ideas and attitudes about what constitutes proper female behavior.” This book is easy to read, provides ideas for primary source objects and texts that can be studied by students, and is very funny. The author includes a chapter on the expectations for boys, a helpful resource that can be used to remind students that gender expectations limit both men and women, forcing them to act in strange ways and creating artificial lines between men and women.

See footnotes and recommendations at end of Chapter 3 for more . . .


More about 19th Century Visiting or Calling Cards


 More about dating and automobiles


Good lesson plans on the internet that related to the history of manners/etiquette are rare. But here is a good one – Nineteenth Century Advice Literature


About the header image: Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: Guide to Correct Writing by Thomas E. HIll, 1875.