‘Hammock parties,’ 1890s

One of Charles D. Roberts’ hammock advertisements, 1890 (Courtesy State Journal-Register)

“Hammock parties” were a way for young people to get together in the 1890s. The problem was how to prevent hammock hanky-panky.

The Illinois State Journal outlined the rules in July 1890. The equipment was simple: enough hammocks to hold a dozen or so couples, and enough shady nooks, perhaps at a park, to “defeat the searching rays of the pale and gentle moon,” the paper said.

The hostess beguiles the young men of the party into a reception room or other convenient place while the young ladies secrete themselves in the swaying seats. When the signal is given, the gentlemen make a rush for the trysting places. …

Each hammock is numbered, and when the gong is struck every man seeks another partner. It is supposed that the conversation does not include any reference to the recent hot spell or any other feature of the weather, as prizes are offered to the most entertaining persons of each sex.

Women voted for the best male conversationalist and men for the most entertaining woman. But a man would be fined if any young lady complained that he had mussed her hair or squeezed her hand. The same was true for any man who finished the evening with complexion powder on his shoulder or “long hairs hanging to his coat sleeve or collar.”

Women were expected to take one more step to protect against an over-ardent companion,  the Journal explained, delicately: “Each young lady is expected to wear a belt filled with pins. The button-belt, or moonlight attachment, is not suitable for these parties.”

It’s unclear how widely popular hammock parties were locally. The Springfield papers mention only a few such events, although others could have taken place without notice.

The main beneficiary, however, may have been local merchant Charles D. Roberts (1848-1923). Roberts’ haberdashery on the south side of the square also specialized in hammocks.

“Don’t let the summer go without being the joyful owner of a hammock,” a Roberts ad declared in 1895.

Roberts will supply you with the hammock, the ropes to hang it, the hooks to hold the ropes, the spreaders and the pillows. Everything for a hammock can be had at Roberts’.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society. Learn how to support the Society. 





This entry was posted in Amusements, Social life. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *