-New Bedford home of John H. Clifford where Douglass worked as a servant after he escaped to freedom.

In the book, The House Servant’s Directory, Robert Roberts featured instructions to butlers and servants on how to accomplish a variety of important tasks. Because this book was so popular during Frederick Douglass’s day, when Douglass worked as a servant in the Clifford’s grand home in New Bedford, he was probably expected to follow basic guidelines as explained in Robert’s book. Here is an excerpt from The House Servant’s Directory on the art of serving coffee and tea to guests. You can have a tea party and follow these guidelines, too!

In some houses the drawing room is up stairs; should this be the case where you live, you must be very careful when carrying your tea and coffee up stairs, that you do not slop it over into the saucers, as this would have a slovenly appearance to the company. Your tray should be large, if there is much company, that the ladies may take their cup and saucer with ease. At the first round you should have one cup of tea between every two of coffee, as they generally take more coffee than tea at the first round. When placing your cups and saucers on the tray, be particular and have them all uniform and not crowded; with your sugar and cream in the centre, and the sugar tongs and handle of the cream pot towards the company. Have, on another tray, your cake, wafers, toast, bread and butter, &c. all neatly arranged to take round after you have served tea and coffee to all the company. But if you have a large party, you should have some person to hand round the cake, &c. at the same time that you are serving round tea.

When you first enter the room with the tea, cast your eyes around the company to observe where the most elderly lady is seated, then proceed forward and help her first, observing to lower the waiter, that the ladies may take their tea off with ease. When the ladies are all served, then proceed to help the gentlemen, beginning as with the ladies. When all the company are served with the first round, carry out your tray, and wipe it clean if wet, then take another waiter to receive the cups as soon as the ladies and gentlemen are done with them. During this interval, hand round your cake, &c. When you have received all your empty cups, rinse them out, and proceed to serve round another course, as before, beginning at the same lady, and going all round, leaving the lady of the family to be the last lady that is served, as the strangers must always be served first. This second round is generally enough, but hand round the cake, &c. once or twice after, then carry all out of the room, and, if cold weather, see that all your fires burn well.