April 4, 1920: To doff or not to doff?
- Blog Post by: Ben Welter
- April 9, 2013 - 3:11 PM
An enterprising Minneapolis Tribune reporter scoured downtown elevators to blow the lid off an unfortunate trend.
“If He Doffs Hat When Woman
Enters Elevator He’s Single”
|These hatless bellhops rode the elevators at the Nicollet Hotel in about 1924. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)|
Lift Elevators Say Most Minneapolis Men Are Negligent About This Courtesy; Easterners More Punctilious; Women Don’t Expect It, Say Business Men.
Is there any real test to determine whether a man is married or single? Can this important fact about a stranger be discovered without the embarrassment of asking him? Hiram N. Wadleigh, veteran elevator operator in the Federal building, says there is.
If a man takes off his hat with precision and definiteness the minute a woman enters his car, Mr. Wadleigh says that man is certainly single. But if the male passenger hesitates and only removes his hat when he has made sure the woman is pretty, then, Wadleigh insists, in 99 cases out of 100 the man is married.
“Sometimes the married men have a good excuse for hesitating when there’s no hair on the top of their heads,” explains Mr. Wadleigh. “But usually those with heavy locks act just about the same way.”
However good this test may be, elevator operators in Minneapolis agree that most men here do not remove their hats in public elevators when women are fellow passengers.
In hotels the average is considerably higher than in public buildings, but even in the hotels men tend to retain their headgear.
Hat removers and those who don’t are split about fifty-fifty at the Hotel Dyckman, according to Donald Hartz, elevator operator. “Eastern men usually take off their hats automatically when they come in, whether a woman is present or not,” he said.
The only man the elevator operator has real contempt for, according to Mr. Hartz, is he who vacillates between removing his hat or not and finally sheepishly decides to take it off.
Hattie Malick, elevator starter at the Radisson, thinks she encounters the highest average of polite men in the city, but many are negligent even there, she says. In public elevators, men may do as they please, she believes, but a hotel elevator to her is the same as a drawing room, and men should remove their hats. She can’t just explain the difference between a hotel lobby and an elevator, but thinks there is one, nevertheless.
Matt Demand, courteous operator of the postoffice elevator, believes there is a difference between hotel elevators and those in public buildings, and that women do not expect men to remove their hats in the latter case.
“Most men pay no attention to women in this elevator,” he declared. “And the women don’t seem to expect any. They are usually here on business, and expect to be treated in a business and not in a social way.”
Women prominent in Minneapolis are sharply divided on the question of whether men should remove their hats in public elevators. They agree that in a hotel elevator hats should always come off.
|This is Mrs. Manley Fosseen -- Carrie to her friends and family -- in 1936. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)|
Mrs. Manley Fosseen, newly elected Republican delegate at large, thinks that woman, having attained political equality with man, should expect only business-like treatment from him in business places. The elevator, she thinks, is like a hotel lobby or a street car.
The one discourtesy which woman cannot forgive a man in an elevator is smoke, says Mrs. Fosseen.
Mrs. Carolyn B. Kinney, woman member of the Board of Education, holds a brief for the group of women with the opposite opinion.
“I like very much to see men remove their hats in any kind of elevator,” declared Mrs. Kinney. “And no matter how much political and business equality woman attain, I shall continue to derive pleasure from display of the little courtesy. It would be a shame if we should lose the old spirit of chivalry which has done much for both men and women.”
Men, asked about their opinion of the matter, unanimously decided that in business elevators doffing of hats is rather silly.
“When I am with my wife, of course I take mine off,” explained Postmaster Purdy, “partly because she is there to nudge me if I don’t. But in strictly business elevators I can’t see a great deal of advantage in following the custom. I don’t believe most women expect it.”
From a matter of space economy, Mr. Purdy said, it might be to advantage for women to take off their hats.
|The wearing of hats was probably de riguere for well-heeled men passing through the lobby of the Dyckman Hotel in 1933, when this photo was taken. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)
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