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What Your Ancestor's Summer Picnics Were Like

What Your Ancestors Picnics Were Like  Find more genealogy blogs at FamilyTree.comPicnics today can be as simple as driving your family to the local park to eat sandwiches and drink sodas while sitting on a picnic blanket. Or, you might use the grill at the park to cook hot dogs while you are there. Have you ever wondered what your ancestor’s summer picnics were like?

Victorians enjoyed having picnics. The popularity of picnicking increased as more and more people lived in urban and suburban areas and worked in factories and offices. People felt the need to get back to nature by having a picnic in a park or picnic grove.

Victorian picnics were elaborate. Some people brought their dining room table, and other furniture, with them. This required a wagon. People sat on chairs instead of on the ground. Picnics were intended to show people’s good breeding.

Typical picnic foods included sandwiches made of cooked beef, ham, or chicken, that had been cut into pieces and mixed with mayonnaise. It was thought that this type of sandwich was easier to eat than one that had slices of meat. Pickles were a popular side dish. Foods were served on china that had been packed into a picnic hamper. Lemonade was made at the picnic.

It was expected that at the end of a picnic the debris would be packed into a box (and not left on the ground). The box would “go to somebody’s chickens.”

The creation of the automobile made picnicking easier. Starting in the 1920’s, families could get in the car and drive to the park, the woods, or the beach for a picnic. People would sit on a picnic blanket or make use of one of the picnic tables at the location. Picnics were a way for people to relax and have a nice time outdoors.

Food was packed into a picnic basket. The menu might include chicken sandwiches, potato salad, oranges, and hot tea. However, it was not limited to those choices. People brought whatever they wanted to. A picnic could be a light lunch or a heavy dinner. By the 1950’s, it was not unusual for people to bring a dessert (which might be cake or even ice cream).

Not everyone felt the need to clean up their trash after the picnic was over. People became accustomed to dropping their trash on the ground and leaving it there. There was a “Don’t be a litterbug” campaign that started in the 1970’s, in an effort to get people to pick up their trash. By the 1980’s, littering got so bad in some places (from people picnicking, and from people who were not) that cities started imposing fines upon people who littered.

Image by Mosman Library on Flickr.

Related Articles at

* It’s the Summer of 1925

* Genealogy Summer To-Do List

* Family Desserts

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