The Baltimore Literary Heritage Project

Emily Post
Emily Post pic
Emily Post, article title

According to the story, when Captain Miles Standish asked his friend John Alden to propose marriage to Priscilla Mullins on his behalf, Priscilla said to Alden, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John!" Apparently, he did. Ten generations later, one of the Aldens' descendents, Emily Post, took her ancestor's advice to heart and spoke for herself to millions of Americans about how to behave in polite society, acknowledging, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Katherine Scarborough, that her training "consisted of nothing more complicated than the accident of good birth and life among people trained like herself from infancy to do the right thing at the right time in the right way."

Although she moved from Baltimore to New York with her family in 1878, Post never forgot her Baltimore roots.

You know I am by birth and in heart a Baltimorean...The church on the corner of Chase and St. Paul was my father's first job as an architect...and [I grew up in] the middle one of those three little gray-stone houses next to [it].

Her father, Bruce Price, by the way, went on to design important buildings in New York and Canada and was one of the architects whose work influenced Frank Lloyd Wright.

America's leading authority on etiquette, Emily Post said that her philosophy coincided with the easygoingness of Americans more than the propriety of the English. She said in a Baltimore Sun interview that any rule may be broken except rules stemming from kindliness and common sense, which she considers the basis of good manners at all times, in all places.

Post made $3,000 from her first book, published in 1904, a collection of letters home from her travels in Europe. Her third book, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, published in 1922 by Funk & Wagnalls, was somewhat more successful: by 1946, the book, then in its 65th printing, was selling 5600 copies per week; when she died in 1960, the book was in its 89th printing. By the 1940's, her newspaper column was carried by over 150 papers with a combined readership of 13,000,000 people.

Since her death in 1960, Emily Post has become a franchise. Her granddaughter, great granddaughter in law, and other relatives have continued in the family business, with the Emily Post summer camp to teach manners to children, an etiquette column in Good Housekeeping, and additional books, including Teen Etiquette, Emily Post on Second Weddings, and The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success.

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