1884 Our Soap Bubble Party

Our Soap Bubble Party

1884 St. Nicholas Magazine Volume XI

This is a terrific description (with better illustrations) of the kind of bubble party which was common at that time. Wouldn't it be great if these came back in vogue again?

There is an awesome How-To section including many Bubble Games with rules, equipment needed and tips for organizing the contests.

Illustrations in the pdf are also helpful.

If you have a bubble party like this, send an email or video.

1884 OUR SOAP BUBBLE PARTY BARTLETT St. Nicholas, Volume 11 bubblemaker.us.pdf

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By Geo. B. Bartlett

DURING last winter's holiday season, the young people of our quiet village were surprised and pleased at receiving pretty cards, each bearing a picture of a huge bubble, with two pipes crossed beneath it,. and an invitation to attend a soap-bubble party at Wistaria 7 Cottage.

All were curious to attend the party; for, although they had seen this novel entertainment mentioned in the newspapers, no one had the least idea of what it consisted.

In fact, the young ladies who were to give the party were almost as ignorant as their guests as to the manner of conducting it; but they called together a few of their brightest friends and quietly made such preparations as seemed most needful.

They ordered from the grocer a box of common clay pipes with long slender stems, and eight different colored narrow ribbons, five yards of each.

They also purchased two dozen bright Japanese fans and a large bowl, which they filled with strong soap-suds, to every quart of which were added two teaspoonfuls of gelatin.

Then they held a meeting and selected by vote eight prizes, consisting of one box of assorted candied fruits, one box of chocolate-cream drops, a Tam o’ Shanter cap, one. pair of silver bangles, a box of cologne, a silk mouchoir-case, a story book, and the amount needed for a year’s subscription to the St. Nicholas.

Each prize was done up in several wrappers to make the parcels nearly alike in size, and each was tied with a ribbon of a special color, viz.: red, green, white, brown, yellow, violet, pink or blue.

As about forty guests were expected, forty pipes were decorated, each with a ribbon bow and streamers of one of the above named colors — five pipes with one color, five with another, and so on till the night colors were apportioned.

Besides these decorations, there were forty rosettes, five of a color, so that each guest could have a rosette and pipe to match. A grand single prize was next prepared. This consisted of a pair of bellows very finely painted in bright colors, with two slender pipes crossed on the upper side.

Chinese lanterns and flowers were procured for the halls and parlors, and an experienced pianist was engaged to supply the music.

At last the long-expected evening arrived, and as the guests drew near, the windows., of Wistaria Cottage glowed through the wintry darkness with the light that shone from its broad fireplaces, piled high with blazing brands.

When ready, the guests were formed in pairs for the march; and as the leading couple reached the entrance to the drawing-room, they were stopped by a little boy and girl holding a basket, from which each was requested to draw a rosette and to fasten it upon the left shoulder with a pin from a cushion held by the girl.

As pair after pair were thus decorated, the procession moved on, into the room, the walls of which were adorned with wreaths of bright flowers, and gay fans and white pipes in graceful groups.

From the ceiling, lanterns of many colors were suspended, but some were made of plain white oiled paper to represent huge bubbles.

Large vases of flowers and graceful ferns filled each corner of the room a round table was placed, bearing, on a pedestal of moss and flowers, the bowl of soap-suds, around which were the prizes in packages and the forty decorated pipes.

After marching twice around this table, the company were grouped about it and the colors were called out by the little girl who had distributed the rosettes. As one color was called, all who wore it advanced and selected pipes to match, and when each had taken one, all formed themselves into groups of a color, each group choosing two umpires from one of the seven other shades.

The girl then again called out a color, and the five blowers who wore it took their places around the bowl. She next named a color for umpires, and they also took their places at the right and left of the circle, where each could see plainly.

It was the aim of each blower to make the largest bubble. Each was allowed five minutes at first for practice, but had the privilege of devoting all of this time to one bubble. But when one of their umpires called "“ Time!"” all were obliged to go on with the one then begun.

Some by blowing too hard exploded their bubbles, but could not begin another after the word “Time” had been spoken. Others were so careful, that their bubbles were small. The umpires, of course, awarded the prize to the one making the largest bubble that was the last to explode; but, if two or more bubbles were alike in size and duration, the blowers of them were at once allowed to contest again until one gained the prize.

And so the fun and merriment went on that memorable night at Wistaria Cottage, and it was a late hour before the last of the happy guests departed.

In order to give our boy and girl readers an intelligent idea of all that may be done on such an occasion, we will follow out in detail the plan which we have seen adopted with the greatest success.

We will suppose the party assembled as described above, and one merry group of blowers to have been disposed of by the umpires. The latter and those of their color then take their places, while another group, marked with a ribbon of different color, sit in judgment upon them; and thus the contest goes on until one player of each color has won a prize. The children then bring in a quantity of smaller bowls or cups, which they fill from the large bowl and pass to any of the players who are ready for them.

The grand march, shown in the picture on page 220, is then formed, and the winners of the prizes are escorted by the others once around the room, and then take their places in a semicircle in front of the table, where the prizes are distributed to them by some gentleman, designated by the hostess to act as orator, who should make a pompous speech of a humorous nature to each one of the fortunate winners.

During this march and lively presentation ceremony, the air is filled with bubbles blown by the other players in honor of the winners and of the orator, who, perhaps, is surrounded by a cloud of them in acknowledgment of some very brilliant remark.

Then the grand trial for the chief prize is announced; and the fortunate winners of the minor prizes, one from each group, each having deposited in a place of safety the package which was tied with ribbon of his color, surround the bowl and prepare for the contest. The orator acts as chief umpire, summoning to his aid two of the other players, and when he calls “Time !" great is the interest felt in the trial.

Among so many of the best blowers, the rivalry is very close; but after a merry struggle, the champion is at last decided upon, and is made the happy recipient of the grand prize (whatever may have been selected for the purpose), which is delivered to him by the orator, with a flowery speech ; a general salute of bubbles from the other players follows, after which the march is continued around the room, and the players, bowl in hand, form in two lines, ten feet apart.

The winners of the prizes then each take a fan from the wall and station themselves outside the rows of players, for on each side; they choose umpires for each of the lines, who stand midway between them, at the end of each row.

Two players from each side provide themselves also with fans, and stand between the lines at the center. The umpire calls “ Time!" and the blowers in each line make bubbles as fast as they can, which the fan-players in the center try to fan (without exploding them) over the heads of the opposite line.

The players outside try to fan them back, and the umpires declare that side to be the winner which has been able to drive the most bubbles over the heads of the opposite line, in spite of the efforts of the outside players to fan them back. A little practice in using the fan will often enable the players to drive the bubbles very quickly without exploding them.

The prize for this contest is, appropriately, a fan for each player on the winning side, the fans being selected from the decorations on the walls. Afterward, the pleasures of the evening may be lengthened by a social dance, during the changes of which the flight of bubbles may be kept up. Any dancer can devote a hand to that purpose — as while dancing, the pipe may be worn around the neck, attached by the long streamers, and it may be dipped in the large bowl or in one of the cups, which should be left about the room in convenient places.

Between the dances some quiet contests may be tried by a few players, to see which can make a bubble that will outlast the others, using their own judgment as to size. Each player may, if he chooses, follow his own bubble around the room, endeavoring all the time to protect it from injury; as in this game no fans are allowed, the players can only attack one another's bubbles, or move their own, by blowing upon them through the empty pipes. But this style of attack and defense is a very interesting and effective one.

Another party may find much amusement by competing to see which player can touch the ceiling first with a bubble, under the same regulations as before. But the bubble must remain unbroken; none will count which simply touches there and breaks by the contact.

A simpler contest, depending wholly on strength of lungs, may be tried, by seeing which can make the largest collection of bubbles on the top of the large bowl, by blowing with his pipe beneath the surface of the soap-suds.

During all the contests, a little boy and girl should flit about the room with sprayers, from which they blow a fine mist of cologne and lavender water, thus making an agreeable contrast to the odor of the soap and giving refreshment to the merry players.

A very pretty dance for the soap bubble party may be found in the pyramid figure, where one couple waltzes to the center, two couples follow and stand three feet behind them, three couples form the next line and all stand blowing bubbles while the rest of the company march in single file in and out between the lines.

Later in the evening, bon-bon costume crackers may be used to advantage, and their fanciful paper caps may be useful also to protect the hair of the ladies from the showers of bubbles which are constantly falling in the soap-bubble carnival.

For these showers by the way, it may be well to prepare by wearing any odd costume or fancy dress which the wearers may possess.. And, indeed, fancy-dress costumes are in themselves most appropriate for a soap-bubble party, as they form a bright pageant well suited to the glowing lanterns, the gay fans and parasols, and the iridescent hues of the bubbles.

The final music should begin with a slow march and quicken into a rapid measure, all the guests blowing bubbles as fast as possible, so that the air shall be bright with them. In that way almost the finest scene of the entertainment is produced.

The shining bubbles mount up to the lighted ceiling and are driven up and down in clouds by the flying fans, and around into the faces and over the heads of the whirling dancers, until the bubbles burst, and the soap suds are exhausted as well as the merry and delighted guests of the soap-bubble party.