Friday, August 29, 2008

A Measuring Party

I am working on a new genealogy-related venture (shhhh - it's a secret since it isn't ready for public debut or consumption yet) and I came across a social event for which I had no knowledge. Hard to believe, right? Well, do you know what a measuring party is?

Here is the entry in a 1903 newspaper article from Lowville, New York:

"There will be a measuring party at the residence of George Edick, Friday evening, March 27th, for the benefit of our pastor, Rev. F. Alexander. All are invited."[1]

I had never heard of a measuring party before and my thoughts first went to something related to agriculture, given that Lowville was known for its maple syrup, milk and cheese production (being March there would not be any crops in production). Or could it be a women's gathering to measure wool, yarn or fabric? But how could you turn such an action as "measuring" into a benefit for someone such as Rev. Alexander?

With much difficulty, I finally had to consult Google Books and search for "measuring party" +tall for the answer.

From what I can gather, at the turn of the century, a measuring party was a way of measuring all the invitees and/or the attendees. There was a specific poem, with some variations, used in the invitation:


A measuring party we give for you,
'Tis something pleasant as well as new.
The invitation carries a sack,
For use in bringing or sending back
Five cents for every foot you're tall,
Measure yourself against the wall.
An extra cent for each inch you'll give,
And thereby show how high you live.
Then with music and song, recitation and pleasure,
We will meet one and all at our party of measure.

Included in the invitation was a small bag made of silk or ribbon into which the invitee deposited the measuring money. On the evening of the party, all the guests who attended, brought their "sacks" and placed them in a large bowl, the money benefitting the guest of honor. There was also the option of simply sending the sack filled with money back if the invitee could not attend.

The last two lines of the poem indicate some of the activities during the measuring party. From what I can gather in my research, at certain points during the affair, guests would have their heads or hands measured and compared to other guests. I guess this is what constituted fun in 1903.

I was lucky enough to find an actual invitation to a measuring party held by the Grace Christian Church of St. Johnsville, New York on December 19, 1902:[3]


[1] "Pine Grove," The Journal and Republican, Lowville, Thursday, March 19, 1903, Vol. 44, No. 17, p. 8.

[2] Linscott, Mrs. Herbert B., Bright Ideas for Entertaining, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Macrae Smith Company, 1905.

[3] Measuring Party, Grace Christian Church, 125th Anniversary Booklet, ( accessed on August 29, 2008.


footnoteMaven said...


Very interesting. Here's another rendition:

“What promises to be a very popular form of amusement this coming winter is what is called “a measuring party.”

This is really a new departure from the old fashioned “progressive euchre,” to which every invited guest was supposed to contribute twenty-five cents, fifty cents or a dollar according to the supposed wealth of the participants, which was expended for prizes to be award to the winners,

For “a measuring party,” a dainty little leaflet is sent out, to which is attached a small silken bag, one color for the gentlemen and another for the ladies. The leaflet can be hand painted by the hostess, or one of those pretty embossed affairs to be purchased at the stationer’s.

A measuring party is given to you;
It is something novel as well as new;
The invitation is in the sack.
For use in bring or sending back.
A nickel for every foot you’re tall;
Measure yourself on door or wall.
An extra cent for each inch give,
And thereby show how high you live.
With music and game, refreshment and pleasure,
We will meet one and all at our party of measure.

The recipient of one of the leaflets and silken bags, if the invitation is accepted, is to be put in the bag as many nickels as he or she is feet high and a penny for every extra inch.

The tallest gentleman and lady receive first prize, and the shortest couple the second. This new amusement is a boon to many a perplexed hostess when at her wits’ ends to devisit a new game or entertainment, especially when it is a question of keeping a large house party amused.”

Eau Claire Leader, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Wednesday, December 27, 1899, Page 3.


Thomas MacEntee said...

I knew that if anyone had the low-down on a measuring party, or any Victorian/Edwardian period event, it would be you fM. This is why I adore you!

Apple said...

A game where being the shortest might be an advantage - I love it!