BETHEL — Bethel Historical Society’s much-awaited 2016 Antiquarian Supper will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at the society’s Mason House, 14 Broad St.

Held only every five or six years, this special fundraising event honors a local tradition started in 1855 when Bethel residents began to take notice of their ancestors’ habits, artifacts and manner of dress.

Participants in this year’s supper are encouraged to come in old-fashioned clothing (anything not current) and to bring a relic (collectible) to display and describe.

There will be some ancient foods to sample, along with several choices of modern fare. Traditional music and a few surprises are sure to create a fun evening for all.

American life in the mid-19th century was the scene of constant change. Smoke-belching factories, crowded cities, the expanding West, and the invention of many labor-saving devices resulted in an increasing sense of rootlessness for many of the country’s citizens.

For New Englanders, in particular, this feeling of displacement was offset somewhat by a desire to return to a simpler time — what one historian of the period has called “a longing for earlier days and customs.”

Inspired by the efforts of such pioneering organizations as the Massachusetts Historical Society (1791), American Antiquarian Society (1812), Maine Historical Society (1822), New Hampshire Historical Society (1823), and New England Historic Genealogical Society (1845), individuals in rural communities began to take notice of “old-time” objects (notably furnishings and items associated with the kitchen hearth), which were viewed as morally and aesthetically superior to household goods then being produced for the mass market. Items ranging from porcelain teapots and spinning wheels to pewter platters and fireplace tongs evoked the comforts of a vanishing world of simple pleasures and “heroic patriotism,” the latter stemming directly from the Revolutionary War era.

In the decade before the Civil War (when antiques were frequently displayed at “sanitary fairs”), various groups of people in many New England towns began holding “antiquarian suppers.” During these occasions, citizens dressed in old-fashioned clothes, brought relics (anything odd or old) to exhibit, shared stories of days gone by, and enjoyed a bountiful meal. Typically, the driving force behind these informal gatherings was a local historian keenly interested in recording the town’s “colonial” traditions, legends, and events. In western Maine, the earliest examples of such antiquarian suppers were held by the Bethel Farmer’s Club between 1855 and 1857 under the watchful eye of one of Maine’s most prominent historians of that time, Dr. Nathaniel Tuckerman True (1812-1887).

Admission to the Antiquarian Supper is a $10 donation for adults and a $5 donatiopn for those 18 and younger. Only 30 seats are available, so reservations are required.

FMI, RSVP: 207-824-2908, [email protected]


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