Last Look

Residential college dining when it began

Coats and ties were de rigueur in 1940.

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From the opening of the residential colleges in the late 1930s to the onset of World War II, Yale undergrads were expected to wear coats and ties to dinner. They were provided with finely printed dinner menus, and their meals were brought to their tables by a staff of servers. (Students never held that campus job. According to an article in Engineering at Yale, when the colleges were built, $100,000 donated by Edward S. Harkness, Class of 1897, was set aside to ensure that “self-supporting” undergraduates “would not wait on table, for that would be wholly contrary to the purpose of the [college] plan.”) Shown here is a meal at Pierson in 1940. Not visible: an art exhibit that year. Warren P. Snyder ’40 described it as “modern art glaring balefully from the dining room walls,” and added, “Indigestion continued for days while geometric globs of color haunted our gastronomic moments.”

1 comment

  • Michael Lazare
    Michael Lazare, 11:44am September 02 2017 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Two points:
    1. We did not wait on tables, but we dished out food in a cafeteria line. I worked in TD in 1949-50.
    2. One of my classmates (he shall remain nameless) came to dinner in Commons one night without a tie. He was not admitted. He retuned a few minutes later with a jacket and a tie, but no shirt. I have no idea where he ate that night.

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