[Ads-l] Check Apron Ball

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Aug 29 21:34:18 UTC 2016

​The OED has the following -- in an entry undoubtedly compiled more than
100 years ago -- on "check apron".  The new material below is interesting,
I think, because of the connection being made between a "check apron" and
social class.  It's being used as the equivalent of "female domestic
servant".  ​

I note also that "
​", no one's nomination for WOTY, was remembered 5 years later. ​

check, n.2
*2.* A fabric woven or printed with such a pattern. Also *attrib.*, as
in check kersey; check handkerchief, check apron; check pattern, check
trade, etc.

1625   W. Peyton *2nd Voy.* in S. Purchas *Pilgrimes* I. iv. xv,   Indicoes
of two sorts, Checques the courser.

1748   T. Smollett *Roderick Random* I. xxxi. 278   A couple of old check

1756   M. Delany *Autobiogr.* (1861) III. 457,   I should be glad of 30
yards of check.

1823   C. Lamb *Christ's Hosp.* in *Elia* 35   A large blue check

1885   *Manch. Examiner* 5 June 5/6   Looms for weaving checks and

                        The Check Apron Ball.

            Wm. A Avery sworn.  . . .  says he has attended a Check Apron
Ball.  There was one in Henry street, between Pike and Rutgers.  It was got
up by Mrs. Cardell.  They had music and dancing. . . .  Miss McIntee was
there, and about ten females. . . ; witness says a friend called on him;
told him of the check apron ball , and invited him to go; in addition to
music and dancing, witness says distinctly that they had etceteras.  ***  Some
female of the right stamp gets up a check apron ball and invites to it the
better class of servant girls, the humble seamstresses, and other
sub-gentry, who are not openly vicious, nor yet commonly so -- perhaps
never so -- but yet supposed to have no objections to the etceteras, after
the ball proper was over.  Well, they all meet together -- young gentlemen,
servant girls, and seamstresses -- all good and true checkapronites;  They
have music, dance, sing, drink, romp, and when they get tired of that, they
break up the ball, and the Check-apronites all disperse.


            NY Herald, November 26, 1841, p. 1, cols. 3-5; [noted] N-Y
Tribune, November 26, 1841, p. 3, col. 1

in addition to music and dancing, witness says distinctly that they had
​" will not have escaped your notice, I'm sure.]​

            Really this throws a flood of light on the manners of the
clergy in their intercourse with the female saints.  These revelations
recall very forcibly to our mind the singular developments made in this
city on a trial in one of the civil courts, a year or two ago, relative to
the peculiar manners and customs of the "check-apronites."  In that
particular class it appeared that the intercourse of the males and females
was marked by a singular degree of freedom and familiarity, but not at all
greater than is disclosed by the evidence on this trial, as being
characteristic of the intercourse of the Bishop with the fair ones of his

            Weekly Herald, February 1, 1845, p. 1, col. 5
a trial in one of the civil courts, a year or two ago
​ was most likely the trial of November 1841.  Bennett of the Herald was
greatly partial to news stories about Bishops who were caught canoodling.]


George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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