This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
If there is to be a new beginning, if the steward is to catch up with hie proper place In the line of hotel improvement so that he will be found where he ought to be in every hotel, and if it is become 60 that the steward will be engaged first and the cooks at any time afterwards, instead of the present general practice, there must be a model for young men to build upon. It is impossible now to give a satisfactory answer to the inquiries that are received as to what constitute a steward's duties, for it is too indefinite a question. There are two different sorts of stewards at present filling the positions where they are filled, and one of these types will endure and be the hotel steward of a few years later, and then his duties will be well defined. One of these is the New England steward, the other is the New York steward, which is the same as the ship steward and the Southern steamboat steward of years ago. Nothing invidiously sectional is meant by the adoption of these distinguishing terms.
There are New England stewards in New York and stewards of the New England type; they are the men who go from the North every winter to take the same positions in the same Florida hotels year after year; not all of them are of New England birth, some are Canadians, or of more distant origin still; when by chance they have to advertise for a position they describe themselves as working stewards. And there are stewards of the nautical New York type in New England (for New York is but the rendezvous for steamship men and steamboat men), the bossing and buying stewards, who are officers and used to discipline, yet absolute in authority in their own department, and fine men in their own sphere; yet, somehow, they do not assimilate with the hotel system; neither do they who learn from them. Proprietors, after a trial, prefer to carry on their business without them, and the steward drops out of sight The kind of man that is coming to the front is a bossing and buying and working steward, too. He knows what should be done, how it should be, and sees that it is so, and when there is any necessity whatever for him to do so he can take hold and do it himself.
A more efficient set of men, who yet do not suit the hotel system, cannot be imagined than the stewards of the ocean steamships and old-time, long-trip river steamboats. They have entire charge; the passengers must look to them for everything and not to the captain, who is but a court of appeal, a higher authority in reserve. When complaint is made to the captain he is very apt to say, "Sir or Madam, I have a steward who manages all those matters, he will arrange those things to your satisfaction, you had better speak to him." If a polite commander, and desirous of pleasing the passengers, perhaps he will promise to see the steward about it himself; beyond that he does not interfere, and for good reason, for he has other cares and duties, those connected with the cargo and with navigation. These stewards are everything to the passengers; the head waiter is second steward; his next best man is third steward, and it is no wonder .if all the waiters come to be called stewards in such a case, as they are on some steam vessels; and this practice has had such effect that anywhere south and southwest from Washington and Baltimore the native hotel proprietors call their head waiter their steward, and when they engage a steward they expect he is going to take charge of the dining room and waiters, if not wait on table himself.
But these efficient steamship and steamboat stewards are not suited to even the modern hotel, because the proprietor must have something to do, not having any cares of cargo and navigation on his mind, and if such a steward excer-cises his full .function he becomes the big man and the proprietor the little man of the house. There cannot be two kings over one small kingdom; one of them has to abdicate. The proprietor cannot and does not deny that the steward is right about his duties and prerogatives, but he does a quieter way, concludes that he does not need a steward; will perform part of the duties himself and puts the other part upon the chef.