This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Napkins there must be at every dinner in every hotel of the least pretensions to elegance and it is a waste of a grand advantage not to make Use of them for ornamental effects by employing the more imposing forms of folding them for setting on the table in readiness for the dinner. The use of the napkin to hold the dinner roll or piece of bread is a fashion of private table-setting and for caterers for private parties, but the piece of bread to each plate is not a hotel custom, it is not suitable. The flat folds of napkins instead are used as above named to bring pretty things to table in and to hold buttonhole boquets or the menu. Where the napkin and the art of folding shows up the grandest is in the hotel dining room with its fifty tables, its hundreds of plates, its long white rows of Pyramids, Hamburg Drums, Tulips, Palm Leaves , Double Fans; Columns, Crowns, Mitre6, any of them, the taller the better, all alike, of course, on each day but changed in form every day. That indeed is a sight that is pleasing alike to hotel man and guest and for good reason; it is a scene of real beauty and symmetry of forms and distances, pleasing by its whiteness and intimation of cleanlines and purity.
It is something much too ornamental and satisfactory to be lost to a dining room for want of a knowledge how to fold napkins.
Learn the folds by using good stiff white paper, the size is of but little conse-quence. The apparent difficulty of following the diagrams and directions vanishes after one trial, and when the folds have been carried out with a sheet of paper a stiff napkin can be tried with a better chance of immediate success. Some of the forms which require a hot iron for every fold are hardly practicable for use in hotels except for special party occasions, but there are plenty of easy forms that do not consume much time and some of them produce as good effects in ornamenting the dining room as the most difficult shapes could do. Take this simplest of all for example, and look down a long dining room with this pattern set at every plate. The waiters on watch can roll up enough of these without calling on the off watch for help; but the finer patterns can be brought in on Sundays.