This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The most entirely satisfactory way of setting out a ball supper, if the pleasure of the participants is to be the main object, is the setting of the small separate tables the same as they are at dinner, although there may be something grander and more imposing in the sight of two or three long tables the whole length of the hall. Your small tables are for six or eight seats each; the people sit around them, sociably, comfortably, and have the proprietorship of the one waiter, who knows his station and cannot be called ,away. Supposing there are twenty tables, the requirement is that each table be set alike with cold dishes in advance of the meal, with plates, silver and napkins as for dinner; the people march in when the signal is given, take their places in groups at their favorite tables and help themselves to the supper already before them, the waiters being to pass dishes from one end to the other, to bring in the ices and coffee at the right time and replenish any dish that may be insufficient in the first setting.
There should be a center piece of flowers or ferns or something ornamental. The ordinary cruet stands are not admissible, but small novelties in china, silver or glass for the purpose of holding the three or four common seasonings may be found in some inconspicuous position, and silver sugar bowls newly filled, likewise. On each side of the center piece set one de corated dish or bowl of salad, one decorated dish of meat, and a small pyramid of neatly shaped sandwiches piled upon a handsomely folded napkin. The two salads upon each table to be of different kinds, the two dishes of decorated meats different, the sandwiches different.
Besides these there must be plates of bread or beaten biscuits, olives, pickles or cress. The waiter in attendance at each table observes and when the time to remove the dishes has arrived he immediately replaces the empty meat dishes with ornamented baskets of assorted cakes and bon-bons and choice fruit, which he has already brought in upon his large tray and kept upon his sideboard or stand-table; he then changes the plates and at once proceeds to bring in the ices and jellies, m ulded and turned out upon a dish raised in the middle and covered with a fancy folded napkin (or dish inverted in a larger dish and covered with the napkin), and lastly, brings in the coffee in small cups, an individual silver pitcher of cream along with each cup.