This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
These small tables may be placed end to end to make two long tables down the hall, but in locating them it is necessary to ascertain by actual trial whether after placing the two rows of chairs there will be room between them for the waiters to pass along freely, if not some other form of arrangement may be necessary, as sometimes there is a long table and another across the end in the form of a T. And to save waiters and make expeditious service in such a hall, there are often side stands or tables set with some of the dishes or having the ice cream behind them as behind a counter, all so near the main tables that the work of handing over is but very slight.
The long tables are the more imposing, and are always to be preferred when speech-making is to follow the supper or dinner, for the obvious reason that the company already faces the speaker either from the right or left without moving the chairs.
The tables are set according to the occasion; for a grand banquet they are decorated with tall designs in flowers, which it is the florists' special business to furnish, and at times with statuettes, if possible emblematical of the cause of the gathering, and at such times great use is found for the confectioners' Images modelled in sugar, and significant designs even in pyramids of meat For the less formal ball supper, the tables being decorated with flowers and foliage according to the changing fashions, which may call for loosely trailing vines, mats of moss and scattered roses or violets this year and tall vases of flowers only next year, may still be much enriched by small stands of decorated meats, baskets of cake and ornamented cakes, precisely as for the small tables already described in detail. It is only required that these stands of handsomely prepared eatables shall be of but a secondary prominence, not so large or so numerous as to make the tables look like a candy stand at a fair.
They are to be to a well set table what statuary is in a grove, or like bunches of ready-ripe fruit in a late orchard.
One waiter to every ten chairs is the re* quirement for this style of table, and if an oyster supper, or partly hot and partly cold meal, as the people all come in at once and expect instant service, the oysters should be placed at each place at the minute before the doors are thrown open, and the bulk of the supper being already on the table the waiters have little to do except pass the dishes with a reach until the time comes for the ices and sweets.
That is all very fine and easy of accomplishment where there is a ball room as well as a dining room and where the setting of the tables and furnishing them with new and startling effects may begin three or four hours or even a day before the banquet, but where, as in thousands of hotels, there is but the one room large enough a different line of management has to be pursued.