This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
In reality the hotel steward who does his full duty is the most hard-working man in the house, if not with his hands then with his head and feet. But our correspondent was thinking about a steward's personal dignity and his keeping a dressed-up ap-pearanee, and supposes that a steward never puts on an apron, nor has to do anything that will soil his hands. This is all wrong; the steward never does any menial duties, yet he puts on an apron very often. Even as a buyer in bad weather the active, energetic steward, clad in a rubber coat, slouch hat and heavy mud-defying boots, does not much resemble the parlor dude which country hotel boys picture the great bossing steward to be. But that fearlesness of work does not detract from his personal dignity, but rather adds to it. The source of personal dignity is not in the hands, but in the eye; wealth alone cannot buy it, a fool cannot inspire respect; some rich chuckleheads are called "Old Billy" or "Old Tommy" on all sides all their lives in spite of their unsoiled clothing. A fifty-dollar steward once objected to the writer against putting on an apron and doing some necessary thing, on the grounds that if he worked his help would not respect him any more and he could not then secure their obedience.
He was not a bad man, but there was no mental or moral force in him, he had no personal dignity to spare and had to be very stingy in the use of what little he had; and this poor man came to a very humiliating end, after all, for he was knocked down by the swill-man and carried out by the police. There was another steward of a different make who also took fifty dollars because it was all the situation was worth and the house could not afford to pay more, who filled in his time voluntarily as house carpenter, furniture repairer, locksmith, anything that might happen to want doing, In fact, bought for the house and cut the meats, and after all put on his good clothes and took a four hours watch as clerk in the office to relieve the proprietor, who was struggling to pay for his house, and the point of it is that whatever else might be forgot or neglected that working steward, when he came to do his carving, never failed to find his snowy apron laid ready, his towel hanging on its peg, his carving knife fresh ground and whetted, and his chair placed for him to rest, while waiting. He had his help in subjection, and had their respect because he was a man of force of character, no matter what he might choose to do.
Another of these working stewards, another one of our New England models, though this one bears a foreign name, was formerly a steward in the Boston Brunswick, but the writer found him in a much smaller establishment where he was at once the buyer, the store-keeper or receiver, to take In, weigh and book what he had bought, the pantryman, preparing and serving the fresh fruits in good style, the issuer of stores, the writer of the bill of fare, the preparer of the meats for cooking, then the carver and finally the keeper of the keys when all doors where closed. His was not a time of kid-gloved ease and he was well aware of the fact, but then it was only of temporary duration. Two different owners of large and fine hotels, hearing where he was, went personally to se him and if possible secure his services, and he went to one of those houses, as soon as he was at liberty, where he again took his position at the head of a full force of hands. Men of this sort wield a power over their subordinates greater than the non-workers ever can, because the hands know the steward can always get along without them; he can take hold and help himself in a pinch.