Monday, May 4, 2009

Fishin' For Fun? Party Like It's 1927!

The countdown is on! To what, you ask? Why, fellow Minnesotans, to that annual unofficial state holiday: the Minnesota Fishing Opener! The event that the DNR and other fish folk would have you believe to be the BEST Mother’s Day event ever, as seen by their “Take-a-Mom fishing” weekend designation. Despite my Minnesotan roots, please, no fishing trips for this mom. Somehow I missed out on the Minnesota fishing gene. Still, I do have a thing for theme parties, and was pleased to find the perfect Minnesotan theme party suggestion in Jean Walden’s book The Art of Entertaining, published by the Uptown-based Buzza Company in 1927.

The Buzza Company, located in the venerable Buzza Building (now Lehmann Center) on Lake Street between Dupont and Colfax, is one of my favorite chapters of Uptown history. The building itself dates to 1907, when it was built for the Self-Threading Needle Company; Buzza bought the place in 1923 and proceeded to set up a publishing empire. The company was known for its greeting cards, posters, framed lithographs, and other artistic paper products. The artwork and products were designed and manufactured in the building, then called Craftacres, and from there were loaded onto railroad cars for distribution to the rest of the country. Buzza was not a book publisher, but The Art of Entertaining fit in well with their business focus on stationary, greeting cards, and other entertainment-related items. In conjunction with The Art of Entertaining Buzza also offered the “Bruelheide Buzza Bridge Service,” intended to assist hostesses with the planning of elaborate bridge parties (no doubt using Buzza-produced invitations and other materials).

The Art of Entertaining is packed full of party suggestions, all of them themed, and most of them involving bridge. If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend but prefer not to bait a hook, let alone touch a fish, Buzza has the answer. “When the fishin’ season opens,” Walden wrote from her Uptown desk, “it is a good time to celebrate in an informal and rather unusual manner. Write the following invitation upon white correspondence cards. This is good entertainment for a ‘stag’ dinner also.

Dear Walter –
You’re just a poor fish – so I’m “droppin’ a line”
To ask you to dinner, old friend o’mine
‘Cause we’re goin’ fishin at our house, you bet.
You may “get the hook” but – you won’t get wet.
So come here on Friday ‘bout seven o’clock
Flappin’ your fins just a bit as you knock:
But one thing – you’ll have to play cards as you ought!

Dinner consists of a lobster cocktail or canapĂ© followed by a planked trout, Lake Superior whitefish, or baked shad. Other details are left to the hostess.”

Decorating and non-food suggestions included:
  • A crystal bowl centerpiece filled with a lily pad and containing several goldfish

  • Place cards depicting a “very modern young lady carrying a fish-rod”

  • For prizes, “a reliable brand of canned lobster Newburg is very popular in these meatless, maidless, heatless days of Spring.”

Want to have your own Buzza-style Fishin’ Opener party but don’t know how to play Bridge? Well, there’s always that old standard – Go Fish.


  1. Where did you find this? Can I buy it for an anniversary present? Please Please Please?

  2. I bought mine online a couple of years ago (and am too attached to give it up - sorry!); while looking for some other Buzza stuff earlier today I saw that there's a copy available for sale here:

    Also, if you want Buzza-related framed lithographs (I once got a horribly sappy but still fun wedding-themed one for an anniversary present, in the original Buzza glass frame)you can find them on eBay, although I got lucky and scored mine at a local garage sale.

    There are so many good (well, at least interesting) party ideas in this little gem of a book that I think I'll have to feature more of them as appropriate. Other favorites so far are "Suffragette Bridge," "How to Give a Servantless Dinner," "A Scandalous Luncheon," and "A Hobobemian Picnic."

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