New Hampshire Glossary: Tableaux

Also called “Tableau” and “Tableau vivant“, these words describe a custom posed scene consisting of actors (either amateur or professional), often in costume with backdrops, created for  entertainment purposes.

Notice of Christmas Festival at Amherst NH in the Farmer's Cabinet of December 19, 1861, page 3

Notice of Christmas Festival at Amherst NH in the Farmer’s Cabinet of December 19, 1861, page 3

One of the most popular stage entertainments of the nineteenth century was a form of minstrel show, consisting of plays and tableaux (a mute scene or representation). Both adults and children would participate and such performances were often used to raise money for various worthy causes, such as orphanages, sick and disabled soldiers, etc.

In New Hampshire, these Tableaux seemed to be most popular around the time just preceding and after the Civil War. I have provided a few examples of NH newspaper notices of such events.
In 1864 the “Ladies of Milford,” held a ‘Levee’ at the Town Hall with proceeds going to the purchase of a flag for the Lincoln and Johnson club. Tickets were 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. [Farmer’s Cabinet, October 7, 1864, page 2]

In 1865 the boarders of the Mount [sic Mont] Vernon House gave an exhibition of Tableaux for the benefit of Appleton Academy at Academy Hall. [Farmer’s Cabinet, August 17, 1865, page 2]VIC1314

In 1866 The Lodge of Good Templars gave a “Levee” which includes Tableaux, Charades and Music with the proceeds going toward furnishing their Hall. [Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH Dec 13, 1866, page 2]

In 1877 The Mission Circle, Carrier Doves, held a fair in the Amherst NH Town Hall on May 23d. During the evening they gave an entertainment consisting of Dame History’s Peep Show, Joan of Arc, Tableaux, Music &c. Refreshments of cake, coffee and ice cream. Admission was 10 cents [Farmer’s Cabinet, May 22, 1877, page 2]

In 1878 the Ladies’ Enterprise Society of Chesterfield held a levee that included ‘fine music, [and] brilliant tableaux…” [New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene NH, December 19, 1878]


Tableau vivant – Wikipedia

Tableaux Vivants, by J.H. Head, Boston, J.E. Tilton & Company, 1860 [The Project Gutenberg EBook]

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4 Responses to New Hampshire Glossary: Tableaux

  1. I went to Wachusett Regional High School. Every year the gymnastics team would have a show, and there were a few tableaux at the end of the show, everyone painted gold and posing as heroic statues, scenes from famous paintings like “The Night Watch” etc. The finale was always a surprise, with some scene involving twenty to thirty people. The lights would go out, and when they were switched on – Voila! There would be the tableau

  2. Jana Last says:


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  3. Judy Buswell says:

    Hoping you might define a “Levee” and how it might differ from other social events of the mid-19th century. I’ve found numerous references in journals to “Levees” but can’t seem to find a good definition of such. Thanks! Judy B

    • Janice Brown says:


      A “Levee” was a formal reception. Today we would think of it as an upscale social “meet and greet.” Refreshments were limited, usually wine and cheese. The custom began originally with Europe’s royalty, then spread to Canada, and finally the United States. Early Levees in New Hampshire were put on by the Horse Guards and the Cornet Band. By the 1840s the custom began to include women when the temperance, church, and library groups held levees. In February of 1834 a New Hampshire paper reported that the President’s Levee had no refreshments or entertainment [Andrew Jackson]. President held his last Levee at the White House in March of 1837. Does this help?

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