Gilded Age Christmas

Gilded Age Christmas

This holiday season at Clayton, the Frick family home, visitors will find warmth, celebration and the trimmings of a traditional Gilded Age Christmas. On tours of the turn-of-the-20th-century home, visitors will find touches of cheer around every corner — a garland of fresh pine here, a display of toys there. As always, a large tree will be decorated on the enclosed porch, where archival photos show the Fricks placed their Christmas tree.

Clayton Dining Room
Clayton Dining Room

The parlor will welcome visitors with a kettledrum tea, which was a late-afternoon informal gathering for men and women. An array of cups and saucers, coffee and tea pots will represent this popular 19th-century entertainment.

Clayton Holidays Dining Room
Clayton Holidays Dining Room

The scene of many holiday dinners in the past, the dining room will be resplendent in red and gold, crystal and silver. Ornate dishes made by the English company, Copeland, will be part of the dessert setting for that most traditional of holiday desserts, the Christmas pudding. Christmas puddings were sweet and flavorful, full of currants, raisins, cinnamon, and cloves, and served with a rich sauce Pudding recipes and holiday menus from period cookbooks and ladies’ magazines will provide examples of foods that may have been served at a 19th-century holiday meal.

Clayton Kissing Ball

Clayton Kissing Ball


Then as now, Christmas dinner was one of the most carefully planned meals of the year, and domestic servants were responsible for making sure the event met expectations. The installation in Clayton’s kitchen will evoke the preparation of sweets, as well as representing a quick afternoon tea for servants busy with holiday preparations. The breakfast room is typically the scene for a children’s party, and this year is no exception. The table will be set for a “Christmas Snowball Dinner for Children,” as suggested in a 1903 issue of The Delineator, a popular household magazine of the time. A glass globe “snowball” hides presents for each child, which are connected to ribbons that rest by each plate, waiting to be discovered.

Santa Game

Clayton Santa Game


Upstairs, one of Adelaide Frick’s gorgeous evening gowns and some children’s winter clothing will be on display, along with a number of toys, cut-outs, games, and puzzles.

Clayton Holidays Staircase
Clayton Holidays Staircase

Period photographs, copies of holiday shopping lists in Mrs. Frick’s handwriting and receipts for toys purchased for the Frick children will enrich the tour with authentic information about holidays at Clayton.

As an added surprise this year, music from a new roll of orchestrion music, Christmas Festival, will end your tour with the sounds of the season.

Visitors to the Frick during the holidays may also enjoy distinctive holiday dining and shopping experiences — the Museum Shop offers unusual gift options, and The Café at the Frick serves delectable holiday fare, with extended hours when The Café serves from a special menu from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Seating times for dinners start at 5:00 p.m. with the last seating at 7:30 p. m.


The Frick Art & Historical Center is located at 7227 Reynolds Street in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. Admission to the Frick is free, however there are charges for docent-led tours of Clayton and some educational programs. Admission to The Frick Art Museum’s permanent collection galleries is always free. More information about the Frick is available online at


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