How was it different than a birthday party? How did the new breed of petting-party go from a harmless pastime to a serious social institution?
The following article focuses on the petting party, and how one man’s simple and practical social experiment became a symbol that spread to other homes in other eras.
The Petting Parties of the 1920s
One day in 1921 while traveling on an extended holiday in the Midwest, Frank Averill, a carpenter, and his wife, Annie, were in the middle of another car, driving through the streets of Pittsburgh. Averill noticed and was surprised by a group of men in suits and ties who seemed to be talking at a distance. He turned the car around and noticed that the conversation was between some of these men, especially the older men in white collars, who were sitting and chatting in the middle of the street, which looked empty. As the car traveled, the group of men stopped talking and started talking back to him, in a polite manner.
Averill said that he recognized the group of men that they were talking with as being the “Peak Group”. An old friend of his had used the Peak Group method to win over the ladies in Pittsburgh for a few years in the 1920s. This friend, Walter Kipp, had met the group of men in Pittsburgh on a trip to Ohio with a group of businessmen and politicians. According to Averill, Kipp had met these men in the Pittsburgh hotel and asked the oldest member how he came to be in Pittsburgh. He said that it seemed to him that he had come to Pittsburgh to get away from the business world, and then he asked the other members of the group who seemed to him to be the leaders who were also friends. The oldest member confirmed that this was the group of men whom he was talking to in the hotel. (See The Peak Group in Pittsburgh, p. 26, and The Peacemakers by William S. Smith.)
Soon another of Averill’s acquaintances and friends, J.F.K., joined the group and told Averill what the men were talking about. Kipp was taken by surprise at the strange talk between the old men and Kipp. Kipp, in turn, recognized Kipp as a friend.
The men who spoke from their group were interested in one thing. The men with white collars, in particular, were fascinated by the idea of a woman coming to the room of
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