Picnic Basket Auction to Raise Money for the ACWS


The picnic basket auction was a popular event put on by churches or communities during the 19th century to raise money for charity. The women and girls all carefully prepared picnic lunches in attractive baskets to be auctioned off. Traditionally, each lady made all the delicacies in her own basket, taking advantage of the opportunity to show off her skills in the kitchen. At the auction, the baskets were collected with an air of great secrecy – it was supposed to be a mystery which basket matched which lady, though it was understood that married ladies or those with favorite beaux would be whispering the identities of their baskets to their gentlemen.


The auction itself was fairly simple, with men and teenage boys bidding on baskets with particularly appealing contents, or more likely, on baskets prepared by ladies they held in high esteem! The charming twist in this auction is that not only would a winning gentleman receive the basket of his choice, but he would share its contents with the lady who filled it, in an intimate little luncheon wholly approved by Victorian society.


Now, we’ll be having a picnic basket auction of our own on Saturday, September 16, on the green at Riley’s Farm, from which all proceeds will go to supporting the ACWS.  Any and all baskets will be appreciated and fun will be had by all. Only reenactors will be participating, though there will likely be spectators, so remaining in character would certainly add to the ambience.


All ladies, young and old, are invited to bring a basket for auction, and to threaten or cajole their gentlemen friends into bidding for the pleasure of their company. Remember that store-bought food is better than none at all, but please try to keep things period correct, whether it’s fried chicken, cornbread, and lemonade, or cucumber sandwiches, raspberry tartlets, and sparkling cider.


Written by Amie Luther