Page Boys


Figure 1.--This is a picture showing the classic design of a hotel page boy uniform. It was based on late Victorian British military uniform. This outfit was adopted all over the world, especially in the United States and is still seen today in one form or another.

A page is a boy or youth servant or attendant. The term has been used for different groups of boys and for different occassions. Medieval pages came from destinguished families and served persons of rank. The term page has been used for several different groups of boys in the modern world. Modern pages were uniformed boys or youths, performing duties at a hotel or ship, often carrying out tasks requested by guests. The term has also been used for boys at weddings or employed to attend to U.S. Congressmen.

Terminology

The English term "page" was used in Middle English, derived from Old French, possibly from Italian "paggio", perhaps originating in the Greek "paidion", a diminutive of "pais", paid or child. I am not sure what the term for page is in modern European languages.

Types of Pages

The term page has been used over the years for a wide range of activities a jobs. About the only thing that they have in common is that boys are involved in various occupations. We have begun to collect some basic information on these different types of pages. The currious change over time is that medieval pages were boys of nobel birth while the modern hotel page was a working class boy.

Medieval Pages

A medieval page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood. Boys and youths in medeieval Europe were used as attendants to persons of rank, usually nobel or royal. These boys were chosen from aristocratic or "good" families. The tradition began as boys serving knights as part of their military training and preparation for knighthood themselves. As these pages accompanied the knight they served, they were also present at court and thus had to learn refined manners as well as fighting skills. While the ages of the middle ages are perhaps best known to us today, the tradition os an ancient ones. There are records of pages in Roman, Persian, and other an ancient civiliazations. In medieval times the degree of page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood, preparatory to that of first esquire and then knight. In more recent times it is the latter function they served, being present at ceremonies to attend to royal personages at court. Boys in 18th century red jackets and white kneebreaches are often seen at important Bristish royal events accompanied the monarch, they are always boys from aristocratic families. Their selection was considered a great honor. The page boy hair cut comes from these pages, based on a hair style with bangs popular in the midieval era. I am not sure, however, when the term came into vogue.

Wedding Pages

Employing boys in formal weddings as attendants is deriving from the ceremonial functions medieval pages performed in royal courts. There are two such roles for boys in a formal wedding, that of pages and ring bearer. , in modern days the page is the boy or more commonly boys who hold the long train of a bride's gown at a formal wedding. Generally pages are school age boys. A younger boy at a wedding may be employed as a ring bearer.

Congressional Pages

The term has been used for boys attending U.S. Congressmen or representatives in other legislative bodies. One of the more famous Congressional pages is Bobby Baker. Working as a U.S. Congressional page is a destinct honor. The boys are nominated by Senators and Congressmen normally at about age 13. The Congress maintains a secondary-level school for them.

Hotel Pages

Pageboys need to be mentioned under the catergory of workers. The term apparently derives from the mideieval pages who attended persons of rank. I'm not sure when hotels began uniforming boys and calling them pages to perform tasks at the request of guests. I think probably the 19th century.Working class boys in England would enroll at age 14 (school leaving age in Britain pre-1944) to work in hotels, theaters, or clubs as well as on ships. Boys also worked as pages/message boys for private companies. HBC has only limited information. A HBC reader reports," I recall doing some messagering work in the early 1970s and having to collect some airline tickets in Bond Street. Waiting at the counter was a boy of about 16 years in pageboy rig, probably from a posh hotel." They often wore very destinctive uniforms. The classic design of uniform, was based on late-Victorian British military uniform. The most notable feature of the classic pageboy uniform was the pillbox cap (figure 1). The cap was often worn at a rakish angle and held on with a chip strap. The rest of the uniform varries, but commonly had militatry styling. This outfit was adopted all over the world, especially in the United States and is still seen today in especially posh hotels. I believe it was a standard throughout Europe. Americans of an earlier generation will recall a hotel page in early 1950s TV who was calling Philip Morris, a brand of cigarettes. The same military uniform, or at least the pillbox cap, was also adopted by the Boy's Brigade for their uniform and like hotel pages worn for decades after it was discarded by the army. Hotel pages, unlike the Boys' Brigade members, always wore long pants uniforms.







HBC





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Created: July 30, 2002
Last updated: February 22, 2004