A middle-class Victorian family at the dinner table, circa 1850. Victorian parents used family meal times to educate their children on religion, conversation and table manners.
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In homes across the United States, families sit down around their dining tables to share a meal together known as the Family Dinner. This can be a joyous occasion or a contentious one. Whether you feel warm and fuzzy or grit your teeth at the thought, the family dinner is an opportunity for familial communication that didn’t always exist. As dining as a family became an institution in American life, it evolved from being a time for restraint to being a time for expression — an evolution visible in art and film.
Before the late 18th century, it was difficult for American families to dine together regularly, in part because dining roo…