Found in the February 18, 1910 issue of Ridgefield Reflector, from the newly incorporated town of Ridgefield, Clark County, Washington: Link
HELD POVERTY PARTY
“The poverty party that was given by the Sunshine Club in the I.O.O.F. hall last Monday evening was voted a success by all who were present. The costumes worn by the participants were most unique and diversified in character, depicting every phase of poverty and humility. A prize was awarded for the most ingenious make-up, went to Eugene Passmore, who had evidently secured the Ghetto of Portland for his inspiration. A prize for the female costume was awarded to Mrs. Murray, who was very tastefully and skillfully disguised. ‘Twisted downuts and kofy’ was served as refreshments.”
“‘An evening replete with pleasant surprises and of a most delightful nature’ was the unanimous verdict of all who attended.”
Poverty parties were apparently held across the nation as a form of entertainment chiefly in the flush times between the Panic of 1893 and the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Although the definition of “Poverty Party” has changed over time, it would seem in the era of this news article it was an event held by members of the emerging urban middle class. They would show up dressed in rags and consume food associated with the poor. Promotional materials were spelled in awful and phonetic ways.
Of course, mocking the less fortunate didn’t seem so funny after October, 1929. Which might account for why this style of socializing has been so under-reported to subsequent generations.
A most curious, once popular and now little known form of social entertainment worthy of a thesis.
More information on Ridgefield itself can be found in the book, Ridgefield Reflections 1909-1984.