This advertisement of Edmund Entwisle, in the Boston News Letter of November 18, 1742, proves, I think, that they had some very handsome clocks in those days:
"A Fine Clock. It goes 8 or 9 days with once winding up. And repeats the Hour it struck last when you pull it. The Dial is 13 inches on the Square & Arched with a SemiCircle on the Top round which is a strong Plate with this Motto (Time shews the Way of Lifes Decay) well engraved & silver'd, within the Motto Ring it shews from behind two Semispheres the Moons Increase & Decrease by two curious Painted Faces ornamented with Golden Stars between on a Blue Ground, and a white Circle on the Outside divided into Days figured at every Third, in which Divisions is shewn the Age by a fix't Index from the Top, as they pass by the great Circle is divided into three Concentrick Collums on the outmost of which it shews the Minute of each Hour and the Middlemost the Hours &c. the innermost is divided into 31 equal parts figur'd at every other on which is shewn the Day of the Month by a Hand from the Dial Plate as the Hour & Minute is, it also shews the Seconds as common & is ornamented with curious Engravings in a Most Fashionable Manner. The case is made of very Good Mohogony with Quarter Collums in the Body, broke in the Surface with Raised Pannels with Quarter Rounds burs Bands & Strings. The head is ornamented with Gilded Capitalls Bases & Frise with New fashion'd Balls compos'd of Mohogony with Gilt Leaves & Flowers."
I do not quite understand this description, and I know I could never have told the correct time by this clock, but surely it must have been very elegant and costly.
The earliest and most natural, as well as most plentiful, illuminating medium for the colonists was found in pine-knots. Wood says:
"Out of these Pines is gotten the Candlewood that is so much spoke of which may serve as a shift among poore folks but I cannot commend it for Singular good because it is something sluttish dropping a pitchy kind of substance where it stands."
Higginson wrote in 1630, "Though New England has no tallow to make candles of yet by abundance of fish thereof it can afford oil for lamps."
Though lamps and "lamp yearne," or wicks, appear in many an early invoice, I cannot think that they were extensively used. Betty lamps were the earliest form. They were a shallow receptacle, usually of pewter, iron, or brass, circular or oval in shape, and occasionally triangular, and about two or three inches in diameter, with a projecting nose an inch or two long. When in use they were filled with tallow or grease, and a wick or piece of twisted rag was placed so that the lighted end could hang on the nose. Specimens can be seen at Deerfield Memorial Hall. I have one with a hook and chain by which to hang it up, and a handled hook attached with which to clean out the grease. These lamps were sometimes called "brown-bettys," or "kials," or "cruiseys." A ph[oe]be lamp resembled a betty lamp, but had a shallow cup underneath to catch the dripping grease.
Soon candles were made by being run in moulds, or by a tedious process of dipping. The fragrant bayberry furnished a pale green wax, which Robert Beverly thus described in 1705:
"A pale brittle wax of a curious green color, which by refining becomes almost transparent. Of this they make candles which are never greasy to the touch, nor melt with lying in the hottest weather; neither does the snuff of these ever offend the smell, like that of a tallow candle; but, instead of being disagreeable, if an accident puts a candle out, it yields a pleasant fragrancy to all that are in the room; insomuch that nice people often put them out on purpose to have the incense of the expiring snuff."
The Abbe Robin and other travellers gave similar testimony. Bayberry wax was a standard farm production wherever bayberries grew, and was advertised in New England papers until this century. I entered within a year a single-storied house a few miles from Plymouth Rock, where an aged descendant of the Pilgrims earns her scanty spending-money by making "bayberry taller," and bought a cake and candles of the wax, made in precisely the method of her ancestors; and I too can add my evidence as to the pure, spicy perfume of this New England incense.
The growth of the whaling trade, and consequent use of spermaceti, of course increased the facilities for, and the possibilities of, house illumination. In 1686 Governor Andros petitioned for a commission for a voyage after "Sperma-Coeti Whales," but not till the middle of the following century did spermaceti become of common enough use to bring forth such notices as this, in the Boston Independent Advertiser of January, 1749:
"Sperma-Ceti Candles, exceeding all others for Beauty Sweetness of Scent when Extinguished. Duration being more than Double with Tallow Candles of Equal Size. Dimensions of Flame near 4 Times more. Emitting a Soft easy Expanding Light, bringing the object close to the Sight, rather than causing the Eye to trace after them, as all Tallow Candles do, from a Constant Dimnes which they produce. One of these Candles serves the use and purpose of 3 Tallow Candles, and upon the Whole are much pleasanter and cheaper."
These candles were placed in candle-beams—rude chandeliers of crossed sticks of wood or strips of metal with sockets; in sliding stands, in sconces, which were also called prongs or candle-arms. The latter appeared in the inventories of all genteel folk, and decorated the walls of all genteel parlors.
Candlesticks and snuffers were found in every house; the latter were called by various names, the word snit or snite being the most curious. It is from the old English snyten, to blow, and was originally a verb—to snite the candle, or put it out. In the inventory of property of John Gager, of Norwich, in 1703, appears "One Snit."
Snuffer-boats or slices were snuffer-trays. Another curious illuminating appurtenance was called a save-all or candle-wedge. It was a little frame of rings or cups with pins, by which our frugal ancestors held up the last dying bit of burning candle. They were sometimes of pewter with iron pins, sometimes wholly of brass or iron. They have nearly all disappeared since new and more extravagant methods of illumination prevail.
The argand lamps of Jefferson's invention and the various illuminating and heating contrivances of Count Rumford must have been welcome to the colonists.
The discomfort of a colonial house in winter-time has been ably set forth by Charles Francis Adams in his "Three Episodes of Massachusetts History." Down the great chimneys blew the icy blasts so fiercely that Cotton Mather noted on a January Sabbath, in 1697, as he shivered before "a great Fire, that the Juices forced out at the end of short billets of wood by the heat of the flame on which they were laid, yett froze into Ice on their coming out." Judge Sewall wrote, twenty years later, "An Extraordinary Cold Storm of Wind and Snow. Bread was frozen at Lords Table.... Though 'twas so Cold yet John Tuckerman was baptized. At six oclock my ink freezes so that I can hardly write by a good fire in my Wives Chamber"—and the pious man adds (we hope with truth) "Yet was very Comfortable at Meeting." Cotton Mather tells, in his pompous fashion, of a cold winter's day four years later. "Tis Dreadful cold, my ink glass in my standish is froze and splitt in my very stove. My ink in my pen suffers a congelation." If sitting-rooms were such refrigerators, we cannot wonder that the chilled colonists wished to sleep in beds close curtained with heavy woollen stuffs, or in slaw-bank beds by the kitchen fire.
The settlers builded as well as they knew to keep their houses warm; and while the vast and virgin forests supplied abundant and accessible wood for fuel, Governor Eaton's nineteen great fireplaces and Parson Davenport's thirteen, could be well filled; but by 1744 Franklin could write of these big chimneys as the "fireplace of our fathers;" for the forests had all disappeared in the vicinity of the towns, and the chimneys had shrunk in size. Sadly did the early settlers need warmer houses, for, as all antiquarian students have noted, in olden days the cold was more piercing, began to nip and pinch earlier in November, and lingered further into spring; winter rushed upon the settlers with heavier blasts and fiercer storms than we now have to endure. And, above all, they felt with sadder force "the dreary monotony of a New England winter, which leaves so large a blank, so melancholy a death-spot, in lives so brief that they ought to be all summer-time." Even John Adams in his day so dreaded the tedious bitter New England winter that he longed to hibernate like a dormouse from autumn to spring.
As the forests disappeared, sea-coal was brought over in small quantities, and stoves appeared for town use. By 1695 and 1700 we find Cotton Mather and Judge Sewall speaking of stoves and stove-rooms, and of chambers warmed by stoves. Ere that one John Clark had patented an invention for "saving and warming rooms," but we know nothing definite of its shape.
Dutch stoves and china stoves were the first to be advertised in New England papers; then "Philadelphia Fire Stoves"—what we now term Franklin grates. Wood was burned in these grates. We find clergymen, until after Revolutionary times, having sixty or eighty cords of hardwood given to them annually by the parish.
Around the great glowing fireplace in an old New England kitchen centred all of homeliness and comfort that could be found in a New England home. The very aspect of the domestic hearth was picturesque, and must have had a beneficent influence. In earlier days the great lug-pole, or, as it was called in England, the back-bar, stretched from ledge to ledge, or lug to lug, high up the yawning chimney, and held a motley collection of pot-hooks and trammels, of gib-crokes, twicrokes, and hakes, which in turn suspended at various heights over the fire, pots, and kettles and other cooking utensils. In the hearth-corners were displayed skillets and trivets, peels and slices, and on either side were chimney-seats and settles. Above—on the clavel-piece—were festooned strings of dried apples, pumpkins, and peppers.
The lug-pole, though made of green wood, sometimes became brittle or charred by too long use over the fire and careless neglect of replacement, and broke under its weighty burden of food and metal; hence accidents became so frequent, to the detriment of precious cooking utensils, and even to the destruction of human safety and life, that a Yankee invention of an iron crane brought convenience and simplicity, and added a new grace to the kitchen hearth.
The andirons added to the fireplace their homely charm. Fire-dogs appear in the earliest inventories under many names of various spelling, and were of many metals—copper, steel, iron, and brass. Sometimes a fireplace had three sets of andirons of different sizes, to hold logs at different heights. Cob irons had hooks to hold a spit and dripping-pan. Sometimes the "Handirons" also had brackets. Creepers were low irons placed between the great fire-dogs. They are mentioned in many early wills and lists of possessions among items of fireplace furnishings, as, for instance, the list of Captain Tyng's furniture, made in Boston in 1653. The andirons were sometimes very elaborate, with claw feet, or cast in the figure of a negro, a soldier, or a dog.
In the Deerfield Memorial Hall there lives in perfection of detail one of these old fireplaces—a delight to the soul of the antiquary. Every homely utensil and piece of furniture, every domestic convenience and inconvenience, every home-made makeshift, every cumbrous and clumsy contrivance of the old-time kitchen here may be found, and they show to us, as in a living photograph, the home life of those olden days.
In the early days of the colonies doubtless the old Anglo-Saxon board laid on trestles was used for a dining-table instead of a table with a stationary top. "Table bords" appear in early New England wills, and "trestles" also. "Long tables" and "drawing tables" were next named. A "long table" was used as a dining-table, and, from the frequent appearance of two forms with it, was evidently used from both sides, and not in the ancient fashion of the diners sitting at one side only. A drawing-table was an extension-table; it could by an arrangement of drop leaves be doubled in length. A fine one can be seen in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society. Chair tables were the earliest example, in fact the prototype, of some of our modern extraordinary "combination" furniture. The tops were usually round, and occasionally large enough to be used as a dining-table, and when turned over by a hinge arrangement formed the back of the chair. "Hundred legged" tables had flaps at either end which turned down or were held up in place by a bracket composed of a number of turned perpendicular supports which gave to it the name of "hundred legs." These tables were frequently very large; a portion of the top of one in the Connecticut Historical Society is seven feet four inches wide. Tea-tables came with tea; they were advertised in the Boston News Letter in 1712. Occasionally we find mention of a curious and unusual table, such as the one named in the effects of Sir Francis Bernard, which were sold September 11, 1770: "Three tables forming a horseshoe for the benefit of the Fire."
As a table was in early days a board, so a tablecloth was a board-cloth; and ere it was a tablecloth it was table-clothes. Cristowell Gallup, in 1655, had "1 Holland board-cloth;" and William Metcalf, in 1644, had a "diaper board-cloth." Another Boston citizen had "broad-clothes." Henry Webb, of Boston, named in his will, in 1660, his "beste Suite of Damask Table-cloath, Napkins & cupboard-cloath." Others had holland tablecloths and holland square cloths with lace on them. Arras tablecloths are also named in 1654, and cloths enriched with embroidery in colors. The witch Ann Hibbins had "1 Holland table cloth edged with blewe," worth twelve shillings; and a Hartford gentleman had, in 1689, a "table Cloth wrought with red." In 1728 "Hukkbuk Tabling" was advertised in the New England Weekly Journal, but the older materials—damask, holland, and diaper—were universally used then, as now.
The colonists had plenty of napkins, as had all well-to-do and well-bred Englishmen at that date. Napkins appear in all the early inventories. In 1668 the opulent Jane Humphreys, of Dorchester, left "two wrought Napkins with no lace around it," "half a duzzen of napkins," and "napkins wrought about and laced." In 1680 Robert Adams had six "diaper knapkins." Captain Tyng had in 1653 four dozen and a half of napkins, of which two dozen were of "layd worke." It has been said that these napkins were handkerchiefs, not table napkins; but I think the way they are classed in inventories does not so indicate. For instance, in the estate of Captain Corwin, a wealthy man, who died in Salem in 1685, was a "suit of Damask 1 Table cloth, 18 napkins, 1 Towel," valued at L8. Occasionally, however, they are specially designated as "pocket napkins," as in the estate of Elizabeth Cutter in 1663, where four are valued at one shilling.
Early English books on table manners, such as "The Babees Boke" and "The Boke of Nurture," though minute in detail, yet name no other table-furniture than cups, chafing-dishes, chargers, trenchers, salt-cellars, knives, and spoons. The table plenishings of the planters were somewhat more varied, but still simple; when our Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, the collection of table-ware owned by the entire band was very meagre. With the exception of a few plate-silver tankards and drinking-cups, it was also very inexpensive. The silver was handsome and heavy, but items of silver in the earliest inventories are rare. By the beginning of the eighteenth century silver became plentiful, and the wills even of humble folk contain frequent mentions of it. Ministers, doctors, and magistrates had many handsome pieces. By the middle of the century a climax was reached, as in the possessions of Peter Faneuil, when pieces of furniture were of solid silver.
The salt-cellar was the focus of the old-time board. In earlier days, in England, to be seated above or below the salt plainly spoke the social standing of a guest. The "standing salt" was often the handsomest furnishing of the table, the richest piece of family plate. Comfort Starr, of Boston, had, in 1659, a "greate Siluer-gilt double Saltceller." Isaac Addington bequeathed by will his "Bigges Siluer Sewer & Salt." A sewer was a salver. As we note by the list of Judith Sewall's wedding furniture in 1720, standing salts were out of date, and "trencher salt-cellars" were in fashion. Four dozen was a goodly number, and evinced an intent of bounteous hospitality. These trencher-salts were of various shapes and materials: "round and oval pillar-cut Salts, Bonnet Salts, 3 Leg'd Salts," were all of glass; others were of pewter, china, hard metal, and silver.
The greater number of spoons owned by the colonists were of pewter or of alchymy—or alcamyne, ocamy, ocany, orkanie, alcamy, or occonie—a metal composed of pan-brass and arsenicum. The reference in inventories, enrolments, and wills, to spoons of these materials are so frequent, so ever-present, as to make citation superfluous. An evil reputation of poisonous unhealthfulness hung around the vari-spelled alchymy (perhaps it is only a gross libel of succeeding generations); but, harmful or harmless, alchymy, no matter how spelt, disappears from use before Revolutionary times. Wooden spoons also are named. Silver spoons were not very plentiful. John Oxenbridge bequeathed thirteen spoons in 1673, and "one sweetmeat spoon," and "1 childs spoon which was mine in my infancy." Other pap-spoons and caudle-spoons are named in wills; marrow-spoons also, long and slender of bowl. The value of a dozen silver spoons was given in 1689 as L5 13s. 6d. In succeeding years each genteel family owned silver spoons, frequently in large number; while one Boston physician, Dr. Cutter, had, in 1761, half a dozen gold teaspoons.
Forks, or "tines," for cooking purposes, and "prongs" or "grains" or "evils" for agricultural purposes, were imported at early dates; but I think Governor Winthrop had the first table-fork ever brought to America. In 1633, when forks were rare in England, he received a letter from E. Howes, saying that the latter had sent to him a "case contain containing an Irish skeayne or knife, a bodekyn & a forke for the useful applycation of which I leave to your discretion." I am strongly suspicious that Winthrop's discretion may not have been educated up to usefully applying the fork for feeding purposes at the table. In the inventory of the possessions of Antipas Boyes (made in 1669) a silver spoon, fork, and knife are mentioned. Dr. Lyon gives the names of seven New Englanders whose inventories date from 1671 to 1693, and who owned forks. In 1673 Parson Oxenbridge had "one forked spoon," and his widow had two silver forks. Iron forks were used in the kitchen, as is shown in the inventory of Zerubbabel Endicott in 1683. And three-tined iron forks were stuck into poor witch-ridden souls in Salem by William Morse—his Daemon.
In 1718 Judge Sewall gave Widow Denison two cases with a knife and fork in each, "one Turtleshell tackling the other long with Ivory handles squar'd cost 4s. 6d." In 1738 Peter Fanueil ordered one dozen silver forks from England, "with three prongs, with my arms cut upon them, made very neat and handsome." One Boston citizen had in 1719 six four-pronged forks, an early example of that fashion. In 1737 shagreen cases with ivory-handled forks were advertised; bone, japanned metal, wood, and horn handles also appeared—all, of course, with metal prongs. Sir Francis Bernard had in 1770 three cases of china-handled knives and forks, "with spoons to each," which must have formed a pretty table furnishing.
In many New England inventories of the seventeenth century, among personal belongings, appears the word taster. Thus in 1659 Richard Webb, of Boston, left by will "1 Silver Wine Taster;" and in 1673 John Oxenbridge had "1 Siluer Taster with a funnel." A taster was apparently a small cup. Larger drinking-cups of silver were called beakers, or tankards, beer-bowls, or wine-bowls. These latter vessels were made also of humbler metal. A sneaker was a small drinking-glass, used by moderate drinkers—sneak-cups they were called.
The Pilgrims may have had a few mugs and jugs of coarse earthen ware. A large invoice of Portuguese "road ware" was sent to the Maine settlers in 1634, and proved thoroughly unsuitable and undurable; but probably no china—not even Delft ware—came over on the Mayflower. For when the Pilgrims made their night trip through the Delft-producing cities, no such wares were seen on the tables of plebeian persons. Early mentions of china are in the estate of President John Davenport in 1648—"Cheney L5," and of Martha Coteymore in 1647.
Earthen ware, Green ware, Lisbon ware, Spanish platters, are mentioned in early inventories; but I am sure neither china ware nor earthen ware was plentiful in early days; nor was china much known till Revolutionary times.
The table furnishings of the New England planters consisted largely of wooden trenchers, and these trenchers were employed for many years. Sometimes they were simply square blocks of wood whittled out by hand. From a single trencher two persons—two children, or a man and wife—ate their meals. It was a really elegant household that furnished a trencher apiece for each diner. Trenchers were of quite enough account to be left by name in early wills, even in those of wealthy colonists. In 1689 "2 Spoons and 2 Trenchers" were appraised at six shillings. Miles Standish left twelve wooden trenchers when he died. Many gross of them were purchased for use at Harvard College. As late as May, 1775, I find "Wooden Trenchers" advertised among table furnishings, in the Connecticut Courant.
It was the same in Old England. J. Ward, writing in 1828 of the "Potter's Art," spoke thus of the humble boards of his youth:
"And there the trencher commonly was seen With its attendant ample platter treen."
Until almost our own time trenchers were made in Vermont of the white, clean, hard wood of the poplar-tree, and were sold and used in country homes. Old wooden trenchers may be seen in Deerfield Memorial Hall. Bottles, noggins, cups, and lossets (flat dishes) of wood were also used at colonial boards.
The time when America was settled was the era when pewter ware had begun to take the place of wooden ware, just as the time of the Revolutionary War may be assigned to mark the victory of porcelain over pewter.
A set of pewter platters, or chargers and dishes, made what was called a "garnish" of pewter, and were a source of great pride to every colonial housewife, and much time and labor were devoted to polishing them until they shone like silver. Dingy pewter was fairly accounted a disgrace. The most accomplished Virginian gentleman of his day gave as a positive rule, in 1728, that "Pewter Bright" was the sign of a good housekeeper.
The trade of pewterer was a very influential and respectable one in New England as well as Old England. One of Boston's richest merchants, Henry Shrimpton, made large quantities of pewter ware for the Massachusetts colonists. So proud was he of his business that in his later years of opulence he had a great kettle atop of his house, to indicate his past trade and means of wealth. Pewter and pewterers abounded until the vast increase of Oriental commerce brought the influx of Chinese porcelain to drive out the dull metal. Advertisements of pewter table utensils did not disappear, however, in New England newspapers until this century.
A universal table furnishing was—
"The porringers that in a row Hung high and made a glittering show."
When not in use porringers were hung by their pierced handles on hooks on the edge of the dresser-shelf, and, being usually of polished pewter or silver, indeed made a glittering show. Pewter porringers were highly prized. One family, in 1660, had seven, and another housewife boasted of nine. They were bequeathed in nearly all the early colonial wills. In 1673 John Oxenbridge left three silver porringers and his wife one silver pottinger; but pewter was the favorite metal. I do not find porringers ever advertised under that name in New England papers, though many were made as late as this century by New Haven, Providence, and Boston pewterers. Many bearing the stamps of these manufacturers have been preserved until the present day, seeming to have escaped the sentence of destruction apparently passed on other pewter utensils and articles of table-ware. Perhaps they have been saved because the little, shallow, graceful dishes, with flat pierced handle on one side, are really so pretty. The fish-tail handles are found on Dutch pewter. Silver porringers were made by all the silversmiths. Many still exist bearing the stamp of one honored maker, Paul Revere. Little earthen porringers of red pottery and tortoise-shell ware are also found, but are not plentiful.
A similar vessel, frequently handleless, was what was spelt, in various colonial documents, posned, possnet, posnett, porsnet, pocneit, posnert, possenette, postnett, and parsnett. It is derived from the Welsh posned, a porringer or little dish. In 1641 Edward Skinner left a "Postnett" by will; this was apparently of pewter. In 1653 Governor Haynes, of Hartford, left an "Iron Posnet" by will. In the inventory of the estate of Robert Daniel, of Cambridge, in 1655, we learn that "a Little Porsenett" of his was worth five shillings. In 1693 Governor Caleb Carr, of Providence, bequeathed to his wife a "silver possnet & the cover belonging to it." By these records we see that posnets were of various metals, and sometimes had covers. I have found no advertisements of them in early American newspapers, even with all their varied array of utensils and vessels. I fancy the name fell quickly into disuse in this country. In Steele's time, in the Tatler, he speaks of "a silver Posnet to butter eggs." I have heard the tiny little shallow pewter porringers, about two or three inches in diameter, with pierced handles, which are still found in New England, called posnets. They were in olden times used to heat medicine and to serve pap to infants. I have also been told that these little porringers were not posnets, but simply the samples of work made by apprentices in the pewterer's trade to show their skill and proficiency.
Tin vessels were exceedingly rare in the seventeenth century, either for table furnishings or for cooking utensils, and far from common in the succeeding one. John Wynter, of Richmond's Island, Maine, had a "tinninge basson & a tinninge platter" in 1638. In 1662 Isaac Willey, of New London, had "Tynen Pans & 1 Tynen Quart Pott;" and Zerubbabel Endicott, of Salem, had a "great tyn candlestick." By 1729, when Governor Burnet's effects were sold, we read of kitchen utensils of tin.
I do not think iron was in high favor among the colonists as a material for household utensils. It was not an iron age. They had iron pans, candlesticks, dishes, fire-dogs, and pots: the latter vessels were traded for vast and valuable tracts of land with the simple red men; but iron was not vastly in use. At an early date iron-foundries were established throughout New England, with, however, varying success.
Latten ware, which was largely composed of brass, appeared in various useful forms for table and culinary appointments. Hard-metal was a superior sort of pewter. Prince's metal (so called from Prince Rupert), a fine brass alloyed with copper and arsenicum, is occasionally named.
Leather, strangely enough, was also used on the table in the form of bottles and drinking cups and jacks, which were pitchers or jugs of waxed leather, much used in ale-houses in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and whose employment gave rise to the belief of the French that Englishmen drank their ale out of their boots. Endicott received of Winthrop one leathern jack worth one shilling and sixpence. I find leathern jacks, bottles, and cups named among the property of Connecticut colonists.
Nearly all the glass ware of the eighteenth century was of inferior quality, full of bubbles and defects. It was frequently fluted. Many pieces have been preserved that have been painted in vitrifiable colors, the designs are crude, the colors red, yellow, blue, and occasionally black or green. The transparent glass thus painted is said to be of Dutch manufacture. The opalized glass similarly decorated is Spanish. Drinking-glasses or flip-mugs seem to have been most common, or, at any rate, most largely preserved. The tradition attached to all the pieces of Spanish glass which I have found in New England homes is that they came from the Barbadoes. Bristol glass also was painted in colors, and came to this country, being advertised in the Boston News-Letter.
Glass bottles were frequently left by will in early days, being rare and valuable; but by newspaper days glass was imported in various shapes, and soon was plentiful enough. In 1773 we find this advertisement:
"Very rich Cut Glass Candlesticks, cut Glass sugar Boxes & Cream Potts, Wine, Wine & Water, and Beer Glasses with cut shanks, Jelly & Syllabub Glasses, Glass Salvers, also Cyder Glasses, Free Mason Glasses, Orange & Top Glasses, Glass Cans, Glass Cream Buckets and Crewits, Royal Arch Mason Glasses, Glass Pyramids with Jelly Glasses, Globe & Barrel Lamps, Double Flynt Wyn Glasses," &c.
The most curious glass relics that are preserved are the flip-glasses or bumper-glasses; they are tumbler-shaped, and are frequently engraved or fluted. Some hold over a gallon.
The names of table furnishings varied somewhat in the eighteenth century. There were milk-pots, milk-ewers, milk-jugs, ere there were milk-pitchers; sugar-boxes, sugar-pots, sugar-basins, ere there were sugar-bowls; spoon-boats and spoon-basins ere there were spoon-holders. Terrines were imported about 1750. There were pickle-dishes and pickle-boats, twifflers, mint-stands and vegetable-basins.
One other appurtenance of a dining-room is found in all early inventories—a voider. Pewter voiders abounded and were advertised in newspapers, as were wicker and china voiders in 1740. The functions of a voider were somewhat those of a crumb-tray. They are thus given in Hugh Rhodes's "Boke of Nurture" in 1577:
"Wyth bones & voyd morsels fyll not thy trenchour, my friend, full Avoyd them into a Voyder, no man will it anull. When meate is taken quyte awaye and Voyders in presence Put you your trenchour in the same and all your resydence. Take you with your napkin & knyfe the croms that are fore thee In the Voyder your Napkin leave for it is curtesye."
SUPPLIES OF THE LARDER
There is a tradition of short commons, usually extending even to stories of starvation, in the accounts of all early settlements in new lands, and the records of the Pilgrims show no exception to the rule. These early planters went through a fiery furnace of affliction. The beef and pork brought with them became tainted, "their butter and cheese corrupted, their fish rotten." A scarcity of food lasted for three years, and there was little variety of fare, yet they were cheerful. Brewster, when he had naught to eat but clams, gave thanks that he was "permitted to suck of the abundance of the seas and the treasures hid in the sands." Cotton Mather says that Governor Winthrop, of the Bay settlement, was giving to a poor neighbor the last meal from his chest, when it was announced that the food-bearing Lion had arrived. The General Court thereat changed an appointed Fast Day to a Thanksgiving Day. By tradition—still commemorated at Forefathers' Dinner—the ration of Indian corn supplied to each person was at one time but five kernels.
Still there was always plenty of fish—the favorite food of the English—and Squanto taught the colonists various Indian methods of catching the "treasures of the sea." With oysters and lobsters they were far from starvation. Higginson said of the latter shellfish, in 1630, "the least boy in the Plantation may both catch and eat what he will of them." He says that lobsters were caught weighing twenty-five pounds each, and that the abundance of other fish was beyond believing. Josselyn, in his "New England Rarities," enumerated two hundred and three varieties of fish; yet Tuckerman calls his list "a poor makeshift." The planters had plenty of implements with which to catch fish—"vtensils of the sea"—"quoils of rope and cable, rondes of twine, herring nets, seans, cod-lines and cod hookes, mackrill-lines, drails, spiller hooks, mussel-hooks, mackrill hooks, barbels, splitting knives, sharks hookes, basse-nettes, pues and gaffs, squid lines, yeele pots," &c. Josselyn also tells some very pretty ways of cooking fish, especially eels with herbs, showing that, like Poins, the colonists loved conger and fennel. Eels were roasted, fried, and boiled. Boiled "eals" were thus prepared:
"Boil them in half water half wine with the bottom of a manchet, a fagot of Parsly and a little Winter Savory, when they are boiled they take them out and break the bread in the broth and put in two or three spoonfuls of yest and a piece of sweet butter, pour to the eals laid upon sippets." Another way beloved by him was to stuff the eels with nutmeg and cloves, stick them with cloves, cook in wine, place on a chafing-dish, and garnish with lemons. This rich dish is somewhat overclouded by his suggestion that the eels be arranged in a wreath.
The frequent references to eels in early accounts prove that they were regarded, as Izaak Walton said, "a very dainty fish, the queen of palate-pleasure."
Next to fish, the early colonists found in Indian corn, or "Guinny wheat"—"Turkie wheat" one traveller called it—their most unfailing food-supply. Our first native poet wrote, in 1675, of what he called early days:
"The dainty Indian maize, Was eat with clamp-shells out of wooden trays."
Its abundance and adaptability did much to change the nature of their diet as well as to save them from starvation. The colonists learned from the Indians how to plant, nourish, harvest, grind, and cook it in many Indian ways, and in each way it formed a palatable food. The Indian pudding which they ate so constantly was made in Indian fashion and boiled in a bag. To the mush of Indian meal they gave the English name of hasty-pudding. Many of the foods made from maize retained the names given in the aboriginal tongues, such as hominy, suppawn, pone, samp, succotash; and doubtless the manner of cooking is wholly Indian. Hoe-cakes and ash-cakes were made by the squaws long before the landing of the Pilgrims. Roasting ears of green corn were made the foundation of a solemn Indian feast and also of a planters' frolic. It is curious to read Winthrop's careful explanation, that when corn is parched it turns entirely inside out, and is "white and floury within;" and to think that there ever was a time when pop-corn was a novelty to white children in New England.
Wood said that sukquttahhash was "seethed like beanes." Roger Williams said that "nassaump, which the English call Samp, is Indian corne beaten & boil'd and eaten hot or cold with milke or butter and is a diet exceeding wholesome for English bodies." Nocake, or nokick, Wood, in his "New England Prospects," thus defines: "Indian corn parched in the hot ashes, the ashes being sifted from it, it is afterward beaten to powder and put into a long leatherne bag trussed at their back like a knapsacke, out of which they take thrice three spoonsfulls a day." It was held to be wonderfully sustaining food in most condensed form. It was carried in a pouch, on long journeys, and mixed before eating with snow in winter and water in summer. Jonne-cake, or journey-cake, was also made from maize. For years the colonists pounded the corn in stone mortars, as did the Indians; then in wooden mortars with pestles. Then rude hand-mills were made—"quernes"—with upright shafts fixed immovably at the upper end, and fastened at the lower end near the outside edge of a flat, circular stone, which was made to revolve in a mortar. By turning the shaft with one hand, the corn could be supplied to the grinding-stone with the other. These hand-mills are sometimes still found in use as "samp-mills." Wind-mills and water-mills followed naturally in the train of the hand-mills.
Wheat but little availed for food in early days, being frequently blighted. Oats were raised in considerable quantity, a pill-corn or peel-corn or sil-pee variety. Josselyn, writing in 1671, gives a New England dish, which he says is as good as whitpot, made of oatmeal, sugar, spice, and a "pottle of milk;" a pottle was two quarts. At a somewhat later date the New Hampshire settlers had a popular oatmeal porridge, in which the oatmeal was sifted, left in water, and allowed to sour, then boiled to a jelly, and was called "sowens." It is still eaten in Northumberland.
By the strict laws made to govern bakers and the number of bake-shops that were licensed, and the sharp punishments for baking short weight, etc., it seems plain that New England housewives did little home baking in early days. The bread was doubtless of many kinds, as in England—simnels, cracknels, jannacks, cheat loaves, cocket-bread, wastel-bread, manchet, and buns. Pure wheaten loaves were not largely used as food—bread from corn meal dried quickly; hence rye meal was mixed with the corn, and "rye 'n' Injun" bread was everywhere eaten.
To the other bountiful companion food of corn, pumpkins, the colonists never turned very readily. Pompions they called them in "the times wherein old Pompion was a saint." Johnson, in his "Wonder-Working Providence," reproved them for making a jest of pumpkins, since they were so good and unfailing a food—"a fruit which the Lord fed his people with till corn and cattle increased."
"We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, If it were not for pumpkins we should be undone."
Pompions, and what Higginson called squantersquashes, Josselyn squontersquoshes, Roger Williams askutasquashes, Wood isquoukersquashes, and we clip to squashes, grew in vast plenty. The Indians dried the pompions on strings for winter use, as is still done in New England farm communities. Madam Knight had them frequently offered to her on her journey—"pumpkin sause" and "pumpkin bred." "We would have eat a morsel ourselves, but the Pumpkin & Indian-mixt bread had such an Aspect." Pumpkin bread is made in Connecticut to this day. For pumpkin "sause" we have a two-centuries-old receipt, which was given by Josselyn, in 1671, in his "New England Rarities," and called by him even at that day "an Ancient New England Standing-dish."
"The Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe and cut them into Dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons and stew them upon a gentle fire the whole day. And as they sink they fill again with fresh Pompions not putting any liquor to them and when it is stir'd enough it will look like bak'd Apples, this Dish putting Butter to it and a little Vinegar with some Spice as Ginger which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with fish or flesh."
This must be a very good "sause," and a very good receipt when once it is clear to your mind which of them—the housewives or the pompions—sink and are to fill and be filled in a pot, and stirred and stewed and put liquor to.
In an old book which I own, which was used by many generations of New England cooks, I find this "singular good" rule to make a "Pumpion Pye:"
"Take about halfe a pound of Pumpion and slice it, a handful of Tyme, a little Rosemary, Parsley and Sweet Marjoram slipped off the stalkes, and chop them smal, then take Cinamon, Nutmeg, Pepper, and six Cloves and beat them, take ten Eggs and beat them, then mix them, and beat them altogether, and put in as much Sugar as you think fit, then fry them like a froiz, after it is fryed, let it stand til it be cold, then fill your Pye, take sliced Apples thinne rounde-wayes, and lay a row of the Froiz and layer of Apples with Currans betwixt the layer while your Pye is fitted, and put in a good deal of sweet butter before you close it, when the pye is baked take six yelks of Eggs, some White-wine or Vergis, and make a Caudle of this, but not too thicke, cut up the Lid and put it in, stir them wel together whilst the Eggs and Pompions be not perceived and so serve it up."
I am sure there would be no trouble about the pompions being perceived, and I can fancy the modest half-pound of country vegetable blushing a deeper orange to find its name given to this ambitious and compound-sentenced concoction which helped to form part of the "simple diet of the good old times." I have found no modern cook bold enough to "prove" (as the book says) this pumpion pie; but hope, if any one understands it, she will attempt it.
Potatoes were on the list of seeds, fruits, and vegetables that were furnished to the Massachusetts Bay colonists in 1628, and fifteen tons (which were probably sweet potatoes) were imported from Bermuda in 1636 and sold in Boston at twopence a pound. Winthrop wrote of "potatose" in 1683. Their cultivation was rare. There is a tradition that the Irish settlers at Londonderry, N. H., began the first systematic planting of potatoes. At the Harvard Commencement dinner, in 1708, potatoes were on the list of supplies. A crop of eight bushels, which one Hadley farmer had in 1763, was large—too large, since "if a man ate them every day he could not live beyond seven years." Indeed, the "gallant root of potatoes" was regarded as a sort of forbidden fruit—a root more than suspected of being an over-active aphrodisiac, and withal so wholly abandoned as not to have been mentioned in the Bible; and when Parson Jonathan Hubbard, of Sheffield, raised twenty bushels in one year, it is said he came very near being dealt with by his church for his wicked hardihood. In more than one town the settlers fancied the balls were the edible portion, and "did not much desire them." Nor were fashionable methods of cooking them much more to be desired. In "The Accomplisht Cook," used about the year 1700, potatoes were ordered to be boiled and blanched; seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper; mixed with eringo roots, dates, lemon, and whole mace; covered with butter, sugar, and grape verjuice, made with pastry; then iced with rose-water and sugar, and yclept a "Secret Pye." Alas, poor, ill-used, be-sugared, secreted potato, fit but for kissing-comfits! we can well understand your unpopularity.
Other vegetables were produced in New England in abundance. Higginson speaks of green peas, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and cucumbers, and a dozen fruits and berries. Cranberries were plentiful and soon were exported to England. Josselyn gives a very full list of fruits and vegetables and pot-herbs, including beans, which were baked by the Indians in earthen pots as they are now in Boston bake-shops.
There was a goodly supply of game. Bradford wrote of the year 1621, "beside waterfoule ther was great store of wild Turkies." Wood said these turkeys sometimes weighed forty pounds apiece, and sold for four shillings each. Josselyn assigned to them the enormous weight of sixty pounds. All agreed that they were far superior to the English domestic turkeys. Morton said they came in flocks of a hundred; yet the Winthrops had great difficulty in getting two to breed from in 1683, and by 1690 it was rare to see a wild turkey in New England. The beautiful great bronze birds had flown away from the white man's civilization and guns.
Flocks of thousands of geese took their noisy, graceful V-shaped flight over New England, and were shot in large numbers. Dudley wrote home that doves were so plentiful that they obscured the light. Josselyn said he had bought in Boston a dozen pigeons all dressed for threepence. It is said they were sometimes sold as low as a penny a dozen. Roger Clap said it would have been counted a strange thing in early days to see a piece of roast veal, beef, or mutton, though it was not long ere there was roast goat. By 1684 a French refugee said beef, mutton, and pork were but twopence a pound in Boston. Clap says he ate his samp, or hominy, without butter or milk, but Higginson wrote in 1630, and Morton in 1624, that they had a quart of milk for a penny. John Cotton said ministers and milk were the only things cheap in New England.
By Johnson's time New Englanders had "Apple, Pear and Quince Tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies." They had besides apple-tarts, apple mose, apple slump, mess apple-pies, buttered apple-pies, apple crowdy and puff apple-pies—all differing.
Josselyn said the "Quinces, Cherries, & Damsins set the Dames a-work. Marmalet & Preserved Damsins is to be met with in every house." Skill in preserving was ever an English-woman's pride, and New-English women did not forget the lessons learned in their "faire English homes." They made preserves and conserves, marmalets and quiddonies, hypocras and household wines, usquebarbs and cordials. They candied fruits and made syrups. They preserved everything that would bear preserving. I have seen old-time receipts for preserving quinces, "respasse," pippins, "apricocks," plums, "damsins," peaches, oranges, lemons, artichokes, green walnuts, elecampane roots, eringo roots, grapes, barberries, cherries; receipts for syrup of clove gillyflower, wormwood, mint, aniseed, clove, elder, lemons, marigolds, citron, hyssop, liquorice; receipts for conserves of roses, violets, borage flowers, rosemary, betony, sage, mint, lavender, marjoram, and "piony;" rules for candying fruit, berries, and flowers, for poppy water, cordial, cherry water, lemon water, thyme water, Angelica water, Aqua Mirabilis, Aqua C[oe]lestis, clary water, mint water.
No wonder a profession of preserving sprung up. By 1731 we find advertised in June in the Boston News Letter, "At Widow Bonyots All Sorts of Fruits in Preserves Jellys and Surrups. Egg Cakes, All sorts of Macaroons, Marchepane Crisp Almonds. All sorts Conserves, Also Meat Jellys for the sick."
We can see plainly by these statements that New England was no Nidderland. Even in Josselyn's day he wrote, "they have not forgotten the English fashion of stirring up their appetites with variety of cooking their food." The pages of Judge Sewall's diary give many hints of his daily fare. He speaks of "boil'd Pork, boil'd Pigeons, boil'd Bacon and boil'd Venison; rost Beef, rost Lamb, rost Fowls, rost Turkey, pork and beans;" "Frigusee of Fowls," "Joll of Salmon," "Oysters, Fish and Oyl, conners, Legg of Pork, hogs Cheek and souett; pasty, bread and butter; Minc'd Pye, Aplepy, tarts, gingerbread, sugar'd almonds, glaz'd almonds;" honey, curds and cream, sage cheese, green pease, barley, "Yokhegg in milk, chockolett, figgs," oranges, shattucks, apples, quinces, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries; a very fair list of viands.
"Yokhegg" is probably "yeokheag," a name for Indian corn, parched and pounded into meal, a name by which it was known for many years in Eastern Connecticut.
Sewall was a very valiant trencher-man. He records with much zest going down the Bay to an island, or riding to Roxbury for an outing and dinner, and coming home in "brave moonshine." And, like his neighbor, Cotton Mather, he drew many a spiritual lesson from the food set before him; especially, however, at a scambling meal, or at any repast which he ate alone, and hence had naught and no one to divert therefrom his ever-religious thoughts.
From a curious account of Boston, written by a traveller named Bennet, in the year 1740, we take the following statements of the cost of food there:
"Their poultry of all sorts are as fine as can be desired, and they have plenty of fine fish of various kinds, all of which are very cheap. Take the butchers' meat all together, in every season of the year, I believe it is about twopence per pound sterling; the best beef and mutton, lamb and veal are often sold for sixpence per pound of New England money, which is some small matter more than one penny sterling.
"Poultry in their season are exceeding cheap. As good a turkey may be bought for about two shillings sterling as we can buy in London for six or seven, and as fine a goose for tenpence as would cost three shillings and sixpence or four shillings in London. The cheapest of all the several kinds of poultry are a sort of wild pigeon, which are in season the latter end of June, and so continue until September. They are large, and finer than those we have in London, and are sold here for eighteenpence a dozen, and sometimes for half of that.
"Fish, too, is exceeding cheap. They sell a fine fresh cod that will weigh a dozen pounds or more, just taken out of the sea, for about twopence sterling. They have smelts, too, which they sell as cheap as sprats are in London. Salmon, too, they have in great plenty, and those they sell for about a shilling apiece, which will weigh fourteen or fifteen pounds.
"They have venison very plenty. They will sell as fine a haunch for half a crown as would cost full thirty shillings in England. Bread is much cheaper than we have in England, but is not near so good. Butter is very fine and cheaper than ever I bought any in London; the best is sold all summer for threepence a pound. But as for cheese, it is neither cheap nor good."
I am somewhat surprised at Bennet's dictum with regard to cheese, and can only feel that he had special ill fortune in choosing his cheesemonger. For certainly the Rhode Island cheese, made from the rich milk of the great herds of choice cows that dotted the fertile and sunny fields of old Narragansett, was sent to England and the Barbadoes in great quantity, and commanded special prices there. Brissot said it was equal to the "best Cheshire of England or Rocfort of France." This cheese was made from a receipt for Cheshire cheese which was brought to Narragansett by Richard Smith's wife in the seventeenth century: and her home is still standing, though built around, at Cocumcussett, where her husband and Roger Williams founded a colony.
We have a very distinct rendering of the items of family expense, chiefly of food, at about that time, given us by a contemporary authority, and bequeathed to us in a letter to the Boston News Letter of November 28, 1728. The writer refers to other "scheams of expence" for a household which have been made public, one apparently being at the rate of L250 a year for the entire outlay. This sum he thinks inadequate and "disproves in a moment." He gives his own careful estimate of the cost of keeping a family of eight persons. It is computed for "Families of Midling Figure who bear the Character of being Genteel," and reads thus:
"For Diet. For one Person a Day.
1 Breakfast 1d. a Pint of Milk 2d .03
2 Dinner. Pudding Bread Meat Roots Pickles Vinegar Salt & Cheese .09
N.B. In this article of the Dinner I would include all the Raisins Currants Suet Flour Eggs Cranberries Apples & where there are children all their Intermeal Eatings throughout the whole Year. And I think a Gentleman cannot well Dine his family at a lower Rate than this.
3 Supper As the Breakfast .03
4 Small Beer for the Whole Day Winter & Summer. 1-1/2
N.B. In this article of the Beer I would likewise include all the Molasses used in the Family not only in Brewing but on other Occasions.
For one Person a Day in all 1s. 4-1/2d.
For Whole Family 11s.
For the Whole Family 365 days L200 15s.
For Butter, 2 Firkins at 68 lb. apiece, 16d. L 9 1s. a lb.
For Sugar. Cannot be less than 10s. a Month or 4 weeks especially when there are children. L 6 10s.
For Candles but 3 a Night Summer & Winter for Ordinary & Extraordinary occasions at 15d. for 9 in the lb. L 7 12s. .01
For Sand 20s. Soap 40s. Washing Once in 4 weeks at 3s. a time with 3 Meals a Day at 2s.more L 6 5s.
For One Maids Wages L 10
For Shoes after the Rate of each 3 Pair in a year at 9s. a Pair for 7 Persons, the Maid finding her own L 9 09s. ————————- In all L249 12s. 5d.
No House Rents Mentioned Nor Buying Carting Pyling or Sawing Firewood No Coffee Tea nor Chocolate No Wine nor Cyder nor any other Spirituous Liquor No Pipes Tobacco Spice nor Sweetmeats No Hospitality or Occasional Entertaining either Gentlemen Strangers Relatives or Friends No Acts of Charity nor Contributions for Pious Uses No Pocket Expenses either for Horse Hire Travelling or Convenient Recreations No Postage for Letters or Numberless other Occasions No Charges of Nursing No Schooling for Children No Buying of Books of any Sort or Pens Ink & Paper No Lyings In No Sickness, Nothing to Apothecary or Doctor No Buying Mending or Repairing Household Stuff or Utensils Nothing to the Simstress nor to the Taylor nor to the Barber, nor to the Hatter nor to the Shopkeeper & Therefore no Cloaths."
Certainly we gain from this "scheam" a very clear notion of the style of living of this genteel Boston family.
There is, of course, no possibility of exactly picturing the serving of a meal in early days; but one peculiarity is known of the dinner—the pudding came first. Hence the old saying, "I came in season—in pudding-time." In an account of a Sunday dinner given at the house of John Adams, as late as 1817, the first course was a pudding of Indian corn, molasses, and butter; the second, veal, bacon, neck of mutton, and vegetables.
For many years the colonists "dined exact at noon," and on farms even half an hour earlier. On Saturday all ate fish for dinner. Judge Sewall frequently speaks of his Saturday dinner of fish. Fish days had been prescribed by the King in England, in order that the fisheries might not fail of support, as was feared on account of the increased consumption of meat induced by the reformation in religion. New Englanders loyally followed the mandate, but ate cod-fish on Saturdays, since the Papists ate fish on Fridays.
One very pleasant and friendly custom that existed among these kindly New England neighbors must be spoken of in passing. It is thus indicated by Judge Sewall when he writes, in 1723, of Mr. and Mrs. Belcher, "my wife sent them a taste of her Diner." It appeared to be a recompensing fashion, if invited guests were unable to partake of the dinner festivities, or if neighbors were ill, for the hostess to send a "taste" of all her viands to console them for their deprivation. This truly homely and neighborly custom lingered long in old New England families under the very descriptive title of "cold party;" indeed it lingers still in old-fashioned towns and in old-fashioned families.
In earlier days when a noble dinner seemed to be the form of domestic pleasure next in enjoyment to a funeral, a "taste of the dinner" was truly a most honorable attention, and a most pleasing one.
OLD COLONIAL DRINKS AND DRINKERS
The English settlers who peopled our colonies were a beer-drinking and ale-drinking race—as Shakespeare said, they were "potent in potting." None of the hardships they had to endure in the first bitter years of their new life caused them more annoyance than their deprivation of their beloved malt liquors. This deprivation began even at the very landing. They were forced to depend on the charity of the ship-masters for a draught of beer on board ship, drinking nothing but water ashore. Bradford, the Pilgrim Governor, complained loudly and frequently of his distress, while Higginson, the Salem minister, accommodated himself more readily and cheerfully to his changed circumstances, and boasted quaintly in 1629, "Whereas my stomach could only digest and did require such drink as was both strong and stale, I can and ofttimes do drink New England water very well." As Higginson died in a short time, his boast of his improved health and praise of the unwonted beverage does not carry the force intended. Another early chronicler, Roger Clap, writes that it was "not accounted a strange thing in those days to drink water," and it was stated that Winthrop drank it ordinarily. Wood, in his "New England Prospects," says of New England water, "I dare not preferre it before good Beere as some have done, but any man would choose it before Bad Beere, Wheay or Buttermilk." It was also praised as being "farr different from the water of England, being not so sharp, but of a fatter substance, and of a more jettie colour; it is thought there can be no better water in the world."
But their beerless state did not long continue, for the first luxury to be brought to the new country was beer, and the colonists soon imported malt and learned to make beer from the despised Indian corn, and established breweries and made laws governing and controlling the manufacture of ale and beer; for the pious Puritans quickly learned to cheat in their brewing, using molasses and coarse sugar. Molasses beer is frequently mentioned by Josselyn.
By 1634, when sixpence was the legal charge for a meal, an ale-quart of beer could be bought for a penny, and a landlord was liable to ten shillings fine if he made a greater charge, or his liquor fell below a certain standard of quality. Perhaps this low price was established by the crafty Puritan magistrates in order to prevent the possibility of profit by beer-selling, and thereby reduce the number of sellers. It was also ordered that not more than an ale-quart of beer should be drunk out of meal-times. This was to prevent "bye-drinking." Josselyn complained of the petty interference of the law in drinking, saying:
"At the houses of entertainment called ordinaries into which a stranger went, he was presently followed by one appointed to that office who would thrust himself into his company uninvited, and if he called for more drink than the officer thought, in his judgment, he could soberly bear away, he would presently countermand it, and appoint the proportion beyond which he could not get one drop."
The ministers, also, who chanced to live within sight of the tavern, had a very virtuous custom of watching the tavern door and all who entered therein, and going over and "chiding them" if they remained too long within the cheerful portals. With constables, deacons, the parson, and that lab-o'-the-tongue—the tithing-man—each on the alert to keep every one from drinking but himself, the Puritan had little chance to be a toper an he would.
The colonists were fiercely intolerant of intemperance among the Indians. Laws were made as early as 1633 prohibiting the sale of strong waters to the "inflamed devilish bloudy salvages," and persons selling liquor to them were sharply prosecuted and punished. New Yorkers thought these laws over-severe, saying, deprecatingly, "to prohibit all strong liquor to them seems very hard and very turkish, rumm doth as little hurt as the ffrenchmans Brandie, and in the whole is much more wholesome." But the Puritans knew of the horrors to be dreaded from drunken Indians.
So plentiful had the sale of ale and beer become in 1675 that Cotton Mather said every other house in Boston was an ale-house, and a century later Governor Pownall made the same assertion. The Puritan magistrates in New England made at a very early date a decided stand not only against excessive drinking by strangers, but against the habit of drunkenness in their citizens. Drunkards were in 1636, in Massachusetts, subject to fine and imprisonment in the stocks, and sellers were forbidden to furnish the tippler with any liquor thereafter. An habitual drunkard was punished by having a great D made of "Redd Cloth" hung around his neck, or sewed on his clothing, and he was disfranchised. In 1630 Governor Winthrop abolished the "Vain Custom" of drinking healths at his table, and in 1639 the Court publicly ordered the cessation of the practice because "it was a thing of no use, it induced drunkenness and quarrelling, it wasted wine and beer and it was troublesome to many, forcing them to drink more than they wished." A fine of twelve shillings was imposed on each health-drinker. Cotton Mather, however, thought health-drinking a usage of common politeness. In Connecticut no man could drink over half a pint of wine at a time, or tipple over half an hour, or drink at all at an ordinary after nine o'clock at night.
All these rigid laws had their effect, and New Englanders throughout the seventeenth century were sober and law-abiding save in a few communities, such as that at Merrymount, where "good chear went forward and strong liquors walked." Boston was an especially orderly town. Several visiting and resident clergymen testified that they had not seen a drunken man in the Massachusetts Colony in many years. The following quotation will show how rare was drunkenness and how abhorred. Judge Sewall wrote in 1686:
"Mr. Shrimpton and others came in a coach from Roxbury about nine o'clock or past, singing as they came, being inflamed with drink. At Justice Morgans they stop and drink healths and curse and swear to the great disturbance of the town and grief of good people. Such high handed wickedness has hardly before been heard of in Boston."
It is well to compare the orderly, decorous, well-protected existence in Boston, with the conditions of town life in Old England at that same date, where drunken young men of fashion under the name of Mohocks, Scourers, Hectors, Muns, or Tityriti, prowled the streets abusing and beating every man and woman they met—"sons of Belial flown with insolence and wine;" where turbulent apprentices set upon those the Mohocks chanced to spare; where duels and intrigues and gaming were the order of the day; where foot-pads, highwaymen, and street ruffians robbed unceasingly and with impunity. Life in New England may have been dull and monotonous, but women could go through the streets in safety, and Judge Sewall could stumble home alone in the dark from his love-making without fear of molestation; and when he found a party of young men singing and making too much noise in a tavern, he could go among them uninsulted, and could get them to meekly write down their own names with his "Pensil" for him to bring them up and fine them the next day.
Still, the Judge, though he hated noisy revellers, was no total abstainer. He speaks of "grace cups" and "treating the Deputies," and sent gifts of wine to his friends. I find in his diary references to these drinks: Ale, beer, mead, metheglin, tea, chocolate, sage tea, cider, wine, sillabub, claret, sack, canary, punch, sack-posset, and black cherry brandy.
Sack, the drink of Shakespeare's day, beloved and praised of Falstaff, was passing out of date in Sewall's time. Winthrop tells of four ships coming into port in 1646 with eight hundred butts of sack on board. In 1634 ordinaries were forbidden to sell it, hence the sack found but a poor market. Sack-posset was made of ale and sack, thickened with eggs and cream, seasoned with nutmeg, mace, and sugar, then boiled on the fire for hours, and made a "very pretty drink" for weddings and feasts.
Canary wine was imported at that time in large quantities. In the first year's issue of the News Letter were advertised "Fyall wine sold by the Pipe; Passados & Right Canary." The Winthrops in their letters make frequent mention of Canary, as also of "Vendredi" and "Palme Wine." Wait Winthrop said the latter was better than Canary. Tent wine also was sent to the colonists.
It is interesting to find that the sanguine settlers aspired, even in bleak New England, to the home production of wine. "Vine planters" were asked for the colony in 1629. The use of Governor's Island in Massachusetts Bay was granted to Governor Winthrop in 1634 for a vineyard, for an annual rental of a hogshead of wine, which at a later date was changed to a yearly payment of two barrels of apples. The French settlers also planted vineyards in Rhode Island.
Claret was not much loved by the planters, who had a taste for the sweet sack. Morton tells that for his revellers he "broched a hogshead, caused them to fill the Can with Lusty liquor—Claret sparklinge neat—which was not suffered to grow pale & flat but tipled off with quick dexterity." Mumm, a fat ale made of oat-malt and wheat-malt, appears frequently in early importations and accounts. The sillabub of which Sewall speaks was made with cider and was not boiled:
"Fill your Sillabub Pot with Syder (for that is best for a Sillabub) and good store of Sugar and a little Nutmeg, stir it wel together, put in as much thick Cream by two or three spoonfuls at a time, as hard as you can as though you milke it in, then stir it together exceeding softly once about and let it stand two hours at least."
Other mild fermented drinks than beer were made and drunk in colonial days in large quantities. Mead and metheglin, wherewith the Druids and old English bards were wont to carouse, were made from water, honey, and yeast. Here is an old receipt for the latter drink, which some colonists pronounced as good as Malaga sack.
"Take all sorts of Hearbs that are good and wholesome as Balme, Mint, Fennel, Rosemary, Angelica, wilde Tyme, Isop, Burnet, Egrimony, and such other as you think fit; some Field Hearbs, but you must not put in too many, but especially Rosemary or any Strong Hearb, lesse than halfe a handfull will serve of every sorte, you must boyl your Hearbs & strain them, and let the liquor stand till to Morrow and settle them, take off the clearest Liquor, two Gallons & a halfe to one Gallon of Honey, and that proportion as much as you will make, and let it boyle an houre, and in the boyling skim it very clear, then set it a cooling as you doe Beere, when it is cold take some very good Ale Barme and put into the bottome of the Tubb a little and a little as they do Beere, keeping back the thicke Setling that lyeth in the bottome of the Vessel that it is cooled in, and when it is all put together cover it with a Cloth and let it worke very neere three dayes, and when you mean to put it up, skim off all the Barme clean, put it up into the Vessel, but you must not stop your Vessel very close in three or four dayes but let it have all the vent, for it will worke and when it is close stopped you must looke very often to it and have a peg in the top to give it vent, when you heare it make a noise as it will do, or else it will breake the Vessell; sometime I make a bag and put in good store of Ginger sliced, some Cloves and Cinnamon and boyl it in, and other time I put it into the Barrel and never boyl it, it is both good, but Nutmeg & Mace do not well to my Tast."
In the list of values fixed by the Piscataqua planters in 1633, "6 Gallons Mathaglin were equal to 2 lb. Beauer." In the middle of the century metheglin was worth ten shillings a barrel in the Connecticut Valley.
Though mild, these drinks were intoxicating. One could "get fox'd e'en with foolish matheglin." Old James Howel says, "metheglin does stupefy more than any other liquor if taken immoderately and keeps a humming in the brain which made one say he loved not metheglin because he was wont to speak too much of the house he came from, meaning the hive."
Bradford tells of backsliders from Merrymount who "abased themselves disorderly with drinking too much stronge drinke aboard the Freindshipp." This strong drink was metheglin, of which two hogsheads were to be delivered at Plymouth. But after it was transferred to wooden "flackets" in Boston, these Friendship merrymakers contrived to "drinke it up under the name leackage" till but six gallons of the metheglin arrived at Plymouth.
"Cyder famed" was made at an early date from the fruitful apple-trees so faithfully planted by Endicott, Blackstone, and other settlers. Cider was cheap enough; Josselyn wrote, "I have had at the tap houses of Boston an ale-quart of cyder spiced and sweetened with sugar, for a groat."
This was not the New England nectar or Passada which he praised so highly and which was thus made—
"Take of Malligo Raisins, stamp them and put milk to them and put them to a Hippocras Bag and let it drain out of itself and put a quantity of this with a spoonful or two of Syrup of Clove Gilly-flowers into every bottle when you bottle your Syder, and your Planter will have a liquor that exceeds Passada, the Nectar of the Country."
Cider was made at first by pounding the apples by hand in wooden mortars; sometimes the pomace was pressed in baskets. Rude mills were then formed with a hollowed log, and a heavy weight or maul on a spring-board. Cider soon became the common drink of the people, and it was made in vast quantities. In 1671 five hundred hogsheads were made of one orchard's produce. One village of forty families made three thousand barrels in 1721. Bennet wrote in 1740, "Cider being cheap and the people used to it they do not encourage malt liquors. They pay about three shillings a barrel for cider." It was freely used even by the children at breakfast, as well as at dinner, up to the end of the first quarter of the present century, when many zealous followers so eagerly embraced the new temperance reform that they cut down whole orchards of thriving apple-trees, conceiving no possibility of the general use of the fruit for food instead of drink.
Charles Francis Adams says that "to the end of John Adams's life a large tankard of hard cider was his morning draught before breakfast."
Cider was supplied in large amounts to students at college at dinner and "bever," being passed in two two-quart tankards from hand to hand down the commons table. It was given liberally to all travellers and wanderers who chanced to stop at the farmer's door; to all workmen and farm laborers; and an "Indian barrel," whose contents were for free gift to every tramp Indian or squaw, was found in many a farmer's cellar.
A traveller in Maine just after the Revolution said that their cider was purified by the frost, colored with corn, and looked and tasted like Madeira.
Beverige also was drunk by the colonists. This name was applied to various mild and watery drinks. In the West Indies the juice of the sugar-cane mixed with water was so called. In Devonshire, water which had been pressed through the lees of a cider-mill was called beverige. In other parts of England water, cider, and spices formed beverige. In New England the concoction varied, but was uniformly innocuous and weak—the colonial prototype of our modern "temperance drinks." In many country houses a summer drink of water flavored with molasses and ginger was called beverige. The advertisement in the Boston News Letter, August 16th, 1711, of the sale of the captured Neptune with her lading, at the warehouse of Andrew Fanueil, had "Wine, Vinegar and Beveridge" on the list. This must have been stronger stuff than molasses and water, to have been worth barrelling and sending across the water.
Switchel was a drink similar to beverige, but when served out to sailors was strengthened by a little vinegar and rum. The name was commonly used in New Hampshire and central Massachusetts. Ebulum was made of the juices of the elder and juniper berries mixed with ale and spices.
Perry was made to some extent from pears, and was advertised for sale in the Boston News Letter, and one traveller told of "peachy" made from peaches. Spruce and birch beer were brewed by mixing a decoction of sassafras, birch, or spruce bark with molasses and water, or by boiling the twigs in maple sap, or by boiling together pumpkin and apple-parings, water, malt, and roots. Many curious makeshifts were resorted to in the early days. One old song boasted
"Oh we can make liquor to sweeten our lips Of pumpkins, of parsnips, of walnut-tree chips."
Fiercer liquors were not lacking. Aqua-vitae, a general name for strong waters, was brought over in large quantities during the seventeenth century, and sold for about three shillings a gallon. Cider was distilled into cider brandy, or apple-jack; and when, by 1670, molasses had come into port in considerable quantity through the West India trade, the forests of New England supplied plentiful and cheap fuel to convert it into "rhum, a strong water drawn from the sugar cane." In a manuscript description of Barbadoes, written in 1651, we read: "The chief fudling they make in this island is Rumbullion alias Kill Divil—a hot hellish and terrible liquor." It was called in some localities Barbadoes liquor, and by the Indians "ahcoobee" or "ockuby," a word of the Norridgewock tongue. John Eliot spelled it "rumb," and Josselyn called it plainly "that cussed liquor, Rhum, rumbullion, or kill-devil." It went by the latter name and rumbooze everywhere, and was soon cheap enough. Increase Mather said, in 1686, "It is an unhappy thing that in later years a Kind of Drink called Rum has been common among us. They that are poor, and wicked too, can for a penny or twopence make themselves drunk." Burke said, at a later date, "The quantity of spirits which they distil in Boston from the molasses they import is as surprising as the cheapness at which they sell it, which is under two shillings a gallon; but they are more famous for the quantity and cheapness than for the excellency of their rum." In 1719, and fifty years later, New England rum was worth but three shillings a gallon, while West India rum was worth but twopence more. New England distilleries quickly found a more lucrative way of disposing of their "kill-devil" than by selling it at such cheap rates. Ships laden with barrels of rum were sent to the African coast, and from thence they returned with a most valuable lading—negro slaves. Along the coast of Africa New England rum quite drove out French brandy.
The Irish and Scotch settlers knew how to make whiskey from rye and wheat, and they soon learned to manufacture it from barley and potatoes, and even from the despised Indian corn.
Not content with their own manufactured liquors, the thirsty colonists imported strong waters, gin and aniseseed cordial from Holland, and wine from Spain, Portugal, and the Canaries. Of these, fiery Madeiras were the favorite of all fashionable folk and often each glass of wine was strengthened by a liberal dash of brandy. Bennet wrote, in 1740, of Boston society, "Madeira wine and rum punch are the liquors they drink in common." Though "spiced punch in bowls the Indians quaffed" in 1665, I do not know of the Oriental mixed drink in New England till 1682, when John Winthrop writes of the sale of a punch-bowl. In 1686 John Dunton had more than one "noble bowl of punch," during his visit to New England. The word punch was from the East Indian word pauch, meaning five. S. M. (who was probably Samuel Mather) sent these lines to Sir Harry Frankland in 1757, with the gift of a box of lemons:
"You know from Eastern India came The skill of making punch as did the name. And as the name consists of letters five, By five ingredients is it kept alive. To purest water sugar must be joined, With these the grateful acid is combined. Some any sours they get contented use, But men of taste do that from Tagus choose. When now these three are mixed with care Then added be of spirit a small share. And that you may the drink quite perfect see Atop the musky nut must grated be."
Every buffet of people of fashion contained a punch-bowl, every dinner was prefaced by a bowl of punch, which was passed from hand to hand and drunk from without intervening glasses. J. Crosby, at the Box of Lemons, in Boston, sold for thirty years lime juice and shrub and lemons, and sour oranges and orange juice (which some punch tasters preferred to lemon juice), to flavor Boston punches.
Double and "thribble" bowls of punch were commonly served, holding respectively two and three quarts each, and many existing bills show what large amounts were drunk. Governor Hancock gave a dinner to the Fusileers at the Merchants' Club, in Boston, in 1792. As eighty dinners were paid for I infer there were eighty diners. They drank one hundred and thirty-six bowls of punch, besides twenty-one bottles of sherry and a large quantity of cider and brandy. An abstract of an election dinner to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1769, showed two hundred diners, and seventy-two bottles of Madeira, twenty-eight bottles of Lisbon wine, ten of claret, seventeen of port, eighteen of porter, fifteen double bowls of punch and a quantity of cider. The clergy were not behind the military and the magistrates. In the record of the ordination of Rev. Joseph McKean, in Beverly, Mass., in 1785, these items are found in the tavern-keeper's bill:
30 Bowles of Punch before the People went to meeting 3 80 people eating in the morning at 16d 6 10 bottles of wine before they went to meeting 1 10 68 dinners at 3s 10 4 44 bowles of punch while at dinner 4 8 18 bottles of wine 2 14 8 bowles of Brandy 1 2 Cherry Rum 1 10 6 people drank tea 9d
The six mild tea-drinkers and their economical beverage seem to put a finishing and fairly comic touch to this ordination bill. When we read such renderings of accounts we think it natural that Baron Reidesel wrote of New England inhabitants, "most of the males have a strong passion for strong drink, especially rum and other alcoholic beverages." John Adams said, "if the ancients drank wine as our people drink rum and cider it is no wonder we hear of so many possessed with devils."
The cost of these various drinks was thus given about Revolutionary times in Bristol, R. I.:
"Nip of Grog 6d Dubel bole of Tod 2s 9d Dubel bole of punch 8s Nip of punch 1s Brandi Sling 8d"
Flip was a vastly popular drink, and continued to be so for a century and a half. I find it spoken of as early as 1690. It was made of home-brewed beer, sweetened with sugar, molasses, or dried pumpkin, and flavored with a liberal dash of rum, then stirred in a great mug or pitcher with a red-hot loggerhead or hottle or flip-dog, which made the liquor foam and gave it a burnt bitter flavor.
Landlord May, of Canton, Mass., made a famous brew thus: he mixed four pounds of sugar, four eggs, and one pint of cream and let it stand for two days. When a mug of flip was called for, he filled a quart mug two-thirds full of beer, placed in it four great spoonfuls of the compound, then thrust in the seething loggerhead, and added a gill of rum to the creamy mixture. If a fresh egg were beaten into the flip the drink was called "bellows-top," and the froth rose over the top of the mug. "Stone-wall" was a most intoxicating mixture of cider and rum. "Calibogus," or "bogus," was cold rum and beer unsweetened. "Black-strap" was a mixture of rum and molasses. Casks of it stood in every country store, a salted and dried codfish slyly hung alongside—a free lunch to be stripped off and eaten, and thus tempt, through thirst, the purchase of another draught of black-strap.
A terrible drink is said to have been popular in Salem—a drink with a terrible name—whistle-belly-vengeance. It consisted of sour household beer simmered in a kettle, sweetened with molasses, filled with brown-bread crumbs and drunk piping hot.
Of course many protests, though chiefly on the ground of wasteful expense, were made, even in ante-temperance days, against the drinking which grew so prevalent with the opening of the eighteenth century. Rev. Andrew Eliot wrote in 1735, "'Tis surprising what prodigious sums are expended for spirituous liquors in this one poor Province—more than a million of our old currency in a year." Dr. Tenney lamented that the taverns of Exeter, N. H., were thronged with people who seldom retired sober. Strenuous but ineffectual efforts were made to "prevent tippling in the forenoon," and between meals; but with little avail. The temperance-reform of our own century came none too soon.
Tea was too high priced in the first half-century of its Occidental use to have been frequently seen in New England. Judge Sewall mentioned it but once in his diary. He drank it at Madam Winthrop's house in 1709 at a Thursday lecture, but he does not note it as a rarity. In 1690, however, when not over-plentiful in old England, Benjamin Harris and Daniel Vernon were licensed to sell it "in publique" in Boston. In 1712 "green and ordinary teas" were advertised in the apothecary's list of Zabdiel Boylston. Bohea tea came in 1713, and in 1715 tea was sold in the coffee-houses. Some queer mistakes were made through the employment of the herb as food. In Salem it was boiled for a long time till bitter, and drunk without milk or sugar; and the tea-leaves were buttered, salted, and eaten. In more than one town the liquid tea was thrown away and the carefully cooked leaves were eaten.
The new China drink did not have a wholly savory reputation. It was called a "damned weed," a "detestable weed," a "base exotick," a "rank poison far-fetched and dear bought," a "base and unworthy Indian drink," and various ill effects were attributed to it—the decay of the teeth, and even the loss of the mental faculties. But the Abbe Robin thought the ability of the Revolutionary soldiers to endure military flogging came from the use of tea. And others thought it cured the spleen and indigestion.
As the day drew near when tea-drinking was to become the great turning-point of our national liberty, the spirit of noble revolt led many dames to join in bands to abandon the use of the unjustly taxed herb, and societies were formed of members pledged to drink no tea. Five hundred women so banded together in Boston. Various substitutes were employed in the place of the much-loved but rigidly abjured herb, Liberty Tea being the most esteemed. It was thus made: the four-leaved loose-strife was pulled up like flax, its stalks were stripped of the leaves and boiled; the leaves were put in an iron kettle and basted with the liquor from the stalks. Then the leaves were put in an oven and dried. Liberty Tea sold for sixpence a pound. It was drunk at every spinning-bee, quilting, or other gathering of women. Ribwort was also used to make a so-called tea—strawberry and currant leaves, sage, and even strong medicinal herbs likewise. Hyperion tea was made from raspberry leaves. An advertisement of the day thus reads:
"The use of Hyperion or Labrador tea is every day coming into vogue among people of all ranks. The virtues of the plant or shrub from which this delicate Tea is gathered were first discovered by the Aborigines, and from them the Canadians learned them. Before the cession of Canada to Great Britain we knew little or nothing of this most excellent herb, but since that we have been taught to find it growing all over hill and dale between the Lat. 40 and 60. It is found all over New England in great plenty and that of best quality particularly on the banks of the Penobscot, Kennebec, Nichewannock, and Merrimac."
The proportion of tea used in America is now less than in England, and the proportion of coffee much larger. This is wholly the result of national habits formed through patriotic abstinence from tea-drinking in those glorious "Liberty Days."
The first mention of coffee, as given by Dr. Lyon, is in the record of the license of Dorothy Jones, of Boston, in 1670, to sell "Coffe and chuchaletto." At intervals of a few years other innkeepers were licensed to sell it, and by the beginning of the eighteenth century coffee-houses were established. Coffee dishes, coffee-pots, and coffee-mugs appear in inventories, and show how quickly and eagerly the fragrant berry was sought for in private families. As with tea, its method of preparation as a beverage seemed somewhat uncertain in some minds; and it is said that the whole beans were frequently boiled for some hours with not wholly pleasing results in forming either food or drink. After a few years "coffee-powder" was offered for sale.
Chocolate became equally popular. Sewall often drank it, once certainly as early as 1697, at the Lieutenant-Governor's, with a breakfast of venison. Winthrop says it was scarce in 1698. Madam Knight took it with her on her journey in 1704. "I told her I had some chocolate if she would prepare it, which, with the help of some milk and a little clean brass kettle, she soon effected to my satisfaction." Mills to grind cocoa were quickly established in Boston, and were advertised in the News Letter.
Even in the early days of our Republic there were reformers who wished to establish the use of temperance drinks, which were not, however, exactly the same liquids now so called. A writer in the Boston Evening Post wrote forcibly on the subject, and a Philadelphia paper published this statement on July 23d, 1788:
"A correspondent wishes that a monument could be erected in Union Green with the following inscription.
In Honour of American Beer and Cyder.
It is hereby recorded for the information of strangers and posterity that 17,000 Assembled in this Green on the 4th of July 1788 to celebrate the establishment of the Constitution of the United States, and that they departed at an early hour without intoxication or a single quarrel. They drank nothing but Beer and Cyder. Learn Reader to prize these invaluable liquors and to consider them as the companions of those virtues which can alone render our country free and reputable.
Learn likewise to Despise Spirituous Liquors as Anti Federal
and to consider them as the companions of all those vices which are calculated to dishonor and enslave our country."
TRAVEL, TAVERN, AND TURNPIKE
When New England was colonized, the European emigrants were forced to content themselves with the rude means of transportation which were employed by the aborigines. The favorite way back and forth from Plymouth to Boston and Cape Ann was by water, by skirting the shore in birchen pinnaces or dugouts—hollowed pine logs about twenty feet long and two and a half feet wide—in which Johnson said the savages ventured two leagues out at sea. There were few horses, and the few were too valuable for domestic work to be spared for travel, hence the journeyer must go by water, or on foot. When Bradstreet was sent to Dover as Royal Commissioner, he walked the entire distance there, and back to Boston, by narrow Indian paths.
The many estuaries and river-mouths that intersected the coast also made travel on horseback difficult. Foot-passengers, however, could cross the narrow streams by natural ford-ways, or on fallen trees, which were ordered to be put in proper place by the colonial government; and the broader rivers by canoe ferries. We see, through the record of one journey, the dignified Governor of Massachusetts carried across the ford-ways pick-a-pack on the shoulders of his stalwart Indian guide.
But soon the settlers, true to their English instincts and habits, turned their attention to the breeding of horses. They imported many fine animals, and the magistrates framed laws intended to improve the imported stock. The history of horse-raising in New England is akin to that of any other country, save in one respect. In Rhode Island the breeding of horses resulted in that famous and first distinctively American breed—the Narragansett Pacers.
The first suggestion of horse-raising in Narragansett was, without doubt, given by Sewall's father-in-law, Captain John Hull, of Pine Tree Shilling fame, who was one of the original purchasers of the Petaquamscut Tract, or Narragansett, from the Indians. He wrote, in April, 1677:
"I have often thought if we, the partners of Point Judith Neck did fence with a good stone wall at the north end thereof, that no kind of horses or cattle might get thereon, and also what other parts thereof westerly were needful, and procure a very good breed of large and fair mares and horses, and that no mongrel breed might come among them, we might have a very choice breed for coach horses, some for the saddle and some for draught; and in a few years might draw off considerable numbers and ship them for Barbadoes Nevis or such parts of the Indies where they would vend."
This scheme was doubtless carried into effect, for in 1686 Dudley and his associates ordered thirty horses to be seized in Narragansett and sold to pay for building a jail.
In a later letter Hull accuses William Heiffernan of horse-stealing, and shows that a different and more gentle method than Western lynch-law was pursued by the Eastern settlers. He writes:
"I am informed that you were so shameless that you offered to sell some of my horses. I would have you know that they are by Gods good Providence, mine. Do you bring me some good security for my money that is justly owing and I shall be willing to give you some horses that you shall not need to offer to steal any."
Whatever the means may have been that tended to the establishment of a distinct breed of horses, the result was soon evident; by the early years of the eighteenth century the Narragansett Pacers were known throughout the colonies as a desirable breed of saddle-horses.
The local conditions for raising this breed were favorable. The soil of Narragansett was rich, the crops large, the natural formation of the land made it possible to fence it easily and with little expense—a thing of much importance in a new land. The bay, the ocean, and the chain of half salt lakes surrounding the three sides, left but a short northern length for stone wall, as Hull suggested.
It is said that the progenitor or most important sire of this race was imported from Andalusia by Governor Robinson. Another tradition is that this horse, while swimming off the coast of Spain, was picked up by a Narragansett sloop and brought to America. Thomas Hazard contributed to the quality of endurance in the breed by introducing into it the blood of "Old Snip." So celebrated did the qualities of this horse become that the "Snip breed" was not only spoken of with regard to the horses, but of the owners as well, and Hazards who did not possess the distinguishing race-characteristic of self-will were said not to be "true Snips." Old Snip was said to have been imported from Tripoli; others assert (and it is generally believed) that he was a wild horse running at large in the tract near Point Judith.
In the year 1711 Rip Van Dam, a prominent citizen of New York, and at a later date Governor of the State, wrote to Jonathan Dickinson, an early mayor of Philadelphia, a very amusing account of his ownership of a Narragansett Pacer. The horse was shipped from Rhode Island in a sloop, from which he managed to jump overboard, swim ashore, and return home. He was, however, again placed on board ship, and arrived in New York after a fourteen-days' passage, naturally much reduced in flesh and spirits. From New York he was sent to Philadelphia by post—that is, ridden by the post-rider. The horse cost L32, and his freight cost fifty shillings. He was said to be "no beauty though so high priced, save in his legs." "He always plays and acts and never will stand still, he will take a glass of wine, beer or cyder, and probably would drink a dram on a cold morning." The last extraordinary accomplishment doubtless showed contamination from the bad human company around him, while the swimming feat evinced his direct descent from the Andalusian swimmer.
Dr. McSparran, rector of the Narragansett church from 1721 to 1759, wrote a little book called "America Dissected," in which he speaks thus of the Narragansett Pacers:
"The produce of this country is principally butter, cheese, fat cattle, wool and fine horses that are exported to all parts of English America. They are remarkable for fleetness and swift pacing and I have seen some of them pace a mile in a little more than two minutes and a good deal less than three minutes. I have often upon the larger pacing horses rode fifty, nay sixty miles a day even in New England where the roads are rough, stony and uneven."
In the realm of fiction we find testimony to the qualities of the Narragansett Pacers. Cooper, in the "Last of the Mohicans," represents his heroines as mounted on these horses, and explains their characteristics in a footnote, and also in the dialogue of the story. He says that they were commonly sorrel-colored, and that horses of other breeds were trained to their gait. It is true that horses were trained to pace. Rev. Mr. Thatcher wrote in 1690 of teaching a mare to amble by cross-spanning, and again by trammelling. Logs of wood were placed across a road at certain intervals to induce a pacing gait. As late as the year 1770 men in Ipswich followed the profession of pace-trainer; but I doubt whether any other breed could ever acquire the peculiar gait of the Narragansetts, of which Isaac Hazard thus wrote: "My father described the motion of this horse as differing from others in that its backbone moved through the air in a straight line without inclining the rider from side to side, as does a rocker or pacer of the present day." That motion could scarcely be taught.
Many traits joined to make the Narragansett Pacers so eagerly sought for. Not only was their ease of motion an absolute necessity, but sureness of foot was also indispensable; this quality they also possessed. They were also tough and enduring, and could travel long distances. The stories told of them seem incredible. It was said that they could travel one hundred miles in a day, over rough roads, without tiring the rider or injury to themselves, provided they were properly cared for at the end of the journey.
There was not only in America a steady demand for these horses, but in the West Indies, as Hull predicted, they found a ready market. One farmer sent annually a hundred pacers to Cuba, and agents were sent to Narragansett from Cuba with orders to buy pacers, especially full-blooded mares, at any prices. Agents from Virginia also purchased pacers for Virginian horse-raisers. The newspapers of the latter part of the eighteenth century—especially of the Connecticut press—abound in advertisements of horses of the "true Narragansett breed," yet it is said that in the year 1800 but one full-blooded Narragansett Pacer was known to be living. In the War of 1812 the British man-of-war Orpheus cruised the waters of Narragansett Bay, and her captain endeavored through agents to obtain a Narragansett Pacer as a gift for his wife, but in vain—not a horse of the true breed could be found.
It has been said that the reckless exportation to the West Indies caused this extermination, but it is difficult to believe that so shrewd a race as were the Narragansett planters ever would have committed such a killing of a goose of golden eggs. The decay of the race was the action of a simple law—cause and effect. The conditions which rendered the pacer so desirable did not exist after the Revolution. Roads were improved, carriages became common, the saddle less used, and the American trotter was evolved, who was a better carriage horse, and a more useful one, as he could be employed for both light and heavy work, while heavy draughting stiffened the joints of the pacer, and destroyed the very qualities for which he was most valued. Thus, being no longer needed, the Narragansett Pacer ceased to exist.
There died in Wickford, R. I., a few years ago, a Narragansett Pacer that was nearly full blooded. She was a villainously ugly animal of faded, sunburnt sorrel color. She was so abnormally broad-backed and broad-bodied that a male rider who sat astride her was forced to stick his legs out at a most awkward and ridiculous angle. That broad back carried, however, most comfortably a side-saddle or a pillion. Being extremely short-legged this treasured relic was unprecedentedly slow, and altogether I found the Narragansett Pacer, though an object of great pride and even veneration to her owner, not all my fancy had painted her.