From the earliest days when horses were imported, women rode on pillions behind the men. Lechford in his note-book refers to a "womans pillion" lost on the Hopewell. A pillion was a cushion strapped on behind a man's saddle, and from it sometimes hung a small platform or double stirrup on which a woman rider could rest her feet. One horse was sometimes made also to carry two men riding astride. Horseflesh was also economized by the ride-and-tie system: two persons would start on horseback, ride a mile or two, dismount, tie the animal by the road-side, leaving him for another couple (who had started afoot) to mount, ride on past the first couple, and dismount and tie in their turn.
Coaches were not a wholly popular means of conveyance in the first half of the seventeenth century, even among Englishmen on English roads, and they would have been wholly useless in New England. John Winthrop had one in 1685. Sir Edmund and Lady Andros rode in a coach in Boston in 1687, and there were then a few other carriages in town. Their purchase and use were deplored and discouraged by Puritan authorities, as were other luxurious fashions. Outside of the town wheeled vehicles were of little use as they had to be lashed clumsily in two canoes and laboriously ferried across the rivers, while the horses were similarly transferred to the opposite shore, or allowed to swim over. The early carriages were calashes and chariots. Henry Sharp of Salem had a calash in 1701. William Cutler's "collash with ye furniture" was worth L10 in 1723. Chairs—two-wheeled gigs without a top—and chaises, a vehicle with similar body and a top, were early forms of carriages. The sulky had in early days, as now, seating room but for one person. All these were hung on thorough braces instead of springs.
In an account of the funeral of Lieutenant Governor Tailor, in 1732, it is mentioned that a "great number of the gentry attended in their coaches and chaises;" but even by that date coaches were of little avail for long journeys. The anxious letters of Waitstill Winthrop to his son in 1717, at the latter's proposal of bringing a coach overland from Boston to New London, show the obstacles of travel. He warns that there are no bridges in Narragansett; he urges him to bring a mounted servant with an axe to "cut bows in the way," "to bring a good pilate that knows the cart ways," to be sure to keep the coachman sober, to have axle and hubs prepared for rough usage—and in every way discourages so rash an endeavor.
Though I have seen a New England inventory of the year 1690 in which a "sley" appears, I do not find that they were frequently used until the second or third decade of the succeeding century, though a few Bostonians had them in the year 1700. They were largely used by the Dutch in New York, and Connecticut folk occasionally followed Dutch fashions.
When sedan-chairs were so fashionable and plentiful in England, they were sure to be used to some extent in New England towns. Governor Winthrop had a very elegant Spanish sedan-chair, which was given him in 1646 by Captain Cromwell, who captured it from a Spanish galleon. This fine chair was worth L50 and was an intended gift of the Viceroy of Mexico to his sister. When Parson Oxenbridge was striken with apoplexy in the pulpit of the First Church in Boston, he was "carried home in a Cedan." On August 3, 1687, Judge Sewall wrote in his diary: "Capt. Gerrish is carried in a Sedan to the Wharf and so takes boat for Salem." Again he writes on May 31, 1715: "The Gov'r comes first to Town, was carried from Mr. Dudleys to the Town-House in Cous. Dumers Sedan; but 'twas too tall for the Stairs, so was fain to be taken out near the top of them." The Governor had had a bad attack of gout.
On September 11, 1706, Sewall writes: "Five Indians carried Mr. Bromfield in a chair." And though I have never seen the sale of a sedan mentioned, several times I have fancied that the reference to the sale of a chair meant a sedan-chair. In the memoirs of Eliza Quincey she speaks of riding in a sedan, and of seeing Dr. Franklin in one in 1789.
At a surprisingly early date, when we consider the limited opportunities for travel, the colonial authorities licensed taverns or ordinaries, and also made strict laws governing them. The landlords could not sell sack or strong water; nor permit games to be played in their precincts; nor allow dancing or singing; nor could tobacco be used within their walls; nor could they sell cakes or buns indiscriminately. Samuel Cole, the Boston comfit-maker, received his license in 1634, though one can hardly understand, with such manifold rules of narrow limit, how he could wish it. Previously other freemen had obtained permission "to draw wine and beer" to sell at retail to their neighbors and to travellers. In New Haven the tavern-keeper had been given twenty acres of land in 1645, in which travellers' horses could be pastured. In Hartford and other river towns the establishment of taverns was compulsory. The ordinaries quickly multiplied in number and increased in pretension. In Boston, in 1651, the King's Arms and its furniture were held to be worth L600. Board was cheap enough. In 1634 the Court set the price of a single meal at sixpence, and an ale quart of beer at a penny. At the Ship Tavern a man had "fire and bed, dyet, wyne and beere betweene meals" for three shillings a day. The wine was limited to "a cupp each man at dynner & supp & no more." Following the English fashion of Shakespeare's time, the inn chambers were each named: The Exchange Chamber, Rose and Sun Chamber, Star Chamber, Court Chamber, Jerusalem Chamber, etc. The names of the inns also followed English nomenclature: The Bunch of Grapes, Dog & Pot, Turk's Head, Green Dragon, Blue Anchor, King's Head, etc. The Good Woman bore on its painted sign the figure of a headless woman. The Ship in Distress had these lines:
"With sorrows I am compassed round, Pray lend a hand—my ship's aground."
Another Boston tavern had this rhyme:
"This is the bird that never flew, This is the tree that never grew, This is the ship that never sails, This is the can that never fails."
The Sun Tavern bore these words:
"The Best Ale and Beer under the Sun."
This tavern was removed to Moon Street, and was kept by Mrs. Milk. Her neighbors' names were Waters, Beer, and Legg. The Salutation Inn, with its sign-board bearing the picture of two men shaking hands, was commonly known as the Two Palaverers.
I know no more attractive picture of olden-time hospitality, nothing better "under the notion of a tavern," than the old Palaverer tavern at Medford. On either side of its front door grew a great tree, and in the spreading branches of each tree was built a platform or balcony. The two were connected by a hanging bridge or scaffolding, and also connected by a similar foot-bridge with the tavern itself. In these leafy tree-arbors, through the sunny summer months, from dawn till twilight, whilom travellers rested and drank their drams, or, perchance, their cups of tea, and watched the arrival and departure of coaches and horsemen at "mine inn."
John Adams wrote frequently of the inns of the time. He said of the Ipswich innkeeper in 1771: "Landlord and Landlady are some of the grandest people alive. Landlady is the great granddaughter of Governor Endicott, and has all the notions of greatest family. As to Landlord, he is as happy, and as big, as proud, as conceited as any nobleman in England, always calm and good-natured and lazy."
Of the Enfield landlord he wrote: "Oated and drank tea at Peases—a smart house and landlord truly; well dressed with his ruffles &c. and upon inquiry I found he was the great man of the town, their representative as well as tavern-keeper." In a paper which he wrote upon licensed houses, Adams stated that "retailers and taverners are generally, in the country, assessors, selectmen, representatives, or esquires."
Members of our best and most respected families throughout New England were innkeepers. The landlord was frequently a local magistrate, a justice of the peace, or a sheriff. Notices of town-meetings, of elections, of new laws and ordinances of administration were posted at the tavern, just as legal notices are printed in the newspapers nowadays. Bills of sales, of auctions, records of transfers were naturally posted therein; the taverns were the original business exchanges. No wonder all the men in the township flocked to the tavern—they had to to know anything of town affairs, to say nothing of local scandals. Distances were given in almanacs of the day, not from town to town, but from tavern to tavern.
Of the good quality of New England inns many travellers testify. Lafayette wrote to his wife in 1777: "Host and hostess sit at the table with you and do the honors of a comfortable meal, and on going away you pay your fare without higgling." Dr. Dwight said the best old-fashioned New England inns were superior to any of the modern ones. Brissot said: "You meet with neatness, dignity and decency, the chambers neat, the beds good, the sheets clean, supper passable, cyder tea punch and all for fourteen pence a head." Alackaday! the good old times.
Next in importance to the landlord came the stage-driver. He was so popular and such a kindly fellow that he had to be prohibited by law from carrying any parcels or letters for persons along the route, else he were overburdened with troublesome and hindering business, detrimental to the postal and carriage income of the government. He was so importuned to drink at each stopping-place that he might have lain drunk the whole year round. He was of so much consequence and so looked up to, that little Jack Mendum, who drove the Salem mail-coach, hardly exaggerated his position when he roared out angrily to a hungry passenger who urged him to drive faster: "While I drive this coach I am the whole United States of America." Stage-driving was an hereditary gift; it went in families. Four Potters, three Ackermans, three Annables drove in Salem. Patch and Peach. Tozzer and Blumpy, Canney and Camp, were well-known stage-driving names.
The stage-agent also, that obsolete functionary, was a man of much local consequence and of many affairs; he was established in many a tavern as a necessary and almost immovable piece of bar-room furniture.
To show the importance of tavern, tavern-keeper, stage-agent, and stage-driver in early Federal days, let me give a single instance. Haverhill was the great staging centre of New Hampshire; six or eight lines of coaches left there each day. There were lines direct to Boston, New York, and Stanstead, Canada. Of course there was a vast bustle and commotion on the arrival and departure of each coach, and a goodly number of passengers were deposited at the tavern that formed the coach office—sometimes one hundred and fifty a day. It can readily be seen what a news centre such a tavern must have been, how much knowledge of the world must have been gathered by its occupants. It must be remembered that our universal modern source of information, the newspaper, did not then exist; there were a few journals, of course, of scant circulation, but of what we now deem news they contained nothing. Information of current events came through hearing and talking, not through reading. Hence it came to be that an innkeeper was not only influential in local affairs, but was universally known as the best-informed man in the place; reporters, so to speak, rendered their accounts to him; items of foreign and local news were sent to him; he was in himself an entire Associated Press.
The earliest roads for travel throughout New England followed the Indian trails or paths, and were but two or three feet wide. The Old Plymouth or Coast Road, of much importance because connecting Boston and Plymouth, the capitals of separate colonies, was provided for by action of the General Court in 1639. It ran through old Braintree. The Old Connecticut Road or Path started from Cambridge, ran to Marlborough, thence to Grafton, Oxford, and Woodstock, and on to Springfield and Albany. It was intersected at Woodstock by the Providence Path, which ran through Narragansett and Providence plantations, and also by the Nipmuck Path which came from Norwich.
The New Connecticut Road ran as did the old road, from Boston to Albany. It was known at a later date as the Post Road. From Boston it ran to Marlborough, thence to Worcester, thence to Brookfield, and so on to Springfield and Albany.
The famous Bay Path, laid out in 1673, left the Old Connecticut Path at Happy Hollow, now Wayland, and ran through Marlborough to Worcester, Oxford, Charlton, and Brookfield, when it separated in two paths, one—the Hadley Path—running to Ware, Belchertown, and Hadley, and the other returning to the Old Connecticut Path and on to Springfield.
An inexplicable charm still attaches itself to these old Indian paths, a delight in attempting to trace their unused and overgrown roadways, as they leave the main road in devious twists and turns till they again join its beaten way. And the halo of early romance and adventure surrounds them. Holland felt the charm when he wrote thus of the Bay Path:
"It was marked by trees a portion of the distance and by slight clearings of brush and thicket for the remainder. No stream was bridged, no hill graded, and no marsh drained. The path led through woods which bore the mark of centuries, over barren hills that had been licked by the Indian hounds of fire, and along the banks of streams that the seine had never dragged. A powerful interest was attached to the Bay Path. It was the channel through which laws were communicated, through which flowed news from distant friends, and through which came long, loving letters and messages. That rough thread of soil chopped by the blades of a hundred streams was a bond that radiated at each terminus into a thousand fibres of love and interest and hope and memory. Every rod had been prayed over by friends on the journey and friends at home."
Hawthorne felt it also and said:
"The forest-track trodden by the hob-nailed shoes of these sturdy and ponderous Englishmen has now a distinctness which it never could have acquired from the light tread of a hundred times as many moccasins. It goes onward from one clearing to another, here plunging into a shadowy strip of woods, there open to the sunshine, but everywhere showing a decided line along which human interests have begun to hold their career.... And the Indians coming from their distant wigwams to view the white man's settlement marvel at the deep track which he makes, and perhaps are saddened by a flitting presentiment that this heavy tread will find its way over all the land, and that the wild woods, the wild wolf, and the wild Indian will alike be trampled beneath it."
For many years these paths were travelled, gradually widening from foot-paths to bridle-ways, to cart-tracks, to carriage-roads, until they became the post-roads, set thick with cheerful country homes. In some portions of New England they still are travelled and form the general thoroughfare, but in many lonely townships the old paths are deserted, and traffic and passage over the post or county road is gone forever. Bushes flourish and meet gloomily across the grass-grown track; forest trees droop heavily over it in summer and fall unheeded across it in winter. On either side moss-grown, winter-killed apple-trees and ancient stunted currant-bushes struggle for life against sturdy young pine and spruce and birch. Many a rod of heavy tumble-down stone wall—New England Stonehenges—may be seen, not as of old dividing cleared and fertile fields, but in the midst of a forest of trees or underbrush:
"Far up on these abandoned mountain farms Now drifting back to forests wild again, The long gray walls extend their clasping arms Pathetic monuments of vanished men."
Or more pathetic monuments still of hard and wasted work. On either side of the way, at too sadly frequent intervals, ruined wells or desolate yawning cellar-holes, with tumbling chimneys standing like Druid ruins, show that fair New England homes once there were found. Flaming orange tiger-lilies, most homely and cheerful bloom of country gardens, have spread from the deserted dooryards, across the untrodden foot-paths, in weedy thickets a-down the hill, and shed their rank odor unheeded on the air.
Some of the old provincial mile-stones, however, remain, and put us closely in touch with the past. In the southern part of New London County, and at Stratford, Conn., on the old post-road—the King's Highway—between Boston and Philadelphia, there are mossgrown stones that were set under the supervision of Benjamin Franklin when he was colonial Postmaster-General. After that highway was laid out, the placing and setting of the mile-stones were entrusted to Franklin, and he transacted the business, as he did everything else, in a thoroughly original way. He drove over the road in a comfortable chaise, followed by a gang of men and heavy teams loaded with the mile-stones. He attached to his chaise a machine which registered by the revolution of the chaise-wheels the number of miles travelled, and he had the mile-stones set by that record, and marked with the distance to the nearest large town. Thus the Stratford stone says: "20 Mls to N. H."—New Haven.
By provincial enactment in Governor Hutchinson's time, mile-stones were set on all the post-roads throughout Massachusetts. Some of these stones are still standing. There is one in the middle of the city of Worcester, on Lincoln Street—the "New Connecticut Path;" it is of red sandstone, and is marked, "42 Mls to Boston, 50 Mls to Springfield, 1771."
In Sutton, on the "Old Connecticut Path," stands still the king of all these 1771 mile-stones. It is of red sandstone, is five feet high, and nearly three feet wide. It is marked, "48 Mls to Boston 1771 B. W." The letters B. W. stand for Bartholomew Woodbury, a jovial and liberal old Sutton tavern-keeper who died in 1775. When the mile-stones were set out by the provincial government, the place for this Sutton stone fell a few rods from Landlord Woodbury's house; but he obtained permission and set up this handsome stone at his own expense, beside his great horse-block under his swinging sign at his open, welcoming door. He fancied, perhaps, that it would attract the attention, and thus cause the halting of travellers. Tavern-keeper and tavern are gone; no vestiges even of cobblestone chimneys or cellar walls remain. The old post-road is now but little travelled, but the great mile-stone and its neighbor, the worn stepping-block, still stand, lonely monuments of past days and past pleasures. On warm summer nights perhaps the silent old mile-stone awakes and sadly tells his companion of the gay coaches that rattled by, and the rollicking bucks and blades, the gallant soldiers that galloped past him in the days of his youth, a century ago. And the stepping-block may tell in turn of the good old days when her broad sunny face was pressed by the feet of fair colonial dames who, with faces hidden in riding-hoods and masks, stepped lightly from saddle or pillion to "board and bait" at Bartholomew Woodbury's cheerful inn.
In Roxbury, Mass., there still stands at the corner of Centre and Washington Streets the famous Roxbury Parting Stone. It is a great square stone, bearing on one face the words: "The Parting Stone 1744. P. Dudley;" on another face the words: "Dedham—Rhode Island," and on a third "Cambridge—Watertown." It has had set on it recently an iron frame or fixture for a gas-lamp. This stone, with many others in Norfolk County, was placed by Paul Dudley at his own expense in the middle of the last century. It has seen the separation or "parting" of many a brave company that had ridden out to it from Boston. Many a distinguished traveller has passed it and glanced at its carved words. Lord Percy's soldiers took counsel of it one hot April morning to find the road to Lexington.
Governor Belcher set out a row of mile-stones from Boston Town House to his home in Milton. Some of them are still standing, the seventh and eighth in Milton, one marked "8 miles to B. Town House. The Lower Way, 1734." The ninth and twelfth stand as historical landmarks in Quincy, on the old Plymouth Road, and bear the dates 1720 and 1727.
In Wenham another mile-stone near the graveyard bears the date 1710, shows the distance to Ipswich and Boston, and gives these words of timely warning: "I know that Thou wilt Bring me to Death and to the house appointed for all Living."
A marked improvement in facilities for travel came in turnpike days. These well laid out and well kept roads fairly changed the face of the country. They sometimes shortened by half the distance to be travelled between two towns. Stock companies were formed to build bridges and grade these turnpikes, and the stock formed a good investment and was also vastly used in speculation. The story of the turnpike is as interesting as that of the Indian path, but cannot be told at length here. They, too, have had their day; in some counties the turnpike is as deserted as the path and seems equally ancient.
New England roads and turnpikes have seen many a gay sight, for the custom of speeding the parting guest "agatewards" for some miles, with an accompanying escort on foot or on horseback, to some ford or natural turning-point or bourn, was a universal mark of interest and affection, and of courtesy as well. Judge Sewall records, on one occasion, with much indignation, that "not one soul rode with us to the ferry." Ere the days of turnpikes, the old Indian paths witnessed many a sad and pathetic parting in the wilderness, such as was recorded in simple language in Parson Thatcher's diary in 1680, when he left Barnstable to go to a new parish:
"A great company of horsemen 7 & 50 horse & 12 of them double, went with us to Sandwich & there got me to go to prayer with them, and I think none of them parted with me with dry eyes."
This is indeed a strong picture for the brush of a painter, the golden September light, nowhere more radiantly beautiful than on
"the narrowing Cape That stretches its shrunk arm out to all the winds, And the relentless smiting of the waves,"
and the sad-faced band in Puritan garb, armed and mounted, gathered around their departing leader in reverent prayer.
Perhaps the turnpike saw no more characteristic scene than the winter ride to market. Though summer and fall were the New England farmer's time of increase, winter was his time of trade and his time of recreation as well. When wintry blasts grew chill, and snow and ice covered deep the desolate fields and country roads, then he prepared with zest and with delight for his gelid time of outing, his Arctic red-letter day, his greatest social pleasure of the entire year. The friendly word was circulated by a kind of estafet from farm to farm, was carried by neighbor or passing traveller, or was discussed and planned and agreed upon in the noon-house, or at the tavern chimney-side on Sunday during the nooning, that on a certain date—unless there set in the tantalizing and swamping January thaw, a thaw which might be pushing and unseasonable enough to rush in in December and quite as often hung off and dawdled into February—that on the appointed date, at break of day, the annual ride to market would begin. Often fifty or sixty neighbors would respond to the call, would start together on the road. For farmers in western Vermont and Massachusetts the market town was Troy or other Hudson valley towns. In Maine, from Bath and Hallowell and neighboring towns, the winter procession rode to Portland. In central Massachusetts some drove to Northampton, Springfield, or Hartford; but the greatest number of farmers and the largest amount of farm produce went to the towns of the Massachusetts coast, to Salem, to Newburyport, and, above all, to Boston.
The two-horse pung or the single-horse pod, shod with steel shoes an inch thick, was closely packed with the accumulated farm wealth—whole pigs, perhaps a deer or two, firkins of butter, casks of cheese, four cheeses in each cask, bags of beans, pease or corn, skins of mink, fox, and fisher-cat that the boys had trapped, birch brooms that the boys had made, yarn that their sisters had spun, and stockings and mittens that they had knitted—in short, anything that a New England farm could produce that would sell to any profit in a New England town. So closely was the sleigh packed, in fact, that the driver could not be seated. The sturdy and hardy farmer stood on a little semicircular step in the rear of the sleigh, his body protected by the high sleigh back against the sharp icy blasts. At times he ran alongside or behind his vehicle to keep his blood in brisk circulation.
Though every inch of the sleigh was packed to its fullest extent, there was always found room in some corner for plenty of food to last the thrifty traveller through his journey; often enough to liberally supply him even on his return trip—cold roasted spare ribs of pork, doughnuts, loaves of "rye an' Injun" bread, and invariably a bountiful mass of frozen bean porridge. This latter was made and frozen in a tub, and when space was hard to find in the crowded vehicle, the solid mass was furnished with a loop of twine by which to hang it to the side of the pung. A small hatchet with which to chop off a chunk of porridge formed the accompaniment of this unalluring Arctic provender. Oats and hay to feed his horses did the farmer also carry.
There were plenty of taverns in which he could obtain food if he needed it, in which, indeed, he did obtain liquid sustenance to warm his bones and stir his tongue, and make palatable the half-thawed porridge which he ate in front of the cheerful tavern fire. But it was the invariable custom, no matter what the wealth of the farmer, to carry a supply of food for the journey. This kind of itinerant picnic was called "tuck-a-nuck "—a word of Indian origin, or "mitchin," while the box or hamper or bucket that held the provisions was called a "mitchin-box." I can fancy that no thrifty or loving housewife allowed the man of her household to go to market with too meanly filled a mitchin-box, but took an honest pride in sending him off with a full stock of rich doughnuts, well-baked bread, well-filled pies, and at least well-cooked porridge, which he could devour without shame before the eyes of his neighbors.
The traveller did not carry his meals from home because the tavern fare was expensive; at the inn where he paid ten cents a night for his lodging, he was uniformly charged but twelve and a half cents for a "cold bite," and but twenty-five cents for a regular meal; but it was not the fashion to purchase meals at the tavern; the host made his profits from the liquor he sold and from the sleeping-room he gave. Sometimes the latter was simple enough. A great fire was built in the fireplace of either front room—the bar-room and parlor—and round it, in a semicircle, feet to the fire and heads on their rolled-up buffalo robes, slept the tired travellers. A few sybaritic or rheumatic tillers of the soil paid for half a bed in one of the double-bedded rooms which all taverns then contained, and got a full bed's worth, in deep hollows and high billows of live-geese feathers, warm homespun blankets, and patchwork quilts.
It was certainly a gay winter's scene as sleigh after sleigh dashed into the tavern barn or shed and the stiffened driver, after "putting up" his steed, walked quickly to the bar-room, where sat the host behind his cage-like counter, where ranged the inspiring barrels of old Medford or Jamaica rum and hard cider, and
"Where dozed a fire of beechen logs that bred Strange fancies in its embers golden-red, And nursed the loggerhead, whose hissing dip, Timed by nice instinct, creamed the bowl of flip."
Many a rough joke was laughed at, many a story told ere the tired circle slept around the fire; but four o'clock saw them all bestirring, making a fresh start on their city-ward journey.
In town the traveller was busy enough; he not only had his farm products to sell, but since he sometimes got the enormous sum of fifty dollars for his sleigh load, and it was estimated that two dollars was a liberal allowance for a week's travelling expenses, he had much to spend and many purchases to make—spices and raisins for the home table, fish-hooks and powder and shot, pewter plates, or a few pieces of English crockery, a calico gown or two, a shawl, or a scarf, or a beaver hat; and thus brought to dreary New England farms their sole taste of town life in winter.
For many years travel, especially to New York and other seaport towns, was largely by water, on sloop or pink or snow; and many stories of the discomforts of such trips have come down to us.
The first passenger steamboat which ran between New York and Providence made its trial trip in 1822. The boats made the passage from town to town in twenty-three hours, which was monstrous fast time. On one of the first trips the boat lay by near Point Judith to repair a slight damage to machinery, and all the simple country-folk who came down to the shore expecting to find a wreck, were amazed to see the boat—apparently burning up—go quickly sliding away without sails over the water until out of sight. Many whispered that the devil had a hand in it, and perhaps was on board in person. The new means of conveyance proved at once to be the favored one for all genteel persons wishing to travel between Boston and New York. The forty-mile journey between Boston and Providence was made in fine stage-coaches, which were always crowded. Often eighteen or twenty full coach-loads were carried each way each day. The editor of the Providence Gazette wrote at that time: "We were rattled from Providence to Boston in four hours and fifty minutes—if any one wants to go faster he may send to Kentucky and charter a streak of lightning!"
The fare on these coaches was three dollars for the trip between Providence and Boston. This exorbitant sum was a sore annoyance to all thrifty men, and indignantly did they rail and protest against it. At last a union was formed, and a line of rival coaches was established, on which the fare was to be two dollars and a half a trip. This caused great dismay to the regular coach company, who at once reduced their fare to two dollars. The rival line, not to be outdone, announced their reduction to a dollar and a half. The regulars then widely advertised that their fare would thenceforth be only one dollar. The rivals then sold seats for the trip for fifty cents apiece; and in despair, after jealously watching for weeks the crowded coaches of the new line, the conquered old line mournfully announced that they would make trips every day with their vehicle filled with the first applicants who chanced to be on time at the starting-place, and that these lucky dogs would be carried for nothing.
The new stage-coaches were now in their turn deserted, and the proprietors pondered for a week trying to invent some way to still further cut down the entirely vanished rates. They at last placarded the taverns with announcements that they would not only carry their patrons free of expense, but would give each traveller on their coaches a good dinner at the end of his journey. The old coach-line was rich and at once counter-advertised a free dinner and a good bottle of wine too, to its patrons and there, for a time, the fierce controversy came to a standstill, both lines having crowded trips each day.
Mr. Shaffer, who was a fashionable teacher of dancing and deportment in Boston, and a well-known "man about town," a jolly good fellow, got upon the Providence coach one Monday morning in Boston, had a gay ride to Providence and a good dinner and bottle of wine at the end of the journey, all at the expense of the coach company. On Tuesday he rode more gayly still back to Boston, had his dinner and his wine, and was up on Wednesday morning to mount the Providence coach for the third ride and dinner and bottle. He returned to Boston on Thursday in the same manner. On Friday the fame of his cheap fun was thoroughly noised all over Boston, and he collected a crowd of gay young sparks who much enjoyed their frolicking ride and the fine Providence dinners and wine. All returned in high spirits with Shaffer to Boston on Saturday to meet the sad, sad news that the rival coach lines had made a compromise and had both signed a contract to carry passengers thereafter for two dollars a trip.
Upon Tremont Street, near Winter Street, in Boston, there stood at that time in a garden a fine old house which was kept as a restaurant, and was a pleasant summer lounging-place for all gay cits. One day a very portly, aldermanic man presented himself at the entrance of the restaurant and asked the price of a dinner. Shaffer, who was present, immediately assumed all the obsequious airs of a waiter, and calling for a tape-measure, proceeded to measure the distance around the protuberant waist of the astonished and insulted inquirer, who could hardly believe his sense of hearing when the impudent Shaffer very politely answered, "Price of dinner, sir!—about four dollars, sir!—for that size, sir!" Such were the practical jokes of stage and tavern life in olden days.
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
The first century of colonial life saw few set times and days for pleasures. The holy days of the English Church were as a stench to the Puritan nostrils, and their public celebration was at once rigidly forbidden by the laws of New England. New holidays were not quickly evolved, and the sober gatherings for matters of Church and State for a time took their place. The hatred of "wanton Bacchanallian Christmasses" spent throughout England, as Cotton said, in "revelling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, consumed in compotations, in interludes, in excess of wine, in mad mirth," was the natural reaction of intelligent and thoughtful minds against the excesses of a festival which had ceased to be a Christian holiday, but was dominated by a lord of misrule who did not hesitate to invade the churches in time of service, in his noisy revels and sports. English Churchmen long ago revolted also against such Christmas observance.
Of the first Pilgrim Christmas we know but little, save that it was spent, as was many a later one, in work. Bradford said: "Ye 25 day begane to erect y^e first house for comone use to receive them and their goods." On the following Christmas the governor records with grim humor a "passage rather of mirth than of waight." Some new company excused themselves from work on that day, saying it went against their consciences. The governor answered that he would spare them until they were better informed. But returning at mid-day and finding them playing pitch-the-bar and stool-ball in the streets, he told them that it was against his conscience that they should play and others work, and so made them cease their games.
By 1659 the Puritans had grown to hate Christmas more and more; it was, to use Shakespeare's words, "the bug that feared them all." The very name smacked to them of incense, stole, and monkish jargon; any person who observed it as a holiday by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way was to pay five shillings fine, so desirous were they to "beate down every sprout of Episcopacie." Judge Sewall watched jealously the feeling of the people with regard to Christmas, and noted with pleasure on each succeeding year the continuance of common traffic throughout the day. Such entries as this show his attitude: "Dec. 25, 1685. Carts come to town and shops open as usual. Some somehow observe the day, but are vexed I believe that the Body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet to compel them to keep it." When the Church of England established Christmas services in Boston a few years later, we find the Judge waging hopeless war against Governor Belcher over it, and hear him praising his son for not going with other boy friends to hear the novel and attractive services. He says: "I dehort mine from Christmas keeping and charge them to forbear."
Christmas could not be regarded till this century as a New England holiday, though in certain localities, such as old Narragansett—an opulent community which was settled by Episcopalians—two weeks of Christmas visiting and feasting were entered into with zest by both planters and slaves for many years previous to the Revolution.
Thanksgiving, commonly regarded as being from its earliest beginning a distinctive New England festival, and an equally characteristic Puritan holiday, was originally neither.
The first New England Thanksgiving was not observed by either Plymouth Pilgrim or Boston Puritan. "Gyving God thanks" for safe arrival and many other liberal blessings was first heard on New England shores from the lips of the Popham colonists at Monhegan, in the Thanksgiving service of the Church of England.
Days set apart for thanksgiving were known in Europe before the Reformation, and were in frequent use by Protestants afterward, especially in the Church of England, where they were a fixed custom long before they were in New England. One wonders that the Puritans, hating so fiercely the customs and set days and holy days of the Established Church, should so quickly have appointed a Thanksgiving Day. But the first New England Thanksgiving was not a day of religious observance, it was a day of recreation. Those who fancy all Puritans, and especially all Pilgrims, to have been sour, morose, and gloomy men should read this account of the first Thanksgiving week (not day) in Plymouth. It was written on December 11, 1621, by Edward Winslow to a friend in England:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four killed as much fowl as with a little help beside served the company about a week. At which times among other recreations we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoyt with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer which they brought and bestow'd on our governor, and upon the captains and others."
As Governor Bradford specified that during that autumn "beside waterfoule ther was great store of wild turkies," we can have the satisfaction of feeling sure that at that first Pilgrim Thanksgiving our forefathers and foremothers had turkeys.
Thus fared the Pilgrims better at their Thanksgiving than did their English brothers, for turkeys were far from plentiful in England at that date.
Though there were but fifty-five English to eat the Pilgrim Thanksgiving feast, there were "partakers in plenty," and the ninety sociable Indian visitors did not come empty-handed, but joined fraternally in provision for the feast, and probably also in the games.
These recreations were, without doubt, competitions in running, leaping, jumping, and perhaps stool-ball, a popular game played by both sexes, in which a ball was driven from stool to stool or wicket to wicket.
During that chilly November week in Plymouth, Priscilla Mullins and John Alden may have "recreated" themselves with this ancient form of croquet—if any recreation were possible for the four women of the colony, who, with the help of one servant and a few young girls or maidekins, had to prepare and cook food for three days for one hundred and twenty hungry men, ninety-one of them being Indians, with an unbounded capacity for gluttonous gorging unsurpassed by any other race. Doubtless the deer, and possibly the great turkeys, were roasted in the open air. The picture of that Thanksgiving Day, the block-house with its few cannon, the Pilgrim men in buff breeches, red waistcoats, and green or sad-colored mandillions; the great company of Indians, gay in holiday paint and feathers and furs; the few sad, overworked, homesick women, in worn and simple gowns, with plain coifs and kerchiefs, and the pathetic handful of little children, forms a keen contrast to the prosperous, cheerful Thanksgivings of a century later.
There is no record of any special religious service during this week of feasting.
The Pilgrims had good courage, stanch faith, to thus celebrate and give thanks, for they apparently had but little cause to rejoice. They had been lost in the woods, where they had wandered surbated, and had been terrified by the roar of "Lyons," and had met wolves that "sat on thier tayles and grinned" at them; they had been half frozen in their poorly built houses; had been famished, or sickened with unwonted and unpalatable food; their common house had burned down, half their company was dead—they had borne sore sorrows, and equal trials were to come. They were in dire distress for the next two years. In the spring of 1623 a drought scorched the corn and stunted the beans, and in July a fast day of nine hours of prayer was followed by a rain that revived their "withered corn and their drooping affections." In testimony of their gratitude for the rain, which would not have been vouchsafed for private prayer, and thinking they would "show great ingratitude if they smothered up the same," the second Pilgrim Thanksgiving was ordered and observed.
In 1630, on February 22d, the first public thanksgiving was held in Boston by the Bay Colony, in gratitude for the safe arrival of food-bearing and friend-bringing ships. On November 4, 1631, Winthrop wrote again: "We kept thanksgiving day in Boston." From that time till 1684 there were at least twenty-two public thanksgiving days appointed in Massachusetts—about one in two years; but it was not a regular biennial festival. In 1675, a time of deep gloom through the many and widely separated attacks from the fierce savages, there was no public thanksgiving celebrated in either Massachusetts or Connecticut. It is difficult to state when the feast became a fixed annual observance in New England. In the year 1742 were two Thanksgiving Days.
Rhode Islanders paid little heed in early days to Thanksgiving—at any rate, to days set by the Massachusetts authorities. Governor Andros savagely prosecuted more than one Rhode Islander who calmly worked all day long on the day appointed for giving thanks. In Boston, William Veazie was set in the pillory in the market-place for ploughing on the Thanksgiving Day of June 18, 1696. He said his king had granted liberty of conscience, and that the reigning king, William, was not his ruler; that King James was his royal prince, and since he did not believe in setting apart days for thanksgiving he should not observe them.
Connecticut people, though just as pious and as prosperous as the Bay colonists, do not appear to have been as grateful, and had considerable trouble at times to "pick vppon a day" for thanksgiving; and the festival was not regularly observed there till 1716.
Thanksgiving was not always appointed in early days for the same token of God's beneficence. Days of thanks were set in gratitude for and observance of great political and military events, for victories over the Indians or in the Palatinate, for the accession of kings, for the prospect of royal heirs to the throne, for the discovery of conspiracy for the "healing of breaches," the "dissipation of the Pirates," the abatement of diseases, for the safe arrival of "psons of spetiall use and quality," as well as in gratitude for plentiful harvests—that "God had not given them cleannes of teeth and wante of bread."
The early Thanksgivings were not always set, upon Thursday. It is said that that day was chosen on account of its reflected glory as lecture day. Judge Sewall told the governor and his council, in 1697, that he "desir'd the same day of the week might be for Thanksgiving and Fasts," and that "Boston and Ipswitch Lectures led us to Thorsday." The feast of thanks was for many years appointed with equal frequency upon "Tusday com seuen-night," or "vppon Wensday com fort-nit." Nor was any special season of the year chosen: in 1716 it was appointed in August; in 1713, in January; in 1718, in December; in 1719, in October. The frequent appointments in gratitude for bountiful harvests finally made the autumn the customary time.
The God of the Puritans was a jealous God, and many fasts were appointed to avert his wrath, as shown in blasted wheat; moulded beans, wormy pease, and mildewed corn; in drought and grasshoppers; in Indian invasions; in caterpillars and other woes of New England; in children dying by the chincough; in the "excessive raigns from the botles of Heaven"—all these evils being sent for the crying sins of wig-wearing, sheltering Quakers, not paying the ministers, etc. A fast and a feast kept close company in Puritan calendars. A fast frequently preceded Thanksgiving Day, and was sometimes appointed for the day succeeding the feast—a clever plan which had its good hygienic points. Days of private as well as of public fast and thanksgiving were also observed by individuals. Judge Sewall took the greatest satisfaction in his fastings, and carefully outlined his plan of prayer throughout the fast day, which he spent in his chamber—a plan which included and specified ministers, rulers and magistrates, his family, and every person whom he said "had a smell of relation" to him; and also every nation and people in the known world. He does not note Thanksgiving Day as a holiday of any importance.
Though in the mind of the Puritan, Christmas smelled to heaven of idolatry, when his own festival, Thanksgiving, became annual, it assumed many of the features of the old English Christmas; it was simply a day of family reunion in November instead of December, on which Puritans ate turkey and Indian pudding and pumpkin-pie, instead of "superstitious meats" such as a baron of beef, boar's head, and plum-pudding.
Many funny stories are told of the early Thanksgiving Days, such as the town of Colchester calmly ignoring the governor's appointed day and observing their own festival a week later in order to allow time for the arrival, by sloop from New York, of a hogshead of molasses for pies. Another is recounted of a farmer losing his cask of Thanksgiving molasses out of his cart as he reached the top of a steep hill, and of its rolling swiftly down till split in twain by its fall. His helpless discomfiture and his wife's acidity of temper and diet are comically told.
There is in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society a broadside announcing a thanksgiving for victory in King Philip's War; and during the following year, 1677, the first regular Thanksgiving proclamation was printed.
But Thanksgiving Day was not the chief New England holiday. Ward, writing in 1699, does not name it, saying of New Englanders: "Election, Commencement and Training Days are their only Holy Days."
It was natural in New England, a state planted by men of exceptional intelligence, that all should think as one minister said, "If the college die, the church cannot long live;" and in the Commencement Day of their colleges they found matter of deep interest, of pride, of recreation. Judge Sewall always notes the day at Harvard, its exercises, its dinner, its plentiful wine, and the Commencement cake, which he carried to his friends. The meagre entries in the diaries and almanacs of many an old New England minister show that Commencement Day was one of their proudest holidays. After 1730, Commencement Day was usually set for Friday, in order that there might be, as President Wadsworth said in his diary, "less remaining time in the week to be spent in frolicking."
Training Day may be called the first New England holiday, though Hawthorne thought the day of too serious importance in early warlike times to be classed under the head of festivals. At the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving they "exercised their arms," and for some years they had six trainings a year; no wonder they were said to be "diligent in traynings." The all-powerful Church Militant held sway even over these gatherings of New England warriors. The military reviews and exercises were made properly religious by an opening exercise of prayer and psalm-singing, the latter sometimes at such inordinate length as to provoke criticism and remarks from the rank and file, remonstrance which was at once pleasantly rebuked by pious Judge Sewall. Religious notices were also given before the company broke line. A noble dinner somewhat redeemed the sobriety of the opening exercises, a dinner given in Boston to gentlemen and gentlewomen in tents on the Common; and the frequent firing of guns and cannon further enlivened the day.
Boston mustered a very fair military force at trainings, even in early days. Winthrop writes that at the May training in 1639 one thousand men exercised, and in the autumn twelve hundred bore arms, and not an oath or quarrel was heard and no drunkenness seen. The training field was Boston Common. At these trainings prizes were frequently offered for the best marksmanship; in Connecticut, a silk handkerchief or some such trinket. Judge Sewall offered a silver cup, and again a silver-headed pike; since he was an uncommonly poor shot himself, his generosity shows out all the more plainly. With barbaric openness of cruel intent, a figure stuffed to represent a human form was often the target, and it was a matter of grave decision whether a shot in the head or bowels were the fatal one. Sometimes the day was enlivened by a form of amusement ever beloved of the colonists—by public punishments. For instance, at the training day at Kittery, Me., in 1690, two men "road the woodin Horse for dangerous and churtonous carig and mallplying of oaths."
The training days of colony times developed into Muster Days, the crowning pinnacle of gayety, dissipation, and noise in a country boy's life in New England for over a century.
We owe much to these trainings and these trials of marksmanship. In conjunction with the universal skill in woodcraft and in hunting, they made our ancestors more than a match for the Indian and the Frenchman, and in Revolutionary times gave them their ascendency over the English.
Election Day was naturally a time of much excitement to New Englanders in olden times, as nowadays. In fact, the entire week partook of the flavor of a holiday. This did not please the ministers. Urian Oakes wrote sadly that Election Day had become a time "to meet, to smoke, carouse and swagger and dishonor God with the greater bravery." Various local customs obtained. "'Lection cake," a sort of rusk rich with fruit and wine, was made in many localities; indeed, is still made in some families that I know; and sometimes "'lection beer" was brewed. In early May the herb gatherers (many of them old squaws) brought to town various barks and roots for this beer, and they also vended it on the streets during Election week. An Election sermon was also preached.
Boston had two Election Days. "Nigger 'Lection" was so called in distinction from Artillery Election. On the former anniversary day the election of the governor was formally announced, and the black population was allowed to throng the Common, to buy gingerbread and drink beer like their white betters. On the second holiday the Ancient and Honorable Artillery had a formal parade, and chose its new officers, who received with much ceremony, out-of-doors, their new commissions from the new governor. Woe, then, to the black face that dared be seen on that grave and martial occasion! In 1817 a negro boy named William Read, enraged at being refused the high privileges and pleasures of Artillery Day, blew up in Boston Harbor a ship called the Canton Packet. For years it was a standing taunt of white boys in Boston to negroes:
"Who blew up the ship? Nigger, why for? 'Cause he couldn't go to 'lection An' shake paw-paw."
Paw-paw was a gambling game which was played on the Common with four sea-shells of the Cypr[oe]a Moneta.
The 14th of July was observed by Boston negroes for many years to commemorate the introduction of measures to abolish the slave trade. It was derisively called Bobalition Day, and the orderly convention of black men was greeted with a fusillade of rotten fruit and eggs and much jesting abuse. It was at one of these Bobalition-Day celebrations that this complimentary toast was seriously given and recorded in honor of the newly elected governor: "Governor Brooks—May the mantelpiece of Caleb Strong fall on the hed of his distinguished Predecessor."
In other localities, notably on the Massachusetts coast, in Connecticut, and in Narragansett, the term "Nigger 'Lection" was applied to the election of a black governor, who held his sway over the black population. Wherever there was a large number of negroes the black governor was a man of much dignity and importance, and his election was a scene of much gayety and considerable feasting, which the governor's master had to pay for. As he had much control over his black constituents, it is plain that the black governor might be made useful in many petty ways to his white neighbors. Occasionally the "Nigger 'Lection" had a deep political signification and influence. "Scaeva," in his "Hartford in the Olden Times," and Hinman, in the "American Revolution," give detailed and interesting accounts of "Nigger 'Lection."
A few rather sickly and benumbed attempts were made in bleak New England to celebrate in old English fashion the first of May. A May-pole was erected in Charlestown in 1687, and was promptly cut down. The most unbounded observance of the day was held at Merry Mount (now the town of Quincy) in 1628 by roystering Morton and his gay crew. Bradford says: "They set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing aboute it many days togeather, inviting the Indian women for their consorts, dancing and frisking togeather like so many fairies or furies rather." This May-pole was a stately pine-tree eighty feet high, with a pair of buck's horns nailed at the top, and with "sundry rimes and verses affixed." Stern Endicott rode down ere long to investigate matters, and at once cut the "idoll Maypole" down, and told the junketers that he hoped to hear of their "better walking, else they would find their merry mount but a woful mount."
To eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was held by the Puritans to be a heathenish vanity; and yet, apparently with the purpose of annoying good Boston folk, some attempts were made to observe the day. One year a young man went through the town "carrying a cock on his back with a bell in 's hand." Several of his fellows followed him blindfolded, and, under pretence of striking him with heavy cart-whips, managed to do considerable havoc in the surrounding crowd. We can well imagine how odious this horse-play was to the Puritans, aggravated by the fact that it was done to note a holy day. On Shrove Tuesday, in 1685, there was "great disorder in town by reason of Cock-skailing." This was the barbarous game of cock-steling, or cock-throwing, or cock-squoiling—a game as old as Chaucer's time, a universal pastime on Shrove Tuesday in England, where scholars also had cock-fights in the school-rooms.
The observance, or even notice, of the first day of the year as a "gaudy-day"—of New-Year's tides in any way—was thought by Urian Oakes to savor strongly of superstitious reverence for the heathen god Janus; the Pilgrims made no note of their first New-Year's Day in the New World, save by this very prosaic record, "We went to work betimes." Yet Judge Sewall, as rigid and stern a Puritan as any of the earliest days, records with some pride his being greeted with a levet, or blast of trumpets, under his window, early on the morning of January 1, 1697; while he himself celebrated the opening of the new century with a very poor poem of his own making, which he caused to be cried or recited throughout the town of Boston by the town bellman.
Guy Fawkes' Day, or "Pope's Day," was observed with much noise throughout New England for many years by burning of bonfires, preceded by parades of young men and boys dressed in fantastic costumes and carrying "guys" or "popes" of straw. Fires are still lighted on the 5th of November in New England towns by boys, who know not what they commemorate. In Newburyport, Mass., and Portsmouth, N. H., Guy Fawkes' Day is still celebrated. In Newcastle, N. H., it is called "Pork Night." In New York and Brooklyn, the bonfires on the night of election, and the importunate begging on Thanksgiving Day of ragged fantastics, usually children of Roman Catholic parents, are both direct survivals of the ancient celebration of "Pope's Day."
In Governor Belcher's time, in Massachusetts, the stopping of pedestrians on the street, by "loose and dissolute people," who were wont to levy contributions for paying for their bonfires, became so universally annoying that the governor made proclamation against them in the newspapers. Tudor, in his "Life of Otis," gives an account of the observance of the day and its disagreeable features. He says the intruders paraded the streets with grotesque images, forcibly entered houses, ringing bells, demanding money, and singing rhymes similar to those sung all over England:
"Don't you remember The Fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and plot, I see no reason Why Gunpowder Treason Should ever be forgot.
From Rome to Rome The Pope is come, Amid ten thousand fears, With fiery serpents to be seen At eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Don't you hear my little bell Go chink, chink, chink, Please give me a little money To buy my Pope some drink."
The figure of the Pretender was added to that of the pope and devil in 1702; and on Pope's Day, in 1763, American politics took a share. I read in a diary of that date, "Pope, Devil, and Stampman were hung together." After the Revolution the effigy of Benedict Arnold was burnt alongside that of Guy Fawkes.
Though we retained Pope's Day until Federal times, the Declaration of Independence struck one holiday off our calendar. The king's birthday was, until then, celebrated with a training, a salute of cannon, a dinner, and an illumination.
Other holidays were evolved by circumstances. Anniversary Day was a special festival for the ministers, who gathered together in the larger towns for spiritual intercourse and the material refreshment of a good dinner. It was originally held in Massachusetts at the May meeting of the General Court. Forefathers' Day, the anniversary of the landing at Plymouth, was celebrated by dinners, prayer, and praise.
Many other annual scenes of gayety were developed by the various food harvests. Thus the time when the salmon and shad came up the rivers had been a great merry-making and season of feasting for the Indian, and became equally so for the white man. As years passed on it became also a time of much drunkenness and revelry. Men rode a hundred miles for these gay holidays, and went home with horses laden down with fish. Shad were so plentiful that they were thrown away, would sell for but a penny apiece, and no persons of social importance or of good taste would eat them except in secret. Salmon, too, were so plentiful and so cheap that farm-servants on the banks of the Connecticut stipulated that they should have salmon for dinner but thrice a week, as the rich fish soon proved cloying.
In many localities, in Narragansett in particular, the autumnal corn-huskings almost reached the dignity of holidays, being conducted in a liberal fashion and with unbounded hospitality, which included and entertained whole retinues of black servants from neighboring farms, as well as the planters and their families. Apple-parings, maple-sugar makings, and timber-rollings were merry gatherings.
In Vermont and down the Connecticut valley the annual sheep-shearing was a lively scene. On Nantucket there took place annually a like sheep-shearing, which, though a characteristic New England festival, was like the scene in the "Winter's Tale." The broad plains outside the town were used as a common sheep-pasture throughout the year; sometimes fifteen or sixteen thousand sheep were kept thereon. About two miles from the town was a sheep-fold, near the margin of a pond, where the sheep could be washed. It was built of four or five concentric fences, which thus formed a sort of labyrinth, into which and through which the sheep and lambs were driven at shearing-time, and in it they were sorted out and placed in cotes or pens erected for each sheep-owner. The existence of carefully registered ear-marks, with which each lamb was branded, formed a means of identifying each owner's sheep and lambs. Of course, this gathering brought together all the sheep drivers and herders, the sheep washers and shearers. Vast preparations of food and drink were made for their entertainment, and tents were reared for their occupancy, and, of course, fiddlers and peddlers, like Autolycus, flocked there also, and much amusement and frolicking accompanied the shearing. Even the sheep, panting with their heavy wool when within the folds, and the shorn and shivering creatures running around outside and bleating for their old long-wooled companions, added to the excitement of the scene. Perhaps the maritime occupation of the Islanders made them enjoy with the zest of unwontedness this rural "shore-holiday." But it exists no longer; the island is not now one vast sheep-pasture, and there are no longer any sheep-shearings.
SPORTS AND DIVERSIONS
The Puritans of the first century of colonial life—the "true New England men," not only of Winthrop and Bradford's time, but of the slowly degenerating days of Cotton Mather and Judge Sewall—thought little and cared little for any form of amusement;
"Not knowing this, that Heaven decrees Some mirth t'adulce man's miseries."
Of them it may be said, as Froissart said of their ancestors, "They took their pleasures sadly—after their fashion." "'Twas no time for New England to dance," said Judge Sewall, sternly; and indeed it was not. The struggle of planting colonies in the new, bleak land left little time for dancing.
The sole mid-week gathering, the only regular diversion of early colonial life, took naturally a religious and sombre cast, and was found in the "great and Thursday lecture." "Truly the times were dull when these things happened," for so eager were the colonists for this sober diversion that it soon became a pious dissipation. Cotton said, in his "Way of the Churches," in 1639, that so many lectures did damage to the people; and the largeness of the assemblies alarmed the magistrates, who saw persons who could ill afford the time from their work, gadding to mid-day lectures in three or four different towns the same week. Young people, not having acquired that safety-valve, the New England singing-school, gladly seized these religious meetings as a pretext and a means for enjoyable communion, and attended in such numbers that the hospitality shown in providing food for the visiting lecture-lovers seemed to be in danger of becoming a burdensome expense. In 1633 the magistrates set the lecture hour at one o'clock, that lecture-goers might eat their dinner at noon at home; and they attempted to have each minister give but one lecture in two weeks, and planned that contiguous towns should offer but two temptations a week. But the law-makers overstepped the mark, and the lecture and the ministers resumed weekly sway, which they held for a century.
Hawthorne thus described the opening hours of the colonial Lecture-day:
"The breakfast hour being passed, the inhabitants do not as usual go to their fields or work-shops, but remain within doors or perhaps walk the street with a grave sobriety yet a disengaged and unburdened aspect that belongs neither to a holiday nor the Sabbath. And indeed the passing day is neither, nor is it a common week day, although partaking of all three. It is the Thursday Lecture; an institution which New England has long ago relinquished, and almost forgotten, yet which it would have been better to retain, as bearing relations both to the spiritual and ordinary life. The tokens of its observance, however, which here meet our eyes are of a rather questionable cast. It is in one sense a day of public shame; the day on which transgressors who have made themselves liable to the minor severities of the Puritan law receive their reward of ignominy. At this very moment the constable has bound an idle fellow to the whipping-post and is giving him his deserts with a cat-o-nine-tails. Ever since sunrise Daniel Fairfield has been standing on the steps of the meeting-house, with a halter about his neck, which he is condemned to wear visibly throughout his lifetime; Dorothy Talby is chained to a post at the corner of Prison Lane with the hot sun blazing on her matronly face, and all for no other offence than lifting her hand against her husband; while through the bars of that great wooden cage, in the centre of the scene, we discern either a human being or a wild beast, or both in one. Such are the profitable sights that serve the good people to while away the earlier part of the day."
Not only were criminals punished at this weekly gathering, but seditious books were burned just after the lecture, intentions of marriage were published, notices were posted, and at one time elections were held, on Lecture-day. The religious exercises of the day resembled those of the Sabbath and were sometimes five hours in length.
In primitive amusements, the sports of the woods and waters, even a Puritan could find occasional and proper diversion without entering into frivolous and sinful amusement. The wolf, most hated and most destructive of all the beasts of the woods, a "ravening runnagadore," was a proper prey. Wolves were caught in pits, in log pens, in traps; they were also hooked on mackerel hooks bound in an ugly bunch and dipped in tallow, to which they were toled by dead carcasses. The swamps were "beat up" in a wolf-drive or wolf-rout, similar to the English "drift of the forest." A ring of men surrounded a wooded tract and drew inward toward the centre, driving the wolves before them. The excitement of such a wolf-rout, constantly increasing to the end, can well be imagined. The wolves were not always killed outright. Josselyn tells that the inhuman sport of wolf-baiting was popular in New England, and he describes it thus: "A great mastiff held the Wolf.... Tying him to a stake we bated him with smaller doggs and had excellent sport, but his hinder legg being broken we soon knocked his brains out." Wolves also were dragged alive at a horse's tail, a sport equally cruel to both animals. These fierce and barbarous traits had been nourished in England by the many bear and bull baitings, and even horse-baitings, and the colonists but carried out here their English training. Wood wrote in his "New England's Prospects:" "No ducking ponds can afford more sport than a lame cormorant and two or three lusty doggs." Though we do not hear of cock-fights, I doubt not the wealthy and sportsmanlike Narragansett planters, who resembled in habits and occupations the Virginian planters, had many a cock-fight, as they had horse-races.
Bears were "hunted with doggs; they take to a tree where they shoot them." Nothing was "more sportfull than bearbayting." Killing foxes was also the "best sport in depth of winter." On a moonlight night the hunters placed a sledge-load of codfish heads on the bright side of a fence or wall, and hiding in the shadow "as long as the moon shineth" could sometimes kill ten of the wary creatures in a night. Squirrel hunts were also prime sport.
Shooting at a mark or at prizes became a popular form of amusement. We read in the Boston Evening Post of January 11, 1773: "This is to give Notice That there will be a Bear and a Number of Turkeys set up as a Mark next Thursday Beforenoon at the Punch Bowl Tavern in Brookline."
The "Sports of the Inn yards" found few participants in New England. In 1692 the Andover innkeeper was ordered not to allow the playing of "Dice, Cards, Tables, Quoits, Loggits, Bowles, Ninepins or any other Unlawful Game in his house yard Garden or Backside after Saturday P.M." Henry Cabot Lodge says the shovelboard of Shakespeare's time was almost the only game not expressly prohibited. A Puritan minister, Rev. Peter Thatcher, of Milton, bought in 1679 a "pack of ninepins and bowle," for which he paid five shillings and sixpence, and enjoyed playing with them too; but I fancy few ministers played either that or like games. On the second Christmas, at Plymouth, we find some of the Pilgrims playing pitch-the-bar and stool-ball. Pitch-the-bar was a trial of strength rather than of skill, and was popular with sturdy Nantucket whalers till into this century, though deemed hopelessly plebeian in old England.
We hear of foot-ball being played by Boston boys in Boston streets and lanes; of the Rowley Indians playing it in 1686 on the broad sandy shore, where it was "more easie," since they played barefooted. Dunton adds of their sport: "Neither were they so apt to trip up one anothers feet and quarrel as I have often seen 'em in England"—and I may add, as I have often seen 'em in New England.
Playing-cards—the devil's picture-books—were hated by the Puritans like the very devil; and, as ever with forbidden pleasures, were a constant temptation to Puritan youth. Their importation, use, and sale were forbidden. As late as 1784 a fine of $7 was ordered to be paid for every pack of cards sold; and yet in 1740 we find Peter Fanueil ordering six gross of best King Henry's cards from England. Jolley Allen had cards constantly for sale—"Best Merry Andrew, King Harry and Highland Cards a Dollar per Doz." and also "Blanchards Great Mogul Playing Cards." The fine for selling these cards must have been a dead letter, for we find in the newspapers proof of the prevalence of card-playing.
One use for playing-cards other than their intended one was found in their employment to inscribe invitations upon. Ball invitations were frequently written upon the backs of playing-cards, and dinner invitations also.
In the Salem Gazette, in 1784, appeared "New In Laid Cribbage Boxes, Leather Gammon Tables, and Quadrille Pools." In the Evening Post, in 1772, may be seen "Quadrille Boxes and Pearl Fishes;" and I do not doubt that many a gay Boston belle or beau (as well as Mrs. Knox) gambled all night at quadrille and ombre, as did their cousins in London. Captain Goelet had many a game of cards in his travels through New England, in 1750.
On April 30, 1722, the New England Courant advertised that any gentleman that "had a Mind to Recreate themselves with a Game of Billiards" could do so at a public house in Charlestown.
It is curious to find how eagerly the staid colonists turned to dancing. Mr. Eggleston says:
"The savages themselves were not more fond of dancing than were the colonists who came after them. Dancing schools were forbidden in New England by the authorities but dancing could not be repressed in an age in which the range of conversation was necessarily narrow and the appetite for physical activity and excitement almost insatiable."
Dancing was forbidden in Massachusetts taverns and at weddings, but it was encouraged at Connecticut ordinations. In a letter written by John Cotton, that good man specifies that his condemnation is not of dancing "even mixt" as a whole, but of "lascivious dancing to wanton ditties with amorous gestures and wanton dalliances;" an objection in which I hope he is not singular, an we be not Puritan ministers; and an objection which makes us suspect, an he were a Puritan minister, that he had been in some very singular company.
In 1713 a ball was given by the governor in Boston, at which light-heeled and light-minded Bostonians of the governor's set danced till three in the morning. As balls and routs began at six in the afternoon, this gave long dancing-hours. On the other hand, we find sober folk reading "An Arrow against Profane and Promiscuous Dancing Drawn out of the Quiver of the Scriptures By the Ministers of Christ at Boston." And though one dancing-master was forbidden room to set up his school, we find that "Abigaill Hutchinson was entered to lern to dance" somewhere in Boston in 1717, probably at the school of Mr. George Brownell. By Revolutionary times old and young danced with zest at balls, at "turtle-frolicks," at weddings. President Washington and Mrs. General Greene "danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down," and General Greene called this diversion of the august Father of his Country "a pretty little frisk." By 1791 we find Rev. John Bennett, in his "Letters to a Young Lady," recommending dancing as a proper and healthful exercise. Queer names did early contra-dances bear: Old Father George, Cape Breton, High Betty Martin, Rolling Hornpipe, Constancy, Orange Tree, Springfield, Assembly, The President, Miss Foster's Delight, Pettycoatee, Priest's House, The Lady's Choice, and Leather the Strap. By Federal times came Federal dances.
Such care was paid by New Englanders to the raising and improving of horses that I presume horse-races did not seem so wicked as card-playing or dancing, for I find hint of a horse-race in the Boston News Letter of August 29, 1715, for Jonathan Turner therein challenged the whole country to match his black gelding in a race for a hundred pounds, to take place on Metonomy Common or Chelsea Beach. Many pace-races took place in Narragansett on Little Neck Beach, at which the prizes were silver tankards. And if we can believe Dr. MacSparran, or, rather, since we would not appear to doubt the word of a clergyman, especially upon the speed of a horse, if he took the time of "a little over two minutes" with any care and had a good watch, there must have been some very good sport on Little Neck Beach.
Though the Puritan magistrates denounced shows as a great "mispense of time," yet after a century's existence in the New World, the people was so amusement hungry that all turned avidly to any kind of exhibition, and but little was necessary to make an exhibition. A "Lyon of Barbary" was in Boston in 1716; and I believe the "lyons hair," which was "cut by the keeper" and sent by Wait Winthrop to be placed as a strengthening tonic under the armpits of his sickly little grandchild, was abstracted from this very lion. In 1728 another lonely king of the beasts made the round of all the provinces on a cart drawn by four oxen, with as much eclat as if he had been a whole menagerie. He lodged in New London in Madam Winthrop's barn, and "put up" elsewhere at the very best taverns, as became a royal visitor, yet seems a semi-pathetic figure—a tropical king in slavery and alone in a strange, cold land.
In December, 1733, and in 1734, rivals appeared at a Boston tavern, and were advertised in the Weekly Rehearsal.
"A Fine Large White Bear brought from Greenland, the like never been seen before in these Paris of the World. A Sight far preferable to the Lion in the Judgment of all Persons who have seen them both. N.B. He is certainly going to London in about 3 Weeks & his Farewel Speech will be publish'd in a day or two."
* * * * *
"To be seen at the Shop of Mr. Benjamin Runker Tinman near the Market House on Dock Square a very Strange & Wonderful Creature called a Sea Lion lately taken at Monument Pond near Plimouth The like of which never seen in these Paris before. He is Nine Feet long from His Rump to his Head & near 4 feet wide over his back with Four Large Feet & Five Strong Claws on Each. Also Two Large Strong Teeth as white as Ivory sticking out of his mouth five or six Inches long with many other Curiosities too Tedious to mention here. Price Sixpence for a Man or Woman & 2 Pence for a child."
The Boston Gazette of April 20, 1741, thus advertised:
"To be seen at the Greyhound Tavern in Roxbury a wild creature which was caught in the woods about 80 miles to the Westward of this place called a Cattamount. It has a tail like a Lyon, its legs are like Bears, its Claws like an Eagle, its Eyes like a Tyger. He is exceedingly ravenous and devours all sorts of Creatures that he can come near. Its agility is surprising. It will leap 30 feet at one jump notwithstanding it is but 3 months old. Whoever wishes to see this creature may come to the place aforesaid paying one shilling each shall be welcome for their money."
Salem had the pleasure of viewing a "Sapient Dog" who could light lamps, spell, read print or writing, tell the time of day, or day of the month. He could distinguish colors, was a good arithmetician, could discharge a loaded cannon, tell a hidden card in a pack, and jump through a hoop, all for twenty-five cents. About the same time Mr. Pinchbeck exhibited in the same town a "Pig of Knowledge" who had precisely the same accomplishments.
In 1789 a pair of camels went the rounds—"19 hands high, with 4 joints in their hind legs." A mermaid also was exhibited—defunct, I presume—and a living cassowary five feet high, that swallowed stones as large as an egg. A white sea bear appeared in the port of Pollard's Tavern and could be seen for half a pistareen. A forlorn moose was held in bondage at Major King's tavern and shown for nine pence, while to view the "leapord strongly chayned" cost a quarter. The big hog, being a home production, could be seen cheaply—for four pence. It is indeed curious to find a rabbit among "curious wild beasts." The Winthrops had tried to breed rabbits in 1633 and again in 1683, and if they had not succeeded were the only souls known to fail in that facile endeavor. To their shame be it told, Salem folk announced in 1809 a bull-fight at the Half-Way House on the new turnpike, and after the bull-fight a fox-chase. In 1735 John Burlesson had some strange animals to show, and was not always allowed to exhibit them either: "the Lyon, the Black and Whight bare and the Lanechtskipt were shown by me that had their limbs as long as they pleased."
There were also exhibitions of legerdemain—a "Posture Master Boy who performed most surprizing Postures, Transforming Himself into Various Shapes;" performers on the "tort rope;" solar microscopes; "Italian Matcheans or Moving Pictures wherein are to be seen Windmills and Watermills moving around Ships sayling in the Seas, and various curious figures;" electrical machines; "prospects of London" or of "Royall Pallaces;" but, to their credit and good taste be it recorded, I find no notices of monstrosities either in shape of man or beast. Exhibitions of wax figures were given and museums were formed. Gentlemen sailing for foreign ports were begged to collect for museums and collections of curiosities, and did so in a thoroughly public-spirited manner.
Shortly after the invention of balloons came their advent as popular shows into New England towns. In Hartford they appeared under the pompous title of "Archimedial Phaetons, Vertical Aerial Coaches, or Patent F[oe]deral Balloons," and the public was notified that "persons of timid nature might enter with full assurance of safety." These f[oe]deral balloons not only served to amuse New Englanders, but were strongly recommended to "Invaletudinarians" as hygienic and medicinal factors, in that through their employment as carriers they caused "sudden revulsion of the blood and humours" to the benefit of the aeronautic travellers.
The first stepping-in of theatrical performances was to the lively-tunes of jigs and corams on a stage. In 1713 permission was asked to act a play in the Council House in Boston. Judge Sewall's grief and amazement at this suggestion of "Dances and Scenical Divertessiments" within those solemn walls can well be imagined. Ere long little plays called drolls were exhibited; puppet shows such as "Pickle Herring," or the "Taylor ryding to Brentford," or "Harlequinn and Scaramouch." About 1750 two young English strollers produced Otway's "Orphans" in a Boston coffee-house. Prompt and strict measures by Boston magistrates nipped in the bud this feeble dramatic plant, and Boston had no more plays for many years.
Many ingenious ruses were invented to avoid the legal obstructions placed in the way of play-acting. "Histrionic academies" tried to sneak in on the stage; and in 1762 a clever manager gave an entertainment whose playbill I present as the most amusing example of specious and sanctimonious truckling extant.
KINGS ARMS TAVERN—NEWPORT RHODE ISLAND.
On Monday, June 10th, at the Public Room of the above Inn will be delivered a series of
MORAL DIALOGUES in Five Parts
Depicting the evil effects of jealousy and other bad passions and Proving that happiness can only spring from the pursuit of Virtue.
Mr Douglass—Will represent a noble and magnanimous Moor called Othello, who loves a young lady named Desdemona, and after he marries her, harbours (as in too many cases) the dreadful passion of jealousy.
Of jealousy, our beings bane, Mark the small cause, and the most dreadful pain.
Mr Allyn—Will depict the character of a specious villain, in the regiment of Othello, who is so base as to hate his commander on mere suspicion, and to impose on his best friend. Of such characters, it is to be feared, there are thousands in the world, and the one in question may present to us a salutary warning.
The man that wrongs his master and his friend, What can he come to but a shameful end?
Mr Hallam—Will delineate a young and thoughtless officer who is traduced by Mr. Allyn, and, getting drunk, loses his situation and his generals esteem. All young men whatsoever, take example from Cassio.
The ill effects of drinking would you see Be warned and fly from evil company.
Mr Morris—Will represent an old gentleman, the father of Desdemona, who is not cruel or covetous, but is foolish enough to dislike the noble Moor, his son-in-law, because his face is not white, forgetting that we all spring from one root. Such prejudices are very numerous and very wrong.
Fathers, beware what sense and love ye lack, 'Tis crime, not colour, makes the being black.
Mr Quelch—Will depict a fool who wishes to become a knave, and trusting to one, gets killed by one. Such is the friendship of rogues. Take heed!
Where fools would knaves become, how often you'll Perceive the knave not wiser than the fool.
Mrs Morris—Will represent a young and virtuous wife, who, being wrongfully suspected, gets smothered (in an Adjoining room) by her husband.
Reader, attend, and ere thou goest hence, Let fall a tear to hapless innocence.
Mrs Douglass—Will be her faithful attendant, who will hold out a good example to all servants, male and female, and to all people in subjection.
Obedience and gratitude, Are things as rare as they are good.
Various other Dialogues, too numerous to mention here, will be delivered at night, all adapted to the improvement of the mind and manners. The whole will be repeated on Wednesday and on Saturday. Tickets, six shillings each; to be had within. Commencement at 7. Conclusion at half past 10; in order that every spectator may go home at a sober hour, and reflect upon what he has seen, before he retires to rest.
God save the King, And long may he sway, East, north and south And fair America.
The Continental Congress of 1774 sought to pledge the colonists to discountenance "all exhibitions of shews, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments," and such exhibitions languished naturally in war times; but with peace came new life to shows and theatres.
We catch a glimpse at Hartford of the "New Theatre" in 1795. The play began at half after six. Following the English fashion, servants were sent in advance to keep seats for their masters and mistresses. They were instructed to be there "by Five at the Farthest." If ladies "chused to sit in the Pit" a place was partitioned off for them. The admission price was a dollar. There was variety in the entertainment furnished. One actor gave a character recitation entitled "The New Bow Wow." In this he played the "Sly Dog, the Sulky Dog, the Hearty Dog, and many other dogs in his character of Odd Dog."
In 1788 the "Junior Sophister Class" of Yale College gave a theatrical performance, during Election week, of "Tancred and Sigismunda," and followed it with a farce of the students' own composing, relating to events in the Revolutionary War. A letter of Rev. Andrew Eliot is still in existence referring to this presentation, and severely did he reprehend it. Of the farce he wrote, "To keep up the character of these Generals, especially Prescot, they were obliged (I believe not to their sorrow) to indulge in very indecent and profane language." He states that many in the audience were much offended thereat, and says: "What adds to the illegality is that the actors not only were dressed agreeable to the characters they assumed as Men, but female apparell and ornaments were put on some contrary to an express statute. Besides it cost the lads L60." What this reverend complainer would have thought of the multitudinous exhibitions of masculine collegiate skirt-dancing of the present day is impossible to fathom.
There were circuses also in Connecticut. "Mr. Pool The first American Equestrian has erected a Menage at considerable Expence with seats Convenient. Mr. Pool beseeches the Ladies and Gentlemen who honour him with their Presence to bring no Dogs with them." As late as 1828 a bill prohibiting circus exhibitions passed both houses of the Connecticut Legislature, but was all in vain, for that State became the home of circuses and circus-makers.
During the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century there was little in New England that could properly receive the name of music. Musical instruments and books of musical instruction were rare. I have told the deplorable condition of church music in "The Sabbath in Puritan New England." A feeling of revolt rose in ministers and congregation. In 1712 Rev. Mr. Tuft's music-book appeared. The first organ came to Boston about 1711. The first concert of which I have read was advertised thus in the New England Weekly Journal of December 15, 1732:
"This is to inform the Publick That there will be a Consort of Music Perform'd by Sundry Instruments at the Court Room in Wings Lane near the Town Dock on the 28th of this Instant December; Tickets will be deliver'd at the Place of Performance at Five Shillings each Ticket. N.B. No Person will be admitted after Six."
In 1744 a concert was given in Faneuil Hall fol the benefit of the poor, and after 1760 concerts were frequent. The universal time for beginning was six o'clock, and the highest price of admission half a dollar, until after 1790.
Singing-schools, too, were formed, and the bands of trained singers gave concerts. The story of the progress of New England concert-giving has been most fully given by Henry M. Brooks, esq., in his delightful book, "Olden Time Music."
Lectures on pneumatics, electricity, and philosophy were given in Boston as early as 1740, and soon acquired a popularity which they have retained to the present day.
A very doubtful form of diversion was furnished to New Englanders at the public expense and in the performance of public duties. Not only were offenders whipped, set in the stocks, bilboes, cage, or pillory on Lecture-day, but criminals were hung with much parade before the eyes of the people, as a visible token of the punishment of evil living. In all the civil and religious exercises previous to the execution of the sentence, publicity was given to the offender; petty and great malefactors were preached at when sentenced, and after condemnation were made public examples—were brought into church and made the subject of discourse and even of objurgation from the pulpit. Judge Sewall frequently refers to this meretricious custom. Under date March 11, 1685, he says: "Persons crowd much into the old Meeting House by reason of James Morgan (who was a condemned murderer) and a very exciting and riotous scene took place." This was at a Thursday lecture, and in the gloomy winter twilight of the same day the murderer was executed—"turn'd off" as Sewall said—after a parting prayer by Cotton Mather, who had preached over him in the morning. Cotton Mather's sermon and others on Morgan and his crimes, which were preached by Increase Mather and Joshua Moodey, were printed and sold in vast numbers, passing through several editions. Morgan's dying words and confessions were also printed and sold throughout New England by chapmen.
Captain Quelch and six other pirates were captured on June 11, 1704; were brought to Boston on the 17th, sentenced on the 19th, and, "the silver oar being carried before them to the place of execution," were hung on the 30th. An "extra" of the News Letter says that "Sermons were preached in their Hearing Every Day, And Prayers made daily with them. And they were Catechized and they had many Occasional exhortations;" but the paper also states, "yet as they led a wicked and vitious life so to appearance they died very obdurately and impenitently hardened in their sin." Sewall gives this painfully particular account of the execution:
"After Dinner about 3 P.M. I went to see the Execution. Many were the people that saw upon Broughtons Hill But when I came to see how the River was covered with People I was amazed; Some say there were 100 boats. 150 Boats & Canoes saith Cousin Moody of York. He Told them. Mr. Cotton Mather came with Captain Quelch & 6 others for Execution from the Prison to Scarletts Wharf and from thence in Boat to the place of Execution. When the Scaffold was hoisted to a due height the seven Malefactors went up. Mr. Mather pray'd for them standing upon the Boat. Ropes were all fastened to the Gallows save King who was Reprieved. When the Scaffold was let to sink there was such a Screech of the Women that my wife heard it sitting in our Entry next the Orchard and was much surprised at it, yet the wind was sou-west. Our house is a full mile from the place."
In another entry Sewall tells of brazen women jumping up on the cart with a condemned man.
A note was appended by Dr. Ephraim Eliot to the last page of a sermon delivered by his father, Dr. Andrew Eliot, on the Sunday before the execution of Levi Ames, who was hung for burglary October 21, 1773. Ames was present in church, and the sermon was preached at his request. The note runs thus:
"Levi Ames was a noted offender—though a young man, he had gone through all the routine of punishment, and there was now another indictment against him where there was positive proof, in addition to his own confession. He was tried and condemned. His condemnation excited extraordinary sympathy. He was every Sabbath carried through the streets with chains about his ankles, and handcuffed, in custody of the Sheriff officers and constables, to some public meeting, attended by an innumerable number of boys, women and men. Nothing was talked of but Levi Ames. The ministers were successively employed in delivering occasional discourses. Stillman improved the opportunity several times and absolutely persuaded the fellow that he was to step from the cart into Heaven."
One Worcester County murderess was hanged on Boston Common, and to the delight of beholders appeared in a beautiful white satin gown to be "turn'd off."
I think, in reading of the past, that next to executions the most vivid excitement, the most absorbing interest—indeed, the greatest amusement of New Englanders of the half century preceding and that succeeding the Revolutionary War—was found in the lottery. An act of Legislature in 1719 speaks of them as just introduced; but this licensed and highly approved form of gambling quickly had the sanction and participation of the entire community. The most esteemed citizens not only bought tickets, but sold them. Every scheme of public benefit, the raising of every fund for every purpose, was conducted and assisted through a lottery. Harvard, Rhode Island (now Brown University), and Dartmouth College thus increased their endowments. Towns and States thus raised money to pay the public debt. Congregational, Baptist, and Episcopal churches had lotteries "for promoting public worship and the advancement of religion." Canals, turnpikes, bridges, excavations, public buildings were brought to perfection by lotteries. Schools and academies were thus endowed; for instance, the Leicester Academy and the Williamstown Free School. In short, "the interests of literature were supported, the arts encouraged, the wastes of wars repaired, inundations prevented, the burthen of the taxes lessened" by lotteries. Private lotteries were also carried on in great number, as frequent advertisements show; pieces of furniture, wearing apparel, real estate, jewelry, and books being given as prizes. Much deception was practised in those private lotteries.