In an old book printed in 1821, a set of rules is given for teaching needlework, and it is doubtless exactly what had been the method for a century. The girls were first shown how to turn a hem on a piece of waste paper; then they proceeded to the various stitches in this order: to hem, to sew and fell a seam, to draw threads and hemstitch, to gather and sew on gathers, to make buttonholes, to sew on buttons, to do herring-bone stitch, to darn, to mark, to tuck, whip, and sew on a frill. There is also a long and tedious set of questions and answers like a catechism, explaining the various stitches.
There was one piece of needlework which was done by every little girl who was carefully brought up: she sewed a sampler. These were worked in various beautiful and difficult stitches in colored silks and wool on a strong, loosely woven canvas.
In English collections, the oblong samplers, long and narrow, are as a rule older than the square samplers; and it is safe to believe the same of American samplers. Fortunately, many of them are dated, but this ancient one from the Quincy family has no date. The oldest sampler I have ever seen is in the collection of antique articles now in Pilgrim Hall at Plymouth. It was made by a daughter of the Pilgrims. The verse embroidered on it reads:—
"Lorea Standish is My Name. Lord Guide my Heart that I may do thy Will, And fill my Hands with such convenient skill As will conduce to Virtue void of Shame, And I will give the Glory to thy Name."
Similar verses, and portions of hymns, are often found on these samplers. A favorite rhyme was:—
"When I was young and in my Prime, You see how well I spent my Time. And by my sampler you may see What care my Parents took of me."
A very spirited verse is:—
"You'll mend your life to-morrow still you cry. In what far Country does To-morrow lie? It stays so long, is fetch'd so far, I fear 'Twill prove both very old, and very dear."
Strange trees and fruits and birds and beasts, wonderful vines and flowers, were embroidered on these domestic tapestries.
In the hands of a skilful worker, the sampler might become a thing of beauty and historical interest; and the stitches learned and practised on it might be used on more ambitious pieces of work, which often took the shape of the family coat of arms. Such was the work of Mary Salter (Mrs. Henry Quincy), who was born in 1726, and died in 1755. It is the arms of Salter and Bryan party per pale upon a shield. Rich in embossed work in gold and silver thread, it is a beautiful testimonial to the deft and proficient hand of the young needlewoman who embroidered it.
Sometimes pretentious pictures representing events in public or family history, were embroidered in crewels on sampler linen. The largest and funniest one I have ever seen was the boarding-school climax of glory of Miss Hannah Otis, sister of the patriot James Otis. It is a view of the Hancock House, Boston Common, and vicinity, as they appeared from 1755 to 1760. Across its expanse Governor Hancock rides triumphantly; and the fair maid looking over the garden wall at the Charles River is Dorothy Quincy, afterwards Madam Hancock. This triumph of school-girl affection and needle-craft, wholly devoid of perspective or proportion, made a great sensation in Boston, in its day.
Another large piece of similar work is here represented. The original is in the library of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, Massachusetts. It is a view of the Old South Church, Boston; and with its hooped dames and coach and footman, has a certain value as indicating the costume of the times. It is dated 1756.
Familiar to the descendants of old New England families, are the embroidered mourning pieces. These are seldom more than a century old. On them weeping willows and urns, tombs and mourning figures, names of departed friends with dates of their deaths, and epitaphs were worked with vast skill, and were so much admired and were such a delightful home decoration, that it is no unusual thing to find these elaborate memento moris with empty spaces for names and dates, waiting for some one to die, and still unfilled, unfinished, blankly commemorative of no one, while the industrious embroiderer has long since gone to the tomb she so deftly and eagerly pictured, and her name, too, is forgotten.
Tambour work was a favorite form of embroidery. In 1788 Madam Hesselius wrote thus in jest of her daughter, a Philadelphia miss:—
"To tambour on crape she has a great passion, Because here of late it has been much the fashion. The shades are dis-sorted, the spangles are scattered And for want of due care the crape has got tattered."
Tambouring with various stitches on different kinds of net made pretty laces; and these were apparently the laces usually worked and worn. In the form of rich veils and collars scores of intricate and beautiful stitches were used, and exquisite articles of wear were manufactured.
A strip of net footing pinned and sewn to paper, with reels of fine linen thread and threaded needle attached, is shown in the accompanying illustration just as it was left by the deft and industrious hands that have been folded for a century in the dust. The pattern and stitches in this design are simple; the design was first pricked in outline with a pin, then worked in. Other stitches and patterns, none of them the most elaborate and difficult, are shown in the infant's cap and collars, and the strips of lace and "modesty-piece."
In the seventeenth century lace-making with bobbins was taught; it is referred to in Judge Sewall's diary; and a friend has shown me the cushion and bobbins used by her far-away grandmother who learned the various stitches in London at a guinea a stitch.
The feminine love of color, the longing for decoration, as well as pride in skill of needle-craft, found riotous expansion in quilt-piecing. A thrifty economy, too, a desire to use up all the fragments and bits of stuffs which were necessarily cut out in the shaping, chiefly of women's and children's garments, helped to make the patchwork a satisfaction. The amount of labor, of careful fitting, neat piecing, and elaborate quilting, the thousands of stitches that went into one of these patchwork quilts, are to-day almost painful to regard. Women revelled in intricate and difficult patchwork; they eagerly exchanged patterns with one another; they talked over the designs, and admired pretty bits of calico, and pondered what combinations to make, with far more zest than women ever discuss art or examine high art specimens together to-day. There was one satisfactory condition in the work, and that was the quality of the cottons and linens of which the patchwork was made. They were none of the slimsy, composition-filled, aniline-dyed calicoes of to-day. A piece of "chaney," "patch," or "copper-plate" a hundred years old will be as fresh to-day as when woven. Real India chintzes and palampours are found in these quilts, beautiful and artistic stuffs, and the firm, unyielding, high-priced, "real" French calicoes.
A sense of the idealization of quilt-piecing is given also by the quaint descriptive names applied to the various patterns. Of those the "Rising-sun," "Log Cabin," and "Job's Trouble" are perhaps the most familiar. "Job's Trouble" was simply honeycomb or hexagonal blocks. "To set a Job's Trouble," was to cut out an exact hexagon for a pattern (preferably from tin, otherwise from firm cardboard); to cut out from this many hexagons in stiff brown paper or letter paper. These were covered with the bits of calico with the edges turned under; the sides were sewed carefully together over and over, till a firm expanse permitted the removal of the papers.
The name of the pattern seldom gave an expression of its character. "Dove in the Window," "Rob Peter to Pay Paul," "Blue Brigade," "Fan-mill," "Crow's Foot," "Chinese Puzzle," "Fly-wheel," "Love-knot," "Sugar-bowl," are simply whims of fancy. Floral names, such as "Dutch Tulip," "Sunflower," "Rose of Sharon," "Bluebells," "World's Rose," might suggest a love of flowers. Sometimes designs are appliqued on with some regard for coloring. I once saw a quilt that was a miracle of tedious work. The squares of white cotton each held a slender stem with two leaves of green or light brown calico, surmounted by a four-petalled flower of high-colored calico,—pink, red, blue, etc. This design was all carefully hemmed down. The effect was surprisingly Oriental.
When the patchwork was completed, it was laid flatly on the lining (often another expanse of patchwork), with layers of wool or cotton wadding between, and the edges were basted all around. Four bars of wood, about ten feet long, "the quiltin'-frame," were placed at the four edges, the quilt was sewed to them with stout thread, the bars crossed and tied firmly at corners, and the whole raised on chairs or tables to a convenient height. Thus around the outstretched quilt a dozen quilters could sit running the whole together with fanciful set designs of stitching. When about a foot on either side was wholly quilted, it was rolled upon its bar, and the work went on; thus the visible quilt diminished, like Balzac's Peau de Chagrin, in a united and truly sociable work that required no special attention, in which all were facing together and all drawing closer together as the afternoon passed in intimate gossip. Sometimes several quilts were set up. I know of a ten days' quilting-bee in Narragansett in 1752.
In early days calicoes were not common, but every one had woollen garments and pieces, and the quilts made of these were of grateful warmth in bleak New England. All kinds of commonplace garments and remnants of decayed gentility were pressed into service in these quilts: portions of the moth-eaten and discarded uniforms of militia-men, worn-out flannel sheets dyed with some brilliant home-dye, old coat and cloak linings, well-worn petticoats. A magnificent scarlet cloak worn by a lord mayor of London and brought to America by a member of the Merritt family of Salisbury, Massachusetts, went through a series of adventures and migrations, and ended its days as small bits of vivid color casting a grateful glory and variety on a patchwork quilt in the Saco valley of Maine. To this day at vendues or sales of old country households in New England, there will be handed out great rolls of woollen pieces to be used for patchwork quilts or rag carpets, and they find purchasers.
These woollen quilts had a thin wadding, and were usually very closely quilted, so they were quite flat. They were called "pressed quilts." An old farm wife said to me in New Hampshire, "Girls won't take the trouble to make pressed quilts nowadays, it's as much as they'll do to tack a puff," that is, make a light quilt with thick wadding only tacked together from front to back, at regular intervals. A pressed quilt which I saw was quilted in inch squares. Another had a fan-pattern with sunflower leaf border; another was quilted in the elaborate pattern known as "feather-work."
As much ingenuity was exercised in the design of the quilting as in the pattern of the patchwork, and the marking for the quilt design was exceedingly tedious, since, of course, no drawings could be used. I remember seeing one quilt marked by chalking strings which were stretched tightly across at the desired intervals, and held up and snapped smartly down on the quilt, leaving a faint chalky line to guide the eye and needle. Another simple design was to quilt in rounds, using a saucer or plate to form a perfect circle.
The most elaborate quilt I know of is of silk containing portions of the wedding-dress of Esther Powel, granddaughter of Gabriel Bernon; she was married to James Helme in 1738. When her granddaughter was married in 1795, the quilt was still unfinished, and a woman was hired who worked on it for six months, putting a miracle of fine stitches in the quilting. I think she must have been very old and very slow, for the wages paid her were but twenty cents a week and "her keep," which was very small pay even in that day of small wages. When Washington came to Newport, this splendid quilt was sent to grace the bed upon which the hero slept.
I said a few summers ago to a farmer's wife who lived on the outskirts of a small New England hill-village: "Your home is very beautiful. From every window the view is perfect." She answered quickly: "Yes, but it's awful lonely for me, for I was born in Worcester; still I don't mind as long as we have plenty of quiltings." In answer to my questions she told me that the previous winter she had "kept count," and she had helped at twenty-eight "regular" quiltings, besides her own home patchwork and quilt-making, and much informal help of neighbors on plain quilts. Any one who has attended a county fair (one not too modernized and spoiled) and seen the display of intricate patchwork and quilting still made in country homes, can see that it is not an obsolete accomplishment.
A form of decorative work in which many women took great delight and became astonishingly skilful was what was known, or at any rate advertised, by the ambitious title of Papyrotamia. It was simply the cutting out of stiff paper of various decorative and ornamental designs with scissors. At the time of the Revolution it was evidently deemed a very high accomplishment, and the best pieces of work were carefully cherished, mounted on black paper, framed and glazed, and given to friends or bequeathed by will. One old lady is remembered as using her scissors with extraordinary deftness, and amusing herself and delighting her friends by occupying the hours of every afternoon visit with cutting out entirely by her trained eye various pretty and curious designs. Valentines in exceedingly delicate and appropriate patterns, wreaths and baskets of varied flowers, marine views, religious symbols, landscapes, all were accomplished. Coats of arms and escutcheons cut in black paper and mounted on white were highly prized. Portrait silhouettes were cut with the aid of a machine which marked and reduced mechanically a sharp shadow cast by the sitter's profile through candle-light on a sheet of white paper. Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney wrote in rhyme of a revered friend of her youth, Mrs. Lathrop, of a period about a century ago:—
"Thy dextrous scissors ready to produce The flying squirrel or the long-neck'd goose, Or dancing girls with hands together join'd, Or tall spruce-trees with wreaths of roses twin'd, The well-dress'd dolls whose paper form display'd, Thy penknife's labor and thy pencil's shade."
I once found in an old lacquered box in a cupboard a paper packet containing all the cut-paper designs mentioned in this rhyme—and many more. The workmanship of the "spruce-trees with wreaths of roses twin'd" was specially marvellous. I plainly saw in that design a derivative of the English Maypole and encircling wreaths. This package was marked with the name of the paper-cutter, a Revolutionary dame who died at the beginning of this century. Her home was remote from the Norwich home of Mrs. Lathrop, and I know she never visited in Connecticut, yet she made precisely the same designs and indeed all the designs. This is but a petty proof among many other more decided ones of the fact that even in those days of scant communication and infrequent and contracted travel, there were as in our own times waves of feminine fancy work, of attempts at artistic expression, which flooded every home, and receding, left behind much decorative silt of varying but nearly universal uselessness and laborious commonplaceness.
One of the cut-paper landscapes of Madam Deming, a Boston lady who was a famous "papyrotamist," is here shown. It is now owned by James F. Trott, Esq., of Niagara Falls. It is a view of Boston streets just previous to the Revolution. In that handsome volume, the Ten Broeck Genealogical Record, are reproductions of some of the landscape views by Albertina Ten Broeck at the same date. They show the house and farm surroundings of the old Ten Broeck "Bouwerie," the ancestral home in New York, and give a wonderfully good idea of it. These are not in dead silhouette, for an appearance of shading is afforded by finely cut lines and intervening spaces. The highest form of cut-paper reproduction and decoration ever reached was by the English woman, Mrs. Delaney, who died in 1788, the friend of the Duchess of Portland, and intimate of George III. and his queen. She reproduced in colored paper, in what she called "paper mosaics," the entire flora of the United Kingdom, and it is said it was impossible at first sight to distinguish these flowers from the real ones.
DRESS OF THE COLONISTS
At the time America was settled, rich dress was almost universal in Europe among persons of any wealth or station. The dress of plain people also, such as yeomen and small farmers and work-people, was plentiful and substantial, and even peasants had good and ample clothing. Materials were strongly and honestly made, clothing was sewed by hand, and lasted long. The fashions did not change from year to year, and the rich or stout clothes of one generation were bequeathed by will and worn by a second and even a third and fourth generation.
In England extravagance in dress in court circles, and grotesqueness in dress among all educated folk, had become abhorrent to that class of persons who were called Puritans; and as an expression of their dislike they wore plainer garments, and cut off their flowing locks, and soon were called Roundheads. The Massachusetts settlers who were Puritans determined to discourage extravagance in dress in the New World, and attempted to control the fashions.
The Massachusetts magistrates were reminded of their duties in this direction by sanctimonious spurring from gentlemen and ministers in England. One such meddler wrote to Governor Winthrop in 1636: "Many in your plantacions discover too much pride." Another stern moralist reproved the colonists for writing to England "for cut work coifes, for deep stammel dyes," to be sent to them in America. Others, prohibited from wearing broad laces, were criticised for ordering narrow ones, for "going as farr as they may."
In 1634 the Massachusetts General Court passed restricting sumptuary laws. These laws forbade the purchase of woollen, silk, or linen garments, with silver, gold, silk, or thread lace on them. Two years later a narrow binding of lace was permitted on linen garments. The colonists were ordered not to make or buy any slashed clothes, except those with one slash in each sleeve and another slash in the back. "Cut works, imbroidd or needle or capps bands & rayles," and gold or silver girdles, hat-bands, belts, ruffs, and beaver hats were forbidden. Liberty was thriftily given, however, to the colonists to wear out any garments they chanced to have unless in the form of inordinately slashed apparel, immoderate great sleeves and rails, and long wings, which could not possibly be endured.
In 1639 men's attire was approached and scanned, and "immoderate great breeches" were tabooed; also broad shoulder-bands, double ruffles and capes, and silk roses, which latter adornment were worn on the shoes.
In 1651 the Court again expressed its "utter detestation that men and women of meane condition, education, and calling, should take vppon them the garbe of gentlemen by wearinge of gold or silver lace, or buttons or poynts at their knees, or walke in great boots, or women of the same ranke to wear silke or tiffany hoods or scarfs."
Many persons were "presented" under this law, men boot-wearers as well as women hood-wearers. In Salem, in 1652, a man was presented for "excess in bootes, ribonds, gould and silver lace."
In Newbury, in 1653, two women were brought up for wearing silk hoods and scarfs, but they were discharged on proof that their husbands were worth L200 each. In Northampton, in the year 1676, a wholesale attempt was made by the magistrates to abolish "wicked apparell." Thirty-eight women of the Connecticut valley were presented at one time for various degrees of finery, and as of too small estate to wear silk. A young girl named Hannah Lyman was presented for "wearing silk in a fflaunting manner, in an offensive way and garb not only before but when she stood presented." Thirty young men were also presented for silk-wearing, long hair, and other extravagances. The calm flaunting of her silk in the very eyes of the Court by sixteen-year-old Hannah was premonitory of the waning power of the magistrates, for similar prosecutions at a later date were quashed. By 1682 the tables were turned and we find the Court arraigning the selectmen of five towns for not prosecuting offenders against these laws as in previous years. In 1675 the town of Dedham had been similarly warned and threatened, but apparently was never prosecuted. Connecticut called to its aid in repressing extravagant dress the economic power of taxation by ordering that whoever wore gold or silver lace, gold or silver buttons, silk ribbons, silk scarfs, or bone lace worth over three shillings a yard should be taxed as worth L150.
Virginia fussed a little over "excess in cloathes." Sir Francis Wyatt was enjoined not to permit any but the Council and the heads of Hundreds to wear gold on their clothes, or to wear silk till they made it—which was intended more to encourage silk-making than to discourage silk-wearing. And it provided that unmarried men should be assessed according to their apparel, and married men according to that of their family. In 1660 Virginia colonists were ordered to import no "silke stuffe in garments or in peeces except for whoods and scarfs, nor silver or gold lace, nor bone lace of silk or threads, nor ribbands wrought with gold or silver in them."
The ministers did not fail in their duty in attempting to march with the magistrates in the restriction and simplification of dress. They preached often against "intolerable pride in clothes and hair." Even when the Pilgrims were in Holland the preachers had been deeply disturbed over the dress of their minister's wife, Madam Johnson, who wore "lawn coives" and busks, and a velvet hood, and "whalebones in her petticoat bodice," and worst of all, "a topish hat." One of the earliest interferences of Roger Williams was when he instructed the women of Salem parish always to wear veils in public. But John Cotton preached to them the next Sunday, and he proved to the dames and goodwives that veils were a sign and symbol of undue subjection to their husbands, and Salem women soon proved their rights by coming barefaced to meeting.
Mr. Davenport preached about men's head-gear, that men must take off their hats, and stand up at the announcement of the text. And if New Haven men wore their hats in meeting, I can't see why they fussed so over the Quakers' broadbrims.
After a while the whole church interfered. In 1769 the church at Andover put it to vote whether "the parish Disapprove of the female sex sitting with their Hats on in the Meeting-house in time of Divine Service as being Indecent." In the town of Abington, in 1775, it was voted that it was "an indecent way that the female sex do sit with their hats and bonnets on to worship God." Still another town voted that it was the "Town's Mind" that the women should take their bonnets off in meeting and hang them "on the peggs." We do not know positively, but I suspect that the bonnets continued to grace the heads instead of the pegs in Andover, Abington, and other towns.
To know how the colonists were dressed, we have to learn from the lists of their clothing which they left by will, which lists are still preserved in court records; from the inventories of the garments furnished to each settler who came by contract; from the orders sent back to England for new clothing; from a few crude portraits, and from some articles of ancient clothing which are still preserved.
When Salem was settled the Massachusetts Bay Company furnished clothes to all the men who emigrated and settled that town. Every man had four pairs of shoes, four pairs of stockings, a pair of Norwich garters, four shirts, two suits of doublet and hose of leather lined with oiled skin, a woollen suit lined with leather, four bands, two handkerchiefs, a green cotton waistcoat, a leather belt, a woollen cap, a black hat, two red knit caps, two pairs of gloves, a mandillion or cloak lined with cotton, and an extra pair of breeches. Little boys just as soon as they could walk wore clothes made precisely like their fathers': doublets which were warm double jackets, leather knee-breeches, leather belts, knit caps. The outfit for the Virginia planters was not so liberal, for the company was not so wealthy. It was called a "Particular of Apparell." It had only three bands, three pairs stockings, and three shirts instead of four. The suits were of canvas, frieze, and cloth. The clothing was doubtless lighter, because the climate of Virginia was warmer. There were no gloves, no handkerchiefs, no hat, no red knit caps, no mandillion, no extra pair of breeches. They had "a dozen points," which were simply tapes to hold up the clothing and fasten it together. The clothing of the Piscataquay planters varied but little from the others. They had scarlet waistcoats and cassocks of cloth, not of leather. We are apt to think of the Puritan settlers of New England as sombre in attire, wearing "sad-colored" garments, but green and scarlet waistcoats and scarlet caps certainly afforded a gay touch of color.
A young boy, about ten years old, named John Livingstone, was sent from New York to school in New England at the latter part of the seventeenth century. An "account of his new linen and clothes" has been preserved, and it gives an excellent idea of the clothing of a son of wealthy people at that time. It reads thus, in the old spelling:—
"Eleven new shirts, 4 pair laced sleves, 8 Plane Cravats, 4 Cravats with Lace, 4 Stripte Wastecoats with black buttons, 1 Flowered Wastecoat, 4 New osenbrig britches, 1 Gray hat with a black ribbon, 1 Gray hat with a blew ribbon, 1 Dousin black buttons, 1 Dousin coloured buttons, 3 Pair gold buttons, 3 Pair silver buttons, 2 Pair Fine blew Stockings, 1 Pair Fine red Stockings, 4 White Handkerchiefs, 2 Speckled Handkerchiefs, 5 Pair Gloves, 1 Stuff Coat with black buttons, 1 Cloth Coat, 1 Pair blew plush britches, 1 Pair Serge britches, 2 Combs, 1 Pair new Shooes, Silk & Thred to mend his Cloathes."
Osenbrig was a heavy, strong linen. This would seem to be a summer outfit, and scarcely warm enough for New England winters. Other schoolboys at that date had deerskin breeches.
Leather was much used, especially in the form of tanned buckskin breeches and the deerskin hunters' jackets, which have always and deservedly been a favorite wear, since they are one of the most appropriate, useful, comfortable, and picturesque garments ever worn by men in any active outdoor life.
Soon in the larger cities and among wealthy folk a much more elaborate and varied style of dress became fashionable. The dress of little girls in families of wealth was certainly almost as formal and elegant as the dress of their mammas, and it was a very hampering and stiff dress. They wore vast hoop-petticoats, heavy stays, and high-heeled shoes. Their complexions were objects of special care; they wore masks of cloth or velvet to protect them from the tanning rays of the sun, and long-armed gloves. Little Dolly Payne, who afterwards became the wife of President Madison, went to school wearing "a white linen mask to keep every ray of sunshine from the complexion, a sunbonnet sewed on her head every morning by her careful mother, and long gloves covering the hands and arms." Our present love of outdoor life, of athletic sports, and our indifference to being sunburned, makes such painstaking vanity seem most unbearably tiresome.
In 1737 Colonel John Lewis sent from Virginia to England for a wardrobe for a young miss, a school-girl, who was his ward. The list reads thus:—
"A cap ruffle and tucker, the lace 5 shillings per Yard, 1 pair White Stays, 8 pair White Kid gloves, 2 pair coloured kid gloves, 2 pair worsted hose, 3 pair thread hose, 1 pair silk shoes laced, 1 pair morocco shoes, 1 Hoop Coat, 1 Hat, 4 pair plain Spanish shoes, 2 pair calf shoes, 1 mask, 1 fan, 1 necklace, 1 Girdle and buckle, 1 piece fashionable Calico, 4 yards ribbon for knots, 11/2 yard Cambric, A mantua and coat of lute-string."
In the middle of the century George Washington also sent to England for an outfit for his stepdaughter, Miss Custis. She was four years old, and he ordered for her, pack-thread stays, stiff coats of silk, masks, caps, bonnets, bibs, ruffles, necklaces, fans, silk and calamanco shoes, and leather pumps. There were also eight pairs of kid mitts and four pairs of gloves; these with the masks show that this little girl's complexion was also to be well guarded.
A little New England Miss Huntington, when twelve years old, was sent from Norwich, Connecticut, to be "finished" in a Boston boarding-school. She had twelve silk gowns, but her teacher wrote home that she must have another gown of "a recently imported rich fabric," which was at once bought for her because it was "suitable for her rank and station."
Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was a constant succession of rich and gay fashions; for American dress was carefully modelled upon European, especially English modes. Men's wear was as rich as women's. An English traveller said that Boston women and men in 1740 dressed as gay every day as courtiers in England at a coronation. But with all the richness there was no wastefulness. The sister of the rich Boston merchant, Peter Faneuil, who built Faneuil Hall, sent her gowns to London to be turned and dyed, and her old ribbons and gowns to be sold. But her gowns, which are still preserved, are of magnificent stuffs.
New Yorkers were dressed in gauzes, silks, and laces; even women Quakers in Pennsylvania had to be warned against wearing hoop-petticoats, scarlet shoes, and puffed and rolled hair.
The family of so frugal a man as Benjamin Franklin did not escape a slight infection of the prevailing love for gay dress. In the Pennsylvania Gazette this advertisement appeared in 1750:—
"Whereas on Saturday night last the house of Benjamin Franklin of this city, Printer, was broken open, and the following things feloniously taken away, viz., a double necklace of gold beads, a womans long scarlet cloak almost new, with a double cape, a womans gown, of printed cotton of the sort called brocade print, very remarkable, the ground dark, with large red roses, and other large and yellow flowers, with blue in some of the flowers, with many green leaves; a pair of womens stays covered with white tabby before, and dove colour'd tabby behind, with two large steel hooks and sundry other goods, etc."
Southern dames, especially of Annapolis, Baltimore, and Charleston, were said to have the richest brocades and damasks that could be bought in London. Every sailing-vessel that came from Europe brought boxes of splendid clothing. The heroes of the Revolution had a high regard for dress. The patriot, John Hancock, was seen at noonday wearing a scarlet velvet cap, a blue damask gown lined with velvet, white satin embroidered waistcoat, black satin small-clothes, white silk stockings, and red morocco slippers. George Washington was most precise in his orders for his clothing, and wore the richest silk and velvet suits.
A true description of a Boston printer just after the Revolution shows his style of dress:—
"He wore a pea-green coat, white vest, nankeen small clothes, white silk stockings, and pumps fastened with silver buckles which covered at least half the foot from instep to toe. His small clothes were tied at the knees with ribbon of the same colour in double bows, the ends reaching down to the ancles. His hair in front was well loaded with pomatum, frizzled or craped and powdered. Behind, his natural hair was augmented by the addition of a large queue called vulgarly a false tail, which, enrolled in some yards of black ribbon, hung half-way down his back."
Many letters still exist written by prominent citizens of colonial times ordering clothing, chiefly from Europe. Rich laces, silk materials, velvet, and fine cloth of light and gay colors abound. Frequently they ordered nightgowns of silk and damask. These nightgowns were not a garment worn at night, but a sort of dressing-gown. Harvard students were in 1754 forbidden to wear them. Under the name of banyan they became very fashionable, and men had their portraits painted in them, for instance the portrait of Nicholas Boylston, now in Harvard Memorial Hall.
With the increase of trade with China many Chinese and East Indian goods became fashionable, with hundreds of different names. A few were of silk or linen, but far more of cotton; among them nankeens were the most imported and even for winter wear.
Both men and women wore for many years great cloaks or capes, known by various names, such as roquelaures, capuchins, pelisses, etc. Women's shoes were of very thin materials, and paper-soled. They wore to protect these frail shoes, when walking on the ill-paved streets, various forms of overshoes, known as goloe-shoes, clogs, pattens, etc. When riding, women in the colonies wore, as did Queen Elizabeth, a safeguard, a long over-petticoat to protect the gown from mud and rain. This was sometimes called a foot-mantle, also a weather-skirt. A traveller tells of seeing a row of horses tied to a fence outside a Quaker meeting. Some carried side saddles, some men's saddles and pillions. On the fence hung the muddy safeguards the Quaker dames had worn outside their drab petticoats. Men wore sherry-vallies or spatter-dashes to protect their gay breeches.
There was one fashion which lasted for a century and a half which was so untidy, so uncomfortable, so costly, and so ridiculous that we can only wonder that it was endured for a single season—I mean the fashion of wig-wearing by men. The first colonists wore their own natural hair. The Cavaliers had long and perfumed love-locks; and though the Puritans had been called Roundheads, their hair waved, also, over the band or collar, and often hung over the shoulder. The Quakers, also, wore long locks, as the lovely portrait of William Penn shows. But by 1675 wigs had become common enough to be denounced by the Massachusetts government, and to be preached against by many ministers; while other ministers proudly wore them. Wigs were called horrid bushes of vanity, and hundreds of other disparaging names, which seemed to make them more popular. They varied from year to year; sometimes they swelled out at the sides, or rose in great puffs, or turned under in heavy rolls, or hung in braids and curls and pig-tails; they were made of human hair, of horsehair, goat's-hair, calves' and cows' tails, of thread, silk, and mohair. They had scores of silly and meaningless names, such as "grave full-bottom," "giddy feather-top," "long-tail," "fox-tail," "drop-wig," etc. They were bound and braided with pink, green, red, and purple ribbons, sometimes all these colors on one wig. They were very heavy, and very hot, and very expensive, often costing what would be equal to a hundred dollars to-day. The care of them was a great item, often ten pounds a year for a single wig, and some gentlemen owned eight or ten wigs. Little children wore them. I have seen the bill for a wig for William Freeman, dated 1754; he was a child seven years old. His father paid nine pounds for it, and the same for wigs for his other boys of nine and ten. Even servants wore them; I read in the Massachusetts Gazette of a runaway negro slave who "wore off a curl of hair tied around his head with a string to imitate a wig," which must have been a comical sight. After wigs had become unfashionable, the natural hair was powdered, and was tied in a queue in the back. This was an untidy, troublesome fashion, which ruined the clothes; for the hair was soaked with oil or pomatum to make the powder stick.
Comparatively little jewellery was worn. A few men had gold or silver sleeve-buttons; a few women had bracelets or lockets; nearly all of any social standing had rings, which were chiefly mourning-rings. As these gloomy ornaments were given to all the chief mourners at funerals, it can be seen that a man of large family connections, or of prominent social standing, might acquire a great many of them. The minister and doctor usually had a ring at every funeral they attended. It is told of an old Salem doctor, who died in 1758, that he had a tankard full of mourning-rings which he had secured at funerals. Men sometimes wore thumb-rings, which seems no queerer than the fact that they carried muffs. Old Dr. Prince of Boston carried an enormous bearskin muff.
Gloves also were gifts at funerals, sometimes in large numbers. At the funeral of the wife of Governor Belcher, in 1738, over a thousand pairs were given away. Rev. Andrew Eliot, who was pastor of the North Church in Boston, had twenty-nine hundred pair of gloves given him in thirty-two years; many of these he sold. In all the colonies, whether settled by Dutch, English, French, German, or Swedes, gloves were universally given at funerals.
The early watches were clumsy affairs, often globose in shape, with a detached outer case.
To show how few of the first colonists owned either watches or clocks, we have the contemporary evidence of Roger Williams. When he rowed thirty miles down the bay, and disputed with the "Foxians" at Newport in 1672, it was agreed that each party should be heard in turn for a quarter of an hour. But no clock was available in Newport; and among the whole population that flocked to the debate, there was not a single watch. Williams says, "unless we had Clocks and Watches and Quarter Glasses (as in some Ships) it was impossible to be exactly punctual," so they guessed at the time.
Sun-dials were often set in the street in front of houses; and noon-marks on the threshold of the front door or window-sill helped to show the hour of the day.
Chepa Rose was one of those old-time chap-men known throughout New England as "trunk pedlers." Bearing on his back by means of a harness of stout hempen webbing two oblong trunks of thin metal,—probably tin,—for forty-eight years he had appeared at every considerable farmhouse throughout Narragansett and eastern Connecticut, at intervals as regular as the action and appearance of the sun, moon, and tides; and everywhere was he greeted with an eager welcome.
Chepa was, as he said, "half Injun, half French, and half Yankee." From his Indian half he had his love of tramping which made him choose the wandering trade of trunk pedler; his French half made him a good trader and talker; while his Yankee half endowed him with a universal Yankee trait, a "handiness," which showed in scores of gifts and accomplishments and knacks that made him as warmly greeted everywhere as were his attractive trunks.
He was a famous medicine-brewer; from the roots and herbs and barks that he gathered as he tramped along the country roads he manufactured a cough medicine that was twice as effective and twice as bitter as old Dr. Greene's; he made famous plasters, of two kinds,—plasters to stick and plasters to crawl, the latter to follow the course of the disease or pain; he concocted wonderful ink; he showed Jenny Greene how to bleach her new straw bonnet with sulphur fumes; he mended umbrellas, harnesses, and tinware; he made glorious teetotums which the children looked for as eagerly and unfailingly as they did for his tops and marbles, his ribbons and Gibraltars.
One day he came through the woods to John Helme's house carrying in his hand a stout birchen staff or small tree-trunk, which he laid down on the flat millstone imbedded in the grass at the back door, while he displayed and sold his wares and had his dinner. He then went out to the dooryard with little Johnny Helme, sat down on the millstone, lighted his pipe, opened his jack-knife, and discoursed thus:—
"Johnny, I'm going to tell you how to make an Injun broom. Fust, you must find a big birch-tree. There ain't so many big ones now of any kind as there useter be when we made canoes and plates and cradles, and water spouts, and troughs, and furnitoor out of the bark. But you must get a yallow birch-tree as straight as H and edzactly five inch acrost. Now, how kin ye tell how fur it is acrost a tree afore ye cut it off? I kin tell by the light of my eye, but that's Injun larnin'. Lemme tell you by book-larnin'. Measure it round, and make the string in three parts, and one part'll be what it is acrost. If it's nine inch round, it'll be three inch acrost, and so on. Now don't you forgit that. Wal! you must get a straight birch-tree five inch acrost where you cut it off, just like this one. Then make the stick six foot long. Then one foot and two inch from the big end cut a ring round the bark; wal! say two inch wide just like this. Then you take off all the bark below that ring. Then you begin a-slivering with a sharp jack-knife, leetle teeny flat slivers way up to the bark ring. When it's all slivered up thin and flat there'll be a leetle hard core left inside at the top, and you must cut it out careful. Then you take off the bark above the ring and begin slivering down. Leave a stick just big enough for a handle. Then tie this last lot of slivers down tight over the others with a hard-twisted tow string, and trim 'em off even. Then whittle off and scrape off a good smooth handle with a hole in the top to put a loop of cowhide in, to hang it up by orderly.
"Yes, Johnny, I've got just enough Injun in me to make a good broom; not enough to be ashamed of and not enough to be proud of. But you mustn't forgit this; a moccasin's the best cover a man ever had on his feet in the woods; the easiest to get stuff for, the easiest to make, the easiest to wear. And a birch-bark canoe's the best boat a man can have on the river. It's the easiest to get stuff for, easiest to carry, the fastest to paddle. And a snowshoe's the best help a man can have in the winter. It's the easiest to get stuff for, the easiest to walk on, the easiest to carry. And just so a birch broom is the best broom a man or at any rate a woman can have; four best things and all of 'em is Injun. Now you just slip in and take that broom to Phillis. I see her the last time I was here a-using a mizrable store broom to clean her oven—and just ask her if I can't have a mug of apple-jack afore I go to bed."
If this scene had been laid in New Hampshire or Vermont instead of Narragansett, the Indian broom would have been no novelty to any boy or house-servant. For in the northern New England states, heavily wooded with yellow birch, every boy knew how to make the Indian brooms, and every household in country or town had them. There was a constant demand in Boston for them, and sometimes country stores had several hundred of the brooms at a time. Throughout Vermont seventy years ago the uniform price paid for making one of these brooms was six cents; and if the splints were very fine and the handle scraped with glass, it took nearly three evenings to finish it. Indian squaws peddled them throughout the country for ninepence apiece. Major Robert Randolph told in fashionable London circles about the year 1750, that when he was a boy in New Hampshire he earned his only spending-money by making these brooms and carrying them on his back ten miles to town to sell them. Girls could whittle as well as boys, and often exchanged the birch brooms they made for a bit of ribbon or lace.
A simpler and less durable broom was made of hemlock branches. A local rhyme says of them:—
"Driving at twilight the waiting cows, With arms full-laden with hemlock boughs, To be traced on a broom ere the coming day From its eastern chambers should dance away."
The hemlock broom was simply a bunch of close-growing, full-foliaged hemlock branches tied tightly together and wound around with hempen twine, "traced," the rhyme says, with a sharply pointed handle, which the boys had shaped and whittled, driven well into the bound portion. This making of brooms for domestic use is but an example of one of the many score of useful domestic and farm articles which were furnished by the natural resources of every wood-lot, adapted by the Yankee jack-knife and a few equally simple tools, of which the gimlet might take the second place.
It was so emphatically a wooden age in colonial days that it seemed almost that there were no hard metals used for any articles which to-day seem so necessarily of metal. Ploughs were of wood, and harrows; cart-wheels were often wholly of wood without tires, though sometimes iron plates called strakes held the felloes together, being fastened to them by long clinch-pins. The dish-turner and cooper were artisans of importance in those days; piggins, noggins, runlets, keelers, firkins, buckets, churns, dye-tubs, cowles, powdering-tubs, were made with chary or no use of metal.
The forests were the wealth of the colonies in more ways than one; and it may be said that they furnished both domestic winter employment and toys for the boys. The New England forests were full of richly varied kinds of wood, suitable for varied uses, with varied qualities—pliability, stiffness, durability, weight, strength; and it is surprising to see how quickly the woods were assigned to fixed uses, even for toys; in every state pop-guns were made from elder; bows and arrows of hemlock; whistles of chestnut or willow.
The Rev. John Pierpont wrote thus of the whittling of his childhood days:—
"The Yankee boy before he's sent to school Well knows the mysteries of that magic tool— The pocket-knife. To that his wistful eye Turns, while he hears his mother's lullaby. And in the education of the lad, No little part that implement hath had. His pocket-knife to the young whittler brings A growing knowledge of material things, Projectiles, music, and the sculptor's art. His chestnut whistle, and his shingle dart, His elder pop-gun with its hickory rod, Its sharp explosion and rebounding wad, His corn-stalk fiddle, and the deeper tone That murmurs from his pumpkin-leaf trombone Conspire to teach the boy. To these succeed His bow, his arrow of a feathered reed, His windmill raised the passing breeze to win, His water-wheel that turns upon a pin. Thus by his genius and his jack-knife driven Ere long he'll solve you any problem given; Make you a locomotive or a clock, Cut a canal or build a floating dock: Make anything in short for sea or shore, From a child's rattle to a seventy-four. Make it, said I—ay, when he undertakes it, He'll make the thing and make the thing that makes it."
The boy's jack-knife was a possession so highly desired, so closely treasured in those days when boys had so few belongings, that it is pathetic to read of many a farm lad's struggles and long hours of weary work to obtain a good knife. Barlow knives were the most highly prized for certainly sixty years, and had, I am told, a vast popularity for over a century. May they forever rest in glorious memory, as they lived the happiest of lots! To be the best beloved of a century of Yankee boys is indeed an enviable destiny. A few battered old soldiers of this vast army of Barlow jack-knives still linger to show us the homely features borne by the century's well beloved: the Smithsonian Institution cherishes some of colonial days; and from Deerfield Memorial Hall are shown three Barlow knives whose picture should appear to every American something more than the presentment of dull bits of wood and rusted metal. These Yankee jack-knives were, said Daniel Webster, the direct forerunners of the cotton-gin and thousands of noble American inventions; the New England boy's whittling was his alphabet of mechanics.
In this connection, let us note the skilful and utilitarian adaptation not only of natural materials for domestic and farm use, but also natural forms. The farmer and his wife both turned to Nature for implements and utensils, or for parts adapted to shape readily into the implements and utensils of every-day life. When we read of the first Boston settlers that "the dainty Indian maize was eat with clam-shells out of wooden trays," we learn of a primitive spoon, a clam-shell set in a split stick, which has been used till this century. Large flat clam-shells were used and highly esteemed by housewives, as skimming-shells in the dairy, to skim cream from the milk. Gourd-shells made capital bowls, skimmers, dippers, and bottles; pumpkin-shells, good seed and grain holders. Turkey-wings made an ever-ready hearth-brush. In the forests were many "crooked sticks" that were more useful than any straight ones could be. When the mower wanted a new snathe or snead, as he called it, for his scythe, he found in the woods a deformed sapling that had grown under a log or twisted around a rock in a double bend, which made it the exact shape desired. He then whittled it, dressed it with a draw-shave, fastened the nebs with a neb-wedge, hung it with an iron ring, and was ready for the mowing-field.
Sled-runners were made from saplings bent at the root. The best thills for a cart were those naturally shaped by growth. The curved pieces of wood in the harness of a draught-horse, called the hames, to which the traces are fastened, could be found in twisted growths, as could also portions of ox-yokes. The gambrels used in slaughtering times, hay-hooks, long-handled pothooks for brick ovens, could all be cut ready-shaped.
The smaller underbrush and saplings had many uses. Sled and cart stakes were cut from some; long bean-poles from others; specially straight clean sticks were saved for whip-stocks. Sections of birch bark could be bottomed and served for baskets, or for potash cans, while capital feed-boxes could be made in the same way of sections cut from a hollow hemlock. Elm rind and portions of brown ash butts were natural materials for chair-seats and baskets, as were flags for door-mats. Forked branches made geese and hog yokes. Hogs that ran at large had to wear yokes. It was ordered that these yokes should measure as long as twice and a half times the depth of the neck, while the bottom piece was three times the width of the neck.
In the shaping of heavy and large vessels such as salt-mortars, pig troughs, maple-sap troughs, the jack-knife was abandoned and the methods of the Indians adopted. These vessels were burnt and scraped out of a single log, and thus had a weighty stability and permanence. Wooden bread troughs were also made from a single piece of wood. These were oblong, trencher-shaped bowls about eighteen inches long; across the trough ran lengthwise a stick or rod on which rested the sieve, searse, or temse, when flour was sifted into the trough. The saying "set the Thames (or temse) on fire," meant that hard work and active friction would set the wooden temse on fire.
Sometimes the mould for an ox-bow was dug out of a log of wood. Oftener a plank of wood was cut into the desired shape as a frame or mould, and fastened to a heavy backboard. The ox-bow was steamed, placed in the bow-mould, pinned in, and then carefully seasoned.
The boys whittled cheese-ladders, cheese-hoops, and red-cherry butter-paddles for their mothers' dairy; also many parts of cheese-presses and churns. To the toys enumerated by Rev. Mr. Pierpont, they added box-traps and "figure 4" traps of various sizes for catching vari-sized animals.
Many farm implements other than those already named were made, and many portions of tools and implements; among them were shovels, swingling-knives, sled-neaps, stanchions, handles for spades and bill-hooks, rake-stales, fork-stales, flails. A group of old farm implements from Memorial Hall, at Deerfield, is here given. The handleless scythe-snathe is said to have come over on the Mayflower.
The making of flails was an important and useful work. Many were broken and worn out during a great threshing. Both parts, the staff or handle, and the swingle or swiple, were carefully shaped from well-chosen wood, to be joined together later by an eelskin or leather strap.
The flail is little seen on farms to-day. Threshing and winnowing machines have taken its place. The father of Robert Burns declared threshing with a flail to be the only degrading and stultifying work on a farm; but I never knew another farmer who deemed it so, though it was certainly hard work. Last autumn I visited the "Poor Farm" on Quonsett Point in old Narragansett. In the vast barn of that beautiful and sparsely occupied country home, two powerful men, picturesque in blue jeans tucked in heavy boots, in scarlet shirts and great straw hats, were threshing out grain with flails. Both men were blind, one wholly, the other partially so—and were "Town Poor." Their strong, bare arms swung the long flails in alternate strokes with the precision of clockwork, bringing each blow down on the piled-up wheat-straw which covered the barn-floor, as they advanced, one stepping backward while the other stepped forward, and then receded with mechanical and rhythmic regularity, a step and a blow, from one end of the long barn to the other. The half-blind thresher could see the outline of the open door against the sunlight, and his steps and voice guided his sightless fellow-worker. Thus healthful and useful employment was given to two stricken waifs through the use of primitive methods, which no modern machine could ever have afforded; and the blue sky and bay, with autumnal sunshine on the piled-up golden wheat on floor and in rack, idealized and even made of the threshers, paupers though they were, a beautiful picture of old-time farm-life.
Wood for axe-helves was carefully chosen, sawed, split, and whittled into shape. These were then scraped as smooth as ivory with broken glass. Some men had a knack that was almost genius in shaping these axe-helves and selecting the wood for them. In a country where the broad-axe was so important an implement—used every day by every farmer; where lumbermen and loggers and shipwrights swung the axe the entire day for many months, men were ready to pay double price for a well-made helve, so shaped as to let the heavy blow jar as little as possible the hand holding the helve. One Maine farmer boasted that he had made and sold five hundred axe-helves, and received a good price for them all; that some had gone five hundred miles out west, others a hundred miles "up country"; and of no one of them which he had set had it ever been said, as of the axe in Deuteronomy, "When a man goeth into the wood to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down a tree, then the head slippeth from the helve."
A little money might be earned by cutting heel-pegs for shoemakers. These were made of a maple trunk sawed across the grain, making the circular board thin enough—a half inch or so—for the correct length of the pegs. The end was then marked in parallel lines, then grooved across at right angles, then split as marked into pegs with knife and mallet. A story is told of a farmer named Meigs, who, on the winter ride to market in company with a score or more of his neighbors, stole out at night from the tavern fireside where all were gathered to the barn where the horses were put up. There he took an oat-bag out of a neighbor's sleigh and poured out a good feed for his own horse. In the morning it was found that his horse had not relished the shoe-pegs that had been put in his manger; and their telltale presence plainly pointed out the thief. These shoe-pegs were a venture of two farmer boys which their father was taking to town to sell for them, and in indignation the boys thrust on the thief the name of Shoe-pegs Meigs, which he carried to the end of his life.
When the boys had learned to use a few other tools besides their jack-knives, as they quickly did, they could get sawed staves from the sawmills and make up shooks of staves bound with hoops of red oak, for molasses hogsheads. These would be shipped to the West Indies, and form an important link in the profitable rum and slave round of traffic that bound Africa, New England, and the West Indies so closely together in those days. A constant occupation for men and boys was making rived or shaved shingles. They were split with a beetle and wedge. A smart workman could by sharp work make a thousand a day. There may still be occasionally found in what were well-wooded pine regions, in shed or barn-lofts, or in old wood-houses, a stout oaken frame or rack such as was at one time found in nearly every house. It was known as a bundling-mould or shingling-mould. At the bottom of this strong frame were laid straight sticks and twisted withes which extended up the sides. Upon these were evenly packed the shingles, two hundred and fifty in number, known as a "quarter." The withes or "binders" were twisted strongly around when the number was full. The mould held them firmly in place while being tied. These were sealed by law and shipped. Cullers of staves were regularly appointed town officers. The dimensions of the shingles were given by law and rule; fifteen inches was the length for one period of time, and the bundling-mould conformed to it.
Daniel Leake of Salisbury, New Hampshire, made during his lifetime and was paid for a million shingles. During the years he was accomplishing this colossal work he cleared three hundred acres of land, tapped for twenty years at least six hundred maple-trees, making sometimes four thousand pounds of sugar a year. He could mow six acres a day, giving nine tons of hay; his strong, long arms cut a swath twelve feet wide. In his spare time he worked as a cooper, and he was a famous drum-maker. Truly there were giants in those days. I love to read of such vigorous, powerful lives; they seem to be of a race entirely different from our own. Still, among our New England forbears I doubt not many of us had some such giants, who conquered for us the earth and forests.
One mark the shingling industry left on the household. In the sawing of blocks there would always be some too knotty or gnarled to split into shingles. These were what were known in the vernacular as "on-marchantable shingle-bolts." They formed in many a pioneer's home and in many a pioneer school-house good solid seats for children and even grown people to sit on. And even in pioneer meeting-houses these blocks could sometimes be seen.
Other fittings for the house were whittled out. Long, heavy, wooden hinges were cut from horn-beam for cupboard and closet doors; even shed doors were hung on wooden hinges as were house doors in the earliest colonial days. Door-latches were made of wood, also oblong buttons to fasten chamber and cupboard doors.
New England housekeepers prized the smooth, close-grained bowls which the Indians made from the veined and mottled knots of maple-wood. They were valued at what seems high prices for wooden utensils and were often named and bequeathed in wills. Maple-wood has been used and esteemed by many nations for cups and bowls. The old English and German vessel known as a mazer was made of maple-wood, often bound and tipped with silver. Spenser speaks in his Shepheard's Calendar of "a mazer yrought of the maple wood." A well-known specimen in England bears the legend in Gothic text:—
"In the Name of the Trinitie Fille the kup and drinke to me."
Sometimes a specially skilful Yankee would rival the Indians in shaping and whittling out these bowls. I have seen two really beautiful ones carved with double initials, and one with a Scriptural reference, said to be the work of a lover for his bride. Another token of affection and skill from the whittler were carved busks, which were the broad and strong strips of wood placed in corsets or stays to help to form and preserve the long-waisted, stiff figure then fashionable. One carved busk bears initials and an appropriately sentimental design of arrows and hearts.
On the rim of spinning-wheels, on shuttles, swifts, and on niddy-noddys or hand-reels I have seen lettering by the hands of rustic lovers. A finely carved legend on a hand-reel reads:—
"POLLY GREENE, HER REEL. Count your threads right If you reel in the night When I am far away. June, 1777."
Perhaps some Revolutionary soldier gave this as a parting gift to his sweetheart on the eve of battle.
On his powder-horn the rustic carver bestowed his best and daintiest work. Emblem both of war and of sport, it seemed worthy of being shaped into the highest expression of his artistic longing. A chapter, even a book, might be filled with the romantic history and representations of American powder-horns; patriotism, sentiment, and adventure shed equal halos over them. Months of the patient work of every spare moment was spent in beautifying them, and their quaintness, variety, and individuality are a never-ceasing delight to the antiquary. Maps, plans, legends, verses, portraits, landscapes, family history, crests, dates of births, marriages, and deaths, lists of battles, patriotic and religious sentiments, all may be found on powder-horns. They have in many cases proved valuable historical records, and have sometimes been the only records of events. Mr. Rufus A. Grider, of Canajoharie, has made colored drawings of about five hundred of these powder-horns, and of canteens or drinking-horns. It is unfortunate that the ordinary processes of book-illustration give too scant suggestion of the variety, beauty, and delicacy of their decoration, to permit the reproduction of some of these powder-horns in these pages.
These habits of employing the spare moments of farm-life in the manufacture from wood of farm implements and various aids to domestic comfort, were not peculiar to New England farmers, nor invented by them. The old English farmer-author, Thomas Tusser, in his rhymed book, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, written in the sixteenth century (which Southey declared to be one of the most curious and formerly one of the most popular books in our language), was careful to give instructions in his "remembrances" and "doings" as to similar industries on the English farm and manor house. He says:—
"Yokes, forks, and such other let bailie spy out And gather the same as he walketh about; And after, at leisure, let this be his hire, To beath them and trim them at home by the fire."
To beath is to heat unseasoned wood to harden and straighten it.
"If hop-yard or orchard ye mean for to have, For hop-poles and crotches in lopping go save.
"Save elm, ash, and crab tree for cart and for plow, Save step for a stile of the crotch of a bough; Save hazel for forks, save sallow for rake: Save hulver and thorn, thereof flail for to make."
The Massachusetts Bay settlers came chiefly from the vicinity, many from the same county, where Tusser lived and farmed, and where his points of good husbandry were household words; so they had in their English homes as had their grandfathers before them, the knowledge and habit of saving and utilizing the various woods on the farm, and of occupying every spare minute with the useful jack-knife. The varied and bountiful trees of the New World stimulated and emphasized the whittling habit until it became universally accepted as a distinguishing New England characteristic, a Yankee trait.
This constant employment of every moment of the waking hours contributed to impart to New Englanders a regard and method of life which is spoken of by many outsiders with contempt, namely, a closely girded and invariable habit of economy. Children brought up in this way knew the value of everything in the household, knew the time it took to produce it, for they had labored themselves, and they grew to take care of small things, not to squander and waste what they had been so long at work on. This, instead of being a thing to sneer at, is one of the very best elements in a community, one of the best securities of character. For sudden leaps to fortune are given to but few, and are seldom lasting, and the results of sudden inflations are more disastrous even to a community than to isolated individuals, as may be abundantly proved by the early history of Virginia. It was not meanness that made the wiry New England farmer so cautious and exacting in trade, when the pennies he saved sent his son through college. It was not meanness which made him refuse to spend money; he had no money to spend, and it was a high sense of honor that kept him from running in debt. It was not meanness which so justly ordered conditions and cared for the unfortunate that even in those days of horrible drunkenness often there would not be a pauper in the entire village. It has been a reproach that in some towns the few town poor were vendued out to be cared for; the mode was harsh in its wording, and unfeeling in method, but in reality the pauper found a home. I have known cases where the pauper was not only supported but cherished in the families to whose lot she fell.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORTATION, AND TAVERNS
Wherever the earliest colonists settled in America, they had to adopt the modes of travel and the ways of getting from place to place of their predecessors and new neighbors, the Indians. These were first—and generally—to walk on their own stout legs; second, to go wherever they could by water, in boats. In Maryland and Virginia, where for a long time nearly all settlers tried to build their homes on the banks of the rivers and bays, the travel was almost entirely by boats; as it was between settlements on all the great rivers, the Hudson, Connecticut, and Merrimac.
Between the large settlements in Massachusetts—Boston, Salem, and Plymouth—travel was preferably, when the weather permitted, in boats. The colonists went in canoes, or pinnaces, shaped and made exactly like the birch-bark canoes of the Canadian Indians to-day; and in dugouts, which were formed from hollowed pine-logs, usually about twenty feet long and two or three feet wide; both of these were made for them by the Indians. It was said that one Indian, working alone, felling the pine-tree by the primitive way of burning and scraping off the charred parts with a stone tool called a celt (for the Indians had no iron or steel axes), then cutting off the top in the same manner, then burning out part of the interior, then burning and scraping and shaping it without and within, could make one of these dugouts in three weeks. The Indians at Onondaga still make the wooden mortars they use in the same tedious way.
When the white men came to America in great ships, the Indians marvelled much at the size, thinking they were hollowed out of tree-trunks as were the dugouts, and wondered where such vast trees grew.
The Swedish scientific traveller, Kalm, who was in America in 1748, was delighted with the Indian canoes and dugouts. He found the Swede settlers using them constantly to go long distances to market. He said:—
"They usually carry six persons who however by no means must be unruly, but sit at the bottom of the canoe in the quietest manner possible lest the boat upset. They are narrow, round below, have no keel and may be easily overset. So when the wind is brisk the people make for the land. Larger dugouts were made for war-canoes which would carry thirty or forty savages."
These boats usually kept close to the shore, both in calm and windy weather, though the natives were not afraid to go many miles out to sea in the dugouts.
The lightness of the birch-bark canoe made it specially desirable where there were such frequent overland transfers. It was and is a beautiful and perfect expression of natural and wild life; as Longfellow wrote:—
"... the forest's life was in it, All its mystery and magic, All the lightness of the birch tree, All the toughness of the cedar, All the larch's supple sinews, And it floated on the river Like a yellow leaf in autumn."
The French governor and missionaries all saw and admired these birch-bark canoes. Father Charlevoix wrote a beautiful and vivid description of them. All the early travellers noted their ticklish balance. Wood, writing in 1634, said, "In these cockling fly-boats an Englishman can scarce sit without a fearful tottering," and Madam Knights a century later said in her vivid English of a trip in one:—
"The Cannoo was very small and shallow, which greatly terrify'd me and caused me to be very circumspect, sitting with my hands fast on each side, my eyes steady, not daring so much as to lodge my tongue a hair's bredth more on one side of my mouth than tother, nor so much as think on Lott's wife, for a very thought would have oversett our wherry."
When boats and vessels were built by the colonists, they were in forms or had names but little used to-day. Shallop, ketch, pink, and snow are rarely heard. Sloops were early built, but schooner is a modern term. Batteau and periagua still are used; and the gundalow, picturesque with its lateen sail, still is found on our northern New England shores.
The Indians had narrow foot-paths in many places through the woods. On them foot-travel was possible, though many estuaries and rivers intersected the coast; for the narrow streams could be crossed on natural ford-ways, or on rude bridges of fallen trees, which the English government ordered to be put in place.
As late as 1631 Governor Endicott would not go from Salem to Boston to visit Governor Winthrop because he was not strong enough to wade across the fords. He might have done as Governor Winthrop did the next year when he went to Plymouth to visit Governor Bradford (and it took him two days to get there); he might have been carried across the fords pickaback by an Indian guide.
The Indian paths were good, though only two or three feet wide, and in many places the savages kept the woods clear from underbrush by burning over large tracts. When King Philip's War took place, all the land around the Indian settlements in Narragansett and eastern Massachusetts was so free of brush that horsemen could ride everywhere freely through the woods. Some of the old paths are famous in our history. The most so was the Bay Path, which ran from Cambridge through Marlborough, Worcester, Oxford, Brookfield, and on to Springfield and the Connecticut River. Holland's beautiful story called by the name of the path gives its history, its sentiment, and much that happened on it in olden times.
When new paths were cut through the forests, the settlers "blazed" the trees, that is, they chopped a piece of the bark off tree after tree standing on the side of the way. Thus the "blazes" stood out clear and white in the dark shadows of the forests, like welcome guide-posts, showing the traveller his way. In Maryland roads turning off to a church were marked by slips or blazes cut near the ground.
In Maryland and Virginia what were known as, and indeed are still called, rolling-roads were cut through the forest. They were narrow roads adown which hogsheads of tobacco, fitted with axles, could be drawn or rolled from inland plantations to the river or bay side; sometimes the hogsheads were simply rolled by human propulsion, not dragged on these roads.
The broader rivers soon had canoe-ferries. The first regular Massachusetts ferry from Charlestown to Boston was in 1639. It carried passengers for threepence apiece. From Chelsea to Boston was fourpence. In 1636 the Cambridge ferryman charged but half a penny, as so many wished to attend the Thursday lecture in the Boston churches. We learn from the Massachusetts Laws that often a rider had to let his horse cross by swimming over, being guided from the ferry-boat; he then paid no ferriage for the horse. After wheeled vehicles were used, these ferries were not large enough to carry them properly. Often the carriage had to be taken apart, or towed over, while the horse had his fore feet in one canoe-ferry and his hind feet in another, the two canoes being lashed together. The rope-ferry lingered till our own day, and was ever a picturesque sight on the river. As soon as roads were built there were, of course, bridges and cart-ways, but these were only between the closely neighboring towns. Usually the bridges were merely "horse-bridges" with a railing on but one side.
After the period of walking and canoe-riding had had its day, nearly all land travel for a century was on horseback, just as it was in England at that date. In 1672 there were only six stage-coaches in the whole of Great Britain; and a man wrote a pamphlet protesting that they encouraged too much travel. Boston then had one private coach. Women and children usually rode seated on a pillion behind a man. A pillion was a padded cushion with straps which sometimes had on one side a sort of platform-stirrup. One way of progress which would help four persons ride part of their journey was what was called the ride-and-tie system. Two of the four persons who were travelling started on their road on foot; two mounted on the saddle and pillion, rode about a mile, dismounted, tied the horse, and walked on. When the two who had started on foot reached the waiting horse, they mounted, rode on past the other couple for a mile or so, dismounted, tied, and walked on; and so on. It was also a universal and courteous as it was a pleasant custom for friends to ride out on the road a few miles with any departing guest or friend, and then bid them God speed agatewards.
In 1704 a Boston schoolmistress named Madam Knights rode from Boston to New York on horseback. She was probably the first woman to make the journey, and it was a great and daring undertaking. She had as a companion the "post." This was the mail-carrier, who also rode on horseback. One of his duties was to assist and be kind to all persons who cared to journey in his company. The first regular mail started from New York to Boston on January 1, 1673. The postman carried two "portmantles," which were crammed with letters and parcels. He did not change horses till he reached Hartford. He was ordered to look out and report the condition of all ferries, fords, and roads. He had to be "active, stout, indefatigable, and honest." When he delivered his mail it was laid on a table at an inn, and any one who wished looked over all the letters, then took and paid the postage (which was very high) on any addressed to himself. It was usually about a month from this setting out of "the post" in winter, till his return. As late certainly as 1730 the mail was carried from New York to Albany in the winter by a "foot-post." He went up the Hudson River, and lonely enough it must have been; probably he skated up when the ice was good. This mail was only sent at irregular intervals.
In 1760 there were but eight mails a year from Philadelphia to the Potomac River, and even then the post-rider need not start till he had received enough letters to pay the expenses of the trip. It was not till postal affairs were placed in the capable and responsible hands of Benjamin Franklin that there were any regular or trustworthy mails.
The journal and report of Hugh Finlay, a post-office surveyor in 1773 of the mail service from Quebec to St. Augustine, Florida, tells of the vicissitudes of mail-matter even at that later day. In some places the deputy, as the postmaster was called, had no office, so his family rooms were constantly invaded. Occasionally a tavern served as post-office; letters were thrown down on a table and if the weather was bad, or smallpox raged, or the deputy were careless, they were not forwarded for many days. Letters that arrived might lie on the table or bar-counter for days for any one to pull over, until the owner chanced to arrive and claim them. Good service could scarcely be expected from any deputy, for his salary was paid according to the number of letters coming to his office; and as private mail-carriage constantly went on, though forbidden by British law, the deputy suffered. "If an information were lodg'd but an informer wou'd get tar'd and feather'd, no jury wou'd find the fact." The government-riders were in truth the chief offenders. Any ship's captain, or wagon-driver, or post-rider could carry merchandise; therefore small sham bundles of paper, straw, or chips would be tied to a large sealed packet of letter, and both be exempt from postage paid to the Crown.
The post-rider between Boston and Newport loaded his carriage with bundles real and sham, which delayed him long in delivery. He bought and sold on commission along this road; and in violation of law he carried many letters to his own profit. He took twenty-six hours to go eighty miles. Had the Newport deputy dared to complain, he would have incurred much odium and been declared a "friend of slavery and oppression."
"Old Herd," the rider from Saybrook to New York, had been in the service forty-six years and had made a good estate. He coolly took postage of all way-letters as his perquisite; was a money carrier and transferrer, all advantage to his own pocket; carried merchandise; returned horses for travellers; and when Finlay saw him he was waiting for a yoke of oxen he was paid for fetching along some miles. A Pennsylvania post-rider, an aged man, occupied himself as he slowly jogged along by knitting mittens and stockings. Not always were mail portmanteaux properly locked; hence many letters were lost and the pulling in and out of bundles defaced the letters.
Of course so much horseback riding made it necessary to have horse-blocks in front of nearly all houses. In course of time stones were set every mile on the principal roads to tell the distance from town to town. Benjamin Franklin set milestones the entire way on the post-road from Boston to Philadelphia. He rode in a chaise over the road; and a machine which he had invented was attached to the chaise; and it was certainly the first cyclometer that went on that road, over which so many cyclometers have passed during the last five years. It measured the miles as he travelled. When he had ridden a mile he stopped; from a heavy cart loaded with milestones, which kept alongside the chaise, a stone was dropped which was afterwards set by a gang of men.
A number of old colonial milestones are still standing. There is one in Worcester, on what was the "New Connecticut Path"; one in Springfield on the "Bay Path," and there are several of Benjamin Franklin's setting, one being at Stratford, Connecticut.
The inland transportation of freight was carried on in the colonies just as it was in Europe, on the backs of pack-horses. Very interesting historical evidence in relation to the methods of transportation in the middle of the eighteenth century may be found in the ingenious advertisement and address with which Benjamin Franklin raised transportation facilities for Braddock's army in 1755. This is one of his most characteristic literary productions. Braddock's appeals to the Philadelphia Assembly for a rough wagon-road and wagons for the army succeeded in raising only twenty-five wagons. Franklin visited him in his desolate plight and agreed to assist him, and appealed to the public to send to him for the use of the army a hundred and fifty wagons and fifteen hundred pack-horses; for the latter Franklin offered to pay two shillings a day each, as long as used, if provided with a pack-saddle. Twenty horses were sent with their loads to the camp as gifts to the British officers. As a good and definite list of the load one of these pack-horses was expected to carry (as well as a record of the kind of provisions grateful to an officer of that day) let me give an inventory:—
Six pounds loaf-sugar, Six pounds muscovado sugar, One pound green tea, One pound bohea tea, Six pounds ground coffee, Six pounds chocolate, One-half chest best white biscuit, One-half pound pepper, One quart white vinegar, Two dozen bottles old Madeira wine, Two gallons Jamaica spirits, One bottle flour of mustard, Two well-cured hams, One-half dozen cured tongues, Six pounds rice, Six pounds raisins, One Gloucester cheese, One keg containing 20 lbs. best butter.
The wagons and horses were all lost after Braddock's defeat, or were seized by the French and Indians, and Franklin had many anxious months of responsibility for damages from the owners; but I am confident the officers got all the provisions. Franklin gathered the wagons in York and Lancaster; no two English shires could have done better at that time than did these Pennsylvania counties.
In Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and Ohio, pack-horses long were used, and a pretty picture is drawn by Doddridge and many other local historians of the trains of these horses with their gay collars and stuffed bells, as, laden with furs, ginseng, and snakeroot, they filed down the mountain roads to the towns, and came home laden with salt, nails, tea, pewter plates, etc. At night the horses were hobbled, and the clappers of their bells were loosened; the ringing prevented the horses being lost. The animals started on their journey with two hundred pounds' burden, of which part was provender for horse and man, which was left at convenient relays to be taken up on the way home. Two men could manage fifteen pack-horses, which were tethered successively each to the pack-saddle of the one in front of him. One man led the foremost horse, and the driver followed the file to watch the packs and urge on the laggards. Their numbers were vast; five hundred were counted at one time in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, going westward. It was a costly method of transportation. Mr. Howland says that in 1784 the expense of carrying a ton's weight from Philadelphia to Erie by pack-horses was $249. It is interesting to note that the routes taken by those men, skilled only in humble woodcraft, were the same ones followed in later years by the engineers of the turnpikes and railroads.
As the roads were somewhat better in Pennsylvania than in some other provinces, and more needed, so wagons soon were far greater in number; indeed, during the Revolution nearly all the wagons and horses used by the army came from that state. There was developed in Pennsylvania by the soft soil of these many roads, as well as by various topographical conditions, a splendid example of a true American vehicle, one which was for a long time the highest type of a commodious freight-carrier in this or any other country—the Conestoga wagon, "the finest wagon the world has ever known." They were first used in any considerable number about 1760. They had broad wheel-tires, and one of the peculiarities was a decided curve in the bottom, analogous to that of a galley or canoe, which made it specially fitted for traversing mountain roads; for this curved bottom prevented freight from slipping too far at either end when going up or down hill. This body was universally painted a bright blue, and furnished with sideboards of an equally vivid red. The wagon-bodies were arched over with six or eight stately bows, of which the middle ones were the lowest, and the others rose gradually to front and rear till the end bows were nearly of equal height. Over them all was stretched a strong, white, hempen cover, well corded down at the sides and ends. These wagons could be loaded up to the bows, and could carry four to six tons in weight. The rates between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were about two dollars a hundred pounds. The horses, four to seven in number, were magnificent, often matched throughout; some were all dapple-gray, or all bay. The harnesses, of best materials and appearance, were costly; each horse had a large housing of deerskin or heavy bearskin trimmed with deep scarlet fringe; while the head-stall was tied with bunches of gay ribbons. Bell-teams were common; each horse except the saddle-horse then had a full set of bells tied with high-colored ribbons.
The horses were highly fed; and when the driver, seated on the saddle-horse, drew rein on the prancing leader and flourished his fine bull-hide London whip, making the silk snap and tingle round the leader's ears, every horse started off with the ponderous load with a grace and ease that was beautiful to see.
The wagons were first used in the Conestoga valley, and most extensively used there; and the sleek powerful draught-horses known as the Conestoga breed were attached to them, hence their name. These teams were objects of pride to their owners, objects of admiration and attention wherever they appeared, and are objects of historical interest and satisfaction to-day.
Often a prosperous teamster would own several Conestoga wagons, and driving the leading and handsomest team himself would start off his proud procession. From twenty to a hundred would follow in close row. Large numbers were constantly passing. At one time ten thousand ran from Philadelphia to other towns. Josiah Quincy told of the road at Lancaster being lined with them. The scene on the road between the Cumberland valley and Greensburg, where there are five distinct and noble mountain ranges,—Tuscarora, Rays Hill, Alleghany, Laurel Hills, and Chestnut Ridge,—when a long train of white-topped Conestoga wagons appeared and wound along the mountain sides, was picturesque and beautiful with a charm unparalleled to-day.
"——Many a fleet of them In one long upward winding row. It ever was a noble sight As from the distant mountain height Or quiet valley far below, Their snow-white covers looked like sail."
There were two classes of Conestoga wagons and wagoners. The "Regulars," or men who made it their constant and only business; and "Militia." A local poet thus describes these outfits:—
"Militia-men drove narrow treads, Four horses and plain red Dutch beds, And always carried grub and feed."
They were farmers or common teamsters who made occasional trips, usually in winter time, and did some carriage for others, and drove but four horses with their wagons. The "Regulars" had broad tires, carried no feed for horses nor food for themselves, but both classes of teamsters carried coarse mattresses and blankets, which they spread side by side, and row after row, on the bar-room floor of the tavern at which they "put up." Their horses when unharnessed fed from long troughs hitched to the wagon-pole. The wagons that plied between the Delaware and the small city of Pittsburgh were called Pitt-teams.
The life of the Conestoga wagon did not end even with the establishment of railroads in the Eastern states; farther and farther west it penetrated, ever chosen by emigrants and travellers to the frontiers; and at last in its old age it had an equal career of usefulness as the "prairie-schooner," in which vast numbers of families safely crossed the prairies of our far West. The white tilts of the wagons thus passed and repassed till our own day.
Four-wheeled wagons were but little used in New England till after the War of 1812. Two-wheeled carts and sleds carried inland freight, which was chiefly transported over the snow in the winter.
The Conestoga wagon of the past century was far ahead of anything in England at that date; indeed Mr. C. W. Ernst, the best authority I know on the subject, says we had in every way far better traffic facilities at that time than England. In other ways we excelled. Though Finlay found many defects in the postal service in 1773, he also found the Stavers mail-coach plying between Boston and Portsmouth long before England had such a thing. Mr. Ernst says: "The Stavers mail-coach was stunning; used six horses when roads were bad, and never was late. They had no mail-coaches in England till after the Revolution, and I believe Massachusetts men introduced the idea in England."