Mailing List:2003-08-11 01, RE: How They Furnished their Houses, by Brenda Gallaher

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Mailing List Archives > 2003-08-11 01, RE: How They Furnished their Houses, by Brenda Gallaher

From: "Gallaher, Brenda ." <BGallahe -at- usoe.k12.ut.us> Subject: RE: [WHITNEY-L] How They Furnished their Houses Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2003 08:38:58 -0600 Dear Karl, What is a joined stool. Is that the same as a "Sweetheart's chair"? Brenda B. B. Gallaher, Section Secretary USOE, Evaluation and Assessment 250 East 500 South P.O. Box 144200 Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200 801-538-7836 bgallahe -at- usoe.k12.ut.us -----Original Message----- From: karl h schwerin -at- unm.edu Sent: Sunday, August 10, 2003 10:34 AM To: WHITNEY-L -at- rootsweb.com Subject: [WHITNEY-L] How They Furnished their Houses _Everyday Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony__, by George Francis Dow, originally published in 1935 by The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, but republished in 1988 by Dover Publications Chap. III. How They Furnished Their Houses (pp. 28-52) "In a farmer's family, in the early days, it was undoubtedly the habit to wash faces and hands in a small tub or keeler on the washbench in the kitchen. In suitable weather it is altogether likely the men of the family may have washed out of doors, beside the back door (29-30). The first settlers probably brought over some furniture from England. Such pieces can be authenticated by an examination showing that they are made of English and not American oak. While most family possessions, for convenience in shipping, came over in bales or bundles, covered with canvasyet, many articles of fine clothing and the treasured belongings of the better equipped families came over neatly stowed in chests and cupboards and some of those chests have survived" (31). But often, rather than the expense of shipping over furniture in a crowded ship, it was easier to make new furniture in the colony. Workmen were coming over, there was abundant timber for cutting, and those newly arrived could make do until proper furniture was made for them. John Dillingham arrived in Boston in 1630. In 1634 he removed to Ipswich, where he died the next winter. His widow died in July 1636. Their estate, left to their only daughter, is representative of "the furnishings and equipment of a settler living in a town of only two years growth from the wilderness. "The Dillingham homestead consisted of a house of two rooms and outbuildings with thirty acres of upland, sixty acres of meadowand six acres of planting ground near the house, of which four acres were planted with corn. Apple trees and other fruits were fenced off in the garden. For livestock there was a mare, three cows, two steers, two heifers, four calves, and four pigs. There was an indentured servantto help cultivate the land and care for the stock, and a maidwho not only helped with the housework but also worked in the fields." The Dillinghams parlor "was also used as a bedroom, a practice which was common everywhere in the seventeenth century. It had two bedsteadsa cupboarda sea chest, two 'joyned Chaires,' a round table, a deske, and a band box.. The feather beds, boulsters, and pillows on each bed were valued at about twice as much as a bedstead. There were flaxen sheets for Mrs. Dillingham's bed and coarse sheets for the beds of the maid and the indentured servant. A warming pan bears silent testimony to the cold of the winter season" "The large fireplace in the kitchen had its usual equipment of pothooks, fire shovel and tongs, gridiron, trivet, and bellows There were iron pots, kettles, skillets and ladles; a brass pot and a mortar. There was a frying pan with a hole in it and in a box were kept 'bullets, hinges and other smale things.' Two beer vessels were listed; a case of bottles, two jugs, three pans, a tray, and two baskets. There were plenty of table-cloths and napkins but no curtains at any of the windows. "Little Sarah Dillingham, the orphaned child, when sent to school to goodwife Symonds was supplied with 'a stuffe petticoat & waskote' and four 'shifts with shewes'; also a gown that cost 2 pounds. 10s" (32-35). In 1642 Richard Lumpkin died in the same town. He had become an influential citizen of Ipswich. He left an estate valued at 300 pounds. In the hall of his home stood a long table, with two forms and a stool beside it, having a total value of only fifteen shillings. The hall also contained three chairs and six cushions valued at four shillings. That was all the furniture in the room that was of any value. There were books, however, valued at 2 pounds, 10.0., a musket and a fowling piece and other small furnishings. In the parlor was a table with six joined stools, three chairs and eight cushions, a bedstead, and a trundle bed with curtains, and a chest, the latter valued at only four shillings. In the chamber over the parlor was a bedstead with its trundle bed, a table valued at three shillings, four chests and two boxes; not a chair or stool is named in connection with the room. The kitchen was in the leanto and while it contained a good supply of brass and iron pots and kettles and also pewter dishes, the table, bench, stools and wooden plates, etc. that must have been in the room were of so little value that they do not appear in the inventory." The chests and freestanding cupboards may have been brought from overseas. (35-36). William Googe of Lynn died in 1646 with few possessions, leaving a house and 12 acres of land. The total value of his possessions was only 28 pounds. 11. 7., with debts of 4 pounds. 9. 7. Among his personal belonging were a sword and belt, a musket and bandoleers, and gunpowder. His livestock comprised one cow and four hogs. There were five bushels of wheat, ten bushels of Indian corn, and flax in the bundle. The house was frugally furnished with a chest, two chairs, a stool and a trunk. Since no bedsteads are listed, the family probably slept on pallet beds on the floor. They had a frying pan, a gridiron, a skillet, a posnet, an earthen pot, six spoons, 3 wood trays, 3 wood bowls & 3 wood dishes, pails & tubs. There were probably many families in the Colony little better off. "Googe's house and twelve acres of land were valued at only 8 pounds. This must have been a very simple thatch-roofed house of not more than two rooms (37-38). "The settlers in the New England Colonies during the early years lived generally in houses having but one room and an entry-way on the ground floor. This earlier kitchen was usually called 'the hall' during the seventeenth century and in it centered the life of the family. The principle feature of this common room was its huge fireplace in which hung pots and kettles suspended by means of pot chains and trammels from the hardwood trammel-bar or lug-pole that rested on wooden cross bars and so bisected the wide flue in the chimney. These large fireplaceswere generally as wide as eight feet and a ten foot opening is not unknown. "This cavernous opening was spanned by a wooden lintel-a stick of timber sometimes sixteen inches or more square, and when exposed to a roaring fire, pile high with logs, this became an element of danger, the charring wood smoldering all night and setting fire to the house. The trammel-bar in the flue also caught fire not infrequently and gave way, allowing the pots and kettles to fall to the hearth, bringing disaster to the dinner or to the curdling milk and sometimes to those seated near. "'Here is good living for those who love good fires,' wrote Higginson in his __New-Englands Plantation__, and under the spell of the glowing flames, the bare, whitewashed walls, the brown timbers and floor boards of the ceiling, the dress of pewter, and the simple furnishings of the room, enriched by the shadows, became a place full of cheer-a place where privation and homesickness might be forgotten in the glow of the bright firelight. On cold nights the short bench inside the fireplace was a chosen place and the settle, a long seat made of boards with a high back to keep off the draft, was drawn before the fire and here sat the older members of the family. "The larger kettles hanging in the fireplace, were of brass and copper and some of them were of prodigious size. Hot water was always to be had and these kettles also served for the daily cooking, the cheese-making, soap-boiling, and candle-dipping. "Much of the food of the average New Englander until comparatively recent times consisted of corn-meal, boiled meats and vegetables and stews. Every well-equipped household had its spits for roasting and many had gridirons, but the usual diet of the average family was 'hasty pudding'-cornmeal mush and milk-varied by boiled meat or fish served in the center of a large pewter platter and surrounded by boiled vegetables. Baked beans and stewed beans appeared on the table several times every week in the year. Indian bannock, made by mixing corn meal with water and spreading it an inch thick on a small board placed at an incline before the fire and so baked, was a common form of bread. When mixed with rye meal it became brown bread and was baked in the brick oven with the beans and peas. "The brick oven was a feature of every chimney. To reach it the housewife must stoop below the oaken lintel and stand inside the fireplace, taking care that her woolen skirts did not come near the flames. To heat it for baking, a fire was built inside, usually with specially prepared pine or birch wood that had been split and seasoned out of doors for a short time and then housed. The fire and ashes were then taken out by means of a peel-a long-handled flat bladed shovel made for the purpose-and when dusted out with a broomit was ready for the brown bread, beans, peas, Indian pudding, pies, and rye drop cakes which were made with rye meal, eggs and milk and baked directly on the bricks in the bottom of the oven." Families in good circumstances made it a rule to heat the oven daily, but Saturday was generally reserved for the week's baking (39-41, 93). Early court records and inventories mention the following items of food: "Bacon, beef, butter, cheese, eggs, fowls, lamb, milk, mutton, pork, suet, veal, wild game, and cod, herring, mackerel, salmon and sturgeon. "Barley, beans, Indian beans, bran, cabbages, carrots, chaff, corn, English corn, Indian corn, hops, Indian meal, rye meal, oatmeal, oats, parsnips, peas, pumpions, rye, squashes, turnips and wheat. "Apples, berries, fruit, honey, raisins, sugar and vinegar. "Biscuit, blewlman, bread, cake, malt, salad oil, porridge, rye malt, yeast, salt and many kinds of spices. "Much of this food was raised on the farm and nearly every family had its garden. Such articles of food as were imported were usually obtained at the shops in the larger towns by barter, as money was scarce" (42). "In the early years domestic animals were too valuable to be killed for meat, but game was plentiful and was roasted" on iron spits. A child was frequently assigned to turn the spit so that the roast would cook evenly. Sometimes a bird was suspended on a twisted cord that slowly unwound and wound up again, though someone had to twist the cord fairly often. Wealthy families might have a "jack" to turn the spit. In this mechanism a heavy weight suspended by a cord slowly unwound, supplying the power that turned the spit (42). "The seventeenth century 'hall' must have had little spare room for its daily occupants, for in addition to its table and chairs, its settle, stools and washbench, the long ago inventories disclose such chattels as powdering tubs in which the salted meats were kept, the churn, barrels containing a great variety of things, keelers and buckets, bucking tubs for washing, and the various implements used in spinning and weaving, washing and ironing, cooking and brewing, and the making of butter and cheese. In the chimney hung the hams and bacon and suspended from the ceiling were strings of dried apples and hands of seed corn" (43-44). "The parlorwas the room where guest of station were received. The best bed hung with curtains and valance and covered with a rug, stood in a corner. In those days rugs were not used on floors but as bed furnishings" (44). "Among the better families the parlor and chamber windows had curtains hung from rods or cords. In the parlor stood chests in which were stored the family clothing and bedding, for closets did not exist in the seventeenth century house. A few stools and chairs, a looking-glass, a small table, and perhaps a cupboard completed the furnishings of the well-supplied parlor. Parlor walls were whitewashed and bare of ornament. Of 960 estates probated in Essex County, Massachusetts between 1635 and 1681 "pictures are listed but eight times and maps were found in but three homes." The Puritan character did not warm to the fine arts and austere living was the aim if not always the achievement of the time" (45, 49). "The chambers in the second story must have been curiously furnished rooms, containing a huddle of stores of all descriptions" such as bedding, wool and yarn, feathers, boxes, tubs, and miscellaneous odds and ends (45-46). "Early in the 18th century the walls of rooms in some Massachusetts houses began to be covered with 'painted paper hangings imported from England (46). Karl SchwerinSnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131 e-mail: schwerin -at- unm.edu Cultural anthropology...is valuable because it is constantly rediscovering the normal. Edward Sapir (1949:151)


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