Sunday, July 13, 2014

18C Masschusetts women seeks a Divorce from husband who decided to take a new wife


From the Boston Evening-Post, published as Boston Evening Post; February 9, 1756.

"Eleanor Stickney, the Wife of James Stickney of Hampstead in the Province aforesaid, having complained to the General Assenbly of said Province, that her said Husband had long neglected her and his Family, that he had cohabited with another Woman in a criminal Manner, and fearing a Prosecution, had travelled from said Hampstead, as the Complainant had been informed, to the Town of Srpingfield, in the Province of Massachusetts- Bay; and carried with him the said Woman, with whom he lived as with a Wife, and had entirely absented himself from this Complainant;

Wherefore the said Eleanor pray'd the Interposition of the General Assembly, that the Marriage Covenant between the said James and said Eleanor might be dissolved, &c. Upon which Petition 'twas ordered, that the said Petitioner be heard on the third Day of the sitting of the General Assembly next after the first Day of March next ensuing, and that the Petitioner cause the Order, with the Substance of said Petition, to be advertized in a publick Print three Weeks, thereby notifying the said James Stickney to appear and shew Cause why the Prayer of the said Petition should not be granted. Attest. Theaodore Atkinson."


The following short bibliography explores the history of divorce in America.


Basch, Norma. Framing American Divorce: From the Revolutionary Generation to the Victorians. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Chused, Richard H. Private Acts in Public Places: A Social History of Divorce in the Formative Years of American Family Law. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

Cott, Nancy. Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Degler, Carl N. At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Hartog, Henrick. Man and Wife in America: A History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Jones, Mary Somerville. “An Historical Geography of the Changing Divorce Law in the United States,” PhD Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1987.

Riley, Glenda. Divorce: an American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

He says, she says - Early 18C English opposing views on the institution of marriage

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Lady Mary Chudleigh (1656-1710) was a woman ahead of her time, churning out feminist rhetoric, even as she lived her life within the rigid confines of 17C England.

To The Ladies


Wife and servant are the same,

But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is ty’d,
Which nothing, nothing can divide:
When she the word obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride:
Fierce as an eastern prince he grows
And all his innate rigor shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptual contract break.
Like mutes, she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take:
But still be govern’d by a nod,
And fear her husband as a God:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value yourselves, and Men despise:
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise. -Lady Mary Chudleigh

Mary Chudleigh was part of an intellectual circle that included Mary Astell, Elizabeth Thomas, Judith Drake, Elizabeth Elstob, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, & John Norris. In her later years, she published a book of poetry (1703) & 2 books of essays, all dealing with feminist themes; 2 of her books went through 4 editions. Her poetry on human relationships has been anthologized & reprinted ever since.


Mary, the daughter of Richard Lee, was born in August of 1656, at Winslade in Devon, England. While she, like most women of her time, received little in the way of formal education, she read widely & educated herself in theology, science, & philosophy. Despite her strong feelings about women & marriage, she married Sir George Chudleigh of Ashton in Devon. They had at least 3 children: Eliza Maria, George (the next Sir George), Thomas. Little else is known about her life, except for the fact that her daughter must have died young, as her grief is mentioned in her letters & some poetry. Mary Chudleigh died in 1710.



About 23 years after Chudleigh's death, a watchmaker, overjoyed with the death of his "disagreeable" wife, rated an article in the London Derby Mercury, Thursday 22 March 1733,  "Some Days ago a Watch-maker on Holbourn-Hill, gave an Entertainment to a great Number of Neighbours at the Globe-Alehouse, on the said Hill, upon the following merry Occasion, viz. He happened to have a Wife endowed with some Qualities, that were disagreeable to him; (which is many a poor Man’s Case) some time before this, his Wife happened to be taken ill, and he, upon talking of it with some of his Neighbours, had declared, that should it please God to take her from him, he would entertain them all very handsomely; and it coming to pass that she died of that Malady, he was as good as hid Word, and made all his Neighbours and Friends Partakers of his Joy, to the great Vexation of all the troublesome Wives in Town, who are afraid it may become a Custom for unfortunate Husbands to celebrate the Day of their Deliverance: And I cannot but say, that the Custom would be both just and convenient, providing it were made mutual, and that a good Wife, who is delivered from a bad Husband, be allowed to keep Festival upon the Day of her Deliverance, as well as a good Husband when he is set free from an unfit Yoke-fellow. Such a custom would make both Spouses more careful of their Conduct, and more Complaisant to each other, at least to all outward Appearance; and it would destroy that stupid Dissimulation, or rather Simulation (if I may be allowed to make use of the Word) which has been long used upon such Occasions."
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For a contemporary English view of divorce in 1700 from a woman's perspective see, Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Dutchess of Mazarine's Case; Which is Also Considered. by Mary Astell, Published by John Nutt, Stationers-Hall, London, 1700.


New Hampshire's Abigail Abbot Bailey's abusive & incestuous husband had also fought in the Revolution


Abigail Abbot (1746-1815) & Asa Bailey (1745- c 1815-25) of New Hampshire had been married in 1767; farmed; & produced 14 children over their 25 years of marriage.  


The Pleasures of Matrimony by Thomas Colley 1773

During that time, Asa also fought in the Revolution; had an affair; raped a servant; beat his wife; & had incest with his 17 year-old daughter. They finally divorced in 1793.  Her own words--

One result of all my examinations and prayers was, a settled conviction, that I ought to seek a separation from my wicked husband, and never to settle with him any more for his most vile conduct. But as sufficient evidence, for his legal conviction, had not yet offered itself, (though I as much believed his guilt, as I believed my own existence,) I thought God’s time to bring Mr. B.'s conduct to public view had not yet arrived. But I was confident that such a time would arrive; that God would bring his crimes to light; and afford me opportunity to be freed from him.

Several months had passed, after Mr. B’s last wicked conduct before mentioned, and nothing special took place. The following events then occurred. One of our young daughters, (too young to be a legal witness, but old enough to tell the truth,) informed one of her sisters, older than herself, what she saw and heard, more than a year before, on a certain sabbath. This sister being filled with grief and astonishment at what she had heard, informed her oldest sister. When this oldest sister had heard the account, and was prepared to believe it, (after all the strange things which she herself had seen and heard,) she was so shocked, that she fainted. She was then at our house, I administered camphire, and such things as were suitable in her case. She soon revived. She then informed me of the occasion of her fainting. I had long before had full evidence to my mind of Mr. B’s great wickedness in this matter; and I thought I was prepared to hear the worst. But verily the worst was dreadful! The last great day will unfold it. I truly at this time had a new lesson added, to all that ever I before heard, or conceived, of human depravity.

I was now determined to go and see the daughter, who had suffered such things. Mr. B. perceiving my design to go where she was, set himself to prevent it. But kind Providence soon afforded me an opportunity to go. She was living at the house of her uncle, a very amiable man, and one whom Mr. B. in his better days, esteemed most highly; but of whom he became very shy, after he abandoned himself to wickedness. Mr. B. now could not endure the thought of my going to his house. No doubt his guilty conscience feared what information I might there obtain, and filled him with terror.

With much difficulty, and by the help of her aunt, I obtained ample information. I now found that none of my dreadful apprehensions concerning Mr. B’s conduct had been too high. And I thought the case of this daughter was the most to be pitied of any person I ever knew. I wondered how the author of her calamities could tarry in this part of the world. I thought that his guilty conscience must make him flee; and that shame must give him wings, to fly with the utmost speed.

My query now was, what I ought to do? I had no doubt relative to my living any longer with the author of our family miseries. This point was fully settled. But whether it would be consistent with faithfulness to suffer him to flee, and not be made a monument of civil justice, was my query. The latter looked to me inexpressibly painful. And I persuaded myself, that if he would do what was right, relative to our property, and would go to some distant place, where we should be afflicted with him no more, it might be sufficient; and I might be spared the dreadful scene of prosecuting my husband.

I returned home, I told Mr. B. I had heard an awful account relative to some man. I mentioned some particulars, without intimating who the man was; or what family was affected by it. I immediately perceived he was deeply troubled! He turned pale, and trembled, as if he had been struck with death. It was with difficulty he could speak. He asked nothing, who the man was, that had done this great wickedness; but after a while said, I know you believe it to be true; and that all our children believe it; but it is not true! Much more he said in way of denying. But he said he did not blame me for thinking as I did.

He asked me, what I intended to do? I replied, that one thing was settled: I would never live with him any more! He soon appeared in great anguish; and asked what I could advise him to do? Such was his appearance, that the pity of my heart was greatly moved. He had been my dear husband; and had destroyed himself. And now he felt something of his wretchedness.

I now felt my need of christian fortitude, to be firm in pursuing my duty. I was determined to put on firmness, and go through with the most interesting and undesirable business, to which God, in his providence, had called me, and which I had undertaken. I told him his case to me looked truly dreadful and desperate. That though I had long and greatly labored for his reformation and good, yet he had rejected all my advice. He had felt sufficient to be his own counsellor; and now he felt something of the result of his own counsels.

Relative to his question, what he now should do? I told Mr. B. he knew something of my mind, from an interview upon the subject sometime since, when he proposed retiring to some distant region, and forever leaving me and his family. I informed him, I now could see no better way for him than this; that I had rather see him gone forever, than to see him brought to trial, and have the law executed upon him, to the torture of myself and family; as it would be, unless he prevented it by flight.

He was then full of his consultations, relative to the mode of his going;—whether to ride, or go on foot? what property to take? and similar queries. I let him know that I was willing he should ride, and not only take a horse, but take property enough to make him comfortable. I proposed he should turn a one hundred acre lot, which we could well spare, and take the avails of it.

Source: Abigail Abbot Bailey, Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey, Who Had Been the Wife of Major Asa Bailey, Formerly of Landaff, (N.H.) Written by Herself Ed. Ethan Smith. (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1815)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Catharine Littlefield 1755-1814 m Rev War Gen Nathanael Greene & helpled Eli Whitney change the economy of the South

James Frothingham (American artist, 1786–1864) Catharine Littlefield Greene Miller

Catherine “Caty” Littlefield was born in New Shoreham, R.I., on Block Island.  The 3rd child of 5, she was the 1st daughter of John & Phebe (Ray) Littlefield.  Catharine Littlefield was born off the coast of Rhode Island on Block Island, which her family had helped settle in the 1660s. Her father, John Littlefield represented the town in the colonial assembly from 1747 to the Revolution.  Her mother, Phebe Ray, was a descendant of the earliest settlers of Block Island.

Caty's mother died, when she was 10 years old; & she was sent to live with an aunt & uncle, Catharine Ray & William Greene, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  Her aunt, Catharine (Ray) Greene, was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin & corresponded with him for years.  Her uncle William Greene was a leader of the Whig Party & governor of Rhode Island.  Benjamin Franklin was a regular visitor at the Greene house, while Caty was growing up.  Another frequent caller was Nathanael Greene, a successful merchant who was a distant cousin of her Uncle William's. Nathanael, the son of Rhode Island Quakers, who was 14 years older than she. The two began a courtship in 1772.



Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827) Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) 1783

At William & Catharine Greene’s house in Warwick that Kitty Littlefield on July 20, 1774, was married to Nathanael Greene of Coventry, R.I.  Nathanael Greene, brought up as a pacifist Quaker but turned to military concerns by the threats to his country’s liberty, had left his father’s forge; & in 1774, was helping to organize the Kentish Guards, a volunteer military company.  Catharine's new husband was selected by the Rhode Island Assembly as brigadier general, in charge of Rhode Island's 3 Continental regiments. During the war young Caty was not content to sit at home awaiting word of her husband. Instead, she visited him at his headquarters & joined him at his various encampments, where she witnessed many battles firsthand.

Catharine came to the notice of Washington & his troops at Valley Forge in the grim winter of 1777-78.  She had followed her husband, soon to become quartermaster general, to the Schuylkill headquarters to sharing the hardships of those bitter months with the men upon whom the success of the Revolution depended.  She was with her husband again the following winter at Morristown.  “We had a little dance at my quarters,” wrote General Greene, “His Excellency & Mrs. Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down.”  Catherine’s gallantry of spirit won Washington’s grateful admiration, although some gossiped about her association with mostly men at these encampments. Catharine Littlefield Greene stood out among Revolutionary War military wives, engaging in political discourse, maintaining friendships with men & bearing her children at the same time.

Three of their 5 Greene children were born during those years-Martha Washington in 1777, Cornelia Lott in 1778, & Nathanael Ray in 1780.  George Washington Greene, the oldest, was 8, when peace came in 1783; Louisa Catherine, the youngest, was born the following winter.  Greene's presence at her husband's encampments endeared her to the troops & to the other military leaders. George & Martha Washington became friends & supporters of Greene. The trips were made more challenging, when she began to have children. By 1779, she had three—George, Martha, & Cornelia—& was expecting a fourth. She was looking forward to joining her husband again; when word arrived, that he had been appointed commander of Washington's southern forces. It was not until 1781, that she was able to head to Charleston, South Carolina, to join him. By then their 4th child, Nathanael Ray, had arrived.

When the war finally came to an end & the family was reunited, Caty looked forward to having Nathanael there to share in the responsibility of raising the children & handling family business affairs. His presence at home "brought a peace of mind unknown to her since the conflict began." She was eager to let Nathanael take charge & to settle herself into the life of a respected, well-to-do gentleman's wife.

Though Nathanael was not required to be of further service to his country, his involvement in the war continued to affect their lives. During his Revolutionary command in the south, he faced very harsh conditions. In order to clothe his soldiers during the winter, he had to personally guarantee thousands of dollars to Charleston merchants. He later discovered that the speculator, through whom he had dealt, was fraudulent. At the end of the war, the merchants began pressing him for payment on the notes & judgments began coming down from South Carolina courts. He was without sufficient funds & heavily in debt.

 In recognition of General Greene’s war services, Georgia deeded him a sequestered loyalist estate that included Mulberry Grove plantation on he Savannah River.  Here he hoped to make a living by cultivating rice & pay off their debts by selling their other lands, when real estate markets proved favorable. This decision was particularly hard on Catharine. She had lived her whole life in the north. She would be leaving behind many friends & what was left of her family on Block Island.  There the family settled in the autumn of 1785, while the 43-year-old Nathanael undertook to restore the long-neglected land to productivity.  He would die only 9 months later.

When her husband died of “severe sunstroke” in June 1786, the widow Greene was left alone to raise their 5 children & oversee the family plantation. Catharine decided to remain in Georgia. The plantation was still not a financial success; but by 1788, with the help of the new plantation manager, originally their children’s tutor Yale grad & Connecticut native, Phineas Miller 1764-1803, Mulberry Grove was thriving.

She also gratefully yielded to General Lafayette’s request to let him educate her eldest, son of his beloved comrade-in-arms, with his own son in France.  Retaining her place in the “court circles” of the new republic, Mrs. Greene returned every summer to the cooler air of Newport, a center of Rhode Island society.  Her cultivated manners & warmth hade Mulberry Grove a gathering place for all her southern neighbors, as well, who valued such status & social graces.

In 1791, the Greene family of Mulberry Grove entertained George Washington during his presidential tour of the South.  Soon after that visit, Catharine personally presented to the United States Congress a petition for indemnity to recover funds that Nathanael had paid to Charleston merchants. On April 27, 1792, President  Washington approved & signed an act that indemnified the Greene estate. In a happy letter to a friend, she wrote:

I can tell you my Dear friend that I am in good health & spirits & feel as saucy as you please-not only because I am independent, but because I have gained a complete triumph over some of my friends who did not wish me success-& others who doubted my judgement in managing the business & constantly tormented me to death to give up my obstinancy as it was called-they are now as mute as mice-Not a word dare they utter... O how sweet is revenge!

On her journey homeward from Newport in the fall of 1792, a traveling companion was Eli Whitney 1765-1825, newly graduated from Yale, whom tutor-turned-plantation-manager Phinaes Miller had secured as a tutor for a South Carolina family across the Savannah River. 

During Whitney’s youth, the tall, heavy-shouldered boy with large hands & a gentle manner was a blacksmith, a nail maker on a machine he made at home & at one time, he was the country's sole maker of ladies' hatpins.  In his early 20s, Whitney determined to attend Yale College; so unusual a step for anyone not preparing for either the law or theology, that his parents objected. He was 23, before he got away from home & 27, when he received his degree, almost middle-aged in the eyes of his classmates. Again the most serious drawback facing him was that no profession existed suited to a man of his talents.



Eli Whitney 1765-1825

When Whitney’s teaching plans collapsed, Mrs. Greene invited him to accompany her to her plantation & read law. In the meantime, he could make himself useful in one way or another helping the tutor-turned-plantation-manager, Phineas Miller.  Miller was also a Yale alumnus, about a year older than Whitney. Whitney accepted the offer.

Being from New England, Whitney was unfamiliar with cotton farming, but Greene quickly brought him up to speed. She explained the difficulties of raising green-seed cotton.  Struck by his ingenuity in designing & fashioning a new tambour frame for her embroidery, Catherine Greene persuaded him to turn his talents to devising a machine that could rapidly strip the tenacious seeds from short-staple cotton & thus make it a profitable crop to raise. 

Some believe that she not only suggested the idea of the cotton gin, but she drew the rudimentary design, made corrections for improvement, & later financed the patent & fabrication. In Woman as Inventor, written in 1883, Matilda Joslyn Gage asserted that it was Caty & not Eli Whitney who should be credited with the invention.

Gage wrote that the cotton gin “owes its origin to a woman, Catherine Littlefield Green.” Gage goes on to describe Whitney as familiar enough with “the use of tools” to be able to build the machine. Nonetheless, the young man’s first contraption featured inefficient wooden teeth & he nearly quit, but the widow Greene’s suggestion to substitute wire for wood proved successful.

At the urging of Catharine Green & Phineas Miller, Whitney watched the cotton cleaning process of the slaves & studied their hand movements. During the slow process, one hand held the seed while the other hand teased out the short strands of lint. The machine he designed simply duplicated this.  To take the place of a hand holding the seed, Whitney made a sort of sieve of wires stretched lengthwise. More time was consumed in making the wire than stringing it, because the proper kind of wire was nonexistent.

To do the work of human fingers, which pulled out the lint, Whitney had a drum rotate past the sieve, almost touching it. On the surface of the drum, fine, hook-shaped wires projected which caught at the lint from the seed. The restraining wires of the sieve held the seeds back, while the lint was pulled away. A rotating brush, which turned 4 times as fast as the hook-covered drum cleaned the lint off the hooks. Originally Whitney planned to use small circular saws instead of the hooks, but the saws were unobtainable. That was all there was to Whitney's cotton gin; & it never became any more complicated.

Whitney worked developing his cotton gin for 6 months in a basement room of the plantation house.  In that interval Caty’s older son, returned from France, drowned in the Savannah River. 

When Whitney announced in April 1793, that he had completed a working model of an engine, or “gin”, his hostess called the attention of influential planters in the neighborhood to the potentialities of the new machine.  With no more than the promise that Whitney would patent the machine and make a few more, the men who had witnessed the demonstration immediately ordered whole fields to be planted with green seed cotton.



Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin

Word got around the district so rapidly, that Whitney's workshop was broken into & his machine examined. Within a few weeks, more cotton was planted in the area than Whitney could possible have ginned in a year of making new machines. Before he had a chance to complete his patent model, or to secure protection, the prematurely planted cotton came to growth. With huge harvests pressing on them, the planters had no time for the fine points of law or ethics. Whitney's machine was pirated without a qualm.

Descriptions of the main features of the gin leaked out; as it was simple to build, copies began to appear in Georgia, almost before Whitney secured his patent in March 1794.  A newly formed partnership with tutor-turned-plantation-manager Phineas Miller, could manufacture few more than half a dozen gins.  A prolonged struggle to establish the partners’ rights early threatened the new firm with bankruptcy. 

Whitney’s partnership with Miller ran into problems immediately. The agreement was that Whitney was to go north to New Haven, secure his patent, & begin manufacturing machines, while Miller was to remain in the South & see that the machines were placed. Having no precedent of royalty arrangement to go on, the partners' initial plan was that no machine was to be sold, but simply installed for a percentage of the profit earned. Since they had no idea that cotton planting would take place in epidemic proportions, they did not know that they were asking for an agreement that would have earned them millions of dollars a year. It had been Miller's idea to take 1 pound of every 3 of cotton, & the planters were furious. Meanwhile, cotton, one of the easiest growing crops, was coming up out of the ground engulfing everything around.

Catherine Greene in 1795, enabled the venture to continue by committing her entire resources to the effort.  According to The National Archives, Greene’s “support, both moral & financial were critical” to Whitney’s efforts. When Miller began charging farmers a fee to use cotton gins, & disgruntled farmers started building their own.

By the time Whitney & Miller were willing to settle for outright sale or even a modest royalty on every machine made by someone else, the amount of money due them was astronomical. He & Miller were now deeply in debt & their only recourse was to go to court; but every court they entered was in cotton country. At length in 1801, Miller & Whitney were willing to settle for outright grants from cotton-growing states in return for which the cotton gin would be public property within the boundaries.   By 1807, Whitney had re-established title to his invention, but his patent expired in that year, ending any real hope of financial return.  He was penniless, & his patent worthless.  Whitney was 39 years old, & most of the past 10 years had been wasted either in courtrooms or in traveling from one court to another. He returned north, turning his back on cotton, the cotton gin, & the South forever.

As for why Caty Greene did not attempt to patent the cotton gin herself, Gage suggested that doing so “would have exposed her to the ridicule” of friends & “a loss of position in society,” which disapproved of women’s involvement in any "outside industry." Perhaps she didn’t receive credit for the invention, because women were not allowed to hold patents. Regardless, neither Whitney nor Caty profited from the invention, after Congress refused to renew the patent, & it was mass produced.

An unforeseen by-product of Whitney's invention, a labor-saving device, was to help preserve the institution of slavery in the South by making cotton production highly profitable. Exports of cotton from the U.S. skyrocketed exponentially after the introduction of the cotton gin. Between 1820 & 1860, cotton represented over half the value of U.S. exports. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, slavery was in decline. The profitably of crops grown with slave labor, such as rice, tobacco, indigo & cotton was steadily decreasing. Some slaveholders began freeing their slaves in response. By effortlessly separating the seeds from the cotton fibers, the cotton gin removed the main obstacle to producing cleaned cotton. As the price of cotton decreased, the demand for cotton soared; so too did the demand for more land & more slaves to grow & pick the cotton. The number of slave states increased from s6 in 1790 to 15 in 1860.  By 1860, 1 in 3 Southerners was a slave. The labor-saving device Whitney created effectively rejuvenated the institution of slavery in the South & helped split American society.

Catherine married Phineas Miller on June 13, 1796 in Philadelphia's First Presbyterian Church. The President & Mrs. Washington served as witnesses to the wedding.  Despite the couple’s best efforts, by 1798, Mulberry Grove fell upon hard times.

Catharine, in financing the cotton gin firm of Whitney & Miller, had lost a great deal of money. Caty was forced to sell the plantation along with many of Mulberry Grove's slaves, moving her family to Cumberland Island. There she & Phineas established a new home on land that had been given to Nathanael for his Revolutionary War service. The plantation, located near the southern end of the island & called "Dungeness," thrived. They held a total of 210 slaves to work the plantation. Miller succumbed to a fever & died in 1803, worn out at 39. Catherine Greene Miller died of fever at “Dungeness” in 1814, at 59, & she is buried there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Young Nantucket woman paints the Four Seasons 1797



 Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Spring



 Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Summer



Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Fall



Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Winter

Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Un receuil :containing painting, penmanship, algebra and pieces selected from various authors in prose and verse, with a few pieces in French with their translation by Phebe  of Nantucket : manuscript, c 1797. MS Typ 245. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Phebe Folger (1771-1857) was a Nantucket commonplacebook author, watercolorist, poet, needlework instructor, & creator of the well-known “Nantucket sampler” style. She was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on November 10, 1771 to Walter Folger (1735-1826) & his wife Elizabeth Starbuck (1738-1821).  She married Samuel Coleman (1771-1825) in Nantucket at the age of 27 on December 6, 1798.  They had 2 daughters who lived to adulthood, & 3 additional daughters who died as children.  Her husband, Samuel Coleman, worked at sea.  She wrote him this letter during the 10th year of their marriage. Nantucket 9th mo. 19th 1808.  Dear Husband,  "I have felt a little guilty that I have deferred so long to write: but I had nothing worth communicating, nothing but what thou might reasonably suppose, that is, that I am very lonesome. Why should so much of our time be spent apart, why do we refuse the happiness that is within our reach? Is the acquisition of wealth an adequate compensation for the tedious hours of absence? To me it is not. The enjoyment of riches alone could give no satisfaction to me. In company I am not happy, I feel as if a part of my self was gone. Thy absence grows more insupportable than it used to be. I want for nothing but thy company: but there is nothing but what I could do better without..."



They moved near the Hudson River in Hudson City, Columbia County, New York, where they operated a grist mill.  Phebe continued to run the mill after her husband's death in 1825. Sometime after 1850, Phebe moved to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, to live with her daughter Matilda (1812-1891) & her husband John Milton Howland (1810-1902).  Phebe died at the age of 87 in Fairhaven.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Birth Control & Condoms in 18C-19C America




Birth control has existed at least since the Egyptian era, when people created their own barrier methods or suppository mixtures made of natural elements like honey or seaweed.  It is known that around 1000 BC the ancient Egyptians also used a linen sheath for protection against disease.  From 100 - 200 AD, the earliest evidence of condom use in Europe comes from scenes in cave paintings at Combarelles in France. 

The 1st well-documented outbreak of what is now known as syphilis occurred in 1494, among French troops, and the syphilis epidemic spread across Europe. In 16C Italy, Gabriele Falloppio authored an early description of condom use. De Morbo Gallico ("The French Disease," referring to syphilis) was published in 1564. In this tract, he recommended use of a device he claimed to have invented: linen sheaths soaked in a chemical solution and allowed to dry before use. These were the first spermicides on condoms.  The cloths he described were sized to cover the glans of the penis, & were held on with a ribbon. Having been found useful for prevention of infection, it was only later that the usefulness of the condom for the prevention of pregnancy was recognised. 

The word "condom" appeared in a 1706 English poem by J. Hamilton. By 1717, it was being touted as "The Condum being the best, if not only Preservative our Libertines have found at present." against syphilis.  In the 18C, condoms made out of animal intestines began to be available.  Slaughterhouses discarded an abundance of animal organs, butchers made extra money by repurposing intestines as preventive sheaths, making them the first widely sold contraceptive product. Since the livestock industry was much larger in Europe, most of these “skins,” as they were called, had to be imported to the British America colonies from England or France. 

In a 1728 English book called Cupid's Metamorphoses, stated that "Happy the Man, who in his Pocket keeps, Whether with Green or Scarlet Ribband bound, A well made Condom."   By 1744, the advice in a book called My Secret Life X was "let not the Joy she proffers be Essay'd, Without the well-trye'd Cundum's friendly Aid."  However, they were quite expensive and the unfortunate result was that they were often reused. This type of condom was described at the time as "an armour against pleasure, and a cobweb against infection."  In the 2nd half of the 1700's, a trade in handmade condoms thrived in London and some shops where producing handbills & advertisements of condoms.  Long before the advent of the birth control pill, these condoms became the most effective, affordable, &  accessible form of contraception.

Condom production increased in America after 1839, when Charles Goodyear’s method of rubber vulcanization kick-started modern latex technologies in the United States. By 1870, condoms were available through almost any outlet you can imagine–drug suppliers, doctors, pharmacies, dry-goods retailers &  mail-order houses. Sexual products were openly sold &  distributed during much of the 19th century. Then in 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Act, which paralyzed the growing industry; Comstock made it illegal to send any “article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever for the prevention of conception” through the mail.

Jim Edmonson, chief curator at the Dittrick Medical History Center, explains that the law was passed primarily because of a vicious campaign by its namesake, Anthony Comstock. “He was a do-gooder, a reformer, &  a religious-minded person,” says Edmonson. “Comstock had been to the Civil War, &  was outraged by the sexual excess of soldiers–large numbers of men away from home &  church–and the women who made their trade with these soldiers. Comstock felt that condoms &  any other forms of contraception were just a license to sexual excess.”

Ostensibly designed to prevent the sale of obscene literature &  pornography, the Comstock Act effectively made any form of contraception illegal in the United States, punishable as a misdemeanor with a six-month minimum prison sentence. “So we had a national law criminalizing contraception,” says Edmonson. 

Comstock’s crusade was aimed at commercialized vice, visible in the red-light districts, erotic paraphernalia, &  birth-control products easily accessed in cities like New York during the 1860s. Fearing the widespread corruption of young uneducated minds, Comstock particularly sought to reform salacious newspaper advertising &  the illicit mail-order marketplace it supported.

In a time before chain stores &  online shopping, mail-order catalogs were all the rage, allowing millions of folks scattered across the countryside to purchase items made in urban areas, like condoms. Though the Comstock Act added to pre-existing regulation of “obscene” mail, it effectively closed certain loopholes &  incorporated almost any product you can imagine. Contraceptives were one of the new additions.

Opposition to condoms did not only come from moralists.  By the late 19C the feminist movement in both Europe & America was decidedly anti-condom. Feminists wanted birth control to be exclusively in the hands of women, & disapproved of male-controlled methods such as the condom. 

As a result, condoms went underground. In her book Devices and Desires, Andrea Tone observes that instead of ceasing production, “purveyors disguised their products through creative relabeling.” Tone points out that despite the legal issues, “Classified ads published in the medical, rubber, &  toilet goods sections of dailies &  weeklies indicate a flourishing contraceptive trade in post-1873 America. The hitch was that contraceptives were rarely advertised openly as preventives.” Instead condoms were sold as sheaths, skins, shields, capotes, &  “rubber goods” for “gents.”


Though Comstock pursued those on both the manufacturing &  distribution ends of the contraceptive trade, smart entrepreneurs realized they were safe if the court had no clear evidence of their intention to prevent pregnancy. Although the transmission of venereal disease was not completely understood, germ theory was beginning to take root in the scientific community, so emphasizing this other medical use for birth-control products gave the industry good cover. Tip-toeing around the topic of contraception, ads relied on words like “protection,” “security,” &  “safety,” phrases which Andrea Tone calls “legal euphemisms.”

Despite social and legal opposition, at the end of the 19C the condom was the Western world's most popular birth control method. Two surveys conducted in New York in 1890 & 1900 found that 45% of the women surveyed were having their partners use condoms to prevent pregnancy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Men & Women adopt the Greenhouse in Early America

The possibility of growing tender plants in greenhouses had fascinated early Americans at least since the 1st half of the 18C in colonial America. But the price of glass in colonial & early America remained high until nearly the middle of the 19C, making greenhouses available only to those with extra disposable income.

Mount Vernon's Greenhouse

As British America was being colonized in the 17th-century, English garden writers were focusing on greenshouses which needed glass to allow the sun to reach the growing plants. Glass was becoming more affordable & glass no longer needed to be hand-blown. In England, in 1664, diarist & gardener John Evelyn (1620-1706) advised, "Set your...Windows and Doors of the Green-houses and Conservatories open." And in his diary on 30 October 1683, he mentioned, "Greene houses for oranges and mirtles." Born in Surrey into a family that owned the monopoly on the manufacture of gunpowder in England, Evelyn was able to devote his life to intellectual pursuits. In addition to translating noted French gardening books, Evelyn was the author of Kalendarium Hortense. His Diary is full of references to gardens, & to his own famous garden at Sayes Court. In 1691, the London Gazette mentioned another "new Conservatory or Green-House" in a house-for-sale ad.

Detail John Evelyn (1620-1706) by Hendrick van der Borcht, 1641.

In early 18th century England, J. James' 1712 translation of Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond's (1679-1719) The Theory and Practice of Gardening; ; wherein is fully handled all that relates to fine gardening, commonly called pleasure gardens explained that, "Green-houses are large Piles of Building like Galleries...for preserving Orange-Trees, and other Plants...during the Winter." Le Blond was a French architect & garden designer who became the chief architect of Saint Petersburg in 1716, just 3 years before his death. He had derived his gardening expertise from André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), and he illustrated & helped write Dezallier d'Argenville's (1680-1765) seminal work on the principles of French formal garden design. In England, Phillip Miller had published a plan for a greenhouse in his 1754 Gardener's Dictionary, which was owned & read in the British American colonies.

Much like today, the 18th century colonial greenhouse was a glass-windowed structure of wood or brick or stone in which tender plants were reared & preserved. Revolutionaly iron & glass greenhouses would appear in the first half of the 19th-century allowing more light into the structures.

Virginian William Byrd II (1674-1768) painted by Hans Hysing 1724

Early in 18th-century Pennsylvania, botanist John Bartram (1699-1777) wrote to English botanist Peter Collinson (1674-1768), on July 18, 1740, about Colonel William Byrd's (1674-1744) grounds at Westover in Virginia. "Colonel Byrd is very prodigalle...new Gates, gravel Walks, hedges, and cedars finely twined and a little green house with two or three orange trees...he hath the finest seat in Virginia."

Twenty years later, John Bartram wrote to Peter Collinson in 1760, "I am going to build a green-house. Stone is got...to put some pretty flowering winter shrubs, and plants for winter's diversion, not to be crowded with orange trees."

Peter Collinson 1694-1768

John Bartram was much more than just a commentator on the homes of colonial gentry, but he certainly would have been intrigued by the possibilities of Byrd's early greenhouse. Born in Darby, Pensylvania, son a Quaker farmer, Bartram was the most important botanist in the colonies. His son William Bartram (1739-1823) helped him collect, replant, & ship his specimens. In 1728, John Bartram established a botanic garden at Kingsessing on the west bank of the Schuylkill, near Philadelphia, where he collected & grew native plants. His correspondence with Peter Collinson, led to the introduction of many American trees & plants into Europe.

Charles Willson Peale's 1808 William Bartram

Greenhouses in Europe filled with Bartram's Boxes of American plants. His plant specimens & seeds traveled across the Atlantic to the gardens & greenhouses of Philip Miller, Linnaeus, German botanist Dillenius (1687-1747), & Dutch botanist Gronovius (1686-1762); and he assisted Linnaeus' student Swedish Pehr Kalm (1716-1779) during his collecting trip to North America in 1748-1750. Although Bartram never visited Britain, in 1765, he was appointed Botanist to King George III. Linnaeus called him "the worlds greatest botanist." Bartram traveled from Lake Ontario in the north, to Florida in the south and the Ohio River in the west. His Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, a trip taken from July 1, 1765, to April 10, 1766, was published. His son William accompanied his father documenting plants, animals, birds, & native peoples of North & South Carolina, Georgia & Florida. William published Travels, writings with his own illustrations in 1791, which impacted the 19th century romantic movement as well as natural history.

Not far from Bartram's nursery just outside of Philadelphia, John Smith described the plantation owned by the family of William Penn at Springettesbury Manor in 1745, "On our way thither we stopped to view the proprietor's greeen-house, which at this season is an agreeable sight; the oranges, lemons and citrons were some green, some ripe, some in blossom." Springettesbury Manor had been named in honor of William Penn's first ie, Gulielma Maria Springett (1644–1694).

Ten years later, Daniel Fisher also described the Proprietor's greenhouse, "What to me surpassed every thing of the kind I had seen in America was a pretty bricked Green House, out of which was disposed very properly in the Pleasure Garden, a good many Orange, Lemon, and Citrous Trees, in great profusion loaded with abundance of Fruit and some of each sort seemingly ripe then."Bartram traveled South in the colonies through Charleston several times, where greenhouses were used to entice real estate buyers.

In the South Carolina Gazette, November 14, 1748, a house for sale advertisement noted, "TO BE SOLD...Dwelling-house...also a large Garden, with two neat Green Houses for sheltering exotic Fruit Trees, and Grape-Vines."

Exotic plants captured the fancy of colonials early in the century; and by the end of the 18th-century, formal botanical gardens dotted the Atlantic coast. These were both outdoor and indoor, public and private garden areas, where proud collectors displayed a variety of curious plants for purposes of science, education, status, and art.

By 1760, Rhode Islander Abraham Redwood Jr was writing to his farm manager, "I desire that you put up in Durt one dozen of Small orange Trees...four young figg trees and some Guavas roots, to put in my greenhouse...twenty two feet long, Twelve feet wide, and Twelve feet high." In 1743, Abraham Redwood purchased 140 acres farmland near Newport, Rhode Island, where he built a country estate that was considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in North America, which grew plants & trees imported from all over the world.

Abraham Redwood 1709-1788

Josiah Quincy (1744-1775), who kept a journal as he traveled South from Boston for his health in 1773, was also impressed with a greenhouse, when he visited Philadelphia on May 3, 1773, and noted, "Dined with the celebrated Pennsylvania Farmer, John Dickenson Esqr, at his country seat about two and one-half miles from town...his gardens, green-house, bathing-house, grotto, study, fish pond...vista, through which is distant prospect of Delaware River."  John Dickinson (1732-1808), who was actually an attorney trained at Middle Temple, had married Mary Norris, daughter of Isaac Norris, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and moved to the Norris estate of Fairhill, near Germantown. There he wrote, under the pseudonym "A Farmer,"12 essays against the Stamp Acts.

1773 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Mary Norris (Mrs. John Dickinson) with their daughter Sally.

In 1787, clergyman, merchant, & lawyer Manasseh Cutler (1742-1823), wrote of the greenhouse at Gray's Tavern, in Philadelphia. "(The Greenhouse) is a very large stone bulding, three stories in the front and two in the rear. The one-half of the house is divided lengthwise, and the front part is appropriated to a green-house, and has no chamber floors. It is finished in the completest manner for the purpose of arranging trees and plants in the most beautiful order. The windows are enormous. I believe some of them to be twenty feet in length, and proportionably wide...We then took a view of the contents of the green-house, beautifully arranged in the open air on the south of the garden. Here were most of the trees and fruits that grow in the hottest climates. Oranges, lemons, etc., in every stage from blossoms to ripe fruit; pine-apples in bloom, and those were fully ripe."

Visiting English agricultural writer Richard Parkinson (1748-1815) stopped at John O'Donnell's (1743-1805) estate named Canton near Baltimore, in 1798. Irishman John O'Donnell had grown wealthy by sending the first ship into China in 1785, for trade goods to sell in America. Parkinson wrote that O'Donnell had, "a very handsome garden in great order, a most beautiful greenhouse and hot house...a very magnificent place for that country."

1787 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Sarah Chew Elliott (Mrs. John O'Donnell) in her garden in front of a curving wall with urns used as finials.

In 1793 Massachusetts, Boston merchant Joseph Barrell (1739-1804) was ordering plants & a gardener from Britain for his new Pleasant Hill greenhouse, "I want a person that understands green house plants...you will send the trees by the same opportunity the gardener comes that he may attend them on the passage."

John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) Joseph Barrell c 1767

Wishing for more land outside of Boston to try new gardening styles & modern farming techniques, Barrell purchased 211 acres of land across the Charles River in Charlestown, where he created a ferme ornée. Charles Bulfinch designed the house & grounds, one of his 1st commissions.

John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) Hannah Fitch (Mrs Joseph Barrell) c 1771

In Deborah Logan's journal, she mentioned that in 1799 Philadelphia,William Logan had a "Green house in town, as well as a good one (at Stenton). He had many rare and beautiful plants: indeed the large and fine orange and lemon trees which now ornament Pratt's greenhouses at Lemon Hill were originally of his raising."

William Logan (1717–1776) was the son of William Penn's secretary James Logan who became a Philadelphia Mayor & Supreme Court Justice. William inherited Stenton in 1751, and he used it as his country seat, while living in Philadelphia.

In the same year, English born seedsman and nursery owner William Booth of Baltimore advertised in the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser:To Botanists, Gardeners and Florists, and to all other gentlemen, curious in ornamental, rare exotic or foreign plants and flowers, cultivated in the greenhouse, hot-house, or stove, and in the open ground. A large and numerous variety of such rarities is now offered for sale...After reserving a general and suitable stock, he had to spare a well assorted and great variety of those things comprising a beautiful collection, sufficient to decorate, furnish, and ornament a spacious or handsome greenhouse at once... The whole is a truly valuable collection such as is very rarely to be met with for sale on this side of the Atlantic -- indeed a moiety of them would comprise a very desirable and exclusive variety, consisting of many or most of the tropical fruits, and other rare and curious finely ornamental trees, scrubs and plants; with a numerous and abundant assortment of choice bulbous, tubrous, and fibrous rooted flowering and ornamental plants in mixtures... please apply to John Cummings, at the alms-house, Messrs. David and Cuthbert Landreth, gardeners and nursery-men... Now is as good time and proper season to build a green-house, and to remove plants."

Many of Booth's clients and contemporaries in the Chesapeake were becoming excited about collecting and displaying non-native varieties of plants. In his diary, silversmith, clockmaker, & gardener William Faris (1728-1804) noted in Annapolis that his neighbor Dr. Upton Scott (1722-1814) was, "fond of botany and has a number of rare plants and shrubs in his greenhouse and garden." The practical Faris used his cellar as his greenhouse.

Some gardeners & plant collectors were obsessed with showing off their unusual plant collections to visitors. In November of 1803, Manasseh Cutler (1722-1823) wrote to Mrs. Torrey about his visit to William Hamilton's (1745-1813) Woodlands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "We then took a turn to the garden and greenhouses...ornamented with almost all the flowers and vegtables the earth affords...The greenhouses which occupy a large space of ground, I cannot pretend to describe. Every part was crowded with trees and plants, from the hot climates, and such as I had never seen...He assured us, there was not a rare plant in Europe, Asia, Africa, from China and the islands in the South Sea, of which he had any account, which he had not procured...When we turned to rare and superb plants, one of the gardeners would be called, and sent with a lantern to the green house to fetch me a specimen to compare with it. This was done perhaps twenty times."

Benjamin West (American-born painter, 1738–1820) William Hamilton (1745-1813) of Woodlands with His Neice

Authors Joseph Dennie & John Elihu Hall reported on the greenhouse at the Woodlands in their 1809 Portfolio II, "The front, including the hot-house on each side, measures one hundred and forty feet, and it contains nearly ten thousand plants, out of which number may be reckoned between five and six thousand of different species, procured at much trouble and expense, from many remote parts of the globe, from South America, the Cape of Good Hope, the Brazils, Botany Bay, Japan, the East and West Indies, &c. &c. This collection, for the beauty and rich variety of its exotics, surpasses any thing of the kind on this continent; and, among many other rare productions to be seen, are the bread-fruit tree, cinnamon, allspice, pepper; mangoes, different sorts, sago, coffee from Bengal, Arabia, and the West-Indies, tea, green and bohea, mahogany, magnolias, Japan rose, rose apples, eherimolia, one of the most esteemed fruits of Mexico, bamboo, Indian god tree, iron tree of China, ginger, olea fragrans, and several varieties of the sugar cane, five species of which are from Otaheite. To this green-house, so richly stored, too much praise can hardly be given. The curious person views it with delight, and the naturalist quits it with regret."

On Christmas day in 1803, in Prince George's County, Maryland, Rosalie Stier Calvert (1795-1821) wrote to her father who had returned to Europe, "I am also going to have a small greenhouse built where you planned it--at the wash-house. The cellar makes a very good orangerie." In another letter to her father in 3 years later, she mentioned that the cellar would no longer serve as the greenhouse, "We also have to build a small house, a smoke house, a sairy, and an orangerie."

Gilbert Stuart (Early Americn artist, 1755-1828). Rosalie Stier Calvert (1778 -1821) in 1804

I can find only one other reference to an orangery or orangerie in early America beside those of Rosalie Stier Calvert, leaving me to suspect that the term orangery became popular in America in the 19th century when refering to greenhouses, old and new.

There are earlier references in England, where John Evelyn wrote in his diary on 4 July 1664, "The orangerie and aviarie handsome, and a very large plantation about it." Another reference appears in the 1705 London Gazette, "The Mansion-House, called Belsize, ...with...a fine Orangarie, is to Lett."

In America in 1790, Thomas Lee Shippen, describing Stratford Hall in Virginia, to his father reported, "It was with great difficulty that my Uncles, who accompanied me, could persuade me to leave the hall to look at the gardens, vineyards, orangeries and lawns which surround the house."

By the time Englishman John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) wrote his 1822 Encyclopedia of Gardening, the orangery had fallen out of favor. He wrote, "The orangery is the green-house of the last century, the object of which was to preserve large plants of exotic evergreens during winter, such as the orange tribe, myrtles, sweet bays, pomegranates, and a few others. Geraniums, heaths, fuchsias, and other delicate plants requiring much light, were then unknown. The orangery was generally placed near to or adjoining the house, and its elevation corresponded in architectural design with that of the mansion. From this last circumstance has arisen a prejudice highly unfavorable to the culture of ornamental exotcis, namely, that every plant-habitation attached to a mansion should be an architectural object, and consist of windows between stone piers or columns, with a regular cornice and entablature. By this mode of design, these buildings are rendered so gloomy as never to present a vigorous vegetation, and vivid glowing colors within ; and as they are thus unfit for the purpose for which they are intended, it does not appear to us...that they can possibly be in good taste."

In Maryland, Rosalie Calvert grew plants in pots that could be brought outside in warm weather or ornament the interior of Riversdale house in winter. In 1803, she wrote, “I have arranged all the orange trees and geraniums in pots along the north wall of the house, where they make a very pretty effect, and the geraniums, being shaded, bear many more blossoms and are growing well.”

By 1809, she had added several more types of potted plants, and wrote that they were “a marvelous source of entertainment for me—geraniums, heliotropes, jasmines, China rose bushes, etc. I don’t have any aloes or any of those other plants whose only recommendation is their rarity and which lack beauty.” Heliotropes, she wrote, would be transplanted “outdoors in the summertime with the geraniums, jasmine, rose bushes, etc.”  While we do not have a painting of Rosalie Calvert's indoor parlor plant arrangement, we do have this painting from Connecticut in 1816,

George Freeman (Connecticut artist, 1787-1837) Widow Elizabeth Fenimor Cooper 1816

Rosalie Calvert's orangerie never materialized. Instead, she used a central room of the house, her “grand salon,” with three large south-facing triple-hung windows, as her conservatory. She bragged to her father in 1813 about “my lemon trees. I have four superb specimens which in winter we place in the four corners of the salon, where they make a lovely effect. Last November one of them produced 87 large lemons.”

American diplomat David Bailie Warden visited Riversdale and described Rosalie's salon, "The hall is ornamented with lemon-trees, geraniums, polianthusses, heliptropes, and other plants, which in the summer evenings, invite the humming-birds to taste of their sweetness; and afterwards struggling to escape, they fly incessantly backwards and forwards near the ceiling, until from fatigue they perch on a stick or rod, when they are easily taken by the hand."

Another nurseryman living in Philadelphia was also promoting plants and pleasure gardens. In 1806, Irish American horticulturalist, seedsman, & writer Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816), whose book would be read by gardeners in America for the next 50 years, explained the difference between the greenhouse and a conservatory,

"A Green house is a garden building fronted with glass, serving as a winter residence, for tender plants from the warmer parts of the world, which require no more artificial heat than what is barely sufficient to keep off the front...A greenhouse should generally stand in a pleasure ground and if possible, upon a somewhat elevated and dry spot fronting the south...the building ought to be of brick or stone, having the front almost wholly of glassowrk, ranging lengthwise east to west, and constructed upon an ornamental plan...

"The Greenhouse and Conservatory have been generally considered as synonimous; their essential difference is this: in the greenhouse, the trees and plants are either in tubs or pots, and are planted on stands or stages during the winter, till they are removed into some suitable situation abroad in summer.


"In the conservatory, the ground plan is laid out in beds and borders, made up of the best compositions of soils that can be procured, three or four inches deep. In these the trees or plants, taken out of their tubs or pots are regularly planted, in the same manner as the plants in the open air.


"This house is roofed, as well as fronted with glass-work, and instead of taking out the plants in summer, as in the Greenhouse, the whole of the glass roof is taken off, and the plants are exposed to open air."

Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).

Thomas Jefferson, who was always experimenting and adding onto his property, was interested in a greenhouse as well. On August 2, 1807, from Albemarle County, Virginia, even Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) received a letter listing sizes of glass he would need for a "green house."

1799 Artist Lambert ? Bouche. Ann Ogle (Mrs. John Tayloe III) and daughters Rebecca and Henrietta.

The Minute Book of John Tayloe III (1770-1828) noted on August 2, 1812 at his country seat Mount Airy in Richmond County, Virginia, "Gardeners attending to the Greenhouse at Mt. Airy." Tayloe's city residence was Octogon House in Washinton D. C.

Wye House (18th-century greenhouse with hot air duct system, still owned by descendants of Edward Lloyd) Copperville, Talbot County, Maryland. Photo by Janet Blyberg.

By the early 19th century in the new republic, men & womenemen were building greenhouses, conservatories, orangeries, hot houses, pineries, and stove houses to grow tender plants for their food value and to impress their neighbors. Some even had their portraits painted holding their favorite plants.

 1801 Rembrant Peale (1778-1860) Rubens Peale with Geranium

George Washington Seeks Greenhouse Advice From Magaret Carroll in Maryland


1790s Christian Gullager (1759-1826). George Washington (1732-1799).

One of the most intriguing greenhouse stories involves Virginian George Washington & Margaret Tilghman Carroll  of Maryland.

In her 1770 description of the gardens Charles Carroll the Barrister's home called Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland, visiting Virginia widow Mary Ambler mentioned, "there is a Green House with a good many Orange & Lemon Trees just ready to bear." Widow & mother Mary Ambler had traveled to Baltimore from Belvoir in Fauquier County, Virginia, with her 2 children to be innoculated against smallpox.

At Mount Clare, as in many 18th century households, the wife supervised the greenhouse activities, while the husband oversaw the design of the gardens and grounds. Margaret Tilghman Carroll (1743-1817) was renowned for her orange & lemon trees. After her husband Charles Carroll (1723-1783) died in 1783, she devoted much of her time to growing plants in her greenhouse.

1765 John Hesselius (1728-1778). Margaret Tilghman Carroll Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister.

In addition to her greenhouse, Margaret Carroll also had a 39' by 24' brick structure at Mount Clare, which she called a Stove House, with an intricate hot air heating system for growing plants, such as pineapples, indoors yearound.

Her reputation & skill as a horticulturalist had impressed George Washington (1732-1799) who wrote a letter to her cousin Col. Tench Tilghman in August of 1784,  "I shall essay the finishing of my greenhouse this fall, but find that neither myself, nor any person about me is so well skilled in the internal constructions as to proceed without a probability at least of running into errors. Shall I for this reason, ask the favor of you to give me a short description of the Green-house at Mrs. Carrolls? I am persuaded, now that I planned mine on too contracted a scale. My house is (of Brick) 40 feet by 24, in the outer dimensions."

It is believed that Washington built his greenhouse copying Margaret Carrolls' building, which no longer exists. And in April the following spring Washington noted in his diary, "Planted and sowed in boxes placed in front of the Green House."

Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

In 1788, Lt. John Enys (1757-1818) stopped at Mount Vernon noting that, "The front by which we entered had a Gras plot before it with a road round it for Carriages planted on each side with a number of different kinds of Trees among the rest some Weeping Willows which seem to flourish very well. One the one side of this stands the Garden, green house &c." Enys had come to America during the Revolution and recorded his notes after he returned to England and retired from the British army.


Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

Early in 1789, Congregational clergyman & geographer Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) was also impressed with Washinton's garden & described Mount Vernon in his American Geography, "the green-house, school-house, offices and servants halls, when seen from the land side, bears a resemblance to a rural village --especially as the lands in that side are laid out somewhat in the form of English gardens, in meadows and grass grounds, ornamented with little copcies, circular clumps and single trees."

Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

Wishing to make a present of some of her prized greenhouse specimens to George Washington, including one grafted tree that produced both lemons and oranges, on 29 October 1789, Margaret Carroll sent by boat 20 pots of lemon & orange trees plus 5 boxes of assorted other greenhouse plants to Washington at the harbor in Alexandria.

Apparently Margaret Carroll had spoken about the financial possibilities of erecting greenhouses & stovehouses to George Washington; because the gift of Mount Clare's mistress was in response to a letter that Washington had sent her from New York, on September 16th 1789.

"Madam,
A Person having been lately sent to me from Europe in the capacity of a Gardner, who professes a knowledge in the culture of rare plants and care of a Green-House, I am desirous to profit of the very obliging offer you were pleased some time ago to make me.

"In availing myself of your goodness I am far from desiring that it should induce any inconvenience to yourself—but, reconciling your disposition to oblige, with your convenience, I shall be happy to receive such aids as you can well spare, and as will not impair your collection.


"Trusting that this will be the rule of your bounty, I have requested General Williams to give you notice, when an opportunity offers to transport the trees or plants in the freshest state to Mount Vernon, and to pay any expence which may be incurred in fitting them for transportation, and to receive them from your Gardner for that purpose.


"I have the honor to be, most respectfully, Madam, Your obliged and obedient Servant,

G. Washington"

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Margaret Tilghman (Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister) This painting depicts Margaret Carroll standing next to the closed or lidded Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal which stood on the grounds at Mount Clare in Baltimore.

Several years later, in 1792, French visitor Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville (1754-1793) wrote, "I hastened to arrive at Mount Vernon...after having passed over two hills, you discover a country house of an elegant and majestic simplicity. It is preceded by grass-plats; on the one side of the avenue are the stables, on the other the green-house, and houses of a number of negro mechanics." Brissot was a vocal supporter of the 1789 French Revolution.



This flurry of activity around the greenhouses of Margaret Carroll and George Washington was not new in America. The possibilites of growing tender plants in greenhouses had fascinated Americans since the 1st half of the century in colonial America.