Thursday, January 31, 2019

In Business - Banking

 A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Sometime on July 9, 1797, Hannah Holland strode into her bank to get a loan. She learned the next day that her application had been successful but the news barely affected her busy day. The businesswoman had received bank loans in the past and would receive many more in the future. Though a small percentage of all bank customers, women held accounts in many northeastern banks in the early national period. The finding raises doubts about the belief that the Revolution proscribed women's economic behavior but supports the view that, whatever the exact extent of their rights and powers, women remained second-class denizens of early America.

The Revolution and subsequent ideological movements did not prevent women from joining the economy. Important to the colonial economy, women, be they single, married, or widowed, could and did create meaningful niches for themselves as skilled artisans and retailers. Except for certain coverture restrictions, most women could engage in all types of financial contracts necessary to engage in commercial banking. Though a small percentage of all commercial bank customers, women were bank shareholders, depositors, and loan recipients. 


The Revolution created the need to bank and invest for both sexes. Although records are far too sparse to describe women's participation in early banking with any degree of precision, the following survey of women's economic activities in the early national economy shows some women indeed were commercial bank customers, and women were certainly a major class of noteholders. Though exaggerated, the reports that William Duer and his cohorts borrowed heavily from "widows and orphans" in the years and months leading up to the Panic of 1792 seem to have some basis in fact. As early as 1790, for example, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Hatter drew on Duer "at thirty days sight for Four Hundred Dollars ... being on accot. of the Ballance due me [George Reid] by Royal Flint Esq." Duer also involved his wife Kitty in his infamous financial schemes. "Received your letter my dear love, this morng," Mrs. Duer began. "I am sorry it did not arrive in time to have done the Business in Bank on saturday," she continued, adding that she had "managed to take up the notes by borrowing 1100 dols of Rosevelt." Kitty ended her very businesslike letter by informing William: "I am obliged to make large drafts on your cash on acct of the expense of moving." After Duer's failure lead to a minor financial panic, Alexander Macomb's wife pledged that her "own little property shall go towards the maintenance of the Family with pleasure."


Women also bought and sold government securities. Women owned Continental securities. During the liquidity crisis of 1784, widow Marian Maxwell advertised that "Cash, Bills of the New Emission, and any other Security of the State of New-York will be taken in payment, at their current value" for her husband's estate. Philadelphia shopkeeper Ann Robertson instructed her executors to invest the proceeds of her estate "into the funds or public securities," by which she certainly meant the federal bonds Alexander Hamilton created in the early 1790s. Agents heartily encouraged women to buy lottery tickets. Women's benevolent associations, like "The Association for the relief of respectable aged indigent females," invested in equities. From Treasurer Sally Lockwood's report it is clear that the organization gave their wards cash, wood, and tea. The organization paid for these goods from donations, of course, but also received a "dividend on Stock in Mechanics Bank $40.50."


In fact, one of the best investments a widow or young lady could make was in bank stock. Most New York banks, especially early ones, were extremely stable, and, unlike long bonds or leases, their dividends tended to fluctuate in the same direction as general prices. This eased the burden of price inflation. 


Considerable numbers of women owned insurance and bank stock (equities). Eleven of the 89 persons and companies who held stock in the Insurance Company of North America from 1792 until 1799 were women. Similarly, some 53 of the Manhattan Company's first 388 subscribers were women. Of course, at the time of subscription it was not clear to everyone the Manhattan Company was going to be a bank. Many of these women subscribed in order to give the Livingstons, Ludlows, and other families a controlling share of the stock. These women owned the stock outright, however, and could theoretically cast their votes, or give their proxies, to whomever they chose. Women throughout the Northeast invested in the stock of other banks too, of course. A considerable number of women owned stock in the Bank of Pennsylvania in the mid-1790s.


Like other property, married New York women could own bank stock on their own account, and they did not lack the legal support of male attorneys when pursuing their rightful claims. "It is a glorious cause to argue," financier Jacob Barker told attorney Benjamin F. Butler, "being against the Husbands right to dispose of Bank stock settled on his wife by her late father."


Stock ownership often entailed borrowing privileges for men and women alike. Personal records show that women could get discounts at bank, even the Bank of the United States, but the records are not a systematic means of quantitatively determining women's bank use. Extant bank ledgers, though few, yield some limited data regarding the degree of women banking. In 1790, 2.68% of the Bank of North America's almost 1,600 customers were women. A decade later, women composed 5% of the Bank's customer base. 


In 1791, shopkeepers Anne and Sarah Ashbridge wrote 121 checks, mostly to important Philadelphia businessmen like John Chaloner. They met these drafts by making 49 deposits, about one a week, ranging between $50 and $225. That same year, the throughput (credits) of shopkeeper Mary Rhea's account topped $13,500.


In general, women used banks for the same reasons as men: to safeguard money, to make disbursements by check, and to increase liquidity. In other words, women used banks to improve their business and personal finances. Though some women, like some male customers, used the bank only to store funds which they withdrew in cash, most disbursed their credits by writing checks. Many women customers received bank discounts. That is, the bank loaned them money on the security of a promissory note or bill of exchange. This allowed them both to extend their businesses and to conduct their operations more safely i.e. with less chance of insolvency.


Whatever the exact numbers in particular times and places, it is clear that, in New England and the Middle Atlantic states anyway, there were no legal restrictions, outside of coverture, to women's bank use. In other words, women could engage in every type of activity needed to bank. Women could also make, receive, and endorse checks, even epistolary checks. Alexander Hamilton's wife Elizabeth, for example, had the power to draw checks against Hamilton's account in the Bank of the United States.


See Temple University.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

1747 Portrait of an American Family

1747 John Greenwood (American colonial era artist, 1727-1792). The Greenwood-Lee Family

Family portraits are rare in the early 18C British American colonies, perhaps because they were expensive & usually so large, that they required a sizable public parlor for display. Most 18C colonial American houses were not spacious. Family portraits are also much more complicated for the artist, and there were few artists available in colonial America early in the 18C. But the incidence of family portraits grew, as the number of painters & spaces in homes also grew.

Some gentlemen had family portraits painted as a sign of wealth & as a factor in gaining respect & power in the new world. The painting announced that they were important, entitled to be the natural leader in the new society. Other family paintings commemorated a specific event. Most were not painted to be tucked away for private family contemplation, but to act as a public icon or an emblematic memory for an audience larger than the immediate family. The composition of family paintings was changing throughout the 18C as well.

The concept of family was evolving as emerging Enlightenment ideas began to impact everyday domestic life & family values in colonial America. Slowly throughout the century, the strict patriarchal family concept was beginning to change. English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) implied that women should have greater authority in the family & the home. In portraits, artists began to display the woman on nearly the same level as the husband.

Artists began to feel that they could portray married couples as congenial companions. Painters began to portray men participating more in the rearing of their children, they were no longer just expected to be distant strict disciplinarians. Americans were beginning to believe that children needed to be loved & to play. The individual was also becoming more important in 18th-century America. Artists often used props to signify something about the talents, skills, & identities of individuals within these families. In one way or another, each of the following portraits reflects changing patriarchal values, gender relations, attitudes towards women & children, and the growing democratization of American society. But women did not receive the right to vote in the United States until 1920.

NB For this posting I have excluded portraits of children only. 

Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818), Coffee, Women, & the American Revolution

Alvan Fisher (1792-1863) Coffee Clap

The gentle "ladies" of Boston, staged a "Coffee Party" in 1777, reminiscent of the earlier Boston Tea Party of 1773. The town's women confronted a profiteering hoarder of foodstuffs confiscating some of his stock of coffee, according to a letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, who would become the 2nd president of the United States.
Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blyth (American artist, 1740-1787) 1766.

Writing from Boston, on July 31, 1777, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, away attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, "There is a great scarcity of sugar and coffee, articles which the female part of the state is very loath to give up, especially whilst they consider the great scarcity occasioned by the merchants having secreted a large quantity. It is rumored that an eminent stingy merchant, who is a bachelor, had a hogshead of coffee in his store, which he refused to sell under 6 shillings per pound.

"A number of females—some say a hundred, some say more—assembled with a cart and trunk, marched down to the warehouse, and demanded the keys.

"Upon his finding no quarter, he delivered the keys, and they then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into a trunk, and drove off. A large concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the whole transaction."
1674 London Coffee House

Coffee Houses were not new in the British American North American colonies.  It is said that one of the 1st colonists to bring a knowledge of coffee to the settlers of colonial British North America was Captain John Smith, who founded the Colony of Virginia at Jamestown in 1607. Captain Smith became familiar with coffee in his travels in Turkey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Female Artist of 18C American Women - Henrietta Johnston 1674-1729

Henrietta Johnston was a remarkable woman, not just because she was America's 1st known female portraitist & the 1st artist on this side of the Atlantic known to have worked in pastels, but because she lived a heroic life balancing her talent with the emotional & physical ups & downs of two rather inadequate husbands, while rearing a growing family.
1711 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Henriette Charlotte de Chastaigner (Mrs Nathaniel Broughton)

She traveled from the old world to the new several times. Each trip across the Atlantic was a risk. Ship passengers knew that their lives were in danger throughout the voyage, but they forged ahead anyway.
1705 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Young Irish Girl.

At the age of 10 or 12, Henrietta de Beaulieu, fled with her Huguenot family to England from France to avoid persecution. In 1694, she married Robert Dering (1669-1702-4), the 5th son of Sir Edward Dering, moving to Ireland. Their marriage application of March 23, 1694, describes Henrietta as a maiden, about 20, of the Parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
1705 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Unknown Dublin Lady in Grey Dress.

When she was in Ireland, 2 artists there were doing pastel portraits, Edmund Ashfield (d. 1700) & Edward Luttrell, who flourished from 1699 to 1720. Pastels were a relatively new medium at the time. It is possible that she met or even learned from these men, who may have trained in France where the pastels originated.  Her earliest identified extant works are from about 1704 in Ireland. She was a single mother at this time, for she remarried the following year. She was probably painting to help support her family. When her 1st husband Dering died, she became a widow with 2 daughters, one of whom, Mary, later became a lady-in-waiting for the daughters of George II. The pastel portraits she painted during this period were mostly of members of deceased husband’s extended family.
1708-10 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Marianne Fleur Du Gue (Mrs Pierre Bacot)

In 1705, she wed the Reverend Mr. Gideon Johnston (1668-1716), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, the widowed vicar at Castlemore & who was to become rector appointed by the Bishop of London, of St. Philip’s Church in Charles Town, South Carolina, in 1708. He needed a wife to help with his children, as they prepared to leave for the new world.

Charleston was a fledgling town at this time scrambling to become become the most affluent & largest city in the South, the leading port & trading center for the southern colonies. Many French Protestant Huguenots, seeking religious freedom, were moving to Charleston, where they began building fine townhouses along the harbor's edge & wanted portraits to grace their hallways & establish their family's presence as a power.
1708 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Mary DuBose (Mrs Samuel Wragg)

Henrietta, her new husband, & 3 children from their combined family set sail for his assignment in Charleston. It is said that on a ship stopover in the Madeira Islands, the groom went ashore leaving his new wife & children onboard, only to return after the ship had already sailed for Charleston.

Henrietta landed in South Carolina, with the children in tow, only to discover that the parishioners had appointed their own rector while waiting for the London Bishop's appointee. There was no pulpit or parsonage for the new family; & at that moment, there was no husband to help figure out what to do next.
1710 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Catherine LeNoble (Mrs Robert Taylor)

When The Reverend Mr. Johnston finally arrived in Charleston 12 days later, he decided to oust the locally elected rector from his pulpit. This was not a popular move, & husband Gideon Johnston became bogged down in church politics. He wrote in September, 1708, that he "never repented so much of anything, my Sins only excepted, as my coming to this Place."
1710 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Susanne LeNoble (Mrs Alexander de Chastaigner) (Mrs Rene Louis Ravenel)

In Charleston, the Henrietta Johnston added to the family's meager coffers by drawing 9" by 12" portraits of many of Charleston’s French Huguenot residents & members of St. Philip’s Church. Frustrated by debt & local parish problems, once he arrived in South Carolina, The Reverend Mr. Gideon Johnston complained to the London Bishop in 1709: “Were it not for the Assistance my wife gives me by drawing of Pictures…I shou’d not have been able to live.”
1715 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Mary Magdalen Gendron (Mrs Samuel Prioleu) 1691-1765.

Henrietta's popularity as a portraitist grew, as his popularity declined. She kept painting, making friends, raising his children, keeping house, & acting as his secretary. By the spring of 1711, she'd run out of art supplies, just as her husband's congregation wanted to send some important messages back to the Bishop in London by personal carrier.
1717-18 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Mary Griffith (Mrs Robert Brewton) (Mrs William Loughton) 1698-1761.

Afraid that their now indebted, unpopular clergyman might skip out on his local debts, the church sent Henrietta to London with their missives for the church hierarchy. The little jaunt to London lasted 3 years. Enough time for her to restock her art supplies with French pastels. Throughout her career she typically used 9 x 12-inch sheets of paper in simple wooden frames, which she often signed & dated on the back.
1719 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Judith Wragg

On her return voyage, her ship encountered some frightening pirates; & shortly after her return, her clergyman spouse drowned in a boating accident. She remained in Charleston, when her sons later returned to England. She & her work remained popular in the colonies, even taking her to New York to paint portrait requests there.
1720 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Anne Broughton (Mrs John Gibbes)

Her extant Irish works are all detailed waist-length portraits with well-defined facial features, lively & expressive eyes, attention to clothing details, & dramatic background shading.
1722 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Anne DuBose (Mrs Job Rothmahler)

Nearly 40 works attributed to Johnston survive, many of these in their original frames signed & dated by the artist.
1725 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Elizabeth Colden Mrs Peter DeLancey (1719-1784)

Several of her Charleston portraits retain the time-consuming details of her early Irish works, but most are bust-length with less detailing of clothing & facial features. She seldom painted the hands of her adult sitters.
1725 Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Frances Moore Bayard.

In the colonies, her female subjects usually wore soft chemises, while her male sitters dressed in everyday clothes or in military garb. Her female colonial sitters are draped in either white or a soft gold, with white, ruffled borders on V-shaped neckline. Their hair is generally swept up, with ringlets falling over one shoulder.
Henrietta Johnston (American colonial era artist, 1674-1729) Anna Cuyler (Mrs. Anthony) Van Schaick, ca. 1725

The widow Henrietta De Beaulieu Dering Johnston's portraits became almost dull in the period immediately after her rector husband’s unexpected death. It may have been that she missed her spouse. Or perhaps she was overwhelmed as the entire burden for the family finally fell on her shoulders.

During this mourning period, her subjects’ faces lack the lively expression of her earlier works, clothing details are hazy, & colors are dull. Perhaps she was running low on supplies, working too quickly, or just growing weary.

In the later years of her life, Johnston’s portraits vary in quality & detail. Some revert to her earlier lively facial & clothing details, while others have the far-away look seen after her 2nd husband’s demise. Her New York portraits include small children, which do depict the children’s arms & hands. Whether portraying children or adults, Henrietta Johnston impacted many other portrait painters in early America.

See:
Forsyth Alexander, ed. “Henrietta Johnston: Who Greatly helped…by drawing pictures.” Winston-Salem, N.C.: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 1991.

Middleton, Margaret Simons. Henrietta Johnston of Charles Town, South Carolina: America’s First Pastellist. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1966.
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Severens, Martha R. “Who was Henrietta Johnston?” The Magazine Antiques. (November 1995): 704-709.

In Business - Feme Sole Trader

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Feme sole traders were married women who avoided coverture, a series of legal restrictions that usually accompanied marriage. According to historian Linda Kerber, "Feme sole status was ... a legal gray area" that originated in London merchant custom and was occasionally codified by American colonies or states. In other areas, especially commercial centers like New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, feme sole status could be secured without statutory sanction, although husbands still had to recognize their wives' independent trading.

The English common law concerning coverture and feme sole status was best described in 1700 in a legal treatise titled Baron and Feme: A Treatise of the Common Law Concerning Husbands and Wives. A feme covert was a woman whom "the Law of Nature hath put her under the Obedience of her Husband, and hath submitted her Will to his." Though "she wants Free Will as Minors want Judgment" the authors pointed out that the feme covert, strictly speaking, was not considered an infant under law. This was because "if a Feme Covert enter into Bond, Non est factum may be pleaded to it; but if an Infant enter into Bond he must plead the special matter that he was under Age." Also, feme coverts could not enter into contracts "without the consent actual or implied of the Husband." The Baron and Feme were often said to be one person in law but they could enter into certain contracts with each other. One of these concerned contracts entered into as a feme sole. Feme soles could "sue without her husband ... but the Action must be laid down within the City." "But every Feme which trades in London," the jurists pointed out, "is not a Feme Sole Merchant." "If the husband meddle with the Trade of the wife," for example, "then she is not a Feme Sole Merchant." However, "if the husband be beyond Sea, or becomes Bankrupt, or leaves his Trade, and the wife exercise the same Trade, or they both exercise the same Trade distinctly by themselves, and not meddle the one with the other, the wife is Sole Merchant."

A pamphlet published in Philadelphia explores how little feme sole rules changed in the century and half since the publication of Baron and Feme. The compiler of the piece, Thomas Baylis, wrote the pamphlet to help "merchants dealing with married women, and selling them goods, ... [a] quite a common practice." Baylis began by arguing that "the disability of a married woman to contract, so as to bind herself, arises not from the want of discretion, but because her legal identity is merged in the person of her husband." "The husband," Baylis continued, "is not liable for money lent to his wife." Likewise, "a suit cannot be maintained against a married woman for goods sold and delivered, unless she is lawfully trading as a feme sole trader, under the Act of 1718." Feme sole traders, on the other hand, may "sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded at law during their husband's natural lives, without naming their husbands." Just as in England in 1700, in Baylis' Philadelphia, "the main question in ... cases where the husband lives with the wife, and is in and about the business, seems to be: In what capacity is the husband in and about the business?" In other words, is he his wife's agent, employee, or merely trading in her name? The difference between coverture and feme sole status was especially important in contracts for the repayment of money, such as promissory notes. Though of proper form, sometimes promissory notes were declared void because the husband did not sign the note and the contracted debt was not for "necessaries."

Pennsylvania passed an act relative to feme sole traders in 1718. The act was designed for mariner's wives, to protect them, after established in business, from having to pay the debts of profligate sailor husbands. The act also protected "creditors [so that they] may, with certainty and safety, transact business with a married woman under the circumstances aforesaid." A feme sole trader, then, was a married women conducting business on her own, with her husband's permission, but without his aid.

See Temple University.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1746 Joseph Badger 1708-1765. Eliz Storer, Mrs. Isaac Smith

In Business - Wives of Mariners

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

A 1718 Pennsylvania law ordered that the wives of men who went to sea should be considered independent traders with legal rights in court. It was designed to protect women from unscrupulous and absent husbands.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Moravian Woman

Mrs. C. Theodora Neissen. Johann Valentin Haidt (1700-1780) Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Moravian women, whose chief duty was to their community & God, not to their family, husband, or self, worked jobs benefiting the larger community. They were freed from traditional familial duties.

The Moravians 1st came to British America during the colonial period. In 1735 they were part of General Oglethorpe’s philanthropic venture in Georgia. Their attempt to establish a community in Savannah did not succeed, but they did have a profound impact on the young John Wesley who had gone to Georgia during a personal spiritual crisis. Wesley was impressed that the Moravians remained calm during a storm that was panicking experienced sailors. He was amazed at people who did not fear death, & back in London he worshiped with Moravians writing that his “heart was strangely warmed.”

After the failure of the Georgia mission, the Moravians established a permanent presence in Pennsylvania in 1741, settling on the estate of evangalist George Whitefield. Moravian settlers purchased 500 acres to establish the settlement of Bethlehem in 1741. Soon they bought the 5,000 acres of the Barony of Nazareth from Whitefield’s manager, & the 2 communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth became closely linked in their agricultural & industrial economy.  Other settlement congregations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Maryland. They built the Pennsylvania communities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz, & Hope. They also established congregations in Philadelphia & on Staten Island in New York. All were considered frontier centers for the spread of the gospel, particularly in mission to the Native Americans. Bethlehem was the center of Moravian activity in colonial America.

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania & Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the 1st Moravian settlements in North Carolina. In 1857 the 2 American provinces, North & South, became largely independent & set about expansion. Bethlehem in Pennsylvania & Winston-Salem in North Carolina became the headquarters of the two provinces (North & South).

The facet of Moravian life that bound the community together like no other was their dedication to missionary work; the Moravians were the most active Protestant missionaries of the 18C, sending community members to the West Indies, South America, & as far as South Africa. By 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries & baptized more than 3,000 converts, including American Natives. In North America the key undertaking for Moravian missionaries was to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The Moravians viewed the natives as heathens in need of spiritual enlightenment & guidance.

One feature of Moravian community life was the Choir System. People
were separated into “choirs,” or groups, based on their age, gender, & marital status. It was believed that individuals of like age & gender were best prepared & able to encourage each other’s religious growth. Members of the same choir ate, worked, worshiped, slept in dormitories, & attended school together. This communal living arrangement was intended to strengthen the unity of the society as members had to rely on choir-mates for support rather than their siblings or parents. The names of the choirs reflected the sex, age & marital status of those in the choir, such as the “Older Boys’ Choir,” ages 12-19 or the “Single Sister’s Choir,” age 19 until marriage.

All work performed by the Moravians during the pre-Revolutionary War years operated under a system known as the “General Economy,” in which all goods or money produced was considered the property of the community, not the individual. Under this system there was no private wealth or housing, nor any privately owned businesses. Every member’s contribution was collectively pooled & in exchange, necessities such as food, shelter & clothing were provided.

Marie Minier, a Single Sister in the Bethlehem community, praised the General
Economy in 1750 stating that, “For 12 years now I have enjoyed the care [of the General Economy] & eaten from one bread & been clothed, all of which to this hour has been great and of importance to me. I . . . accept things the way the Brethren do things, for it is a wonder to me daily that He has maintained so large a community, & we cannot say that we have ever gone without.” For single women like Marie Minier, the General Economy system afforded them relative security & independence; single women who chose not to marry did not need to rely on a father or brother for financial support, nor worry about becoming a financial burden. In other parts of 18C British America women who did not marry usually would have been socially & economically excluded, dependent on their fathers or male family members.

Yet by the 1760s, the system of communal property began to wear on the younger generations of ambitious Moravians who saw that in other communities hard work was rewarded with personal financial gain. In 1762, the General Economy was abolished in favor of self-owned & operated small businesses & private family homes.

To learn about the lives of 18C Moravian women see:

Faull, Katharine. Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Smaby, Beverly Prior. "Female Piety Among 18th-Century Moravians." Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 151-167.

Wachovia Historical Society, Winston-Salem, North Carolina & Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1750 Johann Valentine Haidt (1700-1780). Women portrayed as separate but sharing power at the Moravian Synod at Herrnhut.& "Forming the Single Sisters' Choir in Bethlehem." The Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14

Sommer, Elisabeth W. Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany & North Carolina, 1727-1801. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Vogt, Peter. "A Voice for Themselves: Women as Participants in Congregational Discourse in the 18th-Century Moravian Movement." In Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle and Pamela J. Walker, 227-247. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

In Business - Sometimes Willed Their Business to Daughters

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Boston retailer Hannah Newman, who ran a shop with her daughter Susannah, bequeathed only paltry sums to her two sons In her will, Newman elaborated on the qualities her daughter possessed that earned her esteem and estate Susannah, Newman wrote, "has been a great Comfort, & Support to me, in my advanced age, & has taken Care of my Business, & by her Diligence & Industry," Hannah Newman will, SCPR, 51 657-660.  Male testators in colonial America often discriminated against daughters more than female testators.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

1760 Portrait of an American Woman

1760 Joseph Badger. Colonial American Artist, 1708-1765, Sarah Larrabee Edes.  

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art tells us that no signed portraits by Badger are known, but on the basis of the style of four documented portraits a large group of paintings similar in style have been attributed to him. The portrait of Sarah Larrabee Edes possesses the characteristics of this style: fairly pastel, chalky colors, outlining of the edges of the linen cuffs and collars, indistinct backgrounds with feathery foliage, and an insufficiency of foreshortening that makes the figures seem to float upon the surface of the painting. Since Badger’s portraits also are not dated, the progression of his stylistic development is not clear, making it hard to assign a date to the present painting. It has been dated about 1760 because that approximate date has been assigned to the portrait of the sitter’s father, Captain John Larrabee. Badger’s Captain John Larrabee, c. 1760 (Worcester [Mass.] Art Museum), is his only full-length adult portrait and easily his finest effort. The subject, born in 1686, was captain lieutenant, or commanding officer, of Castle William (afterwards Fort Independence) in Boston Harbor for nearly forty years before his death on February 11, 1762. In 1710 he married Elizabeth Jordan, and the couple had three children, a son and two daughters. The younger daughter, Sarah, was born on July 12, 1719. On December 21, 1738, she married Thomas Edes (1715-1794), a ship joiner, or carpenter, of Boston. They had 10 children. Thomas Edes was one of the executors of Captain Larrabee’s will.

In Business - Accounting

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Author Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) argued for the necessity of women being trained in accounting and business skills, such training provided economic benefits to the family, particularly preservation of the family estate in case of the husband's death. Daniel Defoe, The Complete English Tradesman, in Familiar Letters Directing him m all the Several Parts and Progressions of Trade (London, 1727), 29.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Moravian Woman

Married Moravian Woman. Johann Valentin Haidt (1700-1780) Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Moravian women, whose chief duty was to their community & God, not to their family, husband, or self, worked jobs benefiting the larger community. They were freed from traditional familial duties.

The Moravians 1st came to British America during the colonial period. In 1735 they were part of General Oglethorpe’s philanthropic venture in Georgia. Their attempt to establish a community in Savannah did not succeed, but they did have a profound impact on the young John Wesley who had gone to Georgia during a personal spiritual crisis. Wesley was impressed that the Moravians remained calm during a storm that was panicking experienced sailors. He was amazed at people who did not fear death, & back in London he worshiped with Moravians writing that his “heart was strangely warmed.”

After the failure of the Georgia mission, the Moravians established a permanent presence in Pennsylvania in 1741, settling on the estate of evangalist George Whitefield. Moravian settlers purchased 500 acres to establish the settlement of Bethlehem in 1741. Soon they bought the 5,000 acres of the Barony of Nazareth from Whitefield’s manager, & the 2 communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth became closely linked in their agricultural & industrial economy.  Other settlement congregations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Maryland. They built the Pennsylvania communities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz, & Hope. They also established congregations in Philadelphia & on Staten Island in New York. All were considered frontier centers for the spread of the gospel, particularly in mission to the Native Americans. Bethlehem was the center of Moravian activity in colonial America.

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania & Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the 1st Moravian settlements in North Carolina. In 1857 the 2 American provinces, North & South, became largely independent & set about expansion. Bethlehem in Pennsylvania & Winston-Salem in North Carolina became the headquarters of the two provinces (North & South).

The facet of Moravian life that bound the community together like no other was their dedication to missionary work; the Moravians were the most active Protestant missionaries of the 18C, sending community members to the West Indies, South America, & as far as South Africa. By 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries & baptized more than 3,000 converts, including American Natives. In North America the key undertaking for Moravian missionaries was to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The Moravians viewed the natives as heathens in need of spiritual enlightenment & guidance.

One feature of Moravian community life was the Choir System. People
were separated into “choirs,” or groups, based on their age, gender, & marital status. It was believed that individuals of like age & gender were best prepared & able to encourage each other’s religious growth. Members of the same choir ate, worked, worshiped, slept in dormitories, & attended school together. This communal living arrangement was intended to strengthen the unity of the society as members had to rely on choir-mates for support rather than their siblings or parents. The names of the choirs reflected the sex, age & marital status of those in the choir, such as the “Older Boys’ Choir,” ages 12-19 or the “Single Sister’s Choir,” age 19 until marriage.

All work performed by the Moravians during the pre-Revolutionary War years operated under a system known as the “General Economy,” in which all goods or money produced was considered the property of the community, not the individual. Under this system there was no private wealth or housing, nor any privately owned businesses. Every member’s contribution was collectively pooled & in exchange, necessities such as food, shelter & clothing were provided.

Marie Minier, a Single Sister in the Bethlehem community, praised the General
Economy in 1750 stating that, “For 12 years now I have enjoyed the care [of the General Economy] & eaten from one bread & been clothed, all of which to this hour has been great and of importance to me. I . . . accept things the way the Brethren do things, for it is a wonder to me daily that He has maintained so large a community, & we cannot say that we have ever gone without.” For single women like Marie Minier, the General Economy system afforded them relative security & independence; single women who chose not to marry did not need to rely on a father or brother for financial support, nor worry about becoming a financial burden. In other parts of 18C British America women who did not marry usually would have been socially & economically excluded, dependent on their fathers or male family members.

Yet by the 1760s, the system of communal property began to wear on the younger generations of ambitious Moravians who saw that in other communities hard work was rewarded with personal financial gain. In 1762, the General Economy was abolished in favor of self-owned & operated small businesses & private family homes.

To learn about the lives of 18C Moravian women see:

Faull, Katharine. Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Smaby, Beverly Prior. "Female Piety Among 18th-Century Moravians." Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 151-167.

Wachovia Historical Society, Winston-Salem, North Carolina & Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1750 Johann Valentine Haidt (1700-1780). Women portrayed as separate but sharing power at the Moravian Synod at Herrnhut.& "Forming the Single Sisters' Choir in Bethlehem." The Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14

Sommer, Elisabeth W. Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany & North Carolina, 1727-1801. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Vogt, Peter. "A Voice for Themselves: Women as Participants in Congregational Discourse in the 18th-Century Moravian Movement." In Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle and Pamela J. Walker, 227-247. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

In Business - Nantucket

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Descnbing the customs of eighteenth-century Nantucket, Hector St John de Crevecoeur praised the industnousness of the wives of the town, who, compelled by their seafanng husbands' long absences, were "necessarily obliged to transact business, to settle accounts, and, in short, to rule and provide for their families " J Hector St John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer ed by Albert E Stone (New York, 1981), 157
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1708-09 Henrietta Johnston 1674-1729 Unknown Lady SC Governor's Mansion

In Business - Commerce & Character

A Woman Shopkeeper of the 1790s, by an Unknown Artist.

Earlier in the 18C century, trade was often characterized in moral rather than political terms. Benjamin Franklin's fabricated letters to the editor on the behavior of a lying and cheating shopkeeper, Betty Dilligent, which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov. 19, 1730, highlighted the link between commerce and character. Significantly, Franklin chose to make the shopkeeper whose behavior he decried a female and the fictitious merchant who responded a male; see Pennsylvania Gazette, Dec. 3, 1730.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Moravian Woman & Husband

Johann and Susanna Nitschmann. Johann Valentin Haidt (1700-1780) Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Moravian women, whose chief duty was to their community & God, not to their family, husband, or self, worked jobs benefiting the larger community. They were freed from traditional familial duties.

The Moravians 1st came to British America during the colonial period. In 1735 they were part of General Oglethorpe’s philanthropic venture in Georgia. Their attempt to establish a community in Savannah did not succeed, but they did have a profound impact on the young John Wesley who had gone to Georgia during a personal spiritual crisis. Wesley was impressed that the Moravians remained calm during a storm that was panicking experienced sailors. He was amazed at people who did not fear death, & back in London he worshiped with Moravians writing that his “heart was strangely warmed.”

After the failure of the Georgia mission, the Moravians established a permanent presence in Pennsylvania in 1741, settling on the estate of evangalist George Whitefield. Moravian settlers purchased 500 acres to establish the settlement of Bethlehem in 1741. Soon they bought the 5,000 acres of the Barony of Nazareth from Whitefield’s manager, & the 2 communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth became closely linked in their agricultural & industrial economy.  Other settlement congregations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Maryland. They built the Pennsylvania communities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz, & Hope. They also established congregations in Philadelphia & on Staten Island in New York. All were considered frontier centers for the spread of the gospel, particularly in mission to the Native Americans. Bethlehem was the center of Moravian activity in colonial America.

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania & Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the 1st Moravian settlements in North Carolina. In 1857 the 2 American provinces, North & South, became largely independent & set about expansion. Bethlehem in Pennsylvania & Winston-Salem in North Carolina became the headquarters of the two provinces (North & South).

The facet of Moravian life that bound the community together like no other was their dedication to missionary work; the Moravians were the most active Protestant missionaries of the 18C, sending community members to the West Indies, South America, & as far as South Africa. By 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries & baptized more than 3,000 converts, including American Natives. In North America the key undertaking for Moravian missionaries was to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The Moravians viewed the natives as heathens in need of spiritual enlightenment & guidance.

One feature of Moravian community life was the Choir System. People
were separated into “choirs,” or groups, based on their age, gender, & marital status. It was believed that individuals of like age & gender were best prepared & able to encourage each other’s religious growth. Members of the same choir ate, worked, worshiped, slept in dormitories, & attended school together. This communal living arrangement was intended to strengthen the unity of the society as members had to rely on choir-mates for support rather than their siblings or parents. The names of the choirs reflected the sex, age & marital status of those in the choir, such as the “Older Boys’ Choir,” ages 12-19 or the “Single Sister’s Choir,” age 19 until marriage.

All work performed by the Moravians during the pre-Revolutionary War years operated under a system known as the “General Economy,” in which all goods or money produced was considered the property of the community, not the individual. Under this system there was no private wealth or housing, nor any privately owned businesses. Every member’s contribution was collectively pooled & in exchange, necessities such as food, shelter & clothing were provided.

Marie Minier, a Single Sister in the Bethlehem community, praised the General
Economy in 1750 stating that, “For 12 years now I have enjoyed the care [of the General Economy] & eaten from one bread & been clothed, all of which to this hour has been great and of importance to me. I . . . accept things the way the Brethren do things, for it is a wonder to me daily that He has maintained so large a community, & we cannot say that we have ever gone without.” For single women like Marie Minier, the General Economy system afforded them relative security & independence; single women who chose not to marry did not need to rely on a father or brother for financial support, nor worry about becoming a financial burden. In other parts of 18C British America women who did not marry usually would have been socially & economically excluded, dependent on their fathers or male family members.

Yet by the 1760s, the system of communal property began to wear on the younger generations of ambitious Moravians who saw that in other communities hard work was rewarded with personal financial gain. In 1762, the General Economy was abolished in favor of self-owned & operated small businesses & private family homes.

To learn about the lives of 18C Moravian women see:

Faull, Katharine. Moravian Women's Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Smaby, Beverly Prior. "Female Piety Among 18th-Century Moravians." Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 151-167.

Wachovia Historical Society, Winston-Salem, North Carolina & Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1750 Johann Valentine Haidt (1700-1780). Women portrayed as separate but sharing power at the Moravian Synod at Herrnhut.& "Forming the Single Sisters' Choir in Bethlehem." The Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14

Sommer, Elisabeth W. Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany & North Carolina, 1727-1801. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Vogt, Peter. "A Voice for Themselves: Women as Participants in Congregational Discourse in the 18th-Century Moravian Movement." In Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity, edited by Beverly Mayne Kienzle and Pamela J. Walker, 227-247. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Tea, Violence, & Divorce in 18C America

1787 Remains of the slashed & torn portrait by the Sherman Limner (perhaps Abraham Delanoy 1742-1795). Rebecca Austin Mrs John Sherman & son Henry (1789-1817).

Rebecca Austin (b 1753) married John Sherman (b 1750) on August 28, 1771. He seemed to be a young man of great promise. They both came from good families. He was 21, she was 18.
Rebecca & John had 7 children -- John in 1772; Maria in 1774; Harriet in 1776; Elizabeth in 1778; David in 1781; Charles in 1783; and Henry in 1785. Although John Sherman served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, he apparently returned home with some regularity.

When he left the service in the summer of 1783, John Sherman tried his hand at business in New Haven for several years; but by 1788, he decided it was time to move on.  Just a year before John Sherman decided to leave the family, he had portraits of the family painted by the Sherman Limner, whose name derives from these portraits.

Rebecca filed for divorce in 1792 claiming he drank excessively & became violent when drinking and that he was adulterous. The family portraits, as well as a tea urn, apparently became a focus of John's anger with the dissolution of his marriage. (Baldwin Family Papers, #55 Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library)

In a fit of anger, John slashed the portrait of his wife & their youngest child. On January 21, 1793, John Sherman's daughter Maria wrote a letter to their grandfather Roger Sherman. Honored and much respected Grandfather, We sincerely lament the unhappy necessity, which has seperated our Parents... Our father not satisfied with heaping disgrace and sorrow upon his children, has stripped us of all the Furniture he ever purchased, not even excepting our Portraits...He has likewise taken the Desk, Tea Urn, Silver Handled Knives & Forks, best Bed and Bedding, Chairs, Tables &...

Apparently the court determined that Rebecca Austin Sherman's allegations were true, and the divorce was finalized in January 1794. Rebecca Austin Sherman raised her children by cooking & running a boarding house, until she died in 1830.

John Sherman almost immediately remarried Anna Tucker, 10 years younger than Rebecca. John Sherman had 2 more children with his new wife, supporting his new family as a shopkeeper in Canton. He died 8 years later in 1802, his younger widow lived until 1858.
1787 Sherman Limner fl 1785-90, John Sherman (1750-1802)

1787 Sherman Limner fl 1785-90, Maria Sherman (Mrs. Ira Hart) 1774-1857.

1787 Sherman Limner fl 1785-90, David Austin Sherman (1781-1843)

1787 Sherman Limner fl 1785-90, John Sherman II.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019

Massachusetts Slave to Free Woman - Mumbet 1742-1829

Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet") 1742-1829

Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet") was born a slave around 1742. She was raised, along with her younger sister Lizzie, in Claverack, Columbia County, New York (about 20 miles south of Albany). Her owner, a Dutchman named Pieter Hogeboom, gave the two girls to Sheffield, Massachusetts, resident John Ashley, when he married Hogeboom's daughter Annetje.

In 1781, as the American Revolution raged, a Massachusetts slave named Bett approached abolitionist lawyer Theodore Sedgwick asking him to help her sue for her freedom. Bett had endured mistreatment at the hands of her master’s wife—including a blow from a hot kitchen shovel that left her with a burn on her arm—and she was determined to never return to their house again. To back up her case for emancipation, she cited a surprising source: Massachusetts’ newly inked constitution, which included a passage stating that all the state’s residents were “born free and equal.”

Whatever the reason, Mumbet turned in 1781 to Theodore Sedgwick, a prominent Stockbridge attorney, to help secure her freedom. Sedgwick took the case, and later argued in county court that Massachusetts’ constitution nullified any previous laws supporting slavery.  Legal action began in the spring of 1781, when Mumbet (and another slave man known as Brom) brought a suit for freedom against John Ashley. Brom & Bett v. John Ashley, Esq. would turn into one of the most important legal cases in Massachusetts history. When John Ashley refused a writ of replevin (a court order to return or release unlawfully obtained property), he was ordered to appear before the Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington on 21 August 1781. Sedgwick's principal argument stated that slavery was inherently illegal under the newly ratified Massachusetts Constitution, which stated that:  "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness."

This section of the state constitution has since been altered to explicitly forbid discrimination on the basis of "sex, race, color, creed or national origin." The jury found Sedgwick's arguments convincing, and both Mumbet and Brom were set free. John Ashley was also instructed to pay thirty shillings in damages plus trial costs.

Ashley initially appealed this decision to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the highest court in the Commonwealth; however, he dropped his appeal before it came before the court, presumably because of the intervening decisions in the Quock Walker trials, which made it clear that no court in Massachusetts would ever find slavery legal under the new Constitution.

It was one of the first times that a slave successfully won emancipation in court, and along with another case involving a man named Quok Walker, it helped set a precedent that saw Massachusetts abolish slavery in 1783.

Mumbet became a paid servant in the household of her attorney Theodore Sedgwick, and Sedgwick's youngest daughter, Catharine Maria, wrote a draft account of Mumbet's life, that was published under the title "Slavery in New England," in Bentley's Miscellany in 1853.

Mumbet remained a beloved paid servant of the Sedgwick family for the rest of her life. In one famous incident, she single-handedly defended the Sedgwick house from a small mob of rebels during Shays' Rebellion in 1787 (Sedgwick himself was away from home working to end the rebellion).
Mumbet was eventually able to achieve a small level of financial independence, even buying her own house before her death in 1829. She is the only non-Sedgwick buried in the "inner circle" of the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her epitaph reads:  Her epitaph reads: "Elizabeth Freeman, known by the name of Mumbet died Dec. 28 1829. Her supposed age was 85 years. She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly 30 years. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior nor equal. She neither wasted time, nor property. She never violated a trust, nor failed to perform a duty. In every situation of domestic trial, she was the most efficient helper, and the tenderest friend. Good mother fare well."

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1708 Henrietta Johnston 1674-1729 Mary DuBose Mrs Samuel Wragg Gibbes Mus Art

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Tea Time in 18C Massachusetts

Creamware Tea Pot from Leeds c 1780

In America during the 18th century, young & the old from all levels of society occasionally spent their leisure time taking tea together.

Elizabeth Fuller (1775-1856) was 14 years-old, when she started keeping a diary. She made regular entries from October 1790 through December 1792, while living with her family on a farm in Princeton, Massachusetts.

Unmarried young women in rural New England, often spent their days at home engaged primarily in textile production for both their own family's use & to trade for other items. In her diary, Elizabeth Fuller writes of washing, carding, & spinning wool, while assisting with everyday chores such as making cheese & cooking.

Dec 1, 1790 I went to Mr. Perry’s to make a visit this afternoon, had an excellent dish of tea and a shortcake. — Betsey Whitcomb at work there. Had a sociable afternoon.

May 8, 1791 — Sabbath. I went to church A.M. Mr. Thurston preached. Mr. John Rolph & his Lady & Mr. Osburn her Brother & a Miss Anna Strong (a Lady courted by said Osbourn) came here after Meeting and drank Tea.
Chelsea Fable Tea Pot, C.1752-3. Painted by Jeffreys Hamett O'Neal. Aesop's Fable of "The Goat In The Well."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reading - 18C American Woman with a Book

Mrs Sylvanus Bourne 1766 John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London)  The Metropolitan Museum of Art tells us that Mercy Gorham (1695–1782) was born and raised on Cape Cod, in the colony of Massachusetts. In 1718, she married Sylvanus Bourne, a prosperous merchant, and 2 years later they settled in the port town of Barnstable. The couple had 11 children. Copley painted Mrs. Bourne 3 years after her husband’s death, when she was 71 years old. She holds a book in her lap. 

Colonial mothers, entrusted with the physical care & well-being of their children’s souls usually taught them to read at home. Reading the scripture was the 1st step in the long process of religious education. The Puritan minister Increase Mather (1639–1723), of the prominent Massachusetts Mather family, came from an educated household.  Still, he wrote, “I learned to read of my mother.” Rich or poor, mothers were expected to teach their children to read, and apparently they kept reading long after their children had grown. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

George Washington & Female Slaves

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

Excerpted from the 1915 book George Washington: Farmer by Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) Ch 12  Slaves

,,,Visitors at Mount Vernon saw many faces there, but only a few were white faces, the rest were those of black slaves...The cooks, the house servants, the coachmen, the stable boys, almost all the manual workers were slaves...

From his father Washington inherited 10 or 12 slaves and, as occasion required or opportunity offered, he added to the number. By 1760 he paid taxes on 49 slaves, in 1770 on 87 & in 1774 on 135. Presently he found himself overstocked & in 1778 expressed a wish to barter for land some "Negroes, of whom I every day long more to get clear of." Still later he declared that he had more negroes than could be employed to advantage on his estate, but was principled against selling any, while hiring them out was almost as bad. "What then is to be done? Something or I shall be ruined."

In 1754 he bought a...a woman called Clio for £50. Two years later he acquired...a woman for £86, & from Governor Dinwiddie a woman & child for £60. In 1758...Mount Vernon brought him 18 more. Mrs. Washington was the owner of a great many slaves, which he called the "dower Negroes," & with part of the money she brought him he acquired yet others. The year of his marriage he bought...Hannah & child for £80 & nine others for £406. Two years later he bought...a woman of the estate of Francis Hobbs for £128.10, the woman being evidently of inferior quality, for she cost only £20. Another slave purchased that year from Sarah Alexander was more valuable, costing £76. Judy & child, obtained of Garvin Corbin, cost £63.  He bought five more slaves in 1772. Some writers say that this was his last purchase, but it is certain that thereafter he took a few in payment of debts.

In 1786 he took a census of his slaves on the Mount Vernon estate. On the Mansion House Farm he had sixty-seven, including...two cooks...three seamstresses, two house maids, two washers, four spinners...knitters & carpenters. Two women were "almost past service," one of them being "old & almost blind."...Lame Peter had been taught to knit. Twenty-six were children, the youngest being Delia & Sally... On the whole estate there were 216 slaves, including many dower negroes.

...I have found only one or two lists of the increase of the slaves, one being that transmitted by James Anderson, manager, in February, 1797, to the effect that "there are 3 Negro Children Born, & one dead--at River Farm 1; born at Mansion house, Lina 1; at Union Farm 1 born & one dead--It was killed by Worms..."

Washington was much more likely to take notice of deaths than of increases. "Dorcas, daughter of Phillis, died, which makes 4 Negroes lost this winter," he wrote in 1760. He strove to safeguard the health of his slaves & employed a physician by the year to attend to them, the payment, during part of the time at least, being fifteen pounds per annum...

When at home the Farmer personally helped to care for sick slaves. He had a special building erected near the Mansion House for use as a hospital. Once he went to Winchester in the Shenandoah region especially to look after slaves ill with smallpox "and found everything in the utmost confusion, disorder, & backwardness. Got Blankets & every other requisite from Winchester, & settied things on the best footing I could." As he had had smallpox when at Barbadoes, he had no fear of contagion.

Among the entries in his diary are: "Visited my Plantations & found two negroes sick ... ordered them to be blooded." "Found that lightening had struck my quarters & near 10 Negroes in it, some very bad but by letting blood recovered." 

In his contracts with overseers Washington stipulated proper care of the slaves. Once he complained to his manager that the generality of the overseers seem to "view the poor creatures in scarcely any other light than they do a draught horse or ox; neglecting them as much when they are unable to work; instead of comforting & nursing them when they lye on a sick bed." Again he wrote:  "When I recommended care of & attention to my negros in sickness, it was that the first stage of, & the whole progress through the disorders with which they might be seized (if more than a slight indisposition) should be closely watched, & timely applications & remedies be administered; especially in the pleurisies, & all inflammatory disorders accompanied with pain, when a few day's neglect, or want of bleeding might render the ailment incurable. In such cases sweeten'd teas, broths & (according to the nature of the complaint, & the doctor's prescription) sometimes a little wine, may be necessary to nourish & restore the patient; & these I am perfectly willing to allow, when it is requisite."

Yet again he complains that the overseers "seem to consider a Negro much in the same light as they do the brute beasts, on the farms, & often times treat them as inhumanly."

His slaves by no means led lives of luxury & inglorious ease. A...Polish poet who visited Mount Vernon in 1798 was shocked by the poor quarters & rough food provided for them. He wrote: "We entered some negroes' huts--for their habitations cannot be called houses. They are far more miserable than the poorest of the cottages of our peasants. The husband & his wife sleep on a miserable bed, the children on the floor. A very poor chimney, a little kitchen furniture amid this misery--a tea-kettle & cups.... A small orchard with vegetables was situated close to the hut. Five or six hens, each with ten or fifteen chickens, walked there. That is the only pleasure allowed to the negroes: they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs."

..."It is observed by the Weekly Report," he wrote when President, "that the Sowers make only Six Shirts a Week, & the last week Caroline (without being sick) made only five;--Mrs. Washington says their usual task was to make nine with Shoulder straps, & good sewing:--tell them therefore from me, that what has been done shall be done by fair or foul means; & they had better make a choice of the first, for their own reputation, & for the sake of peace & quietness otherwise they will be sent to the several Plantations, & be placed at common labor under the Overseers thereat. Their work ought to be well examined, or it will be most shamefully executed, whether little or much of it is done--and it is said, the same attention ought to be given to Peter (& I suppose to Sarah likewise) or the Stockings will be knit too small for those for whom they are intended; such being the idleness, & deceit of those people."

"What kind of sickness is Betty Davis's?" he demands on another occasion. "If pretended ailments, without apparent causes, or visible effects, will screen her from work, I shall get no work at all from her;--for a more lazy, deceitful & impudent huzzy is not to be found in the United States than she is."  "I observe what you say of Betty Davis &ct," he wrote a little later, "but I never found so much difficulty as you seem to apprehend in distinguishing between real & feigned sickness;--or when a person is much afflicted with pain.--Nobody can be very sick without having a fever, nor will a fever or any other disorder continue long upon any one without reducing them.--Pain also, if it be such as to yield entirely to its force, week after week, will appear by its effects; but my people (many of them) will lay up a month, at the end of which no visible change in their countenance, nor the loss of an oz of flesh, is discoverable; & their allowance of provision is going on as if nothing ailed them."

...His advice to a manager was to keep the blacks at a proper distance, "for they will grow upon familiarity in proportion as you will sink in authority." The English farmer Parkinson records that the first time he walked with General Washington among his negroes he was amazed at the rough manner in which he spoke to them..."

Billy was a good & faithful servant & his master appreciated the fact. In 1784 we find Washington writing to his Philadelphia agent: "The mullatto fellow, William, who has been with me all the war, is attached (married he says) to one of his own color, a free woman, who during the war, was also of my family. She has been in an infirm condition for some time, & I had conceived that the connexion between them had ceased; but I am mistaken it seems; they are both applying to get her here, & tho' I never wished to see her more, I can not refuse his request (if it can be complied with on reasonable terms) as he has served me faithfully for many years. After premising this much, I have to beg the favor of you to procure her a passage to Alexandria."

Washington's kindness to Billy was more or less paralleled by his treatment of other servants. Even when President he would write letters for his slaves to their wives & "Tel Bosos" & would inclose them with his own letters to Mount Vernon...

Once when President word reached his ears that he was being criticized for not furnishing his slaves with sufficient food. He hurriedly directed that the amount should be increased & added: "I will not have my feelings hurt with complaints of this sort, nor lye under the imputation of starving my negros, & thereby driving them to the necessity of thieving to supply the deficiency. To prevent waste or embezzlement is the only inducement to allowancing them at all--for if, instead of a peck they could eat a bushel of meal a week fairly, & required it, I would not withold or begrudge it them..."

The regulations to which they had to conform were rigorous. Their Master strove to keep them at work & to prevent them from "night walking," that is running about at night visiting. Their work was rough, & even the women were expected to labor in the fields plowing, grubbing & hauling manure as if they were men. But they had rations of corn meal, salt pork & salt fish, whisky & rum at Christmas, chickens & vegetables raised by themselves & now & then a toothsome pig sequestered from the Master's herd....

...But as early as 1786 he wrote to John F. Mercer, of Virginia: "I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law." 

In 1794, in explaining to Tobias Lear his reasons for desiring to sell some of his western lands, he said: "Besides these I have another motive which makes me earnestly wish for these things--it is indeed more powerful than all the rest--namely to liberate a certain species of property which I possess very repugnantly to my own feelings; but which imperious necessity compels, & until I can substitute some other expedient, by which expenses, not in my power to avoid (however well I may be disposed to do it) can be defrayed."

Later in the same year he wrote to General Alexander Spotswood: "With respect to the other species of property, concerning which you ask my opinion, I shall frankly declare to you that I do not like even to think, much less to talk of it.--However, as you have put the question, I shall, in a few words, give my ideas about it.--Were it not then, that I am principled agt. selling negroes, as you would cattle at a market, I would not in twelve months from this date, be possessed of one as a slave.--I shall be happily mistaken, if they are not found to be a very troublesome species of property ere many years pass over our heads."

"I wish from my soul that the Legislature of the State could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery," he wrote to Lawrence Lewis 3 years later. "It might prevent much future mischief."

His ideas on the subject were in accord with those of many other great Southerners of his day such as Madison & Jefferson. These men realized the inconsistency of slavery in a republic dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, & vaguely they foresaw the irrepressible conflict that was to divide their country & was to be fought out on a hundred bloody battle-fields. They did not attempt to defend slavery as other than a temporary institution to be eliminated whenever means & methods could be found to do it...

During this period he was loath to bring the fact that he was a slaveholder too prominently before the public, for he realized the prejudice already existing against the institution in the North. When one of his men absconded in 1795, he gave instructions not to let his name appear in any advertisement of the runaway, at least not north of Virginia.

His final judgment on slavery is expressed in his will. "Upon the decease of my wife it is my will & desire," he wrote, "that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom--To emancipate them during her life, would tho earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the Dower negroes as to excite the most painful sensations,--if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor, it not being in my power under the tenure by which the dower Negroes are held to manumit them."

The number of his own slaves at the time of his death was 174. Of dower negroes there were 153, & besides he had 40 leased from a Mrs. French...As a matter of fact, Mrs. Washington preferred to free her own & the General's negroes as soon as possible & it was accordingly done before her death, which occurred in 1802.