Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Role of Male & Female Slaves in the 18C & 19C American economy

African peoples were captured & transported to the Western Hemisphere to work.  Most European colonial economies in the Americas from the 16th - 19th century were dependent on enslaved African labor for their survival.  The rationale of European colonial officials was that the abundant land they had "discovered" in the Americas was useless without sufficient labor to exploit it.  Only some 450,000 of the nearly 10 million Africans who survived the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade settled in the continental United States. Nevertheless, these 450,000 had grown to more than 4 million people of African descent by 1860, the dawn of the Civil War.
South Carolina

Many of the Dutch & English colonists in the upper colonies of colonial British America preferred to get their slaves from other New World colonies rather than directly from Africa. From the beginning of the African slave trade in the Western Hemisphere, Europe's "New World," in the 16C to its conclusion in the 19C, slave merchants brought the vast majority of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean & Brazil. Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less than 4 percent of the total—came directly to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, & Danish holdings in the Caribbean, & the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.

In the Northern & Middle colonies, direct imports of slaves from Africa were considered by some too dangerous & difficult. Instead, the Northern & Middle colonies often sought their African slaves from Dutch Curacao & later from British Jamaica & Barbados. These slaves were familiar with Western customs & habits of work, qualities highly prized in a region where masters & slaves worked & lived in close proximity. Having survived one climate change already, they also adjusted better to Northern winters, which incapacitated or killed some of those kidnapped directly from Africa. Both causes contributed to the adjective often used to advertise West Indies slaves being sold in the North as "seasoned."
1755 Shipping Hogsheads of Tobacco from Frye-Jefferson map of Virginia

Slavery was not limited to the Western Hemisphere.  The trans-Saharan slave trade had long supplied enslaved African labor to work on sugar plantations in the Mediterranean alongside white slaves from Russia & the Balkans. This same trade also sent as many as 10,000 slaves a year to serve owners in North Africa, the Middle East, & the Iberian Peninsula.

Of the millions of immigrants who survived the crossing of the Atlantic & settled in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 -1776, only about 1 million were Europeans. The remaining were African. An average of 80 % of these enslaved Africans—men, women, & children—were employed, mostly as field-workers. Women as well as children worked in some capacity.
More than half of the enslaved African captives in the Americas were employed on sugar plantations. Sugar developed into the leading slave-produced commodity in the Americas.  During the 16th & 17th centuries, Brazil dominated the production of sugarcane. One of the earliest large-scale manufacturing industries was established to convert the juice from the sugarcane into sugar, molasses, & eventually rum, the alcoholic beverage of choice of the triangular trade.  The profits made from the sale of these goods in Europe, as well as the trade in these commodities in Africa, were used to purchase more slaves.
Tobacco Advertisement Card, Newman’s Best Virginia, 1700s

By 1750, both free & enslaved black people in the British American colonies, despite the hardships of their lives, manifested a deepening attachment to America. The majority of blacks by now had been born in America, rather than in Africa. While a collective cultural memory of Africa was maintained, personal & direct memories had waned. Slave parents began to give their children biblical rather than African names.
Tobacco Label, Ford’s Virginia

During the British American colonial period in the United States, tobacco was the dominant slave-produced commodity.  During the colonial era, 61% of all American slaves -- nearly 145,000 -- lived in Virginia & Maryland, working the tobacco fields in small to medium-sized gangs. Planters who owned hundreds of slaves often divided them among several plantations. In the North & the Upper South, masters & bondpeople lived close to each other.  Rice & indigo plantations in South Carolina also employed enslaved African labor.  The South Carolina & Georgia coastal rice belt had a slave population of 40,000. Because rice requires precise irrigation & a large, coordinated labor force, enslaved people lived & worked in larger groups. Plantation owners lived in towns like Charleston or Savannah & employed white overseers to manage their far-flung estates. Overseers assigned a task in the morning, & slaves tended to their own needs, when the assigned work was completed. The region was atypical, because of its more flexible work schedules and more isolated and independent slave culture.
Indigo Production South Carolina. William DeBrahm, A Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia  London, published by Thomas Jeffreys, 1757.

Exhausted land caused a decline in tobacco production, & the American Revolution cost Virginia & Maryland their principal European tobacco markets, & for a brief period of time after the Revolution. The future of slavery in the United States was in jeopardy. Most of the northern states abolished it, & even Virginia debated abolition in the Virginia Assembly.
Slave Auction. New York Illustrated News; January 26, 1861

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793, gave slavery a new life in the United States. Between 1800 -  1860, slave-produced cotton expanded from South Carolina & Georgia to newly colonized lands west of the Mississippi. This shift of the slave economy from the upper South (Virginia & Maryland) to the lower South was accompanied by a comparable shift of the enslaved African population to the lower South & West.
Hauling Cotton US South. Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the principal source of the expansion of slavery into the lower South was the domestic slave trade from the upper South.  By 1850, 1.8 million of the 2.5 million enslaved Africans employed in agriculture in the United States were working on cotton plantations.
Picking Cotton. Ballou's Pictorial (Boston, Jan. 23, 1858)

The vast majority of enslaved Africans employed in plantation agriculture were field hands. Some coastal owners used slaves as fishermen.  Even on plantations, however, they worked in many other capacities. Some were domestics & worked as butlers, waiters, maids, seamstresses, & launderers. Others were assigned as carriage drivers, hostlers, & stable boys. Artisans—carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, millers, coopers, spinners, & weavers—were also employed as part of plantation labor forces.
Slave Auction. The Illustrated London News; February 16, 1861

Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas. Upward of 10% of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities. Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, Mobile, New York, Philadelphia, & New Orleans all had sizable slave populations. In the southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population.
Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) Stacking Wheat in Culpepper, Virginia 1863

The range of slave occupations in cities was vast. Domestic servants dominated, but there were carpenters, fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters, & porters. Although most worked directly for their owners, others were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, & in industrial enterprises. A small percentage hired themselves out & paid their owners a percentage of their earnings.
Picking Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

Each plantation economy was part of a larger national & international political economy. The cotton plantation economy, for instance, is generally seen as part of the regional economy of the American South. By the 1830s, "cotton was king" indeed in the South. It was also king in the United States, which was competing for economic leadership in the global political economy. Plantation-grown cotton was the foundation of the antebellum southern economy.
 Ginning Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

The American financial & shipping industries were also dependent on slave-produced cotton, as was the British textile industry. Cotton was not shipped directly to Europe from the South. Rather, it was shipped to New York & then transshipped to England & other centers of cotton manufacturing in the United States & Europe.  As the cotton plantation economy expanded throughout the southern region, banks & financial houses in New York supplied the loan capital &/or investment capital to purchase land & slaves.
Harvesting Sugar Cane, Louisiana Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853)

As an inexpensive source of labor, enslaved Africans in the United States also became important economic & political capital in the American political economy. Enslaved Africans were legally a form of property—a commodity. Individually & collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods & services.
Slave Market. Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

The value of the investments slaveholders held in their slaves was often used to secure loans to purchase additional land or slaves. Slaves were also used to pay off outstanding debts. When calculating the value of estates, the estimated value of each slave was included. This became the source of tax revenue for local & state governments. Taxes were also levied on slave transactions.
Planting Rice US South. Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859)

Politically, the U.S. Constitution incorporated a feature that made enslaved Africans political capital—to the benefit of southern states. The so-called three-fifths compromise allowed the southern states to count their slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating states' representation in the U.S. Congress. Thus the balance of power between slaveholding & non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census.  Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle, & no taxes paid on slaves supported the national treasury. In sum, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic & political life.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 

Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, ed. Howard Dodson. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.  2003., compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Elizabeth Byles Mrs. Gawen Brown  MFA Houston

Mrs. Gawen Brown (Elizabeth Byles, 1737-1763) was the daughter of the minister Mather Byles and Anna Noyes and the wife of Gawen Brown (1719-1801), an esteemed Boston clockmaker. Something of a poet, she penned the following lines "on her Infant Son,” Mather Brown (1761-1831), who eventually would become a portraitist: “When with a Parents partial Eye / My Babe within my Arms I spy, / I form a thousand airy Schemes / And paint his future Life in Dreams. / But ah! how different may it be / From what a mother hopes to see / The lovely Infant ne’er may know / A joyous Moment here below: / Yet oh that Heaven would hear my Prayer, / And pour its Blessings on my Heir. / Grant him those Graces from above, / Of Faith, Humility and Love / Let him thy Loving Favor find, / As years increase enlarge his Mind. . . .” The sitter, however, did not live long after voicing her dreams, wishes, and prayers for her son; she died the same year Copley produced this portrait.  See: Warren, David B., Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

About slave Jenny, the good spinster...

Robert Carter, Letter to Clement Brooke of the Baltimore Iron Works. 11 November 1776.
Description: Item is a letter and an invoice. Of interest is reference made to Jenny. The "Negroe Woman" is on board the sloop Atwell along with a host of other goods. The abstract below is from notations in the invoice and letter.

220 bushels of Indian Corn and one Negroe Woman named Jenny are no on board the Sloop Atwell the cargo mentioned abov to be delivered to you for the use of the Baltimoe [sic] Comp[any]--Pray send me a Copy of the Proceedings of the B-C[ompany] when they resolve that there Shall be an Addition of five negroe Women, to their Stock--  It is customary for me to engage my Negroes from new years day to the 31st of December following--however Geo. Wilkerson, Wool Comber, has relinquished Jenny, who is a good Spinster--Jenny is young & Stout, She has fits, accasionally, [sic] I say Accasionally, becuase her fits never happen but upon her being reprimanded for neglects; nor do those Fits leave behind any visible Effects If Jenny Should prove not to be sound, I will at a future date Send a negroe woman in her Stead--...

 From the Robert Carter Papers (Vol. III). (Virginia) Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Mrs. Nathaniel Allen (Sarah Sargnet) Minneapolis Inst of Arts

Nathaniel Allen was a member of the new wealthy class in the mercantile and shipping business in Boston, and his wife, Sarah, was 34 at the time this work was painted. When commissioning portraits, successful American colonists wished to be portrayed in the manner of European aristocrats. This was accomplished by copying contemporary English portraits of ladies and gentlemen of fashion. Here, Copley adapted his composition from a mezzotint after William Hogarth's painting of Frances, Lady Byron.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Newspaper - Runaway Slaves - Carders, Spinners, Weavers, & Knitters


Virginia Gazette (Hunter), Williamsburg, November 7, 1754.
RAN away...a Mulatto Wench, named Molly, about 26 Years of Age, of a middle Stature, long Visage, and freckled, has a drawling Speech, a down Look, and has been chiefly brought up to Carding and Spinning.

Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Hunter),Williamsburg, March 11, 1775.
RUN away... a very bright Mulatto Man named STEPHEN, 5 Feet 6 or 7 Inches high, about 22 Years of Age...His Wife PHEBE went away with him, a remarkable white Indian Woman, about the same Age, and was with Child; she has long black Hair, which is generally clubbed, and carried off with her a blue Negro Cotton Waistcoat and Petticoat, a Virginia Cloth Waistcoat and Petticoat, and a Virginia Cloth Bonnet. She can spin well...

Virginia Gazette or American Advertiser (Hayes), Richmond, February 2, 1782.
A black fellow by the name of PETER, frequently called PETER WOOD, about 37 or 38 years of age, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, has a smiling countenance...Also a very likely black girl, wife to the above fellow and taken off by him, about 18 or 19 years old, middle size, by the name of AMIA...She is a fine spinner and Weaver, has never had a child, and I am informed has holes in her ears for rings.

Virginia Gazette or Weekly Advertiser (Nicolson & Prentis), Richmond, May 11, 1782.
VIOLET, went off about eight weeks ago, and is now harboured in Williamsburg, about twenty two years old, very likely, genteel made, and knits very well.
Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser
(Nicolson & Prentis), Richmond, November 22, 1783.
RUN away...a negro girl named PHILLIS, but for some time passed by the name BETTY. She is about sixteen years of age, an excellent spinner, and very likely...She has for some time been harboured about Rocket's, and is very intimate and supposed lives with one Free Harry.

Virginia Gazette or American Advertiser (Hayes), Richmond, October 16, 1784.
RAN AWAY...a likely Mulatto woman named CHARITY, who carried with her three children, two boys and a girl...She is a likely wench, has an uncommon good voice, is a good house servant, and can spin and knit very well.

Virginia Gazette or American Advertiser (Hayes), Richmond, December 31, 1785 negro woman TABB. She is of a middle stature, rather of a yellowish cast, and thin visage, straight made, walks and talks quick...When she went off, she was clothed as Negroes generally are, which she will certainly change, being very fond of dress, and looks tolerable genteel. She is remarkable handy and industrious, can card and spin cotton and wool, equal in quantity and quality with any woman in the State; a tolerable good weaver, which she followed when she runaway before, and changed her name to Nancy Jones.

Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser (Nicolson), Richmond, April 17, 1788.
RUN away...a stout well made Virginia born negro woman, named DINAH, but has changed her name to NANCY, her complexion is rather of the tawny kind, she has a scar on her forehead, and keeps her eyes rather closed when speaking, she chews tobacco, and smoaks...She last hired herself to Mrs. Jones, at Spring Garden, in Hanover, for a spinner and weaver, and had one of the house servants for her husband...

Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Davis), Richmond, January 18, 1792.
Run away...a likely negro woman, named URSULA, of a yellowish complexion, with some black moles on her face, 30 years of age, 5 feet three or 4 inches high, had on, when she went away, such cloathing as negroes generally wear in the summer, and carried with her a white linen coat and jacket. She is a vile creature, and for her many crimes I punsihed her with an iron collar, but supposed she soon got that off. She is very artful, has a smooth tongue, and is a good weaver, and as she has for some time imposed on the Baptist church by her pretensions to religion, she may probably attempt to pass for a free woman, and do the same again.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner Sargent) San Fran Fine Arts

The de Young Museum in San Francisco tells us that according to her son, Mrs. Daniel Sargent sat for this portrait on 15 different occasions, sometimes remaining still for up to 6 hours. During one sitting, while the artist briefly left the room, Sargent glanced at the painting and was astonished to find that Copley had erased the portion of the canvas that depicted her head. This anecdote provides just one of many examples of Copley’s painstaking perfectionism; he was known to often rework areas of the canvas until a precise likeness was achieved. Commissioned to paint Sargent shortly after her marriage, Copley incorporated into the portrait symbols of love and fertility. For example, in her right hand she holds a scallop shell, a reference to Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. Likewise, the waterfall cascading from the stone wall signifies virtue, fertility, and life.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Former slave Catherine Ferguson 1774-1854 devotes her life to neglected children in NYC

When former slave Catherine Ferguson, a New York City woman devoted to Christian education & the care of orphans, died in 1854, her death prompted this obituary written by Lewis Tappan, an eminent evangelical antislavery activist.  He tells of a child born a slave, whose mother was sold away by their New York master.   When she is finally freed, she devotes her long life to serving the Lord and to caring for neglected children. Tappan also claimed, that she was the first person to have founded a Sunday school in New York City.
Catherine Ferguson from Benson J. Lossing, Our Countrymen, Or Brief Memoirs of Eminent Americans (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1855), 405.

New York Daily Tribune, July 20, 1854, p. 6

"Died, on Tuesday, 11th instant, at her house, 74 Thompson street, Widow Catharine Ferguson, after a brief illness, aged about 80 years.

"The departure of this remarkable woman should be commemorated by an obituary notice worthy of such a mother in Israel, and such an active, life-long, Christian philanthropist. It is hoped that a memoir will be presented to the public. Thousands in this community have heard of or known Katy Ferguson, the aged colored woman, who, in more vigorous life was the celebrated cake-maker for weddings and other social parties. But many who have eaten her unrivalled cake, and been edified by her sensible chat or pious discourse, may be ignorant of the eminent virtues and extraordinary good deeds which crowned her life. It is due, therefore, to the cause of Christ, of philanthropy, and the people of color especially, that her distinguished services should be recorded. The facts contained in this notice were taken down from Mrs. Ferguson’s own lips, March 25, 1850.

"Katy was born a slave. Her mother gave birth to her on her passage from Virginia to this city. Katy Williams—for that was her name—was “owned” by R. B., who lived on Water street, and was an elder in one of the New-York City Presbyterian Churches. “R. B.,” said Katy, “sold my mother away, but I remember that before we were torn asunder, she knelt down, laid her hand on my head, and gave me to God.”

"Katy never saw her mother again. Her mistress told her that if she was as good as her mother, she would do well. Katy felt keenly the loss of her mother. The recollection of her own anguish when separated from her, made her, she said, feel compassion for children. When ten years old, she told her master, R. B., that if he would give her her liberty, she would serve the Lord for ever. But he did not do it.

"Katy was never taught to read. “My mistress,” she said, “would not let me learn; and once she said to me, ‘You know more now than my daughters.’” One of her mistress’ sons asked Katy to teach him geography, etc. She exclaimed, “I can’t!” He replied, “Yes, you can; if I don’t read right in the Bible, or if I don’t say my catechism right, you tell quick enough.”

"At fourteen years of age she was converted to God. When under conviction of sin she determined to go and see the Rev. John M. Mason, whose church she then attended. She was afraid to go, was unwilling it should be known in the family that she went, and tremblingly apprehensive that she could not get access to Dr. Mason, or that he would not pay attention to her. She, however, summoned resolution enough to go. “While I stood at the door ringing the bell,” said she, “I can not describe my feelings; and when the door opened, and Dr. Mason himself stood before me, I trembled from head to foot. If he had spoken harshly to me, or had repulsed me, I should almost died of grief, and perhaps have lost my soul.” But the good man did not speak harshly to her, nor repulse her. Stern and apparently haughty as he was on some occasions, yet he possessed kind and tender feelings, as the writer well remembers. He united two qualities that are never found united, except in truly great men, high intellectual power and strong emotional feelings. Without waiting for the little trembling colored girl to say any thing, Dr. Mason said, “Have you come here to talk to me about your soul?” This greatly encouraged her. She went in and disclosed to the venerable man the secrets of her heart.

"When Katy was sixteen or seventeen years old, a lady in the city purchased her freedom for $200, giving her six years to reimburse her; but she afterwards agreed to allow her one half of the sum for eleven months’ work, and the late excellent Divie Bethune raised the other hundred dollars.

"At eighteen she was married. She had two children, but lost them both. “They are dead,” said Katy, “and I have no relations now, and most of my old friends are gone.”

"During her life, she had taken forty-eight children—twenty of them white children—some from the alms-house and others from their parents, and brought them up, or kept them till she could find places for them. She expended much money on their behalf and followed them with affectionate interest with her prayers. To my inquiry, “Have you laid up any property?” she quickly replied, “How could I, when I gave away all I earned?”

"When she lived at 51 Warren street, (the house has since been taken down,) she regularly collected the children in the neighborhood, who were accustomed to run in the street on the Lord’s day, into her house, and got suitable persons to come and hear them say their catechism, etc.

"The sainted Isabella Graham used to invite Katy’s scholars to her house, to say their catechism, and receive religious instruction. This was about the time Dr. Mason’s Church in Murray street was built. The doctor heard of her school, and one Sunday visited it. “What are you about here, Katy,” said he; “keeping school on the Sabbath? We must not leave you to do all this.” So he spoke to his elders, had the lecture-room opened, and the children transferred to it. This was the origin of the Sunday-school in the Murray street church, and it is believed that Katy Ferguson’s was the first Sunday-school in the city.

"For more than forty years, up to the last of life, she has had a prayer-meeting at her house every Friday evening, and for some five years past another every Sabbath afternoon, into which she gathered the poor neglected children of the neighborhood, and those adults who did not attend church anywhere. She always secured the aid of some good man to conduct these meetings. The results of these efforts were most happy. Tract distributors, city missionaries and others remarked that where Katy lived, the whole aspect of the neighborhood was changed. So much for the exertions of a poor colored woman, who could not read! “The liberal heart deviseth liberal things.”

"The secret of Katy’s usefulness was her fervent, uniform, and consistent piety. No one could be with her, even for a little while, without feeling its influence. The love of God was shed abroad in her heart, and it found expression in acts of benevolence to his children.

"The cause of missions was very dear to her. Three years and a half ago a company of missionaries were about to embark for West-Africa, under the direction of the American Missionary Association. One of the missionaries was invited to attend the little meetings held at Katy’s house, and did so once or twice before leaving the country. Katy’s sympathies were at once strongly enlisted in behalf of this young missionary and all his associates. A few months since, the writer met her in the street, and she eagerly inquired about the Mendi Mission. “For these three years,” said she, “I have never missed a day but I have prayed for those dear missionaries.”

"Katy mourned over the condition of the poor people in the city, who were suffering on account of their vices as well as their poverty. She said: “The ruination of both white and colored people, in this city, is gambling. I told one of them, that I would never do it; that I had rather live on bread and water.”

"On Tuesday morning, having been for several days somewhat indisposed, she went out to see a physician. She soon returned to her house and lay down, but grew rapidly worse. In a few hours, it became apparent that her disease was cholera, and she was sensible that the hour of dissolution was at hand. Notwithstanding the suddenness of the summons, she was ready. Her mind was calm and clear. “Oh!” said she to a friend who stood near, “what a good thing it is to have a hope in Jesus!” Her last words were: “All is well.” Yes, sainted spirit, “all is well.”

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 William Johnston 1732-1772 Mrs Samuel Gardiner (1724-1777) Met

The Met tells us that it was especially popular during the 1760s in America to depict ladies standing next to their gardens. Mrs. Samuel Gardiner (Abigail) Gardiner's (1724–1775) garden, with iris and hollyhocks, identifies her as a .woman of refinement and taste.

Friday, August 23, 2019

1770 Georgia - A little clothing for the slaves...

John Channing letter 26 June 1770 to William Gibbons, Jr. 

Description: Letter Channing writes to Gibbons. Gibbons will be looking after Channing's slaves while Channing is away.
"I am going out of Town for a fortnight or more and am Apprehensive Cap[tain] W...son may sail before my return have givien him directions for 5 pieces of Negro Cloth to be shiped on board him which I believe will be more than wanted, one piece is coarser the the rest which I intend for the Children. Amey, I believe can cut them out without any difficulty, indeed most of the Country born and some of the others have always chose to have the Cloth given them and their Wives and Sisters to cut it out and make them up for them and as they are better satisfyed and a matter of indifference you'll please still indluge as many as desire it the same."
 William Gibbons, Jr. Papers. (Georgia) Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 Joseph Badger (1708-1765). Mary Croswell Gowen. Minneapolis Institute of Art

Mary Gowen (born Croswell), 1730 - 1771was born in Massachusetts, to Thomas Crosswell and Mary Pierce Crosswell (born Pitts). Thomas was born on February 13 1707, in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts. Mary was born on June 6 1706, in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA. Mary married Hammond Gowen on month day 1748, at age 17 in Massachusetts. Hammond was born on January 9 1727, in Charlestown, Middlesex, Massachusetts. His occupation was Sea captain. They had 8 children.  Mary passed away in 1771, at age 40 in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Newspaper - Virginia Runaway Slave Seamstresses

An unusual number of the slave seamstresses and house slaves appearing in Virginia runaway notices, were mulatto. The seamstresses had a variety of skills; while all were seamstresses, some were also described as being able to spin, weave, wash, and iron. Slaves, who were children of the master or his male relatives, were often raised to work in the house, closer to the family. Perhaps they were more likely to run away, because there was at least a chance that they could pass as white.

Below are slave notices for runaway seamstresses from a survey of most 18th century Virginia newspapers.

Virginia Gazette (Hunter), Williamsburg, October 27, 1752.
RAN away...a fair Mulatto Woman Slave, named Moll, about 22 Years of Age, and 5 Feet high, with brown Hair, grey Eyes, very large Breasts and Limbs two of her upper fore Teeth are rotten and broken off...she is a very sly subtle Wench and a great Lyar; she is very handy about waiting and tending in a House, and can wash, iron and sew coarse Work. It's likely she may change her Name, pass for a free Woman and hire herself...

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg, September 8, 1768.
RUN away...a bright mulatto wench called LUCY... She sews and irons well, is about 35 years old, has two moles on one side of her nose, three of her fingers on one hand contracted by a burn when young, and a large scar on one of her elbows...

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg, October 20, 1768.
RUN away...a bright mulatto wench named JUDE, about 30 years old, is very remarkable, has lost one eye, but which I have forgot, has long black hair, a large scar on one of her elbows, and several other scars in her face...I have great reason to think she will pass for a free woman, and endeavour to make into South Carolina. She is very knowing about house business, can spin, weave, sew, and iron, well...

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg, May 6, 1773.
RUN away...a Country born Negro Woman named SARAH, a very lusty stout made Wench, about two and twenty Years of age, very artful, and, though not a Mulatto, may attempt to pass for a free Woman...She has been chiefly a House Servant, is a fine Sempstress, Knitter, Washer, and Ironer...

Virginia Gazette (Purdie), Williamsburg, February 21, 1777
...reward for taking up and delivering PATTY, a lightish coloured negro woman, pitted with the small pox, about 30 years of age, walks well, and generally fast, is rather above the middle size, well shaped, a good sempstress...

Virginia Gazette (Purdie), Williamsburg, August 8, 1777.
RUN away...a mulatto girl named KATE, or Catharine, about 5 feet high, has been brought up in the house from her infancy, and can work well with a needle. She is 19 or 20 years of age, has a smiling countenance when spoke to, and at some times is rather impertinent...

Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser (Richards), Alexandria, October 21, 1784.
RAN away...CATE, a light Mulatto, about 22 years of age, about 5 feet high, full faced, expressive eyes, of a pleasant countenance, an high forehead, fine teeth, bushy long hair, is well set, and broad shouldered...She is very handy, spins well, and has been used to both house and plantation work. SINAH, about 20 years of age, rather of a darker complexion than Cate, has a sunken bumpy face, a very unbidding look, has a decay and holes in two of her upper foreteeth, a sulky illnatured countenance, well shaped, of the middle size, low forehead, and very bushy long hair...She has been brought up in the house, is a good seamstress, and spins well...

Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser (Richards), Alexandria, September 29, 1785.
RAN AWAY...a MULATTO WOMAN, named MOLLY; of a middle size...As she can read, and is handy at her needle, it is probable she will endeavour to pass for a free woman. She is very artful, and capable of inventing a falsehood...

Virginia Independent Chronicle (Davis), Richmond, July 9, 1788.
RUN-AWAY ...a likely MULATTO WOMAN, called RACHEL; about 25 years of age, 5 feet 2 or 3 inches high, thin visage, long black hair, stoops in the shoulders, and has a scar (not very visible) on her chin, occasioned by the kick of a horse when a child. She is an excellent sempstress, and it is probable will pass (from being uncommonly white) for a free woman, unless closely observed...

Virginia Independent Chronicle (Davis), Richmond, March 13, 1790
.... a low, black, well set wench for a wife, the property of a Mr. James Toolers of Charles City, the wench is a decent house servant, can sew and wash very well

Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser
(Davis), Richmond, January 26, 1791
....She is about 40 years of age, and rather above the common stature, has a scar upon the back of her neck, and is a pretty good sempstress...

Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Davis), Richmond, January 18, 1792.
Committed to the jail of this county...a runaway negro wench who calls herself JAMIMAH, and says she belongs to a Mr. Robert Thompson of Louisa county. She appears to be about twenty years of age, very likely in person, above the middle size, strong, straight, of a very healthy and vigorous carriage, and remarkably handy in a family. She can sew plain work very well, is of a kind, obliging, obedient, soft disposition, with many marks on her back of having been severely and cruelly whipped indeed.

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, May 13, 1797
....SLAVES left my residence...JAMES, A Mullato Man, about 30 years of age, ...The other slave is a dark mulatto woman called KESIAH, Wife to the above described man. She is a thin delicately formed woman, rather small, has short hair, with several grey bunches just appearing from under her cap on the from part of her head---her teeth before are decayed---She is much addicted to smoking tobacco, and is a great drunkard---She is between 30 and 40 years of age...Both these people have been bred to domestic capacities; the man is a house servant and to wait on a gentleman when travelling; the woman a lady's maid, and an excellent sempstress...

Alexandria Advertiser and Commercial Intelligencer (S. Snowden & Co.), Alexandria, May 7, 1802
....Ran Away...Patty, a likely Negro wench, about twenty years of age: she has been brought up in the house, is a good seamstress, & very capable...

Norfolk Herald (Willett and O'Connor), Norfolk, June 28, 1803
...eloped from me in August last. LUCY is about 40 years of age; rather spare made, has large eyes, and of a dark tawney complexion; I am told she can read, and perhaps write a little. She is an excellent seamstress, nurse &c...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Mrs Alice Hooper  Minneapolis Art Museum

The Minneapolis Museum tells us that in this portrait, painted to commemorate the sitter’s recent engagement, Copley suggests Alice Hooper’s fecundity and maternal qualities by situating her against the backdrop of a cultivated garden, her hand caressing the fountain’s trickling water. This portrait depicts Alice, the 17-year-old daughter of Robert "King" Hooper, the wealthiest man in Marblehead, Mass. Robert Hooper commissioned the work on the occasion of Alice's engagement to Jacob Fowle, Jr.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854), wife of Alexander Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854), wife of Alexander Hamilton, was born in Albany, N.Y., the 2nd daughter & 2nd of some 14 children of Philip John Schuyler & Catherine van Rensselaer. Her father, a member of the 4th generation of the Schuyler family in America, was a well-to-do landowner & entrepreneur who was prominent in New York state politics & served as a major general during the American Revolution. 
Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY  The Schuyler Mansion is a historic house, right in the heart of Albany, NY, and was once the home of General Philip Schuyler. Philip Schuyler was from a very influential Dutch family. He became the father-in-law of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was married in the Mansion (it was called “The Pasture” by General Schuyler) and spent a few years there, while he served in the New York legislature.  The Georgian style structure, constructed 1761-1765, was built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, and was originally situated on an 80-acre tract of land that included an orchard, formal garden, and a large working farm. Throughout the Schuyler family occupancy from 1763 to 1804, the mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and active family life. The wedding of daughter Elizabeth Schuyler to Alexander Hamilton took place in the house in 1780.

Elizabeth’s formative years were spent in Albany, still a frontier town. Her upbringing was typical of that of most young girls of wealthy and socially prominent families at that time. Tutored informally at home, she had only rudimentary schooling. A close friend descried her at about the age of 16 as a “Brunette with…dark lovely eyes” & “the finest tempered girl in the world.”

Detail of Schuyler's property in 1794. Detail of Schuyler's property in 1794. The orchards, fences, and formal garden depicted here were developed during Elizabeth Schuyler's childhood. Detail taken from Simeon DeWitt's "Plan of the City of Albany," 1794.

While visiting an aunt, Mrs. John Cochran, in Morristown, N.J., during the winter of 1779-80, Elizabeth Schuyler met Alexander Hamilton, then an aide-de-camp to General Washington, & after a brief courtship the couple were engaged.

The Schuyler-Hamilton House, 5 Olyphant Place, Morristown, NJ The Schuyler-Hamilton House was the colonial home of Dr Jabez Campfield, Revolutionary War doctor who, with his wife Sarah Ward, moved from his native Newark to Morristown in 1765, when he purchased this house.  It had been enlarged by 1779, when he lent the property to General Washington's personal physician, Dr John Cochran.  Mrs Cochran was the sister of Mrs Elizabeth Schuyler, wife of General Philip Schuyler of Albany, New York, all of whom, with children & servants, were billeted in this house at periods during 1779-1780.  It was here that Alexander Hamilton, General Washington's Aide de Camp, paid court to Betsy Schulyer during that winter.  They later married in Albany.

Although Hamilton, indigent & illegitimate & a recent immigrant from the West Indies, may have appeared an unlikely match for the daughter of one of New York’s most distinguished families, General Schuyler (who later that winter came to Morristown as military adviser to General Washington) respected the young man’s brilliance & energy & heartily approved the marriage, which took place in Albany at the Schuyler mansion on Dec. 14, 1780. Over the next 22 years the Hamiltons had 8 children: Philip (1782), Angelica (1784), Alexander (1786), James Alexander (1788), John Church (1792), William Stephen (1797), Eliza (1799), & Philip (1802).
1787 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mrs. Alexander Hamilton. Elizabeth Schuyler 1757-1854

In 1782, Hamilton resigned from the army, qualified for the bar, & for the next 7 years he & his wife lived in either Albany or New York City. With his appointment in 1789 as the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Mrs. Hamilton became a prominent member of the small but select social circle which centered around the important officials of the new government, located first in New York then in Philadelphia. Hamilton resigned from President Washington’s cabinet in 1795, and resumed the practice of law in New York City. There the couple lived until 1802, when they moved to a country house in northern Manhattan called The Grange after Hamilton’s ancestral home in Scotland.
Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804) by John Trumbull 1806

On July 12, 1804, less than 3 years after Elizabeth Hamilton’s oldest son had been killed in a duel, her husband was mortally wounded in his famous duel with Aaron Burr. Although he was at the time of his death the most prominent lawyer in New York, Hamilton’s years in public service on a slender salary had depleted his means, & he left his large family virtually impoverished. Hamilton also had secretly paid monies to the husband of the woman he was having an affair with during the 1790s.   Mrs. Hamilton received urgently needed support from property willed to her by her father, who died on Nov. 18, 1804; from Pennsylvania lands given to her by Timothy Pickering, a close friend & admirer of Hamilton’s; & from a select number of friends who provided her with funds with which to repurchase The Grange, which had been sold at public auction.

Despite her meager resources, she managed with the aid of friends, to provide an education for her sons, 3 of whom graduated from Columbia College & were admitted to the bar. But her consuming interest was her husband’s reputation, which she defended & sought to embellish for the remaining 50 hears of her life.  She carefully preserved every available scrap of his writing, but not a single letter which she wrote to him has survived. Perhaps her husband's very public infidelity had a part in her destroying the letters between them.

With the help of her son James, she worked tirelessly to collect Hamilton’s papers for publication. Particularly intent on demonstrating his major contribution to George Washington’s Farwell Address, she successfully instituted legal proceedings against the federal government to recover Hamilton’s drafts of that famous state paper. To edit his writings she solicited candidate after candidate, some of whom declined & some of whom were unable to share her commitment to Hamilton’s towering greatness. In John Church Hamilton, her 5th child, she finally found an author.  Over a period of 30 years John Church published a shelf-full of books on his father’s life, including a 7-volume biography & a 7-volume edition of Hamilton’s works.

In the years of her widowhood, Elizabeth Hamilton also took active part in the charitable work of Joana Graham Bethune & other New York women. When the New York Orphan Asylum Society was organized in 1806, Mrs. Hamilton became “Second Directress” (vice-president). In 1821, she became First Directress, or president, a post she retained until 1849, when she moved to Washington, D.C., to live with her widowed daughter Eliza Hamilton Holly. Living on to the age of 97, she died in Washington in 1854. She was buried next to her husband at Trinity churchyard in New York City.

This posting based in part on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1757 John Wollaston 1733-1767 Probably Elizabeth Dandridge CWF

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A few 18C American Women & Children with Sheep & Lambs

Colonial American 1730-1735 Gerardus Duyckinck (1695-1749) De Peyster Girl with Lamb

Colonial Americaqn Gerardus Duyckinck (1695-1749) Portrait Of Franks Children with Lamb 1735

Colonial American 1754 Joseph Blackburn (1700-1780) Mary Sylvester

Colonial American? 1770 Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772) Girl with a Lamb

Colonial American John Durand (1731-1805) Mary Beekman
Colonial American 1756 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Ann Tyning (Mrs Thomas Smelt)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1757 Jeremiah Theus 1716-1774 Mrs Gabriel Manigault Met

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

Anna Maria Lawatsch. Johann Valentin Haidt (1700-1780) Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1757 Jeremiah Theus 1716-1774 Elizabeth Rothmahler Brooklyn

Sunday, August 11, 2019

June, 1797, Diary of 11-Year-Old Girl at Litchfield Female Academy


The Litchfield Female Academy in Connecticut

Julia Cowles was born on 1786 to Zenas Cowles and Mary Lewis Cowles of Farmington, Connecticut. Julia attended the Litchfield Female Academy in 1797. She died unmarried in 1803.

Rebecca Couch Mrs James C. Denison 1788-1863 View of Litchfield 1805

Diary, June 1797

In the eleventh year of her age. To thee I will relate the events of my youth. I will endeavor to excell in learning & correct my faults so that I may be enabled to look backward with pleasure and forward with hope.

Volume 1st

June 26th, 1797. Monday. This day I began my diary in which I shall be sincere in recording my faults, studies & employments. Miss Sally did not keep. I went to St. Johns.

Tuesday 27th, 1797. We read in History. The cabal entered into an alliance with France. The king who had been an enemy with Ormond.

Friday, June 29th, 1797. I cannot recollect any of the History read this day. I have sewed, read in History & painted some.

Saturday, June 30th. 1797. Went to school, told History, sewed some. Miss Sally says that I have been a pretty good girl this week. I have not been offended this week. I have helped Aunt Lewis almost every day this week.

Sunday, June 31st, 1797. Went to meeting all day. Mr. Griffin preached. I do not recollect any of the afternoon sermon to write.

Monday, June 4th, 1797. Independence. We read in History. Prince Orange ascended the throne but was liked by the people as much as before. Miss Sally did not like this History & exchanged it for Rollin's History.

Tuesday June 5th, 1797. The first country (as I recollect) that we read of was Egypt. . .

Thursday June 6th, 1797. I do not recollect any History that we read to day only that there was one Punic war. . . .

Saturday June 8th, 1797. Attended school read in the Economy of Human Life. Sewed some.

Sunday June 9th, 1797. Afternoon attended meeting. P.M. staid at home because it rained. I do not recollect the text.

Monday June 10th, 1797. Attended school told History, sewed some. P.M. spent the afternoon to Miss Pierces.

Tuesday June 11th, 1797. Miss Sally did not keep school. I helped Aunt Lewis almost every day this week back.

Wednesday June 12th, 1797. Attended school, wrote my Journal. We now began the second punic war.

Thursday June 13th, 1797. I do not recollect any of the History read to day only that Hanibal died.

Friday June 14th, 1797. Attended school. We did 'nt read History to day, expected to dance this evening but was disappointed in my expectations.

Saturday June 15th, 1797. Attended school, read in History, but I dont know anything what we read. I dont know as I ever shall again.

Sunday June 16th, 1797. Attended meeting all day but do not recollect the text. read in the Children's Friend.

Monday June 17th, 1797. In the forenoon told History. P.M. Read History. The Carthagenians now preparing for war. the women cut off their hair to make ropes of. . .

Tuesday June 18th, 1797. Attended school, read History. . .

Wednesday June 19th, 1797. Attended school, read History. We have finished 1 volume of Rollin's History. . .

Thursday June 20, 1797. Attended school, going to dance this evening but dont know but I shall be disappointed. . . .

Friday June 21st, 1797. Attended school, read History. Danced last evening, enjoyed the intended pleasure. . .

Saturday June 22, 1797. Attended school, we did 'nt tell History to day. I have helped Aunt Lewis almost every day this week. Miss Sally says I have been a pretty good girl this week.

Sunday June 23, 1797. Attended meeting. Mr. Hooker preached. I dont know where the text was.

Monday June 23, 1797. Attended school, told History, sewed on my shawl.

Tuesday June 24, 1797. Did 'nt attend school to day. I helped Aunt Lewis all day.

Wednesday June 25th, 1797. Aunt Lewis has gone to Farmington to day. Attended school, read History. We read the death of Cyrus. His son Cambyses succeeded him.

Thursday June 26, 1797. Attended school forenoon painted. I dont know a word of the History. P.M. I stayed at home.

Friday June 27, 1797. Attended school, read History. . .

Saturday June 28th, 1797. Aunt Lewis is expected home to day. Attended school worked on my shawl. Miss Sally says I have been a pretty good girl this week.

John Warner Barber (1798-1885) Litchfield South East View from Chestnut Hill from Connecticut Historical Collections. 1837

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

Widow Catharina Huber. 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.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

1796 Diary of 16-Year-Old Student at Litchfield Female Academy

Rebecca Couch Mrs James C. Denison 1788-1863 View of Litchfield 1805

Charlotte Sheldon was a pupil in Miss Pierce's school in the early days of its existence. She was the daughter of Dr. Daniel Sheldon, of Litchfield, & his 1st wife, a Miss Judson, of Washington, Connecticut, who died in 1784 leaving 2 children, Charlotte & Daniel, who became Secretary of Legation with Albert Gallatin at the court of France. Charlotte was born in 1780, & was a "monster in learning," as her French teacher quaintly expressed it.  Being a subscriber to Sarah Pierce's Female Academy it is not surprising that in 1796, & again in 1802 Dr. Sheldon had his daughter Charlotte educated at the school.  When about 17 years of age, she became an invalid & died in Hartford, Connecticut about 1840. From a diary she kept in the summer of 1796, when she was just 16, the following entries give a view of her studies.

Litchfield Female Academy in Connecticut

The 1796 Diary of Charlotte Sheldon

Tuesday May 10th, 1796: the weather was so rainy this morning that I did not expect to set out for Hartford. so I sat down to my knitting and learnt a very good song called "The Mill Clapper," of Philo Roberts. It cleared off this afternoon so we sat off we had some rain but at night it cleared off beautifully. The air was finely perfumed with the shad and appletree blossoms. I arrived at Farmington just at dark and stopt at Mr. Wadsworth's tavern Mrs. Beardsley was over there and invited us to Dr. Tods there we directed our march. Tho. I had much rather have staid at Mr. Wadsworths for I was very little acquainted with Mrs Beardsley and was muddied from top to toe. Very soon after I got there I went to bed.

Wednesday May 11th, 1796: rose rather late staid till about 10 and then sat out for Hartford. found the riding very bad over the clay hills got to Hartford about noon dined at uncle Sheldons unpacked my things, went up to Aunt Hopkins went a shopping. Hardly knew what to do with myself amid so much noise and confusion, returned to uncle Sheldons.

Thursday May 12th, 1796: election day was ushered in with rain. I ironed out my gown and some such little matters. dressed myself dined at uncle Sheldons. then went in his carriage up to Uncle Hopkins. Tho I spent part of the forenoon in seeing people go by, I found Wealthy Morgan at my aunts I think her much improved since I saw her last, spent the evening in singing, etc., with Becca and Nancy.

Friday May 13th, 1796: read in the Moral Tales, tho' I think them rather immoral, dressed and went to uncle Sheldons intended to have taken a ride but aunt Hopkins sent word to us that a Miss Mather was there Polly Bull. and Sally Trumbull. spent the forenoon and evening Harriet Butler Betsey Woodbridge and Miss Fanning called. There was a swing up garret and behold we went to swinging Daniel and Mr Talcott spent the evening. I like Sally Trumbull. I think her a very pretty girl.

Saturday May 14th, 1796: To day Becca and I took our long wished for ride, we went as far as Wethersfield Folly we went down to Aunt Woodbridge's in the afternoon and drank tea there, we went to the new Court house, it is the most elegant building I ever saw the portico is very pleasant read partly thro " Nanine " one of Voltaires plays.

Sunday May 15th, 1796: Finished "Nanine." went to church in the afternoon it is a very handsome building we heard a flute and bass viol which Becca and I mistook for an organ quite a laughable mistake dressed took a walk down to Uncle Sheldons.

Monday May 16th, 1796: Washed and ironed almost all day went a shopping. read in Buffon's Natural History. It has a great number of cuts in it and is very entertaining. I should like to read the whole of it sung etc., etc.,

Tuesday May 17th, 1796: Ironed almost all the forenoon mended some stockings, dressed, went with Becca down to uncle Sheldons, Aunt was gone down to Mr. Joe Sheldons thither we directed our march and took a very pleasant walk with her to the point where the great and little rivers meet returned and drank tea at Uncle Sheldons staid all night.

Wednesday May 18th, 1796: It rained so that we couldn't return to Aunt Hopkins. made cousin Mary a baby, she is a sweet little girl, read there an abridgement of Sir Charles Grandison

Thursday May 19th, 1796: Becca and I waded up to Aunts thro' the mud drew a picture for Nancy & painted it in the afternoon Mrs. Fish, Emily Stilman & Julia Root spent at Aunts Emily staid in the evening I am very much pleased with her.

Friday May 20th, 1796: Sat out for home, found the roading very bad. Rode as far as Mr Lewis's at Farmington dined there & staid two hours. Mrs. Beardsley sent Stella over for us, Daniel & I went over, & we concluded to stay all night. Heard Mrs Beardsley & Miss Polly Tod play on the Forte Piano, read in Helen Maria Williams letters, read in Lavater & looked at the Heads, took a walk with Miss Sally Beardsley over to the Lewis's, returned to Dr. Tods played button & went to bed very early.

Saturday May 21st, 1796: Sat out again for home found the roading better than I expected, got home about four o'clock went to Miss Sally's(Pierce) to carry a letter my face was so burned, I was ashamed to make my appearance any where felt tired & lazy.

Sunday May 22nd, 1796: Went in the forenoon to meeting. read in the American magazine & in the European magazine Miss Pierce's girls spent the evening at our house & Sally l & Julia Tracy.

Monday May 23rd, 1796: Helped about the house all the forenoon went a shopping with the girls & read history at school got tea & washed the cups knit the rest of the evening.

Tuesday May 24th, 1796: Read & wrote to the 30th page of the history knit sewed one of the tags of the fringe onto my cloak

Wednesday May 25th, 1796: Went to school & did what I commonly do there got above 4 in spelling ironed some Vandykes,2 etc., etc.,

Thursday May 26th, 1796: Studied geography at school felt very indolent, laughed & gaped the greatest part of the time, knit, finished my short gown.

Friday May 27th, 1796: Began to alter my muslin into a robe which is the most fashionable dress in Hartford read history took a run up to Miss Pierces & Mrs. Tracy's, etc.,

Saturday May 28th, 1796: Sewed on my gown all day, wrote all the evening.

Sunday May 29th, 1796: Attended meeting all day, heard two very indifferent sermons, read in the American Magazine found many good things in it & among the rest an extract from Mrs. Yearsley's poem on the slave trade, took a walk down to the brook it was too cool to be very agreeable walking finished my gown in the evening.1

Monday May 30th, 1796: Washed almost all the forenoon, sewed, began to work the edges of some ruffles

Tuesday May 31st, 1796: Starched my gown and hung it to dry, sewed, Persuer of these pages, know that I, the author of them, am not very well versed in polite literature, thou must expect to find, a dry, uninteresting, inaccurate, parcel of sentences, jumbled together in a hand hardly intelligible — this is no news perchance thou wilt say —

Wednesday, June 1st, 1796: We are once more blessed with a prospect of good weather, ironed almost all the forenoon, sat some ruffles on to my gown, went a shopping, bought me a comb, mended some of my cloaths went to school, & did what I usually do there. All Mrs Tracy's family spent the afternoon here Mrs Tracy is a charming woman, she has a family of the loveliest children I ever saw, Mr Gould & Miss Mira Canfield spent the afternoon & evening I liked Mr. Gould very much.

Thursday June 2nd, 1796: Cleaned my chamber, sewed, read in the American Magazine, wrote a letter to Fanny Smith tho I shall not send it to her, was inattentive & got to the foot in spelling, took a walk with the girls, & got wintergreen & honeysuckle, had a very agreeable walk, came home & dressed my hat with honeysuckle & ground pine.

Friday June 3rd, 1796: Sewed almost all the morning, studied a geography lesson, & recited it, dressed & went to Holmes where I spent the afternoon very agreeably spent the afternoon & evening at Dr. Smiths there was a very large circle there.

Saturday June 4th, 1796: Went to school, wrote a curious epistle to Sally Tracy, wrote a letter to Fauny Smith & copied it, read in Goldsmiths animated Nature went to the stores 3 times, sewed on my short gown,

Sunday June 5th, 1796: Attended meeting all day, read in Goldsmiths Animated Nature, I like it very much, many parts of it are quite interesting took a run in the garden sewed all the evening.

Monday June 6th, 1796: Assisted about house all the forenoon went to school, hemmed my shawl all round thought some of going to Mr. Bowles in the evening, but concluded not to go.

Tuesday June 7th, 1796: Bought a skein of silk & wound it hemmed accross two sides of my shawl, button hole stitch, studied spelling, sewed all the evening.

Wednesday June 8th, 1796: Worked on my shawl, read partly thro' the Dangers of the world aloud to Sally Tracy read in Coxes travels, I will give a short abridgement from his history of the Poles, [The first era of the History like that of all other European nations is involved in obscurity. The government was formerly almost an absolute monarchy; but the king continued to grant priviliges to the nobles, untill they became almost independent, for the king had no other power left, except the triffling one of confering titles, the kingdom was very much divided by religious factions. The Dissidents & Papists maintained warm quarrels], got tea, helped clear away the table, had the pleasure of seeing Aunt Hopkins, Becca, & Nancy, Miss Sally & Polly Pierce spent the evening at our house.

Thursday June 9th, 1796: Aunt & family departed for Watertown this morning, drew some patterns, worked on my shawl, studied a lesson in Guthrie we got partly through France it is bounded on the North. . . . Finished reading the Dangers of the world read in Coxes travels. [The Russians & other foreign nations fomented the quarrels that existed in Poland. . . .] Assisted mammy, went up to Miss Pierce's & borrowed the Robbers, read partly through it. it is an excellent tragedy. The character of Amelia is rather inconsistent in my opinion.

Friday June 9th, 1796: Finished the Robbers, the scene in which Charles de Moore discovers his father in a ruined tower is perfect in my opinion, Worked on my shawl, read in Coxes travels, Read partly thro the Truly wise man. Read in Goldsmiths Animated Nature.

Saturday June l0, 1796: Worked on my shawl, Read the English merchant, a very good comedy. Read in the World. Went down to the store. Helped get tea.

Sunday June 11th, 1796: It is quite cold and unpleasant to-day; attended meeting all day, Spent the evening at Miss Pierces.

Monday June 12th, 1796: Washed a little. Worked on my shawl. Went down to the store with the girls. Dressed the flower pots. We had company in the afternoon & evening, several gentlemen were at our house in the evening.

Tuesday June 13th, 1796: Wrote a letter, Read in Coxes travels; worked on my shawl, sewed all the evening.

Wednesday June 14th, 1796: Learned a grammer lesson. Read the story of the Highlander & partly thro Sophron & Tigranes. Went down in the lot & got wintergreen, got supper.

Thursday June 15th, 1796: Worked on my shawl. Studied a grammer lesson, parsed, Read in the World, knit, Read partly thro Macbeth one of Shakespears best tragedies.

Friday June 16th, 1796: Sewed. Went to school. Read in Cox. parsed. Went down to get wintergreen. Worked on my shawl. Went to strawberrying. Heard some very good music a flute & violin. It is a most beautiful evening, took a walk as far as the corner.

Saturday June 17th, 1796: Sewed. Parsed. Began to read the Recess, a very good novel. It is founded on the idea that Mary Queen of Scots was privately married to the Duke of Norfolk & had two daughters Ellinor & Matilda who are the heroines of the novel, they were educated in the Recess which was several rooms in an Abbey unknown but to three persons. Matilda was married to the Duke of Leicester who took shelter in the Recess from assassins. Took a walk. Read again in the Recess.

Sunday June 18th, 1796: Read again in the Recess. I have finished the first volume. Attended meeting all day, wasn't very much edified. Took a walk with Sally Tracy & Mr. Gould went almost to the mill, had a very agreeable one. Heard some very good music after I got home. Mr. Tod, Mr. Holmes & Miss Polly Collins besides several others spent the evening here, it is a very pleasant evening.

Monday June 19th, 1796: Helped about house, knit. Parsed. Read in Coxes travels, read in the Recess to Sally Tracy & mammy After school dressed me and went to Mrs Lords where I spent the afternoon & evening

Tuesday June 20th, 1796: Washed, Cleaned my chamber, finished my shawl, washed and ironed it . The colors don't fade. Helped get supper. Stewed some currants. Learn't one or two verses in a song, spent the evening at Captains Catlins.

Wednesday June 21st, 1796: Went to the Braces & helped clean the room to dance in, Which took almost all the forenoon Went down in the lot after bushes & fixed up the room Dressed & danced in the evening, had a pretty agreeable ball.

Thursday June 22nd, 1796: Parsed, Sewed. Went to strawberrying with Fanny Pierpont, found a good many.

Friday June 23rd, 1796: Put my closet to rights. Had an invitation to the ball, spent the rest of the day in fixing my things. Went to the ball, had a very agreeable one. Came home in the morning.

Saturday June 24th, 1796: Felt pretty dull, Read the second volume in the Recess, the language was pretty good, I like this volume better than the first, Tho I think it is not possible, that any person could suffer as many misfortunes as Ellinor & Matilda, I like the character of Ellinor better than that of Matilda. there is something very interesting in her character, I wanted to have it end happily. Went a strawberrying with Susan Bird.

Sunday June 25th, 1796: Read all the forenoon, Attended meeting in the afternoon, heard a very poor sermon. Read in the history of Spain, I think it a very good one, I do not know the name of the author. Picked a large basket of roseleaves.

Monday June 26th, 1796: Washed a little etc., Made a half handkerchief, took a walk up to Captain Stantons. Read in the history of Spain translated to the 15th page in Rousseau's Emelias. Drew a rose, Read in the history of Spain in the evening.

Tuesday 27th, 1796: Parsed. Sewed. Studied spelling. Spent the afternoon at Mrs. Demings. Walked up as far as Captain Catlins.

Wednesday June 28th, 1796: Fixed up my hat. knit. Drew a landscape. Parsed. Read in the world. Went after straw berries.

Thursday June 29th, 1796: Knit. Parsed. Studied spelling.

Friday July 1st, 1796: Sewed. Studied a parsing lesson. Parsed. Went twice down to Mr. Shetaters, to buy pendals. Had my ears bored, not a very agreeable operation, knit Read in Coxes travels. got tea, stewed some currants. Took a walk as far as Mrs Lords.

Saturday July 2nd, 1796: Read in the World. Sewed.

Sunday July 3rd, 1796: Attended meeting in the forenoon & read in the Recess & in the World in the afternoon Took a run up to Miss Pierces.

Monday July 4th, 1796: Felt doubtful about going to the ball. Went over to Mrs. Holmes of an errand. Studied a parsing lesson. Parsed. knit, concluded to go to the ball, fixed my things to go. Went down to the Store Dressed & went to the ball, had a very good one.

Tuesday July 5th, 1796: Felt rather sleepy, Knit, Washed out the bottom of my gown. Parsed. borrowed the Transition of a Moment. I like it pretty well, tho it is not equal to the Recess. read in it till about 10 o'clock.

Wednesday July 6th, 1796: Finished reading the "Transition of a Moment." Heard the news of Polly Buel's death, sewed at school. Parsed. Fixed my things to wear to the funeral. Dressed & went. There was quite a large concourse of people. felt rather tired.

Friday July 8th, 1796: Riped my gown which I am going to have altered. Picked some green peas. Parsed. Took a ride. a very agreeable one. Drank tea at Mrs Phelps on Chestnut Hill, got home at sun down,

Saturday July 9th, 1796: Read in the Citizen of the World, picked currants, sat the table for tea. Read in the Herald. Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand.

Sunday July 10th, 1796: Attended meeting all day. felt quite sorry to see all Mr Buel's people, racked & tortured, by a cruel sermon & prayer, were a great many people at meeting. Miss Naby Lewis came to our house after meeting.

Monday July 11th, 1796: Sewed. Read partly thro Romeo & Juliet. Read in Othello.

Tuesday July 12th, 1796: Took a walk in the garden, Wrote a scrumptious letter to Sally Tracy. Parsed. Wrote copy hand. read in Coxes travels.

Wednesday August 7th, 1796: Washed all the forenoon. Went down to the store, & over to Mr. Smiths, ironed out some calico, swept the school room, Picked currants & gooseberrys for tea.

Thursday August 8th, 1796: Ironed my gown, cleaned my chamber, Studied a parsing lesson. Partly learned the words to a song. Picked currants. Wrote copy hand. Parsed. Read in Coxes travels, Partly learned a tune.

Friday August 9th, 1796: Sewed. Parsed. Went over to Dr Smiths tried on my gown, stayed part of the afternoon, Read in Coxes travels, chose sides, Mrs Lord drank tea at our house, Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand.

Saturday August 16th, 1796: Went over to Dr. Smiths & tried on my gown Heard Miss Nabby read in Julia de Roubigne. Ironed about two hours. Went over to Dr. Smiths

Sunday August 17th, 1796: Attended meeting all day. Heard two excellent sermons preched by Rev. Mr. Hooker Read in the Female Spectator. Took a walk.

Monday August 18th, 1796: Washed a little. & helped about house Parsed. Read in Coxes travels. Got tea. Picked currants. Went over to Dr. Smiths. Spent the evening at Miss Pierces. Heard some very good music after I got home.

Tuesday August 19th, 1796: Went up to Miss Pierces of an errand Doubled some yarn, Studied grammar, Read in Coxes travels. I think this a better opportunity than commonly occurs, to find out the manners of a people,

Wednesday August 20th, 1796: Sewed. Read in the Mirror, The Story of La Roche is excellent. He makes an excellent prayer on the loss of his daughter. The description of his situation is beautiful. Read in Coxes travels. Studied grammar. Drew. Heard some very good music.

Thursday August 22nd, 1796: Read in the Mirror. Had a pair of gloves cut out, began to make them. Marked a pair of pillow bears. Read in Coxes travel Spent the afternoon very agreeably at Mrs. Tracys Walked down as far as Mr Ozias Lewis's & back again.

Friday August 23rd, 1796: Sewed on my gloves, Studied grammar. We had company at our house this afternoon, Spent the evening at Miss Pierces.

Saturday August 24th, 1796: Read in Knox's essays, I like them very well. Sewed on my gloves, worked the back of another pair.