Sunday, May 30, 2021
Friday, May 28, 2021
Jane Colden (1724-1766) was described as the "first botanist of her sex in her country" by 19C botanist Asa Gray (1810-1888) in 1843. Although seldom mentioned in early botanical publications, she wrote a number of letters resulting in botanist British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) writing to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) of her work applying the Linnaean system of plant identification to American flora, "she deserves to be celebrated." Contemporary scholarship also maintains that she was the first female botanist working in America. She was regarded as a respected botanist by many prominent botanists such as: John Bartram, Peter Collinson, Alexander Garden, & Carl Linnaeus. Colden is most famous for her manuscript without a title, in which she describes the flora of the New York area, & draws ink drawings of 340 different species of them.
Colden was born in New York City, the 5th child of Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776), who was a physician who trained at the University of Edinburgh and became involved in the politics & management of New York after arriving in the city from Scotland in 1718, & his wife Alice Christy Colden, the daughter of a clergyman, brought up in Scotland in an intellectual atmosphere. Daughter Jane Colden was educated at home; & her father provided her with botanical training following the new classification system developed by Carl Linnaeus. His scientific curiosity included a personal correspondence between 1749-1751 with Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778).
Her father thought women should study botany because of "their natural curiosity & the pleasure they take in the beauty & variety of dress seems to fit them for it." It was true that floral illustrations filled British American colonial homes on English textiles and soft paste & porcelain tableware ordered by the gentry through their factors or sent in the holds of English ships to be sold in local shops.
Moreover, he viewed such study as an ideal substitute for idleness among his female children, when he moved his family to the country in 1729. He believed gardening & botany "an Amusement which may be made agreable for the Ladies who are often at a loss to fill their time." He went so far as to recommend that perhaps from Jane's example "young ladies in a like situation may find an agreable way to fill up some part Of their time which otherwise might be heavy on their hand May amuse & please themselves & at the same time be usefull to others."
1748-52 John Wollaston (American colonial era painter, 1710-1775) Cadwallader Colden
The family's move to a 3,000-acre estate in Orange County stimulated the botanical interests of both Cadwallader & Jane Colden. Cadwalleder Colden had been the first to apply the system of botanical classification developed by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (Linnaean Taxonomy) to an American plant collection & he translated the text of Linnaeus’ books into English.
A letter of 1755 from Colden to Dutch botanist Jan Gronovius (1666-1762) her father explained. "I have a daughter who has an inclination to reading and a curiosity for natural philosophy or natural History and a sufficient capacity for attaining a competent knowledge. I took the pains to explain to her Linnaeus' system and to put it in English for her to use by freeing it from the Technical Terms which was easily done by using two or three words in place of one. She is now grown very fond of the study and has made such progress in it as I believe would please you if you saw her performance. Tho' perhaps she could not have been persuaded to learn the terms at first she now understands to some degree Linnaeus' characters notwithstanding that she does not understand Latin."
Jane Colden far surpassed her father's idleness theory. She was the 1st scientist to describe the gardenia. She read the works of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) in translation, and she mastered the Linnaean system of plant classification perfectly. She cataloged, described, & sketched at least 400 plants. She actively collected seeds & specimens of New World flora & exchanged them with others on both sides of the Atlantic.
Due to the lack of schools & gardens around the area, her father wrote to Peter Collinson, where he inquired about getting sent "the best cuts or pictures of [plants] for which purpose I would buy for her Tourneforts Institutes & Morison’s Historia plantarum, or if you know any better books for this purpose as you are a better judge than I am I will be obliged to you in making the choice" in order for Jane to continue her studies of botanical sciences.
In addition to obtaining books & illustration samples for his daughter, Cadwallader also surrounded her with like-minded scientists, including Peter Kalm & William Bartram. In 1754, a notable gathering with South Carolina scientist Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791) & William Bartram sparked Jane's interests even more & allowed the fruition of the collaboration & friendship between Jane & Garden to flourish. Garden, an active collector of his local flora, later corresponded with Jane, exchanged seeds & plants with her, & instructed her in the preservation of butterflies. Garden wrote in a letter to British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) in 1755, that Jane Colden “is greatly master of the Linnaean method, and cultivates it with assiduity.”
Of his daughter, Cadwallader wrote in a 1755 letter to Dr. John Frederic Gronovius, a colleague of Linneaus, that she possessed "a natural inclination to reading & a natural curiosity for natural philosophy & natural history." He wrote that Jane was already writing descriptions of plants using Linnaeus' classification & taking impressions of leaves using a press. In this letter, Cadwallader sought to earn her a position with Dr. Gronovius sending seeds or samples.
Between 1753 & 1758 Colden cataloged New York's flora, compiling specimens & information on more than 400 species of plants from the lower Hudson River Valley, & classifying them according to the system developed by Linnaeus. She developed a technique for making ink impressions of leaves, & was also a skilled illustrator, doing ink drawings of 340. For many drawings she wrote additional botanical details as well as culinary, folklore or medicinal uses for the plant, including information from indigenous people.
On January 20, 1756, Peter Collinson (1694-1768) wrote to John Bartram that "Our friend Colden's daughter has, in a scientific manner, sent over several sheets of plants, very curiously anatomized after this [Linnaeus's] method. I believe she is the first lady that has attempted anything of this nature."
Colden participated in the Natural History Circle where she exchanged seeds & plants with other plant collectors in the American colonies & in Europe. These exchanges within the Natural History Circle encouraged Jane to become a botanist.
Through her father she met & corresponded with many leading naturalists of the time, including Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). Carolus Linnaeus knew of Jane's work. He corresponded directly with her father; and in a 1758, letter to British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) tells Linnaeus that he will let Jane know "what civil things you say of her." One of her descriptions of a new plant, which she herself called Fibraurea, was forwarded to Linnaeus with the suggestion that he should call it Coldenella, but Linnaeus declined calling it Helleborus (now Coptis groenlandica). Collinson reported to Carolus Linnaeus, "Your system, I can tell you obtains much in America. Mr. Clayton and Dr. Colden at Albany of Hudson's River in New York are complete Professors....Even Dr. Colden's daughter was an enthusiast." He later wrote to Linnaeus, that Jane Colden “is perhaps the first lady that has so perfectly studied your system. She deserves to be celebrated.”
In 1756 Colden discovered the Gardenia & proposed a name after the prominent botanist Garden. In her manuscript she wrote that this plant was without an Order under the Linnaean system. In her description Colden wrote, " The three chives only in each bundle, & the three oval-shap'd bodies on the seat of the flower, together with the seat to which the seeds adhere, distinguish this plant from the hypericums; & I think, not only make it a different genus, but likewise makes an order which Linnaeus has not." However, the name was not allowed because an English botanist named John Ellis had already named the Cape jasmine as Gardenia jasminoides, & was entitled to its use because of the conventions of botanical nomenclature.
1963 Reprint of the British Museum copy of Jane Colden's manuscript
Colden's manuscript, in which she had ink drawings of leaves & descriptions of the plants, was never named. Colden's original manuscript describing the flora of New York has been held in the British Museum since the mid-1800s. Her manuscript drawing consisted only of leaves & these drawings were only ink outlines colored in with neutral tint. Her descriptions were "excellent-full , careful, & evidently taken from living specimens." Colden's descriptions include morphological details of flower, fruit, & plant structure, as well as ways on how to use certain plants for medicinal or culinary purposes. Some of the descriptions include the month of flowering & the habitat where they are found. Latin & common names for the plants are given.
In her section "Observat" (now known as observations) she pointing out to Linnaeus that "there are some plants of Clematis that bear only male flowers, this I have observed with such care that there can be no doubt about it." She spent long hours doing observations, which were consistent, accurate & replicable.
Colden married Scottish widower Dr. William Farquhar on March 12, 1759. She died in childbirth only 7 years later at the age of 41, along with the newborn. There is no evidence that she continued her botanical work after her marriage.
Her work on plant classification was noted in a Scottish scientific journal in 1770, 4 years after her death. Americans did not become aware of Colden's manuscript until 75 years later, when Almira Lincoln stated that another female botanist before her was the first American lady to illustrate the science of botany. In spite of all of Colden's accomplishments, she was never formally recognized during her lifetime by having a plant named after her. The genus Coldenia is named after her father.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Only one of these sixty-eight decedents, Jeremiah Greenhan of Richmond, Virginia, who died January 1, 1753, did not own equipment relating to hot beverages.
A few show possession of miscellaneous items suggesting that the service of these new drinks was either unlikely or hardly expressive of a set social ritual.
The inventory of John Glasscock of Richmond listed "I Coffy Pot" at 5 shillings in July 1756.
In the same year John Spann Webb owned "Dozn silver Teaspoons" valued at 20 shillings. Nearly every other decedent owned significant equipment for tea, as well as some for coffee & chocolate. Ed's notes: When John Spann Webb was born on 9 October 1705, in Richmond, Virginia, United States, his father, Giles Webb, was 28 and his mother, Elizabeth Spann, was 32. He married Sarah Alderson about 1740. They were the parents of at least 1 son. He died on 3 May 1756, at the age of 50.
The inventory of Hugh West, entered in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1755, was valued in two parts. Personal property or household furnishings, slaves, an indentured servant, & livestock at the home plantation totaled ￡399 17s.7d. Property at the slaves' quarters came to ￡299 8s, 6d for a total value of ￡699 8s.6d. Hot beverage items were scattered through the list for the home plantation only.
Ed's notes: When Hugh West was born on 18 March 1705, in Stafford, Virginia, British Colonial America, his father, John West, was 35 and his mother, Ann Harris, was 41. He married Sybil Harrison on 29 December 1725, in Fairfax, Virginia, British Colonial America. They were the parents of at least 4 sons and 1 daughter. He died on 9 February 1754, in Fairfax, Virginia, British Colonial America, at the age of 48, and was buried in Pohick Episcopal Church Cemetery, Lorton, Fairfax, Virginia, United States.
The values immediately following the items are subtotals, which are added with other items to yield the total given at the far right. West's hot beverage service amounted to a tiny fraction of his total estate, ￡ 3 8s or less than half of I percent. Fourteen slaves & a servant woman accounted for ￡355 Ios. Among the furniture, a slock appraised at ￡9 was the single most valuable item. West not own much plate, only silver table spoons" valued at ￡8 in addition to the teaspoons & tongs. Beds, because of the labor-intensive textiles that furnished them, were assigned high values ranging from ￡2 to ￡2. In contrast "2 Negro's beds & Furniture" were a mere 10 shillings. Entries of a Bible at 5 shillings & old Baskets" & "I Frying pan" both at I shilling 6 pence illuminate the relatively small amounts of cash required to purchase hot beverage equipment.
Of note, teakettles of the sort referred to in the West inventory were rather plain flat-bottomed vessels, usually made of copper with hinged handles suspended from above the spout to the opposite side. They could be placed directly on a hearth right. West's hot beverage service amounted to a tiny fraction of his total estate, ￡3 8s or less than half of 1 percents Fourteen slaves & a servant woman accounted for ￡355 10s. Among the furniture, a clock appraised at ￡9 was die single most valuable item. West did not own much plate, only "11 silver table spoons" valued at ￡8 in addition to the teaspoons & tongs. Beds, because of die labor-intensive textiles that furnished them, were assigned high values ranging from ￡2 to ￡6. In contrast Negros beds & Furniture" were a mere 10 shillings. Entries of a Bible at 5 shillings & "2 old Baskets" & "I Frying pan" both at 1 shilling 6 pence illuminate the relatively small amounts of cash required to purchase hot beverage equipment.
Of note, teakettles of the sort referred to in the West inventory were rather plain flat-bottomed vessels, usually made of copper with hinged handles suspended from above the spout to the opposite side. They could be placed directly on a hearth or grate or hung over an open fire. It is likely that a servant or slave would have performed the controlled pouring required to direct the boiling water into the teapot either in the kitchen or at the tea table. The hostess then poured the tea from the teapot into cups & offered it along with sugar & milk or cream to her family or guests. Any tea or leaves remaining in the cups were poured into a slop dish before more tea was served. West's ownership of four teapots is fairly typical. Very few decedents owned just one. The only essential item missing is a jug for milk or cream.
Appraisers seem automatically to have separated tea & dinner services, as the two almost never appear listed together in inventories. They were used for different events, & the equipment for each seems rarely to have matched. Tea items made of silver may be grouped with all other silver Items, ranging from shoe buckles to soup tureens, & sometimes the objects themselves are not identified with only the total weight of the silver & its value cited. Although West s appraisers did not identify the rooms where they found his personal property, other documents from the late 1750s on are more likely to associate tea wares with dining rooms & parlors than with private chambers. Kettles often show up in kitchens or with other cooking equipment.
The Maryland lawyer Daniel Dulaney (1685-1753) became one of that colony's wealthiest officials & largest landowners. Ed's notes: Daniel Dulany, (born 1685, County Queens, Ireland—died Dec. 5, 1753, Annapolis, Md. [U.S.]), Irish-American colonial lawyer, landowner, and public official. Dulany went to Maryland in 1703, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1709. He soon became prominent and wealthy from his legal practice. A year after Dulany moved to Annapolis, he was elected to represent the town in the Maryland Assembly. At first, Dulany became a leader of the legislative faction that opposed proprietorial authority in the colony, and he argued that the citizens of Maryland were entitled to the benefits of all English legal statutes. During the next decade, however, Dulany crossed over to support the proprietorial faction and was rewarded with successively higher offices in the colony. In 1742 he became a member of the Governor’s Council, where he took a leading role in securing the passage in 1747 of a tobacco inspection law that considerably enhanced the quality of the colony’s tobacco crop. His son Daniel Dulany the Younger (1722–97) was a well-known contributor to the pre-Revolutionary pamphlet wars.
At his death he left personal property worth ￡10,921 9s.8d, including 187 slaves, substantial loans, & about ten thousand acres of land in five counties. Personal property in his Annapolis mansion was valued at ￡3,062 2s.1o-1/4d & included 2,594 ounces of silver with a total value of ￡415 His hot beverage service-iternized in the rooms where it was kept & used—was impressive, elegant, & in a few instances unusual. Spoon boats or saucers or rests for spoons do not often appear in American inventories. References to table linens associated with tea are even less common. Dulaney's Tea Table Cloths" are unprecedented, especially since they are accompanied with an additional five old & four very small cloths & thirty tea napkins. In addition there was a cover for the "Japan'd Tea table."
Because the silver items are assigned a collective value. a total for the hot beverage service is not possible. Appraised values for items other than silver amount to ￡23 18s.rd They range from "2 Stone Tea Pots 1 Ditto Milk Pot" at 1 shilling to Japan'd Tea table & Covering for Ditto" at 15 shillings. For comparison, "Mouse Traps & 5 Ratt Ditto" came to 4 shillings 6 pence & two "Ivory fans carved 6c painted" were worth ￡3 7s.6d. Furniture had greater value, an "Eight Day Clocks at ￡10, "Twelve Silk damask bottoms Mah^ajany Chairs with Linnen Covers" at ￡18, & "Three Dotto [pictures] by Wollaston" at ￡28 7s.
Among Dulaney's silver tea wares was "I Tea Kettle Lamp. And Stand, Two other decedents in this group of sixty-eight owned less-valuable examples of this form, These kettles were not kitchen equipment (fig. 6.3). During the serving of tea, water kept hot with a spirit lamp positioned underneath the belly of the kettle, wag poured into the teapot to brew more tea. The stands were usually low, intended to rest on the tea table itself or on a small stand or table just big enough for the kettle.
Among these decedents Henry Fitzhugh (Stafford County, Virginia, 1742) was the second owner of a "tea kettle & lamp." His was brass valued at sixteen shillings. Ed's Notes: Henry Fitzhugh (1706-1742) was an American planter & soldier who served 2 terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses representing then-vast Stafford County & was an unsuccessful candidate for Speaker. The only son of William Fitzhugh of "Eagles' Nest" was born in what was then Stafford County (but became King George County, Virginia) & a member of the First Families of Virginia. His grandfather, William Fitzhugh had acquired large estates in Virginia, operated them using enslaved labor & divided them among his 5 sons. Young Henry was sent to England to be educated at Christ Church, Oxford University. After returning to the Virginia colony, this Henry Fitzhugh married Lucy Carter, daughter of "King Carter" of Corotoman plantation & the largest landowner in Virginia of his day. Like other members of his family, Henry Fitzhugh operated large plantations acquired by his father & by using enslaved labor. Stafford County voters elected him as one of their representatives in the House of Burgesses in 1736, & he won re-election in 1742. Henry Fitzhugh had served as lieutenant colonel of the Stafford County militia.
No American paintings depict a tea kettle of this type. In British scenes of tea drinking, servants attend them, possibly because the open spirit lamps & hinged handles were potentially dangerous. Safer were the hot water urns that appear later in the eighteenth century. Instead of an open lamp, a solid metal cote that had been heated in the open fire was placed inside the container to keep the water hot. It flowed from a spout into the teapot (figs. 6.4,6.5).
Food of any sort is uncommon in probate documents. Tea & sugar, nonetheless, appear in Dulaney's inventory. It mentions three types of tea - hyson (a Chinese green tea made from twisted leaves that are long & thin), bohea (a Chinese black tea that derives its name from the Wuyi mountains in Fujian Province), & congo (or congou, a finer type of Chinese black tea, the name of which is derived from kong-hu, meaning "well-worked" or "pains taken"), along with several grades of sugar. Other miscellaneous items from this group of inventories include a "Glass Tea canister" (fessie Ball, 1747) & "6 small Silver hafted Tea Knives." Most tea wares were ceramic, not glass. Tea knives are very rare, & those with solid silver handles would have been expensive.
If roughly 5% of the richest decedents in the Chesapeake owned impressive equipment for serving tea & other hot beverages between 1741 & 1760, what can be learned about its distribution among the rest of the population?
Anecdotal evidence suggests interest in tea equipment & tea drinking was spreading throughout the social order. In 1744 Dr. Alexander Hamilton of Annapolis headed north on a pleasure trip hoping to improve his health. Ed's Notes - Dr. Alexander Hamilton (1712-1756) was a Scottish-born doctor & writer who lived & worked in Annapolis in 18C colonial Maryland. Historian Leo Lemay says his 1744 travel diary Gentleman's Progress: The Itinerarium of Dr. Alexander Hamilton is "the best single portrait of men & manners, of rural & urban life, of the wide range of society & scenery in colonial America." His diary covered Maryland to Maine; & biographer Elaine Breslaw says he encountered: "the relatively primitive social milieu of the New World. He faced unfamiliar & challenging social institutions: the labor system that relied on black slaves, extraordinarily fluid social statuses, distasteful business methods, unpleasant conversational quirks, as well as variant habits of dress, food, & drink."
From New York, he & Mr. Milne, formerly a churchman in Albany, traveled up the Hudson River. When their sloop tied up on the west bank to collect water, the men entered a small log cottage that was home to a husband, wife, & seven children, While the parents were otherwise occupied & the children gathered blackberries, the visitors rather ungraciously passed judgment on the family's furnishings, Mr. Milne thought a pail with water would make a satisfactory substitute for the looking glass with its painted frame & that wooden spoons & plates should replace the worn out but bright pewter. The stone tea dishes & teapot were "quite unnecessary."
Clearly, however, the family had other ideas about the role of tea equipage in their lives, & they were not alone. Throughout the colonies Americans were buying teapots, cups & saucers, & other items. Those made of silver, hard-paste porcelain from China, or soft-paste porcelain from England were expensive, but similar items, made of lead, or tin-glazed earthenware or stoneware, were available at low prices,
As the century progressed, innovations in ceramic production further expanded the range of available wares in terms of price & appearance. Poorer customers with only small amounts of cash or limited credit could, therefore, participate in this new consumer revolution. Hot beverages represent only a small fraction of the consumer goods that began to make the lives of people in Europe & America more pleasant, comfortable, & aesthetically pleasing.
A major transformation in both demand & production was well underway by the middle of the eighteenth century. The list of industrial inventions exploded. Nearly every category of household furnishing was affected - textiles, metal cooking wares, table knives & forks, other dining equipage, looking glasses, prints & paintings, & so forth. Previously only the wealthy were entitled to display fancy clothes & indulge in luxuries. Gradually, however, ordinary people assumed the right to spend a little money & express personal taste. As they bought new equipment & learned to use it, they abandoned traditional folk ways & became early consumers.
Modern historians estimate that by the time of the Revolution about two-thirds of white adults could have had tea every day. Some years earlier in 1759, Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale, traveled to Cape Cod where he counted 1,940 families of whom 1,500, or 77 percent drank tea There is also limited evidence of interest in tea drinking among African Americans & Native Americans. A few African American & Native American potters were sufficiently familiar with tea wares to have copied European shapes in ordinary earthenware. In 1761 Stiles sketched the location of a tea table that he observed in the Niantic, Connecticut, wigwam of the Native American sisters Phebe & Elizabeth Moheege (fig. 6.8). Their dwelling was also furnished with a shelf with plates, two chests, a second table, a dresser, & six chairs. There were mats for beds. There also exists evidence of African American tea use & tea ware manufacture. When Jullian Ursyn Niemcewicz from Poland visited Mount Vernon in 1797, he wrote:
We entered one of the huts of the blacks, for one can not call them by the name of houses. They are more miserable than the most miserable of the cottages of our peasants. The husband & wife sleep on a mean pallet, the children on the ground; a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking, but in the middle of this poverty some cups & a teapot.
Probate Evidence from the Chesapeake & from Pennsylvania, 1774
Two other groups of inventories, all taken in 1774, help to refine these views & suggest a more limited pattern of ownership of hot leverage service items. These samples are statistically accurate & range from poorest to the richest decedents in two geographic location, several counties in Maryland & Virginia & three areas in Pennsylvania.
The 143 inventories from Anne Arundel & Queen Anne Counties in Maryland & eight counties in Virginia serve as a counterbalance to the group of documents that focus on wealthier decedents in the Chesapeake from 1741 to 1760. Hot beverage items appear in just over half of the inventories (74). Fourteen decedents owned equipment for serving both tea & coffee, three for both tea & chocolate. Only two mentioned coffee without tea. The dividing point falls at the estate value of about ￡500, but the poorer people were not ignoring all the new refinements associated with the emerging desire for & acquisition of consumer goods.
The three areas of Pennsylvania represented include two rural counties & Philadelphia. In Northampton County to the north along the Delaware River nearly everyone farmed & no one was wealthy. Of twenty-one decedents, there was one widow, one laborer-weaver, & one farmer-cooper. In Westmoreland County, well toward the west along the border with Maryland, the 8 decedents were a mix of yeomen, farmers, & a single weaver. Eight of the total twenty-nine documents contain some mention of coffee or tea, but none attests social consumption. For instance, T. Jamison of Westmoreland owned a single "coffey mill" & S. Wilson "a tea pot" valued at 3 shillings 5 pence. In Northhampton the widow Frederick's estate included "1 coffee mill" at 4 shillings 6 pence & a "tea pot."
In Philadelphia County the 134 decedents were mainly artisans & merchants with a few farmers. Not surprisingly, equipment for the service of hot beverages was more wide-spread & differed according to wealth groups. The useful breaking point is again ￡500, Above that, nearly all decedents owned some object associated with tea, coffee, or chocolate.
The 3 areas of Pennsylvania represented include two rural counties & Philadelphia. In Northampton County to the north along the Delaware River nearly everyone fanned & no one was wealthy. Of twenty-one decedents, there was one widow, one laborer-weaver, & one farmer-cooper. In Westmoreland County, well toward the west along the border with Maryland, the eight decedents were a mix of yeomen, farmers, & a single weaver. Eight of the total 29 documents contain some mention of coffee or tea, but none suggests social consumption. For instance, T. Jamison of Westmoreland owned a single "coffey mill" & S. Wilson "a tea pot" valued at 3 shillings 5 pence. In Northampton the widow Frederick's estate included "1 coffee mill" at 4 shillings 6 pence & a "tea pot."
In Philadelphia County the 134 decedents were mainly artisans & merchants with a few farmers. Not surprising, equipment for the service of hot beverages was more widespread & differed according to wealth groups. The useful breaking point is again ￡500. Above that, nearly all decedents owned some object associated with tea, coffee, or chocolate.
Below that amount, roughly half were so equipped. It is reasonable to read these numbers as confirmation of Devereaux Jarratt's experience & even of Ezra Stileses somewhat higher numbers for tea drinkers on Cape Cod. While Pennsylvania, especially during the 1750s & early 17608, was sometimes called the best poor man's country, by the 1770s it is likely that between one-fourth & one-third of its free population lived precariously. Poorer people struggled to meet basic expenses for food, shelter, & clothing. Even the modest price of a kettle, teapot, & a few cups exceeded their budgets.
Eighty-two the 134 Philadelphia County inventories list some hot beverage - 78 for tea, 48 for coffee, & 5 for chocolate. The overlap is significant. Only two inventories mention chocolate without tea or coffee, & another two note coffee without tea. The seventy-eight tea takers (58 %) were far from uniform in what they owned. Three quarters listed teakettles (60 of 78) & crockery of some sort (59 of 78), often specified as Chine, blue & white, Queensware, Burnt, stoneware, earthenware, tea cups & saucers, or tea ware. Teapots, sugar bowls, milk or cream jugs, & slop basins may have on occasion been lumped with the ceramics, but they also appear separately. Teapots are mentioned in only twenty-eight inventories. Two were specified as silver & came with stands, In addition, there were three tea urns. Cream jugs appear in seventeen inventories & ten of them were of silver. Sugar bowls (8) & slop basins (2) were less likely to be identified. Nearly half the decedents owned tea tables (39 of 78) & teaspoons (37 of 78). About a quarter owned sugar tongs (22 of 78). More than half the spoons (20 of 37) & the tongs (12 of 22) were of silver. Canisters or chests (29) appear in more than a quarter. Trays, often itemized as "waiters" or "salvers," show up less frequently (16 of 78). There were very few stands (8 of 78). The blizzard of objects, materials, & prices reveals buyers taking advantage of the wide range of similar goods available in shops. Even so, while many took tea, few had the equipment to impress their guests with a complete service for a large company.
Tea drinkers also drank coffee. By about 1750 European growers had secured fertile seeds from "yemenite traders & were growing coffee in the mountains of the South American coast & the Caribbean islands. The relative importance of the tea & coffee trades & the preference for the beverages during these decades is, however, obscure. Only two of the inventories of 1774 mention coffee or its equipment without any reference to tea. Both are mentioned in 46 inventories. Two documents simply refer to coffee or a "coffee can." Two others specify coffee cups. More frequent in their appearance are mills for grinding (24) & pots (26). Materials are rarely specified. Four coffee pots were made of copper & 2 of silver. Roasters were scarce, appearing in only 3 estates, but beans might have been either purchased roasted & ground or roasted at home in a sauce or frying pan.
Five inventories list chocolate. Two of the decedents were shopkeepers who sold the commodity but did not own any equipment for its preparation. Three men, a merchant, an innkeeper, & an apothecary owned chocolate pots. The merchants & apothecary's estates were valued at well over ￡500 the innkeeper at lets than ￡100. All three also owned equipment related to both tea & coffee.
Tea's dominance over coffee & especially chocolate seems to have persisted into the very early 19C. This is of note because it is a commonly held belief that today s preference for coffee over tea in the United States stemmed directly from the role of tea in the Revolution. The affluent Samels family, for example, chose to be painted at a tilt-top tea table. Similarly, portraits of Mrs. Reuben Humphreys (ca. 18oo) & Mrs. Calmes (1806) feature elegant tea ware prominently.
There no way to tell conclusively what: beverage the young African American serving girl is offering to those in John Lewis Krimmel's painting of a quilting party, By the second decade of the 19C, coffee had begun to dominate the hot beverage market in the United States. Just as the opportunity to trade at Canton after 1713 led to the preference for tea in Britain & her colonies, when the interests of American merchants expanded into the coffee trade of the Caribbean islands & South America, the buying & drinking public eventually began to follow. By 1827 African American butler Robert Roberts was instructing young servants to fill their trays with "one cup of tea between every two of coffee, as they [the guests] generally take more coffee than tea at the first round." The switch was assured by the 1840s when American merchants came to control the international buyings roasting, grinding, packaging & selling of coffee to an international market. This did not, however, indicate the demise of tea.
As the evidence suggests, while tea, tea wares, & social tea drinking were important in the eighteenth century, they were not universal. Wealthy urban families in Europe & America initially began to serve tea on social occasions. They bought significant quantities of equipment & used it according to precise rules of conduct & performance. About 1750, however, people with less money began to express their social ambitions & took advantage of the wares that producers were supplying in many materials & designs & at a wide range of price levels. Even so, many poor families (generally those with estates valued below 500) chose not to indulge in the luxury of hot tea.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
After her 1st husband's death, Hannah married planter William Williams between 1692-4. Her 1,000-acre plantation was at Stony Point on the Ashley River. As the widow Hannah English, she was awarded a warrant of 500 acres near Stony Poynt in November 1692. In May 1695, as Mrs. Hannah English alias Williams, she was granted another warrant for 500 acres on land on the north side of Ashley River called Stony Poynt. This 1000 acres of land was a wealthy source of undiscovered wildlife. This land would have provided her with unlimited opportunities for finding native plants, butterflies, vipers, snakes, lizards, birds, insects, shells & plants.
As early as 1701, she began a regular correspondence with James Petiver, a London apothecary and Fellow of the Royal Society. Williams & Petiver corresponded from 1701 to 1713, & he listed those items he wished her to procure when she joined his network of collectors. Petiver encouraged her interest in natural history, declaring Williams the “discoverer” of unique butterflies & describing her as “my generous benefactress.” He instructed Williams how to preserve specimens for shipping, with “each stuck on a pin or in a little viall drowned in Rum or Brandy.” Petiver described Williams’s contributions in his published serial booklets entitled Musei Petiveriani Centuria Prima Rariora Naturae.A February 6, 1704, letter from Williams to Petiver accompanied a shipment of “Some of Our Vipers & Severall Sorts of Snakes Scorpions & Lizzards” in addition to shells, a bee nest, & a “few Other Insex.” She promised to send “some Mockin birds & Red birds” in the spring because, “If I should send you any Now the Could would Kill them.” She also enclosed a “Westo Kings Tobacco pipe & a Queens Petticoat made off Moss” & asked for newspapers & “medisons.”
Williams’s son met Petiver in England to discuss collections his mother had been gathering, until she heard false reports of Petiver’s death. Petiver expressed his respect for Williams by naming some butterfly species for her. In 1767, Petiver’s Gazophylacium Naturae et Artis included illustrations of Williams’s orange girdled Carolina butterfly (also called the viceroy, which mimics monarch butterflies), Williams’s yellow tipt Carolina butterfly (popularly called dog’s head), & Williams’s selvedge-eyed Carolina butterfly (known as creole pearly eye).
Records indicate that Williams was buried on December 16, 1722, in St. Philip’s Churchyard, Charleston.
“An Account of Animals and Shells Sent from Carolina to Mr. James Petiver, F.R.S.” Philosophical Transactions [of the Royal Society of London] 24 (1704–1705): 1952–60.
Stearns, Raymond P. Science in the British Colonies of America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
In 1772, George Washington purchased a house from Michael Robinson in Fredericksburg, Virginia for his mother. Mary Ball Washington spent her last 17 years in this home. The white frame house sits on the corner of Charles & Lewis Streets & was in walking distance to Kenmore, home of Mary's daughter Betty Fielding Lewis.
The house is just a short drive from Ferry Farm on the Banks if the Rappahannock River, where Mary Washington raised her son who would become the 1st President of The United States of America. The Rappahannock River in eastern Virginia is the country's longest free-flowing river in the eastern United States, running for approximately 185 miles, from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west to the Chesapeake by south of the Potomac. The Rappahannock was long a gathering place & an area of occupation for very early indigenous peoples. During the British American colonial era, early settlements in the Virginia Colony were formed along the river.
Amherst College history professor Martha Saxton writes in The Widow Washington, that after she was widowed, she didn’t have the money to send George to school in England, as was common for well-to-do Virginia families at the time. She needed him & his siblings to help run Ferry Farm.
Mary Ball was born c 1708 or 1709, in Lancaster County, Virginia. Her father died when she was 3, & her mother remarried & had more kids. After her step-father died just a few years later, Mary grew up in a matriarchal household. She watched as her mother exercised authority & independence. When Mary was 12, her mother died, & she moved in with her half-sister.
Mary was 22, when she married Augustine Washington, a 36-year-old widower. They had George in 1732. Over the next 10 years they would have 5 more children (one died shortly after childbirth). Augustine died in 1743, when George was 11 years old, leaving Mary to raise their 5 children & run Ferry Farm.
George began to work away from Ferry Farm, his home base, in the late 1740s-1752, to become a land surveyor & then to join the Virginia militia. During the Revolutionary war, George & his mother went 5 years without seeing each other. In 1782, she wrote a letter to George describing how difficult the war experience was for her. “I was truly uneasy,” she wrote. George visited her on the way to his presidential inauguration in 1789, the last time he would see her. By then she was living in a house in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she gardened & read. She died in August of that year, at age 81.
See: Ferry Farm on Lives & Legacies Blog
See: The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019).
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Etching and engraving
The inscription below the title with 69 lines of verse in 3 columns tells the tale...
"How see we Scandal (for our Sex too base)
Seat its dread Empire in the Female Race,
'Mong Beaus & Women, Fans & Mechlin Lace.
Chief Seat of Slander! Ever there we see,
Thick Scandal circulate with right Bohea.
There Source of blakning Falshoods Mint of Lies
Each Dame th' Improvment of her Talent tries,
And at each Sip a Lady's Honour Dies
Truth rare as Silence; or a Negro Swan,
Appears among those Daughters of the Fan.
Coumnta has the Chair, and deals the Tea,
In Scandal none more eloquent than she.
Great President! how just Precedence claim,
Thy great Demerits, and thy greater Fame!
In Female War the Dame's profoundly Skill'd;
Her Tongue [The Magazine of Lies] is Steel'd
With Rancour; & her Eyes, tho' form'd for none
But the Destruction of our Sex alone,
Can at Superior Worth take artfull Aim,
And blast the Growth of Virtuous Cffilia's Fame,
Destructive Malice Triumphs in her Smiles,
Stabs home as Death and Sure as Would kills
Livia—for Sly Invention next to none,
By blaming other's Fictions rents her own:
By feigning to oppose she forms a Lie,
And hides her Malice in Hypocrisy.
Late at a Ball, where Livia constant is,
Her Charms Successfull, young Amanda tries;
Fairer than Blossoms of the Month of May,
Less fresh the Rose, nor Phillis self so Gay.
Steps so engaging, moves with Such a Grace;
Such cheerfull Sweetness Smiling in her Face,
With Wonder & Delight she fills the Plaee.
Each Youth with warm Desire, devours her Charms,
And thinks her clasp'd already in his Arms,
Each Eye with Greediness the Fair Surveys,
Nor ought is heard but in Amanda's Praise.
This Livia saw, and heard with Envy Straight,
She, turning speaks her well disembl'd Spite,
Yes (Livia cries) the Damsel Dances well,
Her Mein is gracefull, and her Air Genteel:
And is (I dare say) Chast; tho' comon Fame
(Which seldom utters Truth delights in Blame)
Censures her Intimacy with my Lord
Yon vicious powder'd Beau, with Ribbond Sword
Enough, she gains her Point; thro' all the Throng
The Scandal Spreads, improves on ev'ry Tongue,
Who is the charming Fair, if any ask,
'Tis answer'd Straight, a Sister of the Mask.
Such are the Rest, and thus the Dames agree
To load each absent Fair with Lifamy.
Each Virtuous She, that dares these Belles outshine
Falls a Sure Victim to their Goddess Spleen.
Nor Hope, Thomasia, Justice from the Fair
One Word in Virtue's Praise, is Treason there,
'Tis so like Truth; nor blame, dear injur'd Maid,
Of Spite or Calumny, the needfull Trade.
The ninth Comand [were Moses Law in force]
Would Stop their Breaths, or Murder their Discourse,
Wits' Stocks would fall, Spoil many a pretty Tale,
And hated Dumbness on the Sex entail,
And wer't not pity Maura should be mute?
Or Amia's pretty prating Mouth be shut?
What nothing but the Truth? What then's become
Of Gratia? she must Lie or else be Dumb.
Be Dumb! she'll ne'er consent, she'll sooner Die,
Or wear her Painted Callicoe awry,
Than with that ninth Old-Fashiond Law comply,
And loose her dear lov'd Volubility."
Friday, May 21, 2021
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Although George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States of America on April 30, 1789; it wasn't until 1790, that arrangements were being finalized for a residence for the First Family (certainly not called the "first family" in those days, sorry) in Philadelphia. In 1790, Washington finally was able to begin making plans to move Martha and her 2 nearly teenage grandchildren up from Virginia to live in the house of Robert Morris in Philadelphia.
Her grandchildren's father was Martha's deceased son John Parke Custis (1755-1781). Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis (1779-1852) was about 12, when she arrived in Philadelphia; and her little brother George Washington "Washy, Wash, or Tub" Parke Custis (1781-1856) was 2 years younger. Both children remained at Mount Vernon, after their widowed mother remarried. Their grandmother Martha Dandridge Custis Washington also had been widowed by the death of her 1st husband Daniel Parke Custis only 7 years after their 1750 marriage. She married George Washington 2 years later.
Washington wrote to his secretary Tobias Lear (1760-1816) describing the house in which they would all live on September 5, 1790. Tobias Lear & his new bride would also live in the house. Lear had just married Mary (Polly) Long (1766-1793), his childhood sweetheart. While living in the President's house, they would have a baby boy; but Polly would die in 1793, during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic that claimed nearly 5,000 people "The house of Mr R. Morris had, previous to my arrival, been taken by the Corporation [the city of Philadelphia] for my Residence. — It is the best they could get. — It is, I believe, the best.Single house accommodation of my family. — These, I believe will be made. The first floor contains only two public Rooms (except one for theupper Servants). — The second floor will have two public (drawing) Rooms & with the aid of one Room with a partition in it, in the back building, will be sufficient for the accommodation of Mrs Washington & the children & their maids — besides affording me a small place for a private study & dressing Room. — The third story will furnish you & Mrs Lear with a good lodging Room — a public Office (for there is no place below for one) and two Rooms for the Gentlemen of the family [Washington's office staff]. — The Garret has four good Rooms which must serve Mr and Mrs Hyde [the steward and his wife] (unless they should prefer the Room over the wash House), — William [Osborne, Washington's valet] — and such Servants as it may not be better to place in the addition (as proposed) to the Back building. — There is a room over the Stable (without a fireplace, but by means of a Stove) may serve the Coachman & Postillions; — and there is a smoke House, which possibly may be more useful to me for the accommodation of Servants, than for the Smoking of Meat. — The intention of the addition to the Back building is to provide a Servants Hall, and one or two (as it will afford) lodging Rooms for the Servants, especially those who are coupled. — There is a very good Wash House adjoining the Kitchen (under one of the Rooms already mentioned). — There are good Stables, but for 12 Horses only, and a Coach House which will hold all of my Carriages..."In a fortnight or 20 days from this time, it is expected Mr Morris will have removed out of the House. — It is proposed to add Bow Windows to the two public Rooms in the South front of the House, — But as all the other apartments will be close & secure the sooner after that time you can be in the House, with the furniture, the better, that you may be well fixed and see how matters go during my absence."
Detail with Slave 1789-96 Edward Savage (1761-1817). The Washington Family.
It was apparent that Washington felt he needed his personal, house slaves from Mount Vernon to meet the needs of his family and entourage in Philadelphia, at a time when slavery was under grave scrutiny in that Northern city.
Tobias Lear, Washington's protective secretary, wrote to George Long trying to fend off any anticipated criticism, "[Washington's] negroes are not treated as blacks in general are in this Country, they are clothed and fed as well as any labouring people whatever and they are not subject to the lash of a domineering Overseer — but still they are slaves."
Foreign visitors from privileged backgrounds, such as Viscount de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), were surprised at the lack of security and informality at the President's house in Philadelphia. "September 14, 1791 — A small house built in the English style, and resembling the other houses in its neighborhood, was the palace of the President of the United States; no guards, not even footmen. I knocked, a young servant girl opened the door. I asked her if the general was at home; she said that he was. I told her I had a letter to hand him. The girl asked my name, difficult to pronounce in English, and which she did not succeed in retaining. She then told me gently, 'Walk in, sir,' and she led the way through one of those narrow corridors which serve as vestibules in English houses, introduced me into the parlor and begged me to wait the general's coming."
The first floor of the President's Philadelphia house was constantly a buzz with drop-in & invited visitors, both foreign and native, sometimes very native. In his diary, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) reported on July 11, 1794, "By the invitation of the President, I attended the reception he gave to Piomingo and a number of other Chickasaw Indians. Five Chiefs, seven Warriors, four boys and an interpreter constituted the Company. As soon as the whole were seated the ceremony of smoking began. A large East Indian pipe was placed in the middle of the Hall. The tube which appeared to be of leather, was twelve to fifteen feet in length. The President began and after two or three whiffs, passed the tube to Piomingo; he to the next chief, and so all around ..."
Supreme Court Justice John B. Wallace described a more sedate, traditional audience with the President, "Washington received his guests, standing between the windows in his back drawing-room. The company, entering a front room and passing through an unfolding door, made their salutations to the President, and turning off, stood on one side."
George Washington did not particularly like surprises and was most comfortable with a set routine which he had practiced and memorized. William Sullivan wrote of the regular formal levee. President Washington, "devoted one hour every Tuesday, from three to four, to these visits...The place of reception was the dining room in the rear, twenty-five of thirty feet in length, including the bow projecting into the garden. At three o'clock, or at any time within a quarter of an hour afterwards, the visiter was conducted to this dining room, from which all seats had been removed for the time. On entering he saw the manly figure of Washington clad in black velvet; . . . holding a cocked hat with a cockade in it, and the edges adorned with a black feather about an inch deep. He wore knee and shoe buckles; and a long sword, with a finely wrought and polished steel blade, and appearing from under the folds behind. The scabbard was white polished leather. The visiter was conducted to him, and he required to have the name so distinctly pronounced, that he could hear it. He received the visiter with a dignified bow, while his hands were so disposed of as to indicate that the salutation was not to be accompanied with shaking hands. As visiters came in, they formed a circle around the room. At a quarter past three, the door was closed, and the circle was formed for the day. He then began on the right, and spoke to each visiter, calling him by name, and exchanging a few words with him.
When he had completed his circuit, he resumed his first position, and the visiters approached him in succession, bowed and retired. By four o'clock this ceremony was over."
1790 Edward Savage (1761-1817). Martha Washington (1731-1802).
During Washington's presidency, family affairs remained important to Martha Washington. In 1786, the president's nephew George Augustine Washington (1758-1793), who was acting as Washington's estate manager & living at Mount Vernon, had married Martha Washington's favorite niece Frances Bassett (1767-1796) of Eltham, who also was living at Mount Vernon.
George Augustine Washington died in 1793, & his widow Fanny Bassett Washington subsequently married Washington's secretary Tobias Lear, a widower with a young son. Before she accepted Lear's proposal, Fanny sought the advice of George & Martha Washington. Martha wrote her on 29 August 1794, "My dear Fanny, I wish I could give you unerring advise in regard to the request contained in your last letter; I really dont know what to say to you on the subject; you must be governed by your own judgement, and I trust providence will derect you for the best; it is a matter more interesting to yourself than any other.
The person contemplated is a worthy man, esteemed by every one that is aquainted with him; he has, it is concieved, fair prospects before him;--is, I belive, very industri[ous] and will, I have not a doubt, make sumthing handsome for himself.-- As to the President, he never has, nor never will, as you have often heard him say, intermeddle in matrimonial concerns. he joins with me however in wishing you every happyness this world can give.--you have had a long acquaintance with Mr Lear, and must know him as well as I do.--he always appeared very attentive to his wife and child, as farr as ever I have seen; he is I believe, a man of strict honor and probity; and one with whom you would have as good a prospect of happyness as with any one I know; but beg you will not let anything I say influence you either way. The President has a very high opinion of and friendship for Mr. Lear; and has not the least objection to your forming the connection but, no more than myself, would wish to influence your judgement, either way--yours and the childrens good being among the first wishes of my heart. "
Fanny married Lear in the summer of 1795, but died in March of 1796. After her death, Tobias Lear moved to Washington's River Farm on the Potomac with his own young son & with the 2 children of George Augustine & Fanny Washington, George (1792-1867) & Anna (1788-1816) . Lear married again, this time to the young Frances Dandridge Henley (1779-1856). His new wife was also nicknamed Fanny and was also a niece of Martha Washington.
Martha Washington met and entertained visitors as well. Henry Wansey (1752-1827) wrote in his journal."Friday, June 6 . Had the honor of an interview with the President of the United States, to whom I was introduced by Mr. Dandridge, his secretary. He received me very politely, and after reading my letters, I was asked to breakfast...Mrs. Washington herself made the tea and coffee for us. On the table were two small plates of sliced tongue, dry toast, bread and butter, etc., but no broiled fish, as is the general custom. Miss Custis, her grand-daughter, a very pleasing young lady, of about sixteen, sat next to her, and her brother, George Washington Custis, about two years younger than herself. There was little appearance of form: one servant only attended, who had no livery; a silver urn for hot water, was the only article of expense on the table." 1791-2 Archibald Robertson (1765-1835). Martha Washington (1731-1802).
Charlotte Chambers (1768-1821) daughter of General James Chambers (1743-1805) wrote to her mother Katherine Hamilton Chambers (1737-1820) on February 25, 1795, describing the February 22 birthday celebration for President George Washington where she met the President and his wife.
The morning of the 'twenty-second' was ushered in by the discharge of heavy artillery. The whole city was in commotion, making arrangements to demonstrate their attachment to our beloved President. The Masonic, Cincinnati, and military orders united in doing him honor. Happy republic! great and glorious! . . . Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, with Dr. Spring, called for me in their coach. Dr. Rodman, master of ceremonies, met us at the door, and conducted us to Mrs. Washington. She half arose as we made our passing compliments. She was dressed in a rich silk, but entirely without ornament, except the animation her amiable heart gives to her countenance. Next her were seated the wives of the foreign ambassadors, glittering from the floor to the summit of their head-dress. One of the ladies wore three large ostrich-feathers. Her brow was encircled by a sparkling fillet of diamonds; her neck and arms were almost covered with jewels, and two watches were suspended from her girdle, and all reflecting the light from a hundred directions. Such superabundance of ornament struck me as injudicious; we look too much at the gold and pearls to do justice to the lady. However, it may not be in conformity to their individual taste thus decorating themselves, but to honor the country they represent...The seats were arranged like those of an amphitheatre, and cords were stretched on each side of the room, about three feet from the floor, to. preserve sufficient space for the dancers. We were not long seated when General Washington entered, and bowed to the ladies as he passed round the room. 'He comes, he comes, the hero comes!' I involuntarily but softly exclaimed. When he bowed to me, I could scarcely resist the impulse of my heart, that almost burst through my bosom, to meet him. The dancing soon after commenced... Next morning I received an invitation by my father from Mrs. Washington to visit her, and Col. Hartley politely offered to accompany me to the next drawing-room levee...On this evening...The hall, stairs, and drawing-room of the President’s house were well lighted by lamps and chandeliers. Mrs. Washington, with Mrs. Knox, sat near the fire-place. Other ladies were seated on sofas, and gentlemen stood in the centre of the room conversing. On our approach, Mrs. Washington arose and made a courtesy—the gentlemen bowed most profoundly—and I calculated my declension to her own with critical exactness.
Less than a month later, Charlotte wrote to her mother again on March 11, 1795. In a previous letter, I wrote of being at the President’s, and my admiration of Mrs. Washington. Yesterday, Col. Proctor informed me that her carriage was at the door, and a servant inquiring for me. After the usual compliments and some conversation, she gave me a pressing invitation to spend the day with her; and so perfectly friendly were her manners, I found myself irresistibly attached to her. On taking leave, she observed a portrait of the President hanging over the fire-place, and said 'She had never seen a correct likeness of General Washington. The only merit the numerous portraits of him possessed was their resemblance to each other.'
Martha Washington often attended state dinners as the only female in the company. Massachusettes Congressman Theophilus Bradbury (1739-1803) wrote to his daughter Harriet of Christmas Dinner at the Philadelphia President's House in 1795, "In the middle of the table was placed a piece of table furniture of wood gilded, or polished metal, raised only about an inch, with a silver rim round it like that round a tea board; in the centre was a pedestal of plaster of Paris with images upon it, and on each end figures, male and female, of the same. It was very elegant and used for ornament only. The dishes were placed all around, and there was an elegant variety of roast beef, veal, turkeys, ducks, fowls, hams &c.; puddings, jellies, oranges, apples, nuts, almonds, figs, raisins, and a variety of wines and punch. We took our leave at six, more than an hour after the candles were introduced. No lady but Mrs. Washington dined with us. We were waited on by four or five men servants dressed in livery."
Isaac Weld, Jr. (1774-1856) reported that on the President's birthday in February of 1796, the President received company in the 2 first floor parlors, while Martha Washington received the female guests in the second floor drawing room, On General Washington's birthday, which was a few days ago, this city was unusually gay; every person of consequence in it, Quakers alone excepted, made it a point to visit the General on this day. As early as eleven o'clock in the morning he was prepared to receive them, and the audience lasted until three in the afternoon. The society of the Cincinnati, the clergy, the officers of the militia, and several others, who formed a distinct body of citizens, came by themselves separately. The foreign ministers attended in their richest dresses and most splendid equipages. Two large parlours were open for the reception of gentlemen, the windows of one of which towards the street were crowded with spectators on the outside. The sideboard was furnished with cake and wines, whereof the visitors partook. I never observed so much cheerfulness before in the countenance of General Washington; but it was impossible for him to remain insensible to the attention and compliments paid to him on this occasion. The ladies of the city, equally attentive paid their respects to Mrs. Washington, who received them in the drawing-room up stairs. After having visited the General, most of the gentlemen also waited upon her...A public ball and supper terminated the rejoicings of the day.
Robert E. Gray, who had grown up in Philadelphia, remembered that after such state entertaining, the President "always smiled on children! He was particularly popular with small boys...After his great dinners he used to tell the steward to let in the little fellows, and we, the boys of the immediate neighborhood, who were never far off on such occasions, crowded about the table and made quick work of the remaining cakes, nuts and raisins."
Visiting Englishman Thomas Twining (1735-1804), who was accustomed to traveling from one country to the next, was also surprised at the lack of security and the spartan decoration on the interior public rooms at the President's Philadelphia house. "May 13, 1796: [I] was shown into a middling-sized, well-furnished drawing room on the left of the passage. Nearly opposite the door was the fireplace, with a wood-fire in it. The floor was carpeted. On the left of the fireplace was a sofa, which sloped across the room. There were no pictures on the walls, no ornaments on the chimneypiece. Two windows on the right of the entrance looked into the street."
1795 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Martha Washington (1731-1802).
Elizabeth Bordley Gibson (1777-1863) was more impressed by Martha Washington's attention to her grandchildren in the midst of her state entertaining obligations, "Mrs. Washington was in the habit of retiring at an early hour to her own room, unless detained by company, and there, no matter what the hour, Nellie attended her. One evening, my father's carriage being late in coming for me, my dear friend invited me to accompany her to grandmama's room. There, after some little chat, Mrs. Washington apologized to me for pursuing her usual preparations for the night, and Nellie entered upon her accustomed duty by reading a chapter and a psalm from the old family Bible, after which all present knelt in evening prayer; Mrs. Washington's faithful maid then assisted her to disrobe and lay her head upon the pillow; Nellie then sang a verse of some sweetly soothing hymn, and then, leaning down, received her parting blessing for the night, with some emphatic remark on her duties, improvements, etc. The effect of these judicious habits and teachings appeared in the granddaughter's character through life."
One of those grandchildren, George Washington Parke Custis remembered the formal levees and processessions with joy. "On the great national days of the fourth of July and twenty-second of February, the salute from the then head of Market street (Eighth street) announced the opening of the levee. Then was seen the venerable corps of the Cincinnati marching to pay their respects to their president-general, who received them at headquarters and in the uniform of the commander-in-chief.... [Each veteran] gave in no name — he required no ceremony of introduction — but, making his way to the family parlor, opened the general gratulation by the first welcome of Robert Morris. "A fine volunteer corps, called the light-infantry, from the famed light-infantry of the Revolutionary army, commanded by Lafayette, mounted a guard of honor on the national days. When it was about to close, the soldiers, headed by their sergeants, marched with trailed arms and noiseless step through the hall to a spot where huge bowls of punch had been prepared for their refreshment, when, after quaffing a deep carouse, with three hearty cheers to the health of the president, they countermarched to the street, the bands struck up the favorite air, "forward" was the word, and the levee was ended."
In a letter to Jared Sparks from Woodlawn in 1833, grandaughter Nelly Custis recalled how Sundays were spent during Washington's presidency and reflected on her grandparent's religious beliefs, In New York and Philadelphia he never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition. The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family, and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that day [Sunday]. No one in church attended to the services with more reverential respect. My grandmother, who was eminently pious, never deviated from her early habits. She always knelt. The General, as was then the custom, stood during the devotional parts of the service. On communion Sundays, he left the church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the carriage back for my grandmother...I had the most perfect model of female excellence [Martha Washington] ever with me as my monitress, who acted the part of a tender and devoted parent, loving me as only a mother can love... approving in me what she disapproved of others. She never omitted her private devotions, or her public duties...She had no doubts, no fears for him. After forty years of devoted affection and uninterrupted happiness, she resigned him without a murmur into the arms of his Savior and his God, with the assured hope of his eternal felicity.
President and Mrs. Washington and the grandchildren, to escape the yellow fever epidemics, spent part of 2 summers (1793 & 1794) in the hills of Germantown, nearly 10 miles from the city. Ironically, the house they stayed in had been headquarters for British General William Howe after the American defeat at the Battle of Germantown.
1793-4. The Washington Family's Temporary Residence in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
George Washington's term as President ended on March 4, 1797. Bishop William White (1748-1836) wrote of the Washington family's final days in Philadelphia, "On the day before his leaving of the Presidential chair a large company dined with him. Among them were the foreign ministers and their ladies, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, Mr. Jefferson, with the other conspicuous persons of both sexes. During the dinner much hilarity prevailed; but on the removal of the cloth it was put an end to by the President: certainly without design. Having filled his glass, he addressed the company, with a smile on his countenance, as nearly as can be recollected in the following terms: 'Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last time I shall drink your health as a public man. I do it with sincerity, and wishing you all possible happiness.' "
1796 Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Martha Washington (1731-1802).
Private citizen George Washington, his wife Martha, and their grandchildren returned to Mount Vernon, where they continued to receive visitors on a daily basis, finally and happily relieved of the burden of the office.
Benjamin Latrobe visited the couple at their Virginia home in 1796, writing that Martha Washington, retains strong remains of considerable beauty, seems to enjoy very good health, & to have as good humor. She has no affectation of superiority in the slightest degree, but acts completely in the character of the mistress of the house of a respectable and opulent country gentleman.
1796 James Peale ( 1749-1831). Martha Washington (1731-1802).