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.