Saturday, March 10, 2018

18C Delicate Women in the Almshouse

1748 Jersey Nanny by John Greenwood 1748

A 1751 petition to Philadelphia's Overseers of the Poor conveyed the request of Mary Marrot and her daughter for more refined fare in the almshouse. Although they appreciated the plentiful food, they "were both brought up in a delicate way" and therefore required something more dainty and "pretty." The petitioners hoped that the overseers would resolve this "Important Affair" in the Marrots' favor and grant the pair "Tea, Coffee, Chocolate or any thing else . . .more agreeable to their palates." Petition signed by William Plumsted and Edward Shippen, March 29, 1751, Overseers of the Poor, 1750-1767, Soc. Misc. Coll., HSP
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

18C Women in Business - Commerce & Character

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

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

18C Women in Business in Nantucket

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

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

18C Women in Business - Train in Accounting & Business

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

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

18C Women in Business - Leave Their Business to Daughters

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

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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

18C Women in Business - Wives of Mariners

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

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

18C Women in Business - Tavern Owner

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

In New York seven women retailers held tavern licenses for at least one year dunng the period 1757-65, Tavern Keeper's License Book, 1757-1766, New York City, Mayor's Office,
New-York Historical Society.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

18C Women in Business - The Feme Sole Trader

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

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

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

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

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

See Temple University.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

18C Women in Business - Women Banking in Early America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Temple University.

Friday, February 2, 2018

18C Women in Business - Historiography of Women's Economic Roles in Early America

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

Everything indicates that, should need arise, there was nothing in the social or economic code of the times to prevent a woman's supporting herself and her family in whatever way she best could. ... As far as general business went, women were to be found buying and selling, suing and being sued, acting as administrators and executors, and having power of attorney, with what appears to be the utmost freedom.

Recent historians have little changed Elisabeth Anthony Dexter's seven decade old conclusions. Women clearly played an important role in the colonial economy. Besides farmers and housewives, colonial women were innkeepers, "she-merchants," artificers, health care providers, teachers, landed proprietors, writers, and printers. Women were also shipbuilders, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, brewers, painters, gilders, and wallpaper hangers, among other occupations.

Colonial women most often made a living in occupations that stressed their traditional female roles as mothers and housekeepers. But the monetization of even the most feminine of occupations transformed "women's work" into a component of the gendered game of wealth accumulation. Women inn and tavernkeepers had to take money and promissory notes from their customers in order to pay their suppliers, for example. The operation of a public house necessitated the hosting of public functions, especially legal and economic ones. Vendues, for instance, were commonly held at taverns, even those owned by women. Seamstresses often developed into milliners and mantuamakers -- fancy seamstresses who resold a stock of value-added goods. Widows and single women could not help but gain a familiarity with finances. In fact, William Dawson ran "an evening school for young ladies" in Philadelphia in 1755 that included instruction in "arithmetick," and "accounts, by way of single entry, in a plain methodical manner."

According to Dexter, "women shopkeepers abounded in colonial days, not only in New York, but throughout the northern colonies. They excited little comment, and received scant mention in the earlier sources." Because she-merchants often took over the businesses of deceased husbands, colonial women sold a wide variety of goods from windows to clothes to wines to groceries. A few women were dry goods importers, the top of the colonial and early national merchants' ladder. One of these was Mary Alexander, the mother of Lord Stirling of Revolutionary War fame. She was a powerful New York City merchant of Dutch extraction. From the 1720s to the 1760s, Alexander lived the life of a wealthy merchant. Worth some £100,000, Alexander dealt in bills of exchange, especially with Barclay and Sons, her bankers in England.

Other colonial women traders were furniture dealers, hardware traders, booksellers, druggists, and tobacconists. Some she-merchants specialized in certain goods. Clothing and seeds were favorite areas of concentration. Women came to dominate certain trades in some areas. For example, six of Boston's eight major seed retailers in 1774 were women.

Although the words "for cash," or "for cash only," frequently appeared in the advertisements of colonial she-merchants, it is clear many women merchants allowed credit. Women shopkeepers were able to extend credit, it appears, because they were able to get credit directly from Britain. But, like their male counterparts, their credit was not unlimited, and they often had to dun debtors for payment. Women's dunnings were firm. One such dunning bluntly stated: "if not convenient to pay the money, to come and bring surety and change bonds into negotiable notes of hand ... and those neglecting will be sued in the December Court." This she-merchant needed cash, and was willing to resort to the private securities market, or the courts, to get it. Women shopkeepers also made their own promissory notes or assigned their debtors' notes to their creditors for collection.

There remains some disagreement about the number of colonial women involved in trade. Elisabeth Dexter estimated about one out of every ten colonial merchants was female. Jean Jordan believed only 2% of colonial New York merchants were women. While admitting "the percentage of eighteenth-century colonial shopkeepers who were women is not clear," Patricia Cleary, who relied on tax records as well as advertisements, thought as many as one in every three shopkeepers were women. While Jordan found only 106 women traders in New York between 1660 and 1775, Cleary found 109 in the 1760s alone.

Historiographical disputes grow more fundamental with the closing of the American Revolution. Several historians who believe the Revolution should have extended women's political rights have tried to explain why women were politically proscribed in the early national era. Although a reduction of the number of women in business, or a large increase in women's political involvement, would have been counter to colonial trends, these studies often also imply women's economic activities were similarly proscribed. That was simply not the case. Whether or not the reaction to women in politics during the early national period was "Thermidorean," or "a deeply gendered one," women continued to play an important role in the early national economy. Most men, in fact, did not find "it impossible to imagine adult women as anything other than wives."

Jean Jordan wrote, with some degree of truth, that after the Revolution, "the colonial type of women merchants -- importer, exporters, wholesalers -- were gone." However, as will be shown below, it is clear that many women traders, though generally of a lesser sort, continued to prosper well after the Revolution. An analysis of Longworth's Directory for 1803 suggests that about 7% of New York City's "traders" were women. Of the Directory's approximately 12,250 names, 1,468 were sampled by manually assigning persons with last names beginning with an 'A' or a 'B' into one of six categories: male trader, male mechanic/laborer, male professional, unidentified females and widows, female trader, or female laborer. Male traders included merchants, grocers, shipmasters, shipchandlers, milliners, tavern or innkeepers, and any man owning a "store" or "shop." Such men composed 30% of the total sample. Male mechanic/laborers included carpenters, butchers, bakers, pilots, cartmen, oystermen, laborers, painters, masons, coopers, shipwrights, tailors, smiths, and others who probably worked primarily with their hands. Such men composed 50% of the total sample. Male professionals included doctors, lawyers, teachers, measurers, corporate officers, architects, constables, and a wide assortment of government officials. Such men composed 8.5% of the total sample. Widows or occupationally unidentified women composed 7.5% of the total sample and 71% of listed women. Female merchants included merchants, milliners and mantuamakers, tavern or innkeepers, and a few teachers and nurses. There were so few of these last groups that their inclusion in the traders group is not statistically significant. These traders (and the few "professionals") composed 2% of the total sample, 21% of the women's sample, and 7% of the "traders" sample. Female laborers included seamstresses and washers. They composed less than 1% of the total sample and only 8% of the female sample. Undoubtedly Longworth's compiler missed many of this last class, or listed them without occupation.

Frances Manges thought the increased complexity of the economy explained "the reason women were accepted in business more readily before the Industrial Revolution than after it." She thought "that the [colonial] economy was so simple that the shop, tavern, or craft could be conducted from, or not far from, the sanctuary of the home." In other words, the movement of economic activity from the home presumably made women's work less socially acceptable. Mary Beth Norton laid the blame on "the republican definition of womanhood." "Woman's domestic and maternal role came to be seen as so important," Norton argued, "that it was believed women sacrificed their femininity if they attempted to be more (or other) than wives and mothers." Many historians writing in this vein have focused largely on upper class women. Recently, Jeanne Boydston has noted this, and questioned why labor, economic, and even women's historians ignore early nineteenth-century lower-class women. Indeed, most women traders, as Mary Roberts Parramore has shown, were of "the laboring class." Her careful study shows that the number of women traders in South Carolina actually boomed after the Revolution.

Parramore's study makes it clear historians have laid too much stress on women in the colonial economy and women in early national politics, and not enough on women in the early national economy. Linda Kerber's survey of early feme sole merchants, for example, was more concerned with women's political rights than with their actual economic roles. Kerber concluded "the feme sole clearly had property rights that she might vigorously protect, [but] she was not permitted to exercise the political rights that theoretically accompanied them." While this conclusion is important, it ignored the feme sole's economic power, and hence her indirect political power. Might not a successful feme sole have influenced her husband's vote? Though precluded from voting, women took an interest in politics. Women could also occasionally voice their political opinions in print. In early 1797, Evah Van Derpsigle, a "Female Reader," and apparently in business, wrote the editor of the New York Diary to express her opinion that President Adams should cancel all treaties, call in all ambassadors, "sell the Mint, stop building the Federal City, raise no Salaries of officers, repeal the Sinking Fund," and buy [redeem] as many securities at the market price as possible and tax the rest. (New York Register of the Times: A Gazette for the Country, 27 January 1797.)

Lisa Wilson Waciega, "A 'Man of Business': The Widow of Means in Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1750-1850," William and Mary Quarterly, (1987)

Lisa Wilson, Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750-1850 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

Elisabeth Anthony Dexter, Colonial Women of Affairs: A Study of Women in Business and the Professions in America Before 1776 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924)

Frances Manges, "Women Shopkeepers, Tavernkeepers, and Artisans in Colonial Philadelphia," (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1958)

Miriam Moss, Women and Business (UK: Wayland Publishers Ltd., 1990)

Jean Jordan, "Women Merchants in Colonial New York," New York History, (1977)

Mary Roberts Parramore, "'For Her Sole and Separate Use': Feme Sole Trader Status in Early South Carolina." (M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1991)

Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980)

Pennsylvania Gazette, 25 March 1755.

Patricia Cleary, "'She Merchants' of Colonial America: Women and Commerce on the Eve of the Revolution," (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1989)

Patricia Cleary, "'She Will Be in the Shop': Women's Sphere of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia and New York," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995),

J.H. Plumb, "Britain & America: The Cultural Heritage," in The English Heritage, eds. Frederic Youngs Jr. et al, 1st ed. (St. Louis: Forum Press, 1978)

Linda Kerber, "The Paradox of Women's Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Case of Martin vs. Massachusetts, 1805," American Historical Review, (April 1992)

Herman Kroos and Charles Gilbert, American Business History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972)

Linda Grant De Pauw and Conover Hunt, Remember the Ladies: Women in America, 1750-1815 (New York: Viking Press, 1976)

Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1980)

James A. Henretta, The Origins of American Capitalism: Collected Essays (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 237.

See Temple University.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Free Black Men and Women in Maryland

In Church. The Illustrated London News

From the 17C on there was a growing free black population in Maryland. This population grew quickly in the antebellum years. African Americans were usually emancipated for diligent work, good conduct, familial connections, or commendable service. At other times white owners experienced a change of heart, an attack of conscience, or, in the case of Quaker meetings, freed their slaves in following their religion.

The methods for manumission in Maryland included court actions, instructions in owners' wills, self-purchase, purchase of one's own family member's freedom with money earned when hired out, governmental decrees, or rewards for military service. In Maryland, according to acts of 1697 and 1692, the law declared that children followed the condition of their mother. Thus, when children were born to a free mother, they were free also.

In 1752, the population of Baltimore County included 166 mulatto slaves, 96 free mulattoes, 4,027 black slaves and eight free blacks. The census of 1790 recorded that about eight thousand free blacks lived in the state at that time. The free black population was concentrated in northern and western Maryland.

In 1830, the free black population was just under 53,000, about 12 percent of Maryland's population, according to the U.S. Census. That meant that about one-third of the entire Maryland African American population in Maryland was free.

Free blacks generally were not accorded the same privileges as white citizens. Maryland changed its laws relating to free blacks depending on the political climate. For a brief period some free blacks had the right to vote, but the law was later rescinded. Blacks could not carry firearms or testify against whites in court.

Free black men & women & especially children lived under the threat of being beaten or kidnapped by whites who would sell them into slavery. One reason whites formed the Maryland Abolition Society was to try to protect free blacks from kidnappers. Maryland passed and repealed several laws prohibiting blacks from assembling or carrying firearms. Maryland county governments often vacillated about the right of free blacks to hold and bequeath property. Whites often sought to restrict the type of work blacks could do because they did not want to compete with them. At various times the Maryland Assembly tried to pass laws prohibiting blacks from reading abolitionist literature, operating boats, obtaining licenses for pedaling, participating in certain trades, or having or driving hacks, carts or drays. There was also an effort keep free blacks from owning dogs. Slaveholders' motive for many of the laws, particularly those prohibiting free blacks from owning conveyances, was to prevent them from aiding runaway slaves.

In spite of numerous restrictions, free black men & women in Maryland formed their own churches, schools, benevolent societies, and businesses. By 1847 there were at least thirteen black churches in Baltimore alone. Many churches were a part of larger denominations which met periodically in various states to discuss both religious and political matters.

The 1850 Census indicates that over 50 percent of Maryland free black men & women could read and/or write. Free persons of color worked as domestics, small farmers, innkeepers, street vendors, ship caulkers, stevedores, sailors and boatmen, draymen, barbers, teamsters, blacksmiths, and liverymen. Blacks who had purchased their freedom were usually able to do so, because they had earned money with their skilled labor.

Some free blacks, like astronomer Benjamin Banneker and preacher Daniel Coker, were able to record their own experiences. Banneker published an almanac and aided in the survey of the Federal District, later to become the District of Columbia. Coker became one of the first emigrants to return to Africa with the American Colonization Society.

Written by Debra Newman Ham for the Maryland Online Encyclopedia..

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington 1731-1802 Life as 1st Lady in Philadelphia.

Although Grorge 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's Philadelphia Residence on High Street.

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 [1794]. 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).

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Indentured Servant Scottish Schoolmaster tells of the Food & Children in 1774 Virginia

John Harrower (1733-1777) was a 40 year-old Scottish merchant who set out in 1774, for the American colonies as an indentured servant.  Like many of the 40,000 residents of the Scottish Highlands who left after 1760, he faced poverty with little opportunity.  After several weeks in London, Harrower signed an indenture to travel to Virginia as a schoolmaster. He sailed with 71 other male indentees from across England and Ireland. With his relatively privileged training, Harrower was fortunate and found a new life on a tidewater plantation. Harrower’s four-year indenture contract was sold to Colonel William Daingerfield of at Belvidera at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Harrower kept a journal of his life at Belvidera
Harrower served as tutor to the Colonel’s children & those of other nearby planters. Among these was 14 year-old neighbor John Edge, who was deaf and mute. Tradition has it that John was the first deaf person to obtain an education in the new nation of America. John Harrower wrote, “that, after five months, John Edge could write right well, understand the value of each figure and could work at single addition a little.” Harrower’s diary also mentions the quality of Belvedere’s fine strawberries, cherries, melons, honey, cider and toddies. This section begins with his meeting his future master after arriving in Virginia 13 days earlier and staying on board ship as others who had sailed with him were chosen for indenture by local Virginians.  He simply waited.  These entries reflect his reactions to his new life in the colonies during his first six months.

May, Munday 23d. 1774 This morning a great number of Gentlemen and Ladies driving into Town it being an anuall Fair day & tomorrow the day of the Horse races. At 11 am Mr. Anderson begged [me] to settle as a schoolmaster with a freind of his one Colonel Daingerfield and told me he was to be in Town tomorrow, or perhaps to night, and how soon he came he shou’d aquant me. At same time all the rest of the servants were ordred ashore to a tent at Fredericksbg. and severall of their Indentures were then sold. About 4 pm I was brought to Colonel Daingerfield, when we imediatly agreed and my Indenture for four years was then delivered him and he was to send for me the next day. At same time ordred to get all my dirty Cloaths of every kind, washed at his expence in Town; at night he sent me five shillings on board by Capt. Bowers to keep my pocket.

Tuesday 24th. May 1774 This morning I left the Ship at 6 am having been sixteen weeks and six days on board her. I hade for Breackfast after I came ashore one Chappin sweet milk for which I paid 3 1/2 Cury. At 11 am went to see a horse race about a mille from Toun, where there was a number of Genteel Company as well as others. Here I met with the Colonel again and after some talk with him he gave me cash to pay for washing all my Cloaths and Something over. The reace was gain’d by a Bay Mare, a white boy ridder. There was a gray Mare started with the Bay a black boy ridder but was far distant the last heat.

Wednesday 25th. I Lodged in a Tavern last night and paid 7 1/2 for my Bedd and 7 1/2 for my breackfast. This morning a verry heavy rain untill 11 am. Then I recd. my Linens &ca. all clean washed and packing every thing up I went on board the ship and Bought this Book for which I paid 18d. Str. I also bought a small Divinity book called the Christian Monitor and a spelling book, both at 7 1/2 & an Arithmetick at 1/6d. all for my own Accot.

Thursday 26th. This day at noon the Colonel sent a Black with a cuple of Horses for me and soon after I set out on Horseback and aravied at his seat of Belvidera about 3 pm and after I hade dined the Colonel took me to a neat little house at the upper end of an Avenue of planting at 500 yds. from the Main house, where I was to keep the school, and Lodge myself in it.

This pleace is verry pleasantly situated on the Banks of the River Rappahannock about seven Miles below the Toun of Fredericksburgh, and the school’s right above the Warff so that I can stand in the door and pitch a stone on board of any ship or Boat going up or coming doun the river.

Freiday 27th. This morning about 8 am the Colonel delivered his three sons to my Charge to teach them to read write and figure. His oldest son Edwin 10 years of age, intred into two syllables in the spelling book, Bathourest his second son 6 years of age in the Alphabete and William his third son 4 years of age does not know the letters. He has likeways a Daughter whose name is Hanna Basset...Years of age.

Soon after we were all sent for to breackfast to which we hade tea Bread, Butter & cold meat and there was at table the Colonel, his Lady, his Childreen, the housekeeper and myself. At 11 am the Colonel and his Lady went some where to pay a visite, he upon horseback and she in her Charriot.

At 2 pm I dined with the Housekeeper the Children and a Stranger Lady. At 6 pm I left school, and then I eat plenty of fine straw berries, but they neither drink Tea in the afternoon nor eat any supper here for the most part. My school Houres is from 6 to 8 in the Morning, in the forenoon from 9 to 12 and from 3 to 6 in the afternoon...

14th. June 1774.
"As to my living I eat at their own table, & our witualls are all Dressed in the english taste. We have for breackfast either Coffie or [Chocolate], and warm loaf bread of the best floor, we have also at Table warm loaf bread of Indian corn, which is extreamly good but we use the floor bread always at breackfast.

For Dinner smoack'd bacon or what we cal pork ham is a standing dish either warm or cold. When warm we have greens with it, and when cold we have sparrow grass. We have also either warm roast pigg, Lamb, Ducks, or chickens, green pease or any thing else they fancy.

As for Tea there is none drunk by any in this Government since 1st. June last, nor will they buy a 2d. worth of any kind of east India goods, which is owing to the difference at present betwixt the Parliament of great Brittan and the North Americans about laying a tax on the tea; and I'm afraid if the Parliament do not give it over it will cause a total revolt as all the North Americans are determined to stand by one another, and resolute on it that they will not submit..."

6 Decr. 1774.
"Know that I have not drunk a dish of Tea this six Mos. past, nor have I drunk a dram of plain spirits this seven Mos. past, nor have I tasted broth or any kind of supping mate for the above time unless three or four times some soup; Notwithstanding I want for nothing that I cou'd desire, and am only affraid of getting fatt, tho we seldom eat here but twice a day.

For Breackfast we have always Coffie with plenty of warm loaf bread and fine butter. At 12 oClock when I leave School, I have as much good rum toddie as I chuse to drink, and for Dinner we have plenty of roast & boyld and good strong beer, but seldom eat any supper."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

18C Portrait of an American Woman

1795 Mrs. Joseph Anthony Jr. (Henrietta Hillegas) Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828)

The Met tells us that Mrs. Joseph Anthony Jr., born Henrietta Hillegas in 1766, was one of ten children of Michael and Henrietta Hillegas of Philadelphia. Her father made his fortune in sugar refining and iron manufacturing, and served as the first treasurer of the United States. Henrietta married Joseph Anthony in 1785. As with many of Stuart’s portraits of Philadelphia society women, Mrs. Anthony’s likeness is endowed with an individuality and a sensuousness rare in American portraiture.  As the New Republic of The United States of America was finding its way between the 1780s & 1800, a very noticeable change took place in the female British/American silhouette. The waistline climbed higher, until it reached the bust. Textiles were lighter. The skirt was reduced in width & hoop petticoats were seldom seen.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824) Best Selling Author, Actress, & Educator

Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824) This 1790s portrait is among the Susanna Rowson Papers, 1770-1879, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762-1824) was a British-American novelist, poet, playwright, religious writer, stage actress, and educator. Rowson was the author of the 1791 novel Charlotte Temple, the most popular best-seller in American literature, until Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1852.

Susanna Haswell was born in Portsmouth, England, the only child of William Haswell,  a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, by his 1st wife, Susanna Musgrave, daughter of a commissioner of customs.  Other members of the Haswell family included 2 of Susanna’s 3 half brothers-Robert Haswell, an American naval officer & writer, & John Montresor Haswell, cited by congress for his bravery in the war with Tripoli, & her cousin Anthony Haswell, who came to Boston about 1770 & became a famous editor & balladeer in early Vermont. 

Since her mother had died in giving her birth, Susanna’s early rearing was entrusted to relatives. About 4 years after her birth, her father was assigned to duty in the revenue service in Massachusetts. There he married Rachel Woodward of George’s Island in Boston harbor & settled in nearby Nantasket. In 1768, Haswell returned to England for his daughter. In her partly autobiographical novel, Rebecca, of Fille de Chambre (1792), Susanna recounted the hazards of her voyage to America, ending in shipwreck on an island in Boston harbor & then the contrasting years of peaceful & simple pleasures of life at Nantasket.
   
The Haswell’s circulated easily in the literate & stable aristocracy of the Boston area & enjoyed the best of life in the New World.  Susanna’s precocious knowledge of the classics at the age of 12 is said to have impelled their eminent summer neighbor James Otis, to call her “my little scholar.”  But the quiet harmony of their life was soon shattered by the Revolution. Applying for permission to leave American in the fall of 1775, Haswell (a member of the hated revenue service) was denied his request.  His property was confiscated, & he & his family were interned as loyalists.  After being held at Hingham for 2 years, they were moved in the fall of 1777 to Abington.  Finally, in the spring of 1778, Haswell was permitted, on giving his parole to Gen. William Heath, to take his family to Halifax, Nova Scotia, & then to London, where they lived in poverty because of a several years’ delay in the granting of Haswell government pension.
   
Susanna began job-hunting at once & soon became governess to the children of the Duchess of Devonshire.  In this role she not only toured Europe but also saw something of the private lives of the aristocracy, which she later used as material for her fiction.  In 1786, she published her 1st novel, Victoria, with a dedication to the Duchess.  She then retired from her job to marry, in 1787, William Rowson, a hardware merchant & a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards.  A handsome, sociable man, too fond of liquor, too trusting in business enterprises, &father of an illegitimate child, Rowson was not an ideal husband.  There can be little doubt that certain of the trials of female patience recounted in Mrs. Rowson’s major novel, Charlotte Temple (1791), had some foundation in her own life.  

With the failure of Rowson’s hardware business in 1792, both husband & wife took to the stage, playing in Edinburgh in 1792-93.  There they were booked by Thomas Wignell to act in his company in the new Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.  She & her husband accepted Wignell’s offer sailing to Philadelphia aboard the George Barclay later that summer. She remained with Wignell’s company until the fall of 1796, when she left to join the Federal Street Theatre in Boston, where she spent one season before retiring from the stage to embark on a teaching career.
The Old Chestnut Street Theatre, Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The New Theatre on Chestnut Street, opened in 1794, was where Susanna Rowson performed during her time in Philadelphia between 1794-1796. She wrote several of the plays she acted in, including Slaves in Algiers; or, a Struggle for Freedom in 1794.

After performing in Annapolis, Philadelphia, & Baltimore, in 1796, the Rowsons settled in Boston to play at the Federal Street Theatre.  Although not a gifted actress, Mrs. Rowson had a warm personality & versatile talents; she could dance, sing, play the harpsichord  & guitar, write plays, & compose both lyrics & librettos.  

During her 5-year career in the theatre she acted 129 different parts in 126 different productions, a number of them written by herself, & some with the collaboration of musicians such as Alexander Reinagle of Philadelphia.  The most successful of her theatrical works was the operetta Slaves in Algiers, or a Struggle for Freedom (1794), in which a group of American women, captured by North African pirates & held for ransom, eventually make their escape.  Other of her plays were The Volunteers (1795), a musical farce based on the Whiskey Rebellion; the comedic melodrama The Female Patriot; or, Nature’s Rights (1795); The American Tar, or the Press Gang Defeated (1796): & Americans in England, or Lessons for Daughters, a 3-act comedy, 1st presented in 1797, in which she made her last appearance.

In the spring of that year, now in her mid-30s, Mrs. Rowson retired from the stage opening a Young Ladies Academy in Boston.  She moved it in 1800 to Medford, in 1803 to Newton, & in 1811 back to Boston, where until her retirement in 1822 she occupied quarters on Hollis Street. One of the 1st schools established in the United States to offer girls some education above the elementary level, the academy was highly successful. Mrs. Rowson wrote some of her own textbooks, including An Abridgement of Universal Geography, together with Sketches of History (1805?), A Spelling Dictionary (1807), & Biblical dialogues between a Father & His Family (1822). The school was also unusual in offering its young women formal instruction in public speaking & in providing well-qualified music teachers trained in Europe.

In other contributions to Boston’s cultural life, William Rowson played a  memorable trumpet in the Handel & Hayden Society’s performances of the Messiah, while Mrs. Rowson, who counted among her friends such as leading musicians as the Graupners & Von Hagens, helped organize concerts.  When the  Boston Weekly Magazine was begun in 1802. Mrs. Rowson became a contributor, as she was to the Monthly Anthology & Joseph T. Buckingham’s New England Galaxy.  She had meanwhile published other ventures in the field of the novel, among them Trials of the Human Heart (1795), a rather loosely organized 4-volume work to which both Benjamin Franklin & Martha Washington were subscribers, Reuben & Rachel (1798), a rambling historical novel dealing with the heirs of Columbus. Sarah, the Exemplary Wife, a series of fictionalized moral tracts first published in her Boston Weekly Magazine, appeared in 1813.
Illustration from Charlotte Temple.

Varied as were Mrs. Rowson’s activities, her main importance is as the author of one book - Charlotte Temple (London 1791; Philadelphia, 1794), the 1st American best seller, which has seen over 200 editions to date.  (She also wrote a sequel, Charlotte’s Daughter; or, The Three Orphans, published posthumously in Boston in 1828.)  A sentimental novel patterned on the standard seduction story, Charlotte Temple tells of a sheltered English schoolgirl possessed of more tenderness than prudence who is seduced, carried off to New York, & abandoned by a British army officer whose villainy is punished, after Charlotte’s death, by the torments of remorse.  The subtitle of the book, “A Tale of Truth,” may well be correct, for some evidence exists that the original of the seducer, Montraville, was Mrs. Rowson’s cousin, Col. John Montresor.  Like many best sellers, Charlotte Temple is more significant for the historian of popular taste than for the literary critic.  Although hinting at the power of the sexual impulse & detailing the penalties meted out to women for accepting illicit love under the “double standard” may well have been a useful part of the education of a young girl.
   
Although Mrs. Rowson had no children, her household was large, for it included her husband’s younger sister, Charlotte; his illegitimate son William; her own niece, Susan Johnston; & her adopted daughter, Fanny Mills.  To these last 2 she turned over her school in 1822, though she apparently still maintained much of the alertness & vivacity that had marked all her life.  Mrs. Rowson regularly attended the preaching of the Rev. John S. Gardiner at Trinity Church, & found scope for expressing her humanitarian convictions by serving for some years as president of the Boston Fatherless & Widows’ Society.  She died at her home in Boston & was buried in the family vault of her friend Gottlieb Graupner in St. Matthew’s Church, South Boston.  When this church was demolished in 1866, her remains were transferred to Mount hope Cemetery in Dorchester.
   
Reared in a loyalist family, Mrs. Rowson became an ardent, articulate American patriot.  An active proponent of the theatrical & musical arts in the early years of the United States, a broad-minded & effective teacher, she was also one of the 1st to express, through her writings, a subtle protest against the dependent status of women in her day.

See: Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Eds. Edward James, Janet James, Paul Boyer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Brandt, Ellen B. Susanna Haswell Rowson, America’s First Best-Selling Novelist. Chicago: Serbra Press, 1975.

Durang, Charles. “Philadelphia Stage from 1749 to 1821.” Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch, 1854-1856. The Sept. 10, 1854 edition contains a concise history of the New Theatre.

Nason, Elias. A Memoir of Mrs. Susanna Rowson, with Elegant and Illustrative Extracts From her Writings in Prose and Poetry. Albany: Munsell, 1870.

Parker, Patricia. Susanna Rowson. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Pollock, Thomas. The Philadelphia Theatre in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.

Richards, Jeffrey H. “Susanna and the Stage; or, Rowson Family Theatre.” Studies in American Fiction 38.1-2 (Spring and Fall 2011): 1-31.

Rust, Marion. Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson’s Early American Women. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Weil, Dorothy. In Defense of Women: Susanna Rowson (1762-1824). University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.