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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not so Glamorous

18th century 
Colonial women had few clothes. Generally, a work or day-time) dress, apron and a dress for special occasions was the standard.  There were no closets and clothes were kept neatly folded inside of a chest. New clothes were made by making a pattern of the old dress and duplicating it. Women had to spin the cloth, then hand-stitch the item.  The hairdo was kept in place by sleeping on a wooden bolster (under the neck). Try that one for your vertabrae! Despite what the movies depict of the days on the plantation, the days were filled with chores and responsibilties, not only for the household, but for the servants as well. Although the mistress of the home usually managed a small household staff, she dispensed all of the medicine and acted as a nurse. She had to teach servants the most rudimentary chores, such as sewing. Oftentimes, there was not a girl available to be the household seamstress, so the mistress made clothes for her own children as well as for the servants. That was a daunting task, ladies!  The glamorous costumes were mostly worn from titled English ladies or the colonial governor's wife.  

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Featherbeds




17th century featherbed
The inventory of the average planter in Virginia during the 17th century revealed a variety of household articles among the different apartments of a dwelling.  The home of Thomas Osborne of Henrico County left a personalty calculated to be worth 125 pounds sterling. There was furniture, tableware, bed and table linen and the utensils in the kitchen and dairy. The room designed as the "best" contained a feather-bed, bolster, pair of pillows, curtains and valance, a blanket and a worsted rug. There were also two chests with locks and keys, a framed table, one small sideboard table, one chest of drawers, six high and six low leather chairs, a small old-fashioned looking glass, pair of andirons with brass bosses, pair of bellows and a small leather trunk. Source: Records of Henrico County, Vol. 1688-97, page 350.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Jonathan Newell's Trunk

oyster shells were used in Colonial construction
The bedchamber of the colonial family always contained a trunk and chest. The trunk was usually plain leather, the gilt leather, the cabinet and the seal skin. However, the inventory of the estate of Jonathan Newell included an oyster-shell trunk. Source: Records of York County, vol. 1675-1685, page 146.


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Colonial Homes


glass panes soldered
In the early days, the windows of colonial homes were mostly sliding panels. More exclusive homes had glass panes which were exported from England at a pretty penny. In 1684, Colonel Byrd ordered through his London merchant to send him four hundred feet of glass with drawn lead and solder in proportion.  Source: Letters of William Byrd, June 21, 1684.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Old Field Schools

The old field schools were used in the South before the War Between the States.  Essentially, they were elementary schools. The building was typically one-room with a pot-belly stove. The schoolmaster taught children who frequently attended school after the planting and harvesting seasons. Valentine, a leading schoolmaster in York County, Virginia in 1691 charged each pupil at the rate of twenty shillings ($25 in modern values). Another schoolmaster, Thomas Dalby of Henrico County charged thirty shillings tuition for two youthful students for nine months. In 1698 the estate of a schoolmaster in Isle of Wight County presented bills which sixteen pupils owed the estate, showing that he pupils paid fifty pounds of tobacco per quarter. Source: Institutional History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century by Philip Alexander Bruce, Volume Zi.

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1684 William Byrd's Garden

When William Byrd was touring Virginia during May of 1685,  he wrote a letter describing the flowers in his garden as being the seeds and roots from iris, crocus, tulip and anemone.  Source: Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-92, p. 284.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Aquavitae

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hogsheads used to store distillates
Aquavitae is an archaic name for a concentrated ethanol or aqueous solution. During the Middle ages liquors were distilled and used through the lands of ancient Rome. The term means "all types of distillates".  Virginia colonists distilled liquors for their own use and stored it inside of butts, hogsheads and runlets. A good quantity of peach and apple brandy was also manufactured. The wealthier colonists preferred sack and aquavitae to beer and ale. In time, madeira became the most famous form of spirits and was in use during meals. Punch was manufactured from the West Indies using rum or apple or brandy.

Source: Hugh Jones' Present State of Virginia, page 52

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Last Wills and Testaments for the State of Virginia

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