Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

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painted their faces with vermilion. A few men of our own
country, mostly foreigners, have been and are occasionally
seen playing off such foolery upon themselves. The idea
that a person may put on such appearance, and not be de-
tected, is absurd. The artificial bedizenment is immediately
discovered by a direct glance.

Though the custom in view has had more patronage from
the women than the men of our republic, yet the proportion
of the former sex, who give it, is far less than in other coun-
tries of white population. A passage from Young bears on
the subject : —

" Arts on the mind, like paint upon the face,
Fright him, that's Avorth your love, from your embrace."

Artificial Teeth. — These, as an improvement of personal


appearance, and promotive of healthy mastication, are no
strangers in the annals of antiquity. Lucian and Martial
speak of them as worn by Romans, who had them made of
ivory, fastened with golden wire. Till modern times, few
persons, comparatively, had such dental conveniences. For-
merly, they were sometimes inserted in the jaws, which was
a painful and dangerous operation. The writer recollects a
gentleman, who, a half century since, had a violent fever in
consequence of having it performed upon himself.

Paul Revere, goldsmith, of Boston, advertised, in 1768,
that he had learned to be a dentist of John Baker, and was
ready to serve in the latter profession. In 1772, the pearl
dentifrice, applauded for its adaptedness to preserve, fasten,
and beautify the teeth, and to keep them from aching, pre-
pared by Jacob Hemet, dentist to her majesty, is published
in the same town. Dr. Louis, in 1774, informed the people
of Salem that he was desirous to be employed as a dentist.
William P. Greenwood, of the former place, was distinguished
in the like business. General Warren, after lying dead in
the trench, at Breed's (called Bunker's) Hill, was recognized
by a false tooth.

Till within thirty-seven years, dentistry could hardly sup-
port a practitioner of it, in any one of our largest towns,
without migratory excursions to other parts of the vicinity.
Since then, porcelain, and, for twenty years past, mineral
teeth, soldered on golden plates, have become extensively
fashionable with persons of all conditions. This has given
profitable employment to many persons, few of whom have
been liberally educated. As in England, so in the United
States, the far greater proportion of surgical and medical
doctors keep to their profession, and decline to officiate as

Spectacles. — These are the most valuable inventions of
optical science. Franklin, in a letter to one of his friends,
remarked, " Although I cannot distinguish a letter, even of
large print, by the naked eye, with the assistance of this in-
vention, my eyes are as useful to me as ever they were ; and
if all the other defects and infirmities of old age could be as


easily and cheaply remedied, it would be worth while to live
a good deal longer."

Though treatises on optical glasses have not assigned
them to ancient nations, yet Sir David Brewster exhibited,
the last year, in England, a lens, taken from the ruins of
Nineveh, and thus showed that such an omission may
have been incorrect. Roger Bacon, who died at the close of
the thirteenth century, in his Opus Majus, speaks of specta-
cles. The chronicles of St. Catharine Convent, in Pisa, in-
form us that, about 1300, Alexander de Spina, a monk, com-
municated the secret of having invented such glasses, on
being informed that another person had made a similar in-
vention. Francisco Redi stated that he had a manuscript
of 1299 in his library, which mentioned such a discovery as
of recent ocurrence. We are informed by Muschenbroeck,
that there was an inscription on the tomb of Salvinus Arma-
tus, a Florence nobleman, to the import that he had invented
articles of this kind. Such a discovery was carried back,
even farther, by Du Cange, though doubted by the dictionary
of the Academy della Crusca. He referred to a manuscript
poem, in the library of the French king, which mentioned
the use of spectacles in 1150. The pains with which the
question has been discussed suggests the high estimate en-
tertained of these ocular assistants. It is not improbable
that more than one person thought of and had them manu-
factured. The event is not very uncommon for several hu-
man minds to be exercised on discoveries about the same

While spectacles have, for the most part, been worn to help
visual imperfections, individuals, more fanciful than wise,
have appeared with the former while unvisited with the af-
fliction of the latter. Imitators of this class, as history re-
lates, abound in Spain and Venice, among persons of note
and fashion, who imagine that they are accounted more phil-
osophical with such nose appendages.

These were formerly used much less, even in proportion to
inhabitants, than they have been for the last half century.
They used to be known as nose or bridge and temple specta-


cles. The first had no side supporters, and were most com-
mon, while the second had them. The Rev. Richard Mather
appears, in a likeness of him, with a pair of the former in
one of his hands. In a volume of the Essex County Rec-
ords, written when Hilliard Veren, who died 1683, was clerk,
there is an impression of a pair on several successive leaves.
In 1723, a note is made of one dozen spectacle cases. The
same year, Samuel Brown, of Salem, imported many dozen
spectacles from London. A Boston paper, of 1750, offers
for sale " new silver temple spectacles." Isaac Royal, an
absentee, wrote from Kensington, England, May 29, 1779,
to Edmund Quincy, " I send you a pair of the best temple
spectacles, with silver bows, in a case with the initials of
your name." Thinking of the improvements for astronomi-
cal discoveries, made on the original specimen of these eye-
helpers, Grew observed, " The first spectacle maker did not
think that he was leading the way to the discovery of new

Mourning. — By this is intended particular dress, worn by
survivors on decease of their relatives or others. In Europe,
the usual color is black ; in Turkey, blue or violet ; Egypt,
yellow ; Ethiopia, brown ; China, white. The last color was
anciently worn by the ladies of Sparta and Rome on such
occasions. Attire of the same hue was used in Castile at
the death of their princes. We are informed by Herrera,
that the last time it appeared there, on a similar event, was
in 1498, when Prince John departed this life. The mourning
in which kings and cardinals appear is purple.

Each nation regards its preference, in these respects, as em-
blematical. Black, being privation of light, signifies that the
body is destitute of life ; blue is the sign of enjoyment,
which it is hoped the departed spirit experiences ; violet, a
mixture of black and blue, is indicative of sorrow on one side,
and of hope on the other ; yellow, the hue of falling leaves
and fading flowers, is the emblem of terminated hopes for
this world ; brown denotes the earth, in which the body has
taken up its narrow home ; white is the sign of purity, which
the disembodied soul is thought to have received.


The color of mourning, worn by the emigrants to New
England, was that of Europe. It has been continued among
their descendants. Besides articles of dress, others have
been used with them for a similar purpose, as gloves, rings,
and scarves. The custom, in Massachusetts, with regard to
giving the last to be worn at funerals and otherwise, had be-
come so expensive, that the legislature, in 1721, passed a law
for three years, and then renewed it, against such usage.
Town authorities complied with the fashion so far, as to the
first, that they distributed them at the burial of their paupers.
Among several bills in Salem, under this head, one of 1728
has a charge for sLx pairs of gloves. This practice was ex-
cessively indulged by some of the higher classes. In 1736,
when Governor Belcher's wife was interred, above one thou-
sand pairs of gloves were given to those who attended.
Another sumptuary act is passed in Massachusetts, in 1742,
which not only interdicts the giving of scarves, but, also, of
rings and gloves, at funerals, except six pairs of the last to the
bearers and one to the pastor of the deceased. By 1764,
common sentiment was opposed to mourning apparel, of any
sort, which came from England, lest, if used, it should en-
courage her to continue the system of colonial taxation.

In 1774, the Congress of our Union, for themselves and
constituents, form an association against importations from
Great Britain, and that men would wear as badges of mourn-
ing nothing more than " a black crape or ribbon on the
arm or hat," and women " a black ribbon or necklace," and
that they " will discountenance the giving of gloves and
scarves at funerals." The General Court of Massachusetts
remark, in 1797, that sufficient conformity with this agree-
ment is not rendered by the people, and they recommend
that all comply with it, and thus "perpetuate a national
badge for mourning dress, suitable to the dignity of their in-
dependence." Still the prevalent impression, that respect
for deceased relatives was not sufficiently paid by a literal
adherence to this legislative proposal, kept up the practice
of wearing more mourning than their advice specified.

To the exclusion of scarves, and with the allowance of a


much less number of gloves and rings than formerly, it has
been, since the year last named, the common habit, among
our population of both sexes, to dress in full black when
their nearest connections have died, and other relatives to
have their apparel partially so, as their consanguinity has
been to the departed.

As it was a law of the Romans for the widow to appear
in mourning one year after the decease of her husband, so it
has been the common practice for both sexes in our country,
on the loss of their partners, to be similarly clad for the same
time, though with its exceptions of longer or shorter periods.

Sewing- Silk and Thread. — Though we do not remember
that these are particularly mentioned far back in the annals
of the world, yet they are signified to be thus ancient. It
seems fair to conclude that such articles for sewing existed
as soon as the cloths which are made of the same substances
as they are. In Genesis we read that Pharaoh arrayed Jo-
seph in vestures of fine linen, which Cruden calls silk. In
Exodus there is a command to make linen garments. In
Proverbs are the words " her clothing is silk and purple."
To the periods here indicated we attribute the use of sewing-
silk and linen thread. Known in the kingdom whence our
settlers came, they must have been among their domestic
supplies. They have abounded in the ratio that our popula-
tion has.

In the early part of the last century, nuns' thread was not
unfrequently advertised. Within fifty years, cotton thread
has become a substitute for linen thread. This word has
been often applied in a figurative sense. Thus Watts wrote,

'< On what a slender thread
Hang everlasting things ! "

Pins. — These, as small, pointed instruments, now gener
ally made of brass wire and headed, have long been used
for the most part, by females in the adjustment of their dress
They were formerly made of iron wire, especially in France
Here the manufacturer of them would not desist from em
ploying such material until millions of them were seized

176 .- PINS. ■../ ..'■

in 1695, and ordered to be burned by the common execu-

Of a less improved kind, it is likely that pins were invent-
ed soon after men learned to convert metallic substances into
various articles of domestic use. Though the same term
by which they are designated is contained several times in
the Bible, it does not seem to mean them exactly. Still, this
is no conclusive evidence that they were unknown or unused
by the ancient Jews. Tacitus expresses them, in the singu-
lar number, by the word spina. They are mentioned in stat-
utes of England in 1483 and 1543. We are informed that,
at the latter period, Catharine Howard, queen of Henry
VHL, used those imported from France. At this time, both
sexes wore ribbons, loopholes, lace with points and tags,
clasps, hooks and eyes, and skewers of brass, silver, and
gold. The Pin Makers' Company were incorporated in 1636,
by Charles I. Imported pins, in England, were estimated,
in 1656, for the purpose of excise, at one pound twelve shil-
lings the dozen thousand.

Such articles were formerly given in Europe as a new
year's present. In compliance with this custom, an ancient
law of France required that no pin maker should open more
than one shop for his wares, except on the day and evening
when the year commenced. Ere long, it was usual to sub-
stitute cash for pins in such an exercise of friendly inclina-
tion. Hence proceeded the practice of calling pecuniary al-
lowances to females by the phrase of pin money ; and so it
has been with sums paid by the buyer, in large bargains, to
the wife and children of the seller.

Though diminutive in size and low in price, each pin
passes through the hands of twenty successive workmen, be-
tween drawing the wire for it and sticking it in the paper.
Such operation is a striking development of the division of
labor. From Spenser we iiave the succeeding lines : —

" Soon after comes the cruel Saracen,
In woven mail all armed warily,
And sternly looks at him, who not a pin
Does care for look from living creature's eye."



Needles. — These, of steel, and for various kinds of sewing,
though small, are of great use, and indisjDcnsable to satisfy
the demands of well-attired communities and nations. They
are as necessary to continue the course of fashion as the
rudder to preserve the operations of commerce.

From the necessity for such an article, and from the work
represented as done by it in the first period of mankind, it
must have been among their earliest inventions. Of course,
there is cause to suppose that its original appearance was
far less finished than in modern times. Our first parents are
mentioned by Moses as sewing the leaves with which they
were covered after their apostasy. As to the material of
which needles were primitively made, none can speak with
certainty. At the time referred to by the subsequent passage
from the book of Exodus, they must have reached to a con-
siderable degree of excellence : " Thou shalt make a hang-
ing for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet,
and fine-twined linen, wrought with needle work."

For a long period, a needle and thread were emblems of
thrift. Holinshed relates that when Henry V., Prince of
Wales, appeared at court, to clear himself from the accusa-
tion of dissipated indolence, he was clad with a gown of
blue satin, full of eyelet holes, each of which had a silken
thread and needle suspended to it, as an indication that he
was a careful observer of college discipline. It was an an-
cient custom for the bursar of Queen's College, Oxford, on
new year's day, to present each student with a needle and
thread, at the same time remarking, " Take this and be
thrifty." Before the art of printing was invented in Eu-
rope, the needle was curiously applied in working, on cloth,
representations of historical scenes. Thus was it used by Ma-
tilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, and her maids of
honor, on the Bayeux tapestry, which ofiers to the eye vari-
ous events that occurred when he invaded England. So
was the needle much employed abroad upon tapestry for or-
namenting v/alls of mansions tenanted by the wealthy, be-
fore paper hangings were introduced for a similar object.

Imported needles were valued in London, per thousand, in



1656, for the purpose of excise, as follow : sewing needles,
one shilling eight pence ; pack needles, six shillings; and sail
needles, three shillings. In the same year was the Needle
Makers' Company incorporated by Cromwell.

Needles are like pins in three respects : great numbers of
them are manufactured to supply the civilized world : they
are comparatively cheap, considering their utility and the
labor expended upon them u they pass through many distinct
operations before they are finished. With such resemblances
they are made chiefly of the German and Hungarian steel.
Dryden remarks, —

" For him you waste in tears your widowed hours,
For him your curious needle paints the flowers."

Razors. — The definition of Johnson, which extends to
one, applies to all of them ; " a knife with a thick blade and
fine edge, used in shaving." It is mentioned in the book of
Numbers, relative to the law of the Nazarite : " All the days
of the vow of his separation, there shall no razor come on
his head."

Under favor of the rhetorical metonymy that allows the
use of one word for another, we may obtain implicitly some
facts concerning the razor, from the persons who used it as
their profession. Barber, as well known, is derived from bar-
ba, beard, signifying that he applied such an instrument for
its removal from the face. Individuals of this occupation
were in Rome the four hundred and fifty-fourth year from its
foundation. Horace, Plautus, and TibuUus mention them in
their works. The last two speak of them as not only curl-
ing the hair and shaving the beard, but also trimming the
nails, of their customers. These operators, having united
bleeding and pulling teeth to their other employment, were
incorporated by Edward IV., in 1461, under the title of bar-
ber surgeons. Cutlers, who made razors and other articles,
were incorporated by Henry V. in 1417. The former of
these manufacturers have been employed among the men of
New England, ever since its settlement by Europeans. In
1629, Robert Morlcy agreed to emigrate from Old England,


and serve in Massachusetts as a barber surgeon. Matthew
Nazro, of the same profession, was in Boston in 1718.
Others, with the single title of barber, are named among our
early colonists. Their line of business lias been continued
to our day. Consequently, the implements of their calling
have been its inseparable attendants. We close this subject
with a line from the bard of Avon : —

" These words are razors to my wounded heart."

Having so far attended to articles of clothing and other
items, we now come to what have been the occasion of no
small attention and commotion in the world. These are the
beard, wig, and hair.

Beards. — The nations of Europe, Asia, and Africa have
had their customs, laws, changes, and contentions concerning
the beard. Even to this day, the Tartars, Persians, and
Turks would consider themselves much wronged to have it
shorn from their faces. Hence, when foreigners, who are
without such an appendage, visit their countries, they are
accounted as of no great respectability. So it was with the
Jews. The Scriptures teach us, that Hanun had the servants
of David seized and half of their beards taken off. Thus
treated, these servants were ashamed to go home, and they
were ordered to tarry at Jericho for a season. The sculptured
forms of men, among the ruins of Nineveh, show that they
had full-grown beards, descending low on the breast, and di-
vided into two or three rows of curls. They had the mus-
tache carefully trimmed and curled at the ends.

It is well known that, among the Russians, the beard was
long held in high estimation. An ancient law of their em-
pire required that whoever plucked a single hair from it
should be fined four times more than if he had cut off a fin-
ger. When the Czar Peter commanded his subjects to take
off their beards, he was obliged to designate officers to exe-
cute this order, because the people refused to do it themselves.
When he laid a tax on the wearing of beards, thousands con-
sented to pay it, rather than appear without them.

The ancient sovereigns of France, as a most sacred pledge

180 BE-\E,DS.

of their sincerity and friendship, would lay three hairs of
their beards on the seals of their letters and public con-

When William the Conqueror had gained possession of
England, he commanded the inhabitants to cut off their
beards. Sooner than submit to this injunction, many for-
sook their property, homes, and country. Camden preserved
the following lines, written in the reign of Edward III., and
more fanciful than true : —

" Long bearih, heartless,
Painted hoods, witlesse.
Gay coats, gracelesse,
Make England thriftlcssc."

From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, long beards
were fashionable in England. They were, in reality, what
we have often imagined on the aged hermit. The Rev.
John Moore, in the reign of Elizabeth, observed, that a rea-
son why he wore the longest beard of any in his time was,
" that no act of his life might be unworthy of the gravity
of his appearance." History informs us that John Mayo,
painter to Charles V., excelled Mr. Moore in this capillaceous
respect, and that his beard, though he was a tall man, reached
to the ground when he stood erect, so that he could put it
under his feet. He took much satisfaction in it, and used to
have it tied with a ribbon to one of his button holes. When
the emperor felt in a mood more sportive than polite, he
would order Mayo to loosen his beard, and let the breeze
blow it in the faces of his courtiers. Among the original
settlers of our country, a few wore the beard in full, and the
rest had it on their upper lip and on the fore part of the chin.
The wearing of a tuft of hair on the chin, in this manner,
was like the ancient custom of the Egyptians. Hence it
was, that Moses forbade the Israelites, so that they might
not be assimilated to their idolatrous oppressors in any prac-
tice, to mar the corners of their beards. But however our
forefathers conformed with many of the Jewish laws, and
had them placed on their statute book, yet they did not


wholly follow the Jews in every particular respecting the
beard. By degrees, this appendage of the face was lessened
in New England, so that, in 1685, it was not commonly worn,
though some were found adhering to it, as there always are
to a departing custom. For thirty-two years past, while the
beard has been generally shaven, the opposite of this practice
has presented a striking contrast, among a large portion of
the younger men, with mustaches formidable as those of the
Spaniards. During the last third of this period, there has been
a fashion for some to wear the beard on the upper lip, others
here and on the chin, and a few to let it grow naturally with-
out diminishing aught of its dimensions. The last of these
particular modes, though shaggy and repulsive at first, has
extended its power, become quite tolerable, and bids fair to
have many more subjects. A man fully loyal to it, and lately
returned from an enterprise to California, called to see his
sister and his favorite niece. The mother says to her little
girl, " It is strange that you do not kiss uncle as you used to
do." She replied, " Because I see no place."

Wigs. — Travelers have related that the frescoes of Thebes
represent royal personages with wigs like those of judicial
dignitaries in England, curling down over the shoulders in
front. The same memorials indicate that wigs, of divers
shapes, were generally worn by ancient Egyptians, male and
female. Among curiosities found in Beni Hassan and
Thebes, and exhibited in London fourteen years ago, was a
wig of brown hair, supposed to be, at least, three thousand
years old.

In the first century, the wearing of false hair among the
Romans was satirized by Juvenal and Martial. St. Jerome
and TertuUian hurled their anathemas against such a custom,
as anti- Christian. Clemens of Alexandria, to discourage all
who complied with it, and came to receive his blessing, as-
sured them if they did not reform, his benediction could do
them no good, for it rested on their wigs, and did not reach
their hearts.

Wigs were v/orn in France in 1629, as they had been long
before in different parts of Europe, and Louis XIII. adopted

182 WIGS.

the fashion. This, so revived, gradually came into England.
When Charles II. was restored and went to Whitehall, he for-
bade " members of the university " to wear periwigs, smoke to-
bacco, and read sermons. But he soon practised the two former

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 15 of 18)