Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

The customs of New England online

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Mortar, Pewter Ware, Pictures, Piggins, Pillow, Pillow Bears, Pitchers,
Plates and Platters, Poker, Porringers, Posnet, Pots, Pot Hooks and Tram-
mels, Pottery, Press.

Cricket. — This is derived from the German krieclien, to
creep. It is a low seat or stool, mostly employed in resting
the feet. As the diminutive size of similar forms for sitting,
it has been long known in civilized nations. Though of
humble use, it is no less valuable as the contributor of great
comfort to the weary.

Crockery. — This is usually applied to foreign ware,
though, from its definition, it might include that made from
our common clay. It was manufactured in Staffordshire,
and went by the name of Liverpool ware, because brought
from that port. Ilaving been greatly improved by Wedg-
wood, in 1760, it was not abundantly imported to our shores
until after the close of hostilities, in 1783. An old lady said
that, seventy years ago, she gave, in silver money, four shil-
lings for a white plate which could now be bought for six-
pence ; and for a half dozen cups and saucers of the same
quality, and of a small size, she paid eleven shillings six-
pence, which would not cost, at present, above one shilling
sixpence. The brittleness of such things is emblematical
of the uncertainty which betides all human prosperity.


Oullender or Strainer. — This, of different substances, and
with perforations at the bottom, for draining off liquids, was
used by our primitive settlers. It has descended to our day,
and is extensively and frequently used. It reminds us of the
moral empiric, who abounds in precepts for freeing others
from the impurities of vice, but still suffers them to remain
upon himself.

Cushions. — These, as soft pads, were common among the
ancient Orientals. All civilized nations have adopted them.
The primitive families of New England had a convenient
supply of them for their chairs. Their example has met with
constant imitation. A writer in England, referring to politi-
cal changes, formerly remarked, " Many who are cushioned
upon thrones would have remained in obscurity."

Cups. — These, long before we meet with drinking glasses,
were much used in ancient times, as they have been in mod-
ern. They are often mentioned in the Scriptures. Joseph
said to a fellow-prisoner, " Thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's crip
into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his
butler." As well known, in various royal courts, the persons
employed to present them, with their contents, to sovereigns,
were called cup bearers.

They have long been made of precious metals, and various
earths, as well as of pewter, tin, and other substances. Be-
fore the use of tea and coffee in our country, they were em-
ployed to hold beer, and, when apples were raised sufficiently,
cider, wine, water, and additional liquids. Having a promi-
nent rank among available articles, they gave name to a
noted repository of them in the best rooms. This is trans-
lated by Dryden in a line of Juvenal, —

"This cupboard's head six earthen pitchers graced."

Articles for such conveniences, often ornamented with needle-
work, were long known as cupboard cloths. In 1655, we
meet with the phrase " cupboard livery."

Cups are sometimes figuratively spoken of in relation to
intemperate persons, when they are said to be " in their
cups." The singular of them, in connection with another


vessel, is employed to denote familiar companionship. Thus
Swift wrote, —

" That you and ho arc cup and can."

From the first planting of New England to the temper-
ance reform, though still far behind, it was too common a
practice, brought from our fatherland, to have dram cups
among domestic wares. An inventory of 1656 mentions a
" silver dram cup." The tyrant custom thus intimated was
long continued, and must have been the cause of many ine-
briates. How often do men honestly impose on themselves
and families a practice which they imagine promotive of
their health, when it actually and surely induces disease and
destruction on body and mind !

Delft Ware. — This was sometimes called counterfeit
china. It was manufactured at Delft, in Holland. The
finer sort was covered with an enamel or white glazing,
which gave it the appearance of porcelain. It formed one
of the varieties which ornamented the cupboards of the
wealthy among our former population. Specimens of it are
still extant. From Smart we have the couplet, —

" Thus barter honor for a piece of dclff
No, not for China's wide domain itself.*'

Desks. — These, among household furniture, were manu-
factured chiefly of cherry, cedar, and black walnut, till a hun-
dred years ago, when mahogany ones appeared. They were
for such uses as the cabinet was. They differed from that in
having the upper part covered with one leaf or fall, which,
when closed, was inclined, and when open, resting on two
supporters, drawn out for the purpose, served as a reading
and writing table. They were referred to by the poet of
Avon : —

" Tell her, in the desk,
That's covered o'er with Turkish tapestry,
There is a purse of ducats."

As made of mahogany, they continued in vogue till forty
years ago, when they slowly retired from competition with


other rivals for a conspicuous place in the parlor. Could
they speak from their retired stands, they would say, " The
race of ambition is vanity and vexation of spirit."

Dials. — These were mentioned in ancient times. In
Kings it is written, " Isaiah, the prophet, cried unto the
Lord, and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by
which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz." While clocks
and watches were scarce in our country, dials were used to
mark the passing hours, when exposed to a clear sun. They
were of wood, bone, and metals. One of such chronometers,
made of brass, and owned by Governor Endicott, is still pre-
served in the Salem East India Museum.

" The time of life is short ;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
Though life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour."

Dipper. — Of different substances, it has long been used
for immersion in liquids so as to remove part or all of them.
While an auxiliary among articles which are turned to the
same purpose, its labor is not lost. Standing in its lot, and
ready to do the will of its proprietor, or of all whom it serves,
it claims a place in the schedule of family possessions.

Dressing- Glasses. — These are put in frames so that they
may stand and move to and fro. We do not find them men-
tioned specifically so soon as looking glasses, hung upon
the room walls. We see them advertised about a century
back. It is likely that they were of as early date as any,
of a vitreous kind, used to reflect the human countenance.
While aiding to adorn the persons who own them, they
should be associated with the frequent thought, that there is
an ornament of soul which will shine when the want of
human inventions will have ceased, and where the bright-
ness has no need of the stars and the sun.

Dripping' Pan. — This, for catching fat from meat as it
roasts, has probably existed as long as such food has been
cooked. It could be as easily fitted to its purpose as the
pans, mentioned in Chronicles, for the holy offerings. Our
primitive mothers were well acquainted with its need in


preparing ^vil(l fowl, buffalo, bear, and deer's flesh for their
families. The dripping pan was in its highest demand while
the jack and spit were unsupplanted by stove ovens. Still it
is used, under such change, to hold the meat and its drip-
pings together, instead of merely receiving the latter as they
drop from the former. Thus having double duty to per-
form, it repines not, but contentedly holds its position.

Dredging- Box. — This is used for sprinkling flour on roast
meat, as it is turned. However the former part of this com-
pound word signifies the act of mean labor, still the article
which it indicates performs a nice service, pleasant to the
eye of the cook and to the taste of the gourmand. Johnson
gives an extract from the King's Cookery : —

" But, if it lies too long, the crackling's palled,
Not by the dredging box to be recalled."

Earthen Ware. — This is sometimes distinguished by the
adjective brown, and at others by that of red. It was known
among the ancients. It is met with in various parts of the
Old Testament.

Among the earliest manufacturers of it, often called pot-
ters, in Massachusetts, was John Pride, of Salem, mentioned
in 1641. His surname was not accompanied with the dispo-
sition in him which it denotes in different applications, so as
to keep him from an honest calling, however less eligible
than others. It is not the employment, so much as the mo-
tive, which gives elevated views and enjoyment.

The General Court of Massachusetts ordered, in 1646,
that " Tyle earth, to make sale ware, shall be digged before
the 1st of 9 mo., and turned over in the last or 1st month
ensuing, before it be wrought." One of the places where it
has been long made, was in the town of the individual
named above, and subsequently known as Danvcrs.

In 1713, six hogsheads of such ware were advertised in
Boston, consisting of teapots and other vessels. These pots
were generally colored black. They increased as tea became
common, and were thought by many more fitted to bring out
the good flavor of the plant than any others.


Such ware, including pitchers, pans, bowls, jugs, and
other vessels, saw its highest popularity before the plentiful
importations of foreign crockery. The finer quality of the
latter, and its low price, are likely to push the former still
more from use, and render it less known in the kitchen de-
partment. However such ware is eclipsed, the part it still
})erforms appears in the light of much usefulness.

Escritoires. — These were anciently made of oak, cherry,
or black walnut wood. The upper section had small draw-
ers, and apartments for writing materials and miscellaneous
valuables. There were two doors opening to the right and
left, and securing, when closed, the drawers. Over such
doors was a fall, which locked at the top, but when let down,
it served to rest the arms for writing. The lower section had
drawers for linen, damask, clothes, and other precious posses-
sions. As plain to the linguist, the word is French, and is
applied to such articles, by the nation who use it, for their
writing purposes. We meet with one of them offered for
sale in 1715, and it was mentioned as no strange thing
among our population. For a half century, they have sel-
dom appeared, and even then, as relics of by-gone fashion.

Ewer. — This, from the emi of the French, was common
in England before the colonization of our territory. Its pur-
pose, as well known, was for bringing water to wash the
hands. It was formerly used in our more respectable house-
holds. Its place, in modern days, is supplied by the pitcher.
From Pope's Odyssey we have the couplet, —

•' The golden eu-'er a maid obseqiiious brings,
Replenished from the cool, translucent spring."

Extinguishers. — These, of tin and brass, were known to
our primitive inhabitants. They were used by the careful,
who came up to the spirit of the proverb, " An ounce of pre-
vention is worth a pound of cure." When the candle or
lamp was to be put out, they were placed over the tops of
them, and thus prevented two evils — the danger of falling
sparks, and the unpleasant fumes of a smoking wick. They
are similarly employed now by those who are willing to



take some pains for the wise avoidance of greater incon-

Fenders. — These, to keep burning coal and wood from
rolling to the floor, were known to our primitive inhabitants,
and to their ancestors in Old England. Of sheet iron, steel,
and brass, they have had different forms, and been of various
prices. As to those who have properly used them, it is evi-
dence of their carefulness to guard against a conflagration,
as the curfew ordered by Alfred, and revived by William the
Conqueror, was of their caution. It is worthy of imita-
tion by all who have need of such protectors. More of
these and other similar preventives, carefully applied, would
make less desolations of a good servant, but a dreadful

Flesh Hooks. — These v^ere for drawing boiled meat from
large pots. They are spoken of in the Old Testament.
They were among the kitchen utensils of our fathers. They
are much less common than formerly.

Forms. — These were seats of simple structure, and of dif-
ferent lengths. Their name is found far back in the chroni-
cles of society. They were placed in large chimney corners,
during cold weather, and afforded a very comfortable refuge
to members of the family from the pursuit of Jack Frost.
As the fireplaces have become reduced, and wood scarcer
and dearer, forms are seldom seen in our country towns,
where they found quarter when excluded from our large com-

Fruit Dish. — The pm-pose of this is evident from its rad-
ical words. Of some form and substance, it must have been
long known. The early notice of it among the chattels of
our Puritan fathers produces pleasant associations. True,
in the beginning of their settlement, there were no apples,
pears, peaches, and other fruits, from European seed ; still
there were others inviting to the taste, which secured it a
hearty welcome. As soon as Anglo-Saxon enterprise could
furnish such deficiencies, it was done, and there Avas no lack
in kind, though there was in our present varieties. A fruit
dish is always a much more pleasant sight to the temperate


patriot than a spacious tabic crov/ded with the costliest

Frying Pans. — These arc to cook meat, fish, or other
food. They were of old. In Leviticus we read, " All the
meat offering that is dressed in the frying pan." They have
been always used in our country. Their long handles are to
accommodate the cooks, who hold them over wood fires.
Their place is supplied on stoves and ranges by other uten-
sils, with short handles, called spiders or steak pans. L'Es-
trange remarked, " We understand by ' out of the frying pan
into the fire,' that things go from bad to worse."

Glass Cases. — A few of these were left by our worthy
ancestors, when bidding adieu to the country of their adop-
tion for a far better, even a heavenly. Such things were
likely to have had their glass squares small as those for win-
dows were, and to have been the depositories of standard
religious books, brought over from England. They were for
ornament as well as use, but like every well-regulated head,
they had more worth within than without. So may it be
with all their successors.

Glass Ware. — This was known centuries before the ad-
vent of our Lord, We read that Nero gave nearly fifty
thousand pounds sterling for two glass cups which resembled
crystal. Pliny relates that such vessels had nearly put gold
and silver ones out of use. He also gives the subsequent
account : " Merchants with a load of soda from Egypt an-
chored off the River Belus, in Phoenicia, and went ashore to
dress a dinner. They took lumps of soda, and placed on the
sand, as supporters of the kettles. When the fire was kin-
dled, it mixed the soda with the sand, and the result was
glass, which, for a considerable period, was manufactured in
the same place."

Glass ware was not abundant among the founders of our
colonies. It increased as their population and means en-
larged. At a glass factory in Salem, Massachusetts, which
began about 1639, dark-colored bottles were made, and it is
very likely that other varieties were manufactured at the
same establishment.


Decanters, pitchers, mugs, cups, beakers, glasses, and other
vitreous utensils, were among the chattels of our fathers. In
] 656, drinking glasses were named and valued in London as
follow : Venice, at four shillings a dozen ; Flanders, two
pounds for one hundred ; French, one pound ten shil-
lings for one hundred ; and water, three shillings a dozen.
As we come down farther, we meet with sillabub and jelly
glasses in Boston.

Cut glass, on account of its high price, has been little
known in our country, even among wealthy families, till
within a hundred years. Its brittle glory, like that of ill-
achieved eminence, is destined to be broken and destroyed.

In 1775, a Boston paper advertised the following articles
of glass, manufactured in Philadelphia : decanters, tumblers,
double flint wine glasses, cruets, salts, mugs, cans, jelly, sil-
labub, cream and mustard pots, ink glasses, smelling bottles.

As to the vessels of such material, which hold the be-
witching and inebriating liquids, there is a noticeable cau-
tion from Philips : —

" "V\Ticn thy heart
Dilates with fervent joys, and eager soul
Prompts to pursue the sparkling glass, be sure
'Tis time to shun it."

Graters. — These are commonly made of tin, rounded and
perforated, so as to have a rough surface for the abrasion of
softer substances. The larger sort of them have been prob-
ably of long continuance. They have been used for rubbing
off the surface of lemon peels and reducing vegetables to
small particles. The less-sized graters have been used to
pulverize the nutmeg, so that it might serve as a relish to
articles of cookery. It is likely that they were no strangers
to our first settlers, because the spice just mentioned was
known to them. From the poet A. Hill, born in 1685, we
have the lines, though we do not indorse the sentiment, —

" So it is with common natures :
Treat them gentlj% they rebel ;
But be rough as nutmeg graters —
And the rogues obey you ■well."


Grates. — Though these were for centuries used in Eng-
land, after the discovery of their Newcastle coal, yet they
were not comnaon in our habitations till within a compara-
tively short period. In 1719, we find the advertisement of
one fine brazed grate for sale in Boston.

Thirty years ago, coal grates began to be generally fash-
ionable in the front rooms of families residing in the larger
towns. For the last eighteen years, they have been increas-
ingly laid aside for stoves and furnaces. Still some of them
hold their position, to show that they have been and may yet
continue to exercise their caloric offices.

Gridiron. — This, however holding a humble rank among
the kitchen appurtenances, does important service in furnish-
ing well-cooked steaks for the high liver and for the temper-
ate man, who " eats to live." It is seen on the earliest and
latest renderings of the chattels, audited and settled at the
probate board.

Hat Stand. — Though this article was seldom seen in our
habitations till forty years ago, yet it is likely to have been
used long before in the old world. It has made much ad-
vance in public favor. Its lower pai-t is fitted to entertain
umbrellas and canes with an easy lodgment. While some
of its pegs are occupied with brain coverings, others are re-
ceive-alls for coats and other personal chattels. It is indeed
a bearer of burdens, though not heavy ones, and conforms
with the ideas and wishes of the utilitarian.

Horn. — This has long been applied to a cup made of
horn. We are informed that the Greeks, at their parties for
quaffing wine, used horns prepared to hold such liquor, which
could not be laid down till they were emptied. A represen-
tation of one among them shows the small end tipped with
an eagle's head of some precious metal, the main part of it
curiously engraved, and fitted with a handle. Whether to
these, or to the cup, the phrase, " I will take a horn," or wiH
have " some spirituous drink," may be traced, it is not cer-
tain. But in either case, the expression is far from being an
honor to the head or heart of any man.

Hourglasses. — These had a glass, at one end, filled with



sand, which ran tlirough a small aperture into another glass,
and the whole was enclosed in a wooden frame. We meet
with one of them, in 1684, valued at one shilling sixpence.
Until watches and clocks abounded, since 1800, such articles
were common in town and country, as well as on board of
vessels at sea. For the first century, they had a standing-
place in front of the pulpit, so that the preacher might note
the length of his sermon. Besides them were two hour,
half hour, quarter of an hour, and less glasses. Among the
vivid remembrances of the writer, as to such chronometers,
is one which his schoolma'am had on her table, accompanied
with a snuifbox and a long stick for the disorderly urchins.
Dryden has the words —

•' Shako not his hourglass, -whcji his hasty sand
Is ebbing to the last."

Indian Dishes. — These were for various purposes. They
derived their name from the aborigines who, for a considera-
ble period, lived in the vicinity of our ancestors, made and
sold such wooden wares, as one means of subsistence. The
large bowl taken from the wigwam of King Philip, at
Mount Hope, still remains at the rooms of the Massachu-
setts Historical Society. But the people thus brought to our
memory have long since passed away with the most of their
short-lived productions. We are rapidly advancing in the
same mortal course, and shall soon know endless realities,
long familiar to their experience.

Iron, Brass, and Copper Ware. — Articles of these sub-
stances, for the purposes of cooking, have been common here
from the first settlement of the country. Their appearance,
as either nicely kept or the reverse, has always been a test of
the qualities for neatness exhibited by those who have the
care of them.

Jack. — This, being difl'erent from another article of the
same name, has been long employed in assisting to pull off
boots. Its origin is given in Watts's Logic : " Foot boys,
who had frequently the common name of Jack given them,
were kept to turn the spit, or to pull off their masters' boots ;


but when instruments were invented for both those services,
they were both called jacks." One kind of these jacks
speedily and easily relieves the tired limb of its leather
appendage, too nearly fitted to its shape for being long
worn without a hearty wish to dispense with its service for
the present. So long as boots are worn, the jack has no
need to be anxious that the world will say to it, " As you
can no longer benefit us, we wish neither for your acquaint-
ance nor your company."

Jacks and Spits. — The former were machines for turning
the latter, which held meat before the fire so that it might be
roasted. Both were in general use, till they began to be su-
perseded, sixty years ago, by tin kitchens, which had much
smaller sized spits. Families who had neither jack nor spit
would have their meat fastened to the end of a strong cord,
suspended before the fire, which turned one way and then
another, and had a large dish under it to catch the drippings.
With regard to jacks, we have the notice of Pope, —

" Some strain in rhyme ; the Muses, on their racks,
Scream like the winding of ten thousand Jacks."

As to the spits. Swift says, —

" "With Peggy Dixon thoughtful sit,
Contriving for the pot and spit."

Japan Cases. — These are mentioned among the household
furniture of our wealthier primitive families. They were
used to hold things of more than common value. They
were made, in 1712, by Nathaniel Partridge, of Boston. For
their outward show and contents, they had an honorable po-
sition and a careful watch.

Keeler. — We find this mentioned in 1G53. Though not
contained in our dictionaries, we are credibly told by one
that she long ago heard the word applied to a small tub.
Since this remark. Miss Caulkin's excellent History of New
London speaks of milk keelers.

Kettles. — We meet with these far back in the ages of
antiquity. When the sons of Eli, as related in Samuel,


departed from the counsels of their father, and sacrilegiously
partook of the oblations made by the people, they ordered
their servants to put flesh hooks into the kettle, as well as
pan, caldron, or pot, and reserve for their use whatever was
brought up. They have never been strangers to our soil.

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 3 of 18)