Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

The customs of New England online

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washed iron, large and small, have come down to our day.

From Pope we have the words, —

•' Or o'er cold coffee trifle with, the spoon.
Count the slow clock, and dine exact at noon."

Squab. — This was a kind of sofa or couch. The word
is commonly applied to unfledged pigeons. But it appears
in a Boston advertisement of 1741, as though it was a well-
known comfort among household appurtenances. Swift
makes the remark, — i>

" On her large squab you find her spread."

Stand. — As the bearer of various articles in domestic
use, the stand was no stranger to the ancients. One of its
brightest services has been to bear the lights of the candle-
stick and the lamp. For the knowledge which it has long
been instrumental in pouring upon the minds of the literati,
it deserves no ordinary niche in the fame of family furniture.

Standish. — This is found among the chattels of the New
Engianders. Though its construction is simple, it has an olf-
hand utility, suited to its purpose. Its principal description
may be learned from the humorous testament of Swift: " I
bequeath to Dean Swift, Esq., my large silver standish, con-
sisting of a large silver plate, an ink pot and a sand box."

Stills. — These, of a small size, and generally made of tin,
were owned by some of our ancient families. They were
employed for the distillation of substances like those of
roses, tansy, spearmint, wormwood, peppermint, and penny-
royal. They were ov\aied more, of course, where such things
abounded than where they did not. Some of them are still
used in country and suburban towns. In describing the bee,
Cleaveland, an English author, remarks, —

" The still of his refining mold,
Minting the garden into gold."

Stone Ware. — This, not so brittle as some other wares,
has long been serviceable among civilized nations. We read


of it on the occasion when our Saviour turned water into
wine. " And there were there six water pots of stone." In
the form of jugs and other vessels it has been used by our
population from their early residence here to the present.

Stool. — This, being a seat without a back, for one person,
was probably among the first inventions for household furni-
ture. Accounts of it are of ancient date. We have the
story of the wise and benevolent Shunammite and the prophet
Elisha. " She said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive
that this is a holy man of God. Let us make a little cham-
ber, I pray thee, on the wall ; and let us set for him there a
bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick."

Stools were very common in most of our primitive fami-
lies. They are seldom known or mentioned now among
front room furniture, except for seats at pianos. But their
purpose is answered by such things as the finely wrought
tabouret., with mahogany legs.

Footstool, used to rest the feet on, is several times met
with in the Scriptures, figuratively as well as literally ap-

Stool of repentance was an elevated seat in the kirks of
Scotland, and also in some of the New England churches,
for transgressors, who had labels of their offences on their
persons, so as to be seen by all the worshipers. Spenser
says, —

" Ne sittest clo-\vn on that same silver stool,
To rest thy weary person in the shadoAV cold."

Stoves. — Beckmann, in his history of inventions, observes
that however the Greek and Roman authors give imperfect
information as to the manner in which the ancients warmed
their houses, yet it is sufficient to show that they had the
firepan, or portable stove, in which they kindled wood or put
burning coals, and then carried it to the room where they
wished it should stand. We read in Exodus, " His firepans
and all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass."

The articles here specified were used, to some extent, by
our primitive inhabitants. In 1652, John Clark was allowed,
by the legislature of Massachusetts, ten shillings, for three
F* 9


years, from every family which used his invention for saving
wood and warming houses at little cost. After trial for this
period, he was granted the same privilege during his life.
The iron plate or German close stoves w^ere common, for
stores and public places, before our revolution of independ-

Stoves with an open front, after the plan of Benjamin
Franklin, were made at the furnace of James Byres & Co.,
1787, in Springfield. These were considerably used fifty-five
years ago. In 1812, the large brick stove, after the Russian
pattern, was adopted by some families ; but, being far less
comfortable than expected, it was laid aside in a few years.
When hard coal, called, in the Bay records of 1637, " iron
stone," began to be generally burned, a quarter of a century
since, close stoves, beside grates, came into vogue, and have
become both multiform and multiplied. Beaumont remarks,
" Stoves -which could autumn of cold winter make."

Foot stoves, employed by females about the house, at pub-
lic worship, and on other occasions, when abroad, in cold
weather, were very common till the introduction of large
stoves in all such places. They were made of oak or tin,
perforated with holes to let the heat out. They had iron
pans to hold the coals. It was formerly very common, on
the Sabbath, to see boys, either as sons or servants, carrying
them to the meeting houses for the comfort of the female
part of the worshipers. Not unfrequently, while they were
so accommodated, some of the male hearers would knock
their almost frozen feet so as to disturb the audience. A hint
from the minister would occasionally come to them — " My
hearers, a little more patience, and I shall be done."

Strainers. — These, of wooden and metallic substances, are

likely, from their form and utility, to have been known among

the ancients. Separating the fine from the coarse, the pure

from the impure, in nourishment and other things, it holds

no despicable stand among the kitchen utensils. Blackmore

has a figurative reference to them —

" The iiisinuating drops sink through the sand,
And pass the porous strainers of the land."


Sugar Bowl — This has been an inmate of the families
who have used sweetening, and there are few who have not
done it in the present century. When tea and coffee were
unknown among our population, the sugar bowl was almost
as much of a stranger to them. As those liquids gained
upon the liking of our inhabitants, so did this vessel show it-
self on the table, as a needful accompaniment. So strongly
has it become intrenched in the public appetite, not only for
the morning and evening drinks, but for many others, to
which it imparts a pleasant taste, there is little prospect
that it will be put aside and pass out of mind.

Sugar Tongs. — Such articles have been no strangers to
the ladies who have presided over well-spread boards, since
these have presented chocolate, coffee, and tea for morning
and evening meals. While aiding to prepare the liquid with
a pleasant taste for the partakers of it, they are not gifted
with power to do the same for themselves. Their office, be-
ing thus emblematical of the benevolence which acts for oth-
ers, but not for itself, gives them more than common claims
to attention. Of silver, and rarely of gold, they are more
carefully looked after than most other household articles.
As domestic means of support have enlarged, so have such
implements increased.

Swab. — A sort of mop for washing floors as well as decks
of vessels. The ease with which it can be made, and its
adaptedness for cleaning, lead us to believe that it was intro-
duced into the first habitations of men. The poet of Avon
mentions those who used such an article. It must have had
its place among our primitive fm-niture. It has come down
to our day, indorsed with an objection by thorough scourers,
that it is less effective than cloths in their sturdy hands.
Though its service is menial, it acts a useful part, and affords
pleasure to the lover of outward as well as inward purity.

Tables. — For holding food, from which families take their
meals, they are likely to have been among the first inventions
of men. David charged Solomon, " Show kindness unto
the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those
that eat at thy table, for so they came to me when I fled


because of Absalom thy brother." Among the ruins of Nin-
eveh, metallic tables have been discovered.

Of the earliest tables in New England, now extant, is the
large oak one, said to have been brought over in the May-
flower, to Plymouth, and owned by the first Governor Wins-
low. Of different species of wood and various sizes and
forms, tables have abounded among our households, as these
have been formed and continued.

" To turn the tables " is an expression significant of
change in the position of two contending parties — a meta-
phor denoting the vicissitudes of fortune experienced at
gaming tables.

Table Bells. — These have been long used in families of
large towns, who have kept servants. As well known, they
have been rung by some one at table, when attendants, out
of the room, were needed. They appear in a Boston adver-
tisement of 1765. They are not generally popular with
those who are subject to their call. This is more so in a
country like ours, where due service, for the greater part, is
not properly considered.

Table Cloths. — The practice of covering tables with
cloths is of long standing. We read the divine command
to Moses and Aaron, " Upon the table of show bread they
shall spread a cloth of blue." Various have been the fabrics
and colors of such cloths, used in New England, as well as

Tankard. — This is defined by Johnson, "a large vessel
with a cover for strong drink." Arbuthnot observes, " Ma-
rius was the first who drank out of a silver tankard."
Though it is not safe to assert that any individual of for-
mer ages was the first in any custom, still the quotation indi-
cates that the vessel mentioned was known anciently. As
made of pewter and silver, it was common in our mother
country when immigi'ants came thence to people our land.
It has continued to be used in some families, though many
others, who have banished cider and beer from their tables,
give it no place among their drinking utensils.

We read in the News Letter of 1704, " Stolen from IVIrs.


Susanna Campbell, widow, in Boston, a silver tankard, that
holds about two quarts, has Sir Robert Robinson's coat of
arms on the fore part of it, wherein are three ships and the
motto in Latin." Happy are all who come not within the
category of Ben Jonson —

"Hath his tankard touched your brain ?"

Tea Kettles and Pots. — These were little known here, by
such a name, during the first century of our settlement, and
not abundantly in the second, till sixty years ago. When
our provinces banded to discourage the use of tea, and thus
its importation from England, to avoid the tax, such utensils,
when seen or mentioned, suggested thoughts of revolution
and independence.

Tea Table. — When the herb implied in this phrase be-
gan its reign among our inhabitants, such a table was not
contained in the vocabulary of domestic goods. But it soon
became associated with pleasant thoughts of the enjoyment
experienced over it, in company with friends, as they drank
their two cups of India liquid. Few were known to have
indulged the habit, as Dr. Johnson did, of taking a dozen or

So strong was the attachment of some good wives, whose
husbands were zealous whigs, to such a table, and what it
sustained, as tradition relates, they would secretly indulge
their liking for them, even when covenants were made by
others to lay them aside, so that England might realize but
little from their system of taxation.

Though tea tables may not have been abundant before our
peace of independence and our prosperous trade with China,
yet they have been so ever since. The popularity of them
in our fatherland is indicated by a remark of Addison — " One
has a design of keeping an open tea lahleJ^ But however
hospitality of this kind may be agreeable, no doubt its abuse
often produces a disorder of the nerves, injures the health,
and causes much unhappiness. Paul wrote to the Corinthi-
ans, " Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate
in all things."


Thimble. — This is derived, as Minshew supposes, from
thumb bell. As a metallic protection of the fingers, which ply
the needle, they probably can claim an ancient origin. It
has always been an indispensable article in every industrious
family of New England. In its place and at proper times,
it is far more becoming the daughters of the Puritans than
rings of the finest gold set off with the costliest diamonds.
To guard the fingers with such an article, in useful sewing,
is an efficient means of guarding the character against vain
inclination, and the heart against bitter reflections.

Tin Ware. — The metal here indicated was known in the
time of Moses, who died 1451 years before the advent of
our Saviour. It was brought from Cornwall, by the Phoeni-
cians, 1100 years before the same era. It is probable that
various household articles were made of it, in those early pe-
riods. Such ware was used by our primitive families, and
has come down to our day. Of course, part of it was intro-
duced and named in different years, as it was fitted for par-
ticular things. For instance, coffee and tea pots came into
vogue when the liquids did for which they were intended.
Ware of this kind, after serving in compliance with its pur-
pose, was generally kept on the kitchen shelves, with its pew-
ter and brass companions, to compliment the niceness of its
female supervisors, according to its lustre. Though formerly
called Jupiter by the chemists, it is far from holding the rank
among metals which that mythological character did among
the idols of the Greeks and Romans.

Toasting- Iron. — This is the well-known article for drying
bread before the fire, so that it may be eaten with or without
butter. It has long thus contributed its share in preparing
food to suit the taste and appetite of its proprietors. It was
known to the first occupants of our soil, and to their ances-
tors. Pope wrote the couplet, —

" Some squire, perhaps, you take dcligM to rack,
Whose game is whisk, whose treat a toast in sack."

Toothpick. — This, for cleaning the teeth, was known in the
old world before our country was settled. We read of it in


Elizabeth's reign. It is not unlikely that the first man, Adam,
was acquainted with it, of some material or other. In 1720,
the only one of our public prints mentions " a silver pick-
tooth case." The toothpick will probably be fashionable with
some as long as teeth last and food remains for them to mas-

Towel. — This, as used for wiping the hands and face,
must have been common among the ancients. John records
of the Saviour, " He took a towel and girded himself." Of
different materials, it has been handed down by our first set-
tlers. Its frequent employment on our persons has rendered
it as our familiar acquaintance and our indispensable friend.

" The attendants water from theii- hands supply,
And ha\'ing washed, with silken toiocls dry."

Tray. — This, being different from another article of the
same name, is made of wood, and used for having food
chopped in it, or carrying such things as fish and meat. It
holds a respectable stand for usefulness. Gay has the line —

" No more her care shall fill the hollow tray."

Trenchers. — The signification of this term here is wooden
plates for food. They were both square and round. It is
likely that in the first form they were among the earliest fur-
niture of the table. The Romans had their scutella quadi'ata,
or square trencher, and scutella orbiculata, or the round
trencher. They were used in Old England when New Eng-
land began to be settled.

In one of our families, the father of which died in 1654,
we find one dozen of them. The households who could not
afford to buy pewter ware employed trenchers altogether.

A story is told of a deacon in Connecticut, which informs
us that he was visited by one of the brethren. After mutual
salutations, the latter remarked, " I have something to say."
"What is it?" asked the former. " I think you are proud,
deacon, because I am informed that you use round trenchers
in your house." " It is true," answered the accused. The
sequel showed that he was a turner by trade, and exercised


his taste and skill in making trenchers round for his family,
rather than square. But such ware, in the opinion of the
people, being too near the natural material, does not appear
so plenty after 1662 as before. Though seen occasionally,
even in our day, for other uses than to hold food at dinner, it
long ago gave place to earthen plates for the last purpose.
Locke remarks, " Many a child may have the idea of a
square trendier, or round plate, before he has any idea of in-

Tureen. — This is a deep vessel, used mostly for soups.
With such a name, we meet it in 1758, as though it was
known previously. However named by the nation who are
noted for their attachment to soups, we will indulge none of
the prejudice against it which our mother country formerly
did against them, and so in return. AVhile holding its place,
and administering to the appetite of those who like its smok-
ing contents, it should have our estimation according to its

Tubs. — As large wooden vessels, generally for washing
clothes, they must have had an early origin. We read of Di-
ogenes, who lodged in a tub, to show his independence of so-
cial comforts ; and while so situated he was visited by Alexan-
der, and desired this conqueror not to stand between him and
the sun. The coopers of London, who made tubs, were in-
corporated in loOl. The immigrants to our shores were, of
course, acquainted with such appendages of a washing day.
One of our early inventories mentions them. They are still
generally used by our families, though various machines have
been invented and sold to supersede them. Experience has
shown, that however these contrivances do, yet the tub, with
soap and good hard rubbing, do much better. Another sort
of tubs, frequently named in our early accounts of estates,
are powdering tubs. These were used for salting down
meat. They contributed to the preserving of sustenance for
the body, while the former did the same for its cleanly ap-

Urns. — These have been employed to contain hot water,
coffee, and tea. They are so formed as to admit a heater


to keep these liquids warm. They have been long used, and
still are by some of our families. They have been constant
at their post, and have liberally dispensed what was commit-
ted to their charge. Not like Vesta's for the consumption of
fuel, nor that in the sign of Capricorn, nor those to hold the
ashes of ancient heroes, they discharge their appropriate duty
and conform with the motto, " Mind your business."

Voider s. — These are baskets, in which broken food is car-
ried from the table. We meet with them in an advertise-
ment of 1741, as though they had been no strangers among
kitchen collections. Cleaveland, an English author, has the
passage, " A voider for the nonce."

Warming'. Pans. — We find these among the chattels left
by a part of our first inhabitants. Made of brass, and
with long handles, they were formerly much more used, in
cold weather, for imparting heat to the bed, than they have
been for the last thirty years. An objection to them has
been, that the comfort which they afford at first soon passes
off, and renders the body not susceptible of warmth, by
means of bedclothes, as it would otherwise have been. But
whether this theory be true or not, one cause of their being
laid aside in some degree is, that they are far less needed in
houses warmed by furnaces or stoves than they were before
suc]j heat conductors were fashionable. We are, at this
point, reminded of the advice once given to Timothy Dexter
of Newburyport, that he had better send a large number of
warming pans to the West Indies, and also of his sending
them to his gi'eat profit, because their covers answered for
strainers, and the other parts for dippers of molasses.
Though no other person is likely to make so good a specula-
tion on such articles, yet they are likely to be turned, for the
most part, from their former use, as, in a different respect, his
were in the place where they were sold. Thus treated, they
will fare no worse than other things once popular, but now
neglected. So passes the glory of the world.

Wash Basin. — This was known in the days of Moses.
Its fitness for families indicates that it must have been
G 10


invented long before his time. For its cleansing use and
healthful efficacy, it holds no mean estimation among house-
hold utensils.

Wash Stand. — Though we do not find tliis far back in
the annals of housekeeping, still it was probably known
among the ancients. Of various materials and forms, it has
become increasingly used among our population for the last
half century. Its convenience, and the tendency of its prop-
er use to comfort and health, justly claim for it an early
remembrance in the outfits of newly-formed families.

Wooden Ware. — This, as of the simplest kind, must have
been among the earliest manufactures. It has always been
used in New England, in the shape of bowls, trays, buckets,
pestles and mortars, ladles, etc. The portion of it in the
form of tablespoons and trenchers, both round and square,
was common in the first century of our settlement. The
food, served upon it to supply wholesome appetites, was as
sweet and invigorating as though it was eaten from the
finest gold. The greater part of human wants arc imaginary.
Vast amounts of wealth are consumed in gratifying an am-
bition to have more costly furniture than others, and are thus
lost as to all useful purposes.

" Ho that holds fast the golden mean,
And lives contentedly between the little and the gi'cat," «

acts like a wise steward of divine bounty.

Writing' Desk. — This, as well known, is fitted with im-
plements of writing. We meet with one for sale in 1715.
It was probably known in England before our fathers came
thence to inhabit these shores. For the improvement and
happiness which it has been the means of affording, it de-
serves some higher grade than other implements contributing
only to physical benefit.



1. Furniture of former and latter periods. Times change,
because mankind, in carrying out their inclinations, impart
to them their varied apjjearances. Such alteration is evi-
dent in implements of housekeeping as well as in other things
for human accommodation. Taking a bird's eye view of
domestic furniture, from the first settlement of New England
to the present, we perceive that, as a general consideration,
its articles have gradually increased in cost and quantity.
What in primitive years was regarded as a thrifty outfit for
the bride, either from her own resources or those of her rela-
tives, would now be looked on as very deficient, in style and
price. The question, with regard to such difference, whether
public opinion, the occasion of it, has exerted its power cor-
rectly and safely, is one which deserves our consideration.
If such an opinion indulge a taste more for the ornamental
and extravagant, than the useful and proper, it needs be
checked and counteractecL It should be so modified as to
encourage the fitting up of our habitations with suitable fur-
niture, consistently with avoiding the extremes of meanness
and waste. Whoever, in this respect, keep the lion of fash-
ion at bay, set a worthy example, and are benefactors of
their race.

2. A very comfortable companion for household appurte-
nances is economical contentment. It is neither the abun-
dance nor moderate supply of such things which is most es-
sential to the enjoyment of them. This may be verified by
a visit to the palace and the cottage. In both of these places
you may find those who are well pleased with their situation,
and those who are not.

Some, whose abodes are fitted with all that is serviceable

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 6 of 18)