Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

The customs of New England online

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and tasteful, are still unsatisfied. They see articles, or hear
of them, of which they have no present need, but yet they
are mieasy until they are purchased and placed within their
own doors. Still, the things longed for, soon after they are


domiciliated, lose their charm, and the owners of them are
on the busy lookout for a further supply. Thus changing,
they are lavish of money, which might be better expended ;
they lose the respect of the prudent, whose good opinion they
wish to retain ; and, what is more, their own conscience
rebukes them, as unwise stewards of divine bounty.

We could wish that this class were all who so rendered
themselves unhappy. But there are others, as already inti-
mated, who, on a smaller scale, though one essentially the
same in principle, act a similar part. They are alike guided
by fancy more than by reason, and murmur because they
cannot fare sumptuously in their domestic establishment.
The law of Providence awards to them the bitter experience
which it does impartially to those of more means, who dis-
regard its injunctions.

The inquiry by those who thus suffer may occasionally be,
Who will show us any good? We say to them. There is
relief. Hearken to advice, and it shall be well with you. If
you will turn from your course, will properly square your
wishes and expenditures with your means and wants, dis-
miss your uneasy desires to surpass your equals, and rest sat-
isfied with the domestic supplies around you, judiciously al-
tered as circumstances permit and require, your heart shall
be free from many vexations, and the light of peace shine
upon your soul. Thus you will know, from happy experi-
ence, that economical contentment is to your household ap-
purtenances a companion which will afford you much com-
fort, and is worthy of your constant cultivation.

3. WJdle blessed with well-furnished tabernacles here, we
should not forget the need of others hereafter. It is, indeed,
a favor to have a home with all the essential appliances for
convenience and comfort. Around such a place, protected
by the arm of well-administered civil authority, and graced
with the kindly interchange of domestic affection, our
thoughts may often cluster in pleasant associations, and our
memory be glad in its joys departed and expected. But it
should not be the only centre of our hopes and fears, our mo-
tives and actions. It is divinely bestowed on us, that we


may often bring to mind that there is another world without
end, and make this truth the subject of our consideration, and
the occasion of inquiry. What will be our abode there, and
what the principle and life essential to fill it with the bliss
of perfection ? Arrested by such instruction, dimly shadowed
forth by the light of nature and lucidly taught by revelation,
we should shake off the drowsiness occasioned by the opi-
ates of earthly attractions, and frequently commune with
endless realities to come. It not only accords with our
obligation, but also with the soundest dictates of propri-
ety and wisdom, for us to fix our musings on tabernacles
above, to be well assured of the spiritual dispositions which
render them meet for the society of the redeemed. As we
look into them with the earnest eye of faith, opened by the
hand of the Saviour, we perceive that human imperfections
have no place there, that every faculty of the soul is filled
with the fullness of resemblance to his moral image, and is
entirely harmonious with the songs and services of the innu-
merable multitude who surround his throne. "We should
not merely have these views, as the pictures of our imagina-
tion, but we should seek to become partakers of them accord-
ing to his immutable and righteous directions. Who, then,
are wise ? Let them so improve the enjoyment of their tem-
poral abodes as to lay up the preparations of piety for ever-
lasting habitations. It is to all such that the words of our
divine Master have an immediate and hopeful application —
" In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare
a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also."



This subject is far from being so simple as to be very easily handled -with

perspicuity and attraction. Still it claims to have its share of attention and

the best treatment in our power to bestow. It must not be turned aside.

We -will commence with some of its less valuable, though not less necessary,



>L ^'^ / vy .": •''!



Shoes, Buskins, Pattens, Clogs, Galochcs, India Rubbers, Overshoes, Snow
Shoes, Boots, Congress Boots, Gloves, Mittens, Ruffs, Bands, and Shirts.

Shoes. — These were called shoon by Milton and other
ancient writers. Being requisite to protect the feet in all cli-
mates, they must have been, in some form or other, among
the first inventions of man. When the Most High was
about to commission Moses as the leader of Israel out of
EgyjDt to the land of promise, he said to him, " Put off thy
shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest
is holy ground." These were of the kind known as sandals,
or soles variously fastened round the feet. They were pulled
off when persons entered a place which they deemed sacred.
Such usage prevails among the Mahometans to this day.
The Romans had their shoes taken off by their servants
when they entered a house as guests to a feast. A similar
practice prevailed among the Jews. It appears on the occa-
sion when Abraham said to the three angels, " Let a little
water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet." Xeno-
phon informs us that the ten thousand Greeks, who had fol-
lowed the younger Cyrus, being in want of shoes, as they
retreated, were compelled to cover their feet with raw skins.
We are informed that other shoes of the Romans, as well
as of the Jews and Greeks, covered half of the leg, were
open in front, and, fastened with leather thongs, were denom-
inated coirig-icB. Slaves of the first among these three na-
tions wore no shoes, and their feet had a chalky appearance.
Hence they were called cretati.

Thus mentioned in the earlier ages of the world, shoes of

11 (81)


diflerent forms have had their several periods of prevalence.
For settlers who came over in 1629, one hundred pair were
provided. Part of them were of the quality described in the
following contract: "Agreed with John Hewson to make
eight pair of welt neat's leather shoes, crossed on the outside
with a seam, to be substantial, good over leather of the best,
and two soles, the inner sole of good neat's leather, and the
outer of tallowed backs." An account of merchandise, given
in Boston, in 1646, mentions six pairs of slippers, usually
assigned to the shoe class. Among the property of Robert
Turner, deceased, as exhibited at a probate court in the same
town, in 1651, we have the following items : 23 pairs of chil-
dren's shoes at 9d a pair ; 29 pairs of 11 at 4s. 4d. ; of 12, 4s.
8d. ; of 13, 4s. lOd. a pair ; and also 20 dozen wooden heels,
at 8d. a dozen. A quantity of Russia leather was appraised
with the preceding. The highest price of men's shoes, in
1670, was 5s., and for those of women, 3s. 8d. In 1672, a
committee of Boston, considering that people in low circum-
stances " will wear no other shoes or boots generally but of
the newest fashion and highest price," propose that a law be
passed, that no shoemaker shall sell, to any inhabitant, shoes
of 11 or 12 sizes above 5s. a pair, and so in proportion as to
other sizes.

As indicative that such manufactures continued to be im-
ported from abroad, the News Letter of 1712 contained a
notice, that shoes and slippers, made in Europe, are for sale.
This paper informs us that, the next year, a servant ran away
from the Rev. John Wise, of Chebacco, having on " wooden
heel shoes." The same print advertises, in 1714, " French
Fall " shoes. An account book of our metropolis, under
date of 1740, charges those called Spanish and Morocco

When our country was first occupied by Europeans, those
with round and peaked toes were fashionable, and particu-
larly the latter. Some — denominated exquisites, in modern
parlance — appeared in London, with the shoe, then called
forked, nearly as long again as the foot. This was not en-
tirely a new thing under the sun. In the reign of Richard II.,


who was murdered in 1400, his queen introduced shoes so
peaked as to need being held up by chains fastened to the
knees. The shoe toes so kept up were called " crackowes."
Edward IV. proclaimed that such beaks should not ex-
ceed two inches beyond the feet, " upon pain of cursing by
the clergy," and a fine of twenty shillings. We are told
that Hcm-y Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, had the toes of his
shoes two feet in length, so that he might conceal a large
excrescence on one of his feet. His example set the fashion
for multitudes. An imitation of the foibles more than the
excellence of the great has long been a fault with the larger
portion of our race. Under Henry VHL, shoes, called pan-
tojhs, having cork soles, bore up their wearer, two inches from
the ground. Such a mode of adding to the human stature
was common among the ancients. Considering that the
chief object of most among the primitive planters of these
shores was religious liberty, and that they brought with them
the predilections of Puritans against full compliance with
the beau monde, it is hardly to be supposed that they indulged
themselves, or their visitors from abroad, in the excesses just
related. Thus actuated, our fathers wore toes moderately
peaked, which continued until 1630, then gradually lessened,
and were succeeded by a greater share of round ones. Still
it was no protracted period before the peaked toes rallied,
and renewed their hold on public attachment. By 1650, they
had so revived in this and the mother country, that Bulwer,
in his " Artificial Changeling," remarks, " Our boots and
shoes are snouted that we can hardly kneel " in the house of

About 1689, square toes made their appearance. These,
also, had their prototypes. They had come under the lash
of law, but were not scourged from human remembrance
and rcadoption. In the reign of Mary, who died 1558, there
was a proclamation issued, that no person should wear shoes
over two inches wide at his toes. Thus preceded, shoes of
this kind held their standing among our ancestors until 1737.
Then, according to the authority of the late worthy Dr. E. A.
Holyoke, of Salem, they began to lose favor in the eyes of


tlie coininnnily. Still, then, as ever since, general custom
was not absolutely influential upon all individuals. In our
newspapers from 1716 to 1735, round toes more, and peaked
ones less, form a part of the description given of the shoes
on runaway slaves and servants. A retort by one who takes
the signature of a female, in the Weekly Rehearsal of Bos-
ton, in 1732, on strictures relative to the dress of ladies, fol-
lows. " Shoe toes, pointed to the heavens, in imitation of
the Laplanders, with buckles of a harness size." From 1737
shoe toes continued, in a small proportion, round, and became
mostly pointed. Of this shape they lasted, as we remember,
until about 1825, when they began to be succeeded by square
ones. These being at first unpleasant to the eye, which likes
the line of a circle more than that of a square, had intrenched
themselves, by 1833, in general preference, and were slowly
increasing their width. But unenforced by sumptuary
enactments, they gave considerable way to round ones, in
1836, which have since been on the advance. From present
appearance, these bid fair to leave those far behind, neglected
though not forgotten, until another revolution in fashionable

The shoes of females have participated, in common with
those of the other sex, in shape and alteration, as previously
related. In 1716, laced shoes for women and children are
advertised in a Boston paper. Two pairs of shoes for children
were charged, in 1695, at four shillings sixpence each. They
have had heels of considerable height, while those of males
were not so low a century since as they have been in our
day. Cowley, who died in 1667, makes a remark applicable
to New as well as Old England, about his surprise "to see
ladies wear such high shoes as they cannot Avalk in without
one to lead them." This language of his was, no doubt, hy-
perbolical. Still, it gives us an idea of the prevalent excess
to which he referred. By 1714, such heels had lost some of
their altitude. Still they were common until fifty-two years
ago, under the name of cross-cut heels. Small girls, as well
as women, wore them. Before 1712, and then, it was cus-
tomary for the laboring classes to have wooden shoe heels.


Tlie French neutrals, brought from Nova Scotia and distrib-
uted through the colonies in 1755 and '5Q, often wore wood-
en shoes, according to the long custom of their fathers. Pre-
viously to 1689, as well as in that year and afterwards, ladies
had their dress shoes of silk and satin richly embroidered.
We call to mind, that it is about thirty-eight years since
right and left shoes for males began to make their appearance.
These, being more for neatness than durability, are now gen-
erally worn. It is evidently an old fashion revived. The
author of Domestic Life in England gives the likeness of a
rich and ancient sandal fitted only for the left foot. Shak-
vspeare speaks as follows of his smith :

" Standing on slippers, -which his nimble haste
Had thrust upon contrary feet."

Not long after the settlement of our colonies, when the
want of food was comfortably supplied, and attention was
turned by some to modes of dress, the fashionables of both
sexes had large knots or roses of ribbon, prevalently green,
on the instep of their shoes. For this purpose, ribbons of all
colors, except white, the emblem of the fallen house of York,
were fashionable in England. The red, denoting the house
of Lancaster, was the most liked. Others wore strings and
buckles. Some of the strings were so valuable as to appear
in the account of estates ; as, in one rendered in 1645, of
Mrs. Dillingham's property at Ipswich. Sewall, in his diary
of 1674, notes that he desired his brother, going to Boston,
to buy him a pair of shoe strings there. Buckles prevailed,
and part of them, by 1702, were quite large. Subsequently,
they gave place to strings. By 1740, buckles reappeared.
When the house of Governor Hutchinson was ransacked, in
1765, one of his daughters lost a pair of silver laced shoes,
and " stone buckles " for the same, and his son missed a pair
of silver buckles for a like use. They increased to fifty-seven
years ago, when strings put in their claim to public favor,
and, since 1800, have had it generally allowed until the pres-
ent time. True, a few venerable gentleman, th^ representa-
tives of by-gone customs, are occasionally seen with their



great buckles. Wade's British Museum says, that after the
recovery of George III. from his first ilhiess, great quantities
of buckles were made, and dispersed through his kingdom.
He went to St. Paul's without buckles. Tlien shoe strings
took their place, and Walsall was nearly ruined by the
change. While appendages for the feet are properly provid-
ed, true ornaments of the mind and heart should not be neg-

Buskim. — These, in modern periods, have signified a high
shoe or half boot. They are said to have been introduced
by ^schylus, who died 456 B. C. They appeared chiefly
on actors of the stage. Hence classical authors have used
the word expressing them as tragedy itself. Confined to
histrionic companies, the buskin had very thick soles, so as
to give them the appearance of gigantic height in their per-
sonation of heroes like Hercules. Dempster informs us that
it was also worn by young women who wished to seem
much above their stature, and by travelers and hunters who
were called to pass through miry localities.

As worn by our fathers, the sole of the buskin has varied
with that of the shoe and boot. It has chiefly differed from
these in that it is higher than the one and lower than the
other. At first thought, we may suspect that our Puritan
ancestors would expunge buskin from their vocabulary, be-
cause they immovably set their faces against all theatres,
whether comic or tragic. Still they did speak and write it,
as occasion required. We find in their inventories of estates
.iuskin mentioned as a common term. Several of such doc-
uments, presented for examination in Boston, in 1639 and
1645, contain references to deceased persons as having been
the owners of such articles. One of these individuals was
Thomas Lamb, of Roxbury. Though the expression has
long ceased in New England, as applicable to coverings for
the feet, yet the thing which it once denoted has remained
and continues in our day. As bearing on this topic, we have
the following words of Pope : —

" Here, armed with silver bows, in early dawn,
Her huskined virgins traced the dewj' la^vn."


Pattens, Clog-s, and Galoches. — The first were of wood,
with ail iron ring on the sole, to keep the feet from moist
ground. Gay observes, in commendation of this article, —

" And the pale virgin on the patten rose, •'■ '
No more her lungs are shook with dropping rheums,
And on her check reviving beauty blooms."

The second were like pattens without the ring. They
were used by females in England before the arrival of the
Normans, in 1066.

In 1717, nineteen pairs of the former, and seven pairs of
the latter, were sold, by one of our traders, at fifteen pence a
pair. The New England Weekly Journal, of 1729, adver-
tises pattens, and of 1741, these and clogs, for sale, as in
general use. A lady of Boston, in 1764, had three pairs of
clogs at four shillings each pair, and another at five shillings
fourpence, stolen.

Galoches were of thick leather, and open at the heel, for
the same purpose as pattens and clogs.

All these health preservers were generally used by our pru-
dent grandmothers and their daughters until within fifty-seven
years. They were succeeded by shoes v/ith soles partly com-
posed of cork, as a safeguard against taking cold.

India Rubbers and Overshoes. — As a very convenient,
neat, and safe substitute for the articles just described, it is
well known that India rubbers began to be worn about twen-
ty-nine years ago, and are much used by both sexes. The
adoption of such an improvement has done much to prevent
the hectic of weak lungs, and keep well lungs in a sound con-
dition. Of kin to India rubbers, respecting their purpose,
may be reckoned the overshoes worn by gentlemen to cover
the feet of their boots, and to keep out the wet. These have
been used by invalids, or those inclined to be so, for more
than forty-two years. Being cumbersome for walking, they
have never been extensively worn, and are now seldom seen.
The prevention of ill is far better than its cure.

Snoio Shoes. — These, though partly of the same name
as the preceding, are of different material, form, and use. To
individuals unacquainted with them, it may be interesting


to have them described. They were shaped like a battledoor,
about three feet in length, and two feet in their greatest
width. Their size, however, was suited to the taste and
strength of the wearers. They were composed of strong
wooden hoops, and of netv/ork made with cord. They were
fastened so as to come under the soles of the leather shoes
or boots, in due proportion. Their purpose is known by their
name. It is to help people of thinly-populated places to
pass over deep, unbroken snow, in the performance of duties
both necessary and merciful. To the hunter of the woods
they are indispensable appendages in the winter months. In
the first settlement of our country, when scarcely a horse or
cart was seen, when those highest in office walked in going
long journeys, and when, consequently, the few roads, cov-
ered with deep snow, remained unopened for weeks and
months, such shoes were very needful for the planters. As
the means of traveling with horses, and after a considerable
period with carrriages, increased, they were of less demand.
The inventory of Thomas SautelFs estate, in 1651, of Suf-
folk county, as it then was, specified a pair of them. In
1703, men who had Tyng's Town subsequently granted them
for the following service, pursued the Indian enemy " into
their own country on snow shoes, the first attempt of that
kind, and attended with success, by killing five and prevent-
ing them of the common winter inroads on us, as they had
used before."

The Boston News Letter relates, that, on February 3,
1705, the Eastern Post had arrived, and states, " There is no
traveling with horses, especially beyond Newbury, but with
snow shoes. The noted physician previously quoted informs
us that, on " February 22, 1748, the snow in the highways
was two and a half feet deep," and on the 29th, that " there
was no passing about the country except on rackets, or
snoiv shoesJ'^ These articles were often provided by our
provincial government for their forces, when ordered to march
in cold weather against the French and Indians. Even now
they are occasionally worn by individuals of inland towns,
when the roads are blocked up in winter. , Woe be to the


poor wight who presumes to walk hastily with them before
he has carefully learned to use them. By neglect in this
respect, he is sure to be cast and floundered in the snow.
Damage, in all concerns of life, is sure to ensue from ventur-
ing beyond the dictates of discretion and experience.

Boots. — The prevalent idea, as to the derivation of this
word, is, that it comes from boUe, signifying leather bottles,
which resembled boots. But Borel derives it from bot, a
stump, which has some likeness to the leg when booted. A
kind of boot was common among the Chinese, made of silk,
or some other fine material, and lined with cotton an inch
thick. In the time of Charles VII. of France, boots were
called houses and Iiose.

These have long constituted a part of dress among nations.
When anciently worn by soldiers in active service, they were
of iron, brass, and copper. Of this kind were those of Ho-
mer's heroes. This author calls the Greeks brazen booted.
So it was with the Jews. Such boots were the brass greaves
of Goliath. They were worn to protect the feet and legs
from being wounded by gall traps or iron stakes, placed in
their way by an enemy. But without subjecting themselves
to such inconvenient materials, the Old Englanders resorted
to animal rather than to mineral stock, and preferred boots
of leather. In the reign of Richard II., they had peaks, like
shoes, of great length, fastened to the knees with chains.
Edward IV. forbade this custom, as previously stated. In
the fourteenth century, beaux wore a boot on one leg and a
stocking on the other. In our country, boots have kept pace
with shoes in the shape of their feet. As a sumptuary reg-
ulation to meet the necessity of the times, the government
of Massachusetts ordered, in 1651, that if any individual not
worth two hundred pounds should wear great boots, he
should be fined. The ensuing year, Jonas Fairbanks, of
Essex county, was prosecuted for an infringement upon this
law. Robert Edwards, of the same county, was likewise
dealt with on a similar charge. The fact was, that our civil
fathers saw that boots, being short, were nearly as large at
H* 12


the top as the brim of a hat, and that they uselessly took up
too much leather, then rather scanty among them.

In 1641, the will of Edward Skinner designates a pair of
" white russet boots." An inventory of Robert Turner's es-
tate, in 1651, reckons fourteen pairs of boots at fourteen shil-
lings a pair. The enactment had a partial effect, though
boots continued considerably large till 1685. Those of a
superior quality were sold, in 1693, for thirty shillings a pair.
After this, and until 1702, they became high and stiffened.
An advertisement of 1715 offered " English boots, half jack
and small, tops and spurs," for sale, and another, fifteen
years afterwards, mentions ^'■jack bootsP They have changed
their form several times. In 1790, Jialf boots began to reas-

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 7 of 18)