Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

The customs of New England online

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sume a place in public favor. " The first pair that appeared
in Boston," as an intelligent correspondent observed, " were
worn by a young gentleman who came here from New York,
and who was more remarkable for iiis boots than any thing
else." Thirty-seven years ago, most boots were high, stiff,
and very protuberant at the calf, and ever since they have
been, for the most part, prevalently low, supple, and straight.
A century since, they were seldom worn, save by military
men. Such an item of apparel was formerly made to last
much longer than it is at present. Before our revolution
of independence, most persons, who allowed themselves a
pair of boots, would wear them occasionally for almost or
quite their whole lives.

Six years ago. Congress Boots, for both sexes, were intro-
duced. They come up so as to cover the foot neatly and
closely by means of India rubber cloth inserted in the leather,
on each side, wide enough to cover the ankles. Though they
bear a higher price, in proportion to the quantity of material,
than shoes, yet they are likely to be continued through their
convenience and usefulness. Whatever, in its proper sphere,
whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, pos-
sesses the latter quality, has the promise of encouragement.

Stockings. — These were anciently of cloth or milled stuffs
sewed together. ]\Iezerari informs us that Henry II. of
France was the first who appeared with silk stockings, and


that this was at the marriage of his sister to the Duke of
Savoy, in 1559. Queen Elizabeth, in 1561, was presented
by her milliner with a similar pair of hose, and she was so
much pleased with them she entirely laid aside her cloth
ones. The term hose was anciently used to signify the whole
lower part of a man's dress, including his smallclothes and
stockings. It was so in the early years of New England.
The primitive inhabitants here wore their doublet and hose
for a whole suit. Still stockings were worn, and ere long
had the word hose applied to them, as answering a like pur-
pose with the nether part of the whole garment, that had
long been denominated hose, A pair of worsted stockings,
said to be the first knit in England, were made in 1564, and
presented to William, Earl of Pembroke. Mary, Queen of
Scots, wore at her execution blue worsted stockings, clocked
and edged at the top with silver, and over another pair of
white ones. Stubbs informs us, that such items of dress for
women consisted generally of " silk, jarnsey, worsted, or at
least of fine yarn, thread, or cloth of all colors, and with
clocks, open seams, etc." The subsequent language on this
subject is from Shakspeare : " In his first approach before
my lady, he will come to her in yellow stockings ; and 'tis a
color she abhors."

By the time our ancestors came to these shores, they had
known the comfort of hose, manufactured from various sorts
of cloth and yarn. For individuals engaged to settle here,
three hundred pairs of stockings were ordered, two hundred
of which were Irish, at thirteen pence a pair, and the rest
were knit, at two shillings fourpence a pair. In 1675, Cap-
tain Nathaniel Davenport, of Boston, several months before
he was killed at the capture of Narraganset Fort, had left
with him for sale, by Mrs. Winsley, eighteen dozen pairs of
cloth stockings at eighteen shillings a dozen pairs, and thirty-
one dozen at fourteen shillings a dozen.

For nearly a half century after the arrival of our fathers,
red-colored stockings, whether of yarn, worsted, or silk, were
much worn in New England. Besides these, those of wash
leather were used. A public print of 1711 gives notice that


scarlet ones are for sale. We find, however, russet and green
ones, in 1639, among the goods of a deceased person. Before
1691, the roll-up hose came into vogue. John Usher, of
Boston, writes to John Mason, of England, in 1675, " Your
sherrups stocking and your turn-down stocking are " not sala-
ble here. In the former of these two years, a pair of the
roll-up ones was charged ten shillings, while a pair of others,
worsted, were eight shillings. The Weekly Rehearsal, of
Boston, in 1732, advertises " men's, women's, and children's
worsted and woollen stockings, stirrup stockings and socks."
Stockings have, as a matter of neatness, kept their general
form, though they have changed as to color, plainness, and
ornament. In 1740, blue, gray, scarlet, and black ones were
sold in our metropolis, some of which were " clockt."

When provision was made, in 1629, for emigrants to Mas-
sachusetts, as to stockings, these were accompanied with ten
dozen pairs of Norwich garters, at about five shillings a dozen
])airs. At an early period of our country, silk garters were
worn by the more fashionable, and puffed into a large bow
knot at the knee. This fell under the notice of our civil au-
thority, and was forthwith prohibited.

Gloves. — These have been long in use. Xenophon in-
forms us that the Persians covered their hands with them in
the cold season. Homer represents Laertes at work in his
garden, having them on his hands as a protection against
thorns. Varro relates that the Romans found olives, gath-
ered by the naked hand, were better than those gathered with
it when gloved. It is an old proverb, that for a glove to be
well made, three kingdoms must be concerned — Spain to
dress the leather, France to cut it, and England to sew it.
But France, for a considerable period, is said to have had the
preference in all these three respects.

Gloves have served as emblems of various significations.
In 1002, the Bishops of Panderborn and Moncero, as a sign
of being invested with their see, were each presented with a
glove. Monsieur Favin relates that the benediction on
gloves, at the coronation of French kings, is an imitation of
the Eastern custom of induction to high ofiices. To deprive


persons in eminent rank of gloves, was formerly an indica-
tion of their being degraded.

Henry VIII. gave to an executor of his will, Sir Anthony
Denney, a pair of gloves, and Queen Elizabeth presented a
pair of mittens to another member of the same family. The
former of these, were bought, as rare curiosities, at the Earl
of AiTan's sale, in 1759, for thirty-eight pounds seventeen
shillings, and the latter for twenty-five pounds four shillings.
The scented gloves of Spain were preferred before all others
in the time of Elizabeth. Being presented with a pair of
them by the Earl of Oxford, she wore them when her por-
trait was taken.

As is well known, gloves in the foolhardy practice of du-
eling have made a prominent figure. The individual who
threw down his glove was understood to bid defiance, and he
who took it up to accept the challenge. But the chief we
have to do in our republic with gloves, is to wear them either
for ornament or comfort. For individuals coming to dwell
in this land, in 1629, sixteen dozens of gloves were provided,
of sheep, and calf s leather, and kid. Those of the last kind
being of fine quality, for men and women, in 1717, were
three shillings sixpence a pair. The next year, the News
Letter notifies, that " all sorts of fine gloves, satin and kid,
for men, women, and children," are to be sold.

It was a common custom, sixty years since, to give pall-
holders, and others attending funerals, white leather gloves,
and, subsequently, black ones, on like occasions, till within
forty-seven years. In 1741, men and women's " white glazed
lamb" ones were offered for sale in Boston. William Pool,
of Danvers, gives notice, in 1769, that he has gloves to sell
at twelve shillings sixpence, o. t., a pair, by the dozen, gen-
erally made for funerals, and " used by such persons as are
esteemed friends to America." The material of these gloves
was leather. Since, it has been the practice of some fami-
lies to present the clergyman, who performs the burial ser-
vice for any of their relatives, with a pair of black silk
gloves. As made of several materials, as appearing of di-
vers colors, as sometimes embroidered, and at others plain,


such apparel has been worn in this country from its begin-
ning to the present time.

Mittens. — These, as a part of female attire, left the fin-
gers wholly and the thumb partly bare, and were of a texture
to suit the seasons of the year. AVlien the sleeves of the
gown were short, such mittens were extended so as to cover
the arm. Mittens, as used by males in cold weather, are
well known to have covered the whole iiand. Those " of
Wadmol" were estimated in London, in I606, at nine shil-
lings a dozen pairs. Peacham referred to them : " January
clad in Irish rug, holding, in furred mittens, the sign of Cap-
ricorn." Few articles are more needed than they, for the pre-
vention of frost-bitten fingers and the promotion of comfort.
As worn by both sexes, they have generally kept pace with
gloves, in continuance, hue, and substance.

Ruffs. — These, however odd it may appear to us, were
formerly worn by males as well as females. They abounded
in the reign of Pv'Iary. Her successor, Elizabeth, appointed
officers to clip the ruff of every person whom they met wear-
ing it beyond certain legalized dimensions. A sermon
preached at Whitehall, in 1G08, spoke of it, worn by a lady,
as "like a sail, yea, like a rainbow." Ruffs were wired as
well as starched. In the reign of James I. of England, ruffs,
as well as bands, were stiffened with yellow starch, as the
most popular color. Anne, widow of Dr. Turner, for assist-
ing the Countess of Essex to poison Sir Thomas Overbury,
in 1613, received the following sentence from Sir Edward
Coke : " That, as she was the first who introduced the fash-
ion of yellow starched ruffs, she should be hung in that
dress, that the same might be had in shame and detestation."
In the play of Albumazzar, edited 1614, Armilina questions
Trincalo, " What price bears wheat and saffron, that your
band is so stiff" and yellow ? " In consequence of the sen-
tence on Mrs. Turner, ruffs were stiffened with white instead
of yellow starch. Perhaps it may not be taken amiss to re-
late here the introduction of starch into England, seeing it
has had much to do with the apparel of the neck. It was
carried thither, in 1564, by Mrs. Dinghcn Vanden Plasse, of


Flanders, when she set up as a professed starcher. She in-
structed others how to use starch, for five pounds each indi-
vidual, and how to make it, for twenty pounds. Such
charges, in our day, would be accounted very exorbitant.
But new and attractive fashions have long induced many to
gi-atify their passion for them, even at the hazard of their
credit and of impoverishment. Among the supplies for Rev.
Samuel Skelton's family, of Salem, in 1629, there were three
pounds of starch. The News Letter of 1712 gives the sub-
sequent notice : " Very good starch, made in Boston by a
starch maker lately from London, is for sale."

In a comedy by Dekker, published 1612, a man is told to
walk " in treble ruffs, like a merchant." The custom of wear-
ing ruffs by both sexes was imported by some of our primi-
tive settlers. The estimable Winthrop's picture appears
with an elegant article of this description. So does the like-
ness of the poet IMilton, taken while he was a young man.
In 1639, this part of dress was so enlarged, that the legisla-
ture of Massachusetts commanded it to be kept within due
bounds. It was not long after such legal interposition that
the ruff was laid aside by men, though it has been retained
ever since, at alternate periods, by women, in diversified
forms and sizes. Addison remarked of such articles, " The
ladies freed the neck from those yokes, those linen ritffs, in
which the simplicity of their grandmothers had enclosed it."

Band. — In the reign of James I., it succeeded the full,
stiff ruffs of Elizabeth's time. It is mentioned by Ben Jon-
son : " Let his title be but great, his clothes rich, and band
sit neat." The Company of Massachusetts ordered, in 1629,
four hundred bands for immigrants to our country, three hun-
dred of which were "plain falling" bands. These were
sometimes prepared with wire and starch, as the ruff was, so
as to stand out " horizontally and squarely." They were held,
generally, by a cord and tassel at the neck.

This article of dress appears on most of the portraits
which represent our chief Pilgrim Fathers. It is on the like-
nesses of Governor Endicott, Wm. Pynchon, John Leverett,
and others. In their day it not only hung down before, but


extended round so as to lie on the shoulders and back. On
people of the ton, it was tied by long strings, tasseled at the
ends and tastefully knotted, and frequently scolloped and ele-
gantly embroidered. As thus made, it attracted the atten-
tion of our civil authorities. As early as 1634 they forbade
bands to be ornamented with costly work, and in 1639 to be
so broad as they had been.

The inventory of Edward Skinner's property, dated this
year, and presented at the Probate Court in Boston, contains
ten narrow and two broad bands. So a similar document,
as to the estate of George Williams, of Salem, in 1654, men-
tions one dozen bands, and another there designates six fall-
ing bands. One of large size is drawn on the likeness of
Algernon Sidney, who was beheaded in 1683. For laymen,
it appears to have been relinquished soon after 1685, save by
judges of the Supreme Court, who continued it till the rev-
olution, and resumed it at the close of this struggle, and then
wore it till the funeral of John Hancock, in 1793. In a nar-
row form, like that of Geneva, hanging merely in front, it
has been worn by clergymen, as a class, till within thirty-one
years. It has disappeared from our pulpits, except those of
the Episcopalians.

Shirts. — From the manner in which Moses spoke of linen
and woolen, as worn by the people immediately succeeding
the deluge, it has been supposed that Noah and his family
derived the art of manufacturing such articles of attire from
the antediluvians. The earliest nations, who descended from
this patriarch, very probably wore linen for the inmost gar-
ment as soon as for any other. Strutt remarks, " A loose
linen garment, of the sJiirt kind, was anciently in use among
the inhabitants of Palestine." The same author states, that
there is evidence that a similar item of clothing was fashion-
able among the more wealthy of the Anglo-Saxons, in the
eighth century. Though, eight hundred years after, eminent
persons of England had it made of silk, cambric, and lawn,
yet it was generally made of linen, usually called Holland
cloth, for people of comfortable circumstances. At the same
period, shirts of woolen and flannel were worn by men of


laborious callings, as they have been, more or less, ever since.
In the twenty-fourth year of Henry VIIL, Parliament pro-
hibited all persons, below the rank of a knight, to wear
" pinched shirts," or pantalets of linen, or plain ones, adorned
with silk, silver, or gold.

The fact just mentioned, concerning flannel, reminds us of
correcting a mistake of modern times. A correspondent of
the Salem Gazette, of 1821, observed, that such cloth was
first used in Boston, as a dress next the skin, by Lord Percy's
regiment, who were encamped, in October, 1774, on the
Common. He added that Benjamin Thompson, subse-
quently Count Rum ford, was said to have published a
pamphlet at the southward, claiming the discovery of such
a practice, and remarked, " Perhaps he suggested it to Lord
Percy." The truth is, that a custom of this sort prevailed
among the early settlers of our country, as is evident from
the accounts of their clothing. Some of them, who came
hither from England in 1629, had four hundred shirts ordered
for them, though the material thereof was not particularized.

However, it was no easy matter to show off a garment of
this description ; still a proportion of our people, as well as of
their countrymen, across the Atlantic, devised a way for the
foible to be gratified. In 1634, our legislature ordered, " that
no person, either man or woman, shall make or buy any
slashed clothes, other than one slash each sleeve, and another
in the back." We are told that the main object of so cutting
a process was to exhibit the fineness and whiteness of the
inner covering. The custom had prevailed long before in
Europe, and continued under the commonwealth of Crom-
well. The voice of our legislative authorities did not abso-
lutely and forever stay the slashes to their designated num-
ber. The portrait of John Wentworth, of New Hampshire,
Lt. Governor from 1717 to 1729, shows a right arm sleeve
which discovers greater liberty, and sets before us three liberal
apertures, the handiwork of a tailor, and not of accident.
Through these are represented as many specimens of nice
linen cloth, looking out from their confinement. Though
such an instance may not have been singular, it does not
I 13


seem to have been the prevalent fashion in Wcntworth's

Another mode of our fatherland for making kindred exhi-
bitions, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was to have
the waistcoats and doublets -expanded at the neck and bosom.
By such means, linen, wrought with the ingenuity of art,
had opportunity to be seen. Berkeley's Ship of Fools,
printed in 1509, contains the passage, —

" Come near, with your shlrtes bordered and displayed,
In forme of surplois,"

So it has been, more or less, at different periods in our own
land. For a long time before the occupation of our shores
by Christians, the fashionables of Europe had hand ruffs, af-
terwards called mffles, attached to the wristbands of the
shirt. This practice has had its seasons of coming out
prominently, and then secluding itself.

From likenesses of persons, at home and abroad, the ruffle
bosom does not appear to have been so long in the ton as
the hand ruffle. Among the first portraits, which give us a
sample of the former, is that of Peter Faneuil, of Boston,
who died in 1743. Governor Thomas Hutchinson's, who
went to Great Britain in 1774, shows a ruffle from the top
to nearly the bottom of his waistcoat. At the same period,
they were often beheld, as they have been more or less since,
around the tops of ladies' gowns. For a long time, they
were worn by boys of the more wealthy families, and even
of others, spread over the top part of their jackets. Within
twenty years, this fashion for such children has been much
more limited than formerly.

Ruffle bosoms prevailed with young and old men till forty
years past, either long or short, broad or narrow, as fancy dic-
tated. Since, a specimen of it has been occasionally seen.
While the ruffle for the bosom was plentiful, that for the
wristband was much less common. Industrious men could
not conveniently have such dress around their hands, but
could under the protection of their waistcoats.

In succession to the latter came the nicely-wrought and


plaited bosoms. That these might not spend their glory in
the shade, the vest was re({uired to give them a fair opening
to meet the eyes of gazers. But in nothing more is the pro-
verbial instability of our world manifested, than in the mul-
tifarious forms of cloth, usually styled dress. About twenty
years ago, the fronts began to stand for an indulgence. Of
a piece by themselves, worked and plaited as taste may de-
sire, easily put on and removed, they are exceedingly clever
articles for a traveler, or even a home man. If means of ac-
commodation be a genuine desert for continuance, such an
item will not be quickly put aside.

With reference to the part of the shirt known as the neck
collar^ this has had its rises and falls in different periods.
Long before the settlement of our country, satirists expended
their wit upon it, as high and extravagantly ornamented with
needlework. While ruffs and bands prevailed, the collar had
little opportunity to be seen. Even after they disappeared,
it was quite low for a considerable time. The portraits,
which we have in several collections, show that, ninety years
since, it began to emerge from below the neckcloth, and
made a conspicuous appearance. One of them, turned
rather deeply over the stock, as in some instances even now,
was drawn on the picture of John Hancock, by Copley, in
17Go. Previously such collars had been out of sight, when
the handkerchief, by no means doubled widely, was on them.
Thirty-two years ago, they began to be stiffly starched, so as
to appear erect, and have so continued, for the most part,
and never higher than at present with a large proportion of
males. Instead of being sewed on the shirt, they began,
twenty-six years since, to be fastened upon it with buttons,
and tied with strings. Thus altered, they still abound, con-
venient for change, and highly contributory to an air of neat-

We are taught that, centuries ago, the inmost garment of
the sterner sex was essentially the same as that of the gen-
tler. But here, prudence may whisper, Take heed how you
proceed. Indeed, not a step farther should be taken, were
there no anxiety lest total silence might lead to an unpleas-


ant result. Perhaps the very lines before us may meet the
eye of some lover of the past, in a future century. If no
explanation be offered, he may judge either that the garment
under consideration was unfashionable for those who have
the first and highest claim to it, or that the WTiter allowed
himself in a palpable omission. Suffice it to add, that all
the benefits ever derived from the loom of art and industry
have been full as much enjoyed by our sisters of the human
family as by their less deserving brethren. It may be well
to close here by the relation of an event which occurred in
our day. When the facetious and benevolent Kirkland was
president of Harvard College, he was accustomed to make
social calls on families of Cambridge. He stepped, one day,
into a mansion where a young lady nained Sophia resided.
He perceived a parcel of white flowing cloth about, and her
needle very dexterously employed in putting it together. He
immediately said, " Ah, what have you there ? " She pos-
sessedly and wittily replied, " Nothing but a Sophy cover-

The chief material, of which the two preceding garments
were made, for a long period, was called linen, though often
having a mixture of cotton threads with its texture, for com-
mon wear. Since our factories have continued to turn out
an abundance of cotton cloth, and so greatly reduced its for-
mer price, it has been chiefly substituted for linen. The dear
has become cheap, and the scanty abundant.



Neckcloth, Stock, Comforts, Lace, Girdles, Belts, Caps, Turbans, Patches, Um-
brellas, Canes, Sticks, Hats, Swords, Watches, and Rings.

Neckcloth. — We are informed by Strutt, that, in the latter
part of the reign of Charles IL, the cravat or neckcloth was
introduced. It is probable, however, that the fashion began
there sooner, because our ancestors received their customs
from the mother country, and did have the one in view, pre-
vious to the time assigned by so very respectable an author.
In the inventory of George Burrill's estate, in Lynn, in 1654,
neckerchiefs are named. " Handkerchers " were imported
into London, in 1656, valued at two pounds a dozen.
Among the goods of Thomas Trusler, of Salem, this year,
were three white neckcloths and two handkerchiefs, all of
linen. Such an article, as seen on the likenesses of Gov-
ernor Bradstreet, Major Stephen Sewall, of Salem, and of
Daniel Oliver, merchant, of Boston, and others, were white
and square. They hung with two ends outside of the vest,
each of which was over a foot long, and had a wide hem at
the bottom. The more wealthy and fashionable are drawn,
having the ends of lace, richly ornamented with needlework.
They continued to wear such till within a half century.
Cravats have been used more or less, since the square neck-
cloth came into fashion. Butler's Hudibras, which he com-
menced publishing in 1663, has the following stanza : —

'* Less delinquents have been scourged,
And hemp on wooden anvils forged,
Which others for cravats have worn
About their necks, and took a turn."

Such parts of dress, being but half the size of the other neck-
cloths just described, were like these in color, fabric, plainness,
and ornament. While the foregoing have appeared on holi-

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 8 of 18)