Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

The customs of New England online

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days, social and gala occasions, silk and other handkerchiefs
have not failed, at other times, to supply their places. Among
articles of a deceased man, in 1663, was a "half silk neck-
cloth." In 1693, one cravat is charged to John Lane, of
Ipswich, at nine shillings, and another at ten shillings. A dry
goods dealer, of Boston, informs the public, that he has " Si-
lesia neckcloths." Of things lost by students, at the burn-
ing of Harvard Hall, in Cambridge, in 1764, were " necks,"
probably a contraction for neckcloths, or substitutes for them.
Stock. — This word was anciently used in the sense of stock-
ing: It was spoken of by Shakspeare. " His lackey with a
linen stock on one leg, and a kersey boot-hose on the other."
With regard to our own country, it is about ninety-two years
since the stock, as made of white cloth, both plain and plait-
ed, was worn round the neck by men and boys. This article
was fastened behind with a buckle, generally of silver with
persons of competent means. Benjamin Hallowell, of Bos-
ton, when his house was entered by a mob, (1765,) lost " cam-
brick plaited stocks." These articles, of stifi'er material, have
probably been worn by military men longer than by those
not of their profession. They began to be discontinued sixty
years ago, though retained a considerable period after, by
some who were

" Not the first by whom tlie new are tried.
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

Twenty-one years ago, they revived, having a stiff material,
covered on the outside with satin, plaited and tied in a bow,
and they still hold some degree of popularity.

Comforts, etc. — These, in some form, and of some material
or other, have very probably been long used by the inhabitants
of countries subject to inclement seasons. Inventions of this
sort do not long lag in the wake of their necessities. The
word comforts has been applied, in New England, to woolen
articles, either knit or woven, for a half century. These have
been worn outside of the clothes, tied once or twice around
the necks of both sexes, in cold weather. While they have
been used extensively, square handkerchiefs, rolled up, have
performed the like olfice for some of the population. Short


fur tippets for men, which came into vogue about fifteen
years since, and lasted ten years, and are beginning to show
themselves again, mostly excluded " comforts " for that period.
Within ten years, these have been widely displaced by silk
and Scotch plaid scarfs. To the hardy, such coverings may
seem superfluous, but to those whose lungs shrink from the
winter frost, from the fall and spring east winds, they are
welcome appendages of dress.

Lace. — This article is supposed by Beckmann to have been
invented at St. Annaberg, Germany, in 1561, by Barbarra,
wife of Christopher Uttmann. He thinks that the lace as-
cribed by Braun to the ancients was only fine needlework.
Still, he believes that lace made with the needle is of much
older origin than that manufactured by knitting.

After meeting with smiles of favor and frowns of rebuke
in Europe, lace, relative to the necessities of our primitive
settlers, was considered as a temptation from the practice of
rigid economy. The authorities of Massachusetts passed,
in 1634, the following order : " The court, taking into con-
sideration the great, superfluous, and unnecessary expenses
occasioned by reason of some new and immodest fashions,
as also the ordinary wearing of silver, gold, and silk laces,
ordered that no persons, either men or women, shall here-
after make or buy any apparel, either woolen, silk, or linen,
with any lace on it, silver, gold, silk, or thread, under penalty
of forfeiture of such clothes." However such an enactment
may have caused some suspension in the wearing of this pro-
scribed article, yet it still retained the attachment of both
sexes, and received other reprimands from similar authorities.

An inventory of one among our deceased colonists, in
1650, mentions " galoone, purle, green, silk, and silver lace."
In 1652, three men of Essex county were prosecuted for
wearing this commodity ; one of them for appearing with
silver lace ; another with silver and gold lace ; and the third
with " poynts," being made of such fabric.

Lace, of its several qualities, served to denote the higher from
the lower class in community — a distinction more known
and acknowledged while our country was under regal rule.


In 1656, the authorities of England appraised silk lace at five
pounds for sixteen ounces, and silk bone lace, for the same
weight, at twenty pounds. The last sort, though probably
of a quality inferior to that valued in London, was sold in
Boston, in 1697, at five shillings a yard by the quantity. At
a vendue, or " outcry," in the last place, in 1712, gimp, black
bone, silver, and gold laces are offered for sale. The two
last of these were worn on the hats, coats, vests, and even
shoes of the wealthy and noted till our revolutionary difficul-
ties, when the public voice was loudly and justly for retrench-
ment of so costly a texture. It has been laid aside by
males, except for suits of military and naval officers. Lace,
in some degree of this sort, and in a considerable degree of
silk, thread, and cotton, has continually been an adjunct of
female attire. Lord Bacon remarked, " Our English dames
are much given to wearing of costly laces, and, if brought
from Italy, they are in great esteem." Without intending to
question such a bias, when kept within means and propriety,
we may say that it has prevailed the world over.

The pillow or bone lace continued to employ many fami-
lies in England, and not a few in our own country, till the
invention and employment of the lace frame in factories.
The first who obtained a patent for this in Great Britain
was John Heathcoat, in 1809. The introduction of such an
improvement into Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1824, mostly
put aside the lace pillow work, long, largely, and profitably
carried on there. So great has been the advancement in
machinery for this branch of manufactures, that the same
quality of lace, which formerly brought a high price, may
now be obtained at a low rate. This remark is made in view
of the exception for very nice lace, still made on the pillow,
and imported from Europe, at a cost some less than formerly.
The indulgence of a penchant for the article, in difterent vari-
eties, which anciently was called extravagance, and was for-
bidden, is now, almost entirely, reasonable and tolerated.

Girdles and Belts. — The former, as worn by the Jews, were
usually worsted, and diversly figured. It folded several times
round the body. One end of it was so prepared as to serve


for a purse to carry money, and was the zone of the Scrip-
tures. It was this to which our Saviour referred, when he
said to his disciples, " Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor
brass in your pursed In one of his epistles, Horace re-
marked that the man who had lost his zone is ready for any
thing. The Romans used it generally to tie up their tunica,
when they engaged in manual employment. This custom
was so prevalent, that the individuals who neglected it, and
let their gowns hang loosely, were suspected, as being idle
and dissolute. Many of the Turks fastened their knives
and poniards in it, while their Itojias, or writers, suspended
their inkhorns to it — a practice alluded to by the prophet Eze-
kiel. Oar ancestors in England considered the girdle as a
symbol of estate. Hence, when any of them were unable to
meet pecuniary demands against them, they surrendered their
girdles in open court. We are informed that the widow of
Philip I., Duke of Burgundy, Avaived her claim to the succes-
sion, by laying her girdle upon his tomb.

The military girdle was like what is denominated a belt.
It was worn to carry a sword and gird the clothes and armor
together. Of this kind was one of the articles which Jona-
than took from his person, and presented to David, as tokens
of his friendship.

For immigrants to our shores, in 1629, one hundred leather
belts were provided. At the same time that our civil author-
ities showed their disapprobation of lace, they did the same
against girdles and belts wrought with gold and silver thread.
These were used by both sexes about the waist, for keeping
their clothes tight. The belts were fastened by means of

Among the property of Simon Crosby, in 1645, was a gir-
dle, and of Thomas Coytmore, designated 1657, though he
died the year named before the last now mentioned, was
another wrought with silver thread. An appraisement of
these appendages, in 1656, in London, was as follows : those
of crewel, one pound six shillings and eight pence a gross ; of
leather, one pound for the same number ; of silk, one pound
a dozen ; and of velvet, two pounds for the like quantity.



The preceding order of the Massachusetts legislature
did not have fall and perpetual effect. The portrait of a
Boston lady, before 1700, has a girdle at the bottom of the
long waist, with tasseled ends. One of our public prints,
in 1735, speaks of silver girdles, as welJ-known articles of
attire. They have been continued to the present time, as a
part of military uniform for o dicers. The belt has been gen-
erally employed, in New England, for the purpose of carrying
some weapon. Such was its use, when, as South observes,
*' Hector was dragged about the walls of Troy, by the belt
given him by Ajax." But having, as previously expressed,
not only a warlike but other uses, it has had its several reigns.
About twenty-seven years since, it was resumed by the ladies.
It progressively reinstated itself in their favor, and became
rather an o"bject of satire, from the variety of its texture, and
from its width, and the largeness of the buckles and clasps
with which it was fastened. Of proper size in itself and ap-
purtenances, it still continues to be worn.

Caps. — These, of different forms and materials, were com-
mon among the ancients. The Romans had a ceremony in
which they made a slave free. It was by putting a pileus,
or cap, on his head, after the hair was cut off. Hence the
proverb originated, as expressed by Livy, " Servum ad pileum.^^
Hence, also, on some of their medals, as on the coins of our
republic, the cap is a symbol of liberty. The conspirators
who slew Cassar, forty-three years before Christ, as a means
of exciting popular prejudice against him, exhibited the cap
on the point of a spear. Saturninus, who assumed the pur-
ple 263 A. D., did the same, as an indicated pledge that all
the slaves who would support his usurpation should have
their liberty. The first introduction of caps, as well as hats,
according to M. Legendre, into Western Europe, was in the
reign of Charles V. But the more commonly received
opinion, as to this event, is, that it took place in 1449, when
Charles VII. entered Rouen. From this period, these two
items of dress gradually gained ground against the hoods
and chaperons which had been generally worn.

Caps, composed of woolen, cotton, worsted, velvet, silk,


and fur, have been worn by males from the first settlement
of our country. In 1629, there were ordered for immigrants
hither one hundred Monmouth caps, so called from the place
where they were manufactured, at two shillings each, and
five hundred red knit caps, milled, at five pence apiece. The
account of a man's goods, presented in Boston, about 1638,
specifies three " quoyfes^'' or coifs, a sort of cap, worn by
males as well as females, though more by the latter sex.

As seen on the portraits of some who helped lay the foun-
dation of New England, they were made of black silk.
Captain Nathaniel Davenport, of Boston, bought, in 1672, two
velvet riding caps. In 1715, worsted caps were fashionable
among tradesmen, and afterwards scarlet ones for males of
higher station. Governor Hancock, in 1782, received his
guests in a scarlet cap over a linen one, the edge of which
turned up over the other about two inches. While some
aged gentlemen have appeared in such articles of dark cloth
or black velvet, others of them have worn those of white cot-
ton or linen. Caps manufactured from various species of
fur, and cloth, and leather, serving instead of hats, have
abounded for the last twenty-two years. Those of India
rubber have had their claim increasingly allowed fifteen
years, for such a purpose.

As worn by ladies in Rome, the cap was called pileolum.
This article of attire for females has had its various forms
and names, as well as different periods of popularity, for
many centuries. Some of them, in ancient times, were of
such forms as not to be easily classed. In the reign of
Henry VI., heart-shaped caps were all the ton. Sometimes
veils or tippets were attached to them. They were very high.
A satire against a class of head attire in this age terms them
'■'■forked coiffures^ Monsieur Paradin, in the fourteenth
century, thus spoke of another style, which inventive fancy
had adopted : " These old-fashioned topknots rose an ell
above the head, pointed like steeples, had long pieces of
crape fastened to the tops of them, which were curiously
fringed, and hung down the back like streamers." Thomas
Connecte began a crusade against this fashion in France.


While his eloquence was heard, multitudes brought out their
soaring headdresses, and committed them to the flames, as the
hearers of Paul did their books of magic in Ephesus.

We are told that, in 1416, state apartments were enlarged
to accommodate such kinds of attire. When reformed un-
der Edward IV., in the fifteenth century, it was a cone two
or three feet high, with a silk streamer hanging down behind
even a greater measurement from the apex.

Though an excess of this class, in so great a degree, seems
not to have existed among our worthy grandmothers, still
something in a similar direction appears to have gained
an extraordinary ascendency. Increase Mather, in his ser-
mon on comets, printed in 1683, puts the subsequent ques-
tion : " Will not the haughty daughters of Zion reform their
pride in apparel ? Will they lay out their hair and wear
their false locks, their borders and toivers, like comets about
their heads ? " On the eminence so mentioned there was
undoubtedly some covering, which may have resembled
what is subsequently specified in the next paragraph. Ac-
cording to the Memoirs of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough,
ladies, in the reign of Queen Anne, had their hair curled
and frizzed, and raised high, surmounted by a sort of veil, di-
minishing, as it ascended, to " a small caul, with two lappets,
termed a mo^." The memorandum of a storekeeper's goods,
of our Suffolk county, in 1646, gives sixty-one cauls. These
are advertised for sale, in 1741, in the Weekly Journal.
Lappets were sometimes of Brussels or knit lace, and hung
gracefully behind. There were also pinners attached to head-
dresses, and pinned down the stomacher. Before and after
1700, some women of our country, when dressed, would have
fine pieces of cloth thrown over their white lawn caps, so
that a little of the borders of the latter might be seen on the
top front. A fashion of this kind, with others, prevailed in
England during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Such
additional attire for the head would, at times, be tied into a
square knot on the neck, and more frequently would fall
down the back and front, and over the shoulders. When so
tied, they fully showed the long ends of the cap on the breast.


These cap coverings were, for the most part, of a black color.
They had much the appearance of a nun's headdress. The
News Letter, of Boston, 1711, mentions laced caps for sale,
some of which are called under ones.

A lady visiting in Boston, in 1720, wrote to her sister, at
Rochester, on Cape Cod, as follows : " Mobs are worn now,
but not so long by a quarter of a yard as mine. I was forced
to cut mine half a quarter from each end, to make them
short enough for the fashion." The style here mentioned,
and fly caps, have been among the principal ones, and have
been in vogue more or less ever since the settlement of New
England. This fashion prevailed in the reign of Elizabeth.
Among things lost by daughters of Governor Hutchinson, in
1765, were three fly caps. For more than a quarter of a cen-
tury after this, such articles of dress were not allowed to take
their natural position, by reason of the high hair cushions
worn on the head. For about sixty years, as consisting of
muslin, crape, lawn, and lace, sometimes large and at others
less, they have continued to be an item of ornamental attire,
in some degree for young, and generally for elderly women.
When covering merely the upper part of the head, they have
properly received the diminutive appellation of capees. The
grace they impart to the person is doubly enhanced when
the heart below them, through virtuous culture, gives attrac-
tiveness far superior to that ever conferred by the richest and
most tasteful texture of outward apparel.

Turban and other headdress. — The turban has long been
worn by most of the Eastern and Mahometan nations. It is
from the Arabic dur, to encompass, and band, sash. Among
those nations, it is put round a cap, and much art is exer-
cised to give it a fine air by its manufacturers. For their
turban, the Turks have white linen, and the Persians red
woolen, as indicative of their faith. The former color de-
notes the sect of Omar, and the latter that of Ali. While
the turban was used by both sexes in the East, it was
adopted by European females in name, and so far in sub-
stance, as to set aside the cap, and adopt woven catgut, or
other stiff materials. As a convenient mode, with such an


exchange, it has always been worn by the women of our
country, composed of various materials, and with different
degrees of popularity. In reference to it, \vc have the words
of Dryden, —

" Some, for the pride of Turkish courts designed,
For folded turbants finest Holland bear."

With regard to other headdress, equally indefinite as to
particular names, as some under the section of Caps, the fol-
lowing is placed in this part of our course. A bill of 1697,
at Ijjswich, charged five shillings for wire and catgut in mak-
ing up attire for the head. Of a wardrobe, stolen from a
house in Boston, in 1711, were one plain and three lace
dresses of a similar kind. The letter of 1720, already quoted,
has the subsequent passage : " As for your headdresses, bt;
careful of them both, for they will do to wear any where but
in Boston. If one should be cut in fashion now, it will be
to do again next spring, for the new fashions come over
every spring."

The Weekly Rehearsal, of 1732, contains the ensuing re-
marks : " I come now to the headdress, the very highest
point of female elegance ; and here I find such variety of
modes, such a medley of decoration, that 'tis hard to know
where to fix. Lace, cambrick, gauze, fringe, feathers, and
ribbands create such a confusion, occasion such frequent
changes, that it defies art, judgement, or taste to reconcile
them to any standard, or reduce them to any order," It re-
fers to the " horns which have been in vogue so long," and
worn as " an ornament to the hair." There may have been
some imitation of a strange custom in Europe, during the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of having headdresses
with two large and long horns, very much like those of a
huge ox. The Scriptures mention horns as a part of dress.
Among the Assyrian monuments, recently discovered, one
represents " King Sennacherib at full length, attired with a
cap or tiara, truncated, cone shaped, with a short horn on
the top."

Patches. — These, as history informs us, were introduced


into England in the time of Edwavd VI., who died in 1553,
by a lady to hide a wen, which had occasioned her no small
degree of mortification. About the same time, Stubbs re-
marked, " Black patches, cut into all kinds of forms, were
introduced and stuck about the face and neck." From this,
however strange it may seem, persons of both sexes, with
skins unblemished and fair as the pulse-fed companions of
Daniel, would parade black patches on their faces, as a means
of giving their countenance a more beautiful aspect. A por-
trait of the Countess of Arundel, who deceased in 1630,
shows a large round patch on her right temple. Catharine
Mariott, of Boston, advertises, in 1737, patches for sale. The
custom of wearing them, with both sexes, but more with fe-
males, prevailed in New England till sixty years since. It
gave rise to the expression, beauty spots, which is sometimes
uttered on humorous occasions. It imparted to court plaster
much of its popularity, and has so, even to this time, as a
covering for any real or pretended pustule on the skin. The
Belinda of Pope is made to say, —

" This the morniug omens seemed to tell ;
Twice from my trembling hand th.Q patcli-box fell."

Umhrella. — This, at first sight, may hardly seem to come
among our habiliments. But as we carry it for shelter, if
not for ornament, as we do our hats, it lays some just claim
for admission to be classed with them. The umbrella was
little known to the primitive inhabitants of this country. If
caught in a shower, or exposed to a summer's sun, few had
so convenient a covering.

Such an article existed in the East long before its intro-
duction to Europe and America. We are told that it ap-
])ears among the represented ruins of Persepolis. The
Greeks wore it as a mark of distinction, and the Romans
used it, in the daytime, at the theatre, which had no roof.
The Travels of Thomas Coryat, in Italy, in 1698, and pub-
lished three years after, describe it as a curiosity which he
saw there. It is, as he writes, " made of leather, something
answerable to the form of a little canopy, and hooped in the


inside, with divers little wooden hoops, that extend the um-
brella in a pretty large compass. They are used especially
by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride,
fastening the end of the handle upon their thighs." It is
mentioned by M. de la Loubere, envoy from France to Siam
in 16S7, as their having been worn by the Siamese. He re-
lates, that our umbrella, of only one round of covering, was
accounted there the least honorable, and was carried by the
mandarins, while their sovereign had several rounds on his,
like so many umbrellas above each other on one handle. It
is well that Providence has kindly cast our lot in a land, and
under a government, where frivolous etiquette is not very
often suffered to hinder our consulting convenience and com-
fort. About 1712, Gay mentions the umbrella : —

'< Good housewives all tlie -vviiiter's rage despise,
Deieuded by tlie riding-hood's disgiiLse,
Or underneath th' umbrella s oUy shed,
Safe through the -tt-et, on chnking pattens tread."

"We have notice, in 1771, by Isaac Greenwood, of Boston,
next door to Dr. Clarke's, Fore Street, North End, as follows :
" Uinhrilloes made and sold " by him. " Ladies may be sup-
plied with all sizes, so small as to suit misses of six or seven
years of age, and as low as eight shillings, 1. m. apiece. He
has also oyl cloth and near jointed ditto for men. He mends
and, covers old umbrilloes, and sells new sticks for ditto."
The umbrella was not used much by our ancestors before
the peace of independence, and when owned, it was kept
with far greater care than at present. I have heard of an
aged lady, who, when young, purchased one, which was found
in her drawer after she died, though it had been her com-
panion on all occasions of making as respectable appearance
as her neighbors. It is not till within forty-seven years that
every family, in comfortable circumstances, had one or more
of such articles.

Small ones, denominated parasols, came into notice sixty
years past. The succeeding note of John Locke, the philos-
opher, made in 1676, while he was in France, has been sup-


posed to have reference to them : " As a pretty sort of cover
for women riding in the sun, made of straw, something like
tin covers for dishes." Prior to the introduction of them into
our country, large fans, two feet long, and of green paper
generally, were used for a similar purpose.

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 9 of 18)