Images de page

usually imported such articles as millstones, as large as forty-eight inches in diameter and fourteen inches thick, frog spindles and other parts for a tub millor gristmill, hand presses, with lignum-vitæ rollers for cider, copper stills with sweat worms and a capacity as high as sixty gallons, vats for indigo, and pans for evaporating salt. For fishing there were plenty of rods, lines, hooks, seines with leads and corks, and eelpots. In addition to this varied equipment, nearly all the plantations had outfits for coopering, tanning, shoemaking, and other necessary occupations of a somewhat isolated community. Separate buildings were erected in which this artisan work was done, not only for the planter himself but also for his neighbors. Indeed the returns from this community labor constituted an important item in the annual statement of many a planter's income.



In matters of dress, as well as in those of house building and furnishing, the eighteenth century was an era of greatly increased expenditure and costly display, of taste for luxuries and elaborate adornment, which not only involved the wealthier classes in extravagance beyond their resources but also ended far too often in heavy indebtedness and even in bankruptcy. Henry Vassall of Cambridge and William Byrd, 3d, of Virginia are examples of men who lived beyond their means and became in the end financially embarrassed. The years from 1740 to 1765 represent in the history of this country the highest point reached in richness of costume, variety of color, peculiarities of decoration, and excess of frills and furbelows on the part of both sexes. The richer classes affected no republican simplicity in the days before the Revolution, and while their standards did not prevail beyond town and tidewater, there were few who did not feel in some way, for good or for ill, this increasing complexity of the conditions of colonial life.

To deal systematically with the subject of dress in colonial times, we should trace its changes from the beginning, study the various forms it assumed according to the needs of climate and environment, and describe the clothing worn by all classes from the negro to the Governor and by all members of the family from the infant to the octogenarian. But a less formal account of colonial clothing will suffice to give one a fairly complete idea of what our ancestors wore as they went about their daily occupations and what they put on for such special occasions as weddings, funerals, assemblies, and social entertainments. It is also interesting to note the peculiar garb of such men as ministers, judges, sea captains, and soldiers; for the judge on the bench wore his robe of scarlet, the lawyer his suit of black velvet, and officials in office and representatives in the Assembly donned the habiliments suited to the occasion. The royal Governors were often gloriously bedecked, their councilors bewigged and befrilled, and Masons in procession to their lodges "wore their clothes,” as one observer

put it.

These, however, were not the everyday costumes of our forefathers. The majority of the colonists, except negroes and indentured servants, wore clothing which was relatively heavy and coarse. Throughout New England, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, men, women, and children wore homespun, with linen shirts, tow cloth skirts and breeches, and woolen stockings. When they bought materials, they selected heavy stuffs, such as fustian, kersey, sagathy, shalloon, duffel, drugget, and serge. By the middle of the century, however, farmers of the better class were wearing a finer quality of “shop goods,” such as camblet, alamode, calamanco, and blue broadcloth. Perhaps the most widely used imported cloth was "ozenbrig," a tough, coarse linen woven in Osnabrück, Westphalia, which they made up into nearly everything from breeches and entire suits to sheets, table covers, and carpetbags. The village parson wore broadcloth when performing the duties of his office, and two suits of this material every six years was a fair average. For every day he wore the homespun of his parishioners. Buckskin and lambskin breeches were common; and deerskin, of which much of the clothing of our early ancestors was made, was later used for coats by those who were exposed to wind and weather. Stockings, which generally came over the knee, were blue, black, or gray, and might be of worsted, cotton, or cloth. Shoes, often of the coarsest kind, double-soled and made of cowhide, were made either at home or by village shoemakers who were also cobblers, or, after the middle of the century, at such towns as Lynn. A great many of the farming people, however, went barefoot in summer.

The New Englander usually possessed three suits of clothes: the durable and practical suit which he wore for working; a second-best which he put on for going to market or for doing errands in town; and his best which he reserved for the Sabbath-Day' and preserved with the utmost care.' In both town and country, clothing was made at home by the women and help, or was cut out after the local fashion by the village tailor or seamstress, who brought shears and goose with them to the house, while the family provided material, thread, and board. Suits rarely fitted the wearer, alterations were common, and the same cloth was used for one member of the family after another until it

* People in New England always said Sabbath or Lord's Day; Sunday came in only late in the period among “the better sort."

« PrécédentContinuer »