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FROM the earliest days the Puritan colonists fought stoutly, for the sake of St. Paul, against long hair. They proved themselves worthy the opprobrious name of Roundhead. Endicott's first act was to institute a solemn and insistent association against long hair. This wearing of long locks was one of the existing evils, a wile of the devil, which bade fair to creep into New England, and in its incipiency was proceeded against by the General Court, "that the men might not wear long hair like women's hair." The ministers preached bitterly and incessantly against the fashion; the Apostle Eliot, Parson Stoddard, Parson Rogers, President Chauncey, President Wigglesworth, all launched burning invective and skilful Biblical argument against the long-growing locks, — "the disguisement of long Ruffians hair" (or Rumianly — whichever it may be). It was derisively suggested that long nails like Nebuchadnezzar's would next be in fashion. Men under sentence for offences were offered release from punishment if they would "cut off their long hair into a civil frame." Exact rules were given from the pulpit as to the properly Puritan length — that the hair should not lie over the neck, the band, or the doublet collar; in the winter it might be suffered to grow a little below the ear for warmth. Personal pride and dignity were appealed to, that no Christian gentleman would wish to look like "every Ruffian, every wild-Irish, every hang-man, every varlet and vagabond." By Sewall's time, however, Puritan though he were, we see his white locks flowing long over his doublet collar, and forming a fitting frame to his serene, benignant countenance.
Puritan woman also were not above reproach in regard to the fashion of extravagant hair-dressing; they also "showed the vile note of impudency." One parson thus severely addressed them from the pulpit: "The special sin of woman is pride and haughtiness, and that because they are generally more ignorant and worthless," and he added that this feminine pride vented itself in gesture, hair, behavior, and apparel. I fear all this was true, for the Court also complained of my ignorant and worthless sex for "cutting and curling and laying out of the hair, especially among the younger sort." Increase Mather gave them this thrust in his sermon on the comet, in 1683: "Will not the haughty daughters of Zion refrain their pride in apparell? Will they lay out their hair, and wear their false locks, their borders, and towers like comets about their heads?" And they were called "Apes of Fancy, friziling and currying of their ayr."
I think the sober and decorous women settlers must have worn their hair cut straight across the forehead, like our modern "bangs;" for Higginson, writing of the Indians in 1692, says: "Their hair is generally black and cut before like our gentlewomen." The false locks denounced by Mather were doubtless "a pair of Perukes which are pretty" of Pepys's time, about 1656; or the "heart breakers" worn in 1670, which set out like butterfly-wings over the ears, and which were described thus: "False locks set on wyers to make them stand at a distance from the head."
From a letter written by Knollys to Cecil we learn that Mary Queen of Scots wore these perukes. He says:
"Mary Seaton among other pretty devices yesterday and this day, she did set such a curled hair upon the Queen that was said to be a Peruke, that showed very delicately, and every other day she hath a new device of head dressing without any cost, and yet setteth forth a woman gaylie well."
The "towers like comets" were doubtless commodes, which were in high fashion in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century until about the year 1711, though I have never found that the word commode was used in America. These commodes were enormously high frames of wire covered with thin silk, or plaitings of muslin or lace, or frills of ribbon — and sadly belied their name.
A simpler form of hair-dressing succeeded the commode; portraits painted during the following half-century, such as those of Copley, Smibert, and Blackburn, show an elegant and graceful form of coiffure, the hair brushed back and raised slightly from the forehead, and sometimes curled loosely behind the ears. At a later date the curls were almost universally surmounted by a lace cap. Pomatum began to be used by the middle of the century. In the Boston News Letter of 1768, we read of "Black White and Yellow Pomatum from six Coppers to Two Shillings per Roll." The hair was frequently powdered. Hair-dressers sold powdering puffs and powdering bags and powdering machines, and a dozen different varieties of hair-powder — brown, maréchal, scented, plain, and blue. By Revolutionary times a new tower, or "talematongue," had arisen; the front hair was pulled up over a stuffed cushion or roll, and mixed with powder and grease; the back hair was strained up in loops or short curls, surrounded and surmounted with ribbons, pompons, aigrettes, jewels, gauze, and flowers and feathers, till the structure was half a yard in height. This fashion was much admired by some; a young lover of the day wrote thus sentimentally of a fair Hartford girl: "Her hair covered her cushion as a plate of the most beautiful enamel frosted with silver." A Revolutionary soldier wrote a poem, however, which regarded from a different point of view this elaborate headgear in such a time of national depression. His rhymes began thus:
"Ladies you had better leave off your high rolls
Lest by extravagance you lose your poor souls
Then haul out the wool, and likewise the tow
'Twill clothe our whole army we very well know."
The "Dress-à-la-Independance" was a style of hairdressing with thirteen curls at the neck, thus to honor the thirteen new States.
In the year 1771 Anna Green Winslow wrote in her diary an account of one of these elaborate hairdressings which she then saw. She ends her description thus:
"How long she was under his opperation I know not. I saw him twist & tug & pick & cut off whole locks of gray hair at a slice, the lady telling him he would have no hair to dress next time, for a space of an hour and a half, when I left them he seeming not to be near done."
She also gives a most sprightly account of the manufacture of a roll for her own hair:
"I had my HEDDUS roll on. Aunt Storer said it ought to be made less, Aunt Deming said it ought not to be made at all. It makes my head ach and burn and itch like anything Mama. This famous Roll is not made wholly of a Red-Cow Tail but is a mixture of that & horsehair very coarse & a little human hair of a yellow hue that I suppose was taken out of the back part of an old wig. But D. (the barber) made it, all carded together and twisted up. When it first came home, Aunt put it on, and my new cap upon it; she then took up her apron and measured me & from the roots of my hair on my forehead to the top of my notions I measured above an inch longer than I did downward from the roots of my hair to the end of my chin. Nothing renders a young person more amiable than Virtue and Modesty without the help of fals hair, Red-Cow tail or D. the barber."
The Boston Gazette had, in 1771, a ludicrous description of an accident to a young woman in the streets of that town. In an infaust moment she was thrown down by a runaway, and her tower received serious damage. It burst its thin outer wall of natural hair, and disgorged cotton and wool and tow stuffing, false hair, loops of ribbon and gauze. Ill-bred boys kicked off portions of the various excrescences, and the tower-wearer was jeered at until she was glad to escape with her own few natural locks.
A New England clergyman — Manasseh Cutler — wrote thus of the head-dress of Mrs. General Knox in 1787:
"Her hair in front is craped at least a foot high much in the form of a churn bottom upward and topped off with a wire skeleton in the same form covered with black gauze which hangs in streamers down her back. Her hair behind is in a large braid turned up and confined with a monstrous large crooked comb. She reminded me of the monstrous cap worn by the Marquis of La Fayettes valet, commonly called on this account the Marquises devil."
Hair so elaborately arranged could not be dressed daily. Once a week was frequently thought sufficient; and some very disgusting accounts are given of methods to dress the hair so it would "keep safely" for a month. The Abbé Robin wrote of New England women in 1781:
"The hair of the head is raised and supported upon cushions to an extravagant height somewhat resembling the manner in which the French ladies wore their hair some years ago. Instead of powdering they often wash the head, which answers the purpose well enough as their own hair is commonly of an agreeable light color, but the more fashionable among them begin to adopt the European fashion of setting off the head to the best advantage."
The fashion of the roll was of much importance, and various shaped rolls were advertised; we find one of "a modish new roll weighing but 8 ounces when others weigh fourteen ounces." We can well believe that such a heavy roll made poor Anna Winslow's head "ach and itch like anything." A Salem hairdresser, who employed twelve barbers, advertised thus in 1773: "Ladies shall be attended to in the polite constructions of rolls such as may tend to raise their heads to any pitch they desire."
The grotesqueness of such adornment found frequent ridicule in prose and verse. One poet sang:
"Give Chloe a bushel of horsehair and wool,
Of paste and pomatum a pound,
Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet skull
And gauze to encompass it round.
"Of all the gay colours the rainbow displays
Be those ribbons which hang on her head,
Be her flowers adapted to make the folks gaze,
And about the whole work be they spread.
"Let her flaps fly behind for a yard at the least,
Let her curls meet just under her chin,
Let those curls be supported to keep up the list,
With an hundred instead of one pin."
We can easily see that after such rough treatment the hair needed restoring waters; and indeed from earliest times hair-restorers and hair-dyes did these "vain ancients" use. "Women with juice of herbs gray looks disguised." In these days of manifold mysterious nostrums that gild the head of declining age and make glad the waste places on bald young masculine pates, let us read the simple receipts of the good old times:
"Take half a pound of Aqua Mellis in the Springtime of the Year, warm a little of it every morning when you rise in a Sawcer, and tie a little Spunge to a fine Box combs, and dip it in the water and therewith moisten the roots of the hair in Combing it, and it will grow long and thick and curled in a very short time."
Take three spoonfuls of Honey and a good handful of Vine Twigs that twist like Wire, and beat them wel, and strain their Juyce into the Honey and anoynt the Bald Places therewith."
Here is what Captain Sam Ingersoll of Salem used, or at any rate had the formula of, in 1685:
"A Metson to make a mans heare groe when he is bald. Take sume fier flies & sum Redd wormes & black snayls and sum hume bees and dri them and pound them & mixt them in milk or water."
These washes were not so expensive as Hirsutus or Tricopherous, but quite as effective perhaps. There were hair-dyes, too, "to make hair grow black though any other color," and the leaf that holds this precious instruction is sadly worn and spotted with various tinted inks, as though the words had been often read and copied:
"Take a little Aqua Fortis, put therein a groat or sixpence, as to the quantity of the aforesaid water, then set both to dissolve before the fire, then dip a small Spunge in the said water, and wet your beard or hair therewith, but touch not the skin."
Hair-dressers also improved on nature. William Warden, a wig maker in King Street, Boston, respectfully informed the ladies of that town that he would "colour the hair on the head from a Red or any other Disagreable Colour to a Dark Brown or Black."
It did not matter long to our forefathers whether these hair-dyes dyed, or hair-restorers restored, for a fashion hated by some of the early Puritans as a choice device of Satan — the fashion of wig-wearing was to revolutionize the matter of masculine hair. The question of wigs was a difficult one to settle, since the ministers themselves could not agree. John Wilson and Cotton Mather wore them, but Rev. Mr. Noyes launched denunciations at them from the pulpit and the Apostle Eliot delivered many a blast against "prolix locks with boiling zeal," and he stigmatized them as a "luxurious feminine protexity," but yielded sadly later in life to the fact that the "lust for wigs is become insuperable." The legislature of Massachusetts also denounced periwigs in 1675, but all in vain.
They were termed by one author "artificial deformed Maypowles fit to furnish her that in a Stage play should represent some Hagge of Hell," and other choice epithets were applied. To learn how these "Horrid Bushes of Vanity" could be hated, let us hear the pages of Judge Sewall's diary:
"1701. Having last night heard that Joshua Willard had cut off his hair (a very full head of hair) and put on a Wigg, I went to him this morning. Told his mother what I came about and she call'd him. I enquired of him what Extremity had forced him to put off his own Hair and put on a Wigg? He answered none at all. But said that his Hair was streight and that it parted behinde. Seem'd to argue that men might as well shave their hair off their head, as off their face. I answered men were men before they had any hair on their faces (half of mankind never have any). God seems to have ordain'd our Hair as a Test, to see whether we can bring out to be content at his finding: or whether we would be our own Carvers, Lords, and come no more at Him. If we disliked our Skin or Nails; tis no Thanks to us for all that we cut them not off. . . . He seem'd to say would leave off his Wigg when his hair was grown. I spake to his Father of it a day or two after. He thank'd me that had discoursed his Son, and told me when his Hair was grown to cover his ears he promised to leave off his Wigg. If he had known it would have forbidden him."
At a later day, though it was "gravaminous," Sewall would not go to hear the bewigged Joshua preach, but attended another meeting. The Judge frequently states his annoyance at the universally wigged condition of New England.
I never read of these wig-wearing times without fresh amaze at the manner in which our sensible ancestors disfigured themselves. We read such advertisements of mountebank head-gear as this, from the Boston News Letter of August 14, 1729:
"Taken from the shop of Powers Mariott Barber, a light Flaxen Naturall Wigg Parted from the forehead to the Crown. The Narrow Ribband is of a Red Pinck Colour. The Caul is in Rows of Red Green & White."
Twenty shillings reward was offered for this gay wig, and "if it be offered for sale to any it is desired they wont stop it." Grafton Fevergrure, the peruke-maker at the sign of the Black Wigg, lost a "Light Flaxen Natural Wigg with a Peach-Blossom-coloured Ribband." In 1755 the house of barber Coes, of Marblehead, was broken into, and light brown and three grizzle wigs were stolen; some of these had "feathered tops," some were bordered with red ribbon, some with purple. In 1754 James Mitchel had white wigs and "grizzels." He asked £20 O. T. for the best. "Light Grizzels are £15, dark Grizzels are £12 10s." Under date of 1731 we read of the loss of "a horsehair bobwig," and another with crown hair, each with gray ribbon, an Indian hair bobwig with a light ribbon, and a goat's hair natural wig with red and white ribbons.
The "London Magazine" gave in 1753 a list of curious names of wigs: "The pigeons wing, the comet, the cauliflower, the royal bird, the staircase, the ladder, the brush, the wild boars back, the temple, the rhinoceros, the crutch, the negligent, the chancellor, the out-bob, the long-bob, the half-natural, the chain-buckle, the corded buckle, the detached buckle, the Jasenist bob, the drop wigg, the snail back, the spinage-seed, the artichoke."
Hawthorn's list of New England wigs was shorter: "The tie, the brigadier, the spencer, the albemarle, the major, the ramillies, the grave full-bottom, and the giddy feather-top." To these let me add the campaign, the neck-lock, the bob, the lavant, the vallaney, the drop-wig, the buckle-wig, the bag-wig, the Grecian fly, the peruke, the beau-peruke, the long-tail, the bob-tail, the fox-tail, the cut-wig, the tuck-wig, the twist-wig, the scratch. Sydney says the name campaign was applied to a wig which was imported from France in 1702, and was made very full and curled eighteen inches to the front. This date cannot be correct, when we find John Winthrop writing in 1695 for "two wiggs one a campane, the other short." The Ramillies wig had a long plaited tail, with a big bow at the top of the braid and a small one at the bottom. It would be idle to attempt to describe all these wigs, how they swelled at the sides, and turned under in rolls, and rose in puffs, and then shrank to a small close wig that vanished at Revolutionary times in powdered natural hair and a queue of ribbon, a bag, or an eel-skin, and finally gave way to cropped hair "à-la-Brutus or à-la-Titus," as a Boston hair-dressery advertised in the year 1800.
Not only did gentlemen wear wigs, but children, servants, prisoners, sailors, and soldiers also; as early certainly as 1716 the fashion was universal. So great was the demand for this false head-gear, that wigs were made of goat-hair and horse-hair, as well as human hair. The cost of dressing and caring for wigs became a heavy item of expense to the wearer, and income to the barber; often eight or ten pounds a year were paid for the care of a single wig. Wigmakers' materials were expensive also — "wig ribans, cauls, curling pipes, sprigg wyers, and wigg steels;" and were advertised in vast numbers that show the universal prevalence of the fashion.
By the beginning of this century, women — having powdered and greased and pulled their hair almost off their heads — were glad to wear their remaining locks à-la-Flora or à-la-Virginia, or to wear wigs to simulate these styles. We find Eliza Southgate Bowne writing thus to her mother from Boston in the year 1800:
"…Now Mamma what do you think I am going to ask for? — A WIG. Eleanor Coffin has got a new one just like my hair and only 5 dollars. I must either cut my hair or have one. I cannot dress it at all stylish. Mrs. Coffin bought Eleanor's and says that she will write to Mrs. Sumner to get me one just like it. How much time it will save — in one year! We could save it in pins and paper, besides the trouble. At the Assembly I was quite ashamed of my bead, for nobody had long hair. If you will consent to my having one do send me over a 5 dollar bill by the post immediately after you receive this, for I am in hopes to have it for the next Assembly — do send me word immediately if you can let me have one."
This persuasive appeal was successful, for frequent references to the wig appear in later letters.
Though false teeth and the fashion of filling the teeth were known even by the ancient Egyptians, the science of dentistry is a modern one. But little care of the teeth was taken in early colonial days, and the advice given for their preservation was very simple:
"If you will keep your teeth from rot, plug, or aking, wash the mouth continually with Juyce of Lemons, and afterwards rub your teeth with a Sage Leaf and Wash your teeth after meat with faire water. To cure Tooth Ach. 1. Take Mastick and chew it in your mouth until it is as soft as Wax, then stop your teeth with it, if hollow, there remaining till it's consumed, and it wil certainly cure you. 2. The tooth of a dead man carried about a man presently suppresses the pains of the Teeth."
I suppose this latter ghoulish cure would not affect the teeth of a woman; if, however, a seventeenth or eighteenth century dame could cure the tooth-ache simply with a plug of mastic, she was much to be envied by her degenerate nineteenth-century sister with her long dentist's bill.
If we can believe Josselyn, writing in 1684, New England women, then as now, lost their teeth at an early age. He speaks of them as "pitifully Tooth shaken." He recommended to relieve their misery a compound of brimstone, gunpowder, and butter, to be "rubbed on the mandible." This colonial remedy is still employed on New England farms. Burnaby, writing in 1759, said that New England dames had universally and even proverbially very indifferent teeth. The Abbé Robin says they were toothless at eighteen or twenty years of age, and attributes this premature disfigurement to tea-drinking and the eating of warm bread.
When we read the composition of the tooth-powders and dentifrices used in early colonial days, we wonder that they had any teeth left to scour. Here is Mr. Ferene's "rare Dentifrice:"
"First take eight ounces of Irios roots, also four ounces of Pomistone, and eight ounces of Cutel Bone, also eight ounces of Mother of Pearl, and eight ounces of Coral, and a pound of Brown Sugar Candy, and a pound of Brick if you desire to make them red; but he did oftener make them white, and then instead of the Brick did take a pound of fine Alabaster; all this being thoroughly beaten and sifted through a fine searse the powder is then ready prepar'd to make up in a past which must be done as follows:
"To make the Said Powders into a past.
Take a little Gum Dragant and lay it in steep twelve hours, in Orange flower water or Damask Rose Water; and when it is dissolved take the sweet Gum and grind it on a Marble Stone with the aforesaid Powder, and mixing some crums of white bread it will come into a past, the which you may make Dentifrices, of what shape or fashion you please, but long rowles is the most commodious for your use."
Just fancy scouring your teeth with a commodious roll of cuttle-bone, brick-dust, and pumice-stone!
Another tooth-powder was composed of coral, Portugal snuff, Armenian bole, "ashes of good tobacco which has been burnt," and gum myrrh; and ground up "broken pans" — coarse earthenware — might be substituted for the coral.
A very popular and much advertised tooth-wash was called "Dentiam Conservator." It was made and sold in New England by the manufacturer and vendor of Bryson's Famous Bug Liquid — not an alluring companionship. This person also "removed Stumps and unsound Teeth with a dexterity peculiar to Himself at the Sign on the Leapord." There were also rival Essences of Pearl advertised, each equally eulogized and disparaged; "Infallible Sivit rendering the teeth white as alabaster tho' they be black as Coal;" and "Very Neat Hawksbill and Key Draught Teeth Pullers." These key-draught teeth-pullers were one of the cruellest instruments of torture of the day, often breaking the jaw-bone, and always causing unutterable anguish. Old Zabdiel Boylston advertised in the News Letter, in 1712, "Powder to refresh the Gums & whiten the Teeth." There were also sold "tooth-sopes, tooth-blanchs, tooth-rakes."
I cannot find any notice of the sale of "teeth brushes" till nearly Revolutionary times. Perhaps the colonists used, as in old England, little brushes made of "dentissick root" or mallow, chewed into a fibrous swab.
I have seen no advertisements that strike a greater chill than the scanty notices of early dentists and dentistry that appear at the latter part of the past century. The glory of having a Revolutionary patriot for a workman cannot soften the hard plainness of speech of this advertisement in the Boston Evening Post of September 26, 1768:
"Whereas many Persons are so unfortunate as to lose their Fore Teeth by Accident or Otherways to their great Detriment not only in looks but in speaking both in public and private. This is to inform all such that they may have them replaced with Artificial Ones that look as well as the Natural and answer the End of Speaking by Paul Revere Goldsmith near the head of Dr. Clarkes wharf. All Persons who have had false Teeth Fixed by Mr. Jos Baker Surgeon Dentist and They have got loose as they will in Time may have them fastened by above said Revere who learnt the method of fixing them from Mr. Baker."
It will be remarked that these teeth were only to display and talk with, and were but sorry helps in eating. This very appalling advertisement from the Massachusetts Centinel gives a clue to the way in which missing teeth were replaced: "Live Teeth. Those Persons inclined to dispose of Live Teeth may apply to Templeman." Or this from the Connecticut Courant of August 17, 1795: "A generous price paid for Human Front Teeth perfectly sound, by Dr. Skinner." These "live teeth" were inserted in other and vainer, if not more squeamish persons' mouths, by a process of "in-grafting" which was much in vogue. There were few New England dentists eo nomine until well into this century — but three in Boston in 1816. As silversmith and engraver Revere also set teeth, so Isaac Greenwood, who waited at their houses on all who required his dental services, also made umbrellas, sold cane for hoop petticoats, and made dice and chessmen. Wm. Greenwood pulled teeth and sold pianos; and Dr. Flagg, a surgeon dentist, advertised in 1797 that he would get hand-organs in Europe suitable for church use. John Templeman, the live-teeth purchaser, was a broker as well as a dentist; and Whitlock, the actor, did a thriving dental business, and doubtless carried his "neat hawksbill or key-draught tooth-wrench" to the play-house, and used it, to his own profit and his fellow-townsmen's misery, between the acts.
Though the Pilgrim women were doubtless as simple at their toilet as they were in their dress, the sudden growth of the colony in wealth brought to their daughters, besides variety and richness of dress, a love of cosmetics. Dunton tells positively of one painted face in Boston in 1686. He said, "to hide her age she paints, and to hide her painting dares hardly laugh." One New England minister thus reproved and warned the women of his congregation:
At the resurrection of the Just there will no such sight be met as the Angels carrying Painted Ladies in their arms."
In the inventory of one of the early Cambridge settlers, Robert Daniel, is found the item "two Ceruse Jugs." Ceruse was a preparation of white lead with which women then painted their faces, and I think these ceruse jugs were part of the paraphernalia of my Lady Daniel's toilet-table.
With the advent of newspapers came various advertisements that showed the vanity of our forbears, the "collusions of women, their oyntments and potticary drugs, and all their slibber sawces."
"An Excellent Wash for the Skin which entirely taketh out all Freckles Moath & Sunburn from the Face Neck & Hands, which with Frequent Use adds a most Agreeable Lustre to the Complexion, softens & beautifies the Skin to Admiration And is generally used and approved of by most of the Gentry in London of both Sexes."
"Best Face Powder which gives a fine Bloom to the Face which answers all the intents of White Paint without that Pernicious effect that attends Paint. Also a Composition to take off Superficious Hair."
The latter clause shows that our great-grandmothers were quite au fait with the nostrums of the present day, with "pargetting, painting, slicking, glazing, and renewing old rivelled faces."
Many pretty rules may be found in old books and diaries, that are of New England, rules "to make the face fair" and to "make sweet the mouth."
"Take the flowers of Rosemary and seeth them in White Wine, with which wash your face, and if you drink thereof it wil make you have a sweet breath."
Maids were also told to gather the sweet May dew from the grass in the early morning to make a fair face, and like Sir Thomas Overbury's milkmaid, "of put all face-physic out of countenance." And pretty it were to see Cicely, Peg, and Joan in petticoat and sack or smock, each with a "faire linnen cloath" a-dipping her rosy face in the fresh May dew. Could this have been but a sly trick to get the lasses from their beds betimes? We know the early hour at which Madam Pepys had to bathe her mighty handsome face in the beautifying spring dew.
Patches were worn as eagerly, apparently, by Boston as by London belles. Whitefield complained of the jewels, patches, and gay apparel donned in New England. In scores of old newspapers after 1760 appear notices of the sale of "Face Patches," "Patch for Ladies," "Gum Patches," etc., and the frequency of advertisement would indicate a popular and ready sale.
With regard to the bathing habits of our ancestors but little can be said, and but little had best be said. Charles Francis Adams writes, with witty plainness, "If among personal virtues cleanliness be indeed that which ranks next to godliness, then judged by the nineteenth century standards, it is well if those who lived in the eighteenth century had a sufficiency of the latter quality to make good what they lacked of the former." He says there was not a bath-room in the town of Quincy prior to the year 1820. And of what use would pitchers or tubs of water have been in bed-rooms in the winter time, when if exposed over night solid ice would be found therein in the morning? The washing of linen in New England homes was done monthly; it is to be hoped the personal baths were more frequent, even under the apparent difficulties of accomplishment. I must state, in truth, though with deep mortification, that I cannot find in inventories even of Revolutionary times the slightest sign of the presence of balneary appurtenances in bed-rooms; not even of ewers, lavers, and basins, nor of pails and tubs. As petty pieces of furniture, such as stools, besoms, framed pictures, and looking-glasses are enumerated, this conspicuous absence of what we deem an absolute necessity for decency speaks with a persistent and exceedingly disagreeable voice of the unwashed condition of our ancestors, a condition all the more mortifying when we consider their exceeding external elegance in dress. This total absence of toilet appliances does not of course render impossible a special lavatory or bathroom in the house, or the daily importation to the bed-rooms of hot-water cans, twiggen bottles, bath-tubs, and basins from other portions of the house; but even that equipment would show a lack of adequate bathing facilities. Nor do the tiny toilet jugs and basins of Staffordshire ware that date from the first part of this century point to any very elaborate ablutions.
But these be parlous words and we wish to honor the memory of our New England grandsires; and let us remember that these negative toilet traits were not peculiar to them, but dated from the fatherland.
A century ago the English were said to be the only European people that had the unenviable distinction of going to the dinner-table without previously washing or "dressing" the hands.
One very unpleasant cosmetic, or rather detergent, was in constant use, however, throughout colonial times — wash-balls. They were imported as early as 1693 in company with scented and plain hair-powder. In 1771, "Gentlemen's Fine Washballs" were advertised in Boston, and "Scented Marbled Washballs." Other varieties of these substitutes for soap were Chemical, Greek, Venice, Marseilles, camphor, ambergris, and Bologna wash-balls. This is a rule given in olden times for the "Composition for Best Wash Balls:"
"Take forty pounds of Rice in fine powder, twenty eight pounds of fine flour, twenty eight pounds of starch powder, twelve pounds of White Lead, and four pounds of Orris Root in fine powder but no Whitening. Mix the whole well together and pass it through a fine sieve, then place it in a dry place and keep it for use. Great care must be taken that the Flour be not musty, in which case the Balls will in time crack and fall to pieces. To this composition may be added Dutch pink or brown fine damask powder according to the colour required when the Wash Balls are quite dry."
The effect of so large an amount of white lead must have been felt and shown most deleteriously upon the complexion of the user of this disagreeable compound.
"Ipswitch balls" — also the mode — were more pleasing:
"Take & pound of fine White Castill Sope; shave it thin in a pinte of Rose water, and let it stand two or three dayes, then pour all the water from it, and put to it a halfe a pints of fresh water, and so let it stand one whole day, then pour out that, and put to it halfe a pints more and let it stand a night more, then put to it halfe an ounce of powder called sweet Marjoram, a quarter of an ounce of Winter Savory, two or three drops of the Oil of Spike and the Oil of Cloves, three grains of musk, and as much Ambergreese, work all these together in a fair Mortar with the powder of an Almond Cake dryed and beaten as small as fine flowre, so rowl it round in your hands in Rose water."
The favorite soap, if one can judge from importations, was "Brown or Gray Bristol Sope," but this was not used by many in the community. The manufacture of home-made soap, or soft soap, was one of the univeral, most important, and most trying of all the household industries. The refuse grease of the family cooking was stowed away in an unsavory mass till early spring, and the wood ashes from the fireplaces were also stored. When the soap-making took place, the ashes were placed in a leach tub out of doors. This tub was sometimes made from the section of the bark of a birch tree; it was set loosely in a circular groove in a base of wood, or preferably of stone. Water was poured on the ashes, and the lye trickled from an outlet cut in the groove. The boiling of the lye and grease was an ill-smelling process, which was also carried on out of doors, and required an enormous amount of labor and patience. It was judged that when the compound was strong enough to hold up an egg, the soap was done. This strong soft soap was kept in a wooden "soap box" in the kitchen, and used for toilet as well as household purposes.
Dearly did the English and the New English love perfumes. They made little rolls of sweet-scented powders and gums and oils, "as large as pease," that they placed between rose-leaves and burned on coals in skillets or in little perfume-holders to scent the room. They burned on their open hearths mint and rose-leaves with sugar. They took the "made of sweet Apple trees gathered betwixt two Lady days," and with gums and perfumes made bracelets and pomanders, "to keep to one a sweet smell." They made cakes of damask rose-leaves and pulvilio, civit, and musk, of "linet and ambergreess," to perfume their linen chests, for lavender thrived not in New England. The duties of the still-room were the most luxury-bearing of all the old household industries. Its very name brings to us sweet scents of Araby, as it brought to our forbears the most charming and nice of all their domestic occupations. But these duties were not easy nor expeditious work, nor did all the work begin in the still-room. Faithfully did dames and maids gather in field and garden, from early spring to chilly autumn, precious stores for their stills and limbecks. In every garret, from every rafter, slowly swayed great susurrous bunches of withered herbs and simples awaiting expression and distillation, and dreaming perhaps of the summer breezes that had blown through them in the sunny days of their youth in their meadow homes. In many an old garret now bare of such stores "mints still perfume the air;" the very walls exhale "the homesick smell of dry forgotten herbs."
From these old stills, these retorts and mills, came not only perfumes and oils and beauty-waters, but half the medicines and diet-drinks, all the "kitchen physicke" of the domestic and even the professional pharmacopæia.
Perfumes were also imported; we frequently find advertised "Royal Honey Water, an Excellent Perfume, good against Deafness, and to make the hair grow as the directions Sets forth. 1s 6d per bottle and proportionate by Ounce." Old Zabdiel Boylston had it in 1712. Spirit of Benjamin was also for toilet uses. This was the base of the well-known scent known as Queen Elizabeth's Perfume. It was combined with sweet marjoram. Lavender water was apparently a great favorite for importation, and we find notices of lavender bottles with shagreen cases.
We find in newspaper days many advertisements of other toilet articles such as nail-knippers, pick-tooth cases, silk and worsted powder-puffs, deerskin powder bags, lip-salve, ivory scratch-backs, flesh brushes, curling and pinching tongs, all showing a strongly crescent vanity and love of luxury.