Here to return to
HOUSE BUILDING AND HOME MAKING
THE HOUSE JAMES CLAYPOOLE WANTED — DEALING WITH CAVE HOUSES THAT BECAME PUBLIC NUISANCES — THE GOODS PAID FOR THREE HUNDRED SQUARE MILES OF LAND — PIONEER HARDSHIPS-A THIEF AND A CROWDED HOUSE — THE LUXURY OF WINDOW PANES — WHAT WAS BOUGHT AT THE VENDUE — DINNER-GIVING AND DINNER MANNERS — THE WOES OF HOUSECLEANING.
“HEE arriving in health in ye Country I expect he should entr upon my land, where ye first Citty is intended to be built. And there with the advise of Wm. Penn Doctr Moor Tho: Holmes Ralph Withers and thyselfe: I would have him to begin to build a house that may receive us.”
So ran the message sent in 1682 by James Claypoole to John Goodson concerning Edward Cole, a workman who was about to sail from England to America in Goodson’s company. Claypoole, who was one of the wealthiest of the early emigrants, did not propose to reach the new country until a comfortable house had been provided for him.
Cole was an indentured servant, bound to Claypoole for four years. His master described him as “an honest man,” and said he was sent “to build me a slight house and plant an orchard and clear some ground with the help of a Carpentr that is going with another friend.” He was not only a brick-maker, but he was skilled “in planting and husbandrie, an industrious solid man about 57 yeares old, and one called a Quaker.” As to his own plans, Claypoole wrote, “If it pleases ye lord wee arrive there in the 2d or 3d month next.” Then he went on to discuss details of the house he desired: “If it be but a sleight house like a barne with one floor of two Chambers: and will hold us and our goods and keep us from ye sun & weathr it may suffice; I would also have some trees planted at ye right season for an orchard between the trees growinge wch may be either Lowp’d or sawed of near ye toppe or roots as is most advisable: but for Grubbing up, I think that may be left till I com with more help: I need not name the fruite trees but I would have all such sorts as or neghbours here do plant. But principally I would have him look out for Earth to make Bricks and prepare as much as he cann in ye Most convenient place to work upon in Spring . . . . I would have a sellar undr ye house if it may bee.”
Later in the letter is a passage which was characteristic of the day:
“Truly My desire is yt we may all have an Eye to ye Lord in all or undertakings who is the great provider for all and ye preserver of all; that we may soe live in his fear yt we may honnr his Name and truth and in our whole conversation answr his wittness in all people so shall righteousness establish our Nation, and our habitations be in peace and safety even in Jerusalem, that is a quiet habitation . . . ”
That nothing was left undone to provide for the comfort of his family when he should reach the new town of Philadelphia is evident again from a letter sent by Claypoole to his brother in Barbadoes. In this he asked for “2 good stout negroe men, such as are like to be plyable and good natured: and ingenious:
I question not but thou knowes better than I doe wch may be fittest for me. and I hope thou wilt be so kind as to lett me have those wch are good likely men: for some I hear are so ill natured and surrly, that a man had better keep a Bear, and some again so ingenious dilligt and good natured that they are a great comfort and Benefitt to a man and his family: And my family is great and I have 3 young children: so that it may be prejudiciall to me to have bad negroes: I would also have a boy and a girle to serve in my house I would not have either of them undr 10 years or above 20.”
With the brickmaker, there went to Philadelphia for Claypoole’s house “Ironmongers ware: tools for workinge and some materialls towards ye building of a house.”
These goods were probably landed at “that low Sandy Beach since called the Blue Anchor,” for this was from the beginning the accepted landing place for all the goods and chattels of the colonists when they left the vessels on which they made their weary passage from England. A court document recorded in 1753 said, “Persons have ever since used it as a Common Free Landing for Stores, Loggs, Hay and all such kind of Lumber and other Goods which can no way be with like ease or safety brought and landed to any other Wharf and place in the City.”
It was close to this free landing place that the first house in Philadelphia was built, and it was not far from here that Cole was asked to build Claypoole’s house, concerning which the following specific directions were sent to the brickmaker:
“I would willingly have a cell undr ye house for I shall bring wines and other liquors yt the heat may otherwise spoyle . . . write what things is most wanted for my concernes there, and what kind of land my Lott is, and how it lyes as to ye River &c and what watr and trees and all things needful to be known when thou hast got a hovell to keep thee safe, and provition without much charg for food, thou wert best buy a Cow and a Sow or two for breed, but in all things get good advise.”
By “2 . 10 mo . 1683” the Claypoole “great” family including his “3 young Children” had been for two months snugly placed in the house for which so many plans had been made. Concerning it he wrote on that day to his brother in Barbadoes:
“I found my servant had builded me a house like a barne without a Chimney 40 foot long and 20 broad, with a good dry Cellar under it which proved an extraordinary conveniency for securing our goods and lodging my family, Although it Stood me in very dear, for he had run me up for dyat — & work — near 60 lb. Sturling which I am paying as moray . to this I built a kitchen of 20 foot squar where I am to have a double Chimney wch I hope will be up in 8 or 12 days.”
In a later letter he said:
“My lott proves to be one of the best in the Town, having 102 foot to the River & 396 long and abt 1 1/4-acre in the high street, there is a swamp runs by the side of my lott, that with a small charge might be made navigable, and a brave harbour for sloops and small ships.”
It is likely that until the house was enlarged the household goods brought by Claypoole from England could not be accommodated. Most of the emigrants had a much more modest equipment than his. Probably the average array of furnishings and tools was more like that carefully set down by friends of a traveler who died at sea, as indicated below:
“A True Inventory of the goods and Chattels of George Chandler who Deceased the xiii Day of December 1687, in his passage to pensilvania. Taken and Apprized by us Whose Names are here underwritten The xth Day of the Seaventh mo’ 1688.
“First his wearing apparrell; one feather bed & two bolsters, 2 blankots, 1 Coverled, 1 par of Sheets; other beds & Bedding; Pewter, Brass, tools & other Ironware; Nayles, Saws, Aug’rs, Chissells, Gouges, wedges, Locks, Keys, Riphooks, and all other Iron Lumber; 2 gunns & powder & shot & powder Horne; 2 Chests & five Boxes and 2 bedsteds; one Barrell, 1 pare of Bellows, 4 Kevers, 1 Doe trough, 2 pailes, 10 bottles, and all other Lumber; a Sow & 9 piggs, 4 yards & half of Sarge; 1 Ell of holland or Scotch cloth, threed, pins & tapes.”
Many of the first colonists were compelled to put up with rude cave houses, built in the sloping ground above the Delaware. These could not have been very different from the sod houses on the prairies or the potato cellars still to be found on many farms. A bank formed the back of the house, while timbers were driven into the ground for the sides and the front. Earth was heaped against the side timbers, a door and a window or two were cut, and a roof of timbers covered with earth completed the whole. The window aperture contained a sliding board which, when closed, shut out some of the cold as well as the light. Sometimes a bladder or isinglass was stretched across. Those who were able to display a small paned window were proud of the achievement and were looked on with envy by their neighbors.
A letter written in 1708 to Hugh Jones of Bala, Wales, by John Jones, told of conditions as they were in 1682 when the first of the cave houses were in use.
“By this time there was a kind of neighborhood here, although as neighbors they could little benefit each other. They were sometimes employed in making huts beneath some cliff, or under the hollow banks of rivulets, thus sheltering themselves where their fancy dictated. There were neither cows nor horses to be had at any price. ‘If we have bread, we will drink water and be content,’ they said; yet no one was in want, and all were much attached to each other; indeed much more so, perhaps, than many who have every outward comfort this world can afford.
“During this eventful period our governor began to build mansion houses at different intervals, to the distance of fifty miles from the city, although the country appeared a complete wilderness.
“There was, by this time no land to be bought within twelve miles of the city, and my father having purchased a small tract of land married the widow of Thomas Llwyd of Penmaen. He now went to live near the woods. It was now a very rare but pleasing thing to hear a neighbor’s cock crow.”
The crowding of cave houses along the water front of the city was not in accordance with William Penn’s plan. In laying out his checkerboard city he made known his purpose to reserve “the top of the bank as a common exchange, or walk.” He did allow some to build stores here, if they were not raised higher than four feet above the bank. For a time he succeeded fairly well in keeping open the view of the river for those who walked where the ground began to slope toward the water.
Many of the cave houses near the river soon became a nuisance, and the Grand Jury found it necessary to deal summarily with the owners. The records of that body for “2d 4th Mo 1686” include the following Presentments:
“We present the encroachments on the King’s highway following, viz: of John Swift’s shop on ye end of Mulberrie street neer the delaware river, of Ye widow Blinston’s house being an encroachment standing upon Chestnut street neer delaware. The porch of Richard Orme encroaching on ye third street. John Markome for setting his house or cave encroaching upon delaware front street and John Moone for encroaching on ye front street by setting his palins upon ye same.”
On another occasion the Grand Jury took similar action:
“We present Joseph Knight for Suffering drunkenness & evill orders in his Cave.”
“All caves by the water side as unfit for houses of entertainment or drinking houses A great grievance & an occasion to forestall the Mercat.”
Later it was ordered that, “in presence of the Governor’s letter read in Court, ye high & pettie constable, high & undersheriffs, do forthwith view what emptie Caves doe stand in the King’s highway, in delaware front street (which way or street is sixty feet wide) and that they forthwith pull down & demolish all emptie caves as they shall find have encroached upon ye said street, in part or in all, and they shall secure what odd goods they therein find for ye owners.
One owner thereupon asked for “a month’s time to pull down his cave in ye middle of ye street,” and the court “granted him a mo. time to pull it down & ordered him to fill up the hole in ye strete.”
But the day came when Penn’s well-laid plans to keep open the view of the river came to nothing. When he was absent in England, a petition was presented to the Commissioner of Property by a number of merchants and landowners who wished to build much higher than the prescribed four feet above the bank, though they promised that they would leave “thirty feet of ground for a cartway under and above the said bank forever.” The Commissioner further stipulated that, when necessary, they should “wharf out,” in order to preserve the proper breadth, and that those who wished to have steps up into their houses should “leave convenient room to make the same upon their own ground.” Between two adjoining streets “there was to be left at least ten feet of ground for a public stairs, clear of all building over the same.”
So it was not long until the whole bank was built up, and “not a house as far as Pine Street” had a single foot of yard room.
Before Penn’s departure for England he wrote that “the city of Philadelphia now extends in length from River to River two miles and in breadth near a Mile,” then he proudly added that it was “Modelled between two Rivers upon a neck of Land and that Ships May ride in Good Anchorage in 6 or 8 fathom Water in Both, close to the City level dry and wholesome, such a Situation is scarce to be paralleled.”
All this land Penn bought from the Indians as well as from former settlers. His method of payment to the original owners may be seen from a deed recorded in 1697:
“We Taminy Sachimack and Weheeland, my brother, and Wehequeekhon, alias Andrew, who is to be king after my death, Yaquekhon alias Nicholas, and Quenamequid alias Charles my sons for us our heirs and successors grant . . . land between Pemmepack and Neshaminy extending to the length of the River Delaware so far as a horse can travel in two summer days, and to carry its breadth according to the several course of the two said creeks, and when the said creeks do branch, that the main branches granted shall stretch forth upon a drrect course on each side and to carry on the full breadth to the extent of the length thereof.”
The consideration for the transfer of this land — about three hundred square miles in all — was made up of the following items:
“5 p. Stockings, 20 Barrs Lead, 10 Tobacco Boxes, 6 Coates, 2 Guns, 8 Shirts, 2 Kettles, 12 Awles, 10 Tobacco Tongs, 6 Axes, 4 yds. Stroud-Water, 100 Needles, 5 Hatts, 25 lbs. powder, 1 Peck Pipes, 28 yards Duffills, 16 Knives, 10 pr Scissors, 2 Blankets, 20 Handfulls of Wampum, 10 Glasses, 5 Capps, 15 Combs, 5 Hoes, 9 Gimbletts, 20 Fishhooks, 7 half Gills, 4 Handfull Bells.”
In the light of this bargain the Proprietor’s statement concerning the Indians, written in August, 1683, is full of interest:
“I find them a people rude, to Europeans, in dress, gestures, and food; but of a deep natural sagacity. Say little, but what they speak is fervent and elegant, if they please, close to the point, and can be as evasive. In treaties, about land or traffick, I find them deliberate in council, and as designing, as I have ever observed among the politest of our Europeans. I have bought two large tracts, and had two presented to me, which cost me alike. They trouble not themselves about bills of lading, or exchange; nor are they molested about chancery suits and exchequer accounts. Their rest is not disturbed for maintenance; they live by their pleasure, fowling and fishing; the sons of providence, better without tradition, unless that they have got had been better; for the Dutch, English, and Swedes have taught them drunkenness. Thus they are the worse for those they should have been the better for; and this they are not so dark as not to see, and say.”
Gradually the colonists made themselves comfortable on lands to which the Indians had been persuaded to yield their claims, free from the periodical alarms of Indian raids that distressed the pioneers in other parts of the country because the original owners of the soil had not been treated as Penn treated his dusky neighbors. And it was well that they were freed from such anxieties, for they had enough of those that were inevitable. A glimpse of the burdens that were cheerfully borne for the sake of a home where some day there would be plenty was given by Ann Warder in her diary. Once in 1787 she recorded talking with a friend “who related what Friends’ situation was in the first settlement of their country; when the men and women toiled together to clear the land, without being able to procure what we esteem the common necessaries of life. One day a worthy woman returning from her labor to provide something for her own and companions’ dinner, and remembering that she had not nor could obtain nothing but very ordinary bread sat down and wept. A favorite cat came to her repeatedly which induced her to follow her into the woods, where she found that the animal had killed a fine fat rabbit, on which all dined.”
Pictures of the life in a humble home where father and mother and children lived in loving fellowship are to be secured by the sympathetic reading of the brief but eloquent records in the family Bible of Samuel Powell, the first, who died in 1756. The Bible was printed in 1683.
Samuel Powell’s wife was Abigail, the daughter of Benjamin Willcox of Philadelphia.
The entries were as follows:
“Samel Powell & Abigail his wife were married the 19th day of the 12th Month 1700 in Philadelphia.
“Anne Powell the Daughter of ye s’d Samel & Abigail was Born the 10th day of the 2d Month 1702.
“Samel Powell the Sonn of ye s’d Samel & Abigail was Born the 26th day of ye 12th Month 1704.
“Deborah Powell the Daughter of s’d Samel & Abigail Powell was born the 24th day of the 8th Month 1706 in the house of my Aunt Ann Parsons.
“Anne Powell the Second of yt name was born the 24th day of ye 8th Mo 1708.
“Anne Powell the first of yt name departed this Life ye 10th day of ye 10th Mo 1707.
“Ann Parsons departed this Life ye 24th ye 6 Mo 1712.
“Sarah Powell ye Daughter of Samuel & Abigail Powell was born ye 29 of ye 4th Mo 1713.
“My Dear Wife Abigail Powell Departed this Life ye 4th day of ye 7th Mo 1713.
“Ann Powell ye Second of ye Name
Departed this Life ye 26th day of ye 8th Mo 1714.”
The fashion of the houses built by such settlers as those whose humble annals were set down in this family Bible was indicated by Robert Turner in his letter to William Penn, which the Proprietor quotes in “A Further Account of the Province of Pennsylvania.” In this letter, which was dated August, 1685, he said:
“Now as to the Town of Philadelphia it goeth on in Planting and Building to admiration, both in the front & backward, and there are about 600 Houses in 3 years time. And since I built my Brick House, the foundation of which was laid at thy going, which I did design after a good manner to incourage others, and that from building with Wood, it being the first, many take example, and some that built Wooden Houses, are sorry for it: Brick Building is said to be as cheap. Brick are exceeding good, and better than when I built
“I am Building another Brick house by mine, which is three large Stories high, besides a large Brick cellar under it, of two Bricks and a half thickness in the wall, and the next story half under Ground, the cellar hath an Arched Door for a Vault to go [under the Street] to the River, and so to bring in goods, or deliver out. Humphrey Murray, from New York, has built a large Timber house, with Brick Chimnies. John Test has also finished a good Brick House, and a Bake House of Timber. John Day a good house, after the London fashion, most Brick, with a large frame of Wood, in the front, for Shop Windows; all these have Belconies, Lots are much desir’d in the town, great buying one of another.”
A full description of a brick house of the period (1690) is given in the biography of Christopher White. Though this house was built in New Jersey, the description would well serve for some of the early brick houses of Philadelphia:
“The main building was thirty feet by twenty feet, two stories high; the stories were nine feet in height. at the east end of the house was a wing ten feet square in the form of a tower, in that was the stairway leading to the second story and garret. There were overshoots that projected from the eaves of the roof about four feet in middle and extended around the gable ends of the house, which at a distance gave the appearance of having a tower at each corner. The cellar was only three feet under ground. It was paved with pressed brick six inches square, made of the finest clay. The walls from the foundations up to the windows of the first story were eighteen inches in thickness; above they were thirteen inches thick. Six stone steps, six feet in length and one foot in thickness, led up to the main entrance of the building. Two white-oak ties eighteen inches square supported the joist of the floors. The timbers were of white oak, the floor boards of yellow pine clear of sap and knots, eighteen inches in width and one and one half inch in thickness. The partitions and doors were made of heart yellow pine. There were two rooms on the first floor and three on the second floor; the garret was not plastered. There was one chimney in the main building near its centre, the fireplace in the hall or parlor was eight feet in length, the breast-plate of chimney being of heart yellow pine and full of carvings. There were five windows in the front of the house two in the lower story and three in the upper; also two windows in the gable ends of each story. The kitchen part stood on the east side of the main building. It was of brick, one story high; its ceiling was ten feet in height. The yard around the house was paved with sqaure bricks similar to those in the cellar floor.”
In the first chapter of this volume the story is told of William Hudson, the emigrant who came to Philadelphia bearing his father’s permission to marry.
Probably at once after his marriage, in 1688, he erected the house to which he led his wife and in which he spent the rest of his life. Thomas Allen Glenn has described the house in the following clear fashion:
“It stood on a large lot of ground facing the southeast corner of Third and Chestnut streets. It was built of red and black glazed brick, and was three stories high, having a sloping roof. A brick portico extended from the front entrance . . . The house was surrounded by a paved courtyard, shut in from the street by a high wall, there being a coachway on Third street and another entrance gate on Chestnut street. The place was shaded by several old trees, and a charming view of the Delaware could be obtained from the garden sloping away on the southeast towards Dock Creek. The stable and servants quarters were built in the rear of the courtyard. This typical colonial dwelling contained on the first floor the hall room, ‘dining room, Great Kitchen, and Outer Kitchen.’ On the second floor the ‘great chamber’ and two other large rooms, besides smaller ones. The third floor is described simply as ‘the Garrett,’ and probably consisted of but one apartment.
“The furniture was in keeping with the best style of the time; black walnut was the principal wood used, with an occasional oak or mahogany piece. There were two tall clocks, one in the hall room and one in the dining room. One of these old timepieces, said to have been purchased by Hudson’s father at a sale in London . . . is now in the Philadelphia Library.”
In many of these houses the old half-door was a cherished institution. The beauty and convenience of such a door can be appreciated by one who reads Townsend Ward’s description: “Quaint it was, but how appropriate for a single minded, hearty people among whom no depredation was ever known, until there came upon them the evil days of single doors and locks and bolts. . . While the lower half of the door was closed no quadruped could enter the dwelling house, but the refreshing air of heaven could, while the rest it afforded a leisure loving people was most agreeable.” How many pleasant hours were spent by the householders at such half opened doors, talking with a neighbor, or with a passer-by ! . . .
Perhaps it was because so little was feared from thieves that the first settlers were careless about securing their property. Sometimes this confidence was not justified, as in the case of one who, in 1686, complained to the Court that a man had climbed to his roof, displaced a loose board, and dropped to the garret bedroom where three members of the family were sleeping in one bed.
In the pioneer homes there was frequently necessity for such crowding. Probably many early Philadelphians could duplicate the description of the makeshifts humorously described by a later pioneer hundreds of miles away:
“It remained to sub-divide two hundred and eighty nine square feet of internal cabin into all the apartments of a commodious mansion . . . And first, the puncheoned area was separated into two grand parts, by an honest Scotch carpet hung over a stout pole that ran across with ends rested on the opposite wall plates; the woollen portion having two-thirds of the space on one side and the remaining third on the other.
“Secondly, the larger space was then itself subdivided by other carpets . . . into chambers, each containing one bed and twelve nominal inches to fix and unfix in; while trunks, boxes and the like plunder were stationed under the bed. Articles intended by nature to be hung, frocks, hats, coats, &c, were pendent from hooks and pegs of wood inserted into the wall. To move or turn around in such a chamber without mischief done or got was difficult; and yet we came at last to the skill of a conjuror that can dance blindfolded among eggs — we could in the day without light and at night in double darkness, get along and without displacing, knocking down, kicking over, or tearing!
“The chambers were, one for Uncle John and his nephew; one for the widow ladies and Miss Emily, who, being the pet, nestled at night in a trundle bed, partly under the large one; and one very small room for the help, which was separated from the Mistress’ chamber by pendulous petticoats. Our apprentices slept in an out-house. These chambers were all south of the grand hall of eighteen inches wide between the suites; on the north, being first our room and next it the strangers’ — a room into which at a pinch were several times packed three guests. Beyond the hospitality chamber was the toilette room, fitted with glasses, combs, hair brushes, &c., and after our arrival, furnished with the first glass window in that part . . . The window was of domestic manufacture, being one fixed sash containing four panes, each eight by ten’s, by whose light in warm weather we could not only fix but also read in retirement.”
Gradually larger houses took their place by the side of more humble neighbors. In these were single rooms, many of them as large as the one entire house of the first settlers. And what striking improvements the builders of the larger houses insisted on introducing! Large paned windows were long considered a wonderful luxury, and many builders awed the observers by the use of these daylight savers. Governor John Penn’s use of such windows led his sister-in-law to write:
“Happy the man, in such a treasure,
Whose greatest panes afford him pleasure.”
The number of houses erected, both large and small, was so great that in 1712 Rev. Abel Morgan wrote to his former congregation at Blaenegwent, Wales:
“I am surprised to see the extent of the city in so short a time. It is about a mile long and of medium width with wide streets and high and beautiful buildings. The inhabitants are numerous; ships ladened lie at the side of the town. There is a Court here, and the wagons continually are going with flour and wheat to the ships. The Country is exceedingly level as far as I have seen for about sixty miles; mostly good ground without much stone, so that a man may ride a hundred miles without a shoe under his horse. There is an orchard by every house of various fruits, very productive, they say.”
Twenty-nine years after Mr. Morgan wrote this wondering letter, Count Zinzendorf visited the city. During a part of his residence he lived in a house on the east side of Second street, a few doors north of Race street. This house was “built of brick, alternate red- and black-headers, three stories high, with pitch roof and dormer windows, with ten rooms, and kitchen and laundry detached in the rear. Glass ‘bulls-eyes’ in the front door and half moons in the window shutters afforded light to entry and rooms.”
During the same year Colonel James Coultas built for his family a stone house that is still one of the marvels of West Philadelphia, on a lane leading from the road to Darby to the road to West Chester. To this he added a wing in 1754. The mansion, which became known as Whitby Hall, appears to-day much as it did when first built, for the alterations made in 1754 and 1819 were so harmoniously contrived that it is difficult to tell the old part from the new.
The women who were at the head of old Philadelphia homes were usually good housewives, whether they presided over a little brick tenement like that in Mulberry street which Ann Newall entered in 1745, and for which she paid four pounds per year, or over such a house as that Ann Warder described in 1788 as “exceedingly convenient, though larger than I wished, it having four rooms on a floor — Kitchen, counting house and two parlors on the first floor, eight bedrooms and two garrets. Many handy closets. A small yard and beyond it another with grass plot, good stable and chaise house.”
For in that day more attention was paid to educating a girl in housework and home-making than in the studies of the schools. It was considered of greater value that she should know how to spin, knit, sew and cook than that she should be familiar with literature or be able to scan a line of Latin verse. The average mother took great pride in having her floors spotless, in making the clothing for her children as well as for her husband, and in collecting china, brass, pewter, or possibly silver for her pantry shelves.
In many homes silver was unknown. Even some of the wealthier colonists had only a few pieces, though what they had was apt to be handsome. An interesting glimpse of the silver in the home of Thomas Penn is afforded by a study of the inventory of the pieces he planned to send to England in 1763. These were:
“1 pair of low candlesticks for a writing table, 1 pair of small do, 2 old Square salts with my Crest, a silver pig tail box, a silver beaker, a small nutmeg grater, a silver peak for a saddle, 1 large Sauce pan,
1 small do, 1 Gilt Challice, 4 Table Spoons with my Crest, 2 large do, marked T. P., 1 Teapot, 1 silver plate.”
But while not so much silver was found on the pantry shelves, the metal was used for many other purposes. On the day book of a silversmith between 1745 and 1748 appeared charges for silverware that included such items as “14 silver buttons, 1 pair shoe buckels, garter buckels, knee buckels, a ring to be made with the posey,
‘I pray love well and ever
Not the gift, but the giver,’
double jointed tea-tongs, silver seal, topping thimble, shovels for salts, spur, hoop and chain, locket and bells.”
The ordinary kitchen was apt to contain some such modest supply of furnishings as that sold in 1760 to Thomas Potts, owner of the house in which Washington later made his headquarters at Valley Forge:
“A large copper sauce pann, 15 shillings; a small do, 8 shillings; a pair Brass Candlesticks, 15 shillings; a pair Rose Blanketts, 46 shillings; 6 china bowls, 23 shillings 6 pence; a pr. of Snuffers, 2 shillings 6 pence; a Brush, 2 shillings 9 pence; a pr. Iron Candlesticks, 2 shillings; 2 China bowles, 5 shillings; 3 Saucers, shillings 3 pence; a Looking Glass, 54 shillings; a dozen Knives and Forks, 7 shillings; 6 yards of Draper, 11 shillings; a Blankett, 14 shillings; 6 pewter Dishes, 52 shillings; a dozen Plates, 32 shillings; 6 hardmettle porringers, 15 shillings; a dozen spoons, 6 shillings; a trunck, 18 shillings; a Cotton Counterpane, 57 shillings; 1/2 dozen Chairs, 40 shillings; 3 galls. of Spirit, 22 shillings; 3 silver spoons, 66 shillings 10 pence; a Bedsted 40 shillings; Fire shovel and Tongs, 10 shillings.”
In 1771, at a Philadelphia home, there was a vendue of household furnishings when bidders carried away:
“1 Wine cask, 1 Tub and Old Barrel, Wheel Firkin and Chair; Rake & pitch Fork; Real and Winding Blades; Neck Yok & Strap; Hay Knife and Weeding Hoe; Saw and Horse, Side Saddle & 2 Trusels, Rabbit Box; Bed Cornish &c; Parcel Wooden Ware & Mouse Traps; 1 Horse Brush, 2 Brass Candlesticks, 2 Iron Spits, pair Tobacco Tongs, High Walnut Corner Cupboard, Large Copper Fish Kettle, half dozen Walnut Chairs with Damisk Bottoms, a Bald Faced Bay Horse, Black Cow with White Belly, Shagreen case with Knives & Forks; Eight-Day Clock; pair of Hand Bellows Brass Nozel; 10 Hard Mettle Plates; Mahogeny Server; 2 pair Snuffers & Callander & Toaster; Old Tin Lanthorne; 1 pair of double flint Beer Glasses; 1 Doz. Large & 1/2 Doz. small Patterpans; a Draw & Parcel Galley Pots; a Large Lignum Whity Morter and pestel; Warmg Pan with Copper Bottom; Jack & Gears; Old Fashion High Case Draws; Curled Maple Case of High Draws; 1 pr old Blankets, 1 pr Homespun Ditto; 1 Dieper Table Cloth; 1 Ditto Homespun; 16 Bottles of Beer; 3 Gall Kag of Grape Wine; 5 Gall Ditto of White Currant Wine; 10 Gall Kag of Prick’t Wine; 2 Brass Sconsances; 1 pr Saddle Bags; 1 pr Fire Buckets, tin Jack or Mug; 1 Hard Mettle pot; 1 Lead Tobacco Box; 2 N. England Leather Bottom Chairs; 1 pr Gold Seals & Weights.”
When — about the year 1786 — a housewife went to the manufacturer o furniture she was asked to pay prices like the following for fine pieces:
When the housewife succeeded in storing in her house a lot of such furniture she was eager to give a grand dinner. The expenses for such a meal, in 1761, may be seen from a bill from John Lawrence to Mary Biddle:
But where there was given one such court dinner there were hundreds of quiet home meals like that of which Ann Warder told in 1786:
“Dined with Anne Giles, daughter to Friend Clifford, her father and Mother, with Tommy, John and wife, and brother and sister Warder. First rock fish, next Mock turtle, ducks, ham and boiled turkey, with plenty of vegetables, and after these were removed, we had floating island, several kinds of pie with oranges and preserves. When we were well satisfied, left the men to their pipes and went upstairs to our chat.”
Two days later the diarist wrote:
“Most of the family busy preparing for a great dinner, two green turtles having been sent . We concluded to dress them together here and invite the whole family in . . . We had a black woman to cook and an elegant entertainment it was — having three tureens of soup, the two shells baked besides several dishes of stew, with boned turkey, roast ducks, veal and beef. After these were served the table was filled with two kinds of jellies and various kinds of puddings, pie and preserves; and then almonds, raisins, nuts, apples and oranges. Twenty four sat down at the table. I admired the activity of the lusty cook, who prepared everything herself, and charged for a day and a half but three dollars.”
In the same hospitable home the bill of fare for a much simpler meal included roast turkey, mashed potatoes, whip’d sally bubs, oyster pie, boiled leg of pork, bread pudding and tarts. Then followed “an early dish of tea for the old folks.”
In the days of Ann Warder, as to-day, there was a part of home-making that men did not like as much as they enjoyed these appetizing meals, though it was just as necessary to the welfare of the well-ordered home — house cleaning. The very year that Ann Warder wrote her charming diary a mere man wrote an article for The American Museum in which he told facetiously of the tearing up of the house that comes inevitably in the spring:
“When a young couple are about to enter on the matrimonial state, a never-failing article in the marriage treaty is that the young lady shall have and enjoy the free and unmolested exercise of the right of whitewashing . . . A young woman would forego the most advantageous connexion, and even disappoint the warmest wish of her heart, rather than forego this invaluable right.”
The magazine writer then spoke of the possibility of covering the walls of the house with paper, in order to make unnecessary much of the spring housecleaning and whitewashing. He said that though this “cannot abolish, it at least shortens the period of female dominion.” He explained that “the paper is decorated with flowers of various fancies and made so ornamental, that the woman has admitted the fashion, without perceiving the design.”
The man who professed to believe that wall paper was invented to circumvent the housewife, then went on to tell of a second evidence of the cleanliness of the Philadelphia homemakers:
“There is also another cherished custom peculiar to the city of Philadelphia and nearly allied to the former. I mean that of washing the pavement before the doorway every Saturday evening. I at first took this to be a regulation of the police, but, on further enquiry, find it to be a religious rite preparatory to the Sabbath, and is, I believe, the only religious rite in which the numerous sectarians of the city profoundly agree.
“The ceremony begins about sunset, and continues till about ten or eleven at night. It is very difficult for a stranger to walk the streets on these evenings. He runs a continual risk of having a bucket of water thrown against his legs, but a Philadelphian born is so accustomed to the danger that he avoids it with surprising dexterity. It is from this circumstance that a Philadelphian is known anywhere by his gait.”
But whether this is told in jest or in earnest, the fact remains that Philadelphia houses have ever been noted for cleanliness, and the typical homemaker has always been a model of efficiency.