Throughout the year we’ve been celebrating the unique clothing of the various people living and visiting Pennsbury Manor in the late 17th Century. After featuring the Laborers and the Servants/Tradespeople, we can highlight the Community Leaders!
The staff at Pennsbury Manor are scurrying everywhere getting ready for our annual Holly Nights this week, but in reality William Penn’s home would have been quiet and uninterrupted over the holiday season. Quakers did not believe in setting apart certain days as more “holy” than others, so they typically let the 12 days of Christmas pass by uncelebrated.
But we at Pennsbury just can’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate this special season! Our classic Holly Nights, a two-evening candelit event, includes some of our favorite 17th-century traditions that William Penn would have known as a child growing up in England. Our amazing volunteers will be Wassailing the apple orchard, burning evergreens to bless the New Year, brewing beer, cooking a sumptuous feast in the kitchens, and much more!
I thought about writing up a post about some of the holiday traditions Penn would have known, having been raised in a typical 17th-century Anglican family, but Colonial Williamsburg and their partners at the Jamestown Settlement have already done it! Click here to read their amazing article and pick up some cool ideas for your own holiday merry-making!
By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Costumier
We just got out new “William Penn” wig today, and we’re wiggin’ out!!
Many thanks to Colonial Williamsburg’s Wig Shop, who constructed this wig along with another on display here at Pennsbury Manor. I know it’s not their typical time period, so we appreciate them taking on the challenge of late 17th-century styles!
Our official “William Penn” was in desperate need of a properly style ‘do, so I know he’s excited to try this on for size. The new wig will settle in nicely as it travels all over the community visiting classrooms, bouncing down parade routes, and welcoming visitors at Pennsbury Manor.
Come to next week’s Holly Nights and see William Penn vanquish the infamous pirate Captain Kidd in our traditional Mummer’s Play! Visit Pennsbury’s website for event details and a coupon!
By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator and Costumier
During the 17th Century, what we know as Germany was a hodgepodge of different states disputing everything from religion to politics. With religious persecution and destruction brought about by The Thirty Years War, many Germans were fed up and chose to leave for the New World. But leaving their country behind didn’t mean leaving their traditions – especially when it came to their food!
The colony of Pennsylvania was appealing to a large variety of people, for it accepted diversity and offered freedom of religion. The first wave of German immigrants purchased about 15,000 acres from William Penn, a tract of land about 6 miles north of Philadelphia. There they founded “Germantown” and were free to prosper without the political disputes of the Old World. As the settlement prospered, many more Germans followed, and soon their population swelled to dominate south central Pennsylvania!
These new inhabitants came with respected farming techniques and prized cooking traditions. The recipes used by these new settlers greatly varied by what regions of Germany they came from. These people, erroneously referred to as the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” rather than the proper “Pennsylvania Deutsch,” became famously known for their hearty meals, heavy in starches and fats. As they mingled with the English, French, and other nationalities living in Pennsylvania, their traditions would intermingle. William Penn was especially fond of the smoked meats Germans favored.
The majority of these immigrants came here impoverished, so what they ate was determined by what their new land offered. They became well known for their sausages and soups, which were great ways of getting the most from the ingredients available. Even today, local delicacies like Scrapple and Pork Rolls have their roots in the colonial Deutsch culture. With the opportunities William Penn offered in his new colony, German immigrants helped establish the diverse state Pennsylvania has become.
Written by Ray Tarasiewicz, Intern
Fletcher, S. W. Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life 1640-1840. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1971. Print.
“The gardiner is brisk at work. The Peach-Trees are much broken down with the weight of Fruit this Year.”
William Penn’s steward James Harrison reported this good news in October of 1686, but the same could be said of the fall harvest in 2012! Indian blood peaches, radishes, red and yellow cayenne peppers, squash, gourds, and culinary and medicinal herbs have all thrived this year in Penn’s kitchen garden.
According to Pennsbury’s gardener Mike Johnson, this is due in part to the recent restructuring of the garden’s fences. While Penn’s original garden covered about two acres of his estate, the smaller area has allowed the garden staff to protect the plants from pests and to interpret seventeenth and eighteenth-century garden activities more effectively for visitors.
You may be asking yourself, “What happens to all those fruits and vegetables?” Just as in Penn’s time, nothing goes to waste! Harvested crops will be used in cooking demonstrations, educational programs, and seed-saving for future planting.
Let’s follow the path of the dipping gourd, which has yielded a particularly plentiful harvest this year. From the garden, the dipping gourds will make their way into storage to dry until next summer. At that time, our summer campers will remove the seeds and return them to the gardener so they can be planted. Once the seeds are removed, each gourd will be fashioned into a ladle-like tool used for watering plants. In a time when metal watering cans were expensive, being able to grow one’s own irrigation tools was certainly a favorable alternative.
2012 was also a “hot” year for red and yellow cayenne peppers. Growing cayenne peppers has given the garden staff an opportunity to interpret contradicting horticultural ideas, as not everyone on the estate would have eaten them. African slaves living at Pennsbury had their own culinary culture and probably would have cultivated cayenne peppers as a food source. However, the Penn family and Pennsylvania’s other English residents would have considered them to be primarily ornamental plants with some medicinal and culinary value. For example, cayenne pepper and other spices would have been added to hot chocolate for an exotic burst of spicy flavor.
The fall harvest is well under way and will continue for the next few weeks. On your next visit to Pennsbury, take a walk through the garden and reflect on the efforts of our gardeners, past and present. They cultivated food for the table, medicine for those who were sick, and even tools for future growing seasons. Autumn is the perfect time to celebrate their achievements!
By Danielle Lehr, Volunteer and Intern
As the school year quickly shifts into high-gear and stores advertise their latest sales on backpacks and sneakers, the staff at Pennsbury can’t help but notice the differences between modern life and childhood back in the 17th Century. We spent the summer posting on children’s daily lives and education, so maybe it’s time to feature what they’d be wearing!
“Dress to impress” is surely a phrase we’re common with this day in age, but not something you would necessarily abide by in William Penn’s time. In 17th-century England and the colonies thereof, clothing was expensive. With the majority of the common folk working solely to survive, the average household could not afford to pay as much attention to fashion as their modern counterparts.
What was purchased and worn had to be durable enough to endure the work they’d be doing – silk brocade mantua gowns and embroidered coats were not going to cut it! The secondhand clothing found in the markets of the day actually became a great source among the working class for affordable and up-to-date options for dress.
However, this lack of emphasis on fleeting fashion does not diminish its true importance of clothing. “What people wore defined their social position and every colonial government tried with sumptuary legislation to keep class lines clear.” In 1619 in Massachusetts, legislation was passed “against excess apparel” among plain people . The court ordered that offenders be fined by local priests. Nevertheless, the lines blurred in many cases and it became sometimes difficult for guests in well-to-do families’ households to distinguish between the lady of the house and her servant!
Children of the time followed the same standards as their parents. “Dressed as miniature adults from the time they could walk,” children always knew their families’ status in society and were direct representations of such status. “Wives of the well-to-do imposed standards of proper dress on the children” and likewise, if you were from the country and a farmer’s child, the same aprons, straw hats, and patterns your mother wore would also be your attire.
In the 17th Century, what you wore was much more telling of who you were then in our modern society. In our world, many people can afford even the cheapest imitations of the season’s latest fashions, and children of all families are often dressed up like dolls! But for the Penn Family, their clothing would have reflected their social position and their Quaker beliefs.
Although a man of power and money, William and his family would have dressed in the best fabrics and highest-quality materials, but their religion would have demanded the fashionable embellishment and frills be left off. This was sure to define the family in a rather unique way, in comparison to their Protestant and Anglican English counterparts of equal social rank.
Written by Mary Barbagallo
Everyday Life in Early America, David Freeman Hawke, Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc. 1988, New York, NY.
The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engraving and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon, Standford University Press, Standford, CA,1990.
Our fellow museum bloggers over at Winterthur just posted a great article on the popular Posset Pot, a commonly-shared drinking vessel which had its own unique beverage concoction.
A couple years ago, one of our interns posted a Collections Featurette on one of the posset pots in the Manor House, so I was excited to see more examples from the Winterthur collection, which is located just outside Wilmington, Delaware. Some look very similar to ours, but some feature amazingly detailed and ornate decorations on the sides and lid. They also posted a recipe for the posset, which might be worth a try! Visit their blog at the link below to learn more about this fashionable 17th-century tradition:
Last month our Open-Hearth Cooks demonstrated the cooking traditions of the Netherlands, previewed in an article we posted about Dutch foodways.
Now we turn our attention to another highly influential culture, one that has been closely intertwined with the English for centuries: France!
For many years England and France shared many of the same trends and traditions, from food to fashion. This began to change around the mid-17th Century. Many in England began looking to the French as the trendsetter of the age, mostly for the upper class. Even as their countries waged war against each other, the English were often reluctant to give up French trends in the name of patriotism!
French cuisine began to move away from the heavily spiced and sweetened meals they had long enjoyed, and began returning to a focus on the more natural flavors of produce and meats. All varieties of salads and sauces appeared during this time. Salads featured the fresh vegetables and flowers of the season, and were often dressed with toppings including various meats, eggs, and oil. Check out Colonial Williamsburg’s recipe for a “salmagundy!”
The new trend in French cooking also spurred changes in table etiquette. Meals began to be served in courses, rather than platters being laid out on the banquet tables for immediate consumption. The use of utensils also became more common place, along with the use of more restrained table manners. Though the French remained a small minority in colonial Pennsylvania, their influence on English culture translated into an influence on the population of William Penn’s colony.
By Ray Tarasiewicz, Intern
Following our 17th-century Fashion Show last spring, I posted an article highlighting the Laborers and their clothing – next up are the Servants & Tradespeople!
These men and women did not have to break their backs in the fields or peddling wares on the streets, but they still lived a humble life. Perhaps they performed a trade, like turning table legs in a Joyner’s Shop, or worked as a housemaid on a large estate like Pennsbury Manor. Perhaps after saving their wages, they would have enough to purchase a small farm or open their own shop. They had enough to live on, but their modest clothing reflected their lower station in society.
Pennsbury volunteers Valerie and Joseph Long are pictured here modeling appropriate ensembles. Valerie is wearing the latest in 17th-century gowns: the Mantua (featured in a previous post). Her gown is a modest cut and color, and the fine wool fabric would last a long time. Her serviceable coif may not have been the latest style in caps, but it kept the hair off her face while she worked.
Just like his wife, Joe’s simple linen waistcoat and justacorps (also featured previously) was fashionable yet serviceable. Linen is a hard-wearing fabric that would last, which is important when every piece of clothing you buy is an investment. Tradesmen like Joe would dress informally when working in their workshops – shops were for manufacturing, not selling; that would happen at a store or at least a separate room at the front of the building. But when walking through town, he would still want to look like a man of business and stature.
A person’s outward image was a reflection of their status in society and served as a walking advertisement to others on how to treat you. Earlier in the 17th century, English law actually restricted what people could wear based on their social class. But as the gentry class increasingly sold their clothes to secondhand shops in order to fund their new, more fashionable wardrobes, the lower classes began to buy those high-quality garments. In wearing these gently-used pieces, just a fraction of the price for new clothes, they started looking just as nice as their employers. The gentry were NOT HAPPY and wrote in their letters and journals how frustrating it was when the maid looked just like the mistress!
Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Costumier
**You might be wondering why our models don’t have any shoes on in these pictures? That’s because we haven’t been able to afford any. We are fundraising to purchase reproduction shoes, since a costumed interpreter in sneakers ruins the whole atmosphere… To help out, you can visit our official website www.pennsburymanor.org and click the “Donate Now” button at the bottom.**
“Education is the stamp Parents give their Children”
– William Pen
When we think of standards in education today, it is safe to say it has come a long way since our colonial forbearers. We talked last month about the realities of colonial childhood, particularly for Quakers. Because of their responsibilites to their family, general education in the 17th century was erratic.
Without buildings dedicated for teaching, communities had to organize financing for the construction of school houses, funding teachers’ salaries, and getting parents to agree to let their children spend the day in a schoolroom instead of helping at home. This last condition was sometimes impossible for poorer families, who needed their children’s help to survive.
As a result, families often chose to become their own center of education. So if a child was to learn to read, write, or calculate, someone in the family had to teach them. This also meant time away from chores, but these skills would be necessary if a son (especially the one to receive the family inheritance) were to manage the family’s business and participate in public affairs.
The common way for the children to learn to read and spell was through the use of a hornbook. Named literally for the materials that made it, a hornbook was a thin piece of wood backing topped by a piece of printed, then covered with a layer of horn. The horn was thin enough to let the paper be seen for reading, and all was held together by strips of metal around the edges. The book had a small handle with a hole for string so the book could be carried, either around the neck or over the shoulder. The printed page would include an alphabet with large and small letters, along with simple syllables and the Lord’s Prayer. The backs of the books were often decorated with a design. Used nearly every day, they were often used until worn out, meaning few 17th-century hornbooks exist today.
Quakers used the hornbook and some of the other practices of traditional 17th-century education; however, the main ideas behind their educational practices were based in their religious beliefs. They tried to control the children’s environment, preserving their faith and promoting certain behaviors including dress, speech, and silence. This led Quakers to believe that education was a foundational tool for spreading their practices, and opened their own institutions separate from the Protestant or Angelican schools.
Because of their isolation and irregular practices, Quaker education did not prepare children (mainly boys) for college. Classic topics (Latin and Greek) were often not included in their education. Moreover, Quakers were also “free in their criticisms of traditional schools.” Even Penn noted the issues with English schools, saying “We are in Pain to make them Scholars, but not Men! To talk, rather than know.” Nonetheless, both Penn and other Friends wanted “classical learning with the study of useful knowledge”. This practical knowledge meant being able to” read, write, and cipher” while gaining “a fuller appreciation of the Creator”. William Penn also made his sentiments on education known through letters to his wife, which can be viewed in a previous post entitled, Stay in School.
Classical and practical education also came in the form of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships were seen as privileges that provided an education which ensured a child’s livelihood later on. On the other hand, becoming an apprentice could be a traumatic experience, seeing as many children (again, boys) would start young (usually around 12 years old) and leave their families to live with their master. This strict frame for growing up was backed by the Proverb 22:6, a popular verse amongst Friends: “Train up a Child in the way he should go, and when he is Old he will not depart from it.”
Realistically though, we know better than to think all children listen to their parents! For Penn this proved true and it’s safe to say that his children didn’t quite follow his religious and education views through and through.
Mary Barbagallo, Intern
Child Life in Colonial Days, Alice Morse Earle,Corner House Publishers, 1989, Williamstown, MA.
Everyday Life in Early America, David Freeman Hawke, Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc. 1988, New York, NY.
The Quaker Family in Colonial America, J. William Frost, St. Martin’s Press, Inc. 1973, New York, NY.