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 theiramazing 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!
Map of Western Europe, 1648
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.
A sampling of seasonal ingredients used for Open-Hearth Cooking at Pennsbury Manor
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.
Last week, we shared the story of the Mattson Witch Trial, the only known witch trial William Penn presided over. Pennsylvania never reached anywhere near the heights of Salem’s infamous witch hunts. So just how much did Penn’s ideals make a difference in the witch hysteria?
The answer lies not within one difference, but many differences. Penn and his Quaker colony had a very different social environment influenced by religion, politics, and education. Penn founded his colony as a “holy experiment” grounded in his plans for religious tolerance, laws created and governed by the people, and a fair justice system. These values changed how witch hysteria affected the communities in Pennsylvania.
Much like the Quakers, Salem’s Puritan founders created their community out of a desire to escape religious persecution in Europe. However, contrary to Penn’s policy of inclusion and tolerance, Salem prohibited any non-Puritans from living in Salem.
“Witches’ Initiation,” David Teniers the Younger, 1647-49
Salem also had a history of persecution for witchcraft. The religious leaders regularly gave sermons warning of the danger of witches and openly advertised the witch hunts that happened throughout Europe. In addition, the court system did not really function and failed to regulate or protect those accused of witchcraft. So in 1692, when the accusations and trials really began to engulf the community, the colony’s government failed to maintain order and sanity.
Anonymous drawing of witches at work from Johann Geiler von Kayersberg, 1517. Cornell University Library.
All of these factors play into the horrible persecution of the 59 people tried in Salem, of which 20 were put to death before anyone could stop the hysteria. By the end of the summer in 1692, 13 women and 6 men were hanged in Salem, Massachussetts for the crime of witchcraft.
Needless to say the hysteria of witch hunts struck hard for centuries throughout Europe and the colonies, leading to severe persecution, shunning, and often death for the accused men and women. Anything mysterious or hard to explain, like cows not producing milk or infant deaths, could be blamed on a witch. Science would later prove the real reasons for such events, but it would come too late to save the many people who were burned, hanged or drowned as witches. Pennsylvania avoided most of this madness, but not entirely, as Margret Mattson and Yeshro Hendrickson’s trial proves.
Written by Mary Barbagallo, Intern
Pennsylvania Colonial Cases – Proprietor vs. Mattson
The Malleus Malficarum of Henrich Kramer and James Sprenger: Translated with an introduction by the Reverend Montague Summers, Dover Publication, Inc., New York, NY, 1971.
The Witch Hunts: A History of the Witch persecutions in Europe and North America, Robert Thurston, Pearson Education Ltd., United Kingdom, 2007.
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:
This summer a young friend attended summer camp at Pennsbury Manor, and during the course of the week she formed some opinions about my job as the Museum Educator. She told me that I have the coolest job in the world because I get to “take care of the animals, give tours, and drive the golf cart.” Well, maybe my job isn’t quite as simple as that, but it is pretty cool!
Without question, my favorite part of the job is talking with visitors. I get to learn where they are from and what brought them to Pennsbury Manor, hear their questions and discussing answers – because history is rarely made of pure facts. Most of all, I love that moment (especially transparent in children) when an idea catches hold and true learning takes place.
Every day, all sorts of people (including you!) visit our blog. I often feel like I am missing out because I can’t have the same conversations with you as I do with the people who visit the physical site. But lately we’ve been having some great discussions with our readers and volunteers. We’d like to encourage everyone to feel they can participate, with questions, comments, and experiences of your own!
Below each blog article, there is a comment section for anybody to post their responses. If you are shy (like me) and don’t wish to post a public response, please email us at email@example.com. We’d love to know what your interests are, and what you would like to hear more about! I’d like to know what questions you have about current or previous posts. Finally, I’d like to hear about YOU. Where are you from? How did you come to love history? What experience at a historic site or museum truly moved you?
Go ahead, make my day and shoot me an email or comment. I look forward to hearing from all of you!
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.
“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.
One of the few existing hornbooks today. This particular one is owned by a family in Long Island.
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.
When many people think of the harvest, they think of autumn. But another important time for gathering crops, not to be forgotten, takes place in the heat of the summer!
In an age where food wasn’t from the local supermarket, but from the land people lived on, it was important to use the soil to the best of its ability. With ground-breaking techniques (no pun intended!) of the time, farmers were able to work the land to provide maximum yield from the beginnings of spring, to the eve’s of winter.
One important crop of colonial Pennsylvania was wheat. Of three varieties grown, winter and summer wheat were able to be harvested around the month of June, if weather had been good. Governor Penn even reports “they may sow eight acres; half with summer wheat and half with oats,” referring to successful agriculture production in his colony. Other summer crops include rye, hemp, barley, oats and flax.
In smaller kitchen gardens, more customized techniques could be applied to each plant being grown. Here at Pennsbury Manor we have a reconstruction of William Penn’s own kitchen garden. It was intended for raising vegetables, herbs, and anything else that could be found useful in the estates kitchen. Structures like “hot beds” were created to begin the germination of seeds in late winter. This wooden framework was filled with manure, and topped with a layer of soil; this bed could become as hot as 100°F in the coldest of winter. Once mature enough, they can be moved to garden beds.
Similar to the hot bed, the cold frame was a structure used to protect fragile herbs. This structure was enclosed with spare glass, matting or canvas. One would also find raised beds. This state of the art invention allowed planters to control the fertility of their soil and manage it accordingly.
With innovations such as these, the kitchen garden would be able to adapt to the seasons and continuously provide for the estate. In a time like Penn’s, it was always important to put time to its best use, even in the heat of the summer!