Friday, June 5, 2020

Garden Vineyards

In early American gardens, the section of the grounds devoted to the growing of grapes was the vineyard. Throughout the colonial & early republic periods, planters & farmers consistantly attempted to grow grapes for wine on their grounds.

In the June 5, 1736 edition of the South Carolina Gazette in Charleston, South Carolina, an ad noted that on Goose Creek was property, "To be Sold A Plantation containing 200 Acres...a vineyard of about two years growth planted with 1200 vines."

The Baltimore Whig in 1811, reported, "For Sale, An Elegant Retreat...Of the six acres, two are laid off in an excellent garden, which is now in the highest state of cultivation, and contains...the most promising and productive small vineyard in this state. The cuttings from which these vines are produced, were imported from France, Italy, and Germany."

After noticing years of less than successful attempts at developing flourishing vineyards in America, New Yorker John Nicholson wrote of the best methods for establishing & maintaining vineyards in his book The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "Wherever any kinds of grapes grow wild, they may be there cultivated to advantage for making wines... In the more southerly parts of this State, there are two species of grapes, of which there are varieties; the black-grape and the foxgrape... In the more southerly climates, particularly on the waters ot the Ohio and Mississippi, there are much greater varieties of these grapes...

"The spots most favorable for vineyards are the sides of hills or mountains, descending southwardly, or to the east; but to the south is best; and let the soil be loose and mellow, but not liable to be much washed by heavy rains...
"Some soils are not good; though by carting on much sand, and other loosening manures, they will answer tolerably well. The ground must be well mellowed by ploughings, and mixed with sand, if not naturally sandy, and such manures as will serve to make it rich and keep it mellow...
"Where the hill sides are steep (and such produce the best vines) it is advisable to cart on stones ol small and middling size to mix with the soil, which help to keep them moist and warm; and a part of them are to be laid along in ridges on the lower side of each row of vines, to keep the earth from washing away. Round the vineyard let a good substantial fence be made, which will keep out both Men and beasts. The northerly side of the vineyard should be well protected from the northerly winds...

"All this time, the ground of the vineyard is constantly to be kept light and mellow, and perfectly clear of weeds and grass. For this purpose, straw, chaff, flax-shives, and every thing of the kind is to be carried on, and spread over the ground, to keep it mellow and moist, and to prevent us washing. Observing this the first 4 years, greatly forwards the vines, and at the same time prepares them for good crops afterwards; nor should the practice be afterwards wholly discontinued...
"A vineyard of an acre should contain but two sorts of grapes, and one of two acres should not generally contain more than four sorts. Every kind of grape should be made into wine by itself, and not mixed with others."
The Banks of the Ohio - Mr. Longworth's Vineyards.  1859 print

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

1784 The Picture-Bible of Ludwig Denig (1755-1830)

The Picture-Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book. by Ludwig Denig (1755 - 1830)

Ludwig Denig (1755 - 1830) was an American folk artist.  A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he became a member of the Reformed Church, whose congregational school he attended. He served in the American Revolution & worked as a shoemaker before, in 1787, moving to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania & taking up work as an apothecary. He died in Chambersburg, in 1830.
The Picture-Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book. by Ludwig Denig (1755 - 1830)

Denig is remembered for a 200-page illuminated manuscript he produced in 1784. The book, filled with spiritual texts & sermons & illustrated in watercolor, contains mainly scenes from the New Testament & pictures of symbolic flowers & a garden. Denig's illustrations depict their subjects dressed in the costume of contemporary Pennsylvania German people.  They were painted when the fraktur tradition in the state was at its height, & accordingly they bear its imprint, as well as the influence of Christian devotional prints & illustrated Bibles popular during the period. Denig's book was published in 1990 as The Picture-Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Location, Location, Location...

Up & down the Atlantic coast, where the topography allowed, when gentlemen decided exactly where to build their house, they usually harked back to the traditional defensive habit of building on the high ground. Even when the need for surveying the countryside for marauders had long passed, gentlemen continued to look for the highest situation, in part so that they could remain above, superior, in the minds of others.
1800 Francis Jukes (American artist, 1745–1812)  Mount Vernon

Shortly after he arrived in the United States, British architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe wrote in 1798, ""When you stand upon the summit of a hill, and see an extensive country of woods and fields without interruption spread before you, you look at it with pleasure...this pleasure is perhaps very much derived from a sort of consciousness of superiority of position to all the monotony below you."
Benjamin Latrobe by Charles Willson Peale.

Latrobe (1764-1820) came to the United States in 1796, settling first in Virginia and then relocating to Philadelphia to design the waterworks. In 1803, he was hired as Surveyor of the Public Buildings of the United States & spent much of the next 14 years working on projects in Washington, D.C., where he designed the U S Capitol. Latrobe then traveled to New Orleans to work on a waterworks project and died there of yellow fever in 1820.
Plantation circa 1825, Unknown Artist

Latrobe knew that the situation of the house was meant to impress visitors viewing the surrounding landscape & to impress those passing-by who could only look up & admire the plantation or country seat. When choosing a homesite, gentlemen carefully considered the vistas & views available from the pinnacle of the property, as well as the practical aspects of the situation.

Visitors often used the powerful verb command to describe the placement of a dwelling on a site surrounded with vistas. A house would a view or a prospect. Those passing by would note that houses on high ground were situated on an eminence. Homage was due to the powerful and clever owner.
Francis Guy. Perry Hall near Baltimore, about 1804.

Even when the houses themselves were unfinished or left to decay, impressive sites were still admired. In June of 1760, Andrew Burnaby was traveling through Annapolis and noted, "the governor's palace is not finished...it is situated very finely upon an eminence and commands a beautiful view of the town and environs."

Andrew Burnaby (1732-1812) was a well-traveled English clergyman who visited the British American colonies in 1760, and published his travel journal back in England, just as the Revolutionary War was beginning.
c 1759 Moses Gill (1733–1800) by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815)

One of the most amazing descriptions explaining the meaning of the prospect from a gentleman's house to both its owner and to its neighbors, is the description of the home & property of Governor Moses Gill of Massachusettes, as reported by Rev. Peter Whitney in his History of Worcester County, 1793.
Samuel Hill, View of the Seat of the Hon. Moses Gill Esq. at Princeton, in the County of Worcester, reproduced in Massachusetts Magazine, November, 1792.

The magazine reported, Foreigners must have an high idea of the rapid progress of improvement in America, when they are told that the ground which these buildings now cover, and a farm of many hundred acres around it, now under high and profitable cultivation were, in the year 1766, as perfectly wild as the deepest forest of our country. The honourable proprietor must have great satisfaction in seeing Improvements so extensive, made under his own eye, under his own direction, and by his own active industry."

Rev. Whitney wrote his insightful history of Worcester County only a year later, "In this town is the country seat of the Hon. Moses Gill, Esq....His elegant and noble seat...The farm contains upwards Of 3000 acres.The buildings stand upon the highest land of the whole farm.br />
"The mansion house is large, being 50 x 50 feet, with four stacks of chimneys; the farm house is 40 x 36 feet; in a line with this stand the coach and chaise house, 50 x 36 feet; this is joined to the barn by a shed 70 feet in length - the barn is two hundred feet by thirty-two.

"The prospect from this seat is extensive and grand, taking in horizon to the east, of seventy miles at least. The blue hills of Milton are discernable with the naked eye, from the windows of this superb edifice, distant not less than sixty miles, as well as the waters of the harbor of Boston, at certain seasons of the year.

"When we view this seat, these buildings, and this farm of so many hundred acres, now under a high degree of cultivation, and are told that in the year 1766 it was a perfect wilderness, we are struck with wonder, admiration and astonishment.

"The honorable proprietor hereof must have great satisfaction in contemplating these improvements, so extensive, made under his direction, and, I may add by his own active industry. Judge Gill is a gentleman of singular vivacity and activity, and indefatigable in his endeavors to bring forward the cultivation of his lands...and deserves great respect and esteem, not only from individuals, but from the town and county he has so greatly benefited, and especially by the ways in which he makes use of that vast estate, wherewith a kind Providence has blessed him.

"Upon the whole, this seat of judge Gill, all the agreeable circumstances respecting it being attentively considered, is not paralleled by any in the New England States; perhaps not by any one this side of Delaware."
1764 Moses Gill by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) 

A description of George Washington's home on the Virginia side of the Potomac River appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette just after his death. The account described the view from his porch, "A lofty portico, 96 feet in length, supported by 8 pillars, has a pleasing effect when viewed from the water...On the opposite side...an extensive plain, exhibiting corn-fields and cattle grazing, affords in summer a luxuriant landscape; while the blended verdure of woodlands and cultivated declivities, on the Maryland shore, variegates the prospect in a charming manner."

A variety of terms appear in contemporary descriptions of houses and grounds shedding light on the importance of the impressive view. I want to devote the next few blog postings to these terms, as they were used by visitors & observers in colonial British America & the early republic.

For a discussion of concepts parallel to those noted in the 1793 Whitney History of Worcester County relating to the landscape of Moses Gill's property plus Ralph Earl's 1800 painting Looking East from Denny Hill, see David R. Brigham's article at CommonPlace.org. Brigham is the curator of American art at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Agricultural slaves in 18C-19C America

African peoples were captured & transported to the Western Hemisphere to work.  Most European colonial economies in the Americas from the 16th - 19th century were dependent on enslaved African labor for their survival.  The rationale of European colonial officials was that the abundant land they had "discovered" in the Americas was useless without sufficient labor to exploit it.  Only some 450,000 of the nearly 10 million Africans who survived the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade settled in the continental United States. Nevertheless, these 450,000 had grown to more than 4 million people of African descent by 1860, the dawn of the Civil War.
South Carolina

Slavery was not limited to the Western Hemisphere.  The trans-Saharan slave trade had long supplied enslaved African labor to work on sugar plantations in the Mediterranean alongside white slaves from Russia & the Balkans. This same trade also sent as many as 10,000 slaves a year to serve owners in North Africa, the Middle East, & the Iberian Peninsula.
Cartouche Shipping Hogsheads of Tobacco from Frye-Jefferson map of Virginia, 1755

Of the millions of immigrants who survived the crossing of the Atlantic & settled in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 -1776, only about 1 million were Europeans. The remaining were African. An average of 80 % of these enslaved Africans—men, women, & children—were employed, mostly as field-workers. Women as well as children worked in some capacity.
More than half of the enslaved African captives in the Americas were employed on sugar plantations. Sugar developed into the leading slave-produced commodity in the Americas.  During the 16th & 17th centuries, Brazil dominated the production of sugarcane. One of the earliest large-scale manufacturing industries was established to convert the juice from the sugarcane into sugar, molasses, & eventually rum, the alcoholic beverage of choice of the triangular trade.  The profits made from the sale of these goods in Europe, as well as the trade in these commodities in Africa, were used to purchase more slaves.
Tobacco Advertisement Card, Newman’s Best Virginia, 1700s

By 1750, both free & enslaved black people in the British American colonies, despite the hardships of their lives, manifested a deepening attachment to America. The majority of blacks by now had been born in America, rather than in Africa. While a collective cultural memory of Africa was maintained, personal & direct memories had waned. Slave parents began to give their children biblical rather than African names.
Tobacco Label, Ford’s Virginia

During the British American colonial period in the United States, tobacco was the dominant slave-produced commodity.  During the colonial era, 61% of all American slaves -- nearly 145,000 -- lived in Virginia & Maryland, working the tobacco fields in small to medium-sized gangs. Planters who owned hundreds of slaves often divided them among several plantations. In the North & the Upper South, masters & bondpeople lived close to each other.  Rice & indigo plantations in South Carolina also employed enslaved African labor.  The South Carolina & Georgia coastal rice belt had a slave population of 40,000. Because rice requires precise irrigation & a large, coordinated labor force, enslaved people lived & worked in larger groups. Plantation owners lived in towns like Charleston or Savannah & employed white overseers to manage their far-flung estates. Overseers assigned a task in the morning, & slaves tended to their own needs, when the assigned work was completed. The region was atypical, because of its more flexible work schedules and more isolated and independent slave culture.
Indigo Production South Carolina. William DeBrahm, A Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia  London, published by Thomas Jeffreys, 1757.

Exhausted land caused a decline in tobacco production, & the American Revolution cost Virginia & Maryland their principal European tobacco markets, & for a brief period of time after the Revolution. The future of slavery in the United States was in jeopardy. Most of the northern states abolished it, & even Virginia debated abolition in the Virginia Assembly.
Slave Auction. New York Illustrated News; January 26, 1861

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793, gave slavery a new life in the United States. Between 1800 -  1860, slave-produced cotton expanded from South Carolina & Georgia to newly colonized lands west of the Mississippi. This shift of the slave economy from the upper South (Virginia & Maryland) to the lower South was accompanied by a comparable shift of the enslaved African population to the lower South & West.
Hauling Cotton US South. Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the principal source of the expansion of slavery into the lower South was the domestic slave trade from the upper South.  By 1850, 1.8 million of the 2.5 million enslaved Africans employed in agriculture in the United States were working on cotton plantations.
Picking Cotton. Ballou's Pictorial (Boston, Jan. 23, 1858)

The vast majority of enslaved Africans employed in plantation agriculture were field hands. Some coastal owners used slaves as fishermen.  Even on plantations, however, they worked in many other capacities. Some were domestics & worked as butlers, waiters, maids, seamstresses, & launderers. Others were assigned as carriage drivers, hostlers, & stable boys. Artisans—carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, millers, coopers, spinners, & weavers—were also employed as part of plantation labor forces.
Slave Auction. The Illustrated London News; February 16, 1861

Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas. Upward of 10% of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities. Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, Mobile, New York, Philadelphia, & New Orleans all had sizable slave populations. In the southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population.
Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) Stacking Wheat in Culpepper, Virginia 1863

The range of slave occupations in cities was vast. Domestic servants dominated, but there were carpenters, fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters, & porters. Although most worked directly for their owners, others were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, & in industrial enterprises. A small percentage hired themselves out & paid their owners a percentage of their earnings.
Picking Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

Each plantation economy was part of a larger national & international political economy. The cotton plantation economy, for instance, is generally seen as part of the regional economy of the American South. By the 1830s, "cotton was king" indeed in the South. It was also king in the United States, which was competing for economic leadership in the global political economy. Plantation-grown cotton was the foundation of the antebellum southern economy.
 Ginning Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

The American financial & shipping industries were also dependent on slave-produced cotton, as was the British textile industry. Cotton was not shipped directly to Europe from the South. Rather, it was shipped to New York & then transshipped to England & other centers of cotton manufacturing in the United States & Europe.  As the cotton plantation economy expanded throughout the southern region, banks & financial houses in New York supplied the loan capital &/or investment capital to purchase land & slaves.
Harvesting Sugar Cane, Louisiana Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853)

As an inexpensive source of labor, enslaved Africans in the United States also became important economic & political capital in the American political economy. Enslaved Africans were legally a form of property—a commodity. Individually & collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods & services.
Slave Market. Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

The value of the investments slaveholders held in their slaves was often used to secure loans to purchase additional land or slaves. Slaves were also used to pay off outstanding debts. When calculating the value of estates, the estimated value of each slave was included. This became the source of tax revenue for local & state governments. Taxes were also levied on slave transactions.
Planting Rice US South. Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859)

Politically, the U.S. Constitution incorporated a feature that made enslaved Africans political capital—to the benefit of southern states. The so-called three-fifths compromise allowed the southern states to count their slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating states' representation in the U.S. Congress. Thus the balance of power between slaveholding & non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census.  Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle, & no taxes paid on slaves supported the national treasury. In sum, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic & political life.

See:
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  

Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, ed. Howard Dodson. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.  2003.

www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Old, but proper, garden sheds

Today is a good day to dream about old pots & proper potting sheds. Spring is here...

Down House, Home of Charles Darwin, South East, Kent, England

Calke Abbey. Ticknall, Derby, Derbyshire, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England


Beningborough Hall, North Yorkshire, England


Beningborough Hall, North Yorkshire, England
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England




Down House, Home of Charles Darwin, South East, Kent, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Exbury Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England


Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England


Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England