Friday, November 16, 2018

Trees needed a purpose at George Washington's Boyhood Home - Ferry Farm

This article comes from research at George Washington's boyhood home, Ferry Farm, in Virginia.  The lively blog Lives & Legacies tells stories of  George Washington's Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore.

A History of Trees at Ferry Farm

by ferryfarmandkenmore
Cherry TreeThe moment anyone mentions trees and George Washington, you probably think of the famous Cherry Tree Story. However, this tale of young George taking a hatchet to his father cherry tree and, when confronted about the act, asserting "I cannot tell a lie" is probably just that -- a story meant to demonstrate the integrity of the Father of Our Country. In reality, the trees of Ferry Farm have a much more fascinating history. Their story reflects, on a small local scale, vast environmental changes in eastern North America and shifting American attitudes toward the environment throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Today, we see wilderness as a good thing that needs protected and preserved. But in the 1700s, Europeans settlers saw wilderness as a bad thing. Preeminent environmental historian William Cronon notes, Europeans described wilderness as “’deserted,’ ‘savage,’ ‘desolate,’ ‘barren’—in short, a ‘waste,’.” People did not look at forests, deserts, or mountains as places to protect and visit. Instead, they were places to be feared and tamed.
The opposite of wilderness was the managed landscape of Europe. In cities, towns, and farms, Europeans tried to control nature and make it follow humanity’s rules.  These efforts to tame the wilderness were transplanted to colonial plantations in the Americas.
The first step in building a plantation and taming the wilderness was clearing the land for farming. Huge numbers of trees were cut down to do this.  On top of that, trees were cut down to make almost everything people of the 1700s and 1800s used and owned.  Furthermore, they were also cut down to do many everyday tasks.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the wood from trees was…
  • used as the main architectural building material in houses, most other structures, farm buildings, fences, and more
  • used to build ships, boats, ferries, bridges, carriages and wagons that moved people and things from place to place
  • used to make everyone’s furniture (beds, chairs, tables, desks, cabinets, and trunks) as well as many household items and farming tools
  • used as fuel for the fires needed to cook, heat, and even to make candles and soap. A colonial home needed at least 40 cords of wood for heating and cooking over the course of a year.

5 cords of Firewood 1
Five cords of firewood. A colonial home used 8 or 9 times this amount in a year for just heating and cooking. Credit: Chris Stevenson


5 cords of Firewood 2
Credit: Chris Stevenson

These large scale trends can be seen on a small scale at Ferry Farm.  The European settlers who lived here, including the Washingtons, cut down a significant number of trees but not so many that there weren’t still quite a few standing when John Gadsby Chapman painted Ferry Farm’s landscape in 1833.

1830s
"The Old Mansion of the Washington Family" (1833) by John Gadsby Chapman shows the foundation stones of the house where George grew up at Ferry Farm and trees along the riverbank.

We also have archaeological evidence showing the locations of trees during the Washington era.  This past summer in the yard north of the Washington house replica archaeologists uncovered “soil stains” left after trees fell in the past.  Soil stains are where the soil is a slightly different color than surrounding areas and indicate where people filled in holes created by uprooted trees. In other words, such soil stains indicate that a tree once stood there.

Uprooted Tree
A tree uprooted by a storm. Credit: ykaiavu / Pixabay

In some cases, our archaeologists found that the holes were filled in multiple episodes, indicating that the soil settled and new dirt was later added or the person filling the hole borrowed different dirt of different colors from multiple locations. By excavating the soil from these soil stains and analyzing the artifacts, we can tell around when the holes were filled.

Soil Stain
Soil stain marking the site of an 18th and 19th century tree on the landscape at George Washington's Ferry Farm.

One very large tree left the sizable soil stain – almost 5ft x 5ft – pictured above.  Based on artifacts found in its soil, the hole was filled during the mid-19th century.  We can tell by the size of the stain that the tree was quite mature. Together, these facts are evidence of a tree that grew just 40 feet north of the original Washington house during the time George and his family lived at Ferry Farm. This discovery gives us another detail about the landscape so it can eventually be accurately recreated just as we did the main house.
Finally, Ferry Farm archaeologists learned from these tree features and from the lack of other features in this yard that the area was well-kept. In the 18th century, this portion of the landscape was probably well-maintained because it was visible from Fredericksburg across the river.
This tree fell sometime in the 19th century and it was not the only one at Ferry Farm or across the country. Indeed, deforestation at Ferry Farm and nationwide grew more rapid and widespread in the 1800s as “clearing of forest land in the East between 1850 and 1900 averaged 13 square miles every day for 50 years; the most prolific period of forest clearing in U.S. history.”
In the 1860s, the Civil War exacerbated deforestation at Ferry Farm and throughout Stafford County.  Hundreds of thousands of Union Army soldiers radically altered the local environment to get the wood they needed for cooking and heating, to help build their fortifications and pontoon bridges, and even to build shelters.  During winter lulls in fighting, 18th and 19th century armies did not camp in tents. The soldiers built small log cabins.  By war’s end, Ferry Farm and Stafford County were nearly treeless as seen in the two photos of Ferry Farm below taken in the decades after the war ended.

1870s
View of Ferry Farm property in the 1870s.


1880s
View of the Ferry Farm property in the 1880s

As the 19th century turned into the 20th, wilderness, nature, and the environment were increasingly seen as special and deserving of protection and preservation, sparking the creation of national and state parks, government agencies like the Forest Service, private conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, and, in 1872, the very first Arbor Day.
We can see the impact of new attitudes toward the environment at Ferry Farm in photos below. The top one from the 1930s, a period of intense conservation efforts nationwide, shows trees starting to appear once again while the other from 2017 shows trees on a portion of Ferry Farm stretching out as far as the eye can see to the north.

1930
Aerial view of Ferry Farm taken in 1930.


2017
Aerial view of a portion of Ferry Farm and points north taken in 2017. Credit: Joe Brooks / Eagle One Photography

The early 20th century saw the nadir of American deforestation in 1910. But since that year, forest acres in the U.S. have largely held steady [PDF].  The new conservation ethic symbolized in the practice of planting trees to replace those cut down, the reduced use of wood as a building material and fuel source, the need for less farm land, and the movement of people from rural to urban areas (all of which present their own challenges to the environment) have provided a reprieve for America’s forests.
While George’s mythical chopping of the Cherry Tree is the most well-known tale about trees at Ferry Farm, the more important and fascinating story is how the 300 hundred year history of trees at Ferry Farm reflects broader post-settlement environmental changes in North America and how the Americans who made those changes grew to see the world differently.
Zac Cunningham
Manager of Educational Programs
Elyse Adams, Archaeologist
Archaeology Lab Technician

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Capability Brown (1716-1783) & Early Americans react differently early to 18C Formal English Geometric Gardens & Landscapes

Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Ingleby Mannor the Seat of the Honble. Sr. Wm. Foulis Bartt. in ye County of Yorke. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

What was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783) trying to change about the English countryside? Brown’s landscapes are straightforward.  His ‘landscape park’ was informal & ‘natural’ in character, eschewing straight lines & formal geometry. He designed open expanses of turf, irregularly scattered with individual trees & clumps & which were surrounded in whole & part by perimeter belts. His landscapes were ornamented with serpentine bodies of water & were usually provided with a rather sparse scattering of ornamental buildings. At existing gardens, walled enclosures were demolished, & avenues felled.

Apparently Brown wasn't the only Englishman tired of the formal, walled gardens.  Many hundreds of landscape parks had appeared in England by the time of Brown’s death in 1783, mainly created by imitators of his style. Many were entirely new creations, made at the expense of agricultural land; others represented modifications of existing deer parks. As scholars have long been aware, however, this kind of designed landscape did not come into existence, fully-formed, at the start of Brown’s career in the late 1740s & 50s.

The debt Brown owed to William Kent, in whose footsteps he followed at Stowe was obvious.  Brown’s parks represented an evolution of his essentially Arcadian tradition, which sought to recreate elements of idealized classical landscapes such as those in the paintings of Claude & Poussin.
Capability Brown, by Nathaniel Dance, ca. 1769

But early America was Arcadia. In North America, there was no reason to design new landscapes & gardens to recreate that region of ancient Greece isolated from the rest of the known civilized world, where citizens could live a simple, pastoral life. Instead, early Americans planned simple, geometric garden and landscape designs.

Most early American pleasure gardening gentry intentionally adopted a classic, geometric, balance of practical & ornamental gardens for their properties. Their landscape designs did often include avenues of trees leading to the plantation house, like rows of soldiers standing at attention. Capability Brown's new English garden design of the mid-18C with its open lawns & flowing lines in imitation of Nature was not particularly attractive to early Americans, who were busy carving an obvious order out of the "howling wilderness" that surrounded them.

In the Arcadia of America, the ordered, geometric garden offered sanctuary from the threat of wild nature & even escape from real or imagined barbarian outsiders. The great garden of the vast American frontier held some frightening connotations for many early colonists. New Englander Michael Wigglesworth wrote of it in 1662,

A waste & howling wilderness,
where none inhabited
But hellish fiends, & brutish men
That devils worshipped.


Garden historian Rosemary Verey speculated that early American gardens may have retained their geometric formality because “in England the countryside had already been tamed by years of husbandry, while in America each new plantation was surrounded by wild, untamed land, to be kept at bay, not emulated.” Others, such as Elizabeth Pryor, wrote that the alluring beauty of the natural landscape surrounding the shores of the Atlantic may help explain why gardeners were not seduced by the naturalistic style sweeping England.

The New World woods, continuously cleared of underbrush by Indian fires, already resembled the “improved” landscapes of Capability Brown. And, if one wished, it was easy to simulate a natural look in the personal landscapes these early Americans planned around their homes.  European travelers remarked that the groves, clumps, copses, & bosques so carefully cultivated in their countries, were more easily assembled in the colonies.

In 1788, Englishman Thomas Twining visiting Governor John Eager Howard's (1752-1827) country seat "Belvedere" near Baltimore wrote: “its grounds formed a beautiful slant toward the Chesapeake. From the taste with which they were laid out, It would seem that America is already possessed of a …Repton. The spot thus indebted to Nature and judiciously embellished was an enchanting within its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground possessed luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns; the distance, the line of the Patapsco and he country bordering on the Chesapeake.” Another visitor to Belvedere claimed to “rejoice in the vistas and the sensations they inspire.”

However, keeping their gardens simple was important for other reasons to the British American coloniests.  The belief that they were consciously ridding themselves of ostentatious excess was a point of honor among many in 18th-century America. Immigrant garden author & nurseryman Bernard M’Mahon (1775-1816) understood this, as he promoted gardens for both use & ornament in his 1806 landmark book The American Gardener's Calendar. If one garden could achieve both goals, all the better. And further, if M'Mahon could appeal to those Americans who actually felt more secure with the old fashioned, strictly geometric gardens from England's past or to those who reacted against all this formality preferring a more natural look, he gladly would sell books, seeds, & plants to both tastes.
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Westwood in Worcestershire, the Seat of the Honble. Sr. John Pakington Barronet. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

From 1745 through 1756, the weekly game of the gentlemen in the Tuesday Club in Annapolis was to mock ostentation while trying to set the colony around them into some civilized order.  In an effort to explain this philosophy, Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), who had gone to school in England & would later sign the Declaration of Indpendence, wrote to an English friend from Annapolis in 1772, “An attempt with us at grandeur or at magnificence is sure to be followed with something mean or ridiculous. Even in England where the affluence o individuals will support a thousand follies, what evils arise from the vanity & profuse excesses of the rich!”
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Ragly in the county of Warwik the Seat of Popham Conway Esq.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Only weeks later Carroll’s father Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) warned him of much the same trap, “Elegant & costly furniture may gratify our Pride & Vanity, they may excite the Praise & admiration of Spectators, more commonly their Envy, But it Certainly must give a Rationale.” Both of them felt it best to “avoid any appearance of…ostentation.” George Washington (1732-1799) wrote to be wary of ostentation in a letter to Bushrod Washington, on January, 15, 1783, "Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds."
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Saperton The Seat of Sr. Robert Atkyns. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Thomas Jefferson & John Adams, after their tour of English gardens in 1786, expressed similar feelings. John Adams (1735-1826) wrote, “It will be long, I hope, before riding parks, pleasure grounds, gardens, & ornamented farms grow so much in fashion in America.”  In the same year, George Washington (1732-1799) wrote to the wife of Marquise de Lafayette (1757-1834) encouraging her to accompany her husband on a return visit to the new American republic. "You will see the plain manner in which we live; and meet the rustic civility, and you shall taste the simplicity of rural life."
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Sherborn The Seat of Sr. Ralph Dutton Bart. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In 1783, Johann David Schoff traveled to Pennsylvania and wrote, "The taste for gardening is, at Philadelphia as well as throughout America, still in its infancy. There are not yet to be found many orderly and interesting gardens. Mr. Hamilton's near the city is the only one deserving special mention. Such neglect is all the more astonishing, because so many people of means spend the most part of their time in the country. Gardens as at present managed are purely utilitarian—pleasure-gardens have not yet come in, and if perspectives are wanted one must be content with those offered by the landscape, not very various, what with the still immense forests."
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Squerries at Westram in Kent.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In American gardens a balance of useful plants & trees planted in a pleasing order was the ultimate goal. When Annapolis attorney John Beale Bordley (1727-1804) retired to Wye Island in the Chesapeake Bay, he was determined to become a self-sufficient patriot farmer.  Bordley substituted homemade beer for more ardent spirits imported from London; kept sheep for the wool; & grew his own hemp, flax, & cotton for clothing. He knew that American dependency on Britain was drawing to a close & wrote a friend in London, “ We expect to fall off more & more from your goods…we are using our old clothes & preparing new of our own manufacture, they will be coarse, but if we add just resentment to necessity, may not a sheepskin make a luxurious jubilee coat?”
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Syston the Seat of Samll. Trotman Esq. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In 1789, Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), noted clergyman & geographer, wrote of one country seat, “Its fine situation. . .the arrangement and variety of forest-trees - the gardens...discover a refined and judicious taste. Ornament and utility are happily united. It is, indeed, a seat worthy of a Republican Patriot.”
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Tortworth the Seat of Matthew Ducy Morton.Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, upon his initial tour of America between 1795 & 1798, condescendingly noted the out-of-style classical influence prevalent in the Chesapeake. He wrote that the gardens at Mount Vernon were “laid out in squares, & boxed with great precision…for the first time again since I left Germany, I saw here a parterre, chipped & trimmed with infinite care into the form of a richly flourished Fleur de Lis: The expiring groans I hope of our Grandfather’s pedantry.”   Latrobe would certainly have shuttered at the fact, that both George Washington and the very wealthy Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) planted vegetables next to their ornamental flowers in these little out-of-date geometric gardens.  George Washington's gardens at Mount Vernon were recently torn out & replanted to demonstrate this fact.
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Tutsham Hall the Seat of Edward Goulston Esqr. Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain" 

Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies, but he planted the geometric beds of his terraced gardens at his home in the capitol of Maryland with an eye toward practicality. Orderly squares filled with vegetables surrounded by low privet hedges decorated the flats of Carroll’s falls garden. Painter Charles Wilson Peale reported, "the Garden contains a variety of excellent fruit, and the flats are a kitchen garden."
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Upper Dowdeswell the Seat of Lionel Rich Esq.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

George Washington was once again warning of ostentation in a letter to George Steptoe Washington, on March 23, 1789. "A person who is anxious to be a leader of the fashion, or one of the first to follow it, will certainly appear in the eyes of judicious men to have nothing better than a frequent change of dress to recommend him to notice."

In the early Republic, many gardeners continued to strive for a balance of useful plants & trees & genteel design. On both town & country plots, most gentry, merchants, shopkeepers, & artisans planned gardens that were both practical & ornamental in simple, traditional, geometric patterns. This shared attitude helped shrink the distance between America’s landed gentry & its town merchants & craftsmen. It also helped demonstrate a new concept of government where "all men are created equal." (Of course, that did not extend to women until 1920.)
Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Toddington The Seat of the Lord Tracy. Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Francois Alexandre Frederic duc de La-Rochefoucauld-Liancourt visiting Drayton Hall in South Carolina in the late 1790s wrote, “In order to have a fine garden, you have nothing to do but to let the trees remain standing here & there, or in clumps, to plant bushes in front of then, & arrange the trees according to their height.” In England, the natural grounds movement owed part of its popularity to the fact that timber was getting scarce in the countryside. The British gentry planted their “natural grounds” with trees, that they needed to grow.

In the introduction to his 1808 book The Country Seats of the United States, Englishman William Russell Birch (1755-1834), who hoped to promote "taste" in America for both architecture & landscape design, saw the result of the American balance of ornament and utility, and he tried to explain it this way, "The comforts and advantages of a Country Residence, after Domestic accomodations are consulted, consist more in the beauty of the situation, than in the massy magnitude of the edifice: the choice ornaments of Architecture are by no means intended to be disparaged, they are on the contrary, not simply desirable, but requisite. The man of taste will select his situation with skill, and add elegance and animation to the best choice. In the United States the face of nature is so variegated; Nature has been so sportive and the means so easy of acquiring positions fit to gratify the most refined and rural enjoyment, that labour and expenditure of Art is not so great as in Countries less favoured."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Garden of Annapolis, Maryland Craftsman William Faris 1728-1804

Even though he seldom spelled a word the same way twice, William Faris kept a diary, filled with his gardening triumphs and failures, for the last 12 years of his life-704 pages between 1792 and 1804.

William Faris was not a gentleman gardener by any stretch of the imagination. Faris, the son of a London clockmaker, was brought to Philadelphia in 1728, at the age of 6 months by his recently widowed mother and; apprenticed to a clockmaker at an early age. When he was 19, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where he scrambled all his life to make a respectable living.
William Faris's 1st Advertisement in the March 17, 1757, Maryland Gazette of Annapolis.

In Maryland's capital Annapolis, he designed silver teapots and; spoons; struggled to build a pianoforte; assembled tiny watches and towering tall clocks; kept an inn and tavern; pulled neighbors’ teeth (and hung them on a string by his workbench); and annually contracted to wind the clocks at the state capitol and in the homes of neighboring gentry.
Silver Sauceboat attributed to William Faris. Baltimore Museum of Art.

Artisan Gardener

In whatever spare time he could find, William Faris gardened and talked about gardening with his clients, neighbors, family, and the servants and slaves he hired to help him with his garden chores. He would sprinkle a little local gossip in with tales of tulips and artichokes.

Of course, the craftsman used his garden to grow food for his wife, 6 children, and inn patrons; but surprisingly he also designed intricate flower beds, near the front of his lot, where his neighbors could admire them.
William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

The grand terraced falling gardens of Chesapeake gentry and merchants are easier to learn about than the smaller town gardens of craftsmen, traders, and shopkeepers, whose numbers were growing during the later half of the 18th-century. William Faris’s invaluable journal offers a rare opportunity to reconstruct the town garden of an early American artisan.
1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).  State House at Annapolis, Maryland.

Annapolis was designed as a stage for the social and political affairs of the province of Maryland. During the second half of the century, Chesapeake gardeners, gentry and artisans alike, designed the grounds surrounding their homes as their personal stages, on which they presented themselves to those passing by.

William Faris’s house sat on one of the streets radiating out of the Church Circle, only a few hundred feet from the church. In the spring of 1804, Faris’s private Eden sat behind a freshly painted, bright red wodden gate at the front entrance to his grounds.

Eighteenth-century Maryland gateways, smaller and simpler than their European precedents, were still intended to limit access to their owner’s property. They also marked changes in personal roles, as people crossed from one side to the other.

Outside his garden gate, craftsman William Faris was a tired 75-year-old silversmith and clockmaker, with thinning hair pulled back into a queue and covered with a familiar frayed hat, who gossiped too much and drank ardent spirits too freely.
18C English Woodcut

But on the other side of his bright red gate, the old man blossomed. Here was the world he had mastered for over 40 years. The red gate opened in a recently build stone wall that stretched 75 feet from the side of Faris’s house to his neighbor’s property line and ran along the edge of the town’s busiest trade street.

The craftsman’s 36-foot-wide combination home, inn, and shop, “At the Sigh of the Crown and Dial,” sat directly on West Street. Like many other narrow Chesapeake town gardens, Faris’s began in a side lot and widened as it stretched to the rear of the property. The adjoining new stonework wall across the front replaced an old wooden picket fence.

Behind the wall and its new gate, the clockmaker’s grounds were enclosed by picket fences and ran back 366 feet to a sleepy rear street, where the lot widened to 200 feet.

Wooden fences surrounded most 18-century Maryland gardens, which were usually described in local newspaper property-for-sale ads as “well paled in.” Chesapeake picket fences were almost invariably painted white but were of differing designs.

Interlopers and Thieves

Faris and his neighbors felt that fences of one sort or another were an absolute necessity, to discourage uninvited human and animal visitors as well as to demarcate their property boundaries. Chesapeake gardeners could either buy their fences posts from local suppliers of employ “a couple of stout hands in mauling fence logs.”

Faris’s neighbors Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-83) and his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) used their slaves to produce garden pales. Fancy wooden paling constructed emulating Chinese designs was advertised for sale in the Chesapeake region by the late 1760s. Variety of design became important as many town governments demanded that every homeowner enclose his land.

In the colonies, garden interlopers were not searching for game or timber, as in Britain; they were looking for the fruits of the gardener’s labor or were simply accidental tourists. Livestock occasionally roamed the streets in early American towns, and tender garden plants did not stand a chance under their feet. Human garden intrusion was usually more focused.

One night in 1792, Faris startled a thief in his garden and recorded that his subsequent flight “broke off the top of one of the pales.” But the incident that really angered him was when a thief stole into his garden one dark night in 1803 to steal a dozen of his most prized possessions--his tulips.

Craftsman's Tulips

Tulips were the old man’s obsession. At the height of their blooming, Faris would find himself engulfed in a flood of color. This artisan and innkeeper grew thousands of tulips each year; he counted 2339 in the spring of 1804.


Within the boxwood-lined spaces formed by the intersecting composition and grass walks, Faris planted all of his flower beds and some of his vegetable patches year after year. Using boxwood as edging for garden beds had become popular in the 16th century.

Faris used boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) for more that year-round definition of garden beds. Box edging gave protection to seedlings and to newly picked-from greens expected to produce more leaves for later rounds of harvesting.

Faris and his garden helpers devoted days each spring to cutting the boxwood on his grounds. They were not just trimming the new green growth; they were also cutting the roots of each boxwood on the garden side as close to the plant as possible, so that the shallow roots would not rob the soil within the beds of their nutrients and moisture necessary for the other plants in the garden.

Ornamental Gardens

Faris planned his grounds; so that from the front of his property, observers would see only the pleasure garden areas of his grounds which was dominated by geometric beds annually planted with flowers in the Dutch tradition. The beds were all bordered by grass walkways, adjoining property lines, or by one of the rectangular out-buildings on he property.



He filled the boxwood-lined rectangular beds on each side of the main grass walks with tuberoses, tulips, anemones, Chinese asters, crown imperials, globe amaranthus, and larkspur.

The long composition walkway leading to the “necessary,” which guests and family would constantly need to walk, was flanked by boxwood-lined rectangular beds starring carefully trimmed holly trees surrounded by a supporting cast of tuberoses, white roses, India pinks, Chinese asters, tulips, hyacinths, and jonquils. Faris and his helpers collected his holly trees from nearby woods and kept them trimmed in the shape of sugar cones or loaves.

Tulips were not the only bulb flower that caught his fancy; in 1798, he planted 4000 narcissus bulbs, bought from a neighbor. This tireless gardener’s greatest pleasure was creating new varieties of tulips in nursery beds at the back of his property, where he also hybridized roses.

Faris saw his tulips as symbols of the new nation as well as reflections of classical republican ideals. On the eve on July 4, 1801, exactly 25 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Faris listed in his journal his tulip varieties by name. Namesakes included Presidents Washington and Madison and classical heroes such as Cincinnatus.

Never one to let an financial opportunity pass him by, Faris gardened for the money as well as love. Each spring he invited his neighbors to view his tulips at the height of their glory. Admiring visitors would mark varieties that caught their eye with sticks notched with a personal code.

When his precious tulips died back in June, Faris would dig up the bulbs near the notched sticks, and the admirers would return to buy them to replant on their grounds in the fall. The craftsman made sure he had plenty to spare.

The ornamental garden beds the craftsman designed in the 1760s were akin in design, if not grandeur, to the more elegant geometric gardens that Chesapeake gentry were busy building about the same time. After he bought and enlarged his combination house and business, Faris hired an English indentured servant gardener, in 1765, to help him install the basic design of his gardens.

Just as in the gardens of most Chesapeake gentry, straight paths and walkways formed the skeleton of his garden. Faris’s grounds were divided by both grass and composition walks separating boxwood-lined beds; such paths were essential for walking, maintaining the garden beds year-round, and defining the garden design.

Designs for most Chesapeake gardens of the period appeared to strive for uniformity in every part; exact levels, straight lines, parallels, squares, circles, and other geometrical figures were used to effect symmetry and proportion. Straight walks were everywhere, arranged parallel and crossing one another at regular intersections, as they connected spaces and led from scene to scene.

Faris planned small geometric beds on his compact town property, where economy of scale was essential. These beds were planted with low-growing vegetables and brightly flowering plants within the boxwood borders that outlined and decorated the space even after the flower season was past.

Faris kept the walkways that divided his garden beds in immaculate condition. This required constant maintenance.
18C English Woodcut

Faris’s female slave, who was his regular gardening companion, was busy each spring and fall sweeping and raking the composition garden walks, which were some combination of gravel, crushed oyster shells, and pulverized brick. Whenever he could round them up, his children helped as well.

Even old Faris himself, who often experienced crippling pain in his hips, spent days bending down to clean his gardens and walkways of stones, extraneous shells, weeds, and falling petals.

Faris also criss-crossed his grounds with grass paths, lined with boxwood, that would be pleasant and cool to the feet; but his more practical hard, slightly convex composition walkways allowed for quick water drainage and drier walking in wet weather. He paved the walks to the privy, which had to be used regardless of weather, with stones and crushed shells.

Boxwood Obsession


A narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular flower border next to the picket fence running along an adjacent lot featured Job’s tears, satin flowers, India pinks, snapdragons, tulips, and flowering beans that climbed the fence posts blooming as it trailed along the wooden rails.

Faris planted one of his several experimental nursery beds in the half of the garden nearer the house. There he grew the flowers to supply his various pleasure beds, propagated vast varieties of tulips and perennials, and heeled-in the boxwood cuttings he used to outline his garden beds.

Not all of the craftsman’s flower bes were rectangular in shape. The area behind the house was dominated by a walnut tree. Nestled around its base was a circular bed divided into boxwood-lined quarters filled with tulips and bleeding hearts in May, followed by a succession of bright perennials throughout the summer months.

Not far from the walnut tree, Faris planted a corresponding quartered circular bed also outlined with boxwood. The colorful circle overflowed with a profusion of polyanthus, tuberoses, wall flowers, India pinks, Chinese asters, hyacinths, jonquils, and tulips. In fact, wherever Faris planted flower beds, he included tulips. Sometimes, he even squeezed an errant tulip or two into his vegetable beds.

Kitchen Garden

Usually though, he separated his utility gardens from his ornamental areas, subscribing to the advice that English garden writer William Lawson offered in his New Orchard and Garden in 1618 “Garden flowers shall suffer some disgrace, if among them you intermingle Onions, Parsnips, andc.” The practical craftsman devoted the majority of his land to growing vegetables and fruits.

Faris’s occasional Annapolis neighbor, John Beale Bordley, gave growers advice on the kitchen garden, which he said should be an acre and a half for a small family like Faris’s and four to five acres for a large one.

Bordley also allowed that the kitchen garden should be exposed to the sun, not overshadowed with trees or buildings. He explained that the “soil should be of a pliable nature and east to work; but by no means wet; and two feed, at least, deep.” Bordley advised that the kitchen garden should sit as “near the stables as possible, for the convenience of carrying dung.”


18C English Woodcut

Walking toward the rear of Faris’s property, the first boxwood-bordered utilitarian area was a vegetable bed along the left boundary. Then one would encounter a small rectangular plot Faris planted with vegetables every year, one of two called “little quarter,” flanking the stables. There Faris grew unobtrusive vegetables and herbs that did not need much room to grow, including cabbages, carrots, peas, onions, thyme, spinach, curled savory, and several varieties of beans.

Herbs and Vegetables

Although Faris almost always segregated his flower beds from his vegetable plots, he did not separate herbs from vegetables. In one of the “little quarters,” Faris planted cabbages, asparagus, parsley, and Job’s tears

After he built his new stable, he added an additional narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular bed, where he grew smaller plants such as radishes, lettuce, nutmeg, and cherry peppers. On a border at the end of his new stable, which was visible from the main walkway leading to the rear of the lot, Faris occasionally grew a combination of flowers and vegetables: marigolds, lily of the valley, asters, balsam, anemones, and globe amaranthus nestled among bunch beans, spinach, radishes, and cherry tree seeds.

Not far from the new stable, the innkeeper maintained another boxwood-lined rectangular vegetable patch dubbed “the walnut tree bed,” where he grew beans, brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, corn, and radishes. Faris diligently tended two separate asparagus plots near the back street, where he nudged a few more lettuce, cabbage, and spinach plants in between the tender green springtime shoots.

A great portion of the vegetables Faris fed his family and guests came from a larger vegetable plot, which he called simply “the garden” or the “big bed.” Faris outlined even this large rectangular vegetable garden with exact rows of sage and rosemary, which he kept trimmed and orderly. The “big bed” lay close to the stables and the smokehouse at the rear of the property. There Faris planted peas, parsnips, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, beans, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, and watermelon.

The craftsman devoted the largest space at the rear of his grounds solely to kitchen gardening. He referred to this particular areas as “the outer lot” of “the lot.” Spreading plants like squash, musk melons, cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupes grew there.

Faris occasionally scattered early crops of cabbages, carrots, greens, parsnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, and kale among the maturing vines; but he usually grew his compact vegetables in smaller patches, such as the narrow bed that ran down one side of his fenced property line, where he planted slender rows of small vegetables, including cabbages, lettuce, onions, brussels sprouts, spinach and peas.

Faris used the picket fence along the back of his grounds to help define a set of four rectangular nursery beds for rearing fledgling tulips and boxwood cuttings. Even these nursery compartments he outlined with neatly trimmed ivy borders and boxwood.

Near his bee house, Faris planted additional rows of peas, beans, cabbage, kale, parsley, and cherry peppers. Not one to let any space go to waste, he squeezed a few more radishes, lettuce, cabbages, and parsnips into a narrow rectangular space under the streetside window of his public dining room.

Porch

Atune to the times, in 1799 Faris added a wooden porch and steps to the back of his house, overlooking the garden area.

The Carrolls had added an elegant porch with stone columns to their Annapolis home when they remodeled their gardens in the 1770s, and many Baltimoreans and

Philadelphians were also building porches or piazzas onto their homes during this period. The addition of piazzas to Chesapeake homes in the last quarter of the 18th-century coincided with the expansion of leisure time and the development of ornamental gardens.

The simple geometric garden designs of the period were seen to best advantage from a higher level, such as an upper terrace, second-story windows, or a porch. These prospects also allowed the homeowner and his guests a better vantage point from which to survey both the gardener’s efforts at ordering nature around him and the surrounding countryside beyond.

Craftsman's Well and Irrigation

Near the porch stood the well, which supplied water for the family’s and their guests’ personal consumption and for garden irrigation. Eighteenth-century Chesapeake wells were often walled with stone and sometimes were dug to a depth of 35 feet or more, so that there would always be 4 to 5 feet of good water standing in them. The water was retrieved using bucket and pulley.


Detail of 17th-Century Woodcut of Water Table Irrigation System

Faris used the ancient irrigation technique of regularly flooding carefully constructed dirt channels that ran throughout his garden, which he called “water tables.”

Craftsman's Arbor

One of these irrigation paths led past an arbor. Faris planted flowering beans “round the Arber,” which probably had an open-work roof to support ornamental flowering vines and defined a focal point in the garden.

It may have enclosed a space for a simple bench or a more elaborate garden seat, although Faris did not write of such a seat. During the early 1790s, garden seats were being advertised for sale in nearby Baltimore, “made to particular directions.”

Dovecote

For a while, a dovecote sat near Faris’s arbor. In the Chesapeake, dovecotes were also called Culver-houses, and until 1798, Faris’s grounds boasted just such a nesting place. But in March of 1798, he noted in his diary, “the Pigeon House Blew Down, it was Built in the year 1777.”

Reproduced Dovecote at Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo by Karen Stuart.

Faris’s Culver-house was constructed as a matter of economic convenience rather than strictly as a garden ornament. He raised pigeons for consumption by his family and the patrons of his tavern. Unlike other domestic fowl, pigeons needed no confinement, because they were home-loving birds, seldom straying far from their dovecotes.

Faris’s pigeon house was constructed of wood and mounted on wooden posts, although more complicated colonial dovecotes existed, like the circular brick and stucco dovecote (reminiscent of the early Roman columbaria) at Tryon Palace in North Carolina.

One English visitor wrote of the less elegant dovecotes he observed in the Chesapeake at the end of the century, ”There are some pigeons, chiefly in boxes, by the sides of houses.”

After pigeon consumption was no longer an essential element of the craftsman's table or of the larger Chesapeake economy, dovecotes survived largely as garden embellishments, providing the gardener and his guests both visual and aural pleasure.

Craftsman's Beehives

One traditional garden component on Faris’s grounds was the result of a gift he received in the spring of 1793, when a neighbor “Made Me a present of Hive of Bees.”

By the next winter, Faris had built a shelter for the hive, putting “the frame of the bee house together.” Faris’s bee house was a painted pine box that may have been self-contained or may have served as a shelter for the more traditional but perishable strap skep; because only two years after the wooden box, Faris “drove the Bees out of the Old Hive into a nother hive and took the honey, the Hive was Rotten and Ready to tumble to peaces.”

But a visitor to Maryland during the same period noted, “Honey-bees are kept in America with equal success as in England. . . I never saw a hive made of straw.” Bees had long been garden residents and were considered decorative as well as practical.

18C English Woodcut

In 1618 William Lawson wrote in New Orchard and Garden, “There remaineth one necessary thing. . . Which in mine Opinion makes as much for Ornament, as either flowers, or forme, or cleanness. . . which is Bees, well ordered.”

The ever-practical craftsman, Faris knew that bees served him well as both pollinators of plants and producers of wax and honey and were worth the trouble of keeping them “well ordered.”

Rabbit Warren

A few years earlier Faris’s garden had sported another traditional functional garden component, a rabbit warren. Even though the rabbits graced his family’s table for many years, he in time dispensed with keeping them.

In 1792 he noted his intention to remove “the fence from the Rabbit yard and . . . Take up the Bricks.” The rabbits’ place on the grounds was eventually usurped by an additional vegetable plot.

18C English Woodcut

Faris may have found raising rabbits to be less cost effective than raising product, for one English visitor to the Chesapeake was skeptical of the possible success of raising rabbits for food or profit in Chesapeake gardens: ”Mr. Smith had got some imported rabbits. . .from England, with an intention to make a warren; but this will not answer in any part to America that I have seen. . . .First, there is no sod to make banks; therefore the fence must be all paled to keep them in, which is an enormous expense. Secondly. . .the winter is so severe they would not pay for the food the would eat.”

Statue
The most surprising item in the practical craftsman’s garden was a purely ornamental embellishment, a statue. Classical statues reminiscent of gardens in the Italian Renaissance dotted the grounds of wealthier Marylanders during the period. One of the Revolutionary War heroes to whom Faris had dedicated a tulip was Colonel John Eager Howard, whose Baltimore home was renowned for the statues that graced its gardens.

Craftsman's Privy

Faris’s grounds contained a practical structure he politely referred to as the “temple” in his garden. While some Chesapeake gardens may have had miniature versions of temples built on their pleasure grounds, Faris’s temple was his “necessary,” which he also nicknamed the “little house” and around which he consistently planted flowers in rectangular beds carefully bordered by boxwood.

As concern for basic survival in the British American colonies decreased, concern for propriety increased. One Maryland acquaintance of Faris wrote, “Many instances there are of a scandalous neglect of decency, even in opulent farmers, in their not building a single necessary. . .such ought tob e provided wherever there is habitation, be the family many or few, rich or poor.” Early Americans determined the placement of the privy by some compromise between convenience and the senses.

A German traveler souring the Chesapeake in 1783 noted that behind most town dwellings in America “is a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained.”

A strictly utilitarian shed, 16 by 20 feet, sat near the family privy. In it Faris stored his simple gardening tools, which included a spade, trowel, hoe, and rake.

Hollyhocks by the Stable

Craftsman's Stables

The outbuildings of town homes in the 18th-century Chesapeake often bordered and helped define the garden. Stables were usually the farthest removed outbuilding from the house. A red-and-white milk cow was the only permanent resident of Faris’s stables during the 1790s, but they served as temporary home to the horses of guests at the inn. Several of Faris’s neighbors had “chaise houses” separate from their horse stables, to contain their carriages. Not one to miss an opportunity, Faris planted a few tall holyhocks, Alcea rosea, near his stable in 1801.

Dung Fertilizer

Faris planted most of his kitchen garden beds and some flowers near his stables, as contemporary Chesapeake garden writhers advised. Dung was the fertilizer of choice in the 18th-century. Faris consistently used dung from his own stables and employed neighborhood haulers to bring extra cartloads of “tan” to his garden throughout the growing season.

18C English Woodcut

Farmers in the Chesapeake countryside sometimes dug fenced dung pits near their “cow houses” to systematically collect future garden fertilizer.

Craftsman's Hog Pen

Also producing dung were the pigs Faris raised in a hog pen on the rear of his grounds, near his peach tree. Faris cooked his peach-flavored pork as it was killed and also smoked it.

From the beginning of the 18th-century, travelers throughout the Chesapeake reported, colonists in the region intentionally fed peaches to their pigs to produce a sweeter-flavored meat. On October 3, 1777, British soldier Thomas Hughes reported that “at this time fruit is in such plenty that their hogs are fed on apples, peaches and chestnuts.”

18C English Woodcut

One of the gentlemen who bought flower bulbs from William Faris, Captain John O’Donnell (1749-1805), settled in Baltimore, naming his country seat after his favorite port of call, Canton. An account of Canton given by a visitor noted that O’Donnell had planted orchards of red peaches on his 2500-acre estate in hopes of manufacturing brandy for trade but had met with limited financial success. “for although Mr. O’Donnell’s orchard had come to bear in great perfection and he had stills and the other necessary apparatus, the profit proved so small that he suffered the whole to go to waste and his pigs to consume the product.”

18C English Woodcut

Smokehouse

In addition to pigs and peaches, the rear of Faris’s lot also contained his smokehouse, which was surrounded by plum, pear, mulberry, cherry, almond and apple trees. Grape vines grew in one corner, near the vegetable beds. Currant and gooseberry bushes dotted the back lot as well.

Faris used his one-story brick smokehouse (12 by 10 feet) to smoke both pigs and fish. Smoking dehydrated the meat, added a desirable taste of wood smoke to the final product, and allowed the fish and pork to be kept longer.

One traveler through Maryland in the 1790’s wrote, “The greater number of people in America live on salt fish and smoked bacon: and the reason why they smoke their bacon and fish, is, that there are many sorts of reptiles that would absolutely destroy it, were it not for the smoke.”

Pots

Even though economy of space demanded that Faris use his grounds in a practical way, he took pride in decorating special focal points in his garden with several kinds of moveable plant containers. His favorites were earthenware pots. He regularly refilled all of his plant containers with “new dirt.”

Faris singled out the plants he considered rare to put in pots around his grounds, annually potting Jerusalem cherry trees, ice plants, egg plants, and sensitive plants, as did Thomas Jefferson. Faris also regularly displayed mignonette, tuberose, asters, anemones, polyanthus, rosemary, hyacinths, chrysanthemums, and his favorite tulips in containers.

18C English Woodcut

He used the pots to store his fragile plants away from the Annapolis winters, dutifully recording in his diary each year, “I moved the Potts into the seller for the Winter.” Sometimes he euphemistically referred to his cellar as “the greenhouse.”

Faris had no greenhouse; but his Annapolis neighbor Dr. Upton Scott (1724-1814) did, and the two men exchanged hundreds of plants. A contemporary wrote of Scott, “He is fond of botany and has a number of rare plants and shrubs in his greenhouse and garden.”

Faris’s gardens also sported large flower-filled wooden half-barrels, which dotted the grounds. He called these unpainted containers “casks” and artfully planted them with ice plants, egg plants, Jerusalem cherries, tulips, wallflowers, India pinks, and tuberose. Faris made no attempt to move his casks indoors for the winter season but did regularly change the earth in the containers. It is likely that these casks were old shipping barrels from the Annapolis docks.

Science

The more mundane plants Faris raised in simple rectangular wooden boxes. These were strictly utilitarian containers, not the more ornamental wooden boxes holding orange and lemon trees that could be found in the greenhouses of larger Chesapeake plantations of the period.

In these boxes Faris also experimented with growing new varieties of plants, from cabbages to tulips. In his experiments, Faris grafted and selectively cross-pollinated plants. Gardening in the 18th-century Chesapeake allowed every man to become his own man of science or naturalist, as the Italian Renaissance model promoted.

Garden Records - A Diary!

This artisan, innkeeper, and gardener was keenly aware of the changes in nature’s seasons that intimately affected the success or failure of his gardening efforts. He even noted in his diary when the martins returned to Annapolis.
A Page From William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Like Washington’s and Jefferson’s records, his diary recorded his observations of the weather, and he consistently referred to his notes when new plants broke through the ground, or when the bloom---or when the failed---in order to compare present efforts with previous attempts.

Like his wealthier and well-educated gardening colleagues, William Faris used his garden to project his abstract ideas into nature. He and his neighbors used their gardens to understand the order of nature and to subject it to their own order in terms of design, plantings, and processes. 


Thank you to my friend Dr. Jean B. Russo for her images of William Faris items. See The Diary of William Faris: The Daily Life of an Annapolis Silversmith. edited by Mark Letzer and Jean B. Russo. Published by the Maryland Historical Society in 2003.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Garden Ornaments - The Ornamental Urn

An urn is a marble, stone, earthenware, or metal vessel or vase of a round or ovoid form standing on a rectangular or circular base. Traditional Greek & Roman forms of ornamental garden urns are the tazza, a cup-shaped form whose width exceeds it height; & the campana, or upturned bell-shaped form.

Because early urns also were used to hold ashes of the departed, urns are usually solemn ornaments of reverence, taste, & refinement. Cremation was prevalent among the Greeks & during the Roman Empire, 27 B.C. to 395 A.D., it was widely practiced. The custom called for cremated remains to be stored in urns, which were sometimes elaborate & often placed within detached columbarium-like buildings in Roman & Greek gardens.
Detail of Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on an oversized Pedestal. 1772 William Williams (American artist, 1727-1791). The William Denning Family.

Christians considered cremation pagan, & Jews preferred traditional sepulcher entombment. By 400 A.D., as a result of Constantine's Christianization of the Roman Empire, earth burial replaced cremation, except for rare instances of plague or war, for the next 1,500 years throughout Europe & its colonies.

In fact, it was news in the colonies, when urns filled with charred remains were found in Ireland in 1733. The South Carolina Gazette reported, "Dublin, Octob . 31. Last Week as some Workmen were digging up Stones for the Buildings at Power's Court, in turning over some great Rocks, they found several great curious Pieces of Antiquity, being 3 old Urns of a very uncommon Make, deposited together, and filled with Ashes, supposed to belong to some of the Danes, or old Roman People, who formerly visited this Island."
Detail Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal at Mount Clare in Baltimore. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Margaret Tilghman (Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister).

In 1737, the South Carolina Gazette also reported on an extract of a letter from England, "There was lately discover'd on Mr. Campton's Estate, at Coddlestock, near Oundle in Northhamtershire a beautiful Roman Pavement 20 Foot square and very little defac'd by Time; near it were found Bones, Ashes, and Pieces of Urns , an Indication that the Body of some noted Heathen had been buryed there."

Thirty years later in 1767, the Virginia Gazette reported similar findings "from Perth, that as some labourers were sinking a well near Abernethy, in Scotland, they discovered two urns , containing several pieces of antique silver coin, and from their inscriptions it appeared that that place had formerly been a Roman station." Later in the same year, they noted that in "Glasgow that some fishermen lately drug up, in the island of ST. Kilda, two antique urns , containing a quantity of Danish silver coin, which by the inscription appears to have lain there upwards of 1800 years."
Closed or Lidded Campana Urn. 1784 Charles Willson Peale.(1741-1827). Mrs. Thomas Russell.


The South Carolina Gazette printed a pastoral elegy to a local gentleman in 1757, which not only referred to urns but also to the crop he must have grown, rice. "Port-Royal plains! let never balmy dew, Pouring from chrystal sluices, water you, Nor, from their silver urns , the Pleiad 's poar The fruitful rain and soft prolific show'r. May blights and mildews on your fields remain. And wormy insects gnaw your ricy grain: For in your neld's, entomb'd, does Damon lie. Port-Royal gods! Why did my Damon die?"

Urn-shapped tea ware, usually silver-plated or japanned & often called Roman urns, appeared in the colonies by the 1760s. In October of 1764, the Pennsylvania Gazette was advertising classical tablewar, including urns, "Just imported in the Philadelphia Packet, Captain Budden, and Sparks, from London, and to be sold on the lowest and best terms...silver pillared and fluted candlesticks of the Corinthian order...chased and plain ewers, urns and milkpots."
Detail Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Stone Wall. 1787 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Mrs. John O'Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott).

In the same year, jeweler Philip Tidyman of Charlestown, South Carolina advertised, "just imported, in the Friendship, Capt. Bail, and Heart of Oak, capt. Gunn...a few articles of plate of the most fashionable kind, viz. fine pierced and polish'd bread baskets, orange strainers, punch ladies, chais'd urns and ewers."

By 1769, Jacob Hanke placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette to announce his architectural ornaments, "THE subscriber takes this method of informing the public, that he has set up the Turnerbusiness (which he formerly followed in this city) and makes and sells...columns, urns , newel posts, bannisters, and all kinds of Turnerwork, at his shop, at the Sign of the Spinning Wheel...in Spruce street, near the Drawbridge."
Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal. 1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Mary Claypoole Peale.

Mantle ornaments in the shape of urns appeared in 1773, when Nicholas Langfore, a bookseller in Charlestown advertised in the local newspaper, " a Consignment of a Set of Ornaments for a Chimney Piece, confisting of seven Petrifactions of Water from Derhyshire, resembling Jasper, in the Form of Altars, Urns , Vasses, &c. most elegantly mounted in Or Moule, which are to be sold at a small Advances, on the first Cost."

An intriguing carved walking cane went missing in Charleston in 1774, "With a golden Head, engraved with Urns and Festoons."

Few garden urns are mentioned in early American documents, but painters of the period occasionally depicted urns in their portraits. Open urns are often referred to as vases by colonial observers. Maryland-born artist Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was particularly partial to painting urns as props in his portraits.

Hannah Callender visited William Peters' garden at Belmont in 1762, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She noted, "On the right you enter a labyrinth of hedge of low cedar and spruce. In the middle stands a statue of Apollo. In the garden are statues of Diana, Fame and Mercury with urns."

The 1778 South Carolina Gazette advertised the property of Thomas Loughton Smith for sale after his death, noting, "there are a few elegant urns and statues in the garden which will be sold with the premises."

Early colleges in America often had walled grounds. My favorite description of one of these walls was by Moreau de St. Mery (1750-1819), when he visited Princeton, New Jersey in the 1790s. In a 1764 print, Nassau Hall is depicted with a wall & urns. He wrote, "Before it is a huge front yard set off from the street by a brick wall, and at intervals along the wall are pilasters supporting wooden urns painted gray."
Detail of Nassau Hall with Wooden Campana Urns on the Wall, Princeton, New Jersey, in 1764.

After Thomas Jefferson's death, a Monticello visitor noted, "cattle wandering among Italian mouldering vases." The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg was recorded as having "lead vases" in its gardens. A description of Eliza Hasket Derby's garden in Salem, Massachusettes, was said to have "large marble vases" which gave it a finished appearance.
Closed or Lidded Campana Urns at Falling Garden in Annapolis, Maryland at the William Paca (1740-1799) House. These urns have recently been replaced by large pineapple or artichoke (Cynara) finials on classical pedestals.
Tazza Urn on a tall pedestal at Belvedere, Home of Governor John Eager Howard (1752-1827), Baltimore, Maryland. Painting by Augustus Weidenbach c 1858.

Urn at Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg

In the Early Republic & well into the 19C, depictions of urns in the landscape were used as memorial objects in the work being produced by American girls in private female academies, where the young women learned decorative painting & sewing as well as reading & writing. Outdoor memorial urns were usually depicted with a nearby weeping willow tree.

By the time of George Washington's death in late 1779, the weeping willow tree was firmly established as a solemn memorial; as the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on Mount Vernon high above the Potomac River in Virginia, "Now the flocks, the shades, the walks, the weeping willows, the mourning bird of night, the pensive streams, and the sad murmurs of the broad Potomac, which in pride rolled its waves before the mansion of its great improver, call, again and again, the sad story which has filled the world with sorrow, that the illustrious Chief of Mount Vernon is no more."

The emerging middle-class of the early republic & later Industrial Revolution embraced classic Roman & Greek literature & motifs. Urns appeared on imported wallpapers; on mourning jewelry; as furniture inlay; on funeral carriages; as knife cases; and as architectural ornamentation on private homes, outbuildings, & public buildings.

In 1789, needing more space & wanting a building of their own, Benjamin Franklin's Library Company bought a parcel of land near the corner of Philadelphia's 5th & Chestnut Streets. William Thornton, physician & amateur architect, won the design competition. His proposed building featured white pilasters & a balustrade surmounted by urns.
Samuel McIntire, South Front of the Greenhouse in the East Building Elias Hasket Derby House

The John Peirce House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, built in 1799, featured a lantern tower crowned by urns. The Samuel McIntire, Peirce-Nichols House in Salem, Massachusettes, begun in 1782, has urns punctuating its fence. In 1795, he recorded in his journal paying for "Carving 4 Vases for the Summer House." The Elias Hasket Derby House, also in Salem, built in the late 1790s, had a roof balustrade with pilasters supporting 6 urns. 

Urns remained in the landscape designs of the Early Republic.  Urns & weeping willow trees dotted 19C cemeteries, but it would be many decades before cremation was once again a commonly accepted form of burial in America.
1789 Detail Schoolgirl Depiction of a Memorial Urn.

1792 Mourning Brooch. 2 funeral urns, plus locks of hair memorialize Mann Page & Anne Corbin Page of Virginia. Made in Philadelphia.

1811 Sally Miller's Needlepoint Urn from Litchfield Female Academy.

1815 Detail Schoolgirl Memorial Urn.

1817 Detail of Miss Diademia Austin Haines composition of silk, spangles, paint and ink on silk. Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

1819 Memorial for Lucy Libby. Miss Mayo's School, Portland, Maine.

1822 Memorial for Robert B. Harding. Miss Mayo's School of Portland, Maine.

1836 Detail Schoolgirl Memorial Urn.

For more about schoolgirl needlework, see Girlhood Embroidery, American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework by Betty Ring (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993) and The "Ornamental Branches," Needlework and Arts from the Lititz Moravian Girls' School Between 1800 and 1865 by Patricia T. Herr (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County, 1996).