Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garden History - Gardeners - Wanted

Landowners Looking for Gardeners in the Mid-Atlantic & South

By the middle of the 18th century, both gardeners searching for employment & gentlemen looking for gardeners began placing ads in local newspapers in hopes of finding one another.

Even though independent gardeners appeared in South Carolina looking for work in the early 1730s, apparently there were not enough to meet the demand. In July, 1736, Robert Hume, a Charleston attorney, advertised in the South Carolina Gazette for an overseer “that understands Gardening to live at his Plantation near Charlestown.”

Robert Hume had been born in London and married Sophia Wiggington (1702-1774) in 1721, at St. Phillip's Church in Charleston. In 1726, Hume had bought 174 acres of Magnolia Umbra, north of "Exmouth lying East of the Broad Path," to which he added 110 acres; and the property became his residence and country seat. Robert died just a year after looking for an independent gardener for his property in Goose Creek Parish.

In Philadelphia in 1758, a gentry garden fancier placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette. "Wanted for a Gentleman's Seat in the Country, a Person who understands Gardening." The gardener would have to be well recommended and would work on a yearly basis.

In the same newspaper in 1760, John Mifflin, a Pennsylvania plantation owner, was searching for a man "with a small Family who understands Gardening and Plantation Work."

During this period notices appeared in the South Carolina Gazette searching for gardeners. On March 16, 1765, “A GARDENER, who understands laying out and executing work in the- present taste, and skilful in a Kitchen-Garden” could hear of a good place by applying to the printer of the Gazette.

In April 1765, professional gardener & marketman Christopher Gadsden advertised for an assistant in the local newspaper, “Person that understands the managing of a garden and orchard (particularly a kitchen garden) and is willing to tend the markets constantly,” and in that June, he continued to search for a gardener “that understands the management of a garden, orchard, marketing” was would be offered “employment on a pleasant place within two miles of Charles-Town.”
John McPherson of Mount Pleasant in Pennsylvania, advertised for a gardener in 1766. McPherson was looking for a single man of "proper Resolution, Discretion, and Humanity, to command several other Servants under him."
Several gardeners worked at four shillings per day in the mid 1700s in the Annapolis & Eastern Shore gardens of Edward Lloyd IV. One of these gardeners (with a highly improbable name), James Lilleycrap, worked as a contract gardener at the Lloyds’ Annapolis garden on a daily basis during 1778 & 1779. In February 1780, he contracted to work for a full year at 300 pounds.

Apparently Lilleycrap was a trained gardener hired to undertake major garden redesign & installation. He probably employed others to assist him & paid them out of the 300 pounds. Lilleycrap’s arrangement illustrates just one of the new approaches to pleasure gardening in Maryland after the Revolution.

In 1772, another Pennsylvania gentleman, who knew what he wanted, advertised for "A Gardiner, Who understands his Business very well, and no other need apply." A similar ad appeared in 1773, appealing for " Single Man...willing to work on a Plantation (principally in a Garden)."
Robert Kennedy in Philadelphia, placed an extremely specific ad in 1775. "Wanted, On a pleasant well situated Farm, not many miles fro this city, A Middle aged Man and his Wife, the man to understand gardening and plantation work, the woman to be compleat at dairy business and house work." In the same year, another gentleman was searching for a "Gardener and his Wife, To take Care of a Gentleman's Country Seat, about four Miles from the City."

Apparently, the position with Robert Kennedy did not work out, for the Pennsylvania Gazette contained an ad in 1776, from a gardener and his spouse seeking a place for a "Gardener or Overseer of a Farm, a Person who can be well recommended; he has a Wife, who can cook and manage a Dariy."
In the summer of 1776, Frederick Hailer in Arch Street in Philadelphia advertised for a gardener. And in 1781, the French Consul in Arch Street was looking for a gardener "to work and manage a Garden a little Way out of Town."
When independent white gardeners started proliferating after the Revolution, they hired out by the day, month, or year. Visiting English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson reported that he hired a white man in Baltimore in 1799, to mow at “a dollar a day, with meat & a pint of whisky.”

He also recorded the costs of labor of various agricultural & gardening tasks at different seasons of the year around 1800 near Baltimore. In Baltimore, the town market supplied the produce needs of most of the citizens. Richardson recorded that for this market stall work, “Bartering in town costs one dollar & a half per day; at harvest-work, one dollar per day & a pint of whiskey.”
After the Revolution, gentlemen seldom sent to England for their gardeners but began to place advertisements for professional gardeners in local newspapers. Just north of Baltimore, Harry Dorsey Gough advertised in 1788, “I want to employ a complete gardener at Perry Hall…to undertake the management of a spacious, elegant Garden & Orchard.” A similar Baltimore notice in 1795, pleaded for a gardener who was specifically adept at managing strictly ornamental flower gardens.

In Richmond, Virginia, Adam Hunter placed a notice in the local paper searching for a “Complete Gardener, with or without a family (the latter would be preferred)” for his land near Fredericksburg in Stafford County.

After the Revolution, white gardeners working in port towns such as Philadelphia, Annapolis, & Baltimore, were as likely to be European as they were to be British. Europeans were favored by some hiring gentry in the postwar years. One gentleman searching for a gardener in Baltimore in the 1790s wrote, “A Dutch or Frenchman speaking English would be preferred.”

In 1782, Robert Monckton Malcolm of Monckton Park, between Neshaminy Ferry and Bristol, on the river, placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette, "Wanted to Hire, Two German young or middle aged single Men, who understand farming, clearing and fencing of land; it will be necessary that one of them understands gardening."

In Prince George's County, Maryland, Rosalie Stier Calvert sought help planning her garden and grounds, and employed Philadelphia artist William Russell Birch in 1805, to draw up a landscape plan for Riversdale. She wrote that he was “busy making plans for the grounds of the house. I think he is very good at it and he is doing them with an eye to economy.”

Her father wasn't so sure she should take Birch's recommendations without a second opinion--his-- and wrote back, “glad to learn that you are using the architect Birch. You must not concern yourself about the cost of the plans. Copy them and send them to me. I’ll give you my observations.”
Occasionally foreign-born gardeners speaking little or no English contracted to work in gardens in the new republic confused their hopeful employers. In October 1816, Rosalie Calvert wrote her sister, “We have a German who seems to be knowledgeable and this greatly relieves me. One small inconvenience, however, is that he doesn’t understand a single word of English.”

By March 1819, the frustrated Rosalie wrote her father, “I recently discharged my German gardener...He knew nothing at all and couldn’t tell a carrot from a turnip.”.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Garden History - Product - Wine

The fermented products of garden grapes & apples--wine & cider--were important in early America, where a deserved distrust of water persisted from the 17th to 19th centuries. Jamestown colonist George Percy, who served as governor of Virginia between September 1609 & May 1610, wrote in his 1625 A Trewe Relaycon, "Our drinke [was] Cold water taken out of the River, which was at a floud verie salt, at low tide full of slime and filth, which was the destruction of many of our men."

By the 1619 meeting of the Virginia Burgesses, designated speaker & secretary John Pory declared, "Three things there bee which in a few yeares may bring this Colony to perfection: the English plough, vineyards and cattle." The 22 Burgesses then passed "Acte 12," requiring colonists to plant vineyards.

The vineyards were less than successful, and cider & beer became the liquid staples in the new Atlantic coast American colonies. Robert Beverley (1673-1722) reported in his History and Present State of Virginia in 1705, "Their richer sort generally brew their small beer with Malt, which they have from England...the poorer sort brew their Beer with Molasses and Bran. Their strong drink is Madeira Wine."Jamestown clergyman Hugh Jones, who also taught mathematics at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, from 1717 to 1721, declared that Madeira was, indeed, the most popular wine in the colonies. In his 1724 The Present State of Virginia he wrote, "for it relieved the heat of summer and warmed the chilled blood and the bitter colds of winter."

And it was true that large quantities of wine were imported from Spain & especially from Portugal, along with lemons & oranges during the colonial period. The Portugese import Madeira, clearly a crowd favorite, held up best during the voyage from Europe to the new world, where it was combined with brandy to produce a very popular colonial drink. Colonials did try to use the wine to cure the common cold using sack-whey, a beverage made of wine & the watery part of milk that separates from the curds in making cheese.

Although Madiera was a favorite of Benjamin Franklin, he was enthusiastic over just about any kind of wine. In 1744 Philadelphia, Franklin wrote of his distrust of water as well as his fondness for wine in a poem used as a drinking song. A year earlier, in 1743, Franklin gave instructions for producing American-made wine from local, wild-growing grapes to the readers of Poor Richard's Almanac,

Friendly READER,

Because I would have every Man make Advantage of the Blessings of Providence, and few are acquainted with the Method of making Wine of the Grapes which grow wild in our Woods, I do here present them with a few easy Directions, drawn from some Years Experience, which, if they will follow, they may furnish themselves with a wholesome sprightly Claret, which will keep for several Years, and is not inferior to that which passeth for French Claret.

Begin to gather Grapes from the 10th of September (the ripest first) to the last of October, and having clear'd them of Spider webs, and dead Leaves, put them into a large Molosses- or Rum-Hogshead; after having washed it well, and knock'd one Head out, fix it upon the other Head, on a Stand, or Blocks in the Cellar, if you have any, if not, in the warmest Part of the House, about 2 Feet from the Ground; as the Grapes sink, put up more, for 3 or 4 Days;

after which, get into the Hogshead bare-leg'd, and tread them down until the Juice works up about your Legs, which will be in less than half an Hour; then get out, and turn the Bottom ones up, and tread them again, a Quarter of an Hour; this will be sufficient to get out the good Juice; more pressing wou'd burst the unripe Fruit, and give it an ill Taste: This done, cover the Hogshead close with a thick Blanket, and if you have no Cellar, and the Weather proves Cold, with two.

In this Manner you must let it take its first Ferment, for 4 or 5 Days it will work furiously; when the Ferment abates, which you will know by its making less Noise, make a Spile-hole within six Inches of the Bottom, and twice a Day draw some in a Glass.

When it looks as clear as Rock-water, draw it off into a clean, rather than new Cask, proportioning it to the Contents of the Hogshead or Wine Vat; that is, if the Hogshead holds twenty Bushels of Grapes, Stems and all, the Cask must at least, hold 20 Gallons, for they will yield a Gallon per Bushel. Your Juice...Must thus drawn from the Vat, proceed to the second Ferment.

You must reserve in Jugs or Bottles, 1 Gallon or 5 Quarts of the Must to every 20 Gallons you have to work; which you will use according to the following Directions.

Place your Cask, which must be chock full, with the Bung up, and open twice every Day, Morning and Night; feed your Cask with the reserved Must; two Spoonfuls at a time will suffice, clearing the Bung after you feed it, with your Finger or a Spoon, of the Grape-Stones and other Filth which the Ferment will throw up; you must continue feeding it thus until Christmas, when you may bung it up, and it will be fit for Use or to be rack'd into clean Casks or Bottles, by February.

N. B. Gather the Grapes after the Dew is off, and in all dry Seasons...If you make Wine for Sale, or to go beyond Sea, one quarter Part must be distill'd, and the Brandy put into the three Quarters remaining. One Bushel of Grapes, heap Measure, as you gather them from the Vine, will make at least a Gallon of Wine, if good, five Quarts.
These Directions are not design'd for those who are skill'd in making Wine, but for those who have hitherto had no Acquaintance with that Art.

Franklin felt strongly about the virtues of wine in everyday life, "There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking...Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance...Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water..."
Franklin even conjured up a tale about the world before the Garden of Eden, in which he suspected that the lack of wine may have had a hand in mankind's early adjustment problems. "Before Noah, men having only water to drink, could not find the truth. Accordingly...they became abominably wicked, and they were justly exterminated by the water they loved to drink. This good man, Noah, having seen that all his contemporaries had perished by this unpleasant drink, took a dislike to it; and God, to relieve his dryness, created the vine and revealed to him the art of making le vin. By the aid of this liquid he unveiled more and more truth."

Like his imaginary wine-drinking hero Noah, Franklin used wine to his advantage. When Franklin became convinced that the local militias needed a few cannons for defence, he traveled up to New York to meet with British colonial Governor George Clinton (1686 –1761) of New York, hoping to convince him to share some of his cannons with the locals. "He at first refus’d us peremptorily; but at dinner with his council, where there was great drinking of Madeira wine, as the custom of that place then was, he softened by degrees, and said he would lend us six. After a few more bumpers he advanc’d to ten; and at length he very good-naturedly conceded eighteen."
In his autobiography, Franklin revealed that wine played a hand in his becoming a printer, when he arrived in Philadelphia, "I went, however, with the governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the corner of Third-street, and over the Madeira he propos’d my setting up my business, laid before me the probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel French assur’d me I should have their interest and influence in procuring the public business of both governments. "
Pondering his own death, he declared that he would "prefer to an ordinary death being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira" to help preserve them.

Early British American settlers, including Benjamin Franklin, hoped that the Atlantic coastline would grow the familiar European wine grapes. But old world grapevines did not hold up well against the assults of American insects, deer, heat, & diseases. Colonists resorted to using native grapes to make wines, but these never were deemed as fine as the European imports.

Determined to keep trying to duplicate European wines, the Virginia General Assembly designated Frenchman Andrew Estave the official winemaker & viticulturist for Virginia in 1770. He was described as having "a perfect Knowledge of the Culture of Vines, and the most approved Method of making Wine." Estave had already lived in the colony for 2 years, studied the soil, and cultivated some native grapes. With his new designation, he established himself on 100 acres, with a house & 3 slaves, promising to make "good merchantable Wine in four years from the seating and planting of the Vineyard." But he failed declaring that his stocks of European grapes, vitus vinifera, were too fragile for Virginia.

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin persuaded Tuscan wine grower, merchant, & physician Philip Mazzei, to immigrate to Virginia with 10 Italian vignerons to create a native wine industry. He settled on 2,000 acres that Thomas Jefferson gave him and began trying to cultivate wine with European vine cuttings. Jefferson described the land that Mazzei selected as "having a southeast aspect and an abundance of lean and meager spots of stony and red soil, without sand, resembling extremely the CĂ´te of Burgundy from Chambertin to Montrachet where the famous wines of Burgundy are made."
Jefferson stated that "the greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture." Mazzei, who confidently formed the Virginia Wine Company gathering capital from such investors as Jefferson & George Washington, ultimately failed.

Other founding fathers were intimately familiar with the imported libations, as well. John Hancock was accused of smuggling wine, and Patrick Henry once worked as a bartender. Early lists from colonial ordinaries show that Madeira, Port, and Claret (the common term in those days for red Bordeaux wine) were often available; but rum & rum punch with "loaf sugar" may have been the most popular spirits of the time, closely followed by brandy, some of which was made in Virginia.

In 1768, Virginians imported 396,580 gallons of rum from overseas, and another 78,264 from other North American colonies. Colonials seemed to enjoy sweet drinks with a high enough alcohol content to intoxicate quickly. No dry white wines or "sour" French red wines for them.

One guest at Monticello, politely drinking Jefferson’s imported claret with dinner, told a friend that he was longing for a glass of brandy, commenting that "I have been sipping his...acid, cold French wine, until I am sure I should die in the night unless I take an antidote" and wondering "why a man of so much taste should drink cold, sour French wine?"
Apparently, Jefferson had begun to appreciate fine imported wines while visiting the home of his law tutor George Wythe in Williamsburg. Wythe built a vaulted brick wine cellar under his home, and Jefferson wrote of drinking Malmsey Madeiras at Wythe's house.

During his 5 years in Paris as a diplomat beginning in 1784, Thomas Jefferson learned about fine wines at Europe’s salons & dinner tables. While serving as the new nation's Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the French court, Jefferson took a nearly 4 month tour through southern France & northern Italy. The 3,000-mile trip included visits to Meursault & Montrachet in Burgundy, Condrieu in the Rhone, and Turin in Italy. Jefferson then returned north through Bordeaux, where he sampled the great wines—Chateau Margaux, La Tour de Segur (Chateau Latour), Hautbrion (Chateau Haut-Brion), and Chateau de la Fite (Chateau Lafite-Rothschild).

Jefferson took a 2nd European wine tour through the regions of the Rhine & Moselle rivers and western France, where he developed a taste for the wines of Champagne. Even though he wrote to a friend vines are "the parent of misery" adding that those who cultivate them "are always poor," he continued to long for the success of European wine grapes in Virginia.

During his presidency, Jefferson imported 20,000 bottles of European wines, perhaps making the decision to acquire the already wine-savvy Louisiana Purchase more appealing. Favorites on his White House wine list were Cote d'or Burgundies, Hermitage Rhones, and Medoc Bordeauxs. Jefferson shared his contemporaries taste for sweet dessert wines, his favorites were Tokaji from Austria & Sauternes from France. From his $25,000 annual salary as president, Jefferson spent an average of $3,200 a year on wine during his first term.

Jefferson had a 16' deep brick wine cellar dug adjacent to the White House. A wooden superstructure protected the wine against the weather, and a bed of ice packed in sawdust beneath the floor kept the president's imported wines cool.

After his return from France, Jefferson would use the occasion of dining with his colleagues to instruct them on the fine points of European wines. He lectured George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, & James Monroe on the proper use of his favorite imported vintages. John Quincy Adams remarked wearily after one Jefferson dinner, "There was, as usual, a dissertation about wines, not very edifying." Jefferson doggedly continued to try to grow the European grapes and produce his own fine wines.

The Vineyard at Monticello in Virginia.

Even George Washington flirted with the idea of growing European grapes and producing wine at Mount Vernon. In the early 1760s, he ordered from his factor, "a Butt of about one hundred and fifty gall’ns of your choicest Madeira. And if there is nothing improper, or inconsistent in the request a few setts or cuttings of the Madeira grape." After his retirement from the presidency, Washington operated one of the largest distilleries in the new nation very near his home at Mount Vernon.

In Virginia, however, black rot & the ever-hungry phylloxera louse continued to devour the tasty roots of the European grapes Jefferson attempted to raise at Monticello. Eventually he became more committed to the using native American vines including the fox grape, Vitis labrusca, and the Scuppernong variety of the southern muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia. In 1817, he gave the state of North Carolina credit for producing "the first specimen of an exquisite wine," Scuppernong, and praised its "fine aroma, and chrystalline transparence."
A frustrated Thomas Jefferson declared in 1817, that Americans could not enjoy the finer wines, because their pallets had been ruined by decades of British rule. "The taste of this country (was) artificially created by our long restraint under the English government to the strong wines of Portugal and Spain."

The Vineyard at Monticello in Virginia.

Six years before Jefferson's death in Virginia, New Yorker John Nicholson explained to the citizens of the new republic how to turn the fruits of their gardens into wine in The Farmer's Assistant. "The presses used for making this liquor are similar to our screw-presses for making cider, though they are executed with much neater workmanship...

"To make good wine, the grapes of the same vine should be gathered at different times. The first should be of the ripest clusters; and let them be cut close to the fruit to avoid the taste of the stalks. The green and roten grapes are to be rejected...

"In due season, the second gathering takes place, when all that are ripe and sound are taken as before...To make wine in the greatest perfection, however, the grapes are all striped from the stems before they are put into the vat...

"Wines of different colors are made from the same grape. The French make their white and red wine from the blackgrape...

"To make white-wine, grapes sufficient for a pressing are gathered early in a damp, misty morning, while the dew is on...When the sun comes out warm, the gathering is discontinued...

"The grapes gathered are carefully carried in panniers, on Horses, to the press, into which they are immediately put, and the first pressing is given without delay; which should be gentle, for fear of discoloring the liquor. The wine from this pressing is the most delicate, but not the strongest...

"After the first pressing, the press is raised, the scattering grapes are laid on the cake, and the second pressing is given, in which more force is used than before. The second runing is but little inferior to the first, in flavor or color, while it is stronger and will keep lunger. Sometimes the wines of these two pressings are mixed together...

"After these pressings, the sides of the cake are cut down perpendicularly with a steel spade, so far as they exceed the upper part of the press that is let down on the cake. The eatings are laid on the top of the cake, and the third pressing, which is called the first cuting, is given. The juice pressed out at this time is excelent. A second and third cuting is in like manner given the cake, with pressings, till the juice ceases to run...

"The liquor of the cutings becomes gradually more red, from the liquor contained in the skin of the grapes. The wines of these different cutings are collected separately, and afterwards may be mixed...

"The pressings for the white-wine should be performed quickly, that the grapes may not have time to heat...

"In making red-wines of the same grapes, they are to be gainer when the sun shines the hotest They are to be selected and gathered in the manner before directed...

"When brought home, as before, they are mashed in a vat, and are then to lie in the liquor lor a length of time, which must depend on the heat ot the weather...They are to be stired frequently, the better to raise a fermentation and reden the liquor...
"The unripened grapes, that were rejected at former gatherings, are to hang till they become a little frost-biten, and may then be made into wine which will answer to mix with other coarse red-wines...

"When the murk has been fully pressed, it will still yield, when diluted with water, fermented, and distiled, a spirit lor medical and domestic uses...

"The finest wines will work the soonest, and the fermentation will take 10-12 days...When the fermentation is entirely over, the casks are to be filled up, and this is to be repeated once a month as long as they remain in the cellar, in order to prevent the wine growing flat and heavy. They should be filled with wine of the same kind which they contain, which may be kept in bottles for the purpose...

"The first drawing off from is done about the middle of December, and the casks containing the liquor drawn off should stand without the least disturbance, by shaking, until the middle of February, when the liquor should be again drawn off into other casks...let the casks be kept lull, and let no wines of dissimilar qualities be mixed...

"Raisin-wine is made as follows: Take 30 gallons of clear rain or river-water, and put it into a vessel that will hold a third more; add a hundred weight of Malaga raisins picked from the stalks; mix the whole well together, and cover it over partly, but not entirely, with a linen cloth, and let it stand in a warm place...It will soon ferment, and must be well stired about twice in 24 hours, for twelve or fourteen days...the liquor must be strained off, and the juice of the raisins pressed out, first by hand and afterwards by press, which may easily be contrived, by having 2 boards, and weights laid on the uppermost. All the liquor is then to be put into a good sound winecask, well dried and warmed, together with 8 pounds of sugar, and a little yeast; except that a little of the wine should be reserved in bottles, to be afterwards added during the fermentation, which will take place again...When the fermentation has ceased, which will be at the end of a month, the cask is to be stoped tight and kept a year, or more, and then bottled off...

"This wine will be very good at the end of a year and a half; but will improve much by being kept four or five years; as it will then be equal to any of the strong cordial foreign wines...
"This is the most perfect of artificial wines, but others may be made cheaper...adding a proportion of wellrectified whiskey to the cask when closed, in which case less raisins and less sugar would be requisite...

"To make Birch-wine. After collecting the sap of the birch, it is to be made into wine before any fermentation takes place; and for this purpose, a pint of honey or a pound of sugar is to be added to every gallon of the sap, the whole to be well stired up, and then boiled for about an hour, with a few cloves and a little lemon-peel; during which, the scum is carefully to be taken off. When cool, a few spoonsful of new ale or yeast is to be added, to induce a due degree of fermentation; and after this has ceased, or nearly so, the liquor is to be bottled and put away in a cool place in the cellar.

"When properly made, the liquor, however, becomes so strong that it frequently bursts the bottles, unless they are placed in spring-water. Stone bottles are said to be the best for containing the liquor, as they are stronger than glass...

"The black-birch affords the greatest quantity of sap, which may be drawn from the tree in plenty, by boring a hole into the southerly side, in the manner directed tor extracting the sap from the maple...

"Perhaps a liquor equally good might be made, in some similar manner, of the sap of the maple, and of the juice of watermelons, especially of those raised in the Southern States...

"Wine of a tolerable quality may be made of the juice of elderberries, in a manner similar to that of making currant-wine...
"Raspberries and blackberries may also be applied to the same use; and less sugar will be found requisite in making wines of these than of currants."
The Vineyard at Monticello in Virginia.

With the exception of a "sufficient" quantity of native Scuppernong, all the wines on hand in the Monticello cellar at the time of Jefferson's death in 1826, came from southern France: red Ledanon, white Linoux, Muscat de Rivesalte, and a Bergasse imitation red Bordeaux.

An earlier post explored wine & more ardent spirits available in 18th and early 19th century public pleasure gardens in America.

Another recent posting dealt with the recommended process for developing vineyards in early America.

Post Script:
Ironically, the fact that the settlers needed to continue to import European wines helps us learn more about the history of the American colonies. Imported wine bottles occasionally had “seals” that sometimes were imprinted with a date & even rarely with the name of the bottle’s intended owner or the name of the producer or the merchant who sold the wine. Wine bottle seals are glass stamped impressions (much like wax seals on letters) that can only be applied to glass bottles at the moment of manufacture.

Colonial tavernkeepers, who sold carry-out beverages by the bottle, sometimes had their names or tavern emblems impressed onto bottles; so that their customers would know just where to bring empty bottles for refilling. The gentry, who could afford to custom-order large quantities of wine through their factors, sometimes requested that their bottles be personalized with their names or initials.

Archaeological digs at colonial sites often unearth a large quantity of broken wine bottles. Whether this is because of a vast consumption of wine or because wine bottles were inexpensive & easily broken (especially when their handlers were intoxicated) is not clear. Archaeologists can also look at the shape & size of unmarked imported bottles, often in fragments at a dig site, to guess when the bottle was produced. The shape of wine bottles changed during the 1600s and 1700s.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Garden History - Why Garden? To Create Art & A Personal Stage

Gardening as Art & Theater
Philadelphia author & garden shop owner Bernard M’Mahon consistently referred to gardening as an art, just as his friend Thomas Jefferson did throughout his lifetime.

In 1779, when Jefferson was governor of Virginia & a member of the Board of Visitors at the College of William & Mary, curriculum reforms resulted in the appointment of Robert Andrews as “Professor of Moral Philosophy, the Laws of Nature & of Nations, & of the Fine Arts.” Jefferson defined the fine arts as “Sculpture, Painting, Gardening, Music, Adventure, Poetry, Oratory, Criticism.”

In the 1783 Catalogue of the Annapolis Circulating Library, where books were grouped in categories, the section containing books on pleasure gardening was titled “Gardening, Poems, Plays, etc.” Jefferson even wrote of his garden in terms of art. In 1807, Jefferson wrote, “The canvas trimmed very high, so as to give the appearance of open ground.”

As most literate 18th-century Americans were well aware, the educated man of the Italian Renaissance hoped to be at least knowledgeable in all of the fine arts, from painting, sculpture, & music to architecture & gardening. M’Mahon was conversant in classical letters, including history & literature.

M'Mahon knew that under Louis XIV, the French carried to its culmination the Italian Renaissance rationale for ordering the external environment for both use & ornament.

In France, the concept of unifying the structure with its setting evolved into a theatrical presentation of the geometric house, balanced with a descending progression of architectural elements, such as smaller buildings, fences, gates, & steps. The great house & its dependencies were set at the pinnacle of an array of landscape features that led up to it. It was a formula adopted in the British American colonies & early republic.

These designs were the work of powerful people engaged in the ultimate battle--trying to control nature. In France, complicated, controlled inert parterres outlined by clipped hedges, statues, topiary, & planned groves of trees connected the whole with the natural countryside surrounding it.

Here was the supreme unity of architecture, the decorative arts, the garden, & the natural site. Just as it had for centuries, the 18th century American garden was meant to define & expand the image of its owner.

The Reverend William Bentley, describing the garden of Boston merchant Joseph Barrell, wrote that he was taken to Barrell's garden where he, “Was politely received by Mr. Barrell who shewed me in large & elegant arrangements for amusement & philosophical experiment.” Joseph Barrell’s garden was his stage. Here he excitedly explained each garden plant & unique features to his exhausted guests until well after dark. Barrell's garden was his stage.

In fact, M’Mahon referred to garden terraces as theatrical arrangements, & the 1783 Annapolis book catalogue grouped gardening & plays together.

Gentlemen of the Italian Renaissance used their gardens for theatrical presentations. Townspeople up & down the Chesapeake were very familiar with devices of the theater. Plays had been performed in Williamsburg for years, & a playhouse opened in Annapolis in 1752, next door to craftsman William Faris’s home & shop.

Although an 18th-century gentleman’s garden might never be used for a formal theatrical presentation, it was the outdoor platform he designed & on which he presented himself to his visitors & to the community at large.

Manipulating the view as a stage affect for the sake of the visitor was a continuing theme throughout M’Mahon’s treatise. The great & the not so great enjoyed garden watching. It was this concept, intentionally stripped of most of its ostentations excesses, that gentlemen adopted to help define their places in the emerging republic.

In the new nation, the gentry often used the evolving science of optics to direct the viewers’ attention & to lengthen or shorten perspectives, hoping to enhance the onlooker’s view of the property & opinion of its owner.

The view of country seats & gardens sitting high up on the American landscape inspired patriotic feelings in some observers and certainly elevated the owner to some exaulted plateau. Of Joseph Barrell’s grounds one visitor wrote in 1794,

Where once the breastwork
mark’d the scenes of blood,
While Freedom’s sons inclossed the haughty foe,
Rearing its head majestic from afar
The venerable seat of Barrell stands
Like some strong English Castle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Primary Source - 1729 Garden for Rent

To be Let very Reasonable, A Handsome convenient House, two Story high, containing Six rooms, Three Fire Places, with an Oven, and Well before the Door, and a handsome Garden, with choice Fruit Trees, Joining to the Ship Carpenter's, next Society Hill. Enquire of Elizabeth Benny, at the said House.

Pennsylvania Gazette, February 25, 1729

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Garden History - Why Garden? For Equality...

Gardening to Meet on Common Ground
The high cost of gentility in the Chesapeake excluded many of the middle classes from the stylish affairs of the bon ton, but the garden became one aspect of gentility that could be achieved by most classes in the emerging republic, with attention to discipline rather than acquisition of indulgences.

After all, plants multiplied; fashionable goods & services were consumed. When cultivated into a garden, land became an area of common ground between the upper & middling classes, a place where genteel civility as well as plants could be cultivated & shared; & some of the fruits of such collaboration could even be eaten.

From Annapolis craftsman William Faris’s diary, we learn that the elite & the common man were discussing, trading, & growing edible & ornamental plants. The relationships between rich & poor perpetuated by mutual endeavors such as gardening confused English visitors to Maryland, both before & after the Revolution.

In a letter back to England in 1772, Maryland's colonial secretary William Eddis wrote, “An idea of equality also seems generally to prevail, & the inferior order of people pay but little external respect to those who occupy superior stations.”

Almost thirty years later visiting English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson wrote, “Now, with regard to the liberty & equality…among the white men in America, they are all Mr. & Sir so that in conversation you cannot discover which is the master or which is the man.”
Gardening was an area of commonality across the social strata of the new nation. It offered a possibility for true democracy, well, for the gentlemen, at least.

It was not taking tea or dancing together, it was more basic, more unifying, even spiritual. The garden produced physical sustenance & inspiring order & beauty, & it elevated all parties to a more virtuous plane, where differences of class blurred. The garden was the space between nature & culture, where each man could negotiate his individual position in the new democratic republic.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Garden History - Why Garden? For a Pure Nation...

Gardening To Build & Maintain a Pure Nation
Philadelphia seed dealer, & writer Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816) , like his friend Thomas Jefferson, well understood that nature in general & particularly gardening--the ordering of nature--were intertwined with mortality & nationhood in the minds of America's political leaders, as they structured the fledgling nation’s emerging institutions.

Even before the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote on April 4, 1769, "Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life, and virtuous Industry."

John Adams (1735-1826) wrote to his wife Abigail Adams on May 12, 1780. "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

In 1784, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) wrote to John Jay, 1785 Aug. 23. "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it's liberty and interests by the most lasting bands."

George Washington (1732-1799) wrote a letter to the Marquis de Chastellux, on April, 25, 1788. "For the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished that the manly employment of agriculture and the humanizing benefits of commerce would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; and the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and as the Scripture expresses it, 'the nations learn war no more'."

It did not take 1796 immigrant nurseryman Bernard M'Mahon long to see the importance of farming & gardening to the success of the new nation. Before his gardening book was published in 1806, M’Mahon understood the proud new country well enough to appeal to national hubris in his effort to sell his readers on the concept of pleasure gardening & thereby increase the profits of his gardening ventures in Philadelphia & beyond.

In his book's introduction, M’Mahon lamented that America had “not yet made that rapid progress in Gardening…which might naturally be expected from an intelligent, happy & independent people, possessed so universally of landed property, unoppressed by taxation or tithes, & blest with consequent comfort & affluence.” M’Mahon concluded that one reason for this neglect was the lack of a proper reference book on American gardening, a situation, which he volunteered to rectify.

By 1817, Jefferson was even more convinced that keeping the connection between the citizens and the land was imperative for the success of the new republic. He received a booklet from a friend & wrote in his thank you response, "The pamphlet you were so kind as to send me manifests a zeal, which cannot be too much praised, for the interests of agriculture, the employment of our first parents in Eden, the happiest we can follow, and the most important to our country."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Garden History - Why Garden, Ladies? For Decoration...

Ladies Gardening Indoors & Out for Decoration

1760. William Williams (1727-1791). Deborah Richmond. Brooklyn Museum, New York.

There are portraits of women in the British American colonies & early republic depicting ladies, and even one gentleman, with potted plants. However, traditionally married American women of means might be in charge of daily activities in the greenhouse or the kitchen garden, but they were not often the master of the grounds.

1773. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Rebecca Boylston (1727-1798) (Mrs. Moses Gill). Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island. 

This was not always true. Eliza Lucas Pinckney, took charge of her father's plantations in South Carolina, when she was a teenager; and when she married an older man who died in a few years, she was once again in charge. The strong-willed gentlewoman made all the decisions about her plantations' gardens & grounds and wrote in a 1742 letter to a friend of the garden she was planning, “it shall be filled with all kinds of flowers, as well wild as Garden flowers, with seats of Camomile & here & there a fruit tree--oranges, nectrons, Plumbs.”

1788. Reuben Moulthorp (1763-1814). Mary Kimberly Thomas Reynolds. 

As the 19th century dawned, women began to play a more important role in planning the garden, especially its ornamental components. Many busy husbands, more interested in the growing commercial possibilities in the transitional agrarian society, began to leave the management of the gardens to their wives.

At the Riversdale plantation in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Rosalie Stier Calvert wrote to her father on May 19, 1805, “We are getting much better at the art of gardening.”

1801 Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). Rubens Peale (1784-1865) with Gerainium.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the ladies were becoming more interested in decorative flowers & potted plants offered to them by the new seed & nursery dealers such as Irish immigrant seedsman Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816) in Philadelphia. Flowers decorated their grounds in the summer and potted plants decorated their interiors during the winter months.

Bernard M'Mahon's close friend, New Yorker Grant Thorburn (1773-1863) wrote of painting flower pots in 1801, which lead to his flourishing New York seed business, "About this time the ladies in New York were beginning to shew their taste for flowers; and it was customary to sell the empty flower pots in the grocery stores; these articles also comprised part of my stock...

In the fall of the year, when the plants wanted shifting prepatory to their being placed in the parlour, I was often asked for pots of a handsome quality, or better made...

I was looking for some other means to support my family. All at once it came into my mind to take and paint some of my common flower-pots with green varnish paint, thinking it would better suit the taste of the ladies than the common brick-bat colored ones.

I painted two pair, and exposed them in front of my window. I remember, just as I had placed the two pair of pots in front of my window on the outside, I was standing on the sidewalk, admiring their appearance, a carriage came along, having the glasses let down, and one lady only in the carriage. As the carriage passed my shop, her eye lit on the pots; she put her head out at the window, and looked back, as far as she could see, on the pots...

They soon drew attention, and were sold. I painted six pair; they soon went the same way. Being thus encouraged, I continued painting and selling to good advantage. These two pots were links of a chain by which Providence was leading me into my present extensive seed-establishment...

One day, in the month of April following, I observed a man for the first time selling flower-plants in the Fly market, which then stood in the foot of Maiden Lane. As I carelessly passed along, I took a leaf and rubbing it between my fingers and thumb asked him what was the name of it. He answered, a rose geranium.

This...was the first time that I ever heard that there was a geranium in the world; as before this, I had no taste for, nor paid any attention to, plants. I looked a few minutes at the plant, thought it had a pleasant smell, and thought it would look well if removed into one of my green flower pots, to stand on my counter to draw attention...

I did not purchase this plant with the intention of selling it again, but merely to draw attention to my green pots, and let people see how well the pots looked when the plant was in them. Next day, some one fancied and purchased plant and pot."

Thorburn had immigrated to New York from Scotland, in 1794. In Scotland, he was a nailmaker before he sailed for America. He was noted for his charity, and during the epidemic of yellow fever in 1798, he & his wife remained in the city, devoting themselves to the care of the victims. In 1801, he became a grocery merchant in Newark, New Jersey, but soon moved his business to New York City., where he he sold novelties & hardware. Once he discovered in 1805, that his flower pots sold better when they were painted with flowers in them, Thorburn evolved into a very successful seed dealer & nurseryman selling to the ladies of New York City, until he retired in 1854. The G. Thorburn & Son’s catalog of 1822 was issued in pamphlet form and included illustrations. Thorburn died in New Haven, Connecticut on January 21, 1863.

1830. Elizabeth Glaser. Lady in a Yellow Dress Watering Roses.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Garden History - Why Garden? For Amusement & Diversion...

Gardening for Diversion & Amusement

Throughout the 18th century, gentlemen sometimes referred to flowers, botany, and their gardens as their amusements, their diversions.

William Stephens (1671-1753), President of the Province of Georgia from 1741-51, kept a diary between the years of 1742-43. In March of 1741, he wrote, "Thursday...I busy'd my self good part of it at the 5 Acre lot in gardening, and propagating Variety of Seeds and Plants, which I always thought an Agreeable amusement when I could find proper Leisure."

At another point Stephens wrote, "No Want of Diversion to employ my Time and Thoughts...: It was a Pleasure to see my Corn coming on, and other Things that were planted, very promising...and all hitherto in a hopeful Way: Besides the Amusement it gave me, in forming Schemes for many future Improvements in Gardening, and more curious Cultivation of Land, for the Production of Vines, Mulberries, Cotton, &c. of all which, I had provided a small Nursery, in the little five-Acre Lot near home."

Men were not above simply amusing themselves in their gardens either. George Washington reported that gardening had become his amusement.

But who could actually garden for amusement & diversion in early America? 

Even though Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard M’Mahon (1775-1816) promoted gardening to every segment of society in the new nation in his 1806 The American Gardener's Calendar, it was evident that before the Revolution true pleasure gardening as a “fine art” was only theoretically accessible to every man in the emerging republic.

All the aspiring garden “artist” needed was

an excess of land & leisure time;
some knowledge of the rules of perspective, classical design, mythological symbolism, & horticulture;

regularly available labor not otherwise needed to produce income; and

the inclination to present himself at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of nature as he ordered it.

Gardening primarily for ornament, amusement, and diversion in the 18th century was obviously limited. Even after independence, the true pleasure gardener of the emerging republic was primarily the property owner, the male citizen of the United States of America. His wife usually tended the greenhouse & decorative plants.

In the Maryland landscape paintings of Francis Guy (1760-1820), it was usually the male owner, often accompanied by a male visitor, who was depicted surveying his ornamental grounds.

The pleasure-gardening property-owning male was usually also a slave owner or rented others’ slaves or paid free blacks or indentured whites to help shape & maintain his personal external environment. The possession of capital was an important ingredient in determining who pleasure gardened.

Yale graduate & father of 8 children Frederick Butler (1765-1843) wrote in Wethersfield, Connecticut, of the multiple motives for gardening, "The productions of a well cultivated Garden, are too evident to need any remarks by way of illustration. The health they afford to the family, not only in the luxuries Which they furnish for the table ; but in the exercise, amusement, and enjoyment they impart in their cultivation, exceed all description : in fact, the fruits and vegetables of a garden are the life of a family, upon every principle of enjoyment and economy."

Thomas Jefferson was constantly changing his house and his gardens at Monticello. "Architecture is my delight," he said, "and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements."

But George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, & John Adams knew that gardening was more than just an amusement to occupy their idle hours. Each were aware of directions in garden design that had been spearheaded by the political leaders of centuries past & which were the basis for gardens in early America. The spiritual importance of gardening & the agrarian way of life was not lost on the gentlemen shaping American's future.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Garden History - Trees-Avenues & Rows of Trees

c. 1767. Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) miniature of the home of Dr. Henry Stevenson. Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland Historical Society. See more complete image below.
By the mid-18th-century, plantation owners up & down the Atlantic Coast often employed larger avenues of trees as well as their smaller alleys when designing their gardens and grounds. Garden planners designed avenues as wide, straight roadways approaching plantation houses or public buildings lined with single or double rows of trees and often cutting through a lawn of grass. They often used rows of trees spreading from the side of the house outward into the landscape to draw the eye toward the dwelling; to separate the entrance facade from the more private rear garden and work yards; and to form a living wall.

The word avenue had expanded to include any broad roadway bordered or marked by trees or other objects at regular intervals.

English garden writers had referred to avenues, while colonization of America was just a twinkle in the eye of the mother country. John Evelyn wrote disapprovingly in his diary in the summer 1654, "The avenue was ungraceful." In 1664, he advised, "That this may yet be no prejudice to the meaner capacities let them read for avenue, the principal walk to the front of the house, or seat." English garden reformer John Worlidge wrote in his 1669 Systema Agriculturæ of, "Avenues, Ways or Passages, or Rows or Walks of Trees."

Planners left avenues wide enough for a horse or carriage to pass, and some were much wider with many being the width of the house. Avenues leading to the entrance facade of a dwelling were wider than subsidiary intersecting ones and often were wide enough that the entire facade of the house was visible from the far end.

Usually a 200' long avenue was about 14-15' wide, a 600' avenue was about 30-36' wide, and a 1200' long avenue was about 42-48' wide. Gardeners occasionally manipulated the perspective of even these broad avenues as well, so that the apparent size of an avenue was lengthened by gradually narrowing the width of the avenue towards the far end.

In Williamsburg, Virginia, William Byrd noted in 1733, "This famous town consists of Col. Spotswood's enchanted castle...There had also been a chapel about a bow-shot from the colonel's house, at the end of an avenue of cherry trees."
In the Virginia Council Journal it was recorded on December 15, 1737, for Williamsburg, Ordered that there be paid to Mr Philip Finch the sum of ten pounds for laying and planting the Avenue to the Governors House.
In May, 1743, Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote from Charleston, "I...cant say one word on the other seats I saw in this ramble, except the Count's large double row of Oaks on each side of the Avenue that leads to the house--which seemed designed by nature for pious meditation and friendly converse."

Growing an avenue of trees took special planning and many years. Often the avenue of trees was planted years before the house was built on the property. On June 18, 1753, William Murray wrote to John Murray Esquire of Murraywhaithe in Charleston, "By all means mention the fine Improvements of your garden & the fine avenues you've raised near the spot where you'r to build your new house."

Often, avenues extended into the countryside & terminated with impressive vistas. In 1762 Hannah Callender wrote of William Peters’ Belmont near Philadelphia, “A broad walk of English cherry trees leads down to the river….One avenue gives a fine prospect of the city…Another avenue looks to the obelisk.” Avenues of cherry trees were common on plantations in Pennsylvania at that time.

Twenty years later, commercial nurserymen promoted grown trees for sale to the Charleston public. On January 1, 1778, an advertisement in the South Carolina and American General Gazette offered, "For sale...Magnolia or Laurels fit for Avenues...any height from three feet to twenty."

Schoolmaster Philip Vickers Fithian wrote in his journal in 1773 of Nomini Hall in Virginia, Due east of the Great House are two Rows of tall, flourishing, beautiful, Poplars...these Rows are something wider than the House & are about 300 yards Long...These Rows of Poplars form an extremely pleasant avenue, & at the Road, through them, the House appears most romantic.
George Mason's son John described Gunston Hall in Virginia, From the front entrance...there was...an avenue of cherry trees, reaching to the gate...On the north front by which was the principal approach, was an extensive lawn kept closely pastured, through the midst of which ran a spacious avenue, girded by long double ranges of that hardy and stagely cherry tree, the common black-heart, raised from stone, and so the more fair and uniform in their growth, commencing at about two hundred feet from the house and extending thence for about twelve hundred feet; the carriage way being in the centre, and the footways on either side between the two rows, forming each a double range of trees, and under their shade....
But what was remarkable and most imposing to be so aligned as to counteract the deception in our vision which in looking down long parallel lines makes them seem to approach as they recede; advantage was taken of the circumstance and another very pleasant delusion was effected. A common centre was established exactly in the middle of the outer doorway of the mansion on that front from which were made to diverge at a certain angle the four line son which these trees were planted, the plantation not commencing but at a considerable distance therefrom (about 200 ft...) and so carefully and accurately had they been planted, and trained and dressed in accordance with each other, as they progressed in their growth, that form the point described as taken for the common centre, and when they had got to a great size only the first four trees were visible...And in truth to the eye placed at only about two feet to the right or left of the first position there was presented as if by magic four long and apparently close walls of wood made up of the bodies of trees and above as many of rich foliage constituted by their boughs stretching as seemed to an immeasurable distance.Bernard M'Mahon wrote in 1806, Straight rows of the most beautiful trees, forming long avenues ...were in great estimation, considered as great ornaments, and no considerable estate and eminent pleasure-ground were without several of them.
For more on Gunston Hall see: The Recollections of John Mason: George Mason's Son Remembers His Father and Life at Gunston Hall (2003, Terry K. Dunn, ed., EPM Publications, Marshall, Va.). (Thanks to archeologist Dave Shonyo of Gunston Hall for this information.)