Sunday, March 31, 2013

1764 Millet - Virginian John Randolph's 1727-1784 Treatise on Gardening 1764


A Treatise on Gardening Written by a native of this State (Virginia)
Author was John Randolph (1727-1784)
Written in Williamsburg, Virginia about 1765
Published by T. Nicolson, Richmond, Virginia. 1793
The only known copy of this booklet is found in the Special Collections of the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Millet

Millet, from Milk, a thousand, from the multitude of seed it bears. There are 4 sorts, white, yellow, black, and the Sorgo or Guinea Corn. It originally came from the eastern countries, and is much esteemed in making puddings. The seed should be sown in the middle of March, very thin, as the plants require room in a warm dry soil. They should be kept clear of weeds, and in August or latter end of July the seed will ripen, when they are to be beaten out; the seed is good for poultry. The black sort, so called from its black seed, is of no use or value.
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Historic American Seed & Plant Catalogs from Smithsonian Institution Libraries




Saturday, March 30, 2013

Garden History - Gardeners - Black & White Apprentices


Black & White Apprentice Gardeners from Philadelphia to Charleston

The growth of professional gardening trades in 18th century America spawned a need for apprentices to assist the craftsmen in their daily chores while training to become the professional gardeners of the future.

Apprentice gardeners were young boys sent to live away from home to learn the trade of gardener. They were usually placed by their parents or guardians or by the courts as orphans to serve under master or tradesmen gardeners for a given period.

Under such an arrangement, intended for the mutual benefit of both the gardener and the young student-laborer, the master contracted to supply instruction, & generally food & lodging, or a weekly sum as an equivalent to what those necessities would cost. The parents of the apprentice gardener would agree to that their charge would be of service to the master gardener his apprenticeship as their part of the contract.

The terms of apprenticeship was generally 3 years. But in America, it is apparent that boys as young as 8 were contracted out to gardeners, and they often served longer than 3 years. Custom and laws called for apprenticeship to end at the age when the attained "manhood."

In England, few could expect to attain to the rank either of master-gardener or tradesman, who had not served an apprenticeship to the one or the other. On the American side of the Atlantic, because the trade & gardens were generally less developed, advancement in the field of gardening was more open to those who never served an apprenticeship.

In Philadelphia, market or truck gardener Richard Collings, who kept a covered seed & plant stall at the Jersey Market, adverised in the 1770 Pennsylvania Gazette, "Any person that has a boy that inclines to learn the art and mystery of a Gardiner, my apply." Market or truck gardeners & farmers grew produce to sell at the markets that supplied food for the growing populations of urban dwellers along the Atlantic coast in the 18th century. They grew culinary vegetables & fruits. Some grew only the more common hardy edibles for the kitchen, such as cabbage, pease, & turnips. Others supplied plants for propagation, such as cauliflowers, celery, & artichoke-plants, & pot-herbs, as mint and thyme. The most ambitious market growers grew items in hot-houses, & produced mushrooms, melons, pineapples, & other more exotic fruits over a longer growing season.


Young men who had apprenticed to other trades were sometimes called into garden service during the growing season. In Annapolis, craftsman William Faris used his clockmaking apprentice as garden help on several occasions.

In Maryland, several young boys were employed as apprentices by both professional gardeners & directly by owners of private gardens. In 1788, at age 8, William Lucas was bound out to Joseph Bignall, a professional gardener. Another 8-year-old, William Martin, was apprenticed to Jacob Eichelberger at his private residence in Baltimore County in 1786, to learn the art of gardening.


A lad named Cornelius Lary was bound out by his older sister at the age of 10, as a gardening apprentice to John Toon, who operated Toon’s Garden in Baltimore County. Toon’s Garden was one of several commercial pleasure gardens operating in the Baltimore area at the turn of the century. In the 1800-1801 Baltimore City directory, the 10-acre Toon’s Gardens was described as being “situated about two miles down the [Patapsco] river…on an elevated situation,” & was said to “command a view of the city & bay...During the summer months,” the directory recounted, “a great concourse of citizens make excursions by land & water to these Gardens…with all kinds of refreshments.”

Andrew Smith was a Charleston, South Carolina, gardener in 1795, who advertised to train apprentices in the “art of gardening” in the March 12 edition of the City Gazette and The Daily Advertiser, "THE Subscriber has taken a lease of Widderburn Lodge, formerly called the Grove; he will take in apprentices for three years, to be instructed in the art of gardening and farming in general, to the best advantage; as great improvement will be made on the farm, in the garden, orchard, and in the common field, the sooner they were to enter to work the better. He does not wish any gentleman to send any negro unless of good principles, obedient to orders, and of a good genius. There is good accommodations on the farm for negros of every size and description. Andrew Smith."

Also in Charleston, South Carolina, gardener John Bryant, active in that city between 1795-1810, advertised for an apprentice to help him in 1796. “An Apprentice is wanted to the above business, either white or colored. A Lad that is honest and industrious will meet with every encouragement.”

Occasionally gardeners advertised their need for apprentices through help-wanted notices in local newspapers. When the enterprising William Booth was establishing his nursery, he advertised, on March 2 1795, in the Federal Intelligence & Baltimore Daily Gazette, that he was looking for one or two boys between the ages of 10 & 12 to serve as apprentice gardeners. As ad inducement, Booth noted that in several years such trainees would be capable of managing the gardens of gentlemen’s county seats around Baltimore, which, he declared, were “going to ruin, for the want of a skillful gardener.”

Booth’s ad reflected the post-Revolutionary trends in professional gardening in the 18th-century Mid-Atlantic & South. White indentured & convict servants from the British Isles & black slaves had toiled side by side to design & maintain Mid-Atlantic & South gardens before the war with England.


After the Revolution, growing numbers of immigrant European, Caribbean, & British independent gardeners, assisted by white apprentices & free & slave blacks, took over the work. The American Revolution was the turning point in the development of independent gardening in the newly emerging capitalist nation, However, some aspects of Mid-Atlantic & South gardening did not change until the Civil War.

John Renauld was a gardener who immigrated from Rambouillet, France to Charleston some years after his birth in 1772. His only newspaper notice occurred in the Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser when he lost his young garden apprentice on July 7. 1806. "Strayed, From the subscriber, a small new Negro Boy named JIM; about four feet 5 or 6 inches high; slender make and this vissage; has a scar on the right side of his face- above his eye; had on an oznaburgs shirt and blue cassimere trowsers. Whoever will deliver the said Boy at No. 34 Tradd-street, shall receive a reward of Five Dollars. JOHN RENAULD."

As visiting English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson pointed out about the Chesapeake and the South at the end of the 18th-century, “where the livelihood is got out of the poor soil--it is pinched & screwed out of the negro.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Published Article - To Advertise, Identify, & Protect - 19th-Century American Fruit Illustrations

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This is from a wonderful article on America's 19th-century nurserymen from the Smithsonian Magazine of August 2011. Yale historian Daniel J Kevles writes "How to Trademark a Fruit: To protect the fruits of their labor and thwart 'plant thieves,' early American growers enlisted artists."

Red Astrachan Apple

Kelvles' begins his story in 1847, when Charles M. Hovey, owner of a 40-acre nursery in Cambridge, Masschusetts, began distributing a series of prints of American fruits. In 1852 & 1856, Hovey published his series of prints as The Fruits of America, Volume 1 & 2. Hovey borrowed the tactic of America's 1st important 19th-century garden author (1806) Bernard M'Mahon by declaring that he felt “a national pride” in portraying the “delicious fruits...in our own country, many of them surpassed by none of foreign growth,” thus demonstrating the developing “skill of our Pomologists” to the “cultivators of the world.”

William Prestele's Michaux Grape

Since the end of the American Revolution commercial seed & nursery entrepreneurs had been steadly growing in the United States. State horticultural societies began to organize at the end of the 18th-century; and in 1848, several of their leaders in the Eastern states gathered together to form the first national organization of fruit men—the American Pomological Society, named for Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits.

William Hooker's Noblesse Peach.

Fruit growers knew that if they were to protect their new varieties of fruit from appropriation by others, they had to identify them. And so a body of American botanical art began to emerge. The American Pomological Society quickly established a Committee on Synonyms and a Catalogue, hopeful, as its president said, that an authoritative voice would be “the best means of preventing those numerous impositions and frauds which, we regret to say, have been practiced upon our fellow citizens, by adventurous speculators or ignorant and unscrupulous venders.”

William Prestele's Wineberry, or Wine Raspberry

The worried fruit growers were aided in the efforts to publicize & lay claim to their varieties by the arrival in the United States in the late 1830s, of William Sharp, an English artist, immigrated to Boston with a printing technology, chromolithography, which enabled the production of multiple-colored pictures.


Some engaged an artist named Joseph Prestele, a German immigrant from Bavaria who had been a staff artist at the Royal Botanical Garden in Munich. He had been making a name for himself in the United States as a botanical illustrator of great clarity, accuracy and minuteness of detail.

Coe's Golden Gumdrop Plum

To learn of the development of these books & catalogues & the patent issues involved for both the large nursery operations & small firms as well, read Daniel J Kevles' article in the Smithsonian Magazine here.
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Garden History - Gardeners - Free Blacks


Throughout the 18th & 19th centuries, free African Americans also hired on to assist with garden chores during the growing season. Records of such temporary employments are very difficult to find. Rather than hiring on for a season, free blacks usually assisted with specific chores as they needed to be completed.

Craftsman Willaim Faris kept a diary in the town of Annapolis, Maryland, between 1792 & 1804. During that period a total of 16 free black men helped town craftsman William Faris with garden tasks. Most were permanent free black residents of the town, but some were passing through & hiring themselves out as garden laborers for a season.

In the spring of 1792, Faris hired a black garden helper, Peter Shorter. Two days later the craftsman learned that Shorter was a runaway slave, & he immediately discharged the man. Faris recorded in his journal, that he usually paid 12 pounds per annum to his free black helpers. He did not specify in his diary the amount of work expected from the workers for pounds per month.

By 1790, blacks composed a third of Maryland’s population. In the city of Annapolis at the time of the 1800 census, out of a total population of 2,212 persons, there were 646 slaves & 273 free blacks. Between 1790 & 1800, the population of free blacks in Maryland increased about 144 percent. Slavery grew at a much slower rate.

One dramatic increase in the number of free blacks occurred as a result of the slave uprising in the French colony of Saint Dominique led by Toussaint L’ Ouverture. About 2,000 French-speaking refugees, including well over 500 of black or mixed racial ancestry, arrived in Maryland during the summer of 1793. Faris noted in his diary, “July 10, 1793. Yesterday & too Day there has been between 30 & 40 Vessels went to Baltimore, the most of the full of French people…one Vessel had near 1200 on board.”

After this French settlement, free black & white French gardeners-for-hire began searching for work in the Chesapeake. These gardeners had a significant influence on Mid-Atlantic & Upper South pleasure gardening, as they introduced tropical varieties of plants & new garden designs into the region.

French-speaking gardeners became so numerous, that Maryland seedsmen Sinclair & Moore published their 1825 trade catalogue in French as well as English. The contributions of the French refugee gardeners from Saint Dominique were extolled by orator John Pendleton Kennedy at the first exhibition of the Horticultural Society of Maryland: “They brought with the….the knowledge of plants & garden stuffs. After their arrival…Baltimore became distinguished for the profusion & excellence of fruits & vegetables.”

Throughout most of the 18th century, indentured white servants & free & slave blacks were the backbone of the garden labor force in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South. White free white professional gardeners & nurserymen began to appear after the Revolution in the urban areas, it is likely that, until the Civil War, most rural Mid-Atlantic & Upper South pleasure gardens in Maryland were maintained by black gardeners, some of them free but most of them slaves.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

1764 Cauliflower - Virginian John Randolph's 1727-1784 Treatise on Gardening 1764


A Treatise on Gardening Written by a native of this State (Virginia)
Author was John Randolph (1727-1784)
Written in Williamsburg, Virginia about 1765
Published by T. Nicolson, Richmond, Virginia. 1793
The only known copy of this booklet is found in the Special Collections of the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Cauliflower

Cauliflowers, must be sown critically to a day, or else there is no dependence on the success of them. I cannot, nor do I find any one else capable of assigning a good reason for this, but the experience of this country, as well as England, verifies the proposition. We must therefore receive this fact as we do many others, rest ourselves satisfied, that the thing certainly exists, though the mode of existence is an impenetrable secret to us. Miller says, that for spring Cauliflowers the seed should be sown on the 10th or 12th of August, but in Virginia, the 12th day of September is the proper time, which is much the same as in England, allowing for the difference of climate, the ratio of which ought to be a month sooner in the spring, and the same later in the fall; our summer months being so intensely hot in this place, they should continue until the 20th of October, where they are to remain all the winter protected from the inclemency of the weather, and towards the latter end of February, the plants should be drawn and planted in a good spot of ground for a erop, about three and a half feet asunder, Miller says; but I think six much better, on account of the earth it takes to hill them up when rampant. Gardeners are divided with regard to the manner of preserving them in winter, and after they are planted out in February. Glasses are generally mentioned in the books of gardening as most proper, but later experience seems to contradict this position, because they.make the plant spindle, which is to be feared and guarded against in Cauliflowers, as they have a natural tendency towards luxuriancy, and therefore it is said that boxes, pyramidically formed, answer the purpose much better, for they equally protect plants from frost, afford them full room to germinate, and at the same time do not draw them to such an inordinate length as glasses are too apt to do, even with the best management. In order to have.Cauliflowers in the fall, you should sow your seed on the 12th day of April, and transplant them into beds to restrain their growth, and in July fix them out to stand. As they grow they should be hilled up, otherwise when they head, the winds will be apt to injure them. A rich light soil is what they delight in most. Col. Turner, of King George, who was eminent for Cauliflowers, had a method peculiar to himself for some years of managing them, which succeeded beyond any other. He dug trenches about a foot and a half wide, quite down to the clay. With this he mixed with a spade some long dung, into which he put his plants about live feet asunder, when they were fit to be transplanted; and as they grew, hilled them up with the best mould. This method answered the purpose of transplantation, for the clay repressed the growth of the plant, and the warmth of the dung afforded them just heat enough to live, as they might without it perish for want of nourishment. I have myself found this method succeed best. Virgin mould is preferable to every other sort. The gardeners near London have wholly abandoned the practice of watering their Cauliflower plants in the summer, as a thing very injurious to them, and Mr. Miller coincides in opinion with them. Radishes or Spinach sown amongst the Cauliflowers, so as not to interfere with them, will preserve them from the fly, being a more agreeable food to that destructive animal., When your Cauliflowers begin to flower, the inner leaves should be broken over them, otherwise the sun will soil their snowy colour, and as they spread, the larger leaves,should be served in the same manner. Some pin the outer leaves with a stick, but this is a malpractice, because it often binds the flower, that it cannot grow to that size it otherwise might do. In November, when you have apprehensions as to the approach of intense frosts, take your Cauliflowers up by the roots in a morning, with as much mould as you can, and put them in the ground, in a hole dug about two feet below the surface, well sheltered by straw or thatching, as near one another as you please, and cut them as you have occasion. They may be preserved in this manner the greatest part of the winter, though they acquire an earthy taste from their confined situation. They are not so delicate in the winter or fall as they are in May, notwithstanding in May they are in the midst of other elegancies, and stand without any rival in the fall. That face must be fair indeed that shines amongst a multitude of beauties, which too often eclipse one another. When you meet with a Cauliflower whose curd is hard and white, and free from frothiness about the edges, let it stand for seed, and as the flower branches, remove the leaves fiom off it, and fix three pretty strong stalks at equal angles about it, surrounded with pack-thread, in order to support the branches, which might be otherwise broken by the wind. When the seed is ripe, cut the pods off and dry them, and rub them out as you do Cabbage seed. I have been told that seeds cannot be raised in this country, but I believe the contrary may be proved by a proper culture.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Free & Slaves blacks have power in Baltimore's 1800 Produce Markets



1819 Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820). Detail Market Folks. Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore.

Without the garden produce grown & sold by the slaves in Virginia & Maryland throughout the 18th century, this particular path to some fleeting power & to some sense of real independence among them would not have been available.

And so, those interested in gardens, especially slave gardens & huck patches, also might be interested in where those gardening ventures led some African Americans in the Chesapeake by the last decade of the century.

By the end of the 18th century in Maryland, the economic center of the state had become Baltimore, the new nation’s 3rd largest city. In 1800, there were 26,514 inhabitants of the town. Historian T. Stephen Whitman reports that between 1700-1810, the city's slave population grew from 1,255 to 4,672, with the number of free persons of color outnumbering slaves only in 1810. Some of these African Americans banded together, seizing upon the critcal grocery needs for the town's exploding population of shopkeepers & artisans, to expand their sense of community, personal power, income, & freedom.

Brief History of Baltimore's Produce Markets

Truck farming from the gardens of both blacks & whites supplied many of the town markets in the Chesapeake region. Produce grown in the fields was sold fresh at the markets by local gardeners. Produce cooked into food to consume on the premisis or to take home was also available for purchase.

1811 John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821). Detail Pepper-Pot Woman at the Philadelphia Market.

In his 1803 Travels, John Davis wrote, "The negro-woman lamented the ravages of the fever, because it prevented the sale of her pepper-pot." Pepper pot was a thick, spicy soup which probably had its origins in the Caribbean. The Philadelphia version consisted of tripe, ox feet, or other inexpensive meats, cooked with herbs, onions, potatoes, & okra.

One of Baltimore's truck farmers was visiting English agricultural writer Richard Parkinson. He came to Maryland to farm experimentally near Baltimore for nearly 3 years in the late 1790s. His goal was to return to Britain and write a book about his experiences. He wrote, "I thought nothing in the farming line likely to be profitable, except...what in the country is called truck--which is garden produce, fruits, etc."

Poor Richard Parkinson will have to carry most of the narrative burden of this article, for it is he who so well described the market situation. Only the reactions of the whites in terms of legal mandates show how strongly they reacted to the growing, threatening power of Maryland's blacks at market. By the way, Parkinson would not mind in the least being the star reporter here, for he was always sure that his observations & his methods were simply the best.

18th Century English Woodcut "Off to Market"

Observers declared that the Chesapeake farmer's wagon was something like a "pedlar's pack," filled with butter, eggs, fruits, potatoes, turnips, cucumbers, ducks, chickens, geese, turkeys, wheat flour, Indian flour, rye flour, buckwheat flour, chopped straw, & more.

Produce markets had been operating in Baltimore for at least 50 years before Parkinson's visit to Maryland. Farmers' markets had dotted the meadows near Baltimore before 1747, when the Baltimore Town Commission was granted authority to hold & regulate fairs. A clerk was appointed in 1765, to oversee the monies charged for setting-up at the produce market.

Baltimore’s markets were small, dwarfed by the huge farmers' market at Philadelphia. Scotsman William Gregory had stopped at both Annapolis & Baltimore on a trip from Fredericksburg to Pennsylvania late in the summer of 1765. He declared that the Philadelphia market was "the best...I ever saw" noting for sale there...eggs, butter, onions, turnips, leeks, carrots, parsnips, Indian corn, Indian pepper, & cabbage. He estimated that 300 wagons were set up at that market on the day he visitied.

Johann David Schoepf reported in his 1783 Travels in the Confederation that the at the Philadelphia market "The products of the garden ...although plentiful is not of great variety, for divers of our better Europen cabbages and other vegetables are lacking; on the other hand all sorts of melons and many kinds of pumpkins are seen in great quantity." He reported that the produce was brought to the Philadelphia market especially by the Germans "in great covered wagons, loaded with all manner of provender, bringing with rations for themselves and feed for their horses--for they sleep in their wagons."

Virginian Mary Ambler had journeyed to Baltimore in 1770, writing, "Ladys here all go to market to supply their pantry." She also found the mix of races & nationalities at the town’s markets bewildering, "to us it seems like the confun of Babel from the difft Languages we hear." Ambler reported that on the traditional market days, Wednesdays & Saturdays, "nothing can be thought of which is not brought in plenty to Market as the Town People depend on the Market for their Stuff for there is not more than Seven Gardens in the Whole Town."

When Baltimore was finally chartered in 1796, the mayor & council were granted the power "to erect and regulate markets" keeping revenue & license records from 1797 until 1857. By the 1790s, there were three markets regularly operating in the town. The old Marsh Market began in 1773, the Hanover Market in 1785, & the Fell's Point Market in 1785.

By the time the Hanover Market was complete in the late summer of 1785, the commissioners charged with building the market house were eager to "ensure the Market-People a ready Sale for their Produce." They assured sellers that "The Building is constructed on the most convenient Plan, as both Purchaser and Seller will be protected from the Heat of the Sun, and their Situation will be perfectly dry and comfortable in the most severe Weather.--Stalls, or very large Benches, are provided, under Cover for the Country People to show the Articles they may have for Sale."

Apparently the market was financially successful for the produce sellers. In 1795, when John Dorsey had a 150 acre plantation near Baltimore to rent out for a year, he advertised, "There is a very large collection of the very best kind of Apple, Peach, Cherry, and other Fruit Trees...a great deal of money may be made by sending it to the Baltimore Market."

1797 Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820). Detail African Americans at Sunrise. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

In the late 1790s, when the always self-confident visiting Englishman Richard Parkinson began to truck farm in Baltimore, free white & African American truck farmers plus the slaves of the wealthy ventured to the Baltimore markets in the early morning hours.

African Americans at Baltimore's Produce Market

Proper Englishman Richard Parkinson was startled to find African Americans his staunchest competition in the produce market, where they joined forces to increase profit for themselves as well as their owners. He wrote of the slaves that the prosperous farmers sent to market to sell their produce and of the African Americans that he hired to assist him on market days. Parkinson stated that African Americans were better marketmen who could sell more garden produce at higher prices than whites.

One of the reasons there was an increase in African Americans at the Baltimore produce market was the result of the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, the long, slave-centered revolt against the powerful & brutal French slave regime in Saint Domingue. A flood of 1,500 French-speaking refugees, including many free & slave Africans, arriving in the town during that revolution enhanced black influence at market.

One 19th century observer reported the "imposing appearance in our market house of those tall, middle-aged quadroon women wearing in their ears immense golden hoops, with their heads elegantly decked in parti-colored bandana kerchiefs bearing a picturesque but unmistakable foreign stamp and looking in the vulgar crowd of hucksters surrounding them like choice flowers transplanted from the sunny tropics."

Woman Selling Fruits & Vegetables The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Male & female, local & Caribbean African Americans were able to affect the balance of economic power at Baltimore's farmers' markets, because they operated almost independently there representing both buyers & sellers. Gentlemen & merchants usually sent their African American servants to the pre-dawn markets to buy their needed provisions. Trade at town markets began at 2 in the morning.

There the African Americans, free & slave, consorted to trade exclusively with one another. Parkinson reported that the black marketman had 10 customers to the white man's one. It was a system that consistently benefited the African American agents. "I have stood to watch a Negro who was selling potatoes for me; and he has taken seven and sixpence per bushel for them, and accounted with me for six shillings per bushel. The negroes are very much employed in the sale of hay, and all farming produce in America... I have watched or listened; and the negro always agreed (to purchase the hay for his master from another African American) for a bottle of rum or whisky for himself."

Parkinson was not the only person to notice the growing power of the African Americans at the markets. The town fathers passed Baltimore City Ordinance No. 16 on April 11, 1797, in an effort to bring order to the markets. A $5 penalty was to be assessed of those caught selling provisions at the market sites outside of the authorized market times. The law specifically addressed at least one component of the growing problem of African American entrepreneurs by stating that if a slave illegally trading at a market site was apprehended & could not pay the fine, he was to be punished by a whipping not to exceed ten lashes for each offense.

Time & again Parkinson had to swallow his pride and resort to hiring an African American marketman to sell his produce at the Baltimore market. When it was time to sell his peach crop, Parkinson hired an African American; because he believed that an African American could sell more per day than Parkinson himself or any other white. His African American employee charged one dollar per day plus a pint of whiskey. "A black man is much better for this business than a white..they are impudent."

The visiting Englishman remained distrustful of the local blacks he hired, who, in fact, did consistently outsmart him. "Thinking our black fellow would do very well for selling the milk; as we could measure it, and then he could not cheat us. But in this I was very much disappointed: for he had so many tricks in mixing water with the milk, etc. that I was obliged to discharge him."

Parkinson reported observing the free & slave African Americans keeping part of the produce as well as the profits for themselves & their families. On the other hand, Parkinson wrote of the meager food allotments of the slaves & poor living conditions of the slaves he encountered during his travels throughout the Chesapeake. Other Baltimoreans were also concerned. Dr. George Buchanan, of Baltimore, a member of the American Philosophical Society, declared in an oration at Baltimore, July 4, 1791. "The slaves, naked and starved, often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather.''

After visiting George Washington, Parkinson observed that he "regularly delivered weekly to every working negro two or three pounds of pork, and some salt herrings, often badly cured, and a small portion of Indian corn." In fact, the majority of slave owners, the English visitor also noted, "set victuals out in a sparing manner." In order to survive, most slaves had to supplement the sparse food allocations of their masters.

The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788, reported, "A single peck of corn a week, or the like measure of rice, is the ordinary quantity of provision for a hard-working slave; to which a small quantity of meat is occasionally, though rarely, added."

Parkinson declared that although one owned the Maryland slave's labor during the day, the slave was his own man at night. He noted the evening journeys of his rented slave gardeners & marketmen were often undertaken to maintain family ties. "And it is an usual practice for the negroes to go to see their wives on Saturday night...and as they are at some distance from the negro men's place of abode...This is looked upon as so slight an offense, that I never heard of an instance of any of them being brought to justice for it."

Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), Slaves preparing for Saturday Night, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

The Englishman's discussions with Americans during his visit left him with an unusual sort of respect for African Americans, "The negroes are not an innocent race; as some suppose; they commit theft as daringly, and with as much cunning, as any set of men."

African Americans were so important to the white mans' success at market during this period, that Maryland slaves were actively sought & sold as marketmen. In the Maryland Gazette on October 10, 1798, Philip Key advertised for sale his slave who was both a "good gardener" & a "trusty market man." A notice in the Baltimore Daily Intelligencer on January 29, 1794 offered a reward for a 20 year-old slave named Cato who was generally "employed in the summer season selling fruit" at the market in Baltimore. A Maryland landowner placed a help-wanted ad in the Baltimore Daily Repository in June of 1793, for a free African American who was capable of driving a cart to market as well as working in the garden.

One professional Baltimore gardener, John Mycroft, regularly sold seeds, vegetables, & plants at the Fell's Point & Center Markets in town from 1803 until the 1820s. Slaves operated his market stalls, while he tended the garden near the Marine Hospital. In 1816, Mycroft offered an unusually high reward for the return of one of his runaway marketmen. "Absconded...Negro JOHN BLAKE, my well known market man. He is about 5 feet 8 inches high; a broad well made man; about 28 years of age; has a serious countenance but very pleasant when spoken to." The loss of a well-established African American marketman could mean a severe reduction in sales to the professional gardener.

Englishman Parkinson seemed both threatened by & envious of the free African Americans' economic success at market, attributing it, at least in part, to thievery. "Some of them have a little patch of land, and raise truck; which gives them a sanction to sit in the market, and renders them less liable to be suspected for what they steal...these free negroes are stealing poultry and fruit in the season in the night, to sell in the market."

When Parkinson queried his African American competitors about the ownership of the produce, they responded that it was their labor that produced the harvest in the first place; and therefore, it was rightfully theirs. "We work and raise all, we ought to consume all...Massa does not work; therefore he has not equal right."

Theft of fruits & vegetables was common in the Chesapeake during this period. Whites stole from each other & from African Americans; as Isaac Miller depicted in a nearby York County, Pennsylvania, drawing from the period. The same was true for African Americans.

1807 Lewis Miller (1796-1882). Detail Whites Stealing from Blacks at York, Pennsylvania.

Thefts by free African Americans & unsupervised slaves caused concern among white lawmakers. It was one component that led to the passage of "An Act Relating to Negros" by the state legislature in 1796. Part of the act was ostensibly aimed at vagrants containing a provision "that any free negro, mulatto or other person" found living idle, without any visible means of maintenance, or going at large through the country, without any visible means of subsistence, would be required to give security. If the individual could not post bond, he would be ordered to depart. If found within the state again, the vagrant would be imprisoned and his services sold for a short term, if he was unable to pay prison charges.

Parkinson returned to England to farm & publish a book about his American experiences in 1800, while Maryland state legislators' fear that free African Americans had linked their commercial interests with slaves continued to grow. Lawmakers worried that free African Americans would provide outlets for goods stolen by slaves; and in 1805, the legislature required free African Americans to obtain an annual license from a justice of the peace attesting to their good character in order to be able to sell corn, wheat, or tobacco at market.

The statute was amended in 1825, to add that a free African American selling tobacco must obtain a certificate from a justice of the peace attesting to the lawful origin of the tobacco. The law was further strengthened in 1832, to prohibit the purchase from any "free negro or mulatto or slave any bacon, pork, beef, mutton, corn, wheat, tobacco, rye or oats;" unless the seller could produce a certificate from a justice of the peace or from "three respectable persons" that the seller did, in fact, come into the possession of the goods honestly.

Despite constant harassment by the law, the early morning hours at Maryland markets offered African Americans a sense of power & dignity that faded only as the sun rose, and the white man emerged from his evenings' rest to reclaim his dominant position. Parkinson reported that the African Americans he met at market paid each other the respect they were denied by white society and that the depth of their religious fervor influenced even the working man in white society. "When the negroes meet together they are all Mr. and Madam among themselves...The lower class of people, such as worked for me, said, that they had known a black fellow give a better sermon than they ever heard from a white man."

Such gatherings of African Americans & lower class whites spurred the legislature into additional restraints to quell growing camaraderie. The 18th century Maryland laws prohibiting "tumultuous meetings of negros and other slaves" were strengthened in 1806 by a statute specifying that it was a criminal act for a free negro or mulatto to be found in a "tumultuous meeting."

1797 Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820). Detail of A View of Locust Point, Maryland, showing an African American, his gun, and his dog. Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore.

Other sections of this statute forbade slave ownership of guns & dogs, which were used to hunt. It did permit free African Americans to own one dog, if they had a license from a justice of the peace. A visitor noted "when they are free, instead of working, they employ themselves in shooting squirrels, opossums, birds of different descriptions, and in trapping partridges, &c. To do this, they keep a number of dogs, which are a very great expense." The 1806 statute also permitted free African Americans to own a gun, if it was left at home or if the owner carried a certificate attesting to his orderly & peaceable character from a justice of the peace. This privilege was repealed by an increasingly worried legislature in 1824.

Thieves stealing vegetables & fruits from Maryland gardens were publicly discouraged. Baltimore gardener John Mycroft placed notice in the Federal Gazette & Baltimore Daily Advertiser, in May of 1805, "...informing those persons who are in the habit of paying nightly visits to his garden for the purpose of supplying themselves with vegetables at his expense, that on their next entrance, he will be prepared to salute them with the contents of a well charged musket." John B. Bastian, the gardener at the estate of "Harlem" in Baltimore, placed a similar notice in the same publication in November of 1802.

Theft of produce was not new to Maryland. Thirty years earlier Charles Carroll of Carrollton placed a notice in 1770 Maryland Gazette, "And whereas several idle disorderly Persons are continually forcing their Way into the Garden of the Subscriber, in this City, either by breaking down the Rails or leaping over them, in order to steal Fruit...they will be punished with the utmost Severity." It is impossible to know whether Carroll's midnight interlopers were white or black, simply hungry, or clever entrepeneurs.

But it is certain that Baltimore’s farmer's markets were the meeting place for slave & free African Americans as well as white townsfolk & farmers at the end of the 18th century. Through their daring, intentional alliances, blacks were able to manipulate many aspects of the local produce market institutions for the economic benefit of both their masters & themselves from the end of the 18th century through the first decades of the 19th century, when Maryland laws finally squelched the threatening collaborations of its clever African American market capitalists.

Note: Baltimore was not alone in the active participation of slaves in the market economy of not just their masters, but of the wider community as well. When they could participate as producers, sellers, & purchasers of property, they were acting as free agents, no longer simply chattle laborers. In his study of the rice economy of the Georgia & South Carolina low country, Philip Morgan shows that this allowed them to accumulate wealth, expand their autonomy, & strengthen the bonds of community among themselves.

Historian Alex Lichtenstein argued that theft of the property of their masters enabled them to better their economic position & their feeling of freedom, while damaging their masters. Lawrence McDonnell suggests the the very act of masters & slaves dealing with each other as bearers of commodities lessened the social impact of slavery.

John Campbell's study of market related slave activities in the South Carolina upcountry presents slaves who could "better themselves materially, posses and assert greater control and independence in their lives, create and strengthen social relationships among themselves as well as with nonslaveholding white people, and challenge the interests and power of slaveholders."

John T. Schlotterbeck traced a similar internal slave economy in rural piedmont Virginia, as did Roderick A. McDonald on Louisiana sugar plantations. In Richard Price's study of 18th century Suriname, he writes, "Wherever slaves...had the physical and psychological space to cultivate their own gardens without external interference, subsistence activities (and the beliefs and values associated with them) became central not only to the physical well-being of those Afro-Americans but to their spiritual and moral life as well." See: The Slaves' Economy: Independent Production by Slaves in the Americas. Ira Berlin. 1995.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

18C & 19C America - The Slave Garden or Huck Patch


Occasionally slave owners in the 18C allowed their workers to layout and plant small gardens to supplement the usually meager food provisions allocated to the field slaves. Some masters intentionally delegated a small plot of ground for this purpose near the slave quarters. Slaves would prepare their garden plots after sundown and on Sundays when most had a lighter work schedule.

The problems with planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables were the same for both groups of gardeners; and of course, the slaves knew the challenges well, since they planted and maintained the gardens of their masters. Nature makes no class distinctions. It would be relatively easy to save the seeds for annuals, just as they did for their masters year to year. The wealthy landowner would have his slaves build a wall or intricate fence around his plantation's kitchen garden to keep deer and other interlopers at bay, and his slaves would need to find a way to do the same.

Permitting slaves to independently raise produce, and even livestock, was not new in the 18C Chesapeake. Earlier in 17C Virginia, some masters had allowed their slaves to grow tobacco, corn, horses, hogs, and cattle and to sell them to gain enough money to buy their freedom and the freedom of their wives and children. Sensing that this was a serious threat to their labor pool, in 1692, the Virginia General Assembly ordered slave owners to confiscate "all horses, cattle and hoggs marked of any negro or other slaves marked, or by any slave kept."

Apparently the practice of allowing independent garden plots had begun again in the first half of the 18C or earlier. In 1732, traveller Hugh Grove noted Virginia slaves planting "little Plats for potatoes or Indian pease and Cimnells."

Cimnells were small squash. In addition to field peas and squash, Chesapeake slaves also planted potatoes, beans, onions, and collards. All these crops could be eaten raw, boiled in an old pot, or roasted in the coals of a small fire. Over winter, the slaves could store some of their produce inconspicuously in the ground, banking them just like they did for the master.

In the warmer climate of South Carolina, slaves were growing more familiar heat-loving varieties of vegetables. In the 1720s, Mark Catesby recorded a new variety of yam in South Carolina, calling it, "a welcome improvement among the Negroes," who were "delighted with all their African food, particularly this, which a great part of Africa subsists on." Slaves in the Lowcountry could grow tania roots, millet, sorghum, sesame, peppers, and okra in addition to the traditional colonial vegetables.

In the Chesapeake, those with larger plots might attempt to grow mellons and corn, which required more room to grow and would certainly draw more attention from the gentry; something that might be considered risky by a group of people trying to maintain a low profile just to survive. A good slave did what he was told and kept his mouth shut. The slave might appreciate the autonomy a little patch of garden land would give him, but he wouldn't advertise it.

A few years later, in the 1740s, itinerant Chesapeake traveler, Edward Kimber also mentioned that slaves were cultivating "the little Spots allow'd them."

Slaveowners knew they could learn about both life and gardening from their enslaved servants.

In 1771, Virginian Landon Carter wrote in his diary, "I walkt out this even to see how my very old and honest Slave Jack Lubber did to support life in his Extreme age; and I found him prudently working amongst his melon vines, both to tivert the hours and indeed to keep nature stirring that indigestion might not hurry him off with great pain." Carter took "notice of his Pea Vines a good store and askt him why he had not got them hilled." Lubber replied, "they have not got age wnough and it will hurt too young things to coast them too closely with earth." Carter wrote that his answer showed, "the Prudence of Experience."

In March 1774, New Englander Philip Fithian, who had journeyed south to temporarily tutor the children of Robert Carter at Nomini Hall, watched as, "Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chesnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here." The savin or red cedar would be easy to weave in and out of the more permanent stakes. A month later he noted the plantation's slaves "digging up their small Lots of ground allow'd by their Master for Potatoes, peas &c; All such work for themselves they constantly do on Sundays, as they are otherwise employed on every other Day." One of Robert Carter's slaves offered Fithian "Eggs, Apples, Potatoes."

About twenty years later, Englishman Isaac Weld also wrote of the slave quarters in Virginia: "Adjoining their little habitations, the slaves commonly have small gardens and yards for poultry, which are all their own property… their gardens are generally found well stocked, and their flocks of poultry numerous." If the master allowed his slaves to keep poultry, the slave not only took advantage of the extra food, but also sold some of the chickens for extra spending money.

Virginia planter James Mercer declared that the "Negroes…are the general Chicken merchants" in the state.

In Maryland, as Colonel Nicholas Rogers (1753-1822) planned a new home in the 1780s, he designated an area for the household slaves to plant their own garden. Back of the master's house at the end of this second yard, an area measuring 36' by 82' was dedicated "For Servants' Vegetable Patch or For Other Purposes." Within the area was an 18' by 16' slave quarter with the remainder of this long rectangular plot to be used by the slaves to grow fruits & vegetables.

Peter Hatch, long-time director of Thomas Jefferson's gardens and grounds at Monticello, reports that "Jefferson's Memorandum Books, which detailed virtually every financial transaction that he engaged in between 1769 and 1826, as well as the account ledger kept by his granddaughter, Anne Cary Randolph, between 1805 and 1808, document hundreds of transactions involving the purchase of produce from Monticello slaves."

Hatch calculates that the records show the purchase of 22 species of fruits & vegetables from as many as 43 different individuals..."much of the produce purchased from Monticello slaves was out of season: potatoes were sold in December and February, hominy beans and apples purchased in April, and cucumbers bought in January. Archaeological excavations of slave cabins at Monticello indicate the widespread presence of root cellars, which not only served as secret hiding places, but surely as repositories for root crops and other vegetables amenable to cool, dark storage...

"Both Jefferson and Ann Cary specified the person from whom they purchased vegetables and fruit; however, the person involved in the sale might not have been the one gardening. Thirty-one males, averaging about 37 years of age, and twelve females, averaging 41 years old, were involved in the transactions. Since many of the sellers were older, seven of the males were over fifty, they may have been representing the family garden. Squire, for example, a former Peter Jefferson slave leased by Thomas Jefferson from his mother, represented the most sophisticated garden. He sold thirteen different commodities, including cymlins (a patty-pan-shaped squash), potatoes, lettuce, beets, watermelons, apples, and muskmelons. He sold a cucumber to Jefferson on January 12, 1773, suggesting either that the fruit was pickled and preserved, or that artificial heat in a cold frame or hot bed was used to bring this tender vegetable to fruition in the middle of winter, a rather remarkable feat in 18th-century Virginia. Bagwell, Squire's son-in-law, was also a major supplier, and sold Jefferson sixty pounds of hops for twenty dollars...

"Israel Gillette Jefferson, a waiter and carder in the Monticello cloth factory, represented another productive African American family garden. His father, Ned or Edward Gilette, sold watermelons, beans, and potatoes, while Israel sold large quantities of cabbage, fifty to one hundred at a time. Caesar, a farm laborer at Shadwell, Jefferson's birthplace and a satellite farm to Monticello, was another major supplier of cucumbers, cabbages, and greens, and Burwell Colbert, probably Jefferson's most valued and trusted slave, sold 'sprouts' to Jefferson. Boys and girls were also involved in the bartering process; Billy, at the age of eight, sold strawberries, perhaps collected from the wild, while Madison and Eston Hemings, most likely Jefferson's sons by Sally Hemings, were 15 and 18 when selling 100 cabbages to Jefferson in 1822."


Hatch further notes that "Except for watermelons, and perhaps sweet potatoes, few of the sold fruits and vegetables were either African in origin, or closely associated with African American food culture. Cucumbers were the most common commodity, with 23 transactions, followed by cabbages, watermelons, hops, Irish potatoes, cymlins, and greens."

In 1792, George Washington wrote to English agricultural writer Arthur Young, "Ground is often allowed them for gardening, and priviledge given them to raise dung-hill fowls for their own use."

Julian Niemcewicz reported visitin George Washington's Mount Vernon in 1797. He noted that in the slave quarters, "a small vegetable garden was situated close to the hut. Five or six hens, each with ten or fifteen chickens, walked around there. That is the only pleasure allowed to Negroes: they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs. They sell the chickens in Alexandria and with the money buy some furniture."

In Virginia, Englishman John Davis visiting the Spencer Ball plantation in Prince William County about 1800, wrote that one old slave declared, "There is few masters like the `Squire.' He has allowed me to build a log-house, and take in a patch of land, where I raise corn and water Melions." Perhaps it was easier for the older slaves, who usually were not assigned as much heavy labor, to keep an eye on the growing slave gardens.

In Maryland, an 1801 garden plan for Colonel Nicholas Rogers's property in Baltimore indicates a space in one of the far corners of the property "for servants vegetable patch or for other purposes." This garden space that Rogers chose for his slaves was inelegantly bounded by the slave quarter, the privy, and the hog pen. Elderly Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, advised his overseer in 1823, that his new slave, "Clem a blacksmith must not have more priveleges than my other slaves or be better fed...he desires a huck patch; these I grant...as many of my slaves have that privelege."

Convict servant, who was not a slave, James Revel wrote a poem about his experiences in The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account of His Fourteen Years Transportation, At Virginia, in America.

At last to my new master's house I came,
To the town of Wicowoco called by name,
Here my European cloaths were took from me,
Which never after I could see.

A canvas shirt and trowsers me they gave,

A hop-sack frock, in which I was a slave,
No shoes or stockings had I for to wear,
Nor hat, nor cap, my hands and feet went bare.

Thus dress'd unto the field I next did go,

Among tobacco plants all day to hoe.
At day break in the morn our work begun,
And lasted till the setting of the sun.

My fellow slaves were five transports more,

With eighteen negroes, which is twenty-four,
Besides four transport women in the house,
To wait upon his daughter and his spouse.

We and the negroes both alike did fare,

Of work and food we had an equal share;
And in a piece of ground that's call'd our own,
That we eat first by ourselves was sown.

No other time to us they will allow,

But on a Sunday we the same must do,
Six days we slave for our master's good,
The seventh is to produce our food.

And when our hard day's work is done,

Away unto the mill we must begone.
Till twelve or one o'clock a-grinding corn,
And must be up by day-light in the morn.


The above poem was Published in York, England in 1800, the full text of the book may be found at the site of the collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina and Duke University called Documenting the South.

To see Peter Hatch's full article go to the Twinleaf Journal.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Prayers for the success of the Dovecote 1829


BENEDICTION of The DOVE-COTE, COCK and HEN ROOST, and OTHER AVIARIES.

From The Protestant's Companion: A Collection of Presevatives Against Popery published by T Brettell, London. 1829

"Everlasting God! before whose view are all the angels, and by whose nod all things are governed, who also, in thy excellence, doth not cease to regard the meanest objects which are necessary for human frailty, and who givest food to all flesh, and fillest every living being with blessing; as supplicants we implore thee to shed thy benediction on this pigeon-house (or poultry, or keep of geese, ducks and drakes, &c.), that redounding to us, thy servants, by the agency of thy grace, the glory of thy majesty may be exalted."


Charles Chaplin (English artist, 1907–1987) A Beauty with Doves
 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Daily Care of the Dovecote 1802


The Domestic Encyclopaedia: or, A Dictionary of Facts, and Useful Knowledge by Anthony Florian Madinger Willich. London 1802


"PIGEON-HOUSE, or DoveCote: a structure usually of wood, for the accommodation and rearing of pigeons.

"Dove-cotes ought to be built of a moderate height, and spacious, so that the birds may find sufficient room to fly about them with ease; and, in case they spy an external object which should alarm them, that they can readily escape. In constructing the nests, it will he advisable to interweave wickers, in imitation of those formed by wild pigeons; as they will thus be more easily domesticated, and have no inducement to forsake their habitations.


Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French Rococo Era Painter, 1725-1805) Girl with Doves 1800


"Should any repairs become necessary in the cote...it will be proper to complete them before the middle of the day; because, if the pigeons be disturbed in the afternoon, they will not rest quietly during the night, and the greater pan will perhaps sit moping on the ground, till the ensuing day. Such unfavourable accidents, in the breeding season, will either occasion the destruction of ninny eggs in embryo; or, if there should be any nestlings, they will consequently be starved.

"In Parkinson's Experienced Farmer, we meet with a remark made by a skillful pigeon-breeder, who cautioned him "against letting the first-flight fly to increase his stock," but advised him to take them without exception; because they will otherwise appear at the Benting season, that is, between seed-time and harvest, when pigeons are very scarce, and many of the young birds would pine to death, from mere weakness.—Pigeons rise early: and, as they require to be supplied with food only during the benting season, it should not be carried to the cote later than three or four o'clock in the morning: for, if it be served after that hour, they will hover restlessly about the house, and thus be prevented from taking their proper exercise. During the greater part of the year, they ought to provide their own food; as they will find abundance in the fields, from the commencement of harvest to the end of the sowing season...those which are constantly fed at home, will not be prolific.

"The utmost cleanliness ought to prevail in pigeon-houses: hence the holes should be carefully examined, before the breeding-season arrives. If any of the young die during the summer, they will speedily become putrid, and emit a disagreeable stench, which is extremely injurious to the inhabitants of the dove-cote: thus, from the insupportable filth, and smell, they are often unwillingly compelled to quit the eggs laid for a second brood; so that the principal part of the season is lost.


Emile Munier (French Academic Painter, 1840-1895) Teasing the Doves 1895


"Farther, as pigeons are very liable to be infected with fleas, all the nests ought to be cleaned; and, if it be conveniently practicable, they should be washed out, and the dung, or oilier impurities removed, immediately after the first flight is hatched: this business, however, should, on all occasions, be performed at an early hour in the morning; and the remaining eggs must likewise be removed, so as to render the habitation perfectly clean for the harvest-flight.

"Thus managed, pigeons will thrive and multiply to an uncommon degree; but, as they have a great antipathy to owls, which, sometimes enter their habitations, such intruders must be immediately destroyed, rats, cats, weasels, and squirrels are likewise their mortal enemies, and will speedily depopulate a whole dove-cote. To prevent these depredations, it will be necessary to examine the different avenues to the pigeon-house, regularly once a week, or oftener, and with minute attention."
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Practical Structures - Dovecote, Pigeon-House, Culver-House


A dovecote is a practical, and often ornamental, building intended to house pigeons or doves. Dovecotes in America were also called pigeon-houses and culver houses. Doves were kept in early America for the same reasons they had been kept for centuries - for their eggs, their meat, and their dung used as fertilizer. Dovecotes in America usually were either rectangular or circular free-standing structures or built into the end or top of a house or barn, often containing pigeonholes, in which tasty doves would nest.

The term culver-house originated from the old English terms culfre or colver which had their origins in the Latin columba. In Rome, a dovecote was called a columbarium. In early English, Hus or haus meant house, and cote referred to a small building housing animals.


William Holman Hunt (English artist, 1827-1910) The Dovecote
 

In colonial and early America, dovecotes appeared from New England into the deep South, although they are more often mentioned from the Mid-Atlantic region southward.


A plantation-for- sale ad in the June 5, 1736, South Carolina Gazette in Charleston, South Carolina, noted, "To be Sold A Plantation containing 200 Acres...a dove-house with nests for 50 pair of pigeons." A plantation-for-rent ad in the same paper in January of 1740 mentioned, "a Dairy, Dovecoat, Stable, Barn," in a list of outbuildings.


The 1777 Pennsylvania Gazetter advertised, "A large commodious Brick House, with two acres of good land, situated on the pleasant banks of Schuykill, commonly called Vauxhall 45 feet in front, 34 feet deep...yard large enclosed...pigeon house."


Moreau de St Mery noted in his 1793-1798 American Journey on May, 1794, that, "There are many dove-cotes in Baltimore, as well as little houses made to shelter swallows, due to the belief that their attachment for a house will bring prosperity to those who live there." Baltimore visitor Richard Parkinson also wrote of dovecotes in his Travels in America in 1798.


During the same period, William Faris noted in his Annapolis diary on March 21, 1798 that “the Pigeon House Blew Down, it was Built in the year 1777.”


John Beale Bordley wrote in his Gleanings from the Most Celebrated Books on Husbandry, Gardening, and Rural Affairs published in Philadelphia in 1803, of the culver, Pigeon or Dove: a Culver House.

As the 19th-century progressed, artist Charles Willson Peale mentioned squabs from his Pennsylvania "Pidgeon House" in 1814. Marylander Martha Ogle Forman also wrote in her diary of her Pigeon House in 1819 and 1823 at her home at Rose Hill.


As late as 1887, R. S. Ferguson wrote in the June Archeological Journal of "an almost forgotten pigeon house or culver house."


The Wentworth-Gardner Outbuilding with Dove-Cote. Portsmouth, New Hampshire


The Romans may have introduced dovecotes or columbaria to Britain, since pigeon holes have been found in Roman ruins at Caerwent. However it is generally believed that doves were not commonly kept there until after the Norman invasion. The earliest known examples of dove-keeping occur in Norman castles of the 12th century (for example, at Rochester Castle, Kent, where nest-holes can be seen in the keep).




Documentary references to dovecotes in England also begin in the 12th century, when a coluerhouse" is mentioned. The term appears again in 1420, as a "colverhous."  J. Harmar writes in his 1624 Beza's Sermon that the "poor culverhouse sorer shaken." Izaak Walton mentioned a dove-cote in his 1653 Compleat Angler. By 1669, John Webb reported that in the north of England, a dove house was called a dove-cote and in the south of England it was referred to as a pigeon-house. Nathan Bailey wrote in his Dictionarium Rusicum "old Word for a Pigeon of Dove, and theance Culver-House." By 1735, The Sportsman's Dictionary from London, reported the term 
Cluver House.



The oldest known dovecotes are the fortified dovecotes of Upper Egypt, and the domed dovecotes of Iran. In arid regions, the droppings were in great demand as fertilizer. In Medieval Europe, the possession of a dovecote was a symbol of status and power and was regulated by law. Only nobles had this special privilege which was often referred to as droit de colombier. This property right lasted until the 18th-century in England.




Dovecotes were built by the Romans, who knew them as Columbaria. They seem to have introduced them to Gaul. The presence of dovecotes is not noted in France, before the Roman invasion of Gaul by Caesar. The pigeon farm was, by then, a passion in Rome. The Roman columbarium , generally round, often had its interior covered with a white coating of marble powder. Varro, Columella, and Pliny the Elder wrote works on pigeon farms and dovecote construction.




To ensure the safety of their edible doves, owners tried to locate their dovecotes away from large trees, which might house raptors, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, and shielded their dove houses from prevailing winds. Owners usually constructed their dovecotes with tight access doors and smooth walls with a protruding band of stones (or other smooth surface) to prohibit the entry of climbing predators such as rats, cats, and squirrels. The exterior facade was sometimes coated by a horizontal band, in order to prevent their ascent. In colonial America, Landon Carter wrote in 1764 that, "Colo. Tayloe's Ralph (was) sent back here to cut my dishing capstones for my Pigeonhouse posts to keep down the rats."
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Dovecote at Shirley Plantation in Virginia


Dovecotes can be extremely diverse in construction materials, shape, and dimension. The square dovecote with quadruple vaulting was built before the 15th century such as the examples at Roquetaillade Castle in Bordeaux or Saint-Trojan near Cognac. The cylindrical tower appeared between the 14-16th centuries covered with curved tiles, flat tiles, stone roofing, and an occasional dome of bricks. The dovecote sitting on brick, stone, or wooden pillars, either cylindrical, hexagonal, rectangular, or square in form was common in early America. Some pigeonholes were built-in as a part of a house or barn or other outbuilding,  or they were attached as a lean-to dovecote structure against the sides of buildings. The interior of a dovecote might contain pigeonholes large enough for a pair of doves. Usually a ladder was located in the interior of large dovecotes for the collection of eggs or squabs and for maintenance.


Dovecote in Williamsburg, Virginia Photo by Karen Stuart of the Library of Congress

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cooking the Birds in the Dovecote - Warning - Cock-birds...are quarrelsome


The American Domestic Cookery by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell New York 1814

"Pigeons: Bring two young ones at a time: and breed every month, if well looked after, and plentifully fed. They should be kept very clean, and the bottom of the dovecote be strewed with sand once a month at least. Tares and white peas are their proper food. They should have plenty of fresh water in their house, Starlings and other birds are apt to come among them, and suck the eggs. Vermin likewise are their great enemies, and destroy them. If the breed should be too small, put a few tame pigeons of the common kind, and of their own colour, among them. Observe not to have too large a proportion of cock-birds: for they are quarrelsome, and will soon thin the dove-cote.

"Pigeons are fond of salt, and it keeps them in health. Lay a large heap of clay near the house, and let the salt-brine that may be done with in the family be poured upon it.

"Bay salt and cummin seeds mixed, is a universal remedy for the diseases of pigeons. The back and breasts are sometimes scabby: in which case, take a quarter of a pound of bay salt, and as much common salt, a pound of fennel seeds, a pound of dill seed, as much cummin seed, and an ounce of sassafras; mix all with a little, wheaten flour, and some fine worked clay; when all are well beaten together, put it into two earthen pots, and bake them in the oven, when cold put them on the table in the dove-cote; the pigeons will eat it, and thus be cured."


Charles Spencelayh (British genre painter, 1865-1958) The Pet Dove

Friday, March 8, 2013

John Tradescant the Elder and his son John collect plants


John Tradescant the elder (c 1570-1632) (portrait attributed to Cornelis de Neve)

John Tradescant (c 1570-1632) & his son, also named John (1608-1662), became gardeners to the nobility & royalty of England. Both traveled widely collecting botanical specimens & other rarities.

Perhaps John Tradescant the Elder, (c 1570-1632) naturalist & gardener, with his 3rd wife, Elizabeth Day

John Tradescant, the elder (d. 1638), was probably born in England, perhaps in the 1570s. He seems to have had family connections in East Anglia. English researchers record possible candidates for his parents at Corton, while his son John Tradescant (1608-1662) left legacies to "namesakes" (described by his wife as "kinsmen") at Walberswick. Both of these villages are on the Suffolk coast.

The Apricooke_ (that is booth Long and greet)

The earliest record of Tradescant's life is his marriage in 1607, at Meopham in Kent, to Elizabeth Day, daughter of the late vicar of the parish.  As Tradescant began collecting plants, John Parkinson & John Gerard became his close friends.  

the great French stra(w)bere

Tradescant's 1609 employer was Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury, at Hatfield House. In 1611, at Salisbury's behest, Tradescant traveled through the Low Countries & Flanders to Paris, buying trees, flowering shrubs, vines, & bulbs for the gardens at Hatfield. Following the death Robert Cecil in 1612, Tradescant remained in the employment of the 2nd earl, on whose behalf he again visited France. Tradescant left Hatfield in 1614, to farm for himself & to work with Edward, 1st Baron Wotton, at the former monastery of St Augustine at Canterbury.

The grene pescod plum

At Canterbury, his success in growing melons, mandrakes, & other exotics attracted admiring comments from Sir Henry Mainwaring & others. Tradescant accompanied a delegation to Tsar Michael Feodorovich, led by Sir Dudley Digges. Tradescant's diary of this "Viag of Ambusad" survives among the Ashmole manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. While the ambassadorial party set off for the imperial court, he spent 3 weeks doing fieldwork noting the characteristics of plants & other wildlife—the first such investigations recorded on Russian soil—& gathering specimens for shipment back to England. Parkinson (Paradisi, 346; Theatrum, 705) identifies white hellebores, purple cranesbill, & other plants among those brought to England on that occasion by "that worthy, curious & diligent searcher & preserver of all natures rarities & varieties, my very good friend, John Tradescante."

The grete -Early- yollow peech

Tradescant accompanied the English fleet sent in 1620–21, to quell the Barbary pirates who were proving an increasing hazard to English shipping. He collected specimens as he could on land, when circumstances permitted. Parkinson reported that Tradescant had collected on this trip the wild pomegranate "was never seene in England, before John Tradescante … brought it from parts beyond the Seas, & planted it in his Lords Garden at Canterbury."

The grete Roman Hasell Nut

In 1623, Tradescant entered the service of George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, for whom he again visited the Low Countries & Flanders, buying trees & other plants. A 1625 letter written by Tradescant in Buckingham's name & addressed to Edward Nicholas, then secretary to the navy, asks sea captains, ambassadors, & overseas merchants to furnish the duke with all manner of natural & artificial curiosities. In 1625, when the duke was sent to France to provide an escort for Charles I's bride, Henrietta Maria, on her introductory journey to England, Tradescant followed in his wake with "my Lords stuff & Trunkes &c" taking the opportunity to acquire further specimens for the duke's gardens at New Hall in Essex. In 1627, he accompanied the duke again to France, when Buckingham attempted to bring relief to the besieged protestants of La Rochelle, where Buckingham's army was decimated on the Île de Ré.

The Imperyall plum

Following Buckingham's assassination in 1628, the elder Tradescant moved to South Lambeth in Surrey, where he would live for the rest of his life. Propagating unknown plants & procuring rarities grew to dominate his life.

1648 attr Thomas de Critz (British artist, 1607-1653) John Tradescant the Younger (1608–1662) as a Gardener

In Lambeth, Tradescant would plant the specimines he was collecting, establish a public museum, & raise his family, including his plant collecting son, John the younger.


An Early ripe Apple and good in taste

The younger Tradescant was fascinated by the idea of Virginia & collecting in the New World.  Tradescant the elder gave money so that in 1609, Captain Samuel Angall could find the best route to Virginia.

1652 attr Thomas de Critz (British artist, 1607-1653) John Tradescant the Younger (1608–1662) 1648-52

It is speculated that John Tradescant the younger went along on the trip & sent plants back. One plant sent back was Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana).  By 1616, he was a shareholder in the Virginia Company & paid for the transport of 24 settlers to the Virginia Colony.  This would have entitled him to buy 1,200 acres in Virginia.

The May Cherry

 John Tradescant names 40 North American plants in his garden-list of 1634. Tradescant is credited with being the first to grow the Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Aquilegia canadensis, Aster tradescantii, Rudbeckia laciniata, Tradescantia virginica, &, possibly Robinia pseudo-acacia. Lemmon (1968:5) says that the Tradescants brought back the first lilac, gladioli, lupins, the pomegranate, the hypericum & many crocuses.


The whighte peech

Among them was the plant with which his name is most closely linked, Tradescantia virginiana, of which Parkinson wrote, "This Spider-Wort is of late knowledge, & for it the Christian world is indebted unto that painfull industrious searcher, & lover of all natures varieties, John Tradescant … who first received it of a friend, that brought it out of Virginia." (Parkinson, Paradisi, 152) 


1650s attr Thomas de Critz (British artist, 1607-1653) John Tradescant the Younger (1608–1662) with Roger Friend and a Collection of Exotic Shells

By 1634, Tradescant's own plant collection was large enough for a visitor Peter Mundy to report spending "a whole day in peruseing, & that superficially, such as hee had gathered together" (R. C. Temple, ed. The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe & Asia, 1608–1667, Hakluyt Society, ser. 2, vols. 45–6, 1919, 1–3). A description of the collection from 1638, includes the earliest mention of its most famous surviving treasure, "the robe of the King of Virginia, better known as "Powhatan's Mantle."

The Mussule plum

In 1630, he was chosen by the king as "Keeper of our gardens, Vines & Silke-wormes" at Oatlands Palace near Weybridge in Surrey, where he reportedly helped lay out a new bowling green & build a shelter for 200 orange trees. It was later destroyed by Cromwell. The Tradescants continued to amass collections of ornamental flowers & trees, most notably fruit trees, publishing a catalogue in 1634. A year before the elder Tradescant died, he was appointed custodian of the Oxford Physic Garden in 1637.

The Nuingetonn peeche

John Tradescant the younger (1608-1662) sailed to Virginia between 1628-1637, to collect plants. He settled around the area of Yorktown & Belfield, Virginia. Tradescant brought back more than 90 new plants. Among specimens the younger John brought back to their gardens at South Lambeth were American trees, like the Magnolia, Bald Cypress, & Tulip tree, plus garden flowering plants such phlox & asters. In addition to the more than 700 species of plants growing in the garden & orchard, the house itself (known as Tradescant's Ark) was a cabinet of curiosities, where father & son displayed novel items they had collected during their travels. To the original botanical collections, the Tradescants added sea shells; fossils; crystals; birds; fishes; snakes; insects; gems & coins; poisoned arrows; Henry VIII’s hawking bag & spurs; & the hand of a mermaid.


The whight Date

In 1656, John the younger published a catalogue called "Musaeum Tradescantianum" which recorded in detail the contents of the house & garden. In this 1656 catalogue, John Tradescant listed  30 or 40 more American species.  They included the red maple, the tulip tree, the swamp cypress & the occidental plane; the vines Vitis labrusca & V. vulpina; Adiantum pedatum, Anaphallis margaritacea, Lonicera sempervirens, Smilacina racemosa & Yucca filamentosa.

The portingegale Quince

The younger Tradescant bequeathed his library & museum (or some say it was swindled from him-another story) to Elias Ashmole (1617–1692). These collections were to become the core of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where the Tradescant collections remain largely intact. The collection includes these 1611-1630 fruit sketches probably made by the elder Tradescant.

The quene mother plum

Tradescant Road, off South Lambeth Road in Vauxhall, marks the former boundary of the Tradescant estate which included the botanic gardens & museum. Tradescant the elder was buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth, as was his son. Part of the church is now established as the Museum of Garden History.

The Red pescod plum