I started studying garden history, when brilliant manuscripts librarian Karen Stuart told me I ought to read the journal of William Faris' diary at the Maryland Historical Society. She said it was full of gardening references. And she was right! Even though he seldom spelled a word the same way twice, he kept a diary, filled with his gardening triumphs and failures, for the last 12 years of his life-704 pages between 1792 and 1804.
William Faris was not a gentleman gardener by any stretch of the imagination. Faris, the son of a London clockmaker, was brought to Philadelphia in 1728, at the age of 6 months by his recently widowed mother and; apprenticed to a clockmaker at an early age. When he was 19, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where he scrambled all his life to make a respectable living.
William Faris's 1st Advertisement in the March 17, 1757, Maryland Gazette of Annapolis.
In Maryland's capital Annapolis, he designed silver teapots and; spoons; struggled to build a pianoforte; assembled tiny watches and towering tall clocks; kept an inn and tavern; pulled neighbors’ teeth (and hung them on a string by his workbench); and annually contracted to wind the clocks at the state capitol and in the homes of neighboring gentry.
Silver Sauceboat attributed to William Faris. Baltimore Museum of Art.
In whatever spare time he could find, William Faris gardened and talked about gardening with his clients, neighbors, family, and the servants and slaves he hired to help him with his garden chores. He would sprinkle a little local gossip in with tales of tulips and artichokes.
Of course, the craftsman used his garden to grow food for his wife, 6 children, and inn patrons; but surprisingly he also designed intricate flower beds, near the front of his lot, where his neighbors could admire them.
William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.
The grand terraced falling gardens of Chesapeake gentry and merchants are easier to learn about than the smaller town gardens of craftsmen, traders, and shopkeepers, whose numbers were growing during the later half of the 18th-century. William Faris’s invaluable journal offers a rare opportunity to reconstruct the town garden of an early American artisan.
1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). State House at Annapolis, Maryland.
Annapolis was designed as a stage for the social and political affairs of the province of Maryland. During the second half of the century, Chesapeake gardeners, gentry and artisans alike, designed the grounds surrounding their homes as their personal stages, on which they presented themselves to those passing by.
William Faris’s house sat on one of the streets radiating out of the Church Circle, only a few hundred feet from the church. In the spring of 1804, Faris’s private Eden sat behind a freshly painted, bright red wodden gate at the front entrance to his grounds.
Eighteenth-century Maryland gateways, smaller and simpler than their European precedents, were still intended to limit access to their owner’s property. They also marked changes in personal roles, as people crossed from one side to the other.
Outside his garden gate, craftsman William Faris was a tired 75-year-old silversmith and clockmaker, with thinning hair pulled back into a queue and covered with a familiar frayed hat, who gossiped too much and drank ardent spirits too freely.
18C English Woodcut
But on the other side of his bright red gate, the old man blossomed. Here was the world he had mastered for over 40 years. The red gate opened in a recently build stone wall that stretched 75 feet from the side of Faris’s house to his neighbor’s property line and ran along the edge of the town’s busiest trade street.
The craftsman’s 36-foot-wide combination home, inn, and shop, “At the Sigh of the Crown and Dial,” sat directly on West Street. Like many other narrow Chesapeake town gardens, Faris’s began in a side lot and widened as it stretched to the rear of the property. The adjoining new stonework wall across the front replaced an old wooden picket fence.
Behind the wall and its new gate, the clockmaker’s grounds were enclosed by picket fences and ran back 366 feet to a sleepy rear street, where the lot widened to 200 feet.
Wooden fences surrounded most 18-century Maryland gardens, which were usually described in local newspaper property-for-sale ads as “well paled in.” Chesapeake picket fences were almost invariably painted white but were of differing designs.
Interlopers and Thieves
Faris and his neighbors felt that fences of one sort or another were an absolute necessity, to discourage uninvited human and animal visitors as well as to demarcate their property boundaries. Chesapeake gardeners could either buy their fences posts from local suppliers of employ “a couple of stout hands in mauling fence logs.”
Faris’s neighbors Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-83) and his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) used their slaves to produce garden pales. Fancy wooden paling constructed emulating Chinese designs was advertised for sale in the Chesapeake region by the late 1760s. Variety of design became important as many town governments demanded that every homeowner enclose his land.
In the colonies, garden interlopers were not searching for game or timber, as in Britain; they were looking for the fruits of the gardener’s labor or were simply accidental tourists. Livestock occasionally roamed the streets in early American towns, and tender garden plants did not stand a chance under their feet. Human garden intrusion was usually more focused.
One night in 1792, Faris startled a thief in his garden and recorded that his subsequent flight “broke off the top of one of the pales.” But the incident that really angered him was when a thief stole into his garden one dark night in 1803 to steal a dozen of his most prized possessions--his tulips.
Tulips were the old man’s obsession. At the height of their blooming, Faris would find himself engulfed in a flood of color. This artisan and innkeeper grew thousands of tulips each year; he counted 2339 in the spring of 1804.
Tulips were not the only bulb flower that caught his fancy; in 1798, he planted 4000 narcissus bulbs, bought from a neighbor. This tireless gardener’s greatest pleasure was creating new varieties of tulips in nursery beds at the back of his property, where he also hybridized roses.
Faris saw his tulips as symbols of the new nation as well as reflections of classical republican ideals. On the eve on July 4, 1801, exactly 25 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Faris listed in his journal his tulip varieties by name. Namesakes included Presidents Washington and Madison and classical heroes such as Cincinnatus.
Never one to let an financial opportunity pass him by, Faris gardened for the money as well as love. Each spring he invited his neighbors to view his tulips at the height of their glory. Admiring visitors would mark varieties that caught their eye with sticks notched with a personal code.
When his precious tulips died back in June, Faris would dig up the bulbs near the notched sticks, and the admirers would return to buy them to replant on their grounds in the fall. The craftsman made sure he had plenty to spare.
The ornamental garden beds the craftsman designed in the 1760s were akin in design, if not grandeur, to the more elegant geometric gardens that Chesapeake gentry were busy building about the same time. After he bought and enlarged his combination house and business, Faris hired an English indentured servant gardener, in 1765, to help him install the basic design of his gardens.
Just as in the gardens of most Chesapeake gentry, straight paths and walkways formed the skeleton of his garden. Faris’s grounds were divided by both grass and composition walks separating boxwood-lined beds; such paths were essential for walking, maintaining the garden beds year-round, and defining the garden design.
Designs for most Chesapeake gardens of the period appeared to strive for uniformity in every part; exact levels, straight lines, parallels, squares, circles, and other geometrical figures were used to effect symmetry and proportion. Straight walks were everywhere, arranged parallel and crossing one another at regular intersections, as they connected spaces and led from scene to scene.
Faris planned small geometric beds on his compact town property, where economy of scale was essential. These beds were planted with low-growing vegetables and brightly flowering plants within the boxwood borders that outlined and decorated the space even after the flower season was past.
Faris kept the walkways that divided his garden beds in immaculate condition. This required constant maintenance.
18C English Woodcut
Faris’s female slave, who was his regular gardening companion, was busy each spring and fall sweeping and raking the composition garden walks, which were some combination of gravel, crushed oyster shells, and pulverized brick. Whenever he could round them up, his children helped as well.
Even old Faris himself, who often experienced crippling pain in his hips, spent days bending down to clean his gardens and walkways of stones, extraneous shells, weeds, and falling petals.
Faris also criss-crossed his grounds with grass paths, lined with boxwood, that would be pleasant and cool to the feet; but his more practical hard, slightly convex composition walkways allowed for quick water drainage and drier walking in wet weather. He paved the walks to the privy, which had to be used regardless of weather, with stones and crushed shells.
Within the boxwood-lined spaces formed by the intersecting composition and grass walks, Faris planted all of his flower beds and some of his vegetable patches year after year. Using boxwood as edging for garden beds had become popular in the 16th century.
Faris used boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) for more that year-round definition of garden beds. Box edging gave protection to seedlings and to newly picked-from greens expected to produce more leaves for later rounds of harvesting.
Faris and his garden helpers devoted days each spring to cutting the boxwood on his grounds. They were not just trimming the new green growth; they were also cutting the roots of each boxwood on the garden side as close to the plant as possible, so that the shallow roots would not rob the soil within the beds of their nutrients and moisture necessary for the other plants in the garden.
Faris planned his grounds; so that from the front of his property, observers would see only the pleasure garden areas of his grounds which was dominated by geometric beds annually planted with flowers in the Dutch tradition. The beds were all bordered by grass walkways, adjoining property lines, or by one of the rectangular out-buildings on he property.
The William Faris Garden Drawn by Susan Worth, MLA.
He filled the boxwood-lined rectangular beds on each side of the main grass walks with tuberoses, tulips, anemones, Chinese asters, crown imperials, globe amaranthus, and larkspur.
The long composition walkway leading to the “necessary,” which guests and family would constantly need to walk, was flanked by boxwood-lined rectangular beds starring carefully trimmed holly trees surrounded by a supporting cast of tuberoses, white roses, India pinks, Chinese asters, tulips, hyacinths, and jonquils. Faris and his helpers collected his holly trees from nearby woods and kept them trimmed in the shape of sugar cones or loaves.
Still Life with Sugar Loaf. Unknown artist. 1720
A narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular flower border next to the picket fence running along an adjacent lot featured Job’s tears, satin flowers, India pinks, snapdragons, tulips, and flowering beans that climbed the fence posts blooming as it trailed along the wooden rails.
Faris planted one of his several experimental nursery beds in the half of the garden nearer the house. There he grew the flowers to supply his various pleasure beds, propagated vast varieties of tulips and perennials, and heeled-in the boxwood cuttings he used to outline his garden beds.
Not all of the craftsman’s flower bes were rectangular in shape. The area behind the house was dominated by a walnut tree. Nestled around its base was a circular bed divided into boxwood-lined quarters filled with tulips and bleeding hearts in May, followed by a succession of bright perennials throughout the summer months.
Not far from the walnut tree, Faris planted a corresponding quartered circular bed also outlined with boxwood. The colorful circle overflowed with a profusion of polyanthus, tuberoses, wall flowers, India pinks, Chinese asters, hyacinths, jonquils, and tulips. In fact, wherever Faris planted flower beds, he included tulips. Sometimes, he even squeezed an errant tulip or two into his vegetable beds.
Usually though, he separated his utility gardens from his ornamental areas, subscribing to the advice that English garden writer William Lawson offered in his New Orchard and Garden in 1618 “Garden flowers shall suffer some disgrace, if among them you intermingle Onions, Parsnips, andc.” The practical craftsman devoted the majority of his land to growing vegetables and fruits.
Faris’s occasional Annapolis neighbor, John Beale Bordley, gave growers advice on the kitchen garden, which he said should be an acre and a half for a small family like Faris’s and four to five acres for a large one.
Bordley also allowed that the kitchen garden should be exposed to the sun, not overshadowed with trees or buildings. He explained that the “soil should be of a pliable nature and east to work; but by no means wet; and two feed, at least, deep.” Bordley advised that the kitchen garden should sit as “near the stables as possible, for the convenience of carrying dung.”
18C English Woodcut
Walking toward the rear of Faris’s property, the first boxwood-bordered utilitarian area was a vegetable bed along the left boundary. Then one would encounter a small rectangular plot Faris planted with vegetables every year, one of two called “little quarter,” flanking the stables. There Faris grew unobtrusive vegetables and herbs that did not need much room to grow, including cabbages, carrots, peas, onions, thyme, spinach, curled savory, and several varieties of beans.
Herbs and Vegetables
Although Faris almost always segregated his flower beds from his vegetable plots, he did not separate herbs from vegetables. In one of the “little quarters,” Faris planted cabbages, asparagus, parsley, and Job’s tears
After he built his new stable, he added an additional narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular bed, where he grew smaller plants such as radishes, lettuce, nutmeg, and cherry peppers. On a border at the end of his new stable, which was visible from the main walkway leading to the rear of the lot, Faris occasionally grew a combination of flowers and vegetables: marigolds, lily of the valley, asters, balsam, anemones, and globe amaranthus nestled among bunch beans, spinach, radishes, and cherry tree seeds.
Not far from the new stable, the innkeeper maintained another boxwood-lined rectangular vegetable patch dubbed “the walnut tree bed,” where he grew beans, brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, corn, and radishes. Faris diligently tended two separate asparagus plots near the back street, where he nudged a few more lettuce, cabbage, and spinach plants in between the tender green springtime shoots.
A great portion of the vegetables Faris fed his family and guests came from a larger vegetable plot, which he called simply “the garden” or the “big bed.” Faris outlined even this large rectangular vegetable garden with exact rows of sage and rosemary, which he kept trimmed and orderly. The “big bed” lay close to the stables and the smokehouse at the rear of the property. There Faris planted peas, parsnips, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, beans, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, and watermelon.
The craftsman devoted the largest space at the rear of his grounds solely to kitchen gardening. He referred to this particular areas as “the outer lot” of “the lot.” Spreading plants like squash, musk melons, cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupes grew there.
Faris occasionally scattered early crops of cabbages, carrots, greens, parsnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, and kale among the maturing vines; but he usually grew his compact vegetables in smaller patches, such as the narrow bed that ran down one side of his fenced property line, where he planted slender rows of small vegetables, including cabbages, lettuce, onions, brussels sprouts, spinach and peas.
Faris used the picket fence along the back of his grounds to help define a set of four rectangular nursery beds for rearing fledgling tulips and boxwood cuttings. Even these nursery compartments he outlined with neatly trimmed ivy borders and boxwood.
Near his bee house, Faris planted additional rows of peas, beans, cabbage, kale, parsley, and cherry peppers. Not one to let any space go to waste, he squeezed a few more radishes, lettuce, cabbages, and parsnips into a narrow rectangular space under the streetside window of his public dining room.
Atune to the times, in 1799 Faris added a wooden porch and steps to the back of his house, overlooking the garden area.
The Carrolls had added an elegant porch with stone columns to their Annapolis home when they remodeled their gardens in the 1770s, and many Baltimoreans and
Philadelphians were also building porches or piazzas onto their homes during this period. The addition of piazzas to Chesapeake homes in the last quarter of the 18th-century coincided with the expansion of leisure time and the development of ornamental gardens.
The simple geometric garden designs of the period were seen to best advantage from a higher level, such as an upper terrace, second-story windows, or a porch. These prospects also allowed the homeowner and his guests a better vantage point from which to survey both the gardener’s efforts at ordering nature around him and the surrounding countryside beyond.
Craftsman's Well and Irrigation
Near the porch stood the well, which supplied water for the family’s and their guests’ personal consumption and for garden irrigation. Eighteenth-century Chesapeake wells were often walled with stone and sometimes were dug to a depth of 35 feet or more, so that there would always be 4 to 5 feet of good water standing in them. The water was retrieved using bucket and pulley.
Detail of 17th-Century Woodcut of Water Table Irrigation System
Faris used the ancient irrigation technique of regularly flooding carefully constructed dirt channels that ran throughout his garden, which he called “water tables.”
One of these irrigation paths led past an arbor. Faris planted flowering beans “round the Arber,” which probably had an open-work roof to support ornamental flowering vines and defined a focal point in the garden.
It may have enclosed a space for a simple bench or a more elaborate garden seat, although Faris did not write of such a seat. During the early 1790s, garden seats were being advertised for sale in nearby Baltimore, “made to particular directions.”
For a while, a dovecote sat near Faris’s arbor. In the Chesapeake, dovecotes were also called Culver-houses, and until 1798, Faris’s grounds boasted just such a nesting place. But in March of 1798, he noted in his diary, “the Pigeon House Blew Down, it was Built in the year 1777.”
Reproduced Dovecote at Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo by Karen Stuart.
Faris’s Culver-house was constructed as a matter of economic convenience rather than strictly as a garden ornament. He raised pigeons for consumption by his family and the patrons of his tavern. Unlike other domestic fowl, pigeons needed no confinement, because they were home-loving birds, seldom straying far from their dovecotes.
Faris’s pigeon house was constructed of wood and mounted on wooden posts, although more complicated colonial dovecotes existed, like the circular brick and stucco dovecote (reminiscent of the early Roman columbaria) at Tryon Palace in North Carolina.
One English visitor wrote of the less elegant dovecotes he observed in the Chesapeake at the end of the century, ”There are some pigeons, chiefly in boxes, by the sides of houses.”
After pigeon consumption was no longer an essential element of the craftsman's table or of the larger Chesapeake economy, dovecotes survived largely as garden embellishments, providing the gardener and his guests both visual and aural pleasure.
One traditional garden component on Faris’s grounds was the result of a gift he received in the spring of 1793, when a neighbor “Made Me a present of Hive of Bees.”
By the next winter, Faris had built a shelter for the hive, putting “the frame of the bee house together.” Faris’s bee house was a painted pine box that may have been self-contained or may have served as a shelter for the more traditional but perishable strap skep; because only two years after the wooden box, Faris “drove the Bees out of the Old Hive into a nother hive and took the honey, the Hive was Rotten and Ready to tumble to peaces.”
But a visitor to Maryland during the same period noted, “Honey-bees are kept in America with equal success as in England. . . I never saw a hive made of straw.” Bees had long been garden residents and were considered decorative as well as practical.
18C English Woodcut
In 1618 William Lawson wrote in New Orchard and Garden, “There remaineth one necessary thing. . . Which in mine Opinion makes as much for Ornament, as either flowers, or forme, or cleanness. . . which is Bees, well ordered.”
The ever-practical craftsman, Faris knew that bees served him well as both pollinators of plants and producers of wax and honey and were worth the trouble of keeping them “well ordered.”
A few years earlier Faris’s garden had sported another traditional functional garden component, a rabbit warren. Even though the rabbits graced his family’s table for many years, he in time dispensed with keeping them.
In 1792 he noted his intention to remove “the fence from the Rabbit yard and . . . Take up the Bricks.” The rabbits’ place on the grounds was eventually usurped by an additional vegetable plot.
18C English Woodcut
Faris may have found raising rabbits to be less cost effective than raising product, for one English visitor to the Chesapeake was skeptical of the possible success of raising rabbits for food or profit in Chesapeake gardens: ”Mr. Smith had got some imported rabbits. . .from England, with an intention to make a warren; but this will not answer in any part to America that I have seen. . . .First, there is no sod to make banks; therefore the fence must be all paled to keep them in, which is an enormous expense. Secondly. . .the winter is so severe they would not pay for the food the would eat.”
The most surprising item in the practical craftsman’s garden was a purely ornamental embellishment, a statue. Classical statues reminiscent of gardens in the Italian Renaissance dotted the grounds of wealthier Marylanders during the period. One of the Revolutionary War heroes to whom Faris had dedicated a tulip was Colonel John Eager Howard, whose Baltimore home was renowned for the statues that graced its gardens.
Faris’s grounds contained a practical structure he politely referred to as the “temple” in his garden. While some Chesapeake gardens may have had miniature versions of temples built on their pleasure grounds, Faris’s temple was his “necessary,” which he also nicknamed the “little house” and around which he consistently planted flowers in rectangular beds carefully bordered by boxwood.
As concern for basic survival in the British American colonies decreased, concern for propriety increased. One Maryland acquaintance of Faris wrote, “Many instances there are of a scandalous neglect of decency, even in opulent farmers, in their not building a single necessary. . .such ought tob e provided wherever there is habitation, be the family many or few, rich or poor.” Early Americans determined the placement of the privy by some compromise between convenience and the senses.
A German traveler souring the Chesapeake in 1783 noted that behind most town dwellings in America “is a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained.”
A strictly utilitarian shed, 16 by 20 feet, sat near the family privy. In it Faris stored his simple gardening tools, which included a spade, trowel, hoe, and rake.
Hollyhocks by the Stable
The outbuildings of town homes in the 18th-century Chesapeake often bordered and helped define the garden. Stables were usually the farthest removed outbuilding from the house. A red-and-white milk cow was the only permanent resident of Faris’s stables during the 1790s, but they served as temporary home to the horses of guests at the inn. Several of Faris’s neighbors had “chaise houses” separate from their horse stables, to contain their carriages. Not one to miss an opportunity, Faris planted a few tall holyhocks, Alcea rosea, near his stable in 1801.
Faris planted most of his kitchen garden beds and some flowers near his stables, as contemporary Chesapeake garden writhers advised. Dung was the fertilizer of choice in the 18th-century. Faris consistently used dung from his own stables and employed neighborhood haulers to bring extra cartloads of “tan” to his garden throughout the growing season.
18C English Woodcut
Farmers in the Chesapeake countryside sometimes dug fenced dung pits near their “cow houses” to systematically collect future garden fertilizer.
Craftsman's Hog Pen
Also producing dung were the pigs Faris raised in a hog pen on the rear of his grounds, near his peach tree. Faris cooked his peach-flavored pork as it was killed and also smoked it.
From the beginning of the 18th-century, travelers throughout the Chesapeake reported, colonists in the region intentionally fed peaches to their pigs to produce a sweeter-flavored meat. On October 3, 1777, British soldier Thomas Hughes reported that “at this time fruit is in such plenty that their hogs are fed on apples, peaches and chestnuts.”
18C English Woodcut
One of the gentlemen who bought flower bulbs from William Faris, Captain John O’Donnell (1749-1805), settled in Baltimore, naming his country seat after his favorite port of call, Canton. An account of Canton given by a visitor noted that O’Donnell had planted orchards of red peaches on his 2500-acre estate in hopes of manufacturing brandy for trade but had met with limited financial success. “for although Mr. O’Donnell’s orchard had come to bear in great perfection and he had stills and the other necessary apparatus, the profit proved so small that he suffered the whole to go to waste and his pigs to consume the product.”
18C English Woodcut
In addition to pigs and peaches, the rear of Faris’s lot also contained his smokehouse, which was surrounded by plum, pear, mulberry, cherry, almond and apple trees. Grape vines grew in one corner, near the vegetable beds. Currant and gooseberry bushes dotted the back lot as well.
Faris used his one-story brick smokehouse (12 by 10 feet) to smoke both pigs and fish. Smoking dehydrated the meat, added a desirable taste of wood smoke to the final product, and allowed the fish and pork to be kept longer.
One traveler through Maryland in the 1790’s wrote, “The greater number of people in America live on salt fish and smoked bacon: and the reason why they smoke their bacon and fish, is, that there are many sorts of reptiles that would absolutely destroy it, were it not for the smoke.”
Even though economy of space demanded that Faris use his grounds in a practical way, he took pride in decorating special focal points in his garden with several kinds of moveable plant containers. His favorites were earthenware pots. He regularly refilled all of his plant containers with “new dirt.”
Faris singled out the plants he considered rare to put in pots around his grounds, annually potting Jerusalem cherry trees, ice plants, egg plants, and sensitive plants, as did Thomas Jefferson. Faris also regularly displayed mignonette, tuberose, asters, anemones, polyanthus, rosemary, hyacinths, chrysanthemums, and his favorite tulips in containers.
18C English Woodcut
He used the pots to store his fragile plants away from the Annapolis winters, dutifully recording in his diary each year, “I moved the Potts into the seller for the Winter.” Sometimes he euphemistically referred to his cellar as “the greenhouse.”
Faris had no greenhouse; but his Annapolis neighbor Dr. Upton Scott (1724-1814) did, and the two men exchanged hundreds of plants. A contemporary wrote of Scott, “He is fond of botany and has a number of rare plants and shrubs in his greenhouse and garden.”
Faris’s gardens also sported large flower-filled wooden half-barrels, which dotted the grounds. He called these unpainted containers “casks” and artfully planted them with ice plants, egg plants, Jerusalem cherries, tulips, wallflowers, India pinks, and tuberose. Faris made no attempt to move his casks indoors for the winter season but did regularly change the earth in the containers. It is likely that these casks were old shipping barrels from the Annapolis docks.
The more mundane plants Faris raised in simple rectangular wooden boxes. These were strictly utilitarian containers, not the more ornamental wooden boxes holding orange and lemon trees that could be found in the greenhouses of larger Chesapeake plantations of the period.
In these boxes Faris also experimented with growing new varieties of plants, from cabbages to tulips. In his experiments, Faris grafted and selectively cross-pollinated plants. Gardening in the 18th-century Chesapeake allowed every man to become his own man of science or naturalist, as the Italian Renaissance model promoted.
Garden Records - A Diary!
This artisan, innkeeper, and gardener was keenly aware of the changes in nature’s seasons that intimately affected the success or failure of his gardening efforts. He even noted in his diary when the martins returned to Annapolis.
A Page From William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.
Like Washington’s and Jefferson’s records, his diary recorded his observations of the weather, and he consistently referred to his notes when new plants broke through the ground, or when the bloom---or when the failed---in order to compare present efforts with previous attempts.
Like his wealthier and well-educated gardening colleagues, William Faris used his garden to project his abstract ideas into nature. He and his neighbors used their gardens to understand the order of nature and to subject it to their own order in terms of design, plantings, and processes.
Thank you to my friend Dr. Jean B. Russo for her images of William Faris items. See The Diary of William Faris: The Daily Life of an Annapolis Silversmith. edited by Mark Letzer and Jean B. Russo. Published by the Maryland Historical Society in 2003.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Most colonists planted at least a few fruit trees or a larger orchard as soon as possible, when they settled on their land. An orchard is an enclosed garden used to grow fruit trees which provided both food and drink to the colonial family.
Cider was one of the most important drinks of the colonial period. Growing barley for beer, or any other traditional European grains that the settlers might have been accustomed to raising, required the use of a plow. Because the colonists' lands were freshly cleared; stumps remained dotting the landscape, and the use of a plow was nearly impossible.
In 1655, Adrian Van der Donck observed, "The Netherlands settlers, who are lovers of fruit, on observing that the climate was suitable to the production of fruit trees, have brought over and planted various kinds of apples and pear trees which thrive well...The English have brought over the first quinces, and we have also brought over stocks and seed which thrive well and produce large orchards."
In Jamestown, Virginia, it was reported that by 1656, "Orchards innumerable were planted and preserved." Jamestown, more than many other settlements, needed to grow domestic fruit to convert into a safe liquid to drink. Illness was a serious problem in early Jamestown due, in part, to the settlers' drinking water from shallow wells often polluted by the risky high water table. The colonists did not seem to mind the mellowing alcohol content of the quickly fermented apple juice either.
A 1 to 6 acre apple orchard became a rather common feature on farmsteads & plantations in the British American colonies. Apples were grown primarily for their juice, which was the most common colonial beverage of choice, because well-water generally was regarded as unsafe. Everyone in the family drank the hard cider year-round, and most families produced 20 to 50 barrels of cider each autumn for their own consumption & to use as barter for other goods & services.
Some settlers also converted distilled cider into which was even stronger than hard cider. The first hand-cranked cider mills appeared in the colonies around 1745. Prior to this cider was made by pounding apples in a trough & draining the pomace.
Gabriel Thomas wrote of Pennsylvania in 1698, "There are many Fair and Great Brick Houses on the outside of the Town which the Gentry have built for their Countrey Houses... having a very fine and delightful Garden and Orchard adjoyning it, wherein is variety of Fruits, Herbs, and Flowers."
On a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1722, Hugh Jones noted that, "the Palace or Governor's House, a magnificent structure built at the publick Expense, finished and beautified with Gates, fine Gardens...Orchards."
A house-for-sale adverisement in the South Carolina Gazette in June of 1736, in Charleston, touted the orchard as a strong selling enticement, "To be Sold A Plantation containing 200 Acres...An orchard well planted with peach, apple, cherry, fig and plumb trees: a vineyard of about two years grownth planted with 1200 vines: a nursery of 5 or 600 mulberry trees about two years old, fit to plant out."
In April of 1742, Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote in South Carolina, "I have planted a large figg orchard with desighn to dry and export them. I have reckoned my expense and the prophets to arise from these figgs."
Peter Kalm noted on his travels through North America on September 18, 1748, "Every countryman, even a common peasant, has commonly an orchard near his house, in which all sorts of fruit, such a peaches, apples, pears, cherries, and others are in plenty."
By the middle of the 18th century, a wide variety of orchard trees was available to the general public. William Smith advertised trees he was growing in his nursery in Surry County, Virginia, in the 1755 Williamsburg newspaper, as did Thomas Sorsby of Surry County in 1763.
In 1755, orchardist William Smith offered, "Hughs’s Crab, Bray’s White Apple, Newton Pippin, Golden Pippin, French Pippin, Dutch Pippin, Clark’s Pearmain, Royal Pearmain, Baker’s Pearmain, Lone’s Pearmain, Father Abraham, Harrison’s Red, Ruffin’s large Cheese Apple, Baker’s Nonsuch, Ludwell’s Seedling, Golden Russet, Nonpareil, May Apple, Summer Codling, Winter Codling, Gillefe’s Cyder Apple, Green Gage Plumb, Bonum Magnum Plumb, Orleans Plumb, Imperial Plumb, Damascene Plumb, May Pear, Holt’s Sugar Pear, Autumn Bergamot Pear, Summer Pear, Winter Bergamot, Orange Bergamot, Mount Sir John, Pound Pear, Burr de Roy, Black Heart Cherry, May Duke Cherry, John Edmond’s Nonsuch Cherry, White Heart Cherry, Carnation Cherry, Kentish Cherry, Marrello Cherry, Double Blossom Cherry, Double Blossom Peaches, Filberts Red & White."
Nurseryman Thomas Sorsby had available in 1763, "Best cheese apple, long stems, Pamunkey, Eppes, Newtown pippins, Bray’s white apples, Clark’s pearmains, Lightfoot’s Father Abrahams, Sorsby’s Father Abrahams, Lightfoot’s Hughes, Sorsby’s Hughes, Ellis’s Hughes, New-York Yellow apples, Golden russeteens, Westbrook’s Sammons’s, horse apples, royal pearmains, a choice red apple, best May apples, Sally Gray’s apple, Old .England apple, green apple, Harvey’s apple, peach trees [Prunus persica], and cherry trees."
In 1756, from Annapolis, Maryland, Elizabeth Brook wrote to her son Charles Carroll, who was attending school in England and France, "This place... is greatly improved, a fine, flourishing orchard with a variety of choice fruit." Charles Carroll of Annapolis and his son annually put away vast quantities of cider for their family and servants. In 1775, the elder Carroll put away 190 casks of "cyder" (he estimated 22,800 gallons) for the coming year.
Peter Hatch, who managed Monticello's gardens & grounds for about 30 years, reports that, between 1769 & 1814 Thomas Jefferson planted as many as 1,031 fruit trees in his South Orchard. This orchard formed a horseshoe-shape around the two vineyards & berry squares. It was organized into a grid pattern, in which he planted 18 varieties of apple, 38 of peach, 14 cherry, 12 pear, 27 plum, 4 nectarine, 7 almond, 6 apricot, and a quince.
"The earliest plantings, before 1780, reflect the experimental orchard of a young man eager to import Mediterranean culture to Virginia, and included olives, almonds, pomegranates, & figs. However, the mature plantings after 1810, included mostly species & varieties that either thrived through the hot, humid summers & cold, rainy winters of central Virginia, such as seedling late-season peaches or Virginia cider apples."
In 1782, Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur (1735–1813) described drying apple slices on wooden platforms erected on poles. The fruit was spread out on wooden boards, where it was soon covered with "all the bees and wasps and sucking insects of the neighborhood," which he felt accelerated the drying process. The dried apples were used in preparing a variety of dishes throughout the year. Peaches & plums were also dried but were considered more of a delicacy & were saved for special occasions. Many families stored their dried apples in bags hung high in building rafters to keep them dry & away from mice.
J. F. D. Smyth described Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1784, "Plantations are generally from one to four or five miles distant from each other, having a dwelling house in the middle... at some little distance there are always large peach and apple orchards."
In 1796, New Englander Amelia Simmons published the first truly American cookbook, American Cookery. Her view of the raising of apples had more to do with morality than with functionality.
"Apples are still more various, yet rigidly retain their own species, and are highly useful in families, and ought to be more universally cultivated, excepting in the compactest cities. There is not a single family but might set a tree in some otherwise useless spot, which might serve the two fold use of shade and fruit; on which 12 or 14 kinds of fruit trees might easily be engrafted, and essentially preserve the orchard from the intrusions of boys, &c. which is too common in America.
If the boy who thus planted a tree, and guarded and protected it in a useless corner, and carefully engrafted different fruits, was to be indulged free access into orchards, whilst the neglectful boy was prohibited--how many millions of fruit trees would spring into growth--and what a saving to the union. The net saving would in time extinguish the public debt, and enrich our cookery."
English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson noted in 1798, Baltimore, Maryland, "My orchard contained about six acres, three of which were planted with apples, the other three with peaches of various sorts."
In the 1790s, Captain John ODonnell (1749-1805) settled in Baltimore, Maryland, naming his country seat after his favorite port of call, Canton. And account of Canton given by a visitor noted that O"Donnell had planted orchards of red peaches on his 2500 acre estate in hopes of manufacturing brandy for trade but had met with limited financial success.
"For although Mr. O'Donnell's orchard had come to bear in great perfection and he had stills and the other necessary apparatus, the profit proved so small that he suffered the whole to go to waste and his pigs to consume the product."
A house-for-sale advertisement in the 1800 Federal Gazette in Baltimore, Maryland, described, "That beautiful, healthy and highly improved seat, within one mile of the city of Baltimore, called Willow Brook, containing about 26 acres of land, the whole of which is under a good post and rail fence, divided and laid off into grass lots, orchards, garden...The garden and orchard abounds with the greatest variety of the choicest fruit trees, shrubs, flowers...collected from the best nurseries in America and from Europe, all in perfection and full bearing."
Rosalie Stier Calvert devoted a great deal of attention to establishing an orchard at her home Riversdale in Prince George County, Maryland. In 1804, she “planted a large number of all the varieties of young fruit trees I could find, and I am going to fill the orchard with young apple trees everywhere there is room.” She complained that “It is impossible to buy any good pear trees from the nurseries. They sell bad pears under good names.” She first asked her father to send her peaches & pears from Europe, but soon realized it would not be practical. Instead, her father suggested that she buy pear trees in Alexandria, Virginia, for her garden “which had real soil for pears,” and water them with buckets of cow urine. She had already transplanted “a Seigneur pear tree,” which her father had grafted in Annapolis.
By 1805, she wrote, “We are getting much better at the art of gardening, especially with fruit trees which we planted a large collection of this year. You would scarcely recognize the orchard. The manure which was applied there in 1803 improved it greatly, and young trees have been planted where needed.” In addition to fruit trees, she planted currants & raspberries in her orchard.
Keeping apples overwinter in America during the 18th & 19th centuries was important and theories abounded about the proper method.
New Yorker John Nicholson wrote in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "In gathering apples, for Winter-use, they should be picked from the tree, and laid carefully in a heap, under cover, without being bruised. After they have sweated, let them be exposed to the air and well dried, by wiping them with dry cloths; then lay them away in a dry place where they will hot freeze. The time requisite for sweating will be six, ten, or fifteen days, according to the warmth of the weather...>"The fruit should not be gathered till fully ripe, which is known by the stem parting easily from the twig. It should also be gathered in dry weather and when the dew is off...
"It is confidently asserted by many, that apples may be safely kept in casks through Winter, in a cold chamber, or garret, by being merely covered with Linen cloths."
John Beale Bordley had written An Epitome of Mr. Forsyth's Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees in 1804, noting that William Forsyth wrote "the most complete method of saving them, so as to preserve them the greatest length of time, is to wrap them in paper and pack them away in stone jars between layers of bran; having the mouths of the jars covered so close as to preclude the admission of air, and then keep them in a dry place where they will not be frozen."
In the 1790s, Samuel Deane wrote in his New England Farmer of his method of preserving Winter apples, "I gather them about noon on the day of the full of the moon which happens in the latter part of September, or beginning of October. Then spread them in a chamber, or garret, where they lie till about the last of November. Then, at a time when the weather is dry, remove them into casks, or boxes, in the cellar, out of the way of the frosts; but I prefer a cool part of the cellar. With this management, I find I can keep them till the last of May, so well that not one in fifty will rot...
"In the Autumn of 1793, I packed apples in the shavings of pine, so that they scarcely touched one another. They kept well till some time in May following; though they were a sort which are mellow for eating in December. Dry sawdust might perhaps answer the end as well. Some barrel them up, and keep them through the Winter in upper rooms, covering them with blankets or mats, to prevent freezing. Dry places are best for them."
New Yorker John Nicholson suggested some amazing cures--including chalk, bloody meat, raw eggs, & milk--for American cider in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, "Cider may be kept for years in casks, without fermenting, by burying them deeply under ground, or immersing them in spring water; and when taken up the cider will be very fine.
"A drink, called cider-royal, is made of the best runing of the cheese, well clarified, with six or eight gallons of French brandy, or good cider brandy, added to a barrel: Let the vessel be filled full, bunged tight, and set in a cool cellar, and in the course of a twelvemonth it will be a fine drink. If good rectified whiskey be used, instead of brandy, it will answer very well.
"A quart of honey, or molasses, and a quart of brandy, or other spirits, added to a barrel of cider, will improve the liquor very much, and will restore that which has become too flat and insipid. To prevent its becoming pricked, or to cure it when it is so, put a little pearl-ashes, or other mild alkali, into the cask. A lump of chalk broken in pieces, and thrown in, is also good. Salt of tartar, when the cider is about to be used, is also recommended.
"To refine cider, and give it a fine amber-color, the following method is much approved of. Take the whites of 6 eggs, with a handful of fine beach sand, washed clean; stir them well together; then boil a quart of molasses down to a candy, and cool it by pouring in cider, and put this, together with the eggs and sand, into a barrel of cider, and mix the whole well together. When thus managed, it will keep for many years. Molasses alone will also refine cider, and give it a higher color; but, to prevent the molasses making it prick, let an equal quantity of brandy be added to it. Skim-milk, with some lime slacked in it, and mixed with it, or with the white of eggs with the shells broken in, is also good for clarifying all liquors, when well mixed with them. A piece of fresh bloody meat, put into the cask, will also refine the liquor and serve tor it to feed on.
"To prevent the fermentation of cider, let the cask be first strongly fumigated with burnt sulphur; then put in some of the cider, burn more sulphur in the cask, stop it tight and shake the whole up together; fill the cask, bung it tight, and put it away in a cool cellar.
"To bring on a fermentation, take 3 pints of yeast for a hogshead, add as much jalup as will lie on a sixpence, mix them with some of the cider, beat the mass up till it is frothy, then pour it into the cask, and stir it up well. Keep the vessel full, and the bung open, for the froth and foul stuff to work out. In about 15 days, the froth will be clean and white; then, to stop the fermentation, rack the cider off into a clean vessel, add two gallons ot brandy, or well-rectified whiskey, to it, and bung it up. Let the cask be full, and keep the venthole open for a day or two. By this process, cider that is poor, and ill-tasted, may be wonderfully improved...
"To cure oily cider, take one ounce of salt of tartar, and two and a half of sweet spirit of nitre, in a gallon of milk, for a hogshead. To cure ropy cider, take six pounds of powdered allum, and stir it into a hogshead; then rack it off and clarify it.
"To color cider, take a quarter of a pound of sugar, burnt black, and dissolved in half a pint of hot water, for a hogshead; add a quarter of an ounce of allum, to set the color.
"Cider-brandy mixed with an equal quantity of honey, or clarified sugar, is much recommended by some lor improving common cider; so that, when refined, it may be made as strong, and as pleasant, as the most of wines."
Portraits of Americans with Fruit Grown on Trees
Throughout the 18th century, artists painted portraits of British colonials & early Americans holding fruits that the viewer might reasonably suppose came from the trees in their orchards. Some scholars look to period emblem books and attribute complicated symbolism to each type & quantity of fruit depicted in these portraits. Some do not. Here are a few of my favoite portraits containing tree fruit as props.
1679 Detail. painting attributed to Thomas Smith (1650-1691). Mrs. Richard Patteshall (Martha Woody) and Child.
1732 Detail. John Smibert (1688-1751). Jane Clark (Mrs. Ezekiel Lewis).
1750 Detail. Charles Bridges (1670-1747). Mrs Augustine Moore.
1750 Detail. Joseph Badger. Portrait of Elizabeth Greenleaf of Charlestown.
1755 Detail. Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1753-1763). Isaac Winslow and His Family.
1757 Detail. John Wollaston (1710-1775). Probably Elizabeth Dandridge.
1767 Detail. James Claypoole (1743-1814). Ann Galloway (Mrs Joseph Pemberton).
1769 Detail. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Martha Swett (Mrs Jeremiah Lee).
1769 Detail. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Elizabeth Murray (Mrs. James Smith).
1771-73 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). The Peale Family.
1771 Detail. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Elizabeth Lewis (Mrs. Ezekiel Goldthwait).
1772 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). General John Cadwalader, his First Wife, Elizabeth.
1773 Detail. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Hannah Fayerweather (Mrs. John Winthrop).
1774 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Isabella and John Stewart.
1774 Detail of painting attributed to Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Elizabeth Perscott (Mrs. Henry Daggett)
1785 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Ann Marsh (Mrs David Forman) & Child.
1787 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Deborah McClenahan (Mrs. Walter Stewart).
1788 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Benjamin & Eleanor Ridgley Laming. National Gallery of Art.
1788 Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). William Smith & Grandson.
1795 Detail. James Peale (1749-1831). Artist & His Family.
1720 Detail. Nehemiah Partridge. Wyntje Lavinia Van Vechten.
1729 Detail. John Smibert. The Bermuda Group.
1747-1749 Detail. Robert Feke (1707-1751). Mary Channing (Mrs. John Channing).
1760-65 Detail. Joseph Badger (1708-1765). Sarah Badger Noyes.
1769 Detail. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Elizabeth Storer (Mrs. Isaac Smith).1775 Detail. Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Archibald Bullock Family.
1772 Detail. Winthrop Chandler (1747-1785). Eunice Huntington Devotion.
1772 Detail. Winthrop Chandler (1747-1785). Eunice Huntington Devotion.
1785 Detail. Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Callahan Children.
1785-90 Detail. Beardsley Limner (Sarah Bushnell Perkins (1771 - 1831). Elizabeth Davis (Mrs. Hezekiah Beardsley).
1798 Detail. Ralph Earl. Mrs. Noah Smith and Her Children.
1800 Detail. Anonymous Artist. Emma Van Name.