Article from The Salisbury Times (now called The Delmarva Times), Salisbury, Maryland - May 22, 1958 from the Delmarva Heritage Series, by Dr. William H. Wroten, Jr.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Article from The Salisbury Times (now called The Delmarva Times), Salisbury, Maryland - May 22, 1958 from the Delmarva Heritage Series, by Dr. William H. Wroten, Jr.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Girl at a Garden Wall
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Peach Blossoms at the Garden Wall
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Girls on a Wall with a Lobster
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) The Garden Wall
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) On the Wall
Monday, January 25, 2021
Twenty five men were appointed "to repair fences of park" in 1777. And it was recorded that "60 foot of plank, 250 nails" were purchased for the task.
In 1743 Spotsylvania County, Virginia, A workman was hired to "rail in the Courthouse yard."
In 1778 Alexandria, Virginia, a valuable one half acre lot "fronting the whole Courthouse yard and market place" was offered for sale.
A yard is an enclosed division of uncultivated land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.
Brick walls often surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls. By the last quarter of the 1700s, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated take exercise, as a prison yard.
The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.
Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards, Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Espaliered fruit trees were often used to create a focal point and as a form of art, as well as for the practical fruit that they produced. Espalier, a French word derived from the Italian spalliera, which means "something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against," is the process of controlling plant growth in a flat plane, usually against a wall or fence, or along a free-standing trellis. Trees espaliered on a wall were often called wall trees or wall fruit.
Espaliered Fruit Tree also called a Wall Tree. The term espalier also refers to the plant itself grown in this way. Originally the term espalier defined only the trellis, or frame, on which the plant was trained.
Mature Espaliered Wall Fruit Trees. The practice of espalier may go back to early Egypt, where tombs from about 1400 BC have been found with paintings of espaliered fig trees. In the Middle Ages in Europe, manuscripts depict espaliered fruit inside walled monastery gardens or castle courtyards economically bearing fruit without filling the limited open space.
Flowering Espalier. The classic European styles can be traced back to the 16th & 17th centuries, where they were developed in the marginal climates of northern France & England for more efficient fruit production.
Espaliered Fruit Trees. There are numerous espalier forms ranging from the very simple, free-flowing natural & informal designs to complicated formal patterns. The most common formal styles are candelabra, tiered, basket weave, fan, cordon, pinnate, palmate, or Belgian or double lattice or diamond motif.
Espaliered Wall Tree or Wall Fruit. The wall tree or wall fruit system was meant to protect plants from wind or weather and, hopefully, to enable espaliered trees to bear fruit earlier than stand alone trees, either natural or espaliered.
Espaliered Wall Tree or Wall Fruit. In 1736, Thomas Hancock at Boston, Massachusettes, wrote to England requesting information on the availability of young trees, "Send me a Catalogue of what Fruit you have that are Dwarf Trees and Espaliers."
Free-standing Espaliered Fruit Trees. Visiting Englishman James Birket wrote in September of 1750, about Captain Godrey Malbone's estate at Newport, Rhode Island, "The Surface of the Earth before the house is a Handsome Garden with variety of wall fruits And flowers...this house & Garden is reckond the wonder of that part of the Country."
Blooming Wall Fruit Trees. In Baltimore, Maryland in 1800, the property of Adrian Valeck was listed for sale in the Federal Gazette, "A large garden in the highest state of cultivation, laid out in numerous and convenient walks and squares bordered with espaliers, on which...the greatest variety of fruit trees, the choicest fruits from the best nurseries in this country and Europe have been attentively and successfully cultivated."
Free-Standing Espaliered Apple Trees. John Gardiner and David Hepburn advised gardeners in their 1804 The American Gardener, published in Washington, District of Columbia, that January was the month to "prune espalier trees."
Espaliered Trees. In his 1806 American Gardener's Calendar, Bernard M'Mahon of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, wrote, "Espaliers are hedges of fruit trees, which are trained up regularly to a lattice or trellis of wood work, and are commonly arranged in a single row in borders, round the boundaries of the principal divisions of the kitchen garden; there serving a double or treble purpose...profitable, useful, and ornamental.
Pear Wall Tree. "They produce large fine fruit plentifully, without taking up much room, and being in a close range, hedge-like; they in some degree shelter the esculent crops...and also they afford shelter in winter...and shade in summer."
Free Standing Belgian Espalier. In the British American colonies & the early republic, where combining ornament with function was particularly admired, most espaliered plants were both useful & symbolic fruit trees.
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Isaac Weld also commented in 1794, of the deer park at Mount Vernon, "The ground in the rear of the house is also laid out in a lawn, and the declivity of the Mount, towards the water, in a deer park."
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
In colonial British America, the sons of gentry occasionally were painted with deer pets, while many of their elders built reserves to protect & nurture deer & and display their wealth & power to neighbors & passers-by. Deer parks generally belonged to wealthy landowners who had enough meat to eat but who were eager to exhibit their prominent status.
Venison & buckskin became staples of the British American colonial economy with the first landings at Jamestown, & Plymouth. Deer were hunted by both the settlers & the native Americans. Once the natives learned that a venison haunch was worth a yard of fabric or a trade axe; they trapped, snared, & killed deer with impunity. By 1630, many coastal tribes had access to European firearms; and one Indian hunter with a gun could kill 5 or 6 deer in a day.
Deer declined rapidly along the Atlantic seaboard throughout the 17C. As early as 1639, authorities in Newport, Rhode Island recognized the danger of deer depletion and established the first closed season on deer hunting in the colonies. In 1646, the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, followed suit ordering a closed season on deer hunting “from the first of May till the first of November; and if any shall shoot a deere within that time he shall forfeit five pounds …” The ordinance set a pattern for laws adopted by most of the colonies by 1720.
In 1705, the General Assembly at Newport, Rhode Island, noted that it, "hath been informed that great quantities of deer hath been destroyed in this Collony out of season … and may prove much to the damage of this Collony for the future, and … to the whole country, if not prevented." And in 1705, New York passed a law to protect deer.
Poachers were dealt with much less seriously in the British American colonies than they were in mother England. In fact, Pennsylvania & Vermont allowed fishing & hunting on all open lands in their colonies. The 1696 Frame of Government of Pennsylvania stated, "That the inhabitants of this province and territories thereof, shall have liberty to fish and hunt, upon the lands they hold, or all other lands therein, not inclosed, and to fish in all waters in the said lands."
Peter Kalm, the Swedish-Finnish explorer and naturalist who traveled through North America from 1748-1751, published an account of his travels in a journal entitled En Resa til Norra America, which was translated into German, Dutch, French, and English. Kalm noted that “The American deer can likewise be tamed. A farmer in New Jersey had one in his possession, which he caught when it was very young; at present, it is so tame that in the daytime it runs into the woods for its food, and towards night returns home, frequently bringing a wild deer out of the woods, giving its master an opportunity to hunt at his very door.”
Deer parks certainly existed in the New York area during this period. English clergyman Andrew Burnaby (1732-1812), wrote in his Travels Through the Middle Settlements in North America, In the Years 1759 & 1760, which was published in 1775, describing a park & garden near the Passaic River, NJ “I went down two miles farther to the park & gardens of. . . colonel Peter Schuyler. In the gardens is a very large collection of citrons, oranges, limes, lemons, balsams of Peru, aloes, pomegranates, & other tropical plants; & in the park I saw several American & English deer, & three or four elks or moose-deer.”
British Capt. Simeon Ecuyer, the Swiss-born commander of Fort Pitt, April 1764, was in the midst of fencing the fort's gardens, when he commented on the Fort in Pittsburgh, PA “. . . the deer park, the little garden, & the bowling green, I am just now making into one garden, it will be extremely pretty & very useful to this garrison, the King’s garden will be put in proper order in due time we want seeds very much and we have no potatoes at all."
In 1774, at the late John Smith estate in New Jersey, 5 miles from Burlington on the Anococus River, there was a deer park containing 375 acres in which there were 30-40 deer. The area was surrounded by 20,000 cedar rails in different fences according to the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Many gentry families did not worry about hunting meat for their tables. They simply raised their own supply. Edward Lloyd IV (1744–1796) was a planter from Talbot County, Maryland. He rebuilt the family home called Wye House in the 1780s. The house was then surrounded by 12,000 acres & tended by over 300 slaves.
English agricultural writer Richard Parkinson (1748–1815), came to America in 1798 & returned to England in 1800. Before he sailed back to England, he visited Wye House and wrote, "I then was introduced to Ed. Lloyd, Esq. at Why-House, a man of very extensive possessions...His house and gardens are what may be termed elegant: and the land appeared the best I ever saw in any one spot in America. He had a deer-park, which is a very rare thing there: I saw but two in the country; this, and another belonging to Colonel Mercer. These parks are but small—not above fifty acres each. I could scarcely tell what the deer lived on. There were only some of those small rushes growing in this park which bear the name of grass, and leaves of trees." When Lloyd died in 1796, his deer park contained 61 deer.
Parkinson was probably referring to Virginia-born John Francis Mercer (1759-1821) as the other gentleman who had a deer park. In 1785, he married Sophia Sprigg, the daughter of Richard & Margaret Sprigg of Maryland, following which he took up residence at "Cedar Park" on West River not far from Annapolis, the estate inherited by his wife from her father. He was elected Governor of Maryland in 1801, and was buried in the graveyard at the foot of the garden on his grounds. He left an estate valued at $16,978.75, including 73 slaves. Reportedly the English-style deer park was in a virgin stand of trees, including cedars, from which the estate took its name.
Historian Gary S Dunbar surveyed South Carolina records for mentions of tame deer. Here are a few of his findings from newspaper advertisements from Charleston,
(1732) “Stray’d out of Mr. Saxby’s Pasture up the Path, two tame Deer about a Year old."
(1751) “Wanted, some Doe Fawns, or young Does, for breeders.”
(1760) “Jumped over from on board the Samuel & Robert, a young deer, with a piece of red cloth round his neck…three pounds reward.”
(1761) “The Owner of a strayed Deer may hear where there is one, applying to the Printer hereof, and paying for this Advertisement.”
(1767) “Two tame Deer, a Buck and a Doe, to be sold by Francis Nicholson, in King-street.”
(1768) “Josiah Smith, junior…is in immediate want of …a couple of Tame Deer.”
(1770) “Stolen or Strayed out of my Yard this Morning, a Young Deer, his Horns just coming out, and is stiff in his hind legs, by being crampt in the Waggen which brought him to Town…Charles Crouch.”
(1772) “Wanted to Purchase. Four Deer, each about Three Years old.”
(1772) “Wanted immediately…Two Tame Deer.”
(1781) “A Tame Deer, Came to my garden about twelve days ago. The owner, on proving his property, and paying charges, shall have it again, by applying to Elizabeth Lamb, Near the Saluting Battery.”
By the late 18C, it seems that deer-keeping was in decline in Charleston. A visitor remarked in 1782, that “the deer formerly ran about the streets, with collars round their necks, like dogs, but at this latter visit, I do not remember to have seen one.”
In a description borrowing from Morse's 1789 depiction of George Washington's Mount Vernon in the Pennsylvania Gazette shortly after the President's death, his deer park was described. "A small park on the margin of the river, where the English fallow deer and the American wild deer are seen through the thickets alternately, with the vessels as they are sailing along, add a romantic and picturesque appearance to the whole scenery."
Maryland-born American artist Charles Willson Peale (1741-1829) noted Wye House, the estate of Col. Edward Lloyd, Talbot County, MD, “The Col. is possessed of immence property, he had 400 Ars. of land in a park to keep Deer, round which was a fence of 20 rails high, Maise were planted within for sustenance of his deer.”
Rosalie Steir Calvert (1778–1821) wrote from her home Riversdale just outside of Washington DC in Prince George's County, Maryland, "I haven’t been able to enjoy the tulips because the deer come and eat them every night. We have eleven of these beautiful animals, so tame that they come all around the house...However, they do a lot of damage to the young fruit trees, and I am afraid we shall have to kill all of them this fall."
I find few American paintings of deer with women except for the hunt scenes & there the deer are quite distant. I do have one mid-18C needlework depicting a women & 3 deer.
Dunbar, Gary S.. “Deer-Keeping in Early South Carolina,” Agricultural History, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr., 1962)
Sunday, January 17, 2021
In front of our house, we asked the contractor to build an old fashioned, simple, white picket fence to separate the little garden area from all the woods around us. The contractor was skeptical, "But they are so much work to maintain." That is true, but they make such a perfect, orderly, geometric backdrop for the wild, uncontrollable gifts of Nature. These photos of picket fence gardens fueled our aspirations.
Friday, January 15, 2021
Larger arbors for community gatherings in 18th-century colonial America usually were constructed from the cut & bound limbs and leaves of local plants. In the British American colonies, an arbor was often referred to as a bower or shady retreat.
The term arbor was used early in England, often applied to a shaded alley or walkway. In England, Chaucer referred to arbors (herbers) around 1385.
John Parkinson mentioned arbors in his 1629 Paradisi in Sole Paradisus, "Arbours also being both gracefull and necessary, may be appointed in such convenient places, as the corners, or elsewhere, as may be most fit, to serve both as shadow and rest after walking."
In 1712, Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville (1680–1765), French courtier, natural historian, artist, & garden theorist, wrote in his Theory and Practice of Gardening that arbors were of 2 sorts, natural and artificial. Natural was fashioned from branches of trees, while artificial arbors were composed completely of lattice-work.
And Philip Miller suggested that the arbor might be out of fashion in his 1755 Dictionary, "These were formerly in great esteem with us than at present...covered seats or alcoves are everywhere at this time preferred to them."
Despite the fact that Miller saw arbors in decline among the people in the know, references to arbors appear early in the British American colonies & continue to appear throughout the 18th-century. In 1680, visitor Jasper Danckaerts reported, "We had nowhere seen so many vines together as we saw here, which had been planted for the purpose of shading the walks on the river side, in between the trees."
Peter Kalm noted in his Travels in North America in 1749, that the colonials planted wild vines in "gardens near arbours, and summer-houses...over which the vines climb with their tendrils, and cover them entirely with their foliage, so as to shelter them from the heat & the sun."
In 1754, when Dr. Alexander Garden described botanist John Bartram's garden in Philadelphia, he wrote, "He disdains to have a garden less than Pennsylvania, & every den is an Arbour, Every run of water, a Canal, & every small level Spot a Parterre."
Even the small town garden of Annapolis, Maryland, craftsman William Faris contained an arbor in 1793, when he wrote in his diary that he had "planted flowering beans...round the Arber."
Often arbors were larger, more open sheltered spaces meant to hold many people for gatherings. In 1743, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, a church meeting was held "at Clays arber." Several public celebrations were held in arbors built specifically for the special occasion.
An issue of the August, 1746, Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg reported that "The Gentlemen of Hanover County... expressing their Joy and Loyalty, on Occasion of the Defeat of the Rebels in Scotland...a great Number of Gentlemen and Ladies, inhabitants of that and the adjacent Counties, met at the House of Mr. Waters; where a handsome Dinner was provided; a long Arbour was set up, in which 50 Gentlemen and Ladies din'd."
The South-Carolina Gazette in July of 1755, described a meeting with the Cherokees in Charleston, "On Wednesday July 2d, Cannacaughte the Chief, and the other Indians , arrived from their Camp, which lay at three Miles Distance, and were received by the Governor as usual; and His Excellency and Cannacaughte being seated under an Arbour, all the Head-men and Head warriors were placed on Benches fronting them, the other Warriors and Indians sitting all around on the Ground under the Trees."
And during the Revolution in 1781, Robert Honyman reported that "There was not one Tent in the British army, all of them lying under temporary sheds or arbours, made with boughs of Trees, fence rails &c., even officers of the highest rank."
A public celebration honoring an ally during the revolutionary war was reported in the Pennsylvania Gazette in the summer of 1782. "On the 25th of June last, the birth of the Dauphin of France was celebrated by the people of Talbot county, in the State of Maryland, in pursuance of the recommendation of the Governor and Council of that State, a convenient arbour was erected on the banks of Wye river, at Mr. Baker Old Field Landing, where an elegant entertainment was provided sufficient for 200 people, at which a large number of respectable ladies and gentlemen dined."
In 1797, Frances Baylor Hill of "Hillsborough" in Virginia, reported that she "went to Dunkirk to the Barbacue...The Ladies all went to the arbour and had din'd."
1796 Charles Fraser (1782-1860) Arbor for Gatherings. Carolina Art Association. Charleston, South Carolina.
Arbors were also a favorite in the commercial public pleasure gardens in the new republic. They offered both shelter and privacy as patrons discussed business, politics, or just opted for romance.
In 1787, Rev. Manasseh Cutler described the popular Gray's Garden near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "At every end, side, and corner, there were summer-houses, arbors covered with vines or flowers or shady bowers encircled with trees and flowering shrubs, each of which was formed in a different taste."Henry Wansey also noted the arbors in Gray's Gardens in 1794, "The ground has every advantage of hill and dale, for being laid out in great variety; and it is neatly decorated with alcoves, arbours, shady walks, etc."
Often the shade and privacy offered by an arbor was used to promote the sale or rental of property. In Charleston, South Carolina in February, 1734, a property for sale advertisement in a newspaper touted it to be, "on an island which commands an entire prospect of the Harbor...A delightful Wilderness with shady Walks and Arbours, cool in the hottest seasons."
In 1767, the Pennsylvania Gazette advertised, "To be LETT, On the Five Mile Round, about two miles south of Philadelphia, on a pleasant spot of ground. A TWO story brick house of 45 by 31 feet, four rooms on each floor, three good rooms in the garret... a garden and orchard of choice fruit trees; the ground is divided by fences in a regular uniform manner; two summer houses of each side the entrance of an avenue, at the end of which is an arbour."
An arbor was a selling point for a house in 1789, which the owners were attempting to sell in New York City, "That elegant Dwelling House, called White-conduit house, two stories and half high, having seven fire places...together with an agreeable pleasure garden, with beautiful arbours, and a stable and coach house."
Eliza Southgate, in 1802, described the gardens the Hasket Derby house in Salem, Massachusettes, "at the upper end of the garden there was a beautiful arbour formed of a mound of turf and 'twas surrounded by a thick row of poplar trees which branched out quite to the bottom and so close together that you could not see through."
Thomas Jefferson, who was always redesigning his homes & gardens, wrote of new garden plans for Monticello in 1804, "Through the whole line (of temples) from 1 to 4 have the walk covered by an arbor, to wit, locust forks set in the group crossed by poles at top & lathes on these. Grape vines principally to cover the top. The sides quite open."
These arbors are similar to that described by Juliana Margaret Conner in Salem, North Carolina in 1827, which had been planted in the 1780s, "into the garden...we saw...a curiosity...extremely beautiful. It was a large summer house formed of eight cedar trees planted in a circle, the tops whilst young were chained together in the center forming a cone. The immense branches were all cut, so that there was not a leaf, the outside is beautifully trimmed perfectly even and very thick within, were seats placed around and doors or openings were cut, through the branches, it had been planted 40 years."
The image of the open-air arbor was even used in a piece of advice reported in the Williamsburg newspaper from a gentleman to his son. The Virginia Gazette printed in January of 1752, the instructions of Lord Treasurer Burleigh to his son Robert. "Let thy Kindred and Allies be welcome at thy House and Table. Grace them with thy Countenance, and further them in all honest Actions; for by this Means thou shalt so double the Band of Nature as thou shalt find them so many Advocates to plead an Apology for thee behind thy Back: But shake of those Glow-worms, Parasites and Sycophants, who will feed and sawn upon thee in the Summer of Prosperity, but in an adverse Storm, they will shelter thee no more than an Arbour in Winter."
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
By Neal T. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Associate Curator for Costume & Textiles, March 17, 2020
As tensions rose between the American Colonies & Great Britain in the late 1760s, some Virginians displayed their defiance to the Crown in their choice of garments fashioned from locally made fabrics. Homespun — or locally produced textiles — announced the political leanings of the wearer. These homespun textiles also became a necessity once trade with England ended in 1774 & Virginia & other Colonies were faced with meeting the textile demand through local production.
As early as the 17th century, Colonists began to process & weave their own fabrics, & “homespun” came to define any textiles produced domestically in a nonindustrial setting. Raw materials such as linen, cotton, wool, hemp & even silk were transformed into fabrics in North America for local consumption. Most of these homespun textiles would be used as household linens, bed curtains &, on occasion, even for clothing.
Textiles made up the single largest import from England during the 17th & 18th centuries. In theory, the American Colonies produced raw materials & exported them to England. In return, they received finished goods. A series of Navigation Acts — English laws dictating that the Colonies could receive European goods only from England — helped to codify this system.
From the fine & fancy to the plain & everyday, the English goods were better quality & could be purchased at competitive or cheaper prices. Most Colonists bought imported English textiles & used them not only within their homes but also for their clothing.
In the spring of 1769, political debates over taxation raged throughout Virginia. The recently repealed Stamp Act, which had imposed a tax on every piece of paper the Colonists used, remained fresh in many minds. The newly passed Townshend Acts placed a set of taxes on imported glass, lead, paints, paper & tea. In May of that year, Virginia’s House of Burgesses passed a resolution that directly challenged Parliament’s right to tax Virginians. In retaliation, Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt, who had been appointed Virginia’s royal governor only a few months before, formally dissolved the governing body.
A day later, the burgesses met at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg & formed the Virginia Association, which called on Virginians to “promote & encourage industry & frugality, & discourage all manner of luxury & extravagance.” Starting Sept. 1, 1769, those who signed the agreement would no longer import listed goods from England, including many textiles such as linens, wools, cottons & silks above a certain price. It even suggested that sheep should not be slaughtered & instead should be kept for their wool. As other Colonies adopted associations, they shared Virginia’s logic that nonimportation & increasing domestic production would put pressure on the English economy & that British merchants & producers would beg Parliament to repeal all of the taxes on the American Colonies.
Men & women throughout Virginia worked steadily to increase domestic production & took pride in wearing homespun. Martha Jacquelin in York County, Virginia, wrote to her London agent in August 1769, “You’ll see by my invoice that I am an Associator … But believe me, our poor country never stood in more need of an Effort to save her from ruin than now, not more from taxes & want of Trayd (sic) than from our own extravagances … I expect to be dressed in Virginia cloth very soon.” Virginia cloth, another term for domestically made textiles, became a fashionable way to show frugality & prove that Virginians did not need to rely upon English imported fabrics.
In December 1769, the House of Burgesses decided to host Lord Botetourt at a ball in the Capitol, only six months after he dismissed the governing body. The day after the event, The Virginia Gazette reported that the “same patriotic spirit which gave rise to the associations of the Gentlemen … was most agreeably manifested in the dress of the ladies.” More than 100 women appeared at the Capitol wearing homespun gowns. The quality of the fabric & where they acquired the quantity needed for the gowns remains unknown. The Gazette wished “that all assemblies of American Ladies would exhibit a like example of public virtue & private economy, so amiably united.”
In the remaining years leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, more associations were signed or strengthened to keep economic pressure on the English. The Eastern Seaboard continued to produce textiles at a rapid rate. The Derby Mercury in Ireland, which was a center of the linen trade, reported in 1770 that the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, maintained no less than 50 looms & 7,000 spinning wheels, producing more than 30,000 yards of linens & woolens a year.
Homespun fabric even became a political statement for Americans visiting England. Edmund Jenings, a Virginia-born lawyer who lived in London, wrote a letter to Richard Henry Lee informing him of his new clothing. He wrote, “Your brother has given me cloth made in your family I wear it on all occasions to show the politicians of this country that the sheep of America have not hair on their backs. — They can hardly believe their eyes.”
On Dec. 1, 1774, the final nonimportation agreement took effect when signed by the first Continental Congress. The Colonies would not import any goods, including textiles, from Great Britain. Virginians along with the other 12 American Colonies would need to produce all the textiles for their households & apparel, a nearly impossible task.
The outbreak of war in April 1775 would create an even larger problem: clothing & equipping an infant army & navy.
The military needed enormous amounts of textiles for clothing, tents, knapsacks, haversacks & blankets. Initially, tens of thousands of yards of fabric arrived in storehouses across the Colonies, including both pieces bought before the nonimportation agreements & homespun woven in homes, farms & plantations. These materials were quickly depleted, & more were immediately needed. With no imports coming from Great Britain & domestic production not meeting the demand, the American army faced major supply shortages.
The Continental Congress sought help to get materials, especially textiles, for its newly established military force. Emissaries traveled to Spain & Holland & gained some initial support. Dressed in a very plain manner with a pine marten fur cap, Benjamin Franklin visited the court of France. The French Court admired Franklin & his unique American dress, which they may have believed was homespun. Franklin secured the Treaty of Alliance between the newly formed United States of America & the French that allowed much needed supplies to flow into the United States.
With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 & the end of the American Revolution, American merchants quickly resumed trading with England. Once again it was cheaper to import high-quality textiles than to establish the industry in the new republic. Still, Americans continued to produce homespun fabrics to supplement the imported textiles they purchased from England. The textile industry began to slowly establish itself, especially in the New England states.
When George Washington was unanimously elected president, he began to carefully craft what he would wear at his inauguration. After seeing an advertisement in a New York newspaper for American-made broadcloths (a heavily fulled or napped wool), he contacted his friend, Gen. Henry Knox. On Jan. 29, 1789, Washington wrote, “I have ventured to trouble you with the Commission of purchasing enough [broadcloth] to make me a suit of Cloaths. As to the colour, I shall leave it altogether to your taste; only observing, that, if the dye should not appear to be well fixed, & clear, or if the cloth should not really be very fine, then (in my Judgment) some colour mixed in grain might be preferable to an indifferent [stained] dye. I shall have occasion to trouble you for nothing but the cloth & twist to make the button holes.”
On April 30, 1789, Washington became the first president of the United States. He wore a brown broadcloth three-piece suit made from fabric woven at the Hartford Woolen Manufactory, a newly established business in Connecticut. In October of that same year, Washington visited the factory & wrote in his diary, “I viewed the Woolen Manufactury at this place which seems to be going on with Spirit. There (sic) Broadcloths are not of the first quality, as yet, but they are good; as are their Coatings, Cassimers, Serges & everlastings. Of the first that is broad-cloth I ordered a suit to be sent to me at New York & of the latter a whole piece to make breeches for my servants.”
By choosing an American-produced broadcloth for his first inaugural suit, Washington supported the economic growth & industrial establishment within the newly established United States. In the 19th century, an American textile industry would blossom.
See Colonial Williamsburg here. Neal Hurst is the Foundation’s associate curator for costume and textiles. He also spent 7 years in the Historic Area earning his journeyman status as a tailor.
Monday, January 11, 2021
Four quarts of dandelions. Cover with four quarts of boiling water; let stand three days. Add peel of three oranges and one lemon. Boil fifteen minutes; drain and add juice of oranges and lemon to four pounds of sugar and one cup of yeast. Keep in warm room and strain again; let stand for three weeks. It is then ready to bottle and serve.