Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Beautiful Clocktowers grace government structures in Williamsburg

I was particularly intrigued by the detail on this beautiful clocktower perched on the roof of the Capitol building. I learned that Munns Manufacturing, a company that specializes in clocktowers and church steeples, restored the clocktower on Williamsburg's Courthouse

Williamsburg Capitol site of famous Stamp Act speech

The Capitol at Williamsburg
The Capitol at Williamsburg, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The gentlemen at Williamsburg sat in the oldest representative assembly in what was now the world's newest nation. The legislature first met at Williamsburg on April 21, 1704, when the Capitol on Duke of Gloucester Street was still under construction. Literally and figuratively, however, its foundation dated to 1619, when the House of Burgesses first convened at Jamestown.

After fire destroyed (for the third time) the Jamestown Statehouse in 1698, the burgesses decided to move the colony's government to Middle Plantation, soon renamed Williamsburg. On May 18, 1699, they resolved to build the first American structure to which the word Capitol was applied.

In this building Patrick Henry delivered his Caesar-Brutus speech against the Stamp Act on May 29, 1765.

"Caesar had his Brutus--Charles the first his Cromwell--and George III--may he profit from their example."

Henry, George Washington, George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Jefferson, and others played their parts in the legislative wars that ended in revolution. - Official Colonial Williamsburg Website

Williamsburg Courthouse served many roles in early America

Williamsburg Courthouse
Williamsburg Courthouse, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"Williamsburg's citizens assembled at their courthouse at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, 1783, to celebrate at last the end of the war with England--just as they had gathered seven years earlier to hear lawyer Benjamin Waller proclaim from its steps the Declaration of Independence.

Led by four standard bearers, a herald riding a gelding, and the mayor and his aldermen bearing the city charter, the throng marched down Duke of Gloucester Street toward the College of William and Mary. They carried a proclamation announcing the initialing of the Treaty of Paris and, nearly two years after Yorktown, the end of the Revolution." - Colonial Williambsurg official website

Williamsburg Gunsmiths Mostly Repairmen

Williamsburg Gunsmith
Williamsburg Gunsmith, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Williamsburg Gunsmiths Mostly Repairmen"Because imported firearms were cheaper than those made in Williamsburg - typical of many goods in colonial America - the gunsmith mainly repaired arms and other objects. Gunsmiths often repaired axes and other items made by blacksmiths, cast shoe buckles and other items like bells, and sometimes repaired silver objects.

Rifles were the only Virginia arms produced in quantity. Rifle production was concentrated on the frontier to the west of Williamsburg." - Colonial Williamsburg Official Website

Another interesting account of a visit to the Williamsburg Gunsmith.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Weavers In High Demand in Colonial America

Williamsburg weaver
Williamsburg weaver, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The middle colonies attracted Dutch spinners and weavers, despite the prohibition against textile manufacture by Dutch West Indian Co, owners of "New Netherland". Pennsylvania held English, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, German, and Quaker settlers with textile manufacturing based in Philadelphia and Germantown; land was given to professional weavers to induce them to come to the colonies.

See also: Weavers

Colonists imported fine fabrics to emulate European fashion

"The fabrics used in America between 1640--1780 were simple and plain; colonists were largely unskilled in fabric making, so textiles were primarily imported. By 1656, Americans were recognizing that their lack of skowledge was making them all-too reliant on England; they began to desperately try to import textile makers from Europe.

In 1766 (in Providence, Rhode Island), the "Daughters of Liberty" was formed by a group of upper-middle class young women. They spent their days spinning to free America from its reliance on Europe for textiles--which actually did help the colonists when the Revolutionary war was launched. Many colonists found it economically necessary to create their own basic fabrics and clothing, anyway; but the finer cloths--the brocades and damasks, for example--were purchased from Europe.

Colonists with lingering European taste insisted upon British wools, in particular. American sheep were coarse wool types, and couldn't produce the more fine, soft wools of English sheep. Yet, in the 1630s, the colonial legislative body passed several laws forbidding the purchase or wearing of such fine fabrics--because, they said, colonists were becoming far too worldly.

Although widely available in colonial America, COTTON was not expertly created by the colonists; it was very coarse when made in the colonies. American SILKS were generally of poor quality, also. Most cotton was imported from England (and originated in India), and heavy silks from England and France were bought in small quantities.

Wealthy Colonial Women Elegantly "Asphyxiated"

Colonial women's fashions could be called elegant asphyxiation as noted in this website about Revolutionary America:

"For Women, tight bodices contrasted with voluminous hoop skirts and panniers (side bustles) under multi-layered petticoats and skirts. Stays (corsets) were inset with stiff whalebone and drawn tight, often laced to the brink of asphyxiation! Intricately upswept hairstyles completed the vision.

For Men, tailored frock coats opened to beautiful waistcoats of velvet, brocade or satin, and worn with velvet breeches, fancy knee buckles, silk stockings and buckled shoes."

New England Taverns Kept by Men of Consequence

"Grave and respectable citizens were chosen to keep the early ordinaries and sell liquor. The first "house of intertainment" at Cambridge, Massachusetts, was kept by a deacon of the church, afterward Steward of Harvard College. The first license in that town to sell wine and strong water was to Nicholas Danforth, a selectman, and Representative to the General Court. In the Plymouth Colony Mr. William Collier and Mr. Constant South-worth, one of the honored Deputies, sold wine to their neighbors.

Dr. Dwight in his Travels said that English-men often laughed at the fact that inns in New England were kept by men of consequence.

BEFORE named streets with numbered houses came into existence, and when few persons could read, painted and carved sign-boards and figures were more useful than they are to-day; and not only innkeepers, but men of all trades and callings sought for signs that either for quaintness, appropriateness, or costliness would attract the eyes of customers and visitors, and fix in their memory the exact locality of the advertiser. Signs were painted and carved in wood; they were carved in stone; modelled in terra-cotta and plaster; painted on tiles; wrought of various metals; and even were made of animal' heads stuffed."

Bob Wigs Most Requested by Colonists

Wigs were made of horsehair, yak hair and human hair, the latter being the most expensive. Wigs were very expensive. A man could outfit himself with a hat, coat, breeches, shirt, hose, and shoes for about what a wig would cost him. A wig also required constant care from a hairdresser for cleaning, curling, and powdering. Bob wigs were the most popular wigs in colonial America and were also the standard wig worn by Protestant clergymen for the whole century. Catholic clergy wore a similar style with a built in tonsure at the top.

Colonial Apothecaries Practiced Herbalism

Colonial apothecary
Colonial apothecary, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
According to the Wellness Directory of Minnesota: "Herbalism reached its first major peak in Europe in 1652 when Dr Nicolas Culpeper published his book, The English Physician, filled with some 300 herbs, drawings, and their medicinal uses. He is considered by many, to be the father of alternative medicine."

It goes on to say: "When the colonists befriended the natives, their "medicine cabinets" so to say, expanded with new herbal remedies the natives brought them from their new land.

In his book, Divided Legacy, Dr Harris L Coulter describes this "second doctrine" (there were 4 competing theories of medicine in the first half of the 1800s) as the "Indian Doctors." Even though many of the arriving colonists had brought their herbal medicines with them (and seeds to grow more), the main herbal movement in this country were some of the new herbals introduced to the colonists by the natives."

These "botanics" eventually joined with a new group called the Thompsonians (I wonder if they were any relation? :-) to form the Eclectic Medicine movement.

"Thompsonians were named after the physician Samuel Thompson who left behind his orthodox practice to develop a much simpler theory based upon steam baths and the Indian remedy: lobelia."