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Life in the American Colonies 1680-1775
VA, MA, PA, NC and MD: largest populations by 1775. • Since 1760, the overall population had increased by almost 1 million people largely because of a high birthrate. • It was not uncommon for a man to go through several wives because they often died in childbirth. • Most of this population lived in rural areas.
Ethnic Composition of the Colonies • English largest ethnic group • Many Germans moved to Pennsylvania • Large number of Scotch-Irish lived along the frontier • Largest non-English group was African, most of whom were slaves. The vast majority of African-Americans lived in the South.
Social Organization • Aristocrats including merchants, officials and clergymen • Lesser professionals • Yeoman farmers • Manual workers and hired hands • Indentured servants and criminals • African-American slaves
A New England kitchen. A hundred years agoDigital ID: (digital file from b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a05604 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a05604 Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-1857 (b&w film copy neg.) Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Sack Back Gown and Matching Petticoats. Brocaded silk taffeta, linen bodice and sleeve linings, made in England or Virginia by Elizabeth Dandridge Aylett Henley.G1975-340.
Mrs. Gavin Lawson (Susannah Rose) by John Hesselius. Oil on Canvas. Virginia, dated 1770. Mrs. Lawson wife of a planter and merchant of Stafford County, Virginia, wears a satin gown with stomacher front, fine lace, and pearls. 1954-262.
Everyday Life • Medicine: Bleeding was a common practice. Barbers and physicians practiced medicine. • Sanitation was poor. Smallpox was common. No running water or plumbing. Trash often thrown in the streets. • Transportation: Poor system of roads making long distance communication difficult. Taverns along roads were important places for gossip and information. • Food was abundant. America provided fertile land and ample hunting grounds. • Amusement: House raisings, quilting bees and other work opportunities allowed people to gather. Religion was very important and provided another gathering place.
The eighteenth-century version of the universal cure was bloodletting. The genuine physician and the quack alike resorted to it in cases from brain fever to broken legs, colic to cancer.
Work • Most individuals were farmers. Land was cheap and abundant. • Lumbering was most important manufacturing activity. • Triangle Trade Source: Florida Virtual School
Religion • Two established religions (1775) - Anglican and Congregational • Roman Catholics were discriminated against. • Salem Witch Trials occurred in 1692 • Great Awakening - This religious revival was America's first mass movement. Two clergymen who helped lead this mass wave of evangelism were Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather.
Education • New England: Primary and secondary schools were established early so individuals could read their Bible. • South: Mass education not common. Wealthier families used tutors. • New England: College education important. Harvard University was founded in 1636 partially to train new clergy. Many families sent their children to England for study.
Art and Literature • Art was not a major concern in early America. • Architecture was modeled after England. • Literature was mainly theological in nature. Jonathan Edwards was one of the main authors. • Benjamin Franklin wrote Poor Richard's Almanack that was known for its pithy sayings like: Waste Not, Want Not. • Franklin set up the first privately supported library in America. • Printing presses and newspapers were common.
Politics • By the Revolution, eight colonies had royal governors, three had proprietors who chose governors, and two elected their own governors. • Almost all colonies had a two-house legislative body. • London did not spend a lot of time administering the colonies. This was known as 'salutary neglect.' • Local government varied. In the South, counties ruled. In New England, the citizens participated in town meetings (direct democracy). • A tradition of self-rule became grounded in the colonies.