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Life & Times. Colonial America on the Eve of the Revolution. Society. Highly stratified society Small, independent farmers=40% of population Northern colonies: wealthiest 10% owned 45% of land Southern colonies: wealthiest 10% owned 75% of the land

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Life & Times


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    1. Life & Times Colonial America on the Eve of the Revolution

    2. Society • Highly stratified society • Small, independent farmers=40% of population • Northern colonies: wealthiest 10% owned 45% of land • Southern colonies: wealthiest 10% owned 75% of the land • People of mixed national origins (English, Irish, Scottish, Dutch, Swedish) & beliefs • Society made up of freemen, indentured servants, and slaves

    3. Education • Early education • Idea of public education began in colonies • 1647: Massachusetts passed tax-supported school law for towns w/50+ families • Most southern families of means hired private tutors • By 1745, three colleges in North America; by 1776, six more • For most students, school ended at age 10-12

    4. Education • Schools • 1 room log building w/greased paper “windows”, few books, no blackboards, little paper, few maps, dunce stool in corner • Students used goose quill pens/made ink by boiling down washed walnut or butternut hulls & adding vinegar & salt

    5. Education: Schools • Textbooks & teaching methods • Bible: often the only book in homes • Hornbooks: wooden paddles with the alphabet and sometimes the Lord’s Prayer written on them, covered w/a thin layer of horn • New England Primer: first widely used standard text; taught reading, writing, arithmetic, moral lessons along w/the alphabet • Ex. For the letter “d”: “A dog will bite a thief at night.” and a picture showing it.

    6. Education: Schools/Teachers • Memorization by the “blab” method: short sentences recited aloud in unison…very noisy/various age groups working on different lessons • Teachers • Always male, dressed in waistcoat, ruffled shirt, powdered wig • Sat at high wooden desk…with hickory stick handy! (N.E. Primer: “The idle fool is whipped at school.”)

    7. Education: Lessons • Schools were not co-ed • Boys apprenticed to trade or learned farming after finishing school • Some went on to grammar school (college) and studied Latin for professions in medicine, law, ministry

    8. Education: Lessons • Girls spent about 3 years in school to learn to read (not believed capable of further studies) • Girls rarely admitted to grammar school; sometimes to private academies called Dame Schools to learn “domestic arts” w/social arts, e.g. music, dancing, drawing, French, flower arranging

    9. Recreation • Popular pastimes: dancing, fishing, skating, sleigh riding, card playing, badminton, attending country fairs • Gender-based activities: • Women did needlework/quilting, read, played musical instruments • Men had competitions: wrestling, horse & foot races, whistling contests

    10. Appearance • Men’s clothing - Upper Classes • Frock coat, vest, knee britches, silk stockings to knee, buckled shoes, hat, ornamental buttons (brass, pearl, etc.), rings w/family seal, earrings • Powdered wigs w/hair cut short beneath…or long hair tied back (“Clubbed”)

    11. Appearance: Upper Class Men • Fancy dress: cocked hats w/gold lace, red vests w/lace, lace-trimmed ruffles at coat sleeves (long ruffles hanging over the hand were a sign of gentility/wealth), cuffs weighted to hang properly

    12. Appearance • Men’s clothing - The “Lesser” Classes • Working men’s styles were similar to those of the upper classes; fabrics differed: linsey wool (linen/wool combo), cotton shirts, woolen stockings • Frontier men: leather hunting shirts down to thigh w/leggings & moccasins

    13. Appearance: Women’s Clothing • Women’s Clothing: Upper Classes • Long dresses w/hooped skirts stiffened w/whalebone…some formal gowns had hoops six feet wide! (consider having to get into coaches sitting beside a similarly dressed woman) • Small waists were fashionable (14”-18”); tight corsets used to reach ideal waist

    14. Appearance: Women’s Clothing • Low necklines for evening wear • High-heeled shoes--often wooden clogs on iron platforms to keep them out of mud • “Tower” hairdos for special occasions: long hair frizzed with curling irons, piled up in front over wool pads into mountains of curls and puffs; greased w/pomade and powdered…covered w/large wire framework from which hung false curls, lace, ribbons, beads, jewels, and feathers

    15. Appearance: Women’s Clothing • Women’s Clothing: the “lesser” classes • Simple, long dress, long hair braided or in a bun & tucked under a mobcap, sunbonnet or parasol if outdoors • Fabrics differentiated class rather than style in everyday dress

    16. Love, Courtship & Marriage • General information • In most colonies, men outnumbered women • The New World offered more freedom for courtship than did the Old World…especially for upper class women

    17. Love, Courtship & Marriage • Bachelorhood frowned upon; early marriages encouraged; some girls in the “lesser” classes married at 13, most 18 • An unmarried woman of 25 was considered an ancient maid! • Arranged marriages were the norm; parental approval needed for courtship…men subject to fine/public whipping if he didn’t get it!

    18. Love, Courtship & Marriage • Courtship • Among the upper classes • Daughters entertained suitors in family parlor-usually w/whole family • Some privacy by using a whispering rod…a long hollow tube to whisper sweet nothings! • Among the “lesser” classes • Suitor might be invited to spend the night once parent sure of marriage • Bundling board down middle of bed to ensure propriety, but no real problem if board wasn’t in place the next morning

    19. Love, Courtship & Marriage • Marriage • Dowries/money arrangements published • Wife and “her” property became husband’s • Husbands also assumed wives’ debts • Church and law disapproved of “disorderly marriage” (living together before marriage • Divorce prohibited, except in MA and CT

    20. Health • Life expectancy • 2/3 of children died before age 2 • At birth, expectancy was 35 years • For those who survived past the age of ten, 54-56 years

    21. Health • Medicine • During colonial period, about 3500 doctors in America • 400 had any formal training • 200 had medical degrees • Treatments often worse than illness • Bleeding (nick veins/use leeches) • Purging w/laxatives • Drugs: Opium, mercury, herbs

    22. Crime & Punishment • Puritan idea of public humiliation • Minor offences brought time in the stocks • Quarrelsome women could be cooled down on the ducking stool

    23. Crime & Punishment • “Real” Punishments for “Real Crimes • Blasphemy: Tongue in cleft stick • Other crimes (eg. Theft) warranted hands/ears cut off, branding, whipping • Serious crimes warranted execution, usually by hanging