Showing posts with label Samuel Sewall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samuel Sewall. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A fashion war in the Colonies

From my Newburyport Daily News article A fashion war in the Colonies

Our Puritan ancestors’ actions reveal that human nature is no different today. In the Bay Colony, leaders and church officials forged a campaign of rigid scrutiny, censoring the lifestyle and habits of everyday citizens. Simplicity in dress was the law, but like any other infringement on personal liberties carried out in the name of God, these sanctions would not go down without a struggle. A fashion war raged, and it seems that the Legislature could no more ban fashion plates than it could heretics or tipplers.

The men of the cloth pleaded to Governor Winthrop to repress “men of leisure and power” who emulated London fashions, saturating the pure terrain. These “horrids of vanity” caused “alarm and disgust among the pious families.” To remedy this, “The Simple Cobler of Aggawam” (Rev. Ward) targeted the colony’s ladies, stating they had “no true grace or valuable virtue” if they “disfigure themselves with such exotic garbs” and are no better than “French flirts.”

The holy rollers used sermons to blame these so-called “haughty women” for wars and bad harvest. The magistrates began enforcing sumptuary laws that prevented extravagance by limiting clothing expenditures. “Immodest fashions” with lace, silver and gold thread and other “items of adornment” that had “little use or benefit, but to the nourishment of pride,” were strictly forbidden, as were “slashed apparel, great sleeves, great boots, ribbon, and double ruffs.” Despite a fashion boycott, garments of splendor and other wearable loot poured in — historical records show that our ancestors in and around the Port were quite stylish.

The most notorious of the Vanity Fair, Madame Rebecka Symonds, widow of Deputy Governor Samuel Symonds, was always starving for the newest trends, and she had the means and the connections to stock her trunks. Family letters indicate her appetite for finery. Her son, John Hall, a wealthy London merchant, dutifully supplied her with the latest and most glamorous garb. Apparently, Madame was more worried about catching the plague than tweaking the noses of local lawmen. Her luxury booty arrived with correspondence from Hall assuring her that he purchased the “finery himself, in safe shops, from reliable dealers, and kept all for a month in his own home where none had been infected.” Though her garments carried no contagious germs, Madame was surely dressed to kill that season.

Judge Samuel Sewall, on the prowl for a wife, set his sights on Martha Ruggles and wrote to her brother Thomas Woodbridge, noting fond memories of her great style: I remember when I was going from school at Newbury, I sometimes met Mary, at the end of Mrs. Noyes’s Lane, coming from their School at Chandler’s Lane, in Hanging Sleeves ... “ Martha was not impressed — this fellow was never going to get under her sleeves. After she rejected his two proposals, he moved on to woo Widow Gibbs.

While the genteel usually got a minor shunning for their extravagance, for Colonists with a yearly income of less than 200 pounds, wearing the style of polite society was criminal. To give falsehood of your station in the Puritan Republic was against God’s law. The General Court announced their “utter detestation and dislike” that “over-proud commoners” of “mean condition, education and callings should take upon them the garb of gentlemen.”

Infractions resulted in punishment and fines. Tailors were forbidden from making garments “contrary to the mind and order of the Governors,” and if the grand jurors failed to bring indictments against guilty persons, the courts would impose fines on them. In 1652, Jonas Fairbanks and Robert Edwards were charged for wearing “great boots,” a cavalier fashion of excessive leather. John Chubb was admonished for “excess in apparel, beyond that of a man of his degree.” Additional records from the Quarterly Courts of 1653 regarding Newbury residents include:

Wife(s) of John Hutchings, Thomas Harris, Thomas Wayte and Edward Browne, presented for wearing a silk hood, all discharged testimony being brought up above the ordinary rank and upon proof of education.

Wife(s) of Nicholas Noyes and Hugh March, John Whipple presented for silk hood and scarves, but discharged for being worth 200 pounds.

Wife(s) of William Chandlour and Joseph Swett’s fined ten shillings for wearing a silk hood. Agnes, wife of Deacon Knight, presented for wearing a silk hood, discharged, her husband being worth above 200. (This troubled the good deacon exceedingly, and induced him to solicit Mr. Rawson to send a letter to one of the magistrates at Salem.)

Bridget Bishop, who was the first of the accused to be executed as a witch in Salem, may be the last infamous mention of illicit fashion in Puritan New England. Her famous “scarlet paragon bodice” did not directly cause her death, but it certainly helped lure the judgmental Puritan hordes to her doorstep. Many like Bishop just would not conform, nor be controlled — it is simply not New England’s style!

A big thank-you to historian Richard Trask for outfitting the material on the way we wore!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Abraham Adams House The Highfield Estate Newbury MA

Abraham Adams House Highfield Estate 1705 Pearson Drive, off of Orchard Street
From Gareldine ‘Garry’ Adams Newly added two news bank clips
Last weekend, Newbury, MA began a year-long celebration of its 375th anniversary with tours of the town’s historic houses. Among these was the Highfield Estate. According to the celebration’s official site, “Built in 1705, this is one of the few remaining garrison houses. From this house Abraham Adams and three sons* went to the Revolutionary War.”“Located on the site originally called The High Field, near the Newbury Falls.”
From Judge Sewell’s Diary:
Capt. Abraham Adams lived where his descendant, George W. Adams does now. He was an enterprising sea captain, who launched coasters from the river in front of his house. The present homelike and interesting house, which is rich in heirlooms, was built by him, it is said, in 1705. His wife, Anne, was the daughter of William and Anne (Sewall) Longfellow. Mr. Adams has in admirable preservation a highly interesting ancient deed. In it Samuel Sewall and his wife, Hannah, deed to Sergt. Abraham Adams half "the High Field," which still bears its ancient and fitting title, and half "the great Meadow" on the River Parker, and other land for five hundred pounds. The deed states that the property had been conveyed by Henry Sewall, the father of the Judge, to john Hull, the mint master, and implies that Hannah, the Judge’s wife, inherited it from John Hull, of whom she was "Daughter and sole heir." The deed is dated June 11, 1705. The property, while deeded to Sergt. Abraham Adams, was "intended for a settlement" for his son, Captain Abraham, "who married with Anne Longfellow, niece of the said Samuel Sewall." So substantial a present from the uncle and aunt of the bride must have been very encouraging to the newly wedded pair.
Recent/current photos of the Highfield Estate have not been found, but would be appreciated. Please contact the author or leave a comment if you would like to submit materials.
Page 91, The Story of Byfield by John Lewis Ewell, D.D., The University Press Cambridge, USA, 1904
Added on 1/14/2015 From Boston Herald June 10, 1945 and 1904

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Puritan Hair - Massachusetts

Ipswich Chronicle May 2, 2013

Back in the day, head fashion became a hairy scene in the Mass Bay colony. The magistrates launched an aggressive campaign on the matter, and several ministers “wigged” out in sermons, using Biblical references to shame their flock. This focus on fancy fashion and kinky hairdos was not taken lightly by the Puritans. Social order and convention were necessary for survival, and individual expression or adornment was considered a sin and a crime.

A “Roundhead” man with closely cropped hair was safe and godly. The General Court in 1634 issued “a burning theme of pulpit address” stating long hair “should by no means lie over band or doublet collar.” No proper Christian man would want to look like a “ruffian, varlet, and a vagabond.”

Governor Endicott imposed legal pressure to submit to a balding lifestyle: long hair was “uncivil and unmannerly” and “corrupts good manners.” Punishment would certainly be issued if hair was not cut to a civil frame.

Harvard College became an evil fortress in regards to shagging. The youth were cited for provoking evil with their long hair, even in the “pulpits to the great grief and fear of many Godly hearts in the Country.” Clearly, the stakes were high, and long hair became a penal offense. Rev. Rogers’s nephew Ezekiel, who attended the college, was cut out as sole heir of his estate for not trimming his mane.

Newcomers to the colony were warned about all things abominable. On board the Fame, Henry Vane and Lord Leigh cut off their lovely locks in preparation. Rev. John Cotton commended them for honoring God by shortening their hair, which demonstrated a “complete reformation by bringing it to the primitive length and form.”

Apparently the community of Ipswich did not take the hair policy very seriously. In 1651, a citation records “intolerable excess and bravery for bold apparel and head dress.” Puritan women were targeted for their puffed-up hairdos. 

However, they were willing to pay a high price for fashion. Several trunks landed in town, supplying all sorts of illegal garb and headdress, including combs, ribbons, scarfs, and other contraband. In 1679, records again note the “manifest pride openly appearing among us by some women wearing boarders.” These women were no doubt sporting “heartbreakers,” which set out like butterfly wings over their ears.

The proper hair attire for women was a neat bun and cap, called a “cornet,” or “Dutch coif.” 

Any mischievous locks or flirty curls were a sure sign of evil, a “wile of the devil.” In April of 1682, warrants were issued against young local girls for "folding their hair, frizzing and knots, and for wearing silk scarves." A total of eight girls, two of them servants, were arrested and made to crop their sultry, sinful styles.

A sermon by Increase Mather served up a stern message to these femme fatales, calling them “Apes of Fancy.” His disapproving words rang out from the pulpit: “Will not the haughty daughters of Zion refrain their pride in apparel? Will they lay out their hair, and wear their false locks, their borders, and towers like comets about their heads?” This reference was to a hair accessory known as a “commode,” a wire lace frill that kept the hair erect when attached to a smaller cap.

The wearing of wigs was a sin as well, and Samuel Sewall was in knots over the issue. His diary notes a visit to cousin Josiah Willard, inquiring about his wicked wig. He informed him that artificial hair was against the laws of God; God ordained our hair, and we are not to put that in question. Regardless, Willard liked his new look and made it clear he would not give it up.

In Sewall’s instance, God chose to leave him hairless. His courtship with Madame Winthrop parted ways when she could not entice him to cover his cold head with more than a velvet cap. She suggested enhancing his wooing charms by paying more attention to his own appearance, which included wearing a wig like his competition. However, Sewall was content with God’s design and rested that his Maker would send him another dame.

In their attempts to control every aspect of daily life, the Puritans were concerned with all modes of personal appearance and clothing choice. The Puritan fashion police would certainly have a field day with the outrageous hair styles seen these days. Surely Lady Gaga would easily earn herself 50 lashings and a day in the stocks for each of her crazy hair contraptions.