Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ANOTHER SIGNER – Elbridge Gerry

Abigail Adams wrote of him, “Faction may rave and party spirit slander . . . but an honester man has not left behind.” This was Elbridge Gerry, who at the age of fourteen entered Harvard College. Upon graduation he returned to Marblehead and entered his father’s mercantile and shipping business.

Mercy Otis Warren, in 1774, mentions Gerry in reference to the newly organized provincial congress. She referred to the formation of a committee of supplies to provide ammunition, provisions and warlike stores, and to deposit them in some place of safety, ready for use, if they should be obliged to take up arms in defence of their rights. Mercy wrote – “This business required talents and energy to make arrangements for exigencies, new and untried. Fortunately Elbridge Gerry, Esq,, was placed at the head of this commission, who executed it with his usual punctuality and indefatigable industry. This gentleman entered from principle, early in the opposition to British encroachments, and continued one of the most uniform republicans to the end of the contest, He was chose a delegate to the continental congress. Firm, exact, perspicuous [clear in expression and statement], and tenacious of public and private honor, he rendered essential service to the union for the many years that he continued to be a member of that honorable body.”

Gerry assumed that Washington would be the first President. But that did not prevent him from calling for impeachment provisions. "A good magistrate," he maintained, "will not fear them," and "a bad one ought to be kept in fear of them." He also expressed his hope that "maxim would never be adopted here that the chief magistrate can do no wrong." Agreeing, the Convention adopted an impeachment provision.

His rise in office, following his term as Governor of Massachusetts 1810-1811, was to culminate in his election as Vice President of the United States under Madison in 1812.

While attending his duties in Washington, he was suddenly summoned from the scene of his earthly labors. His tomb in the Congressional Cemetery bears the following inscription:
The Tomb of Elbridge Gerry
Vice President of the United States
Died suddenly, in this city,
on his way to the Capitol as president of the Senate
November 23rd, 1814
Aged 70
So passed into history – Elbridge Gerry, man of courage and integrity, Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, August 19, 2011

REMEMBRANCES: The High School Years

Medford High Rah! Rah! Sports of course, almost double jointed I love gym classes, especially working on ropes, swings & rings. Field hockey was a biggy, managed the softball team,(not much as a player, though). Interested always in public speaking and drama – both continuing into my adult years. . . .and art – mechanical drawing honors, sculpture, watercolor, ink, etc. Private lessons in all of the latter as well.

At one point, and I have no recall of how it happened, I did some loudspeaker commentary in a truck, re: the Mustangs football games. This cause and effect is hazy – maybe it’s just another, “Barbara, you simply cannot keep your mouth shut” episode

Although I was sure that Phyllis would get the role in the senior play, I auditioned anyway – and to my surprise I won the part. Performance always – included Mr. Schoonmaker’s All Girl Choir, and that was a wonderful experience.

And of course there was continuing CAP and flying at Bolton Airport – a small group of us girls called ourselves the ‘flying bucketheads’ – why? – who knows, I don’t. I never took the opportunity to learn to drive, and to this day I never did – fly solo, yes – drive a car, no.

Those were busy days with lots to do. Dating? – of course, checked out a few, and precocious me, I became engaged in my senior year. That becomes a new and varied chapter in activities, accomplishments, a few disappointments, and memories galore as I spent almost 60 year’s marriage and the raising of 7 children! Perhaps I will just leave those years for a much later time.

So fare thee well, as I turn to differing thoughts and facts.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

REMEMBRANCES – more, part IV

During my school years my story becomes even more the bits & pieces I have been dwelling on lately. We always did a lot of walking and I actually recall walking from Medford to Revere Beach on more than one occasion. From the house to Medford Square and even on to Malden Square was easy – and where we would go to the movies on Saturday afternoon. Mystic Theatre, the Granada, etc. Not only were there two features, but news, cartoons, previews and a serial. Flash Gordon was my favorite of the latter, and we would often dress up at home and reenact the adventures we’d seen and made up more of our own.

There was never a dull or boring moment – games played, swapping around a book with pages for each of us, and writing our opinions about each other (nice and sometimes not so nice) in the “Slam Book”. Opinion was respected in those years, and name calling “broke no bones”. I had a friend, Larry, and we had lots of fun setting up a museum of “marvelous” though not authentic, artifacts. Seems like I knew I would later work as a curator of collections for a historical society.?

Neighborhood names I can recall, Lepore, Dye, Richmond, Pontefract, Warren, Blair were just a few. This was in the section called Lawrence Estates and I remember the beautiful granite(?) walls and benches at the head of Lawrence road on both sides – a gateway.

When I was twelve we went to breakfast at the Medford Café, and while there we learned of the events of that fateful Sunday. Truly that generation pitched in and life changed as we went to war. Dad became an air raid warden, blackouts were observed and I too, as a Red Cross volunteer rolled bandages, knit things for the troops.

I was to become a member of the Civil Air Patrol Cadets, an auxiliary of the Army Air Force that is still active today. We learned military drill, meteorology, and many aeronautical procedures. When I was 15 I learned to fly at Bolton Airport in Bolton, Massachusetts – all airports nearer the coast (Revere for example) were not operating during wartime. I earned much of my flying time by working on the aircraft, repairing and recovering (and doping) the fabric covering wings and body. I had to wait until I was 16 to solo. And yes, there is a family joke about my solo cross country. When I landed at Brockton Airport on the 2nd leg of my xc, I turned off the runway to taxi in the grass (this was the procedure at Bolton) – I got stuck in the mud and had to be hauled out – and I have, to this day, never lived it down.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I occasionally got real fresh, I remember at the club one day deliberately saying to Robbie, my brother, “here comes the old man!” Dad gave me quite a scolding – “I’m your father, not your old man!” Funny how you can remember little vignettes like that.
* Dogs: English setter named Scamp and a spaniel called Penny, short for Lady Pennyroyal.
* Walking to school – the old Centre School, formerly Medford High back in the 1800s; after a week I skipped 1st grade and went right into second.
* 4th of July, going house to house in the neighborhood & parents setting off fireworks.
* Sledding on Sugar Hill.
* Drama & elocution at Pittman Academy.
And later drama, elocution & dance with Kathleen Vincent O’Hara – I always longed for frilly tutu costumes, one year we were to do a Spanish dance and I thought – hah! Now I’ll have my frills and flounces, but to my horror they costumed us in blue pants & boleros and iridescent red & gold blouses, soooo sad!!
* Piano lessons with Frank Bell – oh I wish I’d studied harder
* Playing “Billy Boy” on the piano with Nana Van
* Cousin Converse at the piano, breathing heavily and wearing his ridiculous clown wig.

Music, art, and dance ran side by side with academic studies for me, like Mother like Daughter perhaps. I remember a mandolin Mom played, and her telling about adagio dancing, and of course she too painted, right up to her late 90s.
Mom and I ran side by side with the birth of our baby boys on August 23 & 24 – oh it was so hot! I remember the prickly heat.

A few days ago I spoke of Clarks Harbor visits when small and there adventures there took place with friends Maxine, Glenna and Marjorie
* The 2-holer outhouse at Sidney’s seemed to be very practical to a 3 year old - “One hole for you, Mommie, and one hole for me.”
* Running through the many rooms in the hotel and the very large room that contained a huge clawfoot tub and an overhead water closet with a long chain pull.
* Picking ‘winkies’ off the rocks.
* Wharf and boats – little Herbie Swim fell off the wharf and drowned, my first experience with loss of a friend laid out in the parlor of his house.
In later years, searching the cemeteries for relatives/ancestors, as I pursued a new interest in family history – Mom and Dad taking a now grown up me to Argyle to search and find.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Mom once said that material things were not important to her, but her memories were and that was all she needed. Profound thought from a very remarkable, and capable woman. Since in many ways I have followed in my mother’s footsteps - here is a mélange of things that I recall.

As a small child: getting stuck to the floor ( temper?); falling down the stairs (my knees were always scabby), mercurochrome and a kiss from Mom stopped the tears.
I remember going through a “shut up” phase that finally earned me a slap one day in the postoffice. Did I do it again after that? Of course not.

The house I grew up in Medford, Massachusetts:

When still small – I used to talk to the picture of my mother when I was supposed to be napping on her big bed – and one day I decided that she would be very impressed with my beauty and surprised at my grownup appearance dressed in her pink crepe dress with the accordion pleated cape. I managed some makeup too sitting on the bench in front of the mirrored vanity. I opened the door to meet with disapproval rather than the awe and admiration I had expected.

It’s funny how a child remembers clothes (except for the time I neglected to put on my panties when we were to take a trip to Boston with Aunt Hazel.) Mom also had an off white dress with cape like the pink. She had a turquoise moire evening gown with narrow straps and a short jacket – it had a large dark rose velvet bow. And I have vague recollections of another gown, blue I think, and of all things to remember – that it was made of mousseline-de-soie. And another (remembered because in my teens I borrowed it) was coral with a round neckline, a little peplum, and small metal stars on the bodice. . . . And what fun to come home from play or school and find that Mom had made me a new dress. All by hand – my favorite was white with little blue flowers, light blue bias binding with fagotting at the neckline!

My early coiffure, a dutch cut with bangs, was replaced at one time by CURLS- a perm at home, and curling irons heated up on the gas stove. . . . . . . and all the bits & pieces happening: Mail twice a day, the ragman, milkman, iceman & vegetable man, in carts & in wintertime tungs. Bowman’s grocery delivering a phoned in order every day, Medford Square stores where the clerks got down what you wanted (absolutely no self-service.) Pampa coming home with a live lobster in his valice, Dad taking me duck hunting, going with Mom & Dad to the gun club and learning to shoot (prone at 3 years old).

And that is just the beginning –

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Of early trips to Cape Sable Island – by boat, then train, then ferry – to a very different world for a very little girl.

We took the boat to Yarmouth from Rowes wharf in Boston – “Rose wharf – what a pretty name for a wharf”, said I. The train ride from Yarmouth was so exciting that I left my favorite be-ribboned bonnet behind. At Barrington we caught the ferry to the island – no causeway approach at that time.

My greatgrandfather and greatgrandma owned the Seaview Hotel and I admired the stone dogs that guarded the steps – was amazed to see spittoons strategically placed in the front rooms. And my happy day when my bonnet arrived, found and returned from the train. I remember curling up in a rocking chair and looking at things to buy in the dream book (Sears Roebuck catalog) with greatgrandma. A puzzle – everyone called them Aunt Ruth and Uncle Lennie, but to me it had to be grampa and gramma. Different from my grandmother I called Nana and my grandfather I called Pampa.

Now there were many things to be seen and to learn about in visits over the next seven years – the house across the street, built by grampa with living quarters upstairs, postoffice and grocery store below.(Grampa was also postmaster for about fifty years altogether). There was also a blacksmith shop, a barn and oh my that barn was scary when I was just three years old – I walked very quickly and carefully to pass the cows that would kick and swish their tails – there was a pig, a horse and at the very end two very large oxen! I learned to milk the cows when I got older and braver – and what fun to squirt some warm milk right into my mouth. Back at the hotel, later run by greatuncle Rob and aunt Lo there were hens and geese – the latter to be avoided as they hissed, nipped and chased me. But what fun learning to churn butter with aunt Lo.

Among last year’s archives you will find “Four Generations” with information about those mentioned above . . . and as I think of all the many changes in life style and activities over the years – stay with me for a bit and there will be more to come.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Excerpt from the John Cary Descendants printed Oct 1906 - a bulletin sent to members of the Cary family who met annually at Highland Park,Brockton

At an early date colored people were held in servitude in some well-to-do families in New England. One I have seen named Patience Ring. They called her old Patience. She was held in a branch of the Cary family as a slave, until the Emancipation Act in New England took place; afterwards she was taken care of in the families till her death and was decently buried in the first burial place in West Bridgewater.

"I well remember Old Patience. She spent some time in our family when I was a child. She was tall, not very dark, sharp features, pleasant countenance, and the embodiment of good nature. But she had one weakness, she loved cider and unless restrained would sometimes drink to excess. Perhaps no one in the association has any tradition of Patience Ring. I have dictated this thinking it might be of some interest to the Cary Assoc. "
Rev. Howard Cary Dunham 1813-1906

Friday, August 12, 2011


Did You Know?
*1657 - Boston Town House was constructed of wood. Funds donated by Boston merchant Robert Keayne to include a market place, “a convenient room for the Courts to meet in winter and summer,” and a room for the town elders to confer.
*1711 – Town House destroyed by fire. The General Assembly proposes a brick building to replace it.
* 1713 – Present Old State House opens and becomes the site of the provincial government. Some portions of the original brick wall remain today.
* 1747 – Another fire destroys interior and part of the brick walls. Present Old State House rebuilt as of this date. Figures of British lion and unicorn appear on east side.
* 1761 – James Otis’ eloquent arguments against British Writs of Assistance stirs patriotic sentiment against British rule. John Adams, a spectator that day, would later write, “ . . then ans there the child Independence was born.”
* 1767 – Public galleries built in Representative’s Hall, the first known example of providing accountability for elected officials.
* 1770 – Boston Massacre occurs outside building. Five Bostonians killed by British soldiers, later tried for murder. Defended by John Adams, five acquitted, two found guilty of manslaughter.
* 1774 - Massachusetts legislators circumvent British intentions to dissolve the body by locking doors to Representative’s Hall and electing delegates to Continental Congress.
* 1776 - Declaration of Independence read to Bostonians from balcony. Lion and unicorn are removed and burned at bonfire. King Street name changed to State Street.
* 1780 – John Hancock chosen first Commonwealth Governor and inaugurated in Council Chamber room.
* 1780-1790 - The building serves as Massachusetts State House.
* 1788 – Massachusetts ratifies the Federal Constitution, the sixth state to do so. Sessions held at several places in Boston but final ratification takes place at Old State House as Massachustts becomes part of the United States.
* 1789 – President Washington visits Boston and reviews parade in his honor from the west side of the building.

1798 – Building renovated for private shops; wine merchants, wig makers, hatters and a restaurant among tenants.
1820-29 – Second floor used by Masons.
1830-40 – Renovated in 1830 by William Washburn, the building is used as Boston City Hall during this decade.

In 1881 The Bostonian Society was founded to preserve and restore the Old State House. There you will find continued restoration, a museum, a restored Council Chamber and more in this historic site, declared in 1960 by the Boston National Historic Sites Commission as” the most important public building in American History prior to the Declaration of Independence.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011


From the Distaff:

July, 1775 - "I was struck with General Washington. You had prepared me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the one half was not told me. Dignity with ease, and complacency, the Gentleman and soldier look agreably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feture of his face."
Abigail Adams

1775 - "It is unsafe to return to Cambridge, as the enemy were advancing up the river, and fixing on the town to stay in. Thus with precipitancy we were driven to the town of Anderson, following some of our acquaintance - five of us to be conveyed with one poor tired horse and chaise; thus we began our pilgrimage, alternately walking and riding, the roads filled with frighted women and children; some in carts with their tattered furniture, others on foot fleeing into the woods. But what added greatly to the horrors of the scene, was our passing through the bloody field at Monotong, which was strewed with the mangled bodies. We met one affectionate father with a cart, looking for his murdered son, and picking up his neighbors who had fallen in battle in order for their burial."
Hannah Winthrop

October, 1775 - "The desk, the pews and other incumbramces are taken down in Old South to make it convenient for the accomodation of Gen. Burgoynbe's light horse; while the infamous Dr. Morrison, whose character I suppose you are acquainted with, reads prayers in the church on Brattle street to a set of banditti who after the rapines, robberies and devastations of the week, dare - some of them - to lift up their sacriligious hands, and bow before the altar of mercy" . . " I will breathe one wish more; and that is for the restoration of peace - peace, I mean on equitable terms, for pusillanimous and feeble as I am, I cannot wish to see the sword quietly put up in scabbard, until justice is done to America.
Mercy Otis Warren

And a Different Viewpoint
From the Journal of a Lady, Her Journey from Scotland to the West Indies & to North Carolina
"They had got some news that had not been agreeable, which had been transpired by the arrival of a ship from Boston. This was a battle having happened on a place called Bunkershill . . . I shall not be easy until I go into town to inquire the particulars of this battle. . . . .I have seen a newspaper published by the committee's order, where the whole story of the battle is denied, 'tho it is said that the Americans had made an attack on us and killed many of our officers, amongst others they mentioned Major Pitcairn. I hope this is not the Pitcairn that was married to Miss Dalrymple, as I know many of her relations. But though 'tis false altogether, I hope the publisher will be hanged, for they have vexed me, though I do not believe them."
Janet Schaw

Monday, August 8, 2011

QUOTATIONS - more bits & pieces

As a historical interpreter I find Mark Twain's comment to be most significant - far too many judge previous centuries by the mindset of the twenty-first century.

"To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man's character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours." - Mark Twain
"It is impossible to carry on a war without oppressing the inhabitants in some degree; and however disagreeable and inconvenient it may be to the people, and to those in power, a regard to the common good and general safety will justify the measure."
Nathaniel Greene 1 August 1780
March 23, 1775 "If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!"
Thomas Paine - 1776: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

And that last (Thomas Paine- 1776)still applies to this very day and should be a clarion cry of love, thanks and respect for those men and women past and present who continue to serve their country

Friday, August 5, 2011


Child-rearing practices of the colonial era included much from the writings of John Locke in "Thoughts on Education", published in England in 1690. He recommended icy baths for infants and young children. A classic, documented example, Josiah Quincy recalled that in winter as well as summer he would be carried from his warm bed and taken to a cellar kitchen to be dipped three times in a tub of frigid water straight from the well. Also in keeping with Locke's advice, his shoes were made with thin soles so that water could leak in. In his boyhood, he said, he spent most of his time with wet, cold feet. Quincy survived, many of his generation did not.

First food for the infant was mother's milk. Various substances, including dangerous lead-based pewter were used in nursing bottles and nipples, and if John Locke was followed meat would not be fed until the child was several years old. Children might have brown bread, corn pudding, baked beans and perhaps milk and cheese and some fruits.

A primary threat to health was infectious disease. Yellow fever, pernicious malaria, scarlet fever, diphtheria . The latter had been a mild disease before 1735 when it suddenly assumed a fatal form in an outbreak in Kingston, NH. Whooping cough, dysentery, influenza, tuberculosis, pleurisy and smallpox. Much of the medical practices contributed to fatalities, the receipts and cures in books of cookery often provided a gentler dosage than that of the physician.

Burns were mentioned frequently by Martha Ballard, and treatment with poultices of rum, onion and indian meal. She also refers to children passing or vomiting worms, a common, debilitating condition found in that area. Scaldings were frequent, and one child, age 7, appeared dead after drinking spirits. They immersed him in warm water and put down oil, Dr Cony was called and used some means and he recovered. She frequently made use of the mild cathartics , senna and manna, even using manna with infants.

As innoculations for small pox became desireable/fashionable, children, too, underwent the procedure. From a letter written by Lady Montegu about her six-year-old son - "the children play together all the rest of the day and are in perfect health to the eighth; Then the fever begins to seize them and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which seldom mark, and in eight days time they are as well as before their illness.


What made America the big coffee drinking nation it is today? During the time of the Rev War the non-alcoholic drink of choice seems to have been tea - especially up in the northern colonies. I am wondering if the tariff on tea, and the whole politics of
the tea tax, drove Americans to start drinking coffee.

I remember someone saying that he was not sure it was an easy one-for-one replacement in the Revolutionary era. For one thing, although coffee was *one* of the substitutes offered for tea in the early 1770s, it wasn't the only one. "Labrador," a sort of herb tea of North American origin, and chocolate were also on the table.

“The Ladies too were so zealous for the Good of their Country, that they agreed to drink no Tea, except the Stock of it which they had by them; or in Case of Sickness. Indeed, they were cautious enough to lay in large Stocks before they promised; & they could be sick just as suited their Convenience or Inclination. Chocolate & Coffee were to be substituted for Tea; & it was really diverting, to see a Circle of Ladies about a Tea Table, & a Chocolate or Coffee Pot in the midst of it filled with Tea”. (A Tory view of the Revolution activities)

We are aware of the tea dumped in Boston Harbor. Did that signal a cultural shift from tea to coffee? And then consider that coffee has more caffeine than tea on average. A safer guess might be economics. Although coffee was popular in Europe even in the 16th century it was more expensive than tea. As an occasional treat, coffee was more likely to be served than tea.

Despite the high prices today, coffee is available from more sources, and there's more competition, so more people can afford to drink it as an everyday beverage instead of a rare luxury.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

HISTORICAL OPINIONS: What was Said and What was Thought

About John Hancock – gossip, truth, opinion?
John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head when he signed the Declaration of Independence as President of the Continental Congress He signed as he always did, not one speck larger than normal. This was the culmination of three days of wrangling and 86 alterations made to the original draft. These men who signed were heroes, alike in their dedication to the cause, but vastly unalike in their personal lives.

John Hancock was no exception, we are all familiar with his story, the history books recount the facts, and there are the myths as well. But what of the man himself?

From the distaff viewpoint: Abigail Adams did not always sing his praises – she referred to him as the ‘tinkeling cymbal’ in discussing his popularity in the 1780 election for Governor of Massachusetts; and in a November letter to her dear husband notes that “Last week his Excellency gave a very Grand Ball, to introduce our republican form of government properly upon the Stage.” In earlier letters she mentions “a military company under Mr. Hancock that is much talked about here”. (For John Hancock, wealthy merchant, yearned for military command, and would have willingly taken the place of George Washington).

But from Mercy Otis Warren, the historian: Mr. Hancock was a young gentleman of fortune, of more external accomplishments than of real abilities. He was polite in manners, easy in address, affable, civil and liberal. With these accomplishments he was capricious, sanguine and implacable. Naturally generous he was profuse in expense; he scattered largesses without discretion, and purchased favors by the waste of wealth until he reached the culmination of his wishes which centered in the focus of popular applause. He enlisted early in the cause of his country, at the instigation of some gentlemen of penetration, who thought his ample fortune might give consideration, while his fickleness could not injure so long as he was under the influence of men of superior judgment.

Opinion - from two very perceptive women who were “on the scene”, and knew the participants.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Yesterday we spoke of ingredients in use in that time period, but it occurred to me that it might be important to take a look at just how and why they were put to use. I am indebted to Barbara Talasco who put together “Never Quite Satisfied” based on her research – excerpts follow:

Throughout the course of history we have continually attempted to improve upon nature with a grand variety of concoctions and contraptions. Never was the tendency stronger than during the 18th century when fashion reigned supreme – a time when an inordinate amount of time, money and energy was expended in the quest for the ultimate appearance.

A myriad of painting, padding hiding and dyeing paraphernalia became part of every person’s toilette. Even the face was padded when necessary. When age and loss of teeth allowed the cheeks to hollow, an under-the-counter item called ‘plumpers’ (little cork balls inserted into the mouth to fill the void) came to the rescue. “Mrs. Button who wears cork plumpers in each cheek and never hazards more than six words for fear of shewing them” – 1780, Mrs. Cowly, The Belle’s Stratagem.

Snippets of mouse skin became false eyebrow and came in many colours. They replaced the natural brow which was often intentionally removed by plucking, shaving, or the use of painful plasters or depilatories (sometimes containing quicklime) its original site obscured with pink paste.

Beyond shaping and replacing came an assault on the very skin by way of ‘complexion improvers’ and cosmetics. Creams and lotions, both homemade and commercially produced were popular; some were innocent and some were lethal.

Skin was softened and wrinkles removed with greases and oils. Nightly applications with saturated forehead cloths and impregnated skin gloves (chicken and dog) were the preferred methods of treatment.

Rouge of the day was accomplished by several methods but mostly by ‘Spanish Wool’. This woolen or felt pad was impregnated with a red dye and was applied to dampened cheeks and lips by men and women alike. Thus the characteristic red and white face that went on in the morning and came off at night was accomplished by some men and all fashionable women.

Lead which served to whiten also served to darken as in the form of combs for the hair and especially for the eyebrows – when natural brows were kept, that is. Brows could also be darkened with a solution of green vitriol and gum Arabic.

Regular bathing became less an ostentatious act and more routine. Teeth were cleansed with toothpicks and rag-wound sticks, and whitened with a mixture of lemon juice and burnt alum.

[I do suggest to historical interpreters that a camp follower might make use of information slanted toward the fashionable lady: why not try the rag on a twig (or a fringed twig) tooth brushing, conspicuously public for nothing was personal and private, along with a grand splashing of water on the face! – what elegance !!! ???]

Monday, August 1, 2011


Among our bits and pieces are notes on the use and ‘makeup’ of cosmetics:
*the term pomander is derived from ‘pommes d’ambre’ or amber apples. They were carried to mask offensive odors and to ward off disease.
*As a base for cosmetics, perfumed ground alabaster or starch were used as well as ceruse (white lead) . Lip sticks consisted of coloured ground plaster of Paris.
*Although black patches were most fashionable, scarlet patches were also worn.
*False porcelain teeth were often worn with cheek plumpers.
*Also providing color was Spanish wool. Spanish leather, carmine, coloured ceruse, vegetable rouge, and serviette rouge (a rag dipped in coloured dye).

Interesting ingredients for cosmetics were lead, mercury, bitter almonds, tartar, the whites, birch tree sap, rosemary and white wine, ass’s milk. Also hog lard, honey, bear’s grease, olive oil, Arabian gum, rosewater, orris root, musk, civet, amber-gris, oil of cloves, vinegar, alum. Already mentioned - ground alabaster, plaster of Paris and starch. Lye, rhubarb, puppy fat, apples, posset curd, egg shells, borax, white poppy seeds, and quick lime. Lead calcined with sulphur, frog’s blood, leeches, goats grease, apricot paste, myrhh. Also puppy dog urine (drunk in the 17th century), dog blood, buttersnail shells, lemon, sugar, gold leaf, jasmine, frangipane, water of talc and frog spawn water.

*Hungary water was a popular scent consisting of rosemary oil, verbena oil, Portugal oil, linette oil, peppermint oil, triple rose water, triple orange flower water, and ninety percent alcohol.

I mentioned ceruse. It was commonly called paint (as in powder & paint) and gave the skin a fashionable whiteness and was the main ingredient in most rouges and lip salves. The most celebrated example of its fatal results was Maria Gunnning, Lady Coventry, a noted beauty who died of lead poisoning in 1760. In mid century England heavy cosmetic use by the elite included not only the women but the men as well.

The above is the “WHAT” but tomorrow I will make a continuation with the “HOW” – . . . . . to be continued