Puritan Family

Early American Copper, Tin and Brass

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

religious customs and duties were in question. On January 22d, 1694, Judge Sewall thus records:

"A very extraordinary Storm by reason of the falling and driving of the Snow. Few women could get to Meeting. A child named Alexander was baptized in the afternoon."

He does not record Alexander's death in sequence. He writes thus of the baptism of a four days' old child of his own on February 6th, 1656:

"Between 3 & 4 P.M. Mr. Willard baptizeth my Son whom I named Stephen. Day was louring after the storm but not freezing. Child shrank at the water but Cry'd not. His brother Sam shew'd the Midwife who carried him the way to the Pew. I held him up."

And still again on April 8th, 1677, of another of his children when but six days old:

"Sabbath day, rainy and stormy in the morning but in the afternoon fair and sunshine though with a Blustering Wind. So Eliz. Weeden the Midwife brought the Infant to the Third Church when Sermon was about half done in the Afternoon."

Poor little Stephen and Hull and Joseph, shrinking away from the icy water, but too benumbed to cry! Small wonder that they quickly yielded up their souls after the short struggle for life so gloomily and so coldly begun. Of Judge Sewall's fourteen children but three survived him, a majority dying in infancy; and of fifteen children of his friend Cotton Mather but two survived their father.

This religious ordeal was but the initial step in the rigid system of selection enforced by every detail of the manner of life in early New England. The mortality among infants was appallingly large; and the natural result — the survival of the fittest — may account for the present tough endurance of the New England people.

Nor was the christening day the only Lord's Day when the baby graced the meeting-house. Puritan mothers were all church lovers and strict church-goers, and all the members of the household were equally church-attending; and if the mother went to meeting the baby had to go also. I have heard of a little wooden cage or frame in the meeting-house to hold Puritan babies who were too young, or feeble, or sleepy to sit upright.

Of the dress of these Puritan infants we know but little. Linen formed the chilling substructure of their attire — little, thin, linen, short-sleeved, low-necked shirts. Some of them have been preserved, and with their tiny rows of hemstitching and drawn work and the narrow edges of thread-lace are pretty and dainty even at the present day. At the rooms of the Essex Institute in Salem may be seen the shirt and mittens of Governor Bradford's infancy. The ends of the stiff, little, linen mittens have evidently been worn off by the active friction of baby fingers and then been replaced by patches of red and white cheney or calico. The gowns are generally

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This page was last updated on 12 Sep 2005