Colonial Fashions Paper Dolls

Making Colonial Furniture

Customs and Fashions in Old New England


In the early days of the New England colonies no more embarrassing or hampering condition, no greater temporal ill could befall any adult Puritan than to be unmarried. What could he do, how could he live in that new land without a wife? There were no housekeepers — and he would scarcely have been allowed to have one if there were. What could a woman do in that new settlement among unbroken forests, uncultivated lands, without a husband? The colonists married early, and they married often. Widowers and widows hastened to join their fortunes and sorrows. The father and mother of Governor Winslow had been widow and widower seven and twelve weeks, respectively, when they joined their families and themselves in mutual benefit, if not in mutual love. At a later day the impatient Governor of New Hampshire married a lady but ten days widowed. Bachelors were rare indeed, and were regarded askance and with intense disfavor by the entire community, were almost in the position of suspected criminals. They were seldom permitted to live alone, or even to choose their residence, but had to find a domicile wherever and with whomsoever the Court assigned. In Hartford lone-men, as Shakespeare called them, had to pay twenty shillings a week to the town for the selfish luxury of solitary living. No colonial law seems to me more arbitrary or more comic than this order issued in the town of Eastham, Mass., in 1695, namely:

"Every unmarried man in the township shall kill six blackbirds or three crows while he remains single; as a penalty for not doing it, shall not be married until he obey this order."

Bachelors were under the special spying and tattling supervision of the constable, the watchman, and the tithingman, who, like Pliable in Pilgrim's Progress, sat sneaking among his neighbors and reported their "scirscumstances and conuersation." In those days a man gained instead of losing his freedom by marrying. "Incurridgement" to wedlock was given bachelors in many towns by the assignment to them upon marriage of home-lots to build upon. In Medfield there was a so-called Bachelor's Row, which had been thus assigned. In the early days of Salem "maid lotts" were also granted; but Endicott wrote in the town records that it was best to abandon the custom and thus "avoid all presedents & evil events of granting lotts vnto single maidens not disposed of." This line he crossed out and wrote instead, "for avoiding of absurdities." He kindly, but rather disappointingly, gave one maid a bushel of corn when she came to ask for a house and lot, and told her it would be a

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