The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 Volume I

Women in Early America

Customs and Fashions in Old New England


It is easy to gain a definite notion of the furnishing of colonial houses from a contemporary and reliable source--the inventories of the estates of the colonists. These are, of course, still preserved in court records. As it was customary in early days to enumerate with much minuteness the various articles of furniture contained in each room, instead of classifying or aggregating them, we have the outlines of a clear picture of the household belongings of that day.

The first room beyond the threshold of the door that one finds named in the houses "of the richer sort," is the entry. This was apparently always bare of furniture, and indeed well it might be, for it was seldom aught but a vestibule to the rest of the house, containing, save the staircase, but room enough to swing the front door in opening. Dr. Lyon gives the inventory of John Salmon of Boston in the year 1750 as the earliest record which he has found of the use of the word hall instead of entry, as we now employ it. In the Boston News Letter, thirty one years earlier, on August 24th, 1719, I find this advertisement: "Fine Glass Lamps & Lanthorns well gilt and painted both Convex and Plain. Being suitable for Halls, staircases, or other Passage ways, at the Glass Shop in Queen Street." This advertisement is, however, exceptional. The hall in Puritan houses was not a passageway, it was the living-room, the keeping-room, the dwelling-room, the sitting-room; in it the family sat and ate their meals—in it they lived. Let us see what was the furniture of a Puritan home-room in early days, and what its value. The inventory of the possessions of Theophilus Eaton, Governor of the New Haven colony, is often quoted. At the time of his death, in 1657, he had in his hall,

"A drawing Table & a round table, £1.18s.
A cubberd & 2 long formes, 14s.
A cubberd cloth & cushions, 13s.; 4 setwork cushions 12s. £1.5.
6 greene cushions, 12s; a greate chaire with needleworke, 18s. £1.5.
2 high chaires set work, 20s; 4 high stooles set worke, 26s 8d £6.6.8.
4 low chains set worke, 6s 8d, £1.6.8.
2 low stooles set worke, 10s.
2 Turkey Carpette, £2; 6 high joyne stooles, 6s. £2.6.
A pewter cistern & candlestick, 4s.
A pr of great brass Andirons, 12s.
A pr of small Andirons, 6s 8d.
A pr of doggs, 2s 6d.
A pr of tongues fire pan & bellowes, 7s."

Now, this was a very liberally furnished living-room. There were plenty of seats for diners and loungers, if Puritans ever lounged; two long forms and a dozen stools of various heights, with green or embroidered

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