The Trial of Anne Hutchinson

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Customs and Fashions in Old New England


In the early days of the colonies doubtless the old Anglo-Saxon board laid on trestles was used for a dining-table instead of a table with a stationary top. "Table bords" appear in early New England wills, and "trestles" also. "Long tables" and "drawing tables" were next named. A "long table" was used as a dining-table, and, from the frequent appearance of two forms with it, was evidently used from both sides, and not in the ancient fashion of the diners sitting at one side only. A drawing-table was an extension-table; it could by an arrangement of drop leaves be doubled in length. A fine one can be seen in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society. Chair tables were the earliest example, in fact the prototype, of some of our modern extraordinary "combination" furniture. The tops were usually round, and occasionally large enough to be used as a dining-table, and when turned over by a hinge arrangement formed the back of the chair. "Hundred legged" tables had flaps at either end which turned down or were held up in place by a bracket composed of a number of turned perpendicular supports which gave to it the name of "hundred legs." These tables were frequently very large; a portion of the top of one in the Connecticut Historical Society is seven feet four inches wide. Tea-tables came with tea; they were advertised in the Boston News Letter in 1712. Occasionally we find mention of a curious and unusual table, such as the one named in the effects of Sir Francis Bernard, which were sold September 11, 1770: "Three tables forming a horseshoe for the benefit of the Fire."

As a table was in early days a board, so a table-cloth was a board-cloth; and ere it was a tablecloth it was table-clothes. Cristowell Gallup, in 1655, had "1 Holland board-cloth;" and William Metcalf, in 1644, had a "diaper board-cloth." Another Boston citizen had "broad-clothes." Henry Webb, of Boston, named in his will, in 1660, his "beste Suite of Damask Table-cloath, Napkins & cupboard-cloath." Others had holland tablecloths and holland square cloths with lace on them. Arras tablecloths are also named in 1654, and cloths enriched with embroidery in colors. The witch Ann Hibbins had "1 Holland table cloth edged with blewe," worth twelve shillings; and a Hartford gentleman had, in 1689, a "table Cloth wrought with red." In 1728 "Hukkbuk Tabling" was advertised in the New England Weekly Journal, but the older materials—damask, holland, and diaper—were universally used then, as now.

The colonists had plenty of napkins, as had all well-to-do and well-bred Englishmen at that date. Napkins appear in all the early inventories. In 1668

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