Clothes in Colonial America

Women in Early America

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

ink, and "William Morse, His Book, in the y'r 1710, Boston." A musty, leathery smell pervades and exhales from the pages, and is mingled with whiffs of an equally ancient and more penetrating odor, that of old drugs and medicines; for many a journey over bleak hills and lonely dales has the book made, safely reposing at the bottom of its owner's pocket, or lying cheek by jowl with the box of drugs and medicines, and case of lancets in his ample saddle-bags.

This country doctor, like others of his profession at the same date, had not studied deeply in college and hospital; nor had he taken any long course of instruction in foreign schools and universities. When he had decided to become a doctor, he had simply ridden with an old, established physician—ridden literally—in a half-menial, half-medical capacity. He had cared for the doctor's horse, swept the doctor's office, run the doctor's errands, pounded drugs, gathered herbs, and mixed plasters, until he was fitted to ride for himself. Then he had applied to the court and received a license to practise-that was all. I doubt not that this book of mine, and perhaps a manuscript collection of recipes and prescriptions, and a few Latin treatises that he could hardly decipher, formed his entire pharmacopoeia. As he had chanced to inherit a small fortune from a relative, he became a physician of some note; for in colonial days wealth and position were as essential as were learning and experience, to enable one to become a good doctor.

I like to think of the rich and pompous old doctor a-riding out to see his patients, clad in his suit of sober brown or claret color with shining buttons made of silver coins. The full-skirted coat had great pockets and flaps, as had the long waistcoat that reached well over the hips. Knee-breeches dressed his shapely legs, while fine silk stockings and buckled shoes displayed his well-turned calves and ankles. On his head he wore a cocked hat and wig. He owned and wore in turn wigs of different sizes and dignity-ties, periwigs, bags, and bobs. His portrait was painted in a full-bottomed wig that rivalled the Lord Chancellor's in size; but his every-day riding-wig was a rather commonplace horsehair affair with a stiff eel-skin cue. One wig he lost by a mysterious accident while attending a patient who was lying ill of a fever, of which the crisis seemed at hand. The doctor decided to remain all night, and sat down by a table in the sick man's room. The hours passed slowly away. Physician and nurse and goodwife talked and droned on; the sick man moaned and tossed in his bed, and begged fruitlessly for water. At last the room grew silent, the tired watchers dozed in their chairs, the doctor nodded and nodded, bringing his eel-skin cue dangerously near the flame of the candle that stood on the table. Suddenly there was heard a sharp explosion, a hiss, a sizzle; and when the smoke cleared, and the terrified occupants of the room collected their senses, the watcher and wife were discovered under the valance of the bed; the doctor stood scorched and bareheaded, looking around for his wig; while the

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