A Day in a Colonial Home
A DAY IN A
DELLA R. PRESCOTT
JOHN COTTON DANA
MARSHALL JONES COMPANY
FRANCESTOWN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
COPYRIGHT · 1921
BY MARSHALL JONES COMPANY
First printing, July, 1921
Second printing, March, 1922
Third printing, September, 1922
Fourth printing, November, 1926
Fifth printing, January, 1929
Sixth printing, November, 1929
Seventh printing, November, 1938
Eighth printing, March, 1949
MY MOTHER, MARY JANE
The average home to-day has conveniencesto meet the demands of comfortableliving. The heating andlighting are good. In nearly everyhome may be found a living room where thefamily assembles for rest and recreation. Herethey read, sew, chat, and discuss the news.Similar scenes occurred in the colonial days,but in quite a different room. The kitchen tookthe place of our modern living room. The lifeof the colonists centered in it, for in the kitchenwas the fireplace, often the one source of heatin the whole house. Its warmth and cheer andits use as a place for cooking made it the heartof the home. Here it was that the family interestsand activities were centered; all thefamily group collected here to share the joysand sorrows of life.
HOW THE STORY CAME TO BE WRITTEN
A Father came into the Newark Museumto ask help of the educationaladviser.
“I cannot get my children interestedin their ancestors,” said he. “Theydon’t feel any pride in being descendedfrom a lady who came over in the Mayflower.They say, ‘Oh, Charlie’s uncle came over in aprivate yacht, and Mike’s brother is goingover in an aeroplane.’ What shall I do? Ifwe were living at the old homestead, I couldshow them the hole in the shutter throughwhich the Indian shot their great-uncle, and theoven by the fireside where their great-grandmothercooked for the continental soldiers, andthe wedding dress of their grandmother. Butthe old place was sold, and everything isscattered.”
“Bring your children to the Museum,” saidthe educational adviser. “We will show themxcolonial costumes and candle-molds and Indianarrows.”
“I’ll try it,” said the father, “but it won’t bethe same.”
Then came a teacher.
“I wish,” said she, “that I could make historyalive to my pupils. They don’t care howmany men were killed in the battle of Monmouth,or what the date was when Washingtoncrossed the Delaware.”
“We will send you some dolls in colonial costumeand an old wool-carder,” said the educationaladviser.
“Thank you,” said the teacher. “Of course,those things will be better than nothing.”
It was this need to see “the real things” thatcaused the Museum to build in its big hall atthe top of the Newark Library a colonialkitchen, and fill it with colonial furnishings.Then the students from the Normal Schooldressed up in colonial clothes and went to workin the kitchen, spinning, making candles, andsewing carpet rags, and explaining thesethings to the children who flocked in to visitthem.
Next Miss Prescott began to play with thechildren who flocked there, and then the Andrewschildren of this story were born.
The six or eight thousand children who weretaken by their teachers to see this kitchen duringthe ten weeks that it stood there, many ofwhom then took their parents to see it, willperhaps read this story about the labors, andthe play, and the love-making of Mary Jane,with interest.
Any group of manual training boys and domesticart girls can put up such a kitchen,dress the characters, and act out such a story,and in many American neighborhoods they canborrow “real things,” for their stage properties.
Of course, the story was not written to stimulatehandwork or theatricals. Nor was itwritten to Americanize, or re-Americanize anybody.But simple stories without ingenuityof plot or striking incident have always beentold by parents and grandparents and maidenaunts to the delight of children. “Tell us whathappened when Grandpa was a miller”; “Tellus about when you went to school through thewoods”; “Tell us how the bear frightenedGreat-Aunt.” These are the demands of childrenof all nations. The peculiarity of oursituation is that so many of our children arestep-children, half-children, adopted children.It is a mercy that there is an inheritance notxiionly of blood, but of memories, of ideas, and ofhopes.
If this story stimulates emulation of the realvirtues of our forefathers, who founded thecountry, and hence leads to real patriotism, itwill have achieved the desire in the hearts of theauthors and publishers.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
- PLATE FACING PAGE
- I. Colonial Kitchen in the Newark Museum Frontispiece
- II. Colonial Fireside 16
- III. Domestic Industry 32
- IV. Tea Time 33
- FIGURE PAGE
- 1. Well and Well-Sweep 3
- 2. Candlesticks 4
- 3. Porringer or Shallow Bowl 7
- 4. Cast-Iron Skillet 8
- 5. Tin Kitchen or Roaster 9
- 6. Plate-Warmer 10
- 7. Wool Spinning-Wheel 14
- 8. A Cradle 15
- 9. Wooden Churn 16
- 10. Flint-Lock Gun and Pistol 19
- 11. Warming-Pan 21
- 12. Snuffers 22
- 13. Reel for Winding Thread 25
- 14. Kettle 27
- 15. Swinging Crane 28
- 16. Sewing-Bird 30
- 17. Andirons or Fire-Dogs 32
- 18. Toasting-Rack 33
- 19. A Gridiron 33
- 20. Knife-Tray 34
- 21. Spectacles and Bible 34
- 22. Wheel for Spinning Flax 39
- 23. Powder-Horn 43
- 24. Swift for Winding Yarn 45
- 25. Spider or Skillet with Bail 66
- 26. Colonial House 67
- 27. Floor Plan 68
A DAY IN A COLONIAL HOME
A Day in a Colonial Home
Mary Jane awoke, startled. Hadshe overslept and not heeded herfather’s call? She jumped out ofbed on to the strip of rag carpetlaid on the cold floor. The chill of the earlyMay morning made her shiver, and, with motherlycare, she turned and straightened thepatchwork quilt on her two sisters, mischievousAbigail and gentle little Dorothy, who weresleeping warmly in their feather bed. Theworld was a-quiver with life and sound. MaryJane looked anxiously through the small-panedwindow. Surely, Providence would grant apleasant day for the last of the housecleaning!Her mother was ill with the new baby brotherand the kitchen must be cleaned before she wasabout again. It was not easy to do the workas well as her mother would have done it, but abright, sunshiny day would help.
The sun was just rising and a cool, northwestbreeze was blowing the mist from the pond andgully. The sunlight sparkled on the pond2which lay across the foot of the field and thebreeze blew it into dark blue ripples. MaryJane dreamed a minute. John Lewis must bein port, she thought, and perhaps he would behome to-day. His father’s whaler, the BreezyBelle, had reached Gloucester the first of theweek. If she planned well and hurried thework she might be able to go down to JennyLewis’s in the afternoon to see her new dresses.Jenny Lewis was John’s sister, and she hadmore pretty clothes than any girl in town. Itwould be a welcome change to visit her beforesupper. The past week of housecleaning hadbeen a busy one, for the girls had cleaned thedooryard and the entry as well as the backroom and the loft bedroom. Their mother, beforeher illness, had cleaned and aired her bestfront room and put back in their places thefew pieces of furniture which stood in this coldand little-used room.
The well-sweep creaked in the breeze, and awhiff of the smoke of the kitchen fire, pouringout of the chimney, blew up the stairway. MaryJane straightened her simple gray dress, foldinga fresh white kerchief across her breast.The neighbors called her smart and comely.She was sixteen, and tall and strong, the oldestof eight children. Her brothers and sisters3knew her to be gentle as well as firm and just.They never shirked Mary Jane’s orders, butthey carried to her their bruised toes and cutfingers, the stitches dropped in their knitting,the knots tied in their patchwork. She boundup their hurts and set them to work again.
“Daughter,” called her father from the footof the stairs, “the day comes on apace, and itpromises a clear sky for your cleaning. Grandmotheris tending your mother and the newbabe, but John and I will need the porridge hotwhen we come back from foddering.”
Mary Jane answered her father gravely andpicked up the candle to take with her to the4kitchen. She called the older of her sisters.The three all slept in the low-ceilinged upstairschamber. “Come Abigail! You are intruth a sleepyhead. Come! Everything’sawake, and we have much to do! Father hascalled and indeed you must hurry.”
In the kitchen a glowing bed of red-hot coalsburned on the hearth, streaks of sunlightglanced through the eastern windows and5touched the snowy, coarse cloth on the largedinner-table. Soft reflections shone from thepewter porringers hanging on the dresser; asunbeam flecked with bright light the brasscandlestick which Mary Jane set near its mateon the mantel over the hearth. In the southwindows red geraniums blossomed and therewas an atmosphere of homely cheer and comfortin the room. All winter, the family hadgathered in the kitchen and, in its warm cosiness,Mary Jane had spun, darned mittens andknit stockings. She loved the kitchen, and sheworked there happily and energetically, puttinginto her tasks that same heartfelt devotion toduty that her great-grandfather had broughtacross the sea to the Massachusetts colony morethan a hundred years before.
Her mother called quietly from the nearbybedroom, and Mary Jane tiptoed in. Thebaby was asleep and the sight of him in hishelplessness and of her mother, always sostrong and active, lying now so quiet and helplessat the beginning of a busy day, stirred herstrangely. She bent awkwardly and kissedthem, and blushed as she straightened up.Kisses were rare in her home, and she was surprisedat herself. Her grandmother came in,and a commotion from the kitchen warned her6that the boys were awake. Her three youngerbrothers, steady Thomas, and the twins, Asaand George, slept in the turn-down bed in thecorner of the kitchen. They tumbled out andhelped and punched each other into theirclothes.
“No shoes and stockings to-day, boys,”Mary Jane called. “Housecleaning time, andshoes have barely lasted through the frost.”
Going to the table in the corner, she pouredwater into the wash basin. She washed herface and hands in the cold water, newly drawnfrom the well, gasping with the shock of itscoldness, and rubbed her face briskly with thelinen towel which hung over a roller on thedoor.
Suddenly the back entry door swung open,and roly-poly Sam Dodd came in, swinging aniron pot.
“Good-morrow, neighbors! Can you lend usa coal? As the weather grows milder I fear wetend our fire none too carefully.”
“Did you know John Lewis had come home?”he called to Mary Jane. “Some of us stoppedto see him last night and Jenny came out andtwo or three of the neighbors. Mother saysit is ungodly the way Cap’n Lewis dressesJenny. ‘Fine feathers don’t make fine birds,’7she says, and Jenny doesn’t work enough topay the Cap’n. She’s a fair gad-about. Hetoils mightily to get the whale oil to buy hergowns. John seems real pleased to be home,Mary Jane. He asked where you were.”
Grandmother came into the kitchen as Samstarted out with his borrowed fire.
“Pray tell thy mother, Sam, that the candlesshe helped us to make last fall are lasting well.We have treasured the choice green bayberrycandles. Your mother will remember the dayshe helped me pick the bayberries for them.Now we do not need so much candle light, asthe days grow longer. Thank her kindly forthe bowl of rich soup she sent Daughter Andrews.Daughter will soon be up and about.Our new babe is six days old and strong andlusty. Hear how he cries.”
Sam grinned and bore off his coals fallenfrom the burning