Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

“try to give her up freely”

Dr. Richard Hill and his family were part of the substantial Quaker community in America. Born in Maryland in 1698, Hill married Deborah Moore whose grandfather was the governor of Pennsylvania. Hill was a surgeon, an amateur botanist, and a merchant—he owned four ships. In addition he owned several parcels of land and at least forty slaves. When he came upon hard times and was denied “immunity from debts,” he sold most of his assets and relocated to Funchal in Madeira where he tried to build a business in the wine trade. He eventually prospered sufficiently to repay his creditors and make a comfortable living.

Hill and his wife had ten children. Hannah, his eldest daughter, at age fifteen married the grandson of his wife’s sister, Dr.Samuel Preston Moore. She and her husband lived in Philadelphia where Hannah became the surrogate mother to her siblings who did not accompany their parents to Madeira. Her sister Sarah married George Dillwyn, a Quaker preacher; they lived at Green Bank (Burlington), New Jersey. Another sister, Margaret, married William Morris Jr., a dry-goods merchant, who died in 1765, less than eight years after their marriage, leaving his wife with three children and expecting a fourth. The following letter written by SARAH DILLWYN to MARGARET MORRIS contains, to me, a very sad passage. (See the many other posts about Margaret Morris here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Green Bank, August, 1764Mr Dear Sister:—
I was rejoiced yesterday to hear from under thy own hand, that thy precious little one was on the recovery; but, my dear creature, don’t be too secure—try to give her up freely—still—and whether she lives or not, thee will be rewarded with peace of mind. Sister [Rachel] Wells found it the best way to be quite resigned, though it was hard work for her. . . .
I intend to send a few apples for the children; tell me if acceptable, and I’ll send often.
In much love to all,
Thy sincerely attached sister,
S. H. Dyllwin

Sarah is cautioning her sister not to become too attached to her child as the little one may be taken from her by illness at any time. She should prepare herself for this possibility in advance, resign herself to her loss as the will of God. (Their sister Rachel had a child in July 1763; he died in August of that year.) This may have been sensible advice at a time when the death rate among infants was high but it is not the way we look at our children today. The letter is painful to read—and to realize how often mothers lost their babies.

Sources: John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854),196. Also John W. Jordan, Colonial And Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania (New York, 1911) 43-46. The portrait of Sarah Dillwyn and her husband is at the Library Collection of Philadelphia.

posted January 30th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Children,Death,Dillwyn, Sarah,Morris, Margaret Hill

“I am quite a country boy”

Following is a letter from Elizabethtown dated 18 July 1781, in the handwriting of SUSAN LIVINGSTON but signed by Peter Augustus Jay, to Sarah Jay in Madrid. Peter was only five so he couldn’t have written the letter no matter how precocious he may have been. It is charming.

I thank my Dear Mama for her kind letter, and good advice, and my dear Papa for his remembrance.

I hope when you return to our Country you will find your little son as you expect, and not be disappointed,

Aunt Susan teaches me to read; every hour the bell rings, and then I go in the office to say my lesson. Aunt Caty [Catharine Livingston] sends me books from Phila. I learn in a very pretty book of Tales, one page has a picture and the opposite one a tale to explain it, all the book through. I have finished with the Continental Primmer. . . .

As soon as I read well Aunt Susan will teach me to write, and then I can have the pleasure of writing to my absent friends. I have a pocket-book full of letters that Grand-Pa printed for me last winter. Every fortnight allmost I received a letter from him, and last month Grand-Mama and I went to meet Grand-Papa and spend a few days with him at Cousin David Clarksons, who lives three miles this side of Princeton. It was a long ride for such a little fellow as me.

Aunt Caty sent me a top, and Uncle Watkins [the husband of his aunt Judith Livingston] made me a Kite for pastime. I am quite a country boy clad in a striped linen waistcoat and trowsers, and sometimes I hoe in the garden and gather the gooseberries and currants, and I help to rake hay on the Lawn in the hay harvest.

We have plenty of fine fruit this summer, while we had cherries, the boys collected from all parts of the Country here, not less than fifty in a day, and soon stripped our trees.

Mama says I must write her what I wish her to bring me. I should like a hat, a pair of shoe and knee buckles, and a pair of sleeve buttons—if she pleases.

Hannah [PA Jay’s nurse] says I must not forget to mention her, but she won’t tell me what to say about her. She has not left me, and is very good to me, and gives her love to Mama. She has received the fine handkerchief and is much obliged to Papa for it. . . .

Please to give my love & duty to Papa & my love to Uncle Henry [Brockholst Livingston] & Cousin Peter [Munro, the son of John Jay’s sister Eve].

I am dear Mama, Your very Affecte. Son,

Peter Augustus Jay at age 21:

See the whole letter at the Columbia University Digital Library Collection of the John Jay Papers HERE. The portrait is by James Sharples and is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

posted November 3rd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Letter-writing,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Symmes, Susan Livingston

A remedy for an earache!

Living in Philadelphia with her family in 1799 while her husband served as secretary of the navy, REBECCA STODDERT kept up a correspondence with her niece Eliza. Her letters included gossip as well as information about personal and domestic matters. And, in this letter, a remedy for an earache!

April 15, 1799My Dear Eliza,—I have been mending up the children’s old clothes to fit them for school. At length Harriet and Nancy go, and when I can get shoes for Richard he will go also. I suppose you are surprised at my saying “when I get shoes.” You will hardly believe that the difficulty of getting such things is greater here than in Georgetown, but so it is. . . .

After a passage in which Mrs. Stoddert writes about the elopement of the daughter of William and Anne Willing Bingham with a French count of “horrid character,” and penniless besides, she goes on to discuss other matters.

I hope long before this my acquaintances have been told it was a mistake about my hair being dressed. I declare, I would not have such a thing supposed for a trifle; notwithstanding I am the only person, almost, if not entirely, that has gone into company with straight locks. But then I have always made use of powder, and I was once under the barber’s hands to cut my hair. . . .

Harriet’s hearing is very near, if not quite, restored. I was advised by Mrs. Wolcott, the secretary of the treasury’s lady, to keep some of Grace’s hair, or any black person’s (as that was most efficacious), pretty moist with the best sweet-oil I could procure, constantly in the ear most affected. This I have done for a month with the greatest success. So much for old women’s receipts, as I suppose they would be called by the doctors. . . .

Grace was in all likelihood a free black servant or, more likely, a slave in the Stoddert household. While oil of some kind has been a common remedy for an earache this is the first time I have seen the recommendation that it be mixed with hair, in this case, of a black person.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, 809-10.

posted May 2nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Fashion,Illness,Medicine,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes

“markets. , . . Good shops, but very dear”

REBECCA STODDERT, the wife of Benjamin Stoddert, Preisdent John Adams’s secretary of the navy, wrote again to her niece Eliza on January 23, 1799. She didn’t like Philadelphia very much.

By the time you receive this, the wonder of all the family at Graden that I should have gone to the President’s ball will be at an end. I shall set you all a-wondering again on another account, when I tell you that I have not bought an article of dress except a calico gown and a Dunstable bonnet*, which latter I soon quarreled with and gave to Betsy [her daughter Elizabeth], whom it suits much better than myself; in its stead I bought a blue satin slouch; and yet I go out every now and then to dinner. The satin is the only thing that I have appeared in on such occasions; and before I dined at the President’s it underwent a little reform. But next week I shall add considerable to my wardrobe; and I must get a smart dress bonnet. Old, as well as young, have their hair dressed. I am not sure that I shall not; but I hardly think is possible that I shall, especially as the great ball is over.

I have only been three times to church since I came here, and must own I was rather disappointed. The singing is not as great as I expected; and still the congregation behaved very well. A delightful organ too; but yet there was something, I don’t know what, wanting to make it answer the idea I had formed of the church in Philadelphia. I intend to try another soon. . . .

Nancy is more troublesome, if possible, than ever; pretends to be very fond of learning music. which is the only thing she has been taught since she came here. Neither she, Harriet [10], nor Richard [6] have been to school yet, because I haven’t been able to find one near our house; but as the spring approaches I shall look out for one, and shall not care if they do have a long walk. Mr. Stoddert has lately given twenty dollars for a hobby horse,—a delightful amusement for them all, you may be sure. . . .

Mrs. Weems stayed a week with me. . . . I took her advice, and opened the holes in my ears. You may remember, perhaps, to have heard me say they were bored formerly. I now have lead in them, but intend to get a pair of plain rings. . . .

I cannot imagine what has put it in your head that I am so delighted with Philadelphia. Upon my word and honor, I am not; nor have I by any means that preference for it which you suppose. It has some advantages over small towns, and to mention a few, I will begin with the churches. The markets, too, are a thing of no little consequence. Good shops, but very dear. . . .

I was at Christ Church this morning, and am very much pleased with it. I am fortunate enough to have the use of a pew there, too. Bishop White read the service, but unluckily, a man that I am not partial to preached.

The yellow fever is certainly in the city. Indeed, I understand that Dr. Rush says it has never been clear of it since ninety-three. I am not uneasy yet, even for Mr. Stoddert’s safety. As for my own, I shall never bestow a thought on it.
——————————————
* Straw bonnets imported from Dunstable, England, were becoming popular in the late eighteenth century.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, 807-809. Charles Willson Peale painted the portrait of three Stoddert children in 1789. Elizabeth the oldest is on the left, baby Harriet is one year old, Benjamin, Jr. is on the right. The painting is owned by National Society of the Colonial Dames of America and is at Dumbarton House Washington D.C.

posted April 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Clothes,Education,Fashion,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Benjamin,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes

“leaders of the Republican Court”

When ANNE WILLING BINGHAM and her husband returned to Philadelphia in 1786 they built a large house, a palatial mansion really, surrounded by gardens, to accommodate the extensive entertaining they planned. The city flourished when it became the capital of the United States. An English traveler, after a tour of the chief cities, remarked in 1794 that “Boston is the Bristol, New York the Liverpool, and Philadelphia the London of America.” The Binghams became the leaders of what was called the Republican Court.
Mrs. Benjamin Stoddert, the wife of the first secretary of the navy, arrived in Philadelphia from Maryland in 1798 and began the round of social activities expected of the wife of a cabinet officer. Mrs. Bingham did not call upon her in a timely fashion which drew this comment:

Mrs. Bingham has at last thought proper to show her painted face here, and her two daughters—they were without paint. You must not suppose from my manner of speaking about Mrs. B. that I am offended with her for not coming before. I should have been better pleased if she had, to tell the truth; but if she had not come at all I should not have cared; though she is of great consequence, in some people’s opinion, in the city. As she has put it in my power to go to her house, I shall certainly see all that I can by asking for. I am determined to see her garden, her greenhouse, and everything else that is worth seeing. Their house and all the outside look very pretty, and I daresay the inside corresponds with the external.

Mrs. Stoddert was invited to a ball at the Binghams and wrote this detailed account to her sister.

About half-past seven I called for Mrs. Harrison, and we made our appearance at Mrs. Bingham’s. . . . [S]he was seated at the head of the drawing-room, I should call it, or, in other words, on one side of the chimney, with three ladies only. There were some young ladies in another room, where her two daughters were also, who, upon my inquiring after their health, were sent for by their mamma.
I should suppose that it was near nine o’clock before the dancing commenced. At the end of the first dance, or near it, punch and lemonade were brought in. That was the first refreshment. Sometime after, I think, it was brought in again, and soon after the best ice-cream, as well as the prettiest, that ever I saw was carried around in beautiful china cups and gilt spoons. The latter I had seen there before.
Except punch and lemonade, nothing more to eat till supper, which we were summoned to at eleven, when the most superb thing of the kind which I ever saw was presented to our view,—though those who have been there before say that the supper was not as,elegant as they had seen there. In the middle was an orange-tree with ripe fruit; and where a common spectator might imagine the root was, it was covered with evergreens, some natural and some artificial flowers. Nothing scarcely appeared on the table without evergreens to decorate it. The girondole, which hangs immediately over the table, was let down just to reach the top of the tree. You can’t think how beautiful it looked. I imagine there were thirty at the table, besides a table full in another room, and I believe every soul said, “How pretty!” as soon as they were seated; all in my hearing, as with one consent, uttered the same thing.
The only meats I saw or heard of were a turkey, fowls, pheasants, and tongues, the latter the best that ever I tasted, which was the only meat I ate. The dessert (all was on the table) consisted of everything that one could conceive of except jelly; though I daresay there was jelly, too, but to my mortification, I could not get any. I never ate better than at Mrs. Bingham’s. Plenty of blanc mange, and excellent. Near me were three different sorts of cake; I tasted all, but could eat of only one; the others were indifferent. Besides a quantity to eat, there was a vast deal for ornament, and some of them I thought would have delighted my little girl for her baby-house.
In short, take it altogether, it was an agreeable entertainment to me. Notwithstanding the crowd—or numbers, rather, for the house is so large that it was not crowded—there was no noise or the least confusion.
At twelve o’clock or a little after Mrs. Harrison and I left the ball. We were among the first to come away. Never did I see such a number of carriages, except on a race-ground.

The Binghams had two daughters, the elder Anna Louisa, married the young Englishman Alexander Baring of the famous banking house in 1798. The younger daughter Maria Mathilda eloped, when she was fifteen, with the Comte de Tilly an older man of low character and without funds. The Binghams were distraught. Mr. Bingham secured a divorce for his daughter and the Comte left the country. Maria Mathilde then married the younger brother of her sister’s husband and some years later, after another divorce, married a French nobleman and moved to France. In 1799 the first child of the Barings was born; at the age of 35 Anne Willing Bingham had become a grandmother. She herself in the next year gave birth to a son. Anne’s health began to deteriorate and in 1801 her husband planned to take her to the island of Madeira where he hoped she would be returned to health. En route she died in Bermuda where she was buried.

Margaret L. Brown, “Mr. and Mrs. William Bingham of Philadelphia: Rulers of the Republican Court”, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 61, No. 3 (July 1937), pp 207, 318, 319-321. Mrs. Stoddert was quoted in The Golden Voyage, Robert C. Alberts (pp 357-359). From Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia A Century Ago,”Lipincott’s Monthly Magazine, Vol 62, 1898. In footnote 808, Jan 23, 1799; 805, 809-18.

posted April 22nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Children,Entertainments,Food,Marriage,Philadelphia

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