Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

“It is the easiest instrument to learn on”

In answer to George Washington’s letter (see previous post) HARRIOT WASHINGTON thanks him for his advice and promises to learn to be a help to her cousin Fanny Bassett Washington, the wife of George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine Washington, in running the household. In a subsequent letter Harriot again requests a “guittar”.

Mt Vernon May 28 1792I now take up my pen to write to my dear Uncle, I hope you arrived safe in Philadelphia, and at the time you exspected, If my dear Uncle finds, it convenient to give me a guittar, I will thank you if you will direct it to be made with key’s and string’s both, as they are easier to lear[n] to play on, and not so easy to be out of order, but if one with key’s, is dearer than without, I shall be much obleiged to you for one with string’s, I should not trouble you for a guttar, if I was not certain that I could learn myself, every person that I have asked say’s that It is the easiest instrument to learn on that is, and any body that can turn a tune, can play on a guittar, but Mrs Bushrod Washington, has been so kind as to offer to teach me if I could not learn myself.

If you please to give my love to Aunt Washington[,] Nelly and Washington. I am My dear Uncle Your affectionate Neice
Harriot Washington

Washington acceded to Harriot’s wishes this time. On June 27 he paid $17 for a guitar for her. (From Decatur, Private Affairs of George Washington, 273, quoted in source cited below.) Bushrod Washington was the son of George Washington’s brother John Augustine. His wife was Julia Ann Blackburn whose portrait (above) by Chester Harding hung in the JFK White House; it was photographed by Robert Knudson. Bushrod inherited Mount Vernon upon the death of Martha Washington.

“To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 28 May 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-10-02-0275. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 10, 1 March 1792 – 15 August 1792, ed. Robert F. Haggard and Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002, pp. 425–426.]

posted June 22nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Mount Vernon,Music,Washington, Bushrod,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, John Augustine,Washington, Julia Ann Blackburn

“scarce an Evening . . . but we are entertained . . . “

ANNE BLAIR was born in May 1746, the seventh child of John and Mary Monro Blair. Her father was President of the Virginia Colonial Council. Anne concludes her letter to her sister MARY BLAIR BRAXTON writing about what was going on around her. Her sister had visitors who knew much of what she had planned to tell her. Nevertheless she added some interesting details. I am sure you have noticed that Anne uses apostrophes in plural words not just in possessives. A common practice at the time.

They are Building a steeple to our Church, the Door’s for that reason is open every day; and scarce an Evening . . . but we are entertained with the performances of Felton’s, Handel’s, Vi-vally’s. &c. &c. &c. &c. I could say a great deal about this, and that, & tother, but knowing the company you now have can tell all that I know, with greater ease than I can write it——will refer you to them; do ask a Thousand question’s, there is an abundance of New’s stiring. . . .

Did I tell you Major Watson’s Family was arrived? No, pshaw, yr Guests could have told you that. Oh! but they were not so polite as I was, I went to wait on them; the Eldest is about eighteen, a young Lady of good Sense, with an easy affable behavior, and I think handsome. The other about fourteen, has a Charming complexion, with good nature stamp’t in her Countenance; she wears her Hair down her Forehead & almost to her Eye-Brows, wch gives a just Idea at first sight, of what on a little acquaintance you find in reality——She is a Wild Philly.——Well come! I will rejoice you by telling you I have a pain in my Rist, consequently it obliges me to conclude: tho’ cannot without assuring you I am
yr truly Affec. Sisr.
A Blair

William Felton (1713-1769) was a British composer whose works were quite popular. I love Anne’s reference to Vivaldi; at least I think that’s whom she means.

On February 26, 1779, ANNE BLAIR married Colonel John Banister whose first two wives had died. They had two sons Theodorick Blair and John Monro Banister. The younger son married Mary Burton Bowling. Their son John later migrated to Alabama. Anne’s husband died in 1788; she survived until 1813.

In 1787 she wrote at least two letters to Thomas Jefferson in Paris requesting his assistance for Madame Oster, the wife of the French consul, who had been misrepresented by her husband to the French minister and was “suffering in a strange country.” She mentions Jefferson’s kind letter to her “better half.” (I was surprised to learn that the expression dates to the 16th century.) Jefferson replied to her and said that the matter of Madame Oster had been resolved. He asked: “Do all your desires center in your friends? Is there nothing you wish for yourself? The modes of Paris, it’s manufactures, it’s good things, do they furnish you no temptation to employ me?”

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 179-80. See this SITE for more information about the Banister family history. Consult also the Blair, Banister, Braxton, Horner, Whiting Papers, 1760-1890. See Jefferson’s letter to Anne HERE.

posted June 12th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Banister, John,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Jefferson, Thomas,Music

“I have good chickens”

Writing from Trenton, to which the Stodderts moved with the government to avoid exposure to yellow fever in Philadelphia , REBECCA STODDERT recounts her efforts to adjust to a new location. She tries to find sheet music that her niece Eliza requested and she goes on to describe the house the family lives in until they return to Philadelphia in the fall.

September, 1799My Dear Eliza,—It will give Betsy [her daughter] much satisfaction to get you the music you say you shall want, or anything else, indeed, that you may need. I did suppose one could supply all their reasonable needs in Philadelphia if one had but money. I find I was mistaken. I had made Betsy try all the music shops to get “Miller” for Harriet and Nancy, but to no purpose. I tried myself, too, at one or two shops, but all in vain. I hope I shall be more fortunate in my endeavors to serve you. She has the “Chase” by Haydn, and says it is much easier than Fisher’s “Rondo.” We brought the instrument with us from Philadelphia; but for want of a teacher, I wish Betsy may not lose what little she has gained by Mr. Taylor.

If I was a “gad,” I should enjoy myself very much here. The inhabitants are very sociable and very polite to strangers. I have been visited by several, and in one instance met with much kindness.

The governor’s lady I have not seen (this is the seat of government, you must know), because I have not waited on her. When I return the ladies’ visits which I have received I shall wait on her.

I suppose when I tell you that this house, which I find fault with, contains nine rooms, you will think I am very unreasonable to be displeased with it, but if you were to see it you would think of it as I do. Down-stairs are two rooms and an entry, as they call passages here and in Philadelphia; upstairs are seven rooms, but you must not suppose they are only over the above-mentioned two. One is over the kitchen, and another over a store which we have at the end of the house. The greatest evil I have to complain of is a number of small ants, which are troublesome. But I have good chickens, which, for my life, I could not have till I came here. It is the practice in Philadelphia to buy them at market alive and kill them the same day. I do not suppose half a dozen families think of fatting them up before they kill them. This, by way of specimen of what is done in large cities. Houses and furniture as clean as possible; but there all cleanliness ends, I daresay. How I shall wonder at myself when I get home again—you know where I mean, don’t you?—that I was ever able to eat particularly!

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, pages 813-14. The chicken illustrated is one of several breeds raised at Colonial Williamsburg.

posted May 12th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Capital of the United States,Food,Music,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes,Trenton, New Jersey

“we were waked with a most delightful Serenade”

Sarah Bard accompanied her aunt Sarah DeNormandie Barton and her husband Reverend Thomas Barton to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, when he was given a pulpit there. Paying visits was part of the ritual of welcome.

Lancaster 17th January 1776[After a difficult journey] Wednesday which was the day we were expected many of the Gentlemen came out to meet us, but it was Thursday evening before we got there . . . In the night we were waked with a most delightful Serenade under the window consisting of two Violins, one flute, and a hautboy played extreamly well, a Compliment to Mr. and Mrs. Barton. Saturday Mr. Barton was visited by all the Gentlemen of the place; its Customary here to send cards to all those you would wish to come and have an elegant Collation served up at twelve Clock with wine punch, &c—Yesterday Aunt made her appearance and today she receives company.

Would you believe that our Church music at Lancaster exceeds any thing you ever heard, It is entirely Vocal and performed by Soldiers [British] who have been used to sing in Cathedrals. Their voices are really heavenly, so much melody I never heard before; when they begin to sing the whole congregation rise. Uncle Barton has raised a subscription for them and they are to sing every Sunday.

The excerpt can be found on page 212 of In the Words of Women.

posted January 15th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bard, Sarah,British soldiers,Music,Pennsylvania,Religion

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