Archive for the ‘Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes’ Category

“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

“As soon as I get a bonnet, I shall go to church”

President John Adams created the position of secretary of the navy and appointed Benjamin Stoddert to that post in 1798. Stoddert, a well-to-do merchant from Georgetown, near the Federal City which was being built, moved with his wife REBECCA LOWNDES STODDERT and their family to Philadelphia then the capital of the United States. In the previous post Mrs. Stoddert gave her impressions of Anne Willing Bingham in letters she wrote to her sister. Her correspondence with her niece Eliza Gannt of Graden, Maryland, includes details about the practical side of establishing themselves in Philadelphia. and what life was like there. Mrs. Stoddert wrote to Eliza in November 1798 about her arrival in Philadelphia, the boarding house in which they lived at first, and the house they rented that belonged to Major William Jackson, secretary to President Washington during his presidency and in 1798 surveyor of the port of Philadelphia. Jackson’s wife was Elizabeth Willing, sister to Anne Willing Bingham.

[The house] is roomy, and I could make it very convenient too, but I imagine it owners would think me mad if they knew that I did not think it so already. Only four of the rooms have anything in them, two down stairs and two up. The third story and garret, which are well finished, I have not the least use for. I have very little furniture, nothing but the chairs Mr. Stoddert . . . had bought, which are very pretty, their color white and a little blue. . . .
One tea-table I bought this morning, and am to give thirteen dollars for it,—a very great price, but nothing is cheap here except some few things at market—mutton and beef, I mean.
Do not suppose we have no dining-tables; luckily we have one and a sideboard of Mrs. Jackson’s, which is a great convenience, as we brought none here. I was this day going to get a set of dining-tables, but the wretch had the conscience to ask sixty dollars for them. . . .
As soon as I get a bonnet, I shall go to church. . . . Mrs. Harrison, whom I think almost perfection [the daughter of Dr. Craik, Washington’s family physician] advises me not to be in a hurry about it, as the fashions are not so well known yet. I am coming on, you see.
We lived together at Mrs. White’s [before the Stodderts found a house]. . . . Mrs. White lives charmingly . . . everything is clean, and only genteel people board there. I for the first time for twenty-odd years saw General Washington there:* it is his boarding house, too. We breakfasted together every morning, but only dined with him once, and that was last Sunday. He makes a point of not going abroad on Sundays, I am told, and I suppose that was the reason why he dined at Mrs. White’s last Sunday. He receives invitations constantly every day . . . to dine out.
I received four visits before we came to housekeeping,—I cannot call it home. . . . I have not returned [them]. I know if I was at home I would think it was time; but in this place I must consult Mrs. Harrison, whom I shall take as my preceptor in all cases. . . .
I fancy it is very much the custom here for ladies to walk. Indeed, the walking is so clean—except just where we live—that it would be extraordinary if they did not. The streets about us are not paved yet. We have very good water, I daresay the best in town.
I cannot help feeling sorry that Mrs. Adams’s health is so bad as to prevent her being in Philadelphia this winter. . . .
As to the braid that she [Miss Lowndes] desired Betsy to procure for her, I suppose the thing is impossible, for no other reason than that wigs are all the fashion. . . . I heard even General Washington talk of the ladies wearing wigs. . . . I do not feel the least partiality to this place, and I never expected I should. Perhaps when I see the river—for I am a great admirer of water—and something of the city—, for to tell the truth, I have seen nothing of it yet—I shall like it better; and I wish I may. . . .
Mr. Stoddert is at the President’s who came to town last night.
Your truly affectionate.
R. Stoddert.

*In preparation for a possible war with France President Adams had organized a provisional army and persuaded Washington to head it.

Kate Mason Rowland, “Philadelphia a Century Ago, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, Volume 62, 1898, 804-807.

posted April 25th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Bingham, Anne Willing,Fashion,Philadelphia,Stoddert, Rebecca Lowndes,Washington, George

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