Archive for the ‘England’ Category

“the higher the pyramid of hair . . . the more fashionable”

In the middle of the eighteenth century, women with the wealth to indulge in the latest styles took to wearing not only “high hair,” created by adding rolls and padding, but also headdresses that included constructions atop the head or as part of a wig reflecting events, for example, the first flight of the Montgolfier hot air balloon.

MARY FRAMPTON, a young Englishwoman whose family was socially prominent, kept a diary in which she described the hair style of the period (1779) and the time and effort that went into creating it.

At that time everyone wore powder and pomatum; a large triangular thing called a cushion, to which the hair was frizzed up with three or four enormous curls on each side; the higher the pyramid of hair, gauze, feathers, and other ornaments was a carried the more fashionable it was thought, and such was the labour employed to rear the fabric that nightcaps were made in proportion to it and covered over the hair, immensely long black pins, double and single, powder, pomatum and all ready for the next day. I think I remember hearing that twenty-four large pins were by no means and unusual number to go to bed with on our head.

Since recent posts have focused on ocean voyages (Abigail Adams and Patsy Jefferson) it prompted me to present headdresses that had to do with ships. Yes, ships. It was the height of fashion (pun intended) at one time to wear headdresses that were elaborate representations of ships. These “modes excentriques” were often worn by French ladies of the court to commemorate victories at sea. A few style-conscious women of other nations followed suit. Abigail Adams was not one of them.

The Journal of Mary Frampton from the year 1779, until the year 1846, edited. with notes, by her niece Harriot Georgiana Mundy (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1885) pp 2-3.

posted November 19th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,England,Fashion,Frampton, Mary,France

“then my Lad you Swing”

On route to London from Deal, where the passengers from the ship Active were put ashore, ABIGAIL ADAMS describes an encounter with a highwayman in the journal she is intending to send to her sister MARY CRANCH.

From Chatham we proceeded, on our way as fast as possible wishing to pass Black Heath before dark. Upon this road, a Gentleman alone in a chaise past us, and very soon a coach before us stoped, and there was a hue and cry, a Robbery a Robbery. The Man in the chaise was the person robbed and this in open day with carriages constantly passing. We were not a little allarmed and every one were concealing their money. Every place we past, and every post chaise we met were crying out a Robbery. Where the thing is so common I was Surprized to see such an allarm. The Robber was pursued and taken in about two miles, and we saw the poor wretch gastly and horible, brought along on foot, his horse rode by a person who took him; who also had his pistol. He looked like a youth of 20 only, attempted to lift his hat, and looked Dispair. You can form some Idea of my feelings when they told him aya, you have but a short time, the assise [a circuit court] set next Month, and then my Lad you Swing. Tho every robber may deserve Death yet to exult over the wretched is what our Country is not accustomed to. Long may it be free of such villianies and long may it preserve a commisiration for the wretched.

Abigail is upset over what she perceives as gloating: “aya, you have but a short time”, believing that it is not right to “exult” over another’s death, even over a robber for whom hanging was the punishment. She believes that this does not happen the America. Or perhaps she hopes it does not.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted November 4th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Crime and punishment,England

“from Deal to London which is 72 miles”

Though intended to be the account of an ocean voyage by ABIGAIL ADAMS to London in 1788, I can’t resist allowing Abigail to describe the highlights of her journey after the passengers were put ashore at Deal. There she and the other passengers take rooms at an inn and order a chaise for early the next morning. On their way Abigail notes the cultivated fields, the animals, and the “hedg” fences, and, of course, the famous cathedral at Canterbury.

…[W]e rose by 5 and our post Chaise being all at the door we set of[f]. . . . Our first Stage was 18 miles from Deal, to Canteburry where we Breakfasted, the roads are fine, and a stone a Novelty. I do not recollect to have seen one, except the pavements of Canteburry, and other Towns; from Deal to London which is 72 miles; vast Feilds of wheat, oats, english Beans, and the horse Bean, with hops: are the produce of the country through which we past; which is cultivated like a Garden down to the very edges of the road, and what surprized me was, that very little was inclosed within fences. Hedg fence, are almost the only kind you see, no Cattle at large without a herdsman, the oxen are small, but the Cows and Sheep very large, such as I never saw before. When we arrived at the end of our Stage; we discharge the first carriages, call for New ones which will be ready in a few moments after you issue your orders. Call for Breakfast. You have it perhaps in ten moments . . . with the best of attendance and at a reasonable price.
Canteburry is a larger town than Boston, it contains a Number of old Gothick Cathedrals, which are all of stone very heavy, with but few windows which are grated with large Bars of Iron, and look more like jails for criminals, than places designd for the worship of the deity. One would Suppose from the manner in which they are Gaurded, that they apprehended devotion would be stolen. They have a most gloomy appearence and realy made me shudder. The Houses too have a heavy look being chiefly thatched roofs or coverd with crooked brick tile. Now and then you would see upon the road a large woods looking like a Forest, for a whole mile inclosed with a high Brick Wall or cemented stone, an enormous Iron gate would give one a peep as we passt of a large pile of Building, which lookd like the castles of some of the ancient Barons; but as we were strangers in the Country, we could only conjecture what they were, and what they might have been.
We proceeded from Canterburry to Rochester about 15 miles, an other pretty town, not so large as the former, from thence to Chatam where we stoped at a very Elegant Inn to dine. As soon as you drive into the yard you have at these places as many footmen round you as you have Carriages, who with their politest airs take down the step of your Carriage assist you out, inquire if you want fresh horses or carriages; will supply you directly, Sir, is the answer. A well dresst hostess steps forward, making a Lady like appearence and wishes your commands. If you desire a chamber, the Chamber maid attends; you request dinner, say in half an hour, the Bill of Fare is directly brought, you mark what you wish to have, and suppose it to be a variety of fish, fowl, meat, all of which we had, up to 8 different dishes; besides vegetables. The moment the time you stated, is out, you will have your dinner upon table in as Elegant a stile, as at any Gentleman’s table, with your powdered waiters, and the master or Mistress always brings the first Dish upon table themselves. But you must know that travelling in a post Chaise, is what intitles you to all this respect.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted October 31st, 2019 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Deal, England,England

” . . . in some points I am very obstinate”

Although MARY “POLLY” HEWSON lost her husband in 1774 and was left to raise her three children on her own (see previous post), in that same year Polly’s aunt died leaving her a small inheritance that eventually when it was settled enabled her to live in relative comfort. “I shall be rich enough to indulge myself and my children in any occasional expences that will essentially gratify me or benefit them.”
With all hope of reconciliation between Britain and her American colonies abandoned, Polly’s friend and mentor Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1775. The United States, at war with Britain, sent Franklin to Paris in 1777 to seek French aid and negotiate a treaty. Polly and Franklin continued to correspond as best they could during wartime, Polly forwarding news about Franklin’s friends in England.

My letters are a kind of private newspaper, I give the articles just as they happen to occur without regard to order or connection. I fancy this kind will be most pleasing to you, as it will not require an answer, and will make you feel somewhat like having your English friends about you.

Of course Polly described her children’s progress. She had a mind of her own and did not hesitate to go against custom when it seemed sensible to do so. She refused to dress her daughter in stays for example.

Contrary to fashion, and consequently to the opinion of most people (you know in some points I am very obstinate) I keep her without stays, by which means her shape retains its natural grace; being unconfined, and her motions free, her health too is preserved.

In January 1783, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Polly about the end of the war:

At length we are in Peace, God be praised; & long, very long may it continue. All Wars are Follies, very expensive & very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinc’d of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting & destroying each other.

Franklin invited Polly and her children to spend the winter of 1784-85 with him in his residence in Passy. Much to his delight she accepted. Franklin loved small children and enjoyed their company. He wrote to her after she and the children had departed:

…My love to William and Thomas and Eliza, and tell them I miss their cheerful prattle. . . . I have found it very triste breakfasting alone, and sitting alone, and without any tea in the evening.

Polly was uncertain about where her children would be most likley to meet with success. Franklin offered this advice.

With regard to the future Establishment of your Children, which you say you want to consult me about, I am still of Opinion that America will afford you more Chances of doing it well than England. All the means of good Education are plenty there, the general Manners more simple & pure, Temptations to Vice and Folly fewer, the Profits of Industry in Business as great and sure as in England; and there is one Advantage more which your Command of Money will give you there, I mean the laying out a Part of your Fortune in new Land, now to be had extreamly cheap, but which must be increas’d immensely in Value before your Children come of Age, by the rapid Population of the Country. If you should arrive there while I live, you know you may depend on every Assistance in my Power to afford you, and I think my Children will have a Pleasure too in serving their Father’s Friend. I do not offer it as a Motive that you will be much esteem’d and respected there, for that you are & must be every where; but give me leave to flatter myself that my being made happier in my last Years by your Neighbourhood and Society, may be some Inducement to you.

Hewson did relocate to America with her children and lived in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin lent her some money, $185.30, in January of 1787 to help her get settled. During Franklin’s last illness, when his pain eased, Polly read to him from Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. Franklin died in 1790, age 84.

Polly’s children did indeed do well in the United States. William Jr. obtained some land and became a farmer, Thomas became a medical doctor, and Elizabeth married an American. Franklin’s “surrogate daughter” Polly died the 14th of October 1795 aged 56.

“To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Hewson, 8 September 1776,” “To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Hewson, 23 December 1781,” “From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, 27 January 1783,” “From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Hewson, 7 September 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0355. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 22, March 23, 1775, through October 27, 1776, ed. William B. Willcox. New Haven and London:: Yale University Press, 1982, pp. 287-289, 594–596, 67–68, 588–590.]
Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin (New York: Viking Press, 1938), 638, 738, 776.
Autograph letter signed (“B. Franklin”) to Mary “Polly” Hewson, Passy, 13 April 1782.

posted April 15th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Death,England,Franklin, Benjamin,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson,London,Paris,Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Jewess

Fourteen young Tory ladies were selected by Major John André as the “foremost in youth, beauty and fashion” in Philadelphia to participate in the Meschianza in May of 1778, a tribute to retiring General William Howe. Among them was REBECCA FRANKS. As he did with others in the group, André painted Rebecca’s portrait in miniature and penned several lines of poetry to go with it.

Rebecca Franks had Jewish ancestors. Her grandfather Jacob was a merchant and leader of the Jewish community in New York City; her father, David Franks, had moved to Philadelphia and married Margaret Evans, a member of a prominent family of Anglicans. Although David maintained his Jewish identity, his wife raised their five children to be Christians; two were baptized and four married non-Jews; the fifth did not marry. (David’s older sister Phila also married out of the faith, much to the sorrow of her parents; her husband was Oliver deLancy, a New York Loyalist and Anglican.) Despite her Christian upbringing and her mother’s faithful attendance at Christ Church, Rebecca Franks was frequently referred to as the “Jewish belle of the city.”

In 1782, Rebecca married an English officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson, the commander of the British outpost at Stony Point, New York, which he had been forced to surrender in 1779. She and her husband left for England shortly thereafter and settled in Bath. When Johnson was sent to Ireland to deal with rebels Rebecca went with him.

It was from a musty old castle in Killarney that she wrote to her friend (and her mother’s first cousin) “Willie” (Williamina) Bond who had married one of Washington’s officers, Gen. John Cadwalader. She is clearly nostalgic for Philadelphia and its exciting social scene. It is interesting to note that Rebecca and many other women in her social circle maintained friendships across oceans and political divides. Peggy Shippen was her friend before she married Benedict Arnold, when he defected, and afterward when she came to London. On the other hand, she did not much care for Ann Willing Bingham. Excerpts of Rebecca’s letter follow. Do notice an expression for pregnancy I have not encountered before.

February 19, 1784
Dear Mrs. Cad
The night before last I had the satisfaction of hearing from you, a pleasure I wish much more frequently I could enjoy. But the vile sea — how much happiness does it deprive us of — but most willingly wou’d I encounter its dangers to visit Phila[delphia] again — but alas — I fear I never can hope for that ALL your eloquence will not prevail while he can he will stay, either in Ireland (where we are now) or England, and his wife must obey.

I couldn’t help smiling at that part of yr letter that so gravely reprobates grandeur & dissipation — you are indeed consum’d Old Lady — now if I who have it not in my power to enjoy such things — was to rail against them the world might excuse me — but in you who have all the rich gifts of fortune ‘tis laughable really — Becky [Rebecca, a sister of Willie’s husband] tells me you are again in for the plate [pregnant], poor Toad. Why don’t you follow your Mother’s wise example — she always contrived matters so as only to be that way once in 7 years. . . . I can tell you very little of yr American acquaintances in London as I left the place last August & indeed when there I knew very little of them except Mrs. Arnold who always behav’d more like an affect-te sister than a common friend, she still continues the same. I hear every week or fortnight from her, she expects to be confin’d [give birth] the beginning of next Month. . . she was & is still more noticed and more liked than any American that ever came over. She is visited by people of the first rank & invited to all their houses.

Rebecca goes on to tell her friend how others of their acquaintance have been received in London society. A measure of popularity was the number of invitations to tea or a party a lady received, and of course the number of invitations she extended to other women. These rounds of visits took up much of the time of socially prominent women.

Mrs. P[enn] was too violent an American to have any intimacy with a British officer’s wife – she is lately lain of a son — Mrs. Bingham [Ann Willing, one of the most beautiful women in Philadelphia, married to William Bingham, said to be the richest man in America] arriv’d but a little while before I left London & while I was confin’d so did not see . . . her . . . [she] . . . spent part of the Summer at Brighthelmstone where she was much admired[;] in London She is not known & I hear has had but six ladys to visit her since her arrival. At first she talk’d of going to court and living away at a great rate but that Idea is now quite thrown aside & she finds an American in London & an American in their own country quite different beings. Mrs. Arnold is the only one who has been the least Notic’d . . . .

I blow your Spouse a kiss and mine blows you one at the same time . . . When you receive this may you be happily fix’d in D—r Phila. Which in spite of Everything I shall always prefer to every other place . . . Advise & tell me soon that you have given General C another son—kiss those you have already for your Sincerely Affecte
B Johnson

Returning to Bath after putting down the Irish rebellion, Henry Johnson was given a baronetcy; Rebecca became Lady Johnson. The couple had two sons, one of whom was killed at Waterloo. Rebecca died in 1823; she never did return to Philadelphia.

The painting of Rebecca Franks, courtesy of Naomi Wood Collection at Woodford Mansion. “Dear Mrs. Cad: A Revolutionary War Letter of Rebecca Franks,” Mark A. Stern, American Jewish Archives Journal; original at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Cadwalader Collection (#1454), Series 3X, Box 71, Williamina Bond Correspondence, Letter B. Johnson to Williamina B. Cadwalader, February 19, 1784.

posted December 15th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bingham, Anne Willing,Bond, Williamina (Willie),Britain,Cadwalader, General John,Childbirth,England,Franks, Rebecca,Friendship,Ireland,Johnson, Henry (British officer),London,Loyalists,Meschianza,Philadelphia,Social life,Stony Point Battlefield

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