Archive for the ‘Entertainments’ Category

“too good a joke to lose”

In 1794, President George Washington sent John Jay to England to negotiate a treaty dealing with issues that had arisen relating to the Peace Treaty of 1783. Concluded in November of 1794, the Jay Treaty, as it was called, did not resolve all of the problems in a satisfactory manner, but it prevented another war between Britain and the United States that had seemed imminent. John Jay, his son, Peter Augustus, who served as his private secretary, and his official secretary John Trumbull remained in London until the spring of 1795.

About this time John Quincy Adams, with his brother Thomas Boylston, arrived in London en route to a diplomatic assignment in the Hague. The Adams brothers and the Jays met at the Johnsons several times. Louisa described details of a particular visit to her children in “Record of a Life”.

Mr. Jay . . . came to England and while he was there Mr. Adams [JQA] and his Brother Tom arrived in London on their way to Holland. . . . Mr. Jay and your father and Uncle were invited to dine with us . . . they were asked on account of the former acquaintance of the two families when your Grandfather [John Adams] was Minister in England—Your father was engaged; but your Uncle dined with us and so far were we from dreaming of a future connection in the family that from some strange fancy my Sister Nancy nick named your Uncle Abel and of course the brother whom we had never seen was called Cain. I mention this merely to show how little idea or desire there was in the family to plot or plan a marriage between the families—I also had a nick name in consequence of my habit of warning my Sisters if any thing was likely to go wrong; they called me Cassandra because they seldom listened to me until the mischief was done. . . .

Colonel John Trumbull visited the Johnsons frequently and his favorite among the sisters was Louisa. She remarked that “he said he wished he was a young man for then he should certainly pay his addresses to me; and this was the utmost that ever passed between us that could be tortured into love or what we fashionably term a belle Passion.” Louisa goes on to describe an amusing incident that took place at a friend’s house.

In consequence of our being at Mrs. Church’s the first Evening that Mr. Jay and his son and the Col was introduced he also bore another name among us Girls—The Servant a frenchman announcing them as Mr Pétéràjay and Col Terrible—you may suppose this was too good a joke to lose and it attached itself to them as long as they remained in England.

The information and quoted passages are from A Traveled First Lady: Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), pages 21-22. The portrait of John Jay is by an unknown artist after a painting by Gilbert Stuart, courtesy of the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site. Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait of John Trumbull in 1818. It is at the Yale University Art Gallery.

posted October 9th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “too good a joke to lose”, CATEGORIES: Adams, John Quincy,Adams, Louisa Catherine,Americans Abroad,Entertainments,London,Trumbull, John

An inventory of furniture at Brush Hill

Elizabeth Murray Campbell (age 33) and her second husband James Smith (age 70) lived at his beautiful 300-acre estate called Brush Hill from the time of their marriage in 1760 until his death in 1769, at which time the property became hers. (See posts concerning Elizabeth Murray here, here, and here.) When the widowed Elizabeth went abroad in 1769, her brother James lived on the estate.

Here is an inventory of the furniture in the house, taken in 1770. I confess I enjoy perusing inventories; the objects listed convey a sense of the kind of life the occupants of the house lived. I find the number of items related to food preparation and dining in this list particularly interesting: among them a pewter Calander, a cheese toaster, a Copper Coffee pot, 5 Tramels, 4 Bel[l]ows, and 1 Chaffin dish. An impressive collection, indicative I suspect of extensive entertaining. One item mystifies me: “4 extinguishers.” They are not snuffers as I originally thought as two of these are listed in the second column. Any ideas?

If you are having difficulty reading the manuscript consult the TRANSCRIPTION provided by the fabulous Elizabeth Murray Project.

posted August 11th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on An inventory of furniture at Brush Hill, CATEGORIES: Entertainments,Food,Marriage,New England

“as if directed by the Fancy of a FAIRY QUEEN”

Elizabeth Murray Campbell was a successful “she-merchant,” i.e. a shopkeeper, in Boston. See other posts about her here and here. She married three times. A widow at 33, she wed James Smith who was 70. A smart lady, she insisted on a prenuptial agreement that preserved her legal and economic rights which at that time as a married woman would have been ceded, according to the principle of feme couvert, to her husband. When James died, Elizabeth spent two years in Scotland and England. When she returned to Boston she married merchant Ralph Inman with whom she also had a prenuptial agreement.

In July 1772, Ralph Inman gave a huge party to celebrate his son’s graduation from Harvard. Elizabeth, his wife of less than a year, was in charge. It was quite an event. John Rowe, a friend of the family, wrote in his diary that more than 347 people attended the party, including the governor and the lieutenant governor and their families, with 210 people seated at one table. The Boston Gazette of July 20, 1772 featured a description of the festivities.

Among the young Gentlemen who received their first Degree at [the Harvard] Commencement, was the only Son of Ralph Inman, Esq; of Cambridge; who, upon that Occasion gave a very extensive Invitation, in the Name of Himself, Lady and Son, to the Circle of their Acquaintance, to dine at his Seat last Thursday.

We are informed by some of the Company present, that they found a Table of about 150 Feet, under a Canopy on the Green before the House, spread with an Elegance as if directed by the Fancy of a FAIRY QUEEN, but at the same Time capable of giving the most solid Satisfaction to the whole School of EPICURUS; while the Side-board Range would have put a new Smile upon the Cheeks of BACCHUS and his jovial Train. Poor VENUS indeed and her Nymphs must have burst with Envy, had they been present to examine, at one single Prospect, a brilliant Group of more than eight Score Ladies.

The polite, cordial Reception given to the Guests and their benevolent Festivity were mutually a Credit to each other, and need not improve the Advantage of any striking Contrast. After Tea, the Company were conducted to the Pleasures of a Ball at the Court-House.

The newspaper account of the commencement party can be found here. The painting of Elizabeth in 1769 when she was Mrs. Smith is by John Singleton Copley. The image can be found here. The painting is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“my heart . . . almost burst through my bosom, to meet him”

Charlotte Chambers (see previous post) wrote a particularly interesting letter to her mother on February 25, 1795. In it she describes the celebrations in Philadelphia on the 22nd in honor of George Washington’s birthday as well as her introduction to both the President and his wife.

The morning of the ” twenty-second” was ushered in by the discharge of heavy artillery. The whole city was in commotion, making arrangements to demonstrate their attachment to our beloved President. The Masonic, Cincinnati, and military orders united in doing him honor. Happy republic! great and glorious! . . . Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, with Dr. Spring, called for me in their coach. Dr. Rodman, master of ceremonies, met us at the door, and conducted us to Mrs. Washington. She half arose as we made our passing compliments. She was dressed in a rich silk, but entirely without ornament, except the animation her amiable heart gives to her countenance. Next her were seated the wives of the foreign ambassadors, glittering from the floor to the summit of their head-dress. One of the ladies wore three large ostrich-feathers. Her brow was encircled by a sparkling fillet of diamonds; her neck and arms were almost covered with jewels, and two watches were suspended from her girdle, and all reflecting the light from a hundred directions. Such superabundance of ornament struck me as injudicious; we look too much at the gold and pearls to do justice to the lady. However, it may not be in conformity to their individual taste thus decorating themselves, but to honor the country they represent.

The seats were arranged like those of an amphitheatre, and cords were stretched on each side of the room, about three feet from the floor, to. preserve sufficient space for the dancers. We were not long seated when General Washington entered, and bowed to the ladies as he passed round the room. ” He comes, he comes, the hero comes!” I involuntarily but softly exclaimed. When he bowed to me, I could scarcely resist the impulse of my heart, that almost burst through my bosom, to meet him. The dancing soon after commenced. Mr. John Woods, Mr. John Shippen, Lawrence Washington, and Col. Hartley enlivened the time by their attentions, and to them I was much indebted for the pleasure of the evening.

Next morning I received an invitation by my father from Mrs. Washington to visit her, and Col. Hartley politely offered to accompany me to the next drawing-room levee.

On this evening my dress was white brocade silk, trimmed with silver, and white silk, high-heeled shoes, embroidered with silver, and a light blue sash, with silver cord and tassel tied at the left side. My watch was suspended at the right, and my hair was in its natural curls. Surmounting all was a small white hat and white ostrich-feather, confined by brilliant band and buckle. Punctual to the moment, Col. Hartley, in his chariot, arrived. . . . The hall, stairs, and drawing-room of the President’s house were well lighted by lamps and chandeliers. Mrs. Washington, with Mrs. Knox, sat near the fire-place. Other ladies were seated on sofas, and gentlemen stood in the centre of the room conversing. On our approach, Mrs. Washington arose and made a courtesy—the gentlemen bowed most profoundly—and I calculated my declension to her own with critical exactness.

The President soon after, with that benignity peculiarly his own, advanced, and I arose to receive and return his compliments with the respect and love my heart dictated. He seated himself beside me, and inquired for my father, a severe cold having detained him-at home. . . .
C. C.

Subsequently, Charlotte was invited to spend the day with Mrs. Washington.

I have but few moments to spare. Engagements abroad and company at home occupy my time; and such is the variety of Philadelphia, every day brings some new pursuit, and is passed in the perpetual rotation of what is termed pleasure. Everywhere I experience those attentions which render my excursions from the city, and my visits in it, invariably pleasing.

In a previous letter, I wrote of being at the President’s, and my admiration of Mrs. Washington. Yesterday, Col. Proctor informed me that her carriage was at the door, and a servant inquiring for me. After the usual compliments and some conversation, she gave me a pressing invitation to spend the day with her; and so perfectly friendly were her manners, I found myself irresistibly attached to her. On taking leave, she observed a portrait of the President hanging over the fire-place, and said ” She had never seen a correct likeness of General Washington. The only merit the numerous portraits of him possessed was their resemblance to each other.” . . . I must finish this letter to-morrow, as the carriage has arrived, and I am engaged to accompany Dr. Bedford, Gen. and Mrs. Neville, and my father to the theatre.
Adieu, devotedly,
C. C.

Charlotte’s letter can be found in her Memoir by her grandson Lewis H. Garrard (Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1856), pages 14-16.

posted July 17th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “my heart . . . almost burst through my bosom, to meet him”, CATEGORIES: Clothes,Entertainments,Fashion,Philadelphia,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

American Ladies dance better . . .

Henrietta Marchant Liston was the wife of the British minister to the United States in 1796. The Listons attended the celebration of Washington’s birthday in February. Mrs. Liston recorded her impression of the event—it proved to be quite a spectacle.

Guns were fired & Bells rung—in the morning the Gentlemen waited on the President, & the Ladies on Mrs. Washington, & were entertained with cake & wine—Ricketts Amphitheater was fitted up & in the Evening a Ball given to about a thousand Persons; the President appeared in the American Uniform,
(blue & buff), with the Cross of Cincinatus at his breast in diamonds. . . . I went in about seven o Clock to the Presidents Box, from which we had a very compleat view of the Company; the Country dances & Cottillions were danced. . . . The American Ladies dance better than any set of People I ever saw. . . . the appearance was very beautiful, many pretty Women & all showing in their dress, cheerfull, happy, & gay . . . the President . . . moved a Monarch. . . . at eleven o Clock supper was announced, The President walked alone, his March playing, He was followed by Mrs. Washington handed by the Vice President, I went next handed by the Portugueze Minister, then his Lady handed by Mr. Liston . . . the supper tables were very splendid, the President & his Party sat at the centre one. . . . a trumpet sounded, & the Company huzzaed, the President rose drank their healths, & thanked them for the last honor done him. . . . Mr. Liston & I stole away soon after our return to the Ball-room, We extremely entertained, & I tolerably tired, tho’ pleased.

Mrs. Liston’s description can be found on pages 321-22 of In the Words of Women. The portrait of Mrs. Liston by Gilbert Stuart (1800) is at the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

posted November 28th, 2013 by Janet, Comments Off on American Ladies dance better . . ., CATEGORIES: Entertainments,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

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