Archive for the ‘Adams, Abigail’ Category

” we both of us haveing been talking and wishing for you”

A newsy letter from ABIGAIL ADAMS to her sister MARY CRANCH in Salem. Abigail has one child, a daughter Nabby, and Mary has a daughter Betsy.
Happy to be home after a visit to Weymouth Abigail is feeling a little “lonesome” even though she is welcomed back by her servants. I love the way Abigail, eager for news, interrupts her writing when husband John returns home with “News papers.” Expressing her sorrow over the absence of Mary and her husband, she is happy that her sister ELIZABETH SHAW has stopped for a visit, albeit a short one.

Braintree Jan’ry. 31 1767My Dear Sister
I have just returnd from Weymouth, where I have been for a week past. It seems lonesome here, for My Good Man [John Adams] is at Boston; after haveing been in a large family, for a week, to come and set down alone is very solitary; tho we have seven in our family, yet four of them being domestick when my partner is absent and my Babe a sleep, I am still left alone. It gives one a pleasing Sensation my Dear Sister, after haveing been absent a little while to see one’s self gladly received upon a return, even by one’s Servants. I do not know that I was ever more sensibly affected with it than I was to Day; I could behold joy sparkle in the Eyes of every one of them as I enterd the House, whilst they unaffectedly express’d it some to me and some to my Babe.—One runs to the Door, O Mam, I am glad to see you come home again, how do you do? Whilst an other catches the child, and says Dear creature I was affraid she would forget me, and a third hovers round and crys Nab, do you know Polly, and will you come to her?—These little instances shew their regard, and they endear them to us.
Thus far I wrote last fryday. But my good Man arriving with the News papers, put an end to writing any further at that time. However I have now reassumed my pen, tho I am something tierd, haveing dined Nine Gentlemen to Day. When I set down with such a friendly circle, I always look round and wish that the company was not incompleat by the absence of two Dear Friend’s. Here now sets our Sister Elizabeth [Shaw], and we both of us haveing been talking and wishing for you. She will leave me to morrow, tho She came but to Day, and has not been here since She came from Salem, before now. Father, the Doctor and Mr. Wibird (who made three of the company to Day) tell me that they all of them design for Salem to morrow. I know how rejoiced you will be to see them. I feel glad for you, but methinks so many good Friends ought not to go together—if they went but one at a time I should chance to hear three times from you which would as Sarah Cotton used to say make me three times glad.—I sent your Camblet* to Unkle Smiths last week, and hope it has reach’d you before now. The coulour I know you will not like. I do not think Dawson used me well, tis a discourageing thing, when one has tried to have a thing look well and done their part towards it, then to have it ruined in the dying or weaveing, is very provoking, but if Mr. Cranch dislikes it, I would not have you think yourselves under any oblagation to take it, for I shall not be any ways troubled if you send it back again.—I have a couple of Books, which when I have read thro I design to send to you, for your perusal—they are called Sermons to young women. . . . My Letter will be a mess medly in Spite of any efforts to the contarary—for from Sermons I must desend to Cards and tell you I should be glad, Mr. Cranch would send me a pair**. Nabby sends her Love to her cousin Betsy and would be very glad of her company, to tend Miss Doll, who is a very great favorite of theirs.—I send you a little yarn for a pair of Stockings and a little flax for some thread—because I know you seek wool and flax, and work willingly with your hands. Accept of them with my sincere regards to you and yours From your affectionate Sister,
Abigail AdamsP.S. You must burn this for it is most dismal writing.

* Camblet is a woven fabric that might have originally been made of camel or goat’s hair, later chiefly of goat’s hair and silk, or of wool and cotton. It is unclear whether Abigail had sent the fabric or an article of clothing made from the fabric. Shown is a pumpkin-colored dress made of camblet.
**Cards are used in combing wool. Mr. Cranch was a cardmaker as well as a watchmaker.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 31 January 1767,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0048. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761 – May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 60–62.] The illustration is of a 1770s pumpkin-colored dress made of camblet by Goldenhind on Easy.

posted May 15th, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Children,Clothes,Cranch, Elizabeth "Betsy",Cranch, Mary (Smith),Family life,Friendship,Shaw, Elizabeth Smith,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“that quilted contrivance”

The correspondence between ABIGAIL SMITH ADAMS, MARY SMITH CRANCH, and ELIZABETH SMITH SHAW/PEABODY reveals the strong bond that existed between the Smith sisters. Mary was the eldest, followed by Abigail, and Elizabeth “Betsy.” Mary was living in Salem Massachusetts in 1766 while Abigail was in Braintree. The two were too far apart to be able to see each other frequently and they sorely missed the visits and chats they used to have. Mary Cranch had a daughter Betsy and Abigail had her first child Abigail called Nabby. Mary’s husband Richard had been ill and Abigail hopes she is not too “cast down”, that is depressed, by it. The letter ends with an interesting request from Abigail.

Dear Sister
I heard to Day that the Doctor had a Letter from Mr. Cranch, and that he was still very Ill, poor Man. I am grieved for him, and for you my dear Sister, who I know share with him in all his troubles. It seem[s] worse to me when I hear you are unwell now than it used to, when I could go and see you. Tis a hard thing to be weaned from any thing we Love, time nor distance has not yet had that Effect upon me. I think of you ten times where I used to once. I feel more concern’d for you, and more anxious about you—perhaps I am too much so. I would not have you cast down my Sister. Sufficient to the Day is the Evil thereof. . . . Tho things may not appear so agreable and encourageing at present, perhaps the Scale may be turned. Mr. Cranch may, and I hope he will have his Health better, and we may all have occasion to rejoice in Each others prosperity.
I send my little Betsy some worsted for a pair of Stockings to go to meeting in. You must remember my Love to Mr. Cranch. Mr. Adams would be very glad if he would write to him, and I should take it kindly if you could write to me by Father, and let me know how you all are. I should be obliged if you would Lend me that quilted contrivance Mrs. Fuller made for Betsy. Nabby Bruses her forehead sadly she is fat as a porpouse and falls heavey. My paper is full and obliges me to bid you good Night. Yours,
A Adams

The “quilted contrivance” that Abigail speaks of is a pudding cap. This was a padded cap tied onto the heads of toddlers beginning to walk. It was intended to protect their heads from injury by falls. It was commonly thought that frequent bumps on the head would turn children’s brains to mush— as in pudding, thus the phrase “pudding cap.” Small children were often called by the endearing term ” little pudding heads.”

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 13 October 1766,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0045. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761 – May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 56–57.] A glossary of children’s clothing and the above image can be found on the Colonial Williamburg SITE.

posted May 3rd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Children,Clothes,Cranch, Mary (Smith),Peabody, Elizabeth Shaw

“Lucy Locket Lost her Pocket”

I couldn’t resist recommending a recent Two Nerdy History Girls blog post on “pockets” because of the charming video of the song “Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket” that is included, courtesy of Pauline Loven.

For 18th century women, “pockets” were a separate part of their attire, not built into clothing as they are today. They were attached to a ribbon which was tied around the waist rather like an apron, usually worn under the skirt, and accessed through a slit. They could be capacious or small, plain or fancy, and hold a multitude of things. See my earlier post here. The dimity pocket pictured belonged to Abigail Adams. More information about it can be found here.

For those inclined to make a pocket, follow the instructions issued by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. After 1800, the type of pockets described were not suitable for the slimmer fashions, and women took to carrying reticules or purses.

posted March 8th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Clothes,Fashion

The Adamses: “quite out of their element”

MARY HILL LAMAR wrote again from London to her brother Henry Hill in Philadelphia this time including a couple of catty remarks about John and Abigail Adams as well as Ann Willing Bingham and her husband, said to be the wealthiest man in America.

London, March 18, 1786. . . . Please make my affectionate compliments to my sister Mrs. Hill, with my thanks for the nice cranberries. Before this gets to hand you will probably see Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, whom I have not seen since their return from France, although I called twice after I heard of their being in London. I am told the extreme of the French fashion, or her own taste, has made great alteration, while on the continent, in her manners, &c. When I mentioned her own taste, it was because she appeared at the opera in a hat unlike anything that ever made its appearance there before or since; fond as they are here of the French fashions. She has been introduced to their majesties, by Mr. and Mrs. Adams, our American plenipo [plenipotentiary], who, by the by, the girls have been to wait on several times, with myself. We have had them to a party of cards and tea, and she has been asked a second time, but as they have not returned the compliment, I think it unnecessary to pay them any farther attention.

They seem sensible people, one and all, but quite out of their element. Mrs. Adams has been very handsome, but an indifferent figure, being very short and fat. Miss [the Adams’s daughter Nabby], by some, reckoned handsome. . . .

Excuse haste, and believe me, my dear brother,
Your sincerely affectionate sister,
MARY LAMAR

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 260-61. Anne Willing Bingham (above) was the model for an early coin design. More than 23 million non-gold coins of Bingham were introduced into circulation from 1795 to 1808.

posted February 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Fashion,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Paris,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

“who can fail from being Charmed with the Baron de Stael?”

ABIGAIL ADAMS wrote the following letter to her niece Elizabeth Cranch, whom she calls Betsy, during the Adams’s stay in France in 1785. She describes visits to the residence of the Swedish Ambassador and to a French aristocrat, including details of the furnishings and dress she knew her niece would find interesting. John and Abigail would shortly proceed to London where John Adams would be minister plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s.

May 12th. 1785 AuteuilDid you ever my dear Betsy see a person in real Life such as your imagination form’d of Sir Charles Grandison*? The Baron de Stael the Sweedish Ambassador comes nearest to that Character in his Manners and personal appearence of any Gentleman I ever saw. The first time I saw him I was prejudic’d in his favour, for his countanance Commands your good opinion, it is animated intelligent sensible affable, and without being perfectly Beautifull, is most perfectly agreeable. Add to this a fine figure, and who can fail from being Charmed with the Baron de Stael?

He lives in a Grand Hotel, and his suite of apartments his furniture and his table are the most Elegant of any thing I have seen. Altho you dine upon plate in every noble House in France, I cannot say that you may see your face in it, but here the whole furniture of the table was burnished and shone with Royal Splendor. Seventy thousand Livres in plate will make no small figure, and that is what his Majesty gave him. The desert was servd in the richest China with knives, forks, and spoons of Gold. As you enter his apartments you pass through files of servants into his antichamber, in which is a Throne coverd with green velvet upon which is a Chair of State over which hangs the picture of his Royal Master. These thrones are common to all Ambassadors of the first order as they are the immediate representatives of the king. Through his antichamber you pass into the grand Saloon which is elegantly adornd with architecture, a Beautifull Lusture hanging from the middle. Settees Chairs and hangings of the richest Silk embroiderd with Gold, Marble Slabs upon fluted pillars round which wreaths of artificial flowers in Gold entwine. It is usual to find in all houses of fashion, as in this, several dozen of Chairs, all of which has stuft backs and cushings standing in double rows round the rooms. The dinning room was equally beautifull, being hung with Gobelin tapestry the coulours and figures of which resembled the most elegant painting. In this room were hair bottom mahogony back chairs and the first I have seen since I came to France, two small statues of a venus de Medicis and a venus de bel . . . were upon the Mantle peice, the latter however was the modestest of the kind, having something like a lose robe thrown partly over her.
From the Sweedish Ambassadors we went to visit the Dutchess of D’Anville, who is Mother to the Duke de Rouchfoucault.* We found the old Lady sitting in an Easy chair, around her set a circle of Academicians and by her side a young Lady. Your uncle presented us, and the old Lady rose and as usual gave us a Salute. . . . The dutchess is near 80, very tall and lean. She was drest in a silk chimise with very large sleaves comeing half way down her arm, a large cape, no stays a black velvet Girdle round her waist. Some very rich lace in her chimise round her neck and in her sleaves, but the lace was not sufficient to cover the upper part of her neck which old time had harrow’d. She had no cap on, but a little black gauze Bonet which did not reach her Ears and tied under her chin, her venerable white hair in full view. The dress of old women and young girls in this Country is detestable to speak in the French stile. The latter at the age of Seven being cloathed exactly like a woman of 20 and the former have such a fantastical appearance that I cannot endure it. The old Lady has all the vivacity of a Young one. She is the most learned woman in France. Her house is the resort of all Men of literature with whom she converses upon the most abstruse subjects. She is [of] one of the most ancient as well as richest families in the kingdom. . . .

Thus you have my yesterdays entertainment. The only pleasure which I shall feel to day, is that which I have taken in writing you this morning. I forgot to mention to you that several persons of high rank dined with us yesterday, but not one of them can claim a stroke of my pen after the Baron de Stael.
Adieu my dear Betsy . . . . Yours affectionately
A. A

* Abigail is referring to the character in an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson first published in 1753 that both she and her niece would have read.
** The Duchess’s son, Louis Alexandre, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, was a leading philosophe and friend of America with a keen interest in American state constitutions. He was killed by a Revolutionary mob in 1792.

The Baron de Stael married the daughter of the French Minister of Finance Jacques Necker, Anne Louise Germaine Necker, who was to achieve fame as “Madame de Staël”. His portrait by the Swedish painter Adolph-Ulrich Wertmüller shows him at the age of thirty three.

The letter can be found at the Massachusetts Historical Society; see this LINK.

posted January 12th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Cranch, Elizabeth "Betsy",Paris

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