British-born ANN HEAD WARDER was the wife of American John Warder, a merchant with a base in London and a branch in Philadelphia. When family affairs required John’s presence he returned to Philadelphia in 1786 accompanied by Ann who kept a diary and wrote letters to her sister Elizabeth. (See an earlier post focusing on food and a Christmas feast.) The twenty-eight-year-old commented in a lively fashion on her experiences, gave her opinions on the city, its social life and customs, the climate, the food, and more. A Quaker, she noted that some practices of the Friends in Philadelphia differed from what she was used to. When the Warders first arrived they stayed at the home of John’s mother.
6 mo. 7th.—I rested well in mother’s best bed the room large and house spacious. Below are the shop and counting house in front; one large and one small parlor back, a delightful entry from the street to the yard. Up stairs is a good drawing room and three large chambers, with the same size cool passage. . . We dined at mother’s with only our own family, which fills a long table. I have mentioned those present except some of the younger branches. . . . they have fine hair and wear no caps, but handkerchiefs close up to their throats with a frill around the neck, in which dress much inconsistency appears to me. . . .
6 mo. 9th.—A crowded house began at 10 o’clock. Sometimes the recollection of you would make me ready to burst out with laughter, such new scenes are presented. Many in their own carriages have honored me with their company—Friends and others. Such a general use of fans my eyes never beheld, you scarcely see a woman without one, and in Winter I am told they visit with them as a plaything. . . .
6 mo. 12th.—Breakfasted at home comfortably, but it would be more so if the family were more attentive to the summons. . . . In the evening we took a nice walk, which gave me a clearer idea of the town, that it is in my opinion far superior to New York as Westminster to the city. The regularity of the streets and buildings with their entire plainness I much admire. . . .
6 mo.13th.—. . . . The family dined at Billy Morris’s. We had a very genteel dinner, indeed I think from my present observation that people here are more superb in their entertainments than with us. Provisions of every kind are cheaper, but the greatest luxury is the abundance of fruit. We have pineapples, strawberries, cherries, peas. . . .
6 mo. 14th.—In the afternoon, the weather being cool . . . in a phaeton . . . [we] took a ride of ten miles along the banks of the Schuylkill, with which I was much pleased. Several friends called iin during the evening, which I find is occasioned by the intense heat of the Summer—they walk most after dark and sit much on their porches, which as a mother I think expose girls too early to the acquaintance of men.
6 mo. 11th.—In this forenoon went to Market Street Meeting which I think is full double the size of Gracechurch street. It has five doors, one on each side of the minister’s gallery; near which I sit though much courted by beckoners to come under it. . . . At six went again to meeting, the day being so warm it was omitted in the afternoon. Returned home to supper when we met Brother and Sister Vaux with their only two children. The mode of dressing children here is not so becoming as with us, and I have scarcely seen a white frock since my arrival; their colored ones are very inferior to what we use, which with blue and yellow skirts and their necks entirely covered to preserve them, complete a dress very inconsistent with mothers’ appearance when from home, for not a woman has visited me but what was elegant enough for any bride. Indeed we could almost persuade ourselves that was the case from so much saluting—which is a practice here considerably out of use. A young girl esteems it an insult for a man to offer any such thing—the strictest delicacy subsists, beyond what I ever expected to find, particularly as they are more and much earlier exposed to men’s company. . . .
More of Ann Warder’s observations in the next post.
“Extracts from the Diary of Mrs. Ann Warder” 444-448, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, 1893, No. 1.