“our two dear children . . . are both inoculated”

Esther de Berdt Reed, living in Philadelphia with her lawyer husband Joseph Reed, maintained a correspondence with her brother Dennis in England. She continued to miss her homeland and entertain thoughts of returning. When her first child was born in 1771, a daughter who was sickly, she wrote: “If she lives, it will make me more anxious than ever to return to dear England, as the education of girls is very indifferent indeed here. I assure my dear Dennis I find this country and England two different places; however, for the present we must be content.” Esther found the climate in Philadelphia particularly distasteful. “I Should be very glad to change this fine sky for our heavy one. There is so much clear, burning sunshine in the three summer months, that I do not wish for any more all the year. ” Esther had another child the following year and wrote to Dennis:

I can inform you that I have passed through another scene of trial, and am recovered to perfect health and strength. I think I never enjoyed a greater share of health and spirits; nothing is wanting but clearer prospects of returning to dear England; it would indeed rejoice my heart, once more to set my foot on that charming island. America must be allowed to be a fine country, but the conveniences and elegancies of England are unrivalled; they are not to be expected here; but I make myself contented. At present, we are in no small anxiety about our two dear children, as they are both inoculated, and we expect them to sicken every hour. Before this vessel sails, I hope to tell you they are in a fair way of recovery. . . . I hope to send you this fall, some cranberries and some sturgeon, and if possible some venison hams. . . .

Esther once more sent her brother a list of items she would like him to purchase for her.

Send me 4 pr. of Bk. Calma shoes. . . . A dozen of 8 bowed cap wires; a cap for Patty [her daughter], such as a child two years old should wear. If they are what they call quilted caps, send two, as I cannot get any such here; a quartered cap for my boy, a half-dressed handkerchief or tippet*, or whatever is the fashion, for myself, made of thread lace. Also a handsome spring silk, fit for summer, and new fashion. I leave it to your taste to choose it for me. I would not have rich silk. You know I do not like anything very gay, but neat and genteel. Send it to Long’s warehouse to be made up, and trimmed or not, as the present taste requires. If you call there, they will tell you how much it will take. Buy the quantity, but cut off half a yard and send it to me with the gown. . . . I will send you a gown to be dyed any color it will take best. Thus far my commissions run at present.

* a tippet is a garment comparable to a stole or boa. Rather interesting is Esther’s faith in her brother’s fashion sense and knowledge of what was à la mode.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 168, 172-73, 176-77.

posted October 5th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Children, Clothes, Fashion, Food, Inoculation, Philadelphia, Reed, Esther De Berdt, Reed, Joseph


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