Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ripped Off No More: Ten Hand Sewing Techniques You Can Teach Yourself Through Online Classes

One common complaint among Revolutionary War reenactors is that they are often forced to shell out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to tailors, seamstresses and companies to have historical clothing made.  Unfortunately,the old adage “you get what you pay for” often applies and many of these sources will routinely cut corners, ignore historically correct patterns and utilize synthetic fabrics.  The end result is a shoddy product that is neither historically accurate nor properly made.

Many argue (perhaps correctly) that the primary responsibility of Revolutionary War reenactors is to faithfully interpret the clothing, material culture, lives and events of the period. Thus, if we rely upon questionable workmanship then we are actually doing a disservice to the public.

As a result, we should look towards making our own clothing based upon historically accurate patterns and utilizing period correct fabrics and materials.

Of course, a common objection from many reenactors is “I can’t make that, I don’t know how to sew!” 

Well, object no more fellow historical nerd! Here are ten instructional videos compiled by Burnley and Trowbridge and Fort Ticonderoga  that you can utilize to teach yourself how to hand sew in a proper, 18th Century manner. 

Soon you’ll be making quality clothing and telling that shady sutler to cancel your order.

Disclaimer . . . The nerds of Historical Nerdery are not responsible if you accidentally blow yourself up while teaching yourself how to hand sew.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"Many Insults And Abuses From Rebels" - The Abuse of Loyalist Families During the Burgoyne Campaign

This Fall, McAlpin’s Corps of American Volunteers will be joining other progressive reenacting organizations at Saratoga National Historical Park to highlight the Loyalist refugee experience during the final weeks of General Burgoyne’s ill fated 1777 campaign.  The organization will be directing its efforts towards the portrayal of Loyalist civilians who were forced to flee their homes and seek the safety of the advancing British Army.

As a result of this living history presentation, the Nerds were curious about the hardships many Loyalist families faced at the hands of their political opponents and the exact circumstances that led to their respective flights towards British lines. 

Despite popular misconception, Loyalist women and their families generally did not gather their belongings and flee into the night in terror from local mobs. Instead, many Loyalist women concluded they and their families would be safer by withdrawing to British held territory north in Canada or south in New York City. As a result, these women appeared before local Committees of Safety and requested permission to leave their community to join their husbands who may have fled weeks or months earlier. 

At first, many committees were reluctant to release Loyalist families as they served a useful purpose as hostages. As historian Janice Potter-McKinnon noted “from the patriot perspective, the continued presence of loyalist families under their careful guard could deter future attacks, stem the flow of potential young male recruits into Canada and encourage the release of American prisoners held by British authorities.”  Ultimately, however, many local committees recognized that hostages would not stop Burgoyne's invasion and quickly agreed to release the women and their families.

Naturally, local officials carefully scrutinized the petitions of Loyalist women and set forth the terms of their departure. Often the decision to allow women to leave was prompted by concern about the financial cost involved in permitting them to stay. As the Albany County Commissioners for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies declared, “it having appeared to us that those Women are become chargeable to the Districts in which they severally reside and that they together with their Families are subsisted at public Expence.” Thus, patriot officials did not want communities to take on the burden of caring for indigent Loyalist families and were often quite willing to grant permission to such families to leave.

Not surprisingly, many Loyalist families were subjected to various forms of harassment prior to their departure - the most common and devastating being the confiscation, looting or destruction of their personal and real property. Likewise, many families faced violence at the hands of local mobs. 

Loyalist Sarah Mcginnis of New York, her daughter, and granddaughter all watched as local “Patriots” sold off at a public auction all their possessions, “except what would scantily support them in victuals and clothes.”. After this, the women were imprisoned in a local fort and so badly treated that Sarah's granddaughter later died. Sarah and her daughter "escaped at night with only what they could carry on their backs.” Sarah was forced to leave behind a son “who was out of his senses and bound in chains ... and who some time afterward was burnt alive.”

In the case of the Empy family, Philip, husband and father of eleven children, was subjected to “many insults and abuses from rebels.” When Philip and his three sons escaped from prison, the local officials turned their eyes to his wife and seven other children. Mrs Empty and her children were imprisoned and all of their real and personal property was confiscated. The family was eventually released however, when Philip’s wife returned to her home, she was “beat and abused [by] 4 men” and left on a road. Although she was rescued by friends and taken to Schenectady for medical treatment, she later died.

Elizabeth Cary Wilstee, a resident of the New Hamphshire Grants whose family had been victimized by the Green Mountain Boys in the 1760s, watched helplessly as a band of militiamen ransacked her home in 1776. In the middle of winter, the “outlaws” broke into her home and ordered her and her children to leave for her father's place. Although it was snowy and cold, she had no choice. “Looking back while on her way,” she saw the “outlaws moving her furniture and provisions from the house and loading them into a wagon . . . open her feather beds and shake the feathers from the ticks out of the windows and put the ticks and bed clothes into the wagon . . . pry the logs of the sides of the house out at the corners until the roof fell in.”

Shortly after his flight to Canada, Loyalist Daniel McAlpin’s property was seized and his wife and family were arrested. Mary McAlpin described her family’s treatment at the hands of the rebels in vivid language. “From the day her husband left to the day she was forced from her home the Captain's house was never without parties of the Rebels present. They lived at their discretion and sometimes in very large numbers. They destroyed what they could not consume. Shortly after the capture of the fleeing Loyalists a group of armed Rebels with blackened faces broke into the McAlpin's dwelling house. They threatened Mary and her children with violence and menace of instant death. They confined them to the kitchen while they stripped every valuable from the home. A few days after this, by an order of the Albany Committee, a detachment of Rebel Forces came and seized upon the remainder of McAlpin's estate both real and personal.” Mary McAlpin and her children were taken to an unheated hut located in Stillwater and locked inside “without fire, table, chairs or any other convenience.”

Hoping that the hardship would eventually break Mrs. McAlpin and her family, the rebels kept Mary and her children in captivity for several weeks. Mary McAlpin refused to comply. Enraged, rebels seized Mary and her oldest daughter and “carted” both of them through Albany. According to one period account, “Mrs. McAlpin was brought down to Albany in a very scandalous manner so much that the Americans themselves cried out about it.” A second period statement asserts “when Mrs. McAlpin was brought from the hut to Albany as a prisoner with her daughter . . . they neither of them had a rag of cloaths to shift themselves.”

Elizabeth Munro Fisher was a refugee who fled her home in 1777 for the safety of General Burgoyne’s army. In her memoirs written in the early 19th Century, Fisher describes how she was summarily evicted from her home by a local mob and forced to flee to the safety of nearby British lines.

“A party of riflemen surrounded our house, about six o'clock in the morning, and inquired for Mr. Fisher. I told them he was not at home; they asked me where he was gone — I told them; upon which they ordered me out of my house with a threat that if I did not immediately comply they would burn me in it. I took my child from the cradle and went out of the house. — I sat down at a little distance, and observed them taking out all my furniture, and then they burnt the house- In this situation, without a home and no one near me to whom I could apply for advice or assistance . . . I was at a loss what to do. — At last, seeing a man drive a cow, I asked him which way he was going. — He answered to the camp. — I asked him if he would let me go along with him. — Yes, said he, if you can keep up with me. I arose from the ground (for I was sitting down with my child on my lap) and followed him. I walked that day, in company with this man, twenty- two miles, and carried my child; by the middle of the day I had neither shoe nor stockings on my feet; my shoes, being made of silk, did not last long, and my stockings I took off and threw away, on account of the fatigue of carrying my child and walking so far.— I was willing to lay down and die. On the road this man would often say that he did not know but a party of Indians might be out a scouting, and if so, we should fall a sacrifice to them; at first I was alarmed, but my fatigue at length was so great that I told him I wished they might come and kill me and my child, for I was almost exhausted. I had nothing to eat or drink all that day, except the water he gave me out of the brooks with his hat. We saw several houses, but the people had fled from them. About sunset we came to a house where we found a woman and seven children. Her husband had gone — I stayed there that night; the next day the man went with his cow into the camp; this cow was ail he had, and he wanted to sell her for money. I sent by him to Mr. Fisher, letting him know where I was. Mr. Fisher came to me that evening, and the next day I went into the camp. After I had been a few days in the camp, I bought every thing my child and I needed. I related to Mr. Fisher what had been done at home — he was much surprised at Williams' conduct, as he had sent him, and the men that burnt the house were under his command—my furniture was sold at his house as tory property.”

As violence, imprisonment and looting continued to mount, many Loyalist women recognized their situation was becoming desperate. In a letter to her husband John, Mary Munro described just how dangerous her situation was. “For heavens sake, my dear Mr. Munro, send me some relief by the first safe hand. Is there no possibility of your sending for us? If there is no method fallen upon we shall perish, for you can have no idea of our sufferings here; Let me once more intreat you to try every method to save your family; my heart is so full it is ready to break; adieu my Dearest John, may God Almighty bless pre serve and protect you, that we may live to see each other is the constant prayer of your affectionate tho' afflicted wife ... P.S. The Childer's kind love to you.”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Think Massachusetts Militia Men Were Carrying Old French and Indian War Muskets and Equipment? Think Again ...

The nerds at Historical Nerdery were recently examining records discussing the arms and equipment available to Massachusetts militia and minute companies. During our review, we remembered a question we’ve received from time to time - were arms and equipment from the previous French and Indian War used by Massachusetts militiamen during the Battles of Lexington and Concord?

The short answer is “it depends”. 

The arms shipped to Massachusetts troops during the French and Indian War were generally referred to as a “stand of arms”. Firearms were issued in complete sets or “stands”, meaning that all of the basic components and accouterments needed to use the firearm were included. These components included the firearm itself, a bayonet fitted to the gun, bayonet scabbard, sling, a belly box with a waist belt and leather frog. Unlike the better quality cartridge boxes issued to regular regiments, the belly boxes that came with the stands were simple wooden blocks with cartridge holes drilled in it. Two thin leather strips were nailed to the front of the box for a waist belt, which carried the frog, scabbard and bayonet.

During the French and Indian War, all stands of arms provided to Massachusetts soldiers were considered property of His Majesty and were expected to be returned to officials at the end of each campaign. Nevertheless Massachusetts soldiers often refused to return these stands of arms and simply took them home at the end of their service. In 1757, the British Comptroller complained “out of the 2,000 [stands of arms] issued to the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, he has just yet received 300 only.” Two years later, in 1759, Massachusetts Governor Pownall complained “I had caused about three thousand stand of arms to be delivered to the [Massachusetts] men, raised the last year for His Majesty’s service, under General Abercromby; I have an account of one hundred and fifteen only, as yet returned.”

So it is very possible some Dutch and British muskets and belly boxes issued to Massachusetts provincial troops during the French  and Indian War saw service on April 19, 1775.

Likewise, bayonets issued during the war were repaired and re-issued to Massachusetts men in 1774 and 1775. For example, in Bradford, Phineas Carlton was hired to scour “the old Bayonets, and fitting with Belts, 4l. 4s. 0d. For 2 Scabbards and Belts.” In Lexington, bayonets issued by Massachusetts Bay Colony to the town’s militia company in 1758 were ordered to be collected, repaired and reissued.

However, the real question is just how many of these guns, bayonets and cartridge boxes actually saw service in 1775? We’re going to go out on a limb and say not as many as one would like to believe. Why? Simply put, the arms and equipment issued to the American colonies were far from top of the line. Worse, many of the weapons and accouterments issued to Massachusetts troops during the French and Indian War were utterly useless. 

For example, on September 28, 1755, Governor Shirley and Major General William Pepperrell both received correspondence highlighting the inadequacies of weapons and equipment sent to Massachusetts provincials in the field. “The locks being wore out and the hammers so soft, that notwithstanding repeated repairs they are most unfit for service, particularly Sir William Pepperrell’s Regiment being old Dutch arms.” In July 16, 1756, two Massachusetts colonels both complained that the arms they received “are in very bad condition.” Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie complained about a shipment of arms that was received and slated to be shared amongst the American colonies, including Massachusetts. According to Dinwiddie, the stands of arms were “in a very rusty condition, and it w’d appear they had been underwater for months.”

Of course, quality control issues were not limited to muskets. According to Governor Shirley, “the holes of the pouches and boxes are so small that they cannot receive the Cartridge, nor is there substance of the wood, to widen them sufficiently. The leather scanty and bad likewise.”

In a previous blog post, the nerds had estimated that by 1759 at least 4585 British and Dutch muskets, cartridge boxes and bayonets allegedly remained in the hands of Massachusetts provincials and could have found their way into the ranks of militiamen at Lexington and Concord. However, with references to cartridge boxes and belting made with substandard leather, and rusted muskets with inoperable locks, we have to ask just how likely these items would have been of any use by Lexington and Concord.

Naturally, this would possibly explain why Massachusetts towns were moving to equip their militia and minute companies with newly made cartridge boxes and belting. It would also provide some explanation as to why many militia companies were armed with civilian fowling pieces rather than old military guns. (The archeological findings of the Parker’s Revenge dig suggests the majority of Captain Parker’s men were armed with fowlers on April 19, 1775.) However, this is an issue that needs to be explored further.

We’ll keep you posted as to what we find.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"We Could Not Have Engaged in a More Lucrative Business" - The Smuggling Exploits of Sarah and David Emery

Whelp….we put this off long enough. Shame on us. It’s long overdue that we discuss the early 19th century smuggling exploits of Sarah Smith Emery of Newburyport.

Sarah was born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1787. During the War of 1812 Emery and her husband dominated the Newburyport smuggling trade. In 1879 her daughter published Sarah’s memoirs, entitled Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian. A large segment of the writings describe her exploits of smuggling imported goods literally under the noses of local custom officers. However, Sarah’s writings also recount her daily experiences as a child in Federalist Massachusetts.

 So how did Sarah get her start in the smuggling trade?

In 1807, war raged between England and France. Unfortunately, the United States was caught in the middle of the conflict and saw its merchant fleet repeatedly harassed by both the French and British Navies. In response, President Jefferson and the American Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibited the United States from engaging in trade with all foreign ports.

The embargo crippled the American economy and coastal ports like Newburyport struggled to survive. As Emery noted in her biography, “The Embargo Act wholly disarranged the business of Newburyport; for a time it brought much suffering. It was but natural that opposition to the policy of the administration should he nearly universal. On the first anniversary of the passage of the act, the flags were hung at half mast, the bells were tolled, and minute guns were fired; while a procession of sailors bearing erape on their arms marched through the streets, headed- by a dismantled vessel drawn by horses on a cart. This craft bore a flag inscribed 'Death to Commeree.' On the quarter-deck stood a sailor with a glass in his hand, and a painted motto bore the words 'Which way shall I steer?' Occasionally the sailor threw the lead.”

The Embargo Act was replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, which enabled the President, once the wars of Europe ended, to declare the country sufficiently safe to allow foreign trade with certain nations. With the passage of this law, Emery noted that “Business revived, and shipbuilding again became active.”

Unfortunately, when war was declared in 1812, an embargo against British goods and trade was once again imposed. “In every seaport there was much distress. Labor was impeded; the most industrious were enforced to idleness; poverty took the place of plenty; this was too often followed by despondency . . . and misery. Many a noble man became a mere wreck of humanity, and many a delicately bred lady descended into an unthrifty, slatternly household drudge, while their offspring, half-clad and half-fed, mixed unrestrained amongst the very dregs of the population.” 

Sarah’s husband David, a Newburyport tavern keeper, feared financial ruin. If merchants and sailors could not trade with England, they could not spend their coins in his tavern. Shortly after the declaration of war, he finally confessed his fears. “At night, after the house was still he came into my private parlor, and sinking into the large rocking-chair exclaimed, 'Wife, I fear I am ruined.' ” 

However, Sarah rejected her husband’s grim outlook. “I did not share in this despondency, and soon succeeded in chasing the gloom from his brow.” Sarah quickly realized British merchants wanted to trade with New England and would undertake extraordinary measures to get their products to commercial centers like Newburyport. Shortly thereafter, Sarah Smith Emery presented a plan to her husband that would eventually lead the Emerys to become one of the most successful importers of British goods in New England.

Simply put, Sarahtold her husband they were entering the world of smuggling.

One way illegal British goods made their way into Massachusetts was to sail up the Merrimack River and take advantage of the many islands and inlets that could hide merchant vessels from American revenue cutters. The other was to bring the goods overland from Canada. According to Emery, “British manufacturers having quantities of goods upon their hands, ran cargo after cargo into their eastern provinces [in Canada], thence they were passed across the border and taken South [to Newburyport, Salem and Boston] by ox teams; as our accommodations were excellent, the teamsters made 'Emery's tavern' their headquarters.”

The couple became successful overnight. “We could not have engaged in a more lucrative business . . . At sunset I have often counted a dozen or fifteen [carts] drawn up by the sidewalk, opposite the long barn, their motley coverings of patchwork quilts, coverlets etc., presenting a gypsy-like, semi-barbarous appearance.” 

 On another occasion, Emery recalled “I was awakened one night by a tap upon the window of my bedroom. Somewhat startled, 1 still forebode to awaken my husband, who had retired much fatigued. Slipping on a wrapper, 1 raised the curtain and asked 'Who is there?' . . .  I recognized the voice as that of Capt. Josiah Bartlett . . . at that time an active ship-master. Mr. Emery hastily dressed, when it was found that Capt. Bartlett had a stagecoach at the door, filled with merchandise, gloves, muslins, laces, vestings, ribbons, and other articles of a like description. These were hastily placed in my best bedroom, from whence they were gradually taken to the stores in town. Capt. Bartlett continued to bring goods for some time. We often had bales of valuable cloth hidden in the hay mow; some were taken to Crane Neck and stored away in the large back chamber.”

On one occasion, the Emerys received word of a lot of linen awaited pickup at the “Kennebunk wharves.” Wearing a disguise and carrying false customs papers, David retrieved the linen and returned to Newburyport with it hidden inside rum casks.

To avoid detection she routinely entertained and plied custom officers and marines with alcohol in the same tavern her illicit activities operated out of. “The collector of the customs, Mr. Ralph Cross, and Master Whitmore, another custom house official, were in the habit of walking up to the tavern of a pleasant afternoon; on one occasion I entertained the two old gentlemen in my parlor while Mr. Emery loaded a team at the barn with smuggled goods and drove away to West Newbury without exciting the slightest suspicion in the government officers, though the whole household were on the brood grin, and I was obliged to control my risibles and give a variety of private signals to the others to prevent an unseemly outburst of merriment.”

The Emerys made a fortune smuggling goods into Newburyport and naturally, Sarah enjoyed the additional benefit of picking out goods for herself. “The shawls were quite pretty, having white or buff centres and high-colored borders; they sold for four dollars apiece. I took calico for a dress and a shawl; two other shawls were sold in the house; the remainder of the goods were slyly conveyed in the evening to the store of Miss Dolly Carnes. This new stock brought a rush of custom to that spinster's establishment… Shawls were in great demand.”

The Emery’s smuggling business continued for some time after the War of 1812. Fortunately, David’s fear of financial ruin never came to fruition and he and his wife were able to ensure their family remained comfortable. With the funds they acquired from smuggling they were able to invest in legal business ventures.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"The Curd Was Ready for the Press" - Meal Preparation on a Federalist Massachusetts Farm

Sarah Smith Emery was born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1787. During the War of 1812 Emery and her husband dominated the Newburyport smuggling trade (we still need to talk about that. In 1879 her daughter published Sarah’s memoirs, entitled Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian. A large segment of the writings describe her exploits of smuggling Irish linen literally under the noses of local custom officers. However, Sarah’s writings also recount her daily experiences as a child in Federalist Massachusetts.

In the mid 1790s, Sarah was a young girl who lived on a Newbury (now West Newbury) farm that her father had inherited from her grandfather. During the summer her family spent most of their time working on tasks and chores. As Emery noted, “Industry and economy were the watchwords of the household: still, there was no overtasking nor stint.”

In addition to describing the daily routine of maintaining a farm, Sarah also described the collective effort needed to prepare daily meals for a family and hired hands on a farm in Federalist Massachusetts

“In those summer days . . . mother and Aunt Sarah rose in the early dawn, and, taking the well-scoured wooden pails from the bench by the back door, repaired to the cow yard behind the barn. We owned six cows; my grandmother four. Having milked the ten cows, the mild was strained, the fires built, and breakfast prepared. Many families had milk for this meal, but we always had coffee or chocolate, with meat and potatoes. During breakfast the milk for the cheese was warming over the fire, in the large brass kettle. The milk being from the ten cows, my mother made cheese four days, Aunt Sarah having the milk the remainder of the week. In this way good-sized cheeses were obtained. The curd having been broken into the basket, the dishes were washed, and, unless there was washing or other extra work, the house was righted. By the time this was done the curd was ready for the press. Next came preparations for dinner, which was on the table punctually at twelve o’clock. In the hot weather we usually had boiled salted meat, and vegetables, and, if it was baking day, a custard or pudding. If there was linen whitening on the grass, as was usual at this season, that must he sprinkled."

After a noontime meal, Sarah noted that the women of the family would change into a clean set of clothes. "After dinner the cheeses were turned and rubbed; then mother put me on a clean frock, and dressed herself for the afternoon. Our gowns and aprons, unless upon some special occasion, when calico was worn, were usually of blue checked home-made gingham, starched and ironed to a nice gloss."

During warmer days of the summer, Sarah's mother and aunt would break from meal preparation and sew. "In the sultry August afternoons mother and Aunt Sarah usually took their sewing to the cool back room, whose shaded door and windows overlooked the freshly-mown field, dotted by apple tree."

Towards the end of the day, when her father and his hired help returned to the farm house, tea was served. "At five o’clock the men came from the field, and tea was served. The tea things washed, the vegetables were gathered for the morrow, the linen taken in, and other chores done."

Afterwards, the men resumed their chores. "At sunset the cows came from the pasture. Milking finished and the milk strained, the day’s labor was ended. The last load pitched on the hay mow, and the last hay cock turned up, my father and the hired man joined us in the cool back room, where bowls of bread and milk were ready for those who wished the refreshment. At nine o’clock the house was still, the tired hands gladly resting from the day’s toil."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Fathom The Bowl: Five Historic Alcoholic Drink Recipes to Try this Summer

We at Historical Nerdery would like to apologize for our recent absence. Between family commitments, getting Untapped History ready for its second tour season and putting together podcasts (yes, those are being released this summer), we’ve been a tad busy.

So please accept our deepest apologies for not posting.

To make it up to you here are five historic alcoholic drink recipes to try this summer!

Hannah Wooley Punch (17th Century)

Yield: 15 cups

10 ounces Hennessy Fine De Cognac
8 ounces Barolo Chinato
10 ounces nutmeg syrup
26 ounces dry red wine, preferably merlot
10 ounces fresh lemon juice
5 ounces soda, to top

Nutmeg Syrup: 2 lbs white sugar, 1 whole nutmeg, 35 ounces water. Add sugar and water to a pan, grate the nutmeg and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.

Garnish: red currant strings or cranberries, edible flowers (such as violas), grated nutmeg and orange wheels.


Combine first five ingredients in punch bowl. Top with soda.

Garnish with red currant strings or cranberries, edible flowers (such as violas), grated nutmeg and orange wheels.

Ladle over cups with ice to serve.

Regent’s Punch (17th Century)

Yield: 16 cups

1 1/2 cups white sugar
lemon peels from 4 lemons
2 cups green tea
1 cup pineapple juice
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 cup orange juice
2 cups Cognac, preferably Pierre Ferrand 1840
1/2 cup maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
1/2 cup Jamaican rum, preferably Hamilton Gold Jamaican Rum
3/4 cup Batavia arrack
1/2 bottle Champagne


Prepare an oleo saccharum by combining the sugar and lemon peels in the bottom of a large punch bowl (four quarts, minimum).

Muddle the lemon peel and sugar gently from time to time over a period of 45 minutes while preparing the fresh juices and tea.

Once steeped, use the hot green tea to melt the oleo saccharum.

Add to the punch bowl all of the remaining ingredients, except the Champagne and store in the refrigerator until service.

When ready to serve, add in ice and top with Champagne.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch (18th Century)

Yield: 18 - 20 cups

1 cup sugar
4 lemons, peeled and peels reserved
4 cups black tea (or water)
1 cup lemon juice
4 cups rum, Jamaican
2 cups cognac
1/2 cup peach brandy
Garnish: lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl, add sugar and lemon peels, and rub together to release the citrus oils into the sugar. (This is called oleo-saccharum.)

Allow oleo-saccharum to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Dissolve sugar with warm water or tea.

Add rum, cognac, lemon juice and peach brandy and stir to mix.

Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.

Garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.

Ladle into individual glasses.

Daniel Webster’s Punch (19th Century)

Yield: 8 Cups

3 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1 bag black tea
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup cognac
3/4 cup oloroso, dry
3/4 cup Jamaican rum
1 1/2 cups Bordeaux, or any full-bodied red wine
champagne, to top


Peel the lemons, taking care to avoid as much of the bitter white pith as possible.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar with the lemon peels, then lightly muddle and let sit for 20 minutes to allow the citrus oils to infuse with the sugar.

Boil 2 cups of water and steep the tea bag in it for 5 minutes, and set aside to cool slightly.

To the bowl, add the tea, lemon juice, cognac, sherry, rum and red wine, and stir to combine.

Strain out the lemon peels and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Fifteen minutes before serving, add the ice ring (see Editor's Note).

Ladle into cups and lightly top each glass with champagne.

Smoking Bishop (19th Century)

Yield: 10-12 cups

750 ml ruby port
750 ml red wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
4 oranges
20 cloves, whole

Garnish: clove-studded orange slice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and dry oranges. Pierce and stud each orange with five cloves.

Place oranges in a baking dish and roast until lightly browned all over, 60-90 minutes.

Add port, wine, water, sugar and spices to a saucepan, and simmer over low heat.

Slice oranges in half and squeeze juice into the wine and port mixture.

Serve in a punch bowl, and ladle into individual glasses.

Be sure to visit our official website for a variety of historical trade goods, 
research papers, information and other interesting tidbits!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"To Accomplish His Abominable Villainy & Deceive Him of His Daughter" - The Fate of Rebecca Rawson

Admittedly, we’re suckers for love stories…especially those that end in acts of fraud. However, this one is simply too tragic.

Rebecca Rawson was born in Newbury in 1656 and was the daughter of Edward Rawson, a high ranking official of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. According to period accounts, she was “one of the most beautiful, polite and agreeable young ladies” in the entire colony. Many men made attempts to court her but their advances were always rebuffed.

In 1768, a Sir Thomas Hale arrived in the colony. The gentleman asserted that he was the nephew of Lord Chief-Justice Hale of England and immediately began to court Ms. Rawson. Shortly thereafter, Sir Hale asked for Rebecca’s hand in marriage. Her parents were impressed with the young man’s credentials, saw the benefits of their daughter marrying a lord and quickly assented to the request. Rebecca and Thomas were married in July, 1679 “by a minister of the Gospel, in the presence of near forty witnesses”. A very large dowry was given to Sir Hale by Edward Rawson.

The newlyweds quickly boarded a ship and embarked for England. Upon arrival in London, the couple spent the night at a local inn. The next morning, Thomas went back to the docks to retrieve their trunks, which he promised to send to Rebecca. The trunks soon arrived, but with no keys or Thomas to open them. After waiting several hours, she finally had the trunks broken open. Instead of finding her dowry and property, she “found herself robbed of everything and the trunks filled with shavings and rubbish.”

Horrified, Rebecca unsuccessfully scoured the neighborhood for her husband. After speaking to several locals, it was discovered that “Sir Thomas Hale” was actually Thomas Rumsey, a local con man. He had left his wife and two children three years before and relocated to the American colonies to further his schemes.

Of course, Rebecca and her family were not Rumsey’s first mark. He had gained the confidence of John Hull, the treasurer and mint-master of Massachusetts and fraudulently convinced Hull to advance two hundred and fifty pounds in silver to him.

He also misled Theodore and Mary Atkinson of Boston. According to their sworn account, “About the 3rd month in the year 1678, Thos. Rumsey came to me and tendered his service for 1 yr. to work with me; & told me he was a Kentish- man & his father lived near Canterbury, & that his father was a yeoman & had an estate of 400 a year; also that his father had died when he was young & that his father's estate did fall to him at his mother-in-law's decease; & pretended that he came to New England on account of religion; & he hired himself to me for a year for to attend my business, keep my book of accounts & gather in my debts; but when he had been about a month with me he pretended he was one highly bred, but would not say further what he was; but 5 mo: after, he told me his father was a knight & baronet. So he lived and carried himself, pretending he was highly bred, that I did not set him on work because he promised me he would satisfy me for what charges & expenses I was out about him; but a little time after he came to me he began to discover himself so as his religion did seem to wear away, & before the year was expired he changed his name & said his name was Hailes, & professed he had been a great travel ler in the streights for about 2 & 20 months, & his mother was called Lady Hailes & paid him his money by bills of exchange from time to time; that she was a lady that had 300 p' an. of her own that she brought with her, & that his father had 800 a year and a vast estate where he durst not nor would not mention lest he should be laughed at and not be believed, & that all his father's estate after his mother's decease was his. Those & such like stories he made use of to put a cheat on Mr. Edward Rawson of Boston, to accomplish his abominable villainy & deceive him of his daughter, Mrs. Rebecca Rawson, who he was married unto by a minister of the Gospel on the first day of July, in the year of our Lord 1679, in the presence of near 40 witnesses.”

Rebecca never saw her husband again. To complicate the embarrassment of being part of a fraudulent marriage, she soon discovered she was also pregnant with Rumsey’s child. She sought out an older sister who resided in London and lived with her for the next thirteen years. She supported herself by painting miniatures on glass.

Her father was well aware of her plight and spent years begging her to return to him. Finally, in 1692, she agreed and boarded a ship bound for Boston with an uncle. Historical records suggest she left her child behind with her sister.

On June 6th, the vessel docked in Port Royal, Jamaica to deliver its cargo to local merchants. While docked at the island, a massive earthquake struck. According to witnesses, the earthquake was so violent that over 2,000 people were killed. Buildings collapsed, graves opened up, sand liquefied and the entire waterfront sank into the ocean. The dock that Rebecca’s ship was moored to quickly sank and pulled the entire ship, along with its crew and passengers, down with it. Everyone on board, including Rebecca Rawson, drowned.

Her uncle, who happened to be on shore at the time of the disaster, was the only person from the ship that survived. When he arrived in Massachusetts he had the difficult task of telling her parents of Rebecca’s fate.