Clothing & Food
The “go to meeting” clothing was quite colorful and may have been of fairly good quality material since it was probably brought from Ipswich. However, for common wear, the women made use primarily of blue linen, lockram (course linen) linsey woolsey (mixed wool and flax), mohair (mixture of wool and cotton), and holland materials. Many purchases of such textiles are found in the accounts of the Quaboag planters in the books of John Pynchon. The men had their rough suits of leather and homespun for the farm work. These consisted of a cloth or leather doublet worn over a shirt, leather or wool loose filling trousers gathered at the knees, leather or woolen stockings low boots or shoes and a cloth cap. In cold weather, a short coat and gloves might be added. For special occasions, such as Sabbath meetings, men dressed much more colorfully with green, purple or blue doublets with slashed sleeves, lace-trimmed shirts with large collars, over-sized breaches, colorful stockings, black shoes with knots of ribbon, or “great boots” with flaring tops, if they were entitled to wear such. All of this was topped by a broad-brimmed steeple-shaped black hat and by a long waistcoat or great coat in winter weather. To set off their finery, the better class citizens were entitled to wear silk and we find that Richard Coy indulged on January 10, 1669/70 to the extent of three dozen silk buttons worth 4 shillings, 6 pence, and Mr. Younglove purchased silk material worth 11 pence on April 1, 1670. There is no record of any other planters purchasing silk materials, probably from fear of prosecution for violation of the law.
The General Court had been very specific in its ordinance concerning manner of dress in its ultimatum of October 14, 1651, Quoted here in part: ” It is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that no person within this jurisdiction or any of its relations depending upon them, whose visible estates real and personal, shall not exceed the true and indefinite value of 200 pounds, shall wear any gold or silver lace, oar gold or silver buttons, or any bone lace above two shillings per yards, or silk hoods or scarfs, upon the penalty of ten shillings for every such offense”.
If you dressed liked the elite, you must expect to pay the taxes paid by the elite. This must have discouraged many. There were exceptions, magistrates, public officers, settled military officers, soldiers in time of service, those with better than average educations and those “Who’s” estates have been considerable were exempt from the provisions of this law.
The wearing of “great boots” was a definite status symbol at Quaboag as it was throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Those entitled to wear them at the Plantation were John Ayres by virtue of his wealth and military rank, William Prichard and Richard Coy because of their military positions, John Younglove and later Thomas Millet as a mark of distinction allowed the ministry and Deacon Daniel Hovey because of his wealth.
Ready-made clothing, textile materials and accessories were relatively expensive. The better-type church gown was worth two pounds or more. In 1666, a pair of women’s shoes sold for 7 shillings, a man’s hat 18 shillings, a shirt 6 shillings, a man’s shoes 10 shillings, and a waistcoat 7 shillings, 6 pence.
To gain a more realistic appreciation of the worth of the things which we have just mentioned, it must be compared with the value of labor. A full days work from dawn to dusk for the ordinary farm hand or other common laborer brought 2 shillings. At that rate, a man had to work 9 full days to earn the price of a new hat and 3 full days for a shirt. If a man was to shave and keep his hair neat, he paid 2 shillings 6 pence for a razor and 8 pence for a comb.
Household linens and furnishings were also in the same high price category. Toweling material, curtain material and a good Dutch blanket brought many shillings and pounds into the coffers of Mr. Pynchon.
When the Pilgrims arrived here in November of 1621, America really wasn’t a new world. Humans had been here for ages as hunters and gatherers living off the land. Corn, beans, and squash were staples for indigenous people. Deer, rabbit, squirrel and buffalo were used for meat, fruits, berries, wild grains and rice were gathered as well. Ocean, lakes, and rivers provided fish.
Most of the food used on the table of the Quaboag planter was raised by the householder himself with the help of the other members of the family. The meal of the common man of the period consisted of peas, beans, porridge made of the broth of boiled salt pork mined with meal, or hasty pudding, a pudding made of corn meal stirred in milk or water to the consistency of a batter. The common bread was a mixture of corn meal and rye. Many of these food staples were used at items of barter for the purchase of other household necessities which the farmer was not able to provide for himself. Corn was the principle food staple and the major item of barter. The planting fields provided corn, rye, malt, and other larger crops.
The farmers at Quaboag, and every man was a farmer, no matter what other occupation he might also be employed in, purchased from Mr. Pynchon items which could not be raised on the farm or which had to be imported from other parts of the country or from across the Atlantic. Some of them also purchased common items which they could not produce in sufficient quantities to satisfy the needs of their families. In the early days of the Plantation, they brought salt, sugar, oats, bacon and pork. Some commodities were scarce and brought at a high price, like beef, butter, malt and aniseed. Molasses became available in the 1670′s and was widely used by the Planters. A strange item which the planters were able to grow was watermelons.