Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 96
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 96

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 23, 1976
Page 96
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Page 96 article text (OCR)

The Colonial Teenager Life on frontier of early A merica meant young folks learned to work first--play later. By Thelma Humphrey In many respects the colonial teenager was no;different from the youth -of any other generation of American teenagers. The'boy was concerned about getting an educa-. tion, .entering 'a,profession, or learning a trade so that in the future he could get married and support a. family. The teenage girl received adequate training within the home to help her take her place in the life of the colonies as a wife and mother. . At an early age the colonial boy and'girl learned to read with the aid of the New England Primer "for the more easy attainment of the true reading of the Eglish language." - ; · . · · There were no early free public school systems that required parents to educate the boy and girl ·Schools, such as they were, varied in different parts of the colonies. In Massachusetts grammar schools, similar to those in England, were provided for boys only at the expense of the parents. In-Virginia basic education was available in schools endowed by the will of wealthy landowners. In other areas of the South, as well as in Virginia, plantation families brought tutors from Ireland and Scotland _to educate both boys and girls. , ' Pennsylvania was the leading colony to provide educational opportunities for its growing population. William Penn established the Penn Charter School in the late 17th century. ; The teenage boy could continue his education at Harvard, Yale, or at William and Mary colleges, or he' could study in England. The professions that were open to a college trained young man were law, medicine, and theology. If tie did not choose to go to college, he could were typical examples of the experience of the colonial teenage boy as reported in his Autobiography: . "I was put in the grammar school at eight .years of age. At age nine my father put me in a school. · for writing and arithmetic I acquired the fair writing pretty soon, but I failed trie arithmetic. At age ten I was taken home to assist my father in his business as a "tallow and sope boiler." From a child I was fond of reading, this bookish inclination determined my father to make me a printer where I served as an apprentice until I was 21 years old." Last but not least, the teenage boy could choose to remain on the: . farm and perform the multiple chores needed in colonial rural life. As a teenager he could vise his Barlow jack-knife to keep the home and family well stocked with wares and equipment. Or as in the case of Benjamin Franklin, he could work in the family business located in one of .the small "villages. Yankee ingenuity soon asserted itself in the colonial teenager. One of the first utensils he made for sale was the broom, which was made of sturdy hemlock tied together with heavy hemp twine and "traced" with a smooth handle. ..The young businessman received six to nine cents for each broom he sold depending upon how well it w a s made; . - . - · ' As the teenage boy became more efficient and skilled with his knife, he began to make cart wheels, hoes, and ax handles, all of-wood. Farmers utilized the boy's skills to make and to mend the much needed farm equipment including plows, rakes, scythes, and flails for threshing crops. Housewives depended upon the teenager for such kitchen utensils as churns, wooden bowls, cheese ladders, and butter paddles. Metal ir--;.rl · ·_-- _ _ j r- 1 · · · · _ _ * · Certainly not! Soap making was a household task the girl did not enjoy. If she followed these directions" she was sure of making soap of the right texture: "The great Difficulty in making soap is the want of Judgment of the Strength of the Lye; If your Lye will bear up an Egg or a Potato so you can see a piece of the surface as big as a Ninepence it is just strong enough." (Courtesy Berkshire Traveller Press) Every colonial family, whether on a farm or in a village, had a flock of geese that had to be ."deplumed" twice a year. That is, the feathers had to be plucked. This strenuous task fell into the hands of the teenage girl: To make this semi-annual event a little more pleasant .she could chant a jingle that girls had chanted for many years: "Twice a year deplumed the goose must be/Once in spring time and once in harvest time." Plucking out goose feathers could be dangerous to the hands and ears. To prevent the goose from excessive squawking noise and to escape its stinging bite v she could place a -thick stocking over the head of the . goose, or she could put its head and neck in the small opening of an upright straw "goose basket." The boy and geese were not always compatible friends. During the winter months the flock of geese would stay in the barnyard. Come spring and summer they wandered throughout the ullage and spent the night wherever they were at sundown. If the teenage, boy returned home late from a courting party and awakened the geese, the entire village was awakened with a'clanging noise made by the irritated geese. In turn the irritated villagers made the boy the culprit and threatened to give him 12 hours in the stocks. "read" either of these professions Fousewares" and farm, equipment with a lawyer, doctor, or clergyman. If the teenage boy did not continue his formal education, he could "take to the sea" as a sailor, join a . .fishing boat,.or become a shipbuild- 'er. If he became an apprentice to a trade, he would work about seven years without pay before he started his own business. Benjamin Franklin's education and apprenticeship flowers, plants, trees, and fruits. It often expressed a religious or moral theme, such as The Tree of Life. A large tree with strong limbs loaded with fruit admonished the young ladies to achieve such traits as Honesty, Virtue,'.Modesty, and Sil- · ence. , - ",· · '· Along with sewing and needle 1 work, the teenage girl was taught the art of preparing and serving meals and social etiquette that prepared her for marriage and for the raising of her own family. Activities for teenagers that we take for granted, such as books and reading materials were limited during the colonial period. Bible stories and essays about good behavior and strict morals were the library of the early colonial .teenager. In 1744 John Newberry, a London publisher, printed books that were exported to the colonies among Which was Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels. He advertised in colonial newspapers his "pretty little pocket book," which contained Jacfc, (fie Cinni Killer and similar stories: The colonial teenager and younger children found a literary friend in Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Mass., who was one of the first American publishers to make re' prints of English books that were good reading materials for children and teenagers. He was a Revolutionary patriot who founded the . American Antiquarian Society that has preserved the early books read by young early Americans. As the colonial teenager was growing up, there were no storybooks available. Americana Review (Scotia, NY) has published stories that were printed in 1850. Titles of these stories including pictures indicate the early beginning of storybooks with a juvenile theme: "The-Adventure* of Mr. Tom Plump and Old Mother Mitten with Her Funny Kitten." were not manufactured until a century or more later during the American Industrial Revolution. But, tinware and pewter utensils were imported from England in the 18th century." . "Was the teenage girl living in luxury during'these colonial days? After soap making and depluming a flock of geese were completed, the teenage girl was happy to take up the more peaceful chores of the spinning wheel and the loom. Her favorite creative task was embroidering the sampler. This artistic piece of needlework was stitched with bright colored threads on a loosely'Woven canvas. The sampler was a tapestry of " "All work'and'no play makes Jack a dull boy" was just as true in colonial days as it is today. In early America there was plenty of time for play despite the long hours of work. With all the wood available recreational and sporting goods were easily made by hand. In the eastern colonies with their long winter seasons teenagers could enjoy and find recreation in skating, known as the "Dutch Cus- tom." Blade skates and figure skating were brought to the colonies by the Dutch who settled in New York and Pennsylvania. The teenage boy carved- his skates and sleds from the sturdy spruce; the iron runners for the skates were forged by the village blacksmith; sled, runners were made from bent .saplings. Universal recreational activities, such as hunting, swimming, fishing, games, contests, and dancing were enjoyed by the teenagers. Sports that required special skills such as archery, and fencing, were popular during the colonial period. In early colonial days both the bow and arrow and the sword were weapons of defense. In 1645, the ·Court of Massachusetts issued a decree that all boys 16 years of age must be taught how to make a bow and arrow and how to use it with skill. In 1825, when'Pennsylvania was safe Indian raids. The United Bowmen of Philadelphia became one of the first sportsmen's organizations in the United States. When firearms replaced the sword for battle and warfare, fenc-'. ing became a popular sport in which the sword was used as a game of attack and defense. Fencing became a popular sport for the young man of the 18th century in colonial America. An accessory for both sport and. battle was the powder horn. Made from the horn of an ox or cow, it was a container for the powder used in colonial guns, called muskets. A cord was attached at both ends so that it could be carried as a sling across the shoulders. The colonial teenager sported his powder horn at all hunting events and contests. The powder horn was decorated with patriotic and sentimental legends, verses of poetry, and family crests. Whether at work or play, the colonial teenager .added another chapter to what is known as the history of 13 colonies that produced patriots, presidents, and people who are proud to be called Americans. For two centuries or more the colonial teenager was instilled with a rugged patriotism and an ardent religious faith that turned 13 colonies into a nation that still can sing and rejoice in the words and s p i r i t of its N a t i o n a l Anthem. "Blessed with victory and poircr. may our heaven-rescued Inntl Praise the Poicer that hath made anil preserved us a nation. 1 ' ' CHARLESTON.'W.VA. 3

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