War Of 1812 Essay Research Paper Your

War Of 1812 Essay, Research Paper

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US History 1

10 Mar. 2000

Life and Times in Early America

The era that was seventeenth century colonial America was very different from

today?s times. The society that existed at that time had very different views on life and

how it should occur. The daily routines were very unlike ours even tough it may be hard

to believe. Even families, which seem to be a non-changing faction in history, were also

distinct in size and order. (Thomas XIII)

John Demos commented that ?the colonial family was ?extended? rather than

nuclear. False.? John Demos, who in a study of Bristol , Rhode Island, came up with

conclusions about family life in early America that contradicted ideas previously accepted

by historians.(Hawke 58).

An extended family includes the core group of males which are a grandfather,

adult sons and sons? sons, their wives, and their unmarried daughters. (Brooks 27)

Demos?s idea is basically this one. The house in the colonial times shaped the home.

What he means by this is that you could not have an extended family that included

servants, apprentices, and other non-kinfolk in a house that measured twenty feet by

twenty feet and rose only a story and a half. Even if you added another room, you would

only have enough livable space for a nuclear family which consisted of parents and

children. This was due to the high number of children in a family. The average number

was about seven to ten. Some far exceeded that, others barely managed having two or

three. (Hawke, 58-59).

In the early colonial families, every member had a different ?job.? The

head of the family was mostly the father. He presided over family prayers

and worked on the family farm. Mothers usually raised the children, acted as

midwives to other women in town, and tended to household chores. (Walker 86).

Up until about the age eight, boys and girls wore the same thing. They

only wore wool or linen dresses. After a boy reached the age of eight or nine, he would

begin to help out with the father?s job, which was farming, and a dress would not suit the

job very well. Girls usually wore their hair long, but always pulled tightly back and up

under a bonnet or hat. The reason for this was that social and religious custom did not

approve or look kindly upon women or girls being in public with an uncovered head.

The women were given a workload since their early days. For example, while boys

were off with their fathers, girls would stay home with their mothers, mostly helping out

with the cooking, sewing and laundering (89). Some daughters, however, went in to the

services of families in the neighborhood, and were apprenticed to a certain skill, such as

lace making or cleaning. (Smith,73)

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were very fair sunny days, as if it had been

in April, and our people, so many as were in health, were cheerful. (Brown, 56) The

overall health of early Americans was far better in the Northern colonies than in the South.

For example, a young male adult from Massachusetts, who had reached the age of twenty

could expect to live about forty-five years more. A female, about, about forty-two. It

was a different story in the colony of Virginia. A male of twenty would expect to live

about twenty-nine more years

and a female, only twenty. That is a large difference, a female from Massachusetts

could live to be about 62 years old, and one from Virginia could live to be forty years old.

In the later half of the 17th century, though, health amongst all colonists improved, and

was even better than England?s. (Tucker 467)

One of the most surprising facts about hygiene in the colonial society was the lack

of oral care. John Josselyn, a visitor to the early American Colonies, noted that ?the

women were pitifully tooth-shaken?. He didn?t know whether it was the climate or by

sweet meats which were plentiful. This evidence shows that the colonists were not well

advised on matters such as these and that no real dentists served of purpose(Hawke,72).

Food and it?s preparation in colonial times was extremely different from

what it is like today. It was hard enough to prepare the food. Everyone was supposed to

help and had different tasks such as grinding, hewing, and churning. The people with

more money and advantages had slaves cook their meals for them. After the food was

cooked and ready to eat, it wasn?t that exciting. The reason for this being that foods were

mostly bland and tasteless because there weren’t as many spices and other means of adding

flavor available. Many people ate the same kind of meal for days straight because of lack

of variety (Everyday Life in Colonies,3).

The Indians who were here long before the settlers, even though they despised

them, helped them out greatly in teaching the settlers how to cook and what to cook. The

colonist adapted, for example, the Boston baked beans of today. The Indians taught them

how to cook the beans in earthen pots. (Hawke,76)

The Native American tribes had been growing corn for thousands of years. When

the colonists came to America, the Indians not only introduced them to it, but also showed

them how to cook and cultivate the corn. It then became one of the staple foods of North

American colonists. Without all the help and instruction from the Native Americans,

colonists would have never survived. (Brooks 291)

The Southern ideal was country life. Instead of a meeting house being the

center of the community, the waterways and roads became a place of social life

A brief moment for colonists to sit back and relax was very rare and very savored. It was

usually on holidays that people would invite family and friends over to get together and

just have a good time. At Christmas time, much like today, families would have a feast

and exchange gifts at dinner. They would have such activities as husking bees, greased

pole climbing, greased pig chasing, hopscotch, jump rope, marbles, or tag. (Walker 102)

Hunting was a very popular pastime in colonial America. There were all

kinds of animal hunts, like for instance, hare hunts, fox hunts, raccoon bunts, and opossum

hunts. Other animal-related included horse racing, cock fighting, and bull baiting. In the

winter, when outdoor sports that involved animals didn?t come in to play, colonists, found

other means of entertainment. They danced, played cards, and sang. There wasn?t too

much of this on though, because dancing, singing, and gambling were shunned by religious

leaders. Some other winter recreation involved ice skating, sledding, and sleighing


One of the most important traditions that settlers brought from their native

countries was courtship and marriage. Girls were expected to marry at thirteen

and boys at fourteen. At this point, they were considered adults. If a girl was twenty five

years old, and still was not married, it was considered a disgrace to her family. Marriages

were arranged by the parents and couples. In almost every case, the couple that was

married didn?t love each other, they were supposed to just grow on each other. Most of

the time, they didn?t . This is why the wife, especially was so unhappy. Her husband

often beat her if she ?misbehaved? in his eyes. He had control over all of her possessions.

If her husband did not want to separate, the court wouldn?t allow it, and the couple would

go on fighting forever because they couldn?t divorce. (Stevens 14)

In the colonies, death is very common. This is because of so many diseases

attained, so many cold winters, and the lack of medicine to help solve these problems.

Some common killers were, diphtheria, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and smallpox. Mostly

it?s children that die because their little weak bodies cannot stand too much. Funerals are

attended by family and close friends. It gives those with wealth a chance to show off, sort

of a social event. Besides all of this, though, it was a time to grieve ad show pity and

respect for the dead.


Settlers who had come from England had been in different classes or ranks. When

they came to America, they still kept classes and titles, but changed them a bit. For

example, a farmer?s wife was known as ?good wife? or ?goody? and her husband was

?goodman?. But if Goodman Smith was to be chosen for a justice of the peace, which did

not exist in England. He became ?Mister Smith?. If he moved up to an even higher

office, he would be ?Mr.Smith, Esq.? and his wife might call herself madam. (Everyday

Life in Colonies). Some others stood by more strict class distinction. They were as


highest class was also known as gentry. These people were rich, as they held jobs such as

judges, governors, and plantation owners. They were treated with utmost respect and had

good education. Middle class had jobs like silversmiths, ironsmiths, blacksmiths, and

other kinds of skill and trade. They were treated with some respect and lived in

comfortably nice homes. Lower class people were mostly slaves, Indians, and poor

whites. Neither had large homes or money. They had to work for other people to barely

survive. They had no education whatsoever.

I think that we are all grateful that we were able to learn from the mistakes and

discoveries of early Americans. We kept many traditions, and altered other according to

our present-day society. Most importantly, we greatly benefited from those who lived in

the very early stages of this great country, which is also known as colonial America.. In

addition, I extremely appreciate the road that they paved for us. (Colonial Family Life?

The First English Settlers 1)

Just think of all the set-backs we would have had if they hadn?t thought of certain

things before we did. It would?ve taken us more time to realize important factors, when it

comes to subjects such as dental hygiene. They also gave us a foundation in which social

classes were to be built, which recently has caused the poor to become poorer, and the

rich to become richer. (Everyday Life in Early America 283)

What I greatly disapprove of, is the unfair treatment that women received during

those times. It seems to me that males, had more ?rights? than the females.

Unfortunately, this also set up a foundation for a somewhat male-dominated country,

which still hasn?t given women an equal chance at success. (Payton 347)

In concluding with the discussion on the everyday trials and tribulations

of colonial America, it is easy for one to note the very extreme differences between that

time and today?s modern society. Deep down inside, though, their values and traditions

are still the same.


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