War of 1812



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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