J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

“Good Wholsome Country Fare” in Newton

On 4 Dec 1770, Charles Pelham, a private-school teacher in rural Newton (shown here as painted around 1754 by his young stepbrother, John Singleton Copley), wrote to his younger half-brother Henry Pelham in Boston:

The bearer brings 1 1/2 busl. Malt for our Mama, and 3 buss. for Bror. Copley, which being good, will afford you a great deal of wholsome Liquor.

I am not unmindful of the unhappy situation of poor Thomas [Pelham]’s Family, and to relieve the Widow of as much as in my power am willing to take Tommy [1762-1802], and do my best for him till he is 15 years of age, Mrs. Pelham being heartily dispos’d to do her part as well for his well being; but as I have experienc’d the ill effects of taking a Child and not having them Bound, I am by no means willing to engage with Tommy unless his Mother is free and willing to Bind him until he is 15 Years old. I should be glad you would let her know this, and if she sees fit and promises to bind him, they Boy may come up with the bearer, and when I come to Town shall bring Indentures to execute, and shall engage to find him good Bed and Board, Cloathing and Instruction, in all of which the honour of the Family will induce me to go beyond what is common in such Cases; I can say no more upon this

Its now very find wholsome weather and a little Tour into the Country would promote any one’s health, especially the Sedentary Persons; I therefore strenuously recommend your keeping the approaching Thanksgiving with us, but take me right; I do not invite you to a sumptuous feast, but to good wholsome Country Fare with undissembled friendship. . . .

I remain Yr. affecte Bror.
Chas. Pelham
That was before Thanksgiving in America settled in November, but the tradition of a big family meal was already established.

(While looking for the image of Charles Pelham above, I stumbled across this “ridiculously rambling rant” about Copley from Progressive Historians that’s also well researched, provocative, and wonderfully illustrated. I recommend it, and not just because it turns out to quote Boston 1775.)


DAG said...

Interesting post as usual. Back when I was in college I wrote a paper on Gilbert Stuart. The MFA helped out quite a bit as there was an ongoing exhibition of his work.
I wondered whether you have ever seen the copy of Singleton's 'Watson and the shark' painted on the side of a building in Egleston square in J.P./Roxbury. It has been a while since I have been through that area. The last time I saw it was about 5 or 6 years ago and someone had placed a commercial sign over part of it. All the same it was an interesting addition to the area.

There certainly were some very talented artist working the Boston area.

J. L. Bell said...

Here’s a webpage about the “Watson and the Shark” recreation. It looks like local teens painted it on a fish market in 1997. The website is old, so that picture may have gone under by now. Anyone from Egleston Square know?