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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Saturday, October 13, 2012

“We can be good here as well as any where”

Newspapers weren’t the only forum for New Englanders to discuss the custom of bundling in the 1790s. Another popular print form, the almanac, also printed items on the topic.

Printer Ezekiel Russell, formerly of Boston, extracted the passage on bundling from the Rev. Samuel Peters’s history of Connecticut in Russell’s Newhampshire & Vermont almanack, for the year of creation, according to Mosaic history, 5756; and of the Christian aera, 1794, published at Concord, New Hampshire.

And the back of the Vermont Almanac and Register for 1799 offered this “ANECDOTE”:
While the American troops were at Cambridge, 1775, an Indian chief from one of the western tribes, was on his way to visit them. It happened that he was detained a number of days at a gentleman’s house in ——.

While he was there the gentleman’s daughter received a visit from her suitor. One evening the honest native, thinking to divert himself a little in their company, went up stairs: But when he entered their chamber, he stood in amaze, crying out, “Ho! bed—No do fo me Indians!”

[“]Why (says the spark [i.e., the young man],) we can be good here as well as any where.”

“Yes! yes! but you can be wicked more better!”
It’s interesting that the voice of caution and polite behavior in this joke was the “Indian chief,” not the “gentleman” or his family. Even more telling is that the story was set nearly a quarter of a century before it saw print, either because it had circulated orally since the start of the Revolutionary War or because the storyteller decided to set it back there.

Either way, this publication suggests that New Englanders were no longer viewing bundling as a common practice, embarrassment, or source of controversy. Instead, it was now a quaint custom of past generations that folks could share a laugh about.

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