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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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tea, Maps, and Furniture at Historic Deerfield

Historic Deerfield is featuring a new exhibit called “Tea Talk: Ritual and Refinement in Early New England Parlors” in the lobby of its Flynt Center museum. The website says:
Tea and tea drinking arrived in New England by the late 17th century, a time of burgeoning trade and expansion of the British Empire. This stimulating brew from China was first touted as a cure for a variety of illnesses such as colds, headaches, sleepiness, poor digestion, and hangovers. But in no time tea was soon counted among the necessities of life; many found a warming cup of tea invaluable for entertaining friends, sharing polite conversation and town gossip, practicing their etiquette and lessons in refinement, displaying their family’s wealth and status, or just withstanding the rigors of a cold New England winter.

Though its high cost confined the beverage at first to the parlors of the wealthy, tea eventually extended to all levels of New England society. The popularity of tea proved to be a boon for craftsmen such as potters, silversmiths, cabinetmakers, and glassblowers.

The caffeinated beverage required a host of novel equipment with which to prepare and serve it properly: a tea table and chairs, a hot water kettle, a teapot, sugar bowl, tea canister, slop or waste bowl, cream pot, and silver spoons—not to mention the cups and saucers. Porcelain wares from China were the logical early choice, but it was not long before British and American craftsmen produced their own wares in competition. Utensils made of earthenware or pewter served people of average or lesser means, while the wealthy turned to the silversmith or the china merchant for more fashionable equipage.
This exhibition will be on view through 16 Feb 2014. One could visit on 14 April when Mary Pedley, Adjunct Assistant Curator of Maps at the William L. Clements Library in Michigan, speaks at the Deerfield Community Center on “Mapping Fear: Stoking the Fires of the French and Indian War.” That free event is listed as running 2:00 to 4:00 P.M.

The Flynt Center also still has parts of its “Into the Woods” exhibit of early American furniture-making on display. That was one of the best museum exhibits I’ve seen anywhere. This Antiques Journal article gives a good sense of its topics and approach.


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