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, January 29, 2014

Mr. Redwood’s Wig

Scott Stephenson alerted me to this delightful entry from the diary of William Ellery (1727-1820, shown here), Rhode Island delegate to the Continental Congress.

In 1778 Ellery was traveling to Philadelphia with William Redwood (1726-1815), a Philadelphia merchant who had been born in Newport:
Nov. 5th. Took the route through Paramus and breakfasted at a Dutchman’s about 7 miles from Coe’s, and were well-entertained.

A little diverting affair took place here: The Children who had never before seen a Gentleman with a wig on, were it seems not a little puzzled with my friend’s head-dress. They thought it was his natural hair, but it differed so much from mine and theirs in its shape that they did not know what to make of it. The little boy after viewing it some time with a curious eye, asked his mother, in Dutch, whether it would hurt my friend if he should pull his hair. The mother told us what the boy had said, whereupon my friend took off his wig put it on the head of the boy and led him to the looking-glass. The mixture of Joy and Astonishment in the boy’s countenance on this occasion diverted us not a little. He would look with astonishment at Mr. Redwood’s bare head, and then survey his own head, and the droll figure he made with the wig on, made him and us laugh very heartily. It is not a little remarkable that children who had lived on a public road should have never before seen a wig.

From thence to Newark is 9 miles and to Elizabeth Town 6 miles, where we lodged at one Smith’s. A Detachment of the Army under Ld. Stirling was here. The Officers had a ball at Smith’s and kept up the dance till three o’clock in the morning. Drum, fife and fiddle, with an almost incessant saltation drove Morpheus from my Pillow.
Ellery’s diary was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography in 1888.

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