Saturday, September 5, 2020

Book: Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 to 1783

  
Many branches of my father’s family lived in Colonial America. We may have visions of large families in rustic log cabins living off the land but were the actual details of life before we became the country we are now? How was life different from Maine to Virginia? What did the people eat & wear? This book fills in details that are useful when writing about our Colonial Families.

Everyday Life in Colonial America 
From 1607 to 1783

Written by Dale Taylor
Published: Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 1997


Table of Contents:

1. Almanac
Chesapeake Regional Overview
New England Regional Overview
Middle Colonies Regional Overview
Deep South Regional Overview

2. Everyday Life
Food & Drink
Architecture
Clothing & Accessories
Marriage & Family

3. Government & War
Government, Law & Politics
Warfare & the Military
Money, Economy, Trade, Travel & Navigation

4. Colonial Society
Arts & Sciences
Farming, Fishing, Trapping & Laborers
Trades
Professions
Religion


This book is filled with details of Colonial life. I find much of it very interesting. For example, the section on Language and Literature said literacy rates “…seem to have been high.” Writing was an essential skill. Letter writing was important to communicate over distances. I had understood the importance of literacy before reading this book but I thought reading and writing skills were not common among early settlers. Mr. Taylor wrote that spelling “was not yet standardized, but phonetic.” That is easy to believe based on the early records I have read. The book includes details on early writing tools. Pens were made from the primary flight feathers of a goose or turkey. Inkwells were made of pottery, glass, brass, pewter or silver. Pencils made of lead and wood were “less common than pens.” 

My criticism of this book is this. It does not always differentiate between life in the various colonies but writes as if life in all areas was the same.  For example Mr. Taylor writes about alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts and Connecticut but what about Virginia and the Carolinas? Were their habits the same?

If your family lived in the colonies there is most likely something in this book of interest to you.



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