Historic Philadelphia Mapping Resources

My research on indentured and enslaved servants’ lives has led me to mapping out their existence on historic maps of Philadelphia. I’m hoping to better understand their relation to the community, merchants, and manufacturers in their environment. I’ve found some … Continue reading

The Historic Fabric of Philadelphia: James E. Taylor’s Sketchbook

Using Winterthur’s online collections resources last night, I stumbled onto James E. Taylor’s sketchbook of historic buildings in Philadelphia. A newspaper illustrator, Taylor sketched historic buildings in Philadelphia’s Old City area in 1861, just before most of the structures in … Continue reading

Runaway Scavenger Hunt

In researching the lives of indentured and enslaved women during the 18th century, I’m trying to rebuild their communities, to better understand their lives. See my article ‘Had on When She Went Away . . .’: Expanding the Usefulness of Garment Data in American Runaway Advertisements 1750–90 … Continue reading

Runaways Online!

I found out this week (thanks Ms. H) that you can see the entire text of “Had on When She Went Away: Expanding the Usefulness of Garment Data in American Runaway Advertisements: 1750-90” first published in Pasold Research Fund’s journal … Continue reading

Variety Among the 18th Century Lesser Sorts

As part of my research on 18thcentury working class clothing, I have been studying indentured and enslaved female servants who immigrated to the American colonies. I created a database that now houses records for 1000 women and their 6000 garments.  Runaway … Continue reading

Following Eleanor Ferrell: A Runaway Indentured Servant

New: see the full article online here. If it doesn’t come up, go to the home page and search again. Abraham Emmit labeled her “an ill natured, scolding, cursing, swearing, thieving servant Woman. I’ve been following Eleanor Ferrell began during my … Continue reading

Hike up your woolen undies: A Treatise on the Propagation of Sheep

Baa. Cool it, already. John Wily wrote the motivational pamphlet A Treatise on the Propagation of Sheep, the Manufacture of Wool, and the Cultivation and Manufacture of Flax, with Directions for making several Utensils for the Business in Williamsburg, VA, … Continue reading

Downton Abbey is Hot – Now for some real servants.

I fully expect Masterpiece Classic’s Downton Abbey to inspire the costume choices of many next Halloween (see my post on Downton Halloween costumes). Dr. V and I clung to the compelling story lines from above and below stairs every Sunday evening. … Continue reading

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Welcome to The Still Room.

Barbara Fritchie Restaurant, Frederick MD, RL Fifield photo, 2009.

Conjuring the appearance of a 17th or 18th century Still Room yields a beautiful bounty of preserved foods for the grimness of winter, as well titillating sweetmeats. Here, harvests of the better months are sugared and salted, turning them into something more robust and intense. Fruits suspended in sugar, candies, a good tonic for darkening hair, and many a stringent spiced pickle issued forth from the Still Room. We might even get a little tipsy on quince brandy.

To make a fine Bitter.

Take an ounce of the finest Jesuit powder, half a quarter of an ounce of snake-root powder, half a quarter of an ounce of salt of wormwood, half a quarter of saffron, half a quarter of cochineal, put it into a quart of the best brandy, and let it stand twenty-four hours; every now and then shaking the bottle.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, 1805 Alexandria VA, edition.

Lest you think this is a food preservation or home remedy blog, let me clarify my purpose. My Still Room is for the percolation of past thoughts, wants, and the daily coincidence in the street. I’m pulling these stories into the Still Room for preservation and sharing with my friends. So my earthenware crocks are labeled many a different thing. I’m a Museum Collections Manager in a New York area museum, so museums and collections care will be widely talked about. Some other topics dear to my heart are historic preservation, transit, food and foodways, textiles and costume, women’s history and reproductive rights, general social history, indentured and enslaved servants, road trips, living history, and genealogy. A bit of original fiction and poetry might trickle in from time to time. I live a liberal arts life.

One note: still rooms of the past served as workshops for home remedy making. While  canning, domestic history, and agricultural history are certainly my thing, homeopathy and home remedies certainly are not. Many people over the centuries have struggled to bring us the wonder that is science – if you are sick, please see a medical doctor. If you want to read about some slices of life, stick with The Still Room.

Perhaps you’ll find a little of this and that to catch your fancy in this blog. Not everyone is a fan of pickles or cares for raisin wine, but perhaps a little from this jug or that pot will suit. I hope to hear your ideas. Don’t forget a caraway comfit on your way out.