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Essay/Term paper: What was life like in colonial times?

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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What was Life Like in Colonial Times?

When the first colonists came to America there were not many things available to them. Their life was hard, almost impossible compared to life today. The early colonists spent almost every hour of everyday working to stay alive. They survived because they were committed to making their settlement grow. (John F. Warner- pg.12-13)

The first colonists had to make almost everything using only a few simple tools. They built their own houses, their furniture, and even the utensils they ate with. Farm life was also a big part of surviving. Family farms and plantations remained the backbone of life right up until the end of the colonial era.

The everyday clothing that the settlers wore was mostly thick and coarse. Men generally wore linen shirts and knee breeches along with wool stockings that came up over the knees. A jacket that was called a "doublet" was worn over the shirt. They wore wide brimmed hats and their boots were leather with double thick soles. Colonial women wore linen blouses too; they tucked the blouses into their long wool skirts. They also had wool stockings. The women covered their skirts with long white aprons and wore a white neck cloth over a sleeveless doublet. Some women wore hats similar to the men, but most wore a wool close fitting hat somewhat like a bonnet. The children"s clothing was very similar to their parents. Those were the everyday clothes that the colonists wore. In the northern colonies clothing marked a persons social position. In the southern colonies silk stockings were worn and jewelry was added. Wigs were also worn. (John F. Warner -pg. 42)

The basic foods in all of the colonies were very similar. For example, corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins grew in gardens from Georgia to Massachusetts. Fish, eels, clams, oysters, crabs, and meets such as deer, turkey, chicken, goose, pork, and rabbit were also found on the tables in the colonies. The drink that they preferred was cider. They had many different flavors such as apple, peach, and pear. Beer was also popular.

Breakfast was usually eaten around 10 A.M. It might have consisted of cornbread with butter, cold meat, cider or beer, or maybe coffee or tea. The main meal was eaten around 4:00 P.M. This would be the lavish meal. When it was time to eat the man and his older sons would take their places at the table. The wife would sit next to her husband while the oldest daughter would serve the meal. Any young children would stand, not sit at a separate table and were not allowed to speak. (John F. Warner – pg.50-54)

The ordinary colonial child, boy or girl, from ages six to eight would attend what was called a "Dame School." There the children learned the alphabet, the basics of reading, some prayers, and a few basic arithmetic skills. Although learning to read was considered important, learning to write was not. The only aid in learning at the "Dame School" was a hornbook, which was not really a book, but a page of writing, which listed the alphabet and a few prayers. Most of the lessons were taught in rhymes to help the children remember. (John F. Warner- pg. 78-81)

Most colonial Americans made their own fun. Despite the fact that everyone worked very hard, people did find ways to have fun, especially the children.

"Top Whipping" was a favorite of all of the young boys. Whoever could spin the longest would be the winner. While the boys were busy spinning, the girls were bust playing dolls. One of the few outdoor activities that the girls did participate in was ice-skating. As the children grew older they played more complicated things like checkers, cards, and dominoes.

The colonial population was made up of a number of different social and economic classes. The upper classes included the large planters, merchants, lawyers, government officials, religious leaders, doctors, and teachers. The middle class included the small farmers, skilled workingmen, and hired hands-white people without property. Below them were indentured servants and the Negro slaves who were given no rights. Because machinery and laboring devices were unknown, there was a great demand for labor in the colonies. There were no laws against child labor and children were put to work at an early age. (David Freeman Hawke-pg.39)

There were very few doctors in the early and most of them were poorly trained. Remedies were often so painful that they were almost worse than the illness itself. Bleeding the patient was a popular method of treating illness; a barber would perform this service if no doctor were available. The diseased fluids would leave the body along with the blood; it was thought that renewed health would result. Wounds would often become infected and sometimes resulted in the loss of an arm, leg, or even in death. Many of the doctors were also active in politics and four colonial physicians were signers of the Declaration of Independence. (David Freeman Hawke-pg.24)

The everyday life in the colonial days was very hard. The colonists worked day in and day out to make their settlements work and grow. They worked most of the time, but they also found time to have fun. A lot of things have changed, but their everyday life is somewhat similar to how ours is today. Without their hard work we might not be where we are today.


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