Monday, February 17, 2014
Horse racing in the British American colonies dates back to the establishment of the Newmarket course on the Salisbury Plains in Hempstead Plains of Long Island in 1665. Only 1 year after the English captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch, the first English governor of New York Richard Nicolls laid out the formal race course. The course was constructed 2 miles long on Salisbury Plain on Long Island. In contrast to the dense virgin forest which covered most of the eastern Atlantic seaboard, Salisbury Plain offered a tract of grass 4 miles wide &16 miles long.
Governor Nicolls explained that the purpose of the race course was “not so much for the divertissement of youth as for encouraging the bettering of the breed of horses which through great neglect has been impaired.” To induce competition in the importing & careful breeding of horses, Nicolls offered trophies at the spring & fall meetings. To foster quality in American horses, as early as 1668, the court of Massachusetts decreed that only horses “of comely proportions and 14 hands in stature” could graze on town commons. A law was enacted by William Penn in Pennsylvania in 1687, which set a minimum height of 13 hands for free ranging horses. Any horse more than 18 months old & less than 13 hands had to be gelded. In 1715, Maryland enacted a law, that any old stray horses could be shot on sight.
Many towns in early America had streets called “Race Street." Such streets gained their names from the habit of running horse races on them. In 1674, the citizens of Plymouth, Massachusetts evidently grew tired of the races in their village & created an ordinance forbidding racing. About a century later, Connecticut enacted a law which demanded the forfeit of a man’s horse, in addition to a fine of 40 shillings, if he was caught racing in the streets.
In Virginia, races were often held at courthouses, fairs, churches, or taverns attracting large gatherings of people of all sorts. But only gentlemen could enter horses in races. In York County in 1674, a tailor wagered 2,000 pounds of tobacco, that his mare could beat his neighbor’s horse. The county court fined him 100 pounds of tobacco, declaring that “it being contrary to Law for a Labourer to make a race being a Sport only for Gentlemen.”
The June 1704, Maryland court records give an account of a suit by Joseph Addison against Capt. Edward Hunt. Addison charged that Hunt "at Lyons Creek in Anne Arundel County…stood justly indebted" for an itemized list of expenses that included "money lent you at the race" in the amount of 18 shillings. Obviously, there were horse races being held at Lyons Creek (near Herring Bay) as early as 1702.
While horse racing generally followed English rules in the northern American colonies, another form of racing began to flourish in the southern regions. The racetracks in these wooded regions were sometimes little more than 2 parallel race paths, 1/4 mile in length, cut through the forest. There was little space at either the beginning or the end of the track. The races were run on a straight course marked at the end by upright stakes, where the judges stood. Short sprints-about a quarter of a mile-were the most common distances for races in the 17th century, & this continued in the backcountry in the next century. The quarter-mile track, therefore, gave both the race & the smaller horses their names. It was not unusual for the competitors & spectators to travel far to these early quarter-race tracks in the woods & to place considerable wagers on their town’s horse. Typical side wagers included money, tobacco, slaves, & property.
In 1724, Hugh Jones observed that Virginians “are such lovers of Riding, that almost every ordinary Person keeps a horse; and I have known some spend the Morning ranging several Miles in the Woods to find and catch their Horses only to ride two or three Miles to Church, to the Court-House, or to a Horse-Race.” In December 1729, William Woodford wrote that when he took his young nephew to Williamsburg for the King’s Birthday celebration, the boy declined to go to the governor’s house or to the balls. Instead he “mist no Opportunity of seeing the Races which he took most delight in.”
The British American colonial's love affair with horses did not escape the capitalistic minds of commercial garden proprietors. To increase traffic at his public pleasure garden, New Yorker Francis Child held a horse race there in 1736. Child operated Catiemuts Garden which was the favorite outdoor tavern of the city's sporting set. The prize, a silver plate valued at twenty pounds, could be won by any "Horse, Mare, or Gelding carrying Ten Stone, Saddle and Bridle included, winning the best of three Heats, Two Miles each Heat."
18th Century Woodcut
By 1735, horse races were occuring regularly at the Bowling Green House & the Quarter House in Charleston, South Carolina. The South Carolina Gazette advertised a variety of prizes for the winners of these races from saddles & bridles to horses to silver swords to cash. For one 1735 race, a requirement to enter was "for white Men to ride." Many of the jockeys in colonial America in the South were slaves, who were referred to only by a first name.
By 1737, The Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg reported that, "there is to be Horse Racing every Saturday till October, at the Race Ground near this City." The Virginia Gazette on December 9, 1737, reported that, "On St. Andrew's Day...a great Number of Gentlemen, ladies, and others; Booths were set up, and an extraordinary good Dinner provided for them, with Variety and Plenty of Liquors. The Horse and Foot Races whereon; and all or most of the Prizes contemned for, and won. The fine Saddle and Housing were won by a Bay Horse belonging to one Tynes, of Carolina County...Flag was display'd, Drums were beating, Trumpets founding, and other Musick playing, for the Entertainment of the Company, and the whole was manag'd with... good Order."
Continuing the tradition, but cleverly charging both entrants & spectators for the privilege, New Yorker Adam Vandenberg leased land of the Church Farm in 1742, next to his property, laying out a race course & advertising the familiar "run for a Piece of Plate by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding carrying Ten Stone, Saddle and Bridle included, of three Heats, Two Miles each." Vandenberg charged each race entrant half a Pistole. Observers on horseback or in chaises could expect to pay six pence apiece to watch the events. Vandenberg hoped that those at the track would wander over to his Mead House and Garden (or Drover's Tavern) after the race. Vandenberg's garden & tavern was near the site of the later Astor House.
In wealthy Annapolis, Maryland, the highlight of the social season was a week of parties & plays organized around a racing meeting. In 1743, a silversmith was commissioned to make a trophy for the Annapolis Subscription Plate, a premier event of the city’s September races.
In North Carolina, Halifax, Warren & neighboring counties in east Carolina were the horse raising sections of the state. There were racetracks at Halifax, Scotland Neck, Tarboro, by 1768 at Hillsbough, & earlier, in the late 1700’s, at Tuckers Paths.
18th Century Woodcut
Horseracing was exceedingly popular by mid-century. On Friday, June 1, 1750, a New York newspaper reported a great race at Hempstead Plains, for a considerable wager, which attracted such attention that on Thursday, the day before the race, upward of 70 chairs & chaises were carried over the Long Island Ferry, plus a far greater number of horses. The number of horses on the plains at the race was said to far exceed a thousand. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, & James Monroe were fans of racing. George Washington attended the Maryland Jockey Club race meeting frequently in 1762 going to the track for almost every carded event. He also attended race meetings in 1766, 1767, 1771, 1772, and 1773 in Annapolis, Maryland, & kept a written record of his gambling wins & losses.
Rhode Island, Maryland, & Virginia were centers of colonial horse breeding, along with South Carolina & New York. During the American Revolution, importations of race horses from England practically stopped but resumed after the signing of a peace treaty.
Before the days of baseball, football, & basketball, horse racing was the sport of its day. Jockey clubs were organized to set rules & regulations. Maryland maintained some 20 racing centers before the Revolution. In 1765, a British officer noted that “there are established races annually at almost every town and considerable place in Virginia." To supply the horses demanded for quality racing, a breeding industry steadily grew in Virginia. By the time of the Revolution, there were 27 important breeding farms in the vicinity of the James, York, Rappahanock, & Potomac rivers. America’s first jockey club, composed of wealthy horse owners & breeders, was organized in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1734. The Maryland Jockey Club is a sporting organization dedicated to horse racing, founded in Annapolis in 1743. The Philadelphia Jockey Club was founded in 1766, "to encourage the breeding of good horses and to promote the pleasures of the turf." The Wilmington, North Carolina Jockey Club was established in 1774.
As English thoroughbreds were imported into the South, Virginia race horses were no longer sprinters but distance runners. The circular mile-long track, where horses competed for a subscription purse, grew in popularity. On November 25, 1773, New England school teacher Philip Vickers Fithian attended a race between 2 horses at Richmond Court House. He wrote: “One of the Horses belonged to Colonel John Taylor [Tayloe], and is called Yorick—The other to Dr. [Nicholas] Flood, and is called Gift—The Assembly was remarkably numerous, beyond any expectation and exceeding polite in general...The Horses started precisely at 5 minutes after 3; the Course was 1 Mile in Circumference, they performed the first Round in 2 minutes, third in 2 minutes & a-half...when the Riders dismounted very lame; they run five Miles, and Carried 180 lb.”
Horse racing expanded after the American Revolution, as jockey clubs were established in nearly every region, annual races became major social events, & horse breeding became big business. It became necessary to standardize racing weights, distances, & other variables.
In the Chesapeake, where races were regularly scheduled during court days, public gardens organized events around the horse races. In 1801 the Hay-Market Gardens in Richmond, Virginia announced their special arrangements for race days. The owner, Mr. J. Pryor, had ordered and installed a new organ for his music gallery that would play for the first time during the races. He had built an "extensive building surrounding the gallery" in preparation for theatrical performances planned for the third day of the races. There will be a BALL on the first night of the races--a Grand Concert accompanied with the organ and voices on the second night." He was also looking for "two good Bar Keepers and a few waiters" to meet the increased demand he expected during the races.
William Penn (1644-1718) reportedly raced his horses in Philadelphia, down what would fittingly later be named Race Street. From 1682 to 1684, Penn, a Quaker, was in the Province of Pennsylvania, & he returned once more in 1699. Penn declared that, "Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it." Sports & athletic contests had long been associated with gambling, drinking, & other earthly sins. Horse racing was one sport that the conservative early legislature did not specifically ban. George Washington attended local races staged by the Philadelphia Jockey Club. Pennsylvanians had long been familiar with sporting public pleasure gardens. In Philadelphia, Hunting Park opened as a race track in 1808, & doubled as a public pleasure garden. But in 1820, the Pennsylvania legislature banned horse racing throughout the state.
1804 - Horse racing in England wasn't new in 1804, and neither were women in riding habits. In his diary for June 12, 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote: "Walking in the galleries at White Hall, I find the Ladies of Honour dressed in their riding garbs, with coats and doublets with deep skirts, just, for all the world, like mine; and buttoned their doublets up to the breast, with periwigs under their hats; so that, only for a long petticoat dragging under their men's coats, nobody could take them for women in any point whatever; which was an odde sight, and a sight did not please me."
However, the first known woman jockey was Alicia Meynell of England. In 1804, she first competed at a public 4-mile race in York, England.
As I was doing research on Alicia Meynell, I came upon the English blog Nineteen Teen & a great story of Alicia written by Regina Scott in 2010. Regina Scott has written 25 historical romances in the last 15 years, and there is no way I could tell the story like she did. I was hoping to show the riding habits of the late 18C & the early 19C along with a biography of Alicia. And so, I will share much of the story written by Regina Scott along with a few riding costumes of the period.
Regina Scott writes, "Alicia Meynell was born in 1782, the daughter of a watchmaker from Norwich. She was lovely, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a winning manner. We know that she had at least one sister, very likely older than her, who married William Flint of Yorkshire, a gentleman very keen for horses. Perhaps through the Flints, Alicia met & fell madly in love with their neighbor, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Thornton of the Second Regiment of the York Militia."
1801 Riding Habit, engraved plate from ''The Gallery of Fashion''
Thornton was 60 & Alicia was 18. She became the latest in his long list of mistresses.
"One of the things she & Thornton had in common was the ability to ride & ride well. Remember that this was a time when women were at least partly judged by their “seat” - how well they could handle a horse. Alicia was a dynamo. She too knew her horseflesh, & she owned no less than 3 hunters. She was pleased to ride to hounds, something that was still rather rare for a woman because of the difficulty in thundering over rough, unpredictable terrain in a side saddle."
"One day while she was visiting her sister, Alicia & her brother-in-law went riding. She was on Thornton's favorite horse, a brute named Vingarillo. Flint was riding his favorite, a brown hunter named Thornville. As they argued good naturedly about which horse was better, they decided to race to prove the point."
"Alicia won. Twice."
"Nettled, Flint challenged her to a real race, at the Newmarket Race Track, & named a princely prize of 1,000 guineas (which would be equivalent to over $30,000 today!). I’m betting he thought she’d decline. Alicia accepted."
"Immediately word spread far & wide. A woman? Racing? Who wouldn’t want to see that! They met on the last day of the York meet in August 1804. The York Herald reported that 100,000 people crowded the race track to watch, more than ten times the number that had assembled for the last “big” race between more famous horses. Even the military in the form of the 6th Light Dragoons was called in for crowd control. The total amount betted ran over 200,000 pounds (over $6M)! "
"Alicia was in rare form. She wore a dress spotted like leopard skin, with a buff waistcoat & blue sleeves & cap. The crowd adored her. She must have been quite a contrast to Flint, who rode all in white. But his heavenly apparel didn’t reflect his attitude. He refused anyone to ride alongside Alicia to help her if her side-saddle slipped (a common courtesy for women riders), & he ordered her to ride on a side of the track that deprived her of her whip hand."
"Neither trip handicapped Alicia. She was ahead from the start & stayed that way for nearly 3/4 of the 4-mile circuit. Reported the Herald, “Never surely did a woman ride in better style. It is difficult to say whether her horsemanship, her dress, or her beauty were more admired.” But something happened to Vingarillo in the last mile, causing him to falter, & Flint nipped ahead & won."
"Alicia wasn’t pleased. After hearing people go on & on about how gentlemanly Flint had been to race with a woman to begin with, she wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald denouncing him & demanding a rematch. But it was a Mr. Bromford who next challenged her to ride the following year, with the prize a 2,000 pounds & a great quantity of French wine. She agreed, but on the day of the race Bromford decamped & the lady won by default."
"Alicia, in a new outfit with purple cap & waistcoat, buff-colored skirts, & purple shoes with embroidered stockings (I shudder to think how the reporter figured that out!), was not about to be sent to the sidelines. That same day, she raced 2 miles on a mare named Louisa against Buckle, one of the premier paid jockeys of the day. The Annual Register records that “Mrs. Thornton, by the most excellent horsemanship, pushed forward & came in in a style far superior to anything of the kind we have ever witnessed, gaining her race by half a neck.”
"Unfortunately...Colonel Thornton turned out to be something of a scoundrel. When Flint won the first race, the colonel refused to honor the bet he & Alicia had made, insisting it had all been a joke. An outraged Flint showed up at the second race & literally horsewhipped the colonel in public before being confined to jail for assault. Several years of court battles led to a decision for the colonel."
Thornton left Alicia in 1814, headed for France, where he took a new mistress. Alicia had a son Thomas to raise alone. When Thornton died 1823, he left the bulk of his estate to his most recent French mistress, Priscilla Duins & his natural daughter by her. He left nothing to Alicia, although their son Thomas received a bequest of 100 pounds. "But in the end it was Alicia who triumphed. Until 1943, she was the only woman listed in the records of England’s Jockey Club as having raced & won against a man."
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Watching the Olympics from Russia today, I began to wonder when women's skiing & ice skating events began in the Olympics & when women first began to ice skate. The first Olympic figure skating events were part of the 1908 Summer Olympics. Events for both men & women took place at that Olympics. Colonial American women were ice skating during the 17C.
Ice skating by young men is recorded in London in the 12C. The 1st English mention of ice skating is found in a biography of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Beckett written by his former clerk William FitzStephen around 1180, in his "description of the most noble city of London." The account reads: "when the great fenne or moore (which watereth the walles of the citie on the North side) is frozen, many young men play upon the yce, some striding as wide as they may, doe slide swiftly...some tye bones to their feete, & under their heeles, & shoving themselves by a little picked staffe, doe slide as swiftly as birde flyeth in the aire, or an arrow out of a crossbow. Sometime two runne together with poles, & hitting one the other, eyther one or both doe fall, not without hurt; some break their armes, some their legs, but youth desirous of glorie, in this sort exerciseth it selfe against time of warre..."
There is some confusion about where women first began to ski & skate. The Dutch believe that ice skates were a Dutch invention. Scandinavians, however, claim that ice skating was introduced in the Netherlands by their Viking ancestors who visited the European coasts around 800. They think the art of ice skating derived from the Nordic custom to prevent people from sinking in loose snow by binding boards under their boots. This custom should have resulted in both skiing & ice skating.
The discovery during the 19C of ancient bone skates in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Danube valley & England suggests that ice skating may be much older than 1,700 years. A study by Federico Formenti of the University of Oxford suggests that the earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 3000 years ago.
The first skates were flattened bone that was strapped to the bottom of the foot. The oldest pair of skates known date back to about 3000 B.C., found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. The skates were made from the leg bones of large animals, holes were bored at each end of the bone & leather straps were used to tie the skates on. An old Dutch word for skate is "schenkel" which means "leg bone."
In the 13th Century, the Dutch invented steel blades with edges. The Dutch started using wooden platform skates with flat iron bottom runners. The skates were attached to the skater's shoes with leather straps. Poles were used to propel the skater.
Around 1500, the Dutch added a narrow metal double edged blade, making the poles a thing of the past, as the skater could now push & glide with his feet (called the "Dutch Roll"). In the Netherlands, all classes of people skated. Ice skating was a way people traveled over the canals in the winter months.
James II (1633-1701) helped introduce ice skating to the British aristocracy in the late 1600s. In 1742, the Edinburgh Skating Club, the 1st British figure skating club, was formed in Scotland. To gain membership in the club it was necessary for the skater to be able to skate a complete circle on either foot & to jump over one, then two & then 3 hats placed on the ice. The 1st English instructional book concerning ice skating was published in London in 1772. The book, written by a British artillery lieutenant, Robert Jones, described basic figure skating forms such as circles & figure eights.
Skating in North America came with Dutch settlers to New York . Upon visiting colonial New York, English clergyman Charles Wooley wrote in 1678, "And upon the Ice its admirable to see Men & Women as it were flying upon their Skates from place to place, with Markets upon their Heads & Backs."
By the 1730s, images of women getting help from a gentleman to put on their skates become popular in Europe.
From 1400 to the 19C, there were 24 winters in which the Thames was recorded to have frozen over at London: 1408, 1435, 1506, 1514, 1537, 1565, 1595, 1608, 1621, 1635, 1649, 1655, 1663, 1666, 1677, 1684, 1695, 1709, 1716, 1740, 1776, 1788, 1795, & 1814. Images of these periods show hundreds of folks on the river, some ice skating.
Nicolas Lancret (French painter, 1690-1743) Fastening the Skate.
An eye-witness recorded the London frost of the 1680s: "On the 20th of December, 1683, a very violent frost began, which lasted to the 6th of February...the Thames was so frozen that a great street from the Temple to Southwark was built with shops, and all manner of things sold." John Evelyn (1620-1706) noted, "Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other stairs too and fro, as in the streets, sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cooks, tippling and other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water."
When the Thames was not frozen over, early Londoners skated on the frozen marshes of Moorfields, just north of the old walled city. Archaeologists working on London's recent Crossrail dig have found medieval ice skates. By the middle of the 18C, skating in Hyde Park in London had become a popular winter pastime.
Pennsylvania-born lawyer Alexander Graydon (1752-1818) was a Captain in the Revolutionary Army & Delegate to the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. Graydon was obviously aware of the New York men & women who carried their wares on their heads as they skated from place to place, when he wrote of figure skating in 18C Philadelphia in his 1811 "Memoirs of a life, chiefly passed in Pennsylvania: within the last sixty years" Graydon wrote, "With respect to skating, though the Philadelphians have never reduced it to rules like the Londoners, nor \ connected it with their business like Dutchmen, I will yet hazard the opinion, that they were the best & most elegant skaters in the world. I have seen New England skaters, Old England skaters, & Holland skaters, but the best of them could but make " the judicious grieve."
Graydon continued, "I was once slightly acquainted with a worthy gentleman, the quondam member of a skating club in London, & it must be admitted, that he performed very well for an Englishman. His High Dutch, or, as he better termed it, his outer edge skating, might, for aught I know, have been exactly conformable to the statutes of this institution: To these he would often appeal; & I recollect the principal one was, that each stroke should describe an exact semicircle. Nevertheless, his style was what we should deem a very bad one. An utter stranger to the beauty of bringing forward the suspended foot towards the middle of the stroke, & boldly advancing it before the other, at the conclusion of it, thus to preserve, throughout his course, a continuity of movement, to rise like an ascending wave to its acme, then, gracefully like a descending one, to glide into the succeeding stroke without effort, either real or apparent—every change of foot with this gentleman seemed a beginning of motion, & required a most unseemingly jerk of the body; an unequivocal evidence of the want of that power, which depends upon a just balance, & should never be lost—which carries the skater forward with energy without exertion; & is as essential to his swift & graceful career, as is a good head of water to the velocity of a mill wheel. Those who have seen good skating will comprehend what I mean, still better those who are adepts themselves; but excellence in the art can never be gained by geometrical rules. The two reputed best skaters of my day were General Cadwallader, & Massey the biscuitbaker; but I could name many others, both of the academy & Quaker school, who were in no degree inferior to them; whose action & attitudes were equally graceful."
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The 18th Century game of Put – a chance to bluff and cheat at cards!
by Mike Rendell from his fabulous blog The Georgian Gentleman Jan 22 2014
"Sometimes in Spanish bars you see a group of elderly gentlemen enthusiastically playing a game of cards called truc – it seems to involve a lot of triumphalism and theatrical posturing, and apparently is very similar to the English game called “Put”. In Catalonia they play it as a foursome but with partners (as in Bridge) and this gives rise to some intriguing signals between players on the same side. Apparently:
Closing one eye: means you hold a three.
Pouting your lips: means you hold a two.
Showing the tip of your tongue: means you have an Ace.
"Obviously it helps if you can give these signals to your playing partner without being observed by the other two players! It also means that if a Catalonian winks, blows you a kiss and then sticks his tongue out at you, it is best not to call the Police until you have checked what game he is playing….
"Truc seems to be a bit more complicated than the old English game of Put, but it is clear that they share a common ancestry – no doubt sailors brought it back from abroad. There are records of Put being played in England as far back as the 16th Century.
"I had not come across Put until I saw this Thomas Rowlandson/George Woodward collaboration, published by Ackermann in August 1799 and appearing on the Lewis Walpole Library site. It is called “A game at Put in a country alehouse”. The yokel on the left says “Zome-how – I donna half like the looks o-thee!” while holding a pair of fives and an ace. Across the table his companion looks shell-shocked at a hand containing a royal card and two aces (?) and announces “I put.”
"So, how was Put played and what is it all about? It was certainly a very popular game in taverns in the 18th Century, even though (or rather, because) it relied relatively little upon skill or memory, but rather a lot on “brass neck” and bluffing. No suits to worry about, no counting of cards already turned up: just you pitting your wits against your opponent (usually only two people played, but it could be three or four), armed with just three cards for each deal.
"The first thing to remember was that it wasn’t “aces high” – or even low. The sequence in the 52-card pack was (high) 3-2-A-K-Q-J-T-9-8-7-6-5-4 (low) – the same as in truc. Three cards were dealt to each player, and the non-dealer would lead off. His opponent would try and win the trick by playing a higher card. Remember: there were no trump cards and no suits to follow.
"The game was won by the first player to score 5 points over as many deals as necessary. Where both players played cards of equal value, that trick was tied and the player who led had to do so again. A player who won two tricks, or one trick when both the others were tied, won the hand, and scored one point. If the players each won a trick and the other trick was tied, the hand was deemed to be a draw and no points were scored – this was called “trick and tie”.
"What makes the game interesting, and gives it a quality similar to Brag, is that players try and ‘con’ their opponent by talking up their hand. Either player, when about to lead a card, may do one of three things:
1. He can throw his hand in, thus conceding the deal and giving a point to the opponent.
2. Lead a card without saying anything. His opponent must then play.
3. Say “Put”, which is short for “I put it to you that you should throw your cards in while you have the chance.” If the opponent follows this advice, the deal ends and the putter scores 1 point. If not, it is a case of ‘put and see’ and the putter leads and the other must play.
"What this means is that a player with a weak hand may still win, by asserting the strength of his hand and hoping that his opponent will cave in. It led to much histrionics and double bluffing.
"The game was mentioned in a book by Charles Cotton called The Compleat Gamester, (London, 1674). Cotton was an intriguing person – a close friend of Isaac Walton and a contributor to his Compleat Angler, published in 1653. His Compleat Gamester was considered the “standard” English-language reference work on the playing of games – especially games where betting was a popular feature, and including billiards, card games, dice, horse racing and cock fighting. His authorship of the book was not disclosed at the time it was first published, although it was acknowledged in some of the later editions. Poor Cotton died bankrupt in 1687 and is buried in St James Church Piccadilly.
"Various later editions of The Gamester appeared in the 18th Century. According to Cotton, Put was an extremely disreputable game. He called it “the ordinary rooking game of every place” and much of his chapter on Put is devoted to a description of various common types of cheating. This might be done by marking the cards, or introducing cards from another pack, etc. He also explained “The High Game”, in which the cards were stacked so as to deal the victim a three and two twos, while the dealer dealt himself a two and two threes. The non-dealer would fancy his chances and call ”Put” and perhaps agree some extra wager on the side, which the dealer would then “see” and win. Cotton remarked that you were unlikely to get away with this more than once against the same player!"
Saturday, February 1, 2014
DINING OUT IN MEDIEVAL LONDON
REBECCA SLITT See here
Hoping this article will help us understand the evolution of public dining & drinking in England.
A simple meal of bread and drink; Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century.
"When Londoner William FitzStephen proudly described his city in the late 12C, he found many things to praise. Its trade enriched all of Britain; its soldiers were brave & glorious; its scholars dazzled everyone with their knowledge. But, perhaps surprisingly, William also noted London’s distinctive food options.
"Pointing to the rows of stalls & shops that sold food to the travelers who passed by the banks of the Thames, he explained that, “All things desirable are ready to hand.” According to William, “[a] public cookshop [is] appropriate to a city & pertaining to the art of civic life.”
"The dramatic rise in urbanization & trade that took place in Europe after 1100 C.E. opened up a new world of food for many townspeople. The First Crusade enabled contact between Europe & the Middle East, allowing people from England & France to develop a taste for the more diverse spices & flavors available in the Levant. More importantly, it fostered the development of trade routes so that those foods could make their way back west. Within these new urban trade centers, townspeople had easier access to these new foods.
"Medieval urbanites had a different relationship to their food than country dwellers did. Townspeople grew less of what they ate – although many did grow some, even in cities – than their rural counterparts. Townspeople also bought more, & had access to more varied foodstuffs. This variety was greatest in the huge Italian city-states like Venice & Genoa, which dominated the Mediterranean trade routes & enjoyed closer proximity to the sources of spices & other Asian-grown foods.
"But even in London, at the far northwestern edge of Europe, people had a greater diversity of food & drink than their counterparts in the country. Londoners, for instance, could even obtain wine relatively easily, although this had to be imported from places like Italy & France, & was hard to transport over land because of its weight.
"Grain products, especially wheat & barley, dominated the diet of most northern Europeans, whether they were urban or rural. Sometimes the grain was consumed in the form of bread; sometimes in the form of ale.
"Medieval ale was less alcoholic & more substantial than modern varieties & it was a legitimate source of nutrition. Many people brewed their own ale, or bought it from a local brewer. Making & selling ale was an especially popular job for women who lived in towns. The modern English surname Brewster (meaning specifically a female brewer) reflects the legacy of this medieval occupation.
Because bake-ovens were expensive, hard to build, & dangerous to operate in the close-packed wooden houses of a medieval city most urbanites didn’t bake their own bread. Instead, some people used the ovens of professional bakers. They made the dough at home & then brought it to another oven to be baked. Other medieval city-dwellers, however, simply bought bread. In Paris, for instance, each village around the city had their own distinctive style of bread that bakers brought in for sale.
"The best bread was, of course, also the most expensive. Remains found in medieval graveyards show a distinctive pattern of wear on the teeth, which tells us that even bread made from the highest-quality flour in late-medieval London had a coarser grain than modern bread.
"Even larger medieval cities like London & Paris still had some green space within them, enough for many residents to have gardens where they grew their own fruits, vegetables, & herbs. This provided a larger variety of fresh foods to the urban population, & ensured that most people had nutritionally balanced diets. Some people even kept animals on their little patches of land. Chickens were especially popular, as were goats (good for milk as well as meat) & pigs.
"People in medieval England ate a lot of fish, much more than most modern people do. Fish was easily available because no part of Britain is more than 70 miles from the coast. Christian dietary restrictions indirectly contributed to this emphasis on fish as eating other kinds of meat on Fridays as well as during Advent, Lent, & other important religious holidays was prohibited. London’s proximity to both the ocean & trade routes meant not only that its residents ate a lot of fish but also that they had access to a wide variety of types of fish.
"The biggest difference between urban & rural diets in medieval England was in the range of available spices. There’s a persistent belief that the heavy spicing of medieval food, especially meat, was intended to hide the fact that the food was slightly off, but this is undoubtedly a myth. While preservation options, especially for meat, were certainly more limited in the Middle Ages, medieval people could still tell when food was past its prime. They also understood that eating it in that state would cause serious illness. But the people who could afford spices on a regular basis were the wealthiest ones – the same people who could also afford high-quality food & were, therefore, the least likely to be forced to eat spoiled meat.
"Instead, there were two main reasons for the abundant spices that we see in medieval recipes. First, people simply liked the flavors. Medieval palates appear to have favored different combinations of spices than modern ones. They especially liked contrasts between sweet & sour or sweet & spicy. For instance, a fifteenth-century English cookbook includes a recipe for a pie filled with ground pork flavored with honey & black pepper; a fourteenth-century recipe gives instructions for a fish pie that includes white pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, & sugar.
"But such heavily spiced dishes also had a social appeal as the high cost of spices made them a status symbol. Serving guests a dish flavored with three different kinds of pepper – as many recipes called for –told everyone that you could afford to buy expensive things.
"Ginger, cloves, pepper, & saffron were the most commonly used spices. Cane sugar, which was also regarded as a spice, was cultivated in Spain as well as the Middle East, & it was highly prized as an ingredient in both food & medicine. Saffron seems to have been even more popular than it is today, despite its high cost. It’s still one of the most expensive foods in the world – it can sell for more than $10,000 a pound. The cost didn’t stop medieval cooks – or, at least, medieval recipe-writers – from using it often. Saffron was also popular because of the distinctive yellow-orange color that it gave to food: it made your wealth visible.
"Several spices were much more common in medieval Europe than modern Europe. For instance, galingale – known to modern chefs as galangal – is mostly found in Thai cooking today, but was very popular in medieval recipes. When Marco Polo found a source of galingale on his travels, he was overjoyed because he knew there was a big market for it back home. Melegueta pepper – also known as grains of paradise – is another spice more common in medieval European cooking than in its modern Western counterpart. Today this spice is found mainly in Middle Eastern specialty stores, but recipes from late-medieval England & France took it for granted that cooks would have access to it.
"All of these recipes come from elite households: nobles or very wealthy commoners. Those were the only people who would need to give instructions to cooks on how to construct elaborate dishes. Only these people would have had access to the wide range of spices & ingredients described in the recipes & only these people would have known how to read the recipes in the first place. Large cities like London were the also the sole places with wealthy non-nobles – the families of merchants, lawyers, civil servants, jewelers – who could support this kind of food culture.
"At the other end of the social scale was the cookshop. As William FitzStephen wrote, these were unique to cities, because only in cities would there be a critical mass of people without kitchens of their own to support these businesses. Cookshops were so abundant in twelfth-century Jerusalem that French-speaking residents named one street Malquissinat: “the Street of Evil Cooking.” In London, cookshops clustered in two main places: near the river where they would be convenient to the water-borne traders, pilgrims, & travelers; & in poor neighborhoods, where tenement dwellers lacked a hearth over which they could cook. Like the residents of modern urban “food deserts,” many impoverished medieval Londoners had to rely on takeout food.
"Late-medieval Londoners ate well, thanks to their trade connections & their creative use of space. They also had a wide range of foods open to them: fresh fruits & vegetables, flavorful spices, abundant meat & fish & wine."
Rebecca Slitt received her Ph.D. in medieval history from Fordham University. Her academic work focuses on aristocratic culture & historical writing in twelfth-century England.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Medieval Inn & Tavern Names
From Medievalists.net – January 31, 2014
Hoping this article will help us understand the evolution of public dining & drinking in England.
From 1423 to 1426 the names of over 50 taverns & inns were recorded by William Porland, who was the clerk for London’s fraternity of Brewers. In an article in the Journal of the English Place Name Society, Barrie Cox takes a look at these names & some of the reasons how they got them. Here are few:
1. The Swan – this was the most popular name, with 6 taverns in London using it. Other taverns were named for birds as well, including The Crane & The Cock. There were even taverns called The White Cock & The Red Cock.
2. The Dolphin (Dolphyn) was the name of a tavern near St. Magnus’ Church. Other animal names for taverns include The Horse, The Lamb & The Old Bull.
3. The Seven Stars (vij Sterres) – according to medieval knowledge, the 7 stars represented the sun, the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus & Mercury. Another tavern had the name The Three Moons.
4. The King’s Head (kyngeshed) – a few other taverns had a similar name, including The Horse’s Head, The Ram’s Head & The Saracen’s Head
5. Two taverns were named after saints: The Christopher, after the patron saint of travellers, & The St. Julian, who was the patron saint of hospitality.
6. The Pewter Pot (peauterpotte) could be found in Ironmonger Lane in Cheapside. It probably got its name for a type of drinking vessel.
7. The Pannier (panyer) on Paternoster Rowe would have been based on the French word panier, which means bread basket. Barrie Cox writes “this seems appropriate as a name for a lowly eating- & drinking-house.”
8. The Cony (Cony yn Conyhooplane) was a Middle English word for a rabbit, leading Cox to believe “the name suggests a small tavern where a rabbit stew could be enjoyed.”
Other names of medieval taverns include The Ball, The Basket, The Bell, The Cross, The Cup, The Garland, The Green Gate, The Hammer, The Lattice, The Rose & 2 that were called The Ship.
Barrie Cox’ article ‘Some London Inn & Tavern Names 1423-1426′ appears the Journal of the English Place Name Society, Vol.30(1997-8). He also wrote the book English Inn & Tavern Names, which was published in 1994 & is available from the Institute for Name Studies, University of Nottingham.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Tour in England, Ireland, and France in The Years 1826, 1827, 1828, AND 1829.
With Remarks on The Manner and Customs of the Inhabitants and Anecdotes of Distinguished Public Characters by a German Prince (Philadelphia, 1833) pp. 156-158
July 12th, 1827
Yesterday evening I went for the first time to Vauxhall, a public garden in the style of Tivoli at Paris, but on a far grander and more brilliant scale. The illumination with thousands of lamps of the most dazzling  colours is uncommonly splendid. Especially beautiful were large bouquets of flowers hung in the trees, formed of red, blue, yellow, and violet lamps, and the leaves and stalks of green; there were also chandeliers of a gay Turkish sort of pattern of various hues, and a temple for the music, surmounted with the royal arms and crest. Several triumphal arches were not of wood, but of cast-iron, of light transparent patterns, infinitely more elegant, and quite as rich as the former. Beyond this the gardens extended with all their variety and their exhibitions, the most remarkable of which was the battle of Waterloo. They open at seven: there was an opera, rope-dancing, and at ten o'clock (to conclude) this same battle. It is curious enough, and in many scenes the deception really remarkable. An open part of the gardens is the theatre, surrounded by venerable horse-chestnuts mingled with shrubs. Between four of the former, whose foliage is almost impervious, was a 'tribune', with benches for about twelve hundred persons, reaching to the height of forty feet. Here we took our seats, not without a frightful squeeze, in which we had to give and take some hearty pushes. It was a warm and most lovely night: the moon shone extremely bright, and showed a huge red curtain, hung, at a distance of about fifty paces from us, between two gigantic trees, and painted with the arms of the United Kingdom. Behind the curtain rose the tops of the trees as far as one could see. After a moment's pause, the discharge of a cannon thundered through the seeming wood, and the fine band of the second regiment of Guards was heard in the distance. The curtain opened in the centre, was quickly drawn asunder; and we saw, as if by the light of day, the outwork of Houguemont on a gently rising ground, amid high trees. The French 'Gardes' in correct uniform now advanced out of the wood to martial music, with the bearded 'Sapeurs' at their head. They formed into line; and Napoleon on his gray horse, and dressed in his gray surtout, accompanied by several marshals, rode past them 'en revue.' A thousand voices shout 'Vive l'Empereur!'-the Emperor touches his hat, sets off at a gallop, and the troops bivouac in dense groups. A distant firing is then heard; the scene becomes more tumultuous, and the French march out. Shortly after, Wellington appears with his staff,-all very good copies of the individuals,-harangues his troops, and rides slowly off. The great original was among the spectators, and laughed heartily at his representative. The fight is begun by the 'tirailleurs;' whole columns then advance upon each other, and charge with the bayonet; the French cuirassiers charge the Scotch Grays; and as there as a thousand men and two hundred horses in action, and no spare of gunpowder, it is, for a moment, very like a real battle. The storming of Houguemont, which is set on fire by several shells, was particularly well done: the combatants were for a time hidden by the thick smoke of real fire, or only rendered partially visible by the flashes of musquetry, while the foreground was strewed with the dead and dying. As the smoke cleared off, Houguemont was seen in flames,-the English as conquerors, the French as captives: in the distance was Napoleon on horseback, and behind him his carriage-and-four hurrying across the scene. The victorious Wellington was greeted with loud cheers mingled with the thunder of the distant cannon. The ludicrous side of the exhibition was the making Napoleon race across the stage several times, pursued and fugitive, to tickle English vanity, and afford a triumph to the 'plebs' in good and bad coats. But such is the lot  of the great! The conqueror before whom the world trembled,-for whom the blood of millions was freely shed,-for whose glance or nod kings waited and watched,-is now a child's pastime, a tale of his times, vanished like a dream,-the Jupiter gone, and as it seems, Scapan only remaining. Although past midnight it was still early enough to go from the strange scene of illumination and moonlight to a splendid ball at Lady L-'s where I found a blaze of diamonds, handsome women, dainty refreshments, a luxurious supper, and a gigantic ennui; I therefore went to bed as early as five o'clock.