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1600-1754: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology

1600-1754: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology




  • In what is probably the first marriage in mainland British North America, Anne Burrows and John Laydon are wed in Virginia.


  • Women begin to arrive in Virginia.
  • Deputy Gov. Sir Samuel Argall of Virginia forbids Sunday dancing, fiddling, card playing, hunting, and fishing.


  • The first Africans arrive in Virginia.


  • The main source of nutrition for the Plymouth colony is seafood. The colonists feast on lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of spring water. The lobsters weigh an average of twenty-five pounds and are so abundant that children can catch them.



  • 1 May A May Day celebration at Mare Mount (present-day Quincy, Massachusetts) is described by Gov. William Bradford as follows:
  • They... set up a May-Pole, drinking and dancing aboute it many days together, inviting the Indean women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, (like so many faries or furies rather) and worse practices. As they had anew revived and celebrated the feasts of the Roman Goddes Flora, or the beastly practieses of the Madd Bacchinalians.


  • 22 Feb. The first public thanksgiving, a fast day, is celebrated in Massachusetts Bay.


  • The Massachusetts General Court passes a sumptuary law prohibiting the purchase of woolen, linen, or silk clothes with silver or gold thread lace on them.
  • 4 Mar. Samuel Cole opens the first tavern in Boston.


  • Gov. Willem Kieft of New Amsterdam laments that one-quarter of all the buildings in town are grog-shops or houses where nothing is to be got but tobacco and beer.


  • A Massachusetts law forbids smoking out of dores in towns and villages because fires have beene often occasioned by taking tobacco.


  • Church elders in New England censure men for wearing immoderate great breeches, broad shoulder bands, capes, double ruffles, and silk roses on their shoes.
  • In Plymouth a woman convicted of adultery is sentenced to be whipt at a cart tayle and to weare a badge upon her left sleeue during her aboad in the community. (The badge consists of the letters AD.) If found in public without the badge the woman would be burned in the face with a hott iron.
  • 4 Sept. The General Court of Massachusetts passes a law against drinking toasts, maintaining that The common custom of drinking to one another is a mere useless ceremony, and draweth on the abominable practice of drinking healths. Nevertheless, authorities find it impossible to suppress the time-honored custom, and they repeal the law six years later.


  • A public thanksgiving is celebrated in New Amsterdam to commemorate the safe return of Dutch soldiers from a battle with Native Americans in Connecticut.


  • Connecticut authorities limit individual tobacco use to once a day, after a meal or another time, and then not in company with any other. Furthermore, it could only be used in ones own house.
  • Rhode Island declares common-law marriages illegal.


  • After a rash of fires Gov. Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam forbids the construction of chimneys made from wood or plaister in any house. He appoints four firemasters to inspect chimneys and collect a three-guilder fine for each one found neglected and foul. The fines are used to purchase hooks, ladders, and leather buckets for the Prowlers, a firefighting organization of eight men who patrol the streets at night.


  • A Boston statute requires that all fires be covered or extinguished between the hours of 9:00 P.M. and 4:30 A.M.


  • Two women in Newbury, Massachusetts, are arrested for wearing silk hoods and scarves but are released after presenting proof that their husbands each had net worths of £200.


  • Twenty-four Jewish immigrants arrive in New Amsterdam.


  • After returning from a three-year sea voyage a Boston ship captain kisses his wife in public on Sunday; he is made to sit for two hours in the stocks for his lewd and unseemly behavior.
  • Burgomasters in New Netherland pass a law forbidding the following activities on Sunday: drinking, sowing, mowing, building, sawing, smithing, bleaching, hunting, fishing, dancing, card playing, bowling, and jaunting in a boat or carriage.


  • The burgomaster of New Amsterdam outlaws the throwing of any rubbish, filth, oyster shells, dead animal or anything like it into the streets.


  • The estimated population of mainland British North America is sixty-four thousand, of which two thousand are of African descent.
  • The first divorce occurs in Delaware and involves a Finnish couple. It is found that the husband is an adulterer and the wife receives daily a severe drubbing and is expelled from the house like a dog.
  • In order to ensure more stable marriages Connecticut courts decree that all married men must reside with their wives. Any man found to be separated from his wife for three or more years is expelled from the colony.
  • A Virginia sumptuary law prohibits colonists from importing silke stuffe in garments or in peeces except for whoods and scarfs, nor silver or gold lace, nor bone lace of silk or threads, nor ribbands wrought with gold or silver in them.
  • May Massachusetts leaders forbid the celebration of Christmas and place a fine of five shillings on violators.


  • Town administrators hire Thomas Willsheer to keep the streets of Boston free of all Carrion & matters of Offenciue natuer.


  • After taking control of New Netherland, English authorities continue the Dutch law of 1590 permitting marriages by justices of the peace.


  • The first coffeehouse in America is established when Boston authorities grant a license to a female proprietor to sell coffee and chocolate.


  • In Massachusetts, Indian attacks are blamed for the sins of the people, including the manifest pride of wearing periwigs.
  • Thirty-eight women in Connecticut are brought to trial for wearing clothes not befitting their social stations. The magistrate accuses one young girl of wearing silk in a flaunting manner, in an offensive way and garb not only before but when she stood presented.


  • An English clergyman notes the heavy use of tobacco on the part of Dutch colonists. They are obstinate and incessant smokers, whose diet... being sailers and brawn and very often picked buttermilk, require the use of that herb to keep their phlegm from coagulating and curdling.


  • A dancing master arrives in Boston but is expelled by church elders who describe him as a person of very insolent & ill fame that Raues & scoffes at Religion.



  • A Huguenot minister is arrested for performing marriages in Boston.


  • 28 June King James II knights William Phips in ceremonies at Windsor Castle. Phips, the first American colonial to be knighted, is so honored for his recovery of a treasure ship off the coast of Hispaniola.


  • A street cleaner is hired by the town of New York for thirty pounds sterling a year.


  • June Gambling is rampant in all the colonies despite the various laws against it. A few days after Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston breaks up a card game he finds a pack of cards strewn over his lawn.


  • The population of mainland British North America reaches 260,000, of which 21,000 are of African descent.


  • Womens fashion in New York is described by one contemporary as follows:

    The English go very fasheonable in their dress. The Dutch, especially the middling sort,... in their habitt go loose... leaving their ears bare, which are sett out with Jewells of a large size and many in number. And their fingers hoopt with Rings, some with large stones in them of many Coullers as were their pendants in their ears, which You should see very old women wear as well as Young.

  • 28 Sept. A statute in Maryland legalizes the separation of a couple by a clergyman.


  • Intermarriage between white and black people is outlawed in Massachusetts Bay. A fine of fifty pounds sterling is assessed on any minister performing such a marriage. This statute remains in effect until 1843 when it is repealed.


  • Continual hunting almost eliminates the deer population on Long Island, New York, and results in a limited hunting season on that popular game. Two years later a similar restriction is placed on turkey, heath hen, partridge, and quail hunting.


  • An armed watch often men patrols the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, nightly.


  • One of the favorite nonalcoholic beverages in the colonies is chocolate.
  • The fashion of colonial elites is extravagant, with both sexes wearing high heels, stiff stays, and large curled wigs. Mens coat skirts are stiffened with buckram (heavy cotton or linen fabric). Hoops are used by women to support layers of skirts. Hairstyles among women are characterized by the tower, from the top of which hangs lappets, or lace pendants.
  • Slave codes go into effect in Virginia.
  • Waves of German immigrants begin to arrive in the colonies.
  • New York City employs public cartmen to remove trash placed before houses.


  • Officials in Philadelphia levy against reckless coachmen the first fines for speeding.


  • A wave of Scots-Irish immigration begins.


  • The selectmen of Boston order that the town be well fixed with Lights on all or Stormy Nights.
  • All lotteries are banned in New England.
  • Mar. A law in New Jersey declares it illegal for persons under the age of twenty-one to marry without parental consent.


  • May Connecticut passes a law prohibiting people from leaving their homes on Sundays unless to attend church or perform some indispensable community service.


  • In Boston the police force consists of twelve men who are instructed to walke Silently and Slowly, now and then to Stand Still and Listen in order to make discovery. And no smoaking to be on their walking rounds.


  • Benjamin Franklin founds the Leather Apron Club, later called the Junto, in Philadelphia. This group of artisans and merchants holds meetings in taverns to exchange books and discuss morals, politics, literature, and science.


  • In order to preserve its grass from carts and horses, Boston Common is enclosed. Soon it becomes the custom of men and women to stroll the Common after having their midday tea.
  • Drinking is extremely heavy in the colonies. In this year alone rum imports amount to 2,124,500 gallons, worth £25,000.


  • Summer resorts become popular among wealthy colonials, where they engage in horse races and have dances, tea parties, and lavish dinners. Some of the more well known resorts are Spring Garden, on the outskirts of Philadelphia; the Bath Spring, outside of Bristol, Pennsylvania; and New Shoreham and Prudence Island, near Newport, Rhode Island.


  • A Dutch burgher in New York, John van Zandt, horsewhips his slave to death for having been arrested by the night watch. The coroners jury concludes the Correction given by the Master was not the Cause of his Death, but it was by the Visitation of God.


  • Abraham Savage founds the first Masonic lodge in the colonies.


  • Funerals become more elaborate and expensive, and it is customary to give mourning rings or gloves at such events. At the funeral of Gov. Jonathan Belcher of Massachusetts his widow gives away one thousand pairs of gloves although the General Court had outlawed such extraordinary expenditures.
  • In an effort to suppress excessive drinking, town officials in Boston publish the names of those charged with drunkenness.


  • William Monat opens a coffeehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, where businessmen meet and notices of ship departures, sales, and other matters are posted. By this time all the major towns in the British colonies have coffeehouses.


  • The consumption of cider rivals that of beer in New York. A Swedish visitor notes the abundance of apple orchards and cider presses in the colony. In the winter hot cider is used, while in the summer it is mixed with water, sugar, and nutmeg.
  • A foreign traveler observes that Dutch settlers in New York have tea, bread, butter, and beef for breakfast; porridge and salad with vinegar but no oil for lunch; and a supper of bread, butter, and milk.



  • The population of mainland British North America nears 1.5 million, of which nearly 300,000 are of African descent.
  • Saint Valentine Days custom entails a young girl pinning five bay leaves to her pillow; if she dreams of her sweetheart, then she will marry him within the next year.

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