1754-1783: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Publications
1754-1783: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Publications
Anthony Benezet, Observations on the Inslaving, Importing and Purchasing of Negroes (Germantown, Pa.: C. Sower, 1760)—In Observations he stated: “I am bold to assert, that the notion entertained by some, that the blacks are inferior to the Whites in their capacities, is a vulgar prejudice, founded on the Pride or Ignorance of their lordly Masters, who have kept their Slaves at such a distance, as to be unable to form a right judgment of them”;
Benezet, The Perfect Enemies of America Laid Open: Being Some Account of the Baneful Effects Attending the Use of Distilled Spirituous Liquors, and the Slavery of the Negroes (Philadelphia: Printed by J. James, 1774)—Benezet was a Philadelphia Quaker and a schoolteacher who worked tirelessly for social justice in the mid eighteenth century. He founded a night school for blacks in 1759 and wrote books denouncing war and slavery and advocating the rights of Native Americans;
Reverend Andrew Burnaby, Travels through the Middle Settlements in North America in the Years 1759 and 1760, with Observations upon the State of the Colonies (London: T. Payne, 1775)—a detailed travel account that, contrary to its title, describes conditions from Massachusetts to Virginia. Burnaby is best at describing natural phenomena and takes a condescending, Tory view of American government and institutions;
Michel Guillaume Jean (J. Hector St. John) de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer: Describing Certain Provincial Situations, Manners and Customs, Not Generally Known, and Conveying some Idea of the Late and Present Interior Circumstances of the British Colonies in North America (London: Printed for Davies & Davis, 1782)—De Crèvecoeur was a French officer in the French and Indian War who settled in New York after the British victory in Canada, taking up the life of a farmer, as he describes himself in the title of his book. He traveled widely in diverse parts of North America observing manners, customs, and frontier life in the colonies. His book was extremely popular in France and England and gave Europeans their first views of American life;
Encyclopédie Perruquière (Paris, 1762)—The Encyclopedia of Wigs was a guidebook for men of fashion describing and illustrating more than 115 styles of hair-pieces. For prominent and wealthy colonists, keeping abreast of European fashions was a must, and books on clothing and etiquette were popular in America. The wig was a particularly important item of fashion, and it was essential to wear precisely the style appropriate to one’s profession or station in life;
Benjamin Rush, Sermons to Gentlemen upon Temperance and Exercise (Philadelphia: John Dunlap, 1772)—Published anonymously, this was among the first American works on hygiene and a pioneering work devoted to moderation in drink and physical health. Rush exhibits staggering common sense for this time period, when alcohol was consumed at nearly every meal and was thought to be a tonic for a thousand ills;
Samuel Stearns, North American Almanack for 1776 (Worcester, Mass., 1776)—Stearns’s almanac was one of the best of a genre that was vastly popular in the 1760s and 1770s. It was published yearly throughout the period and like others of its ilk, published information about astronomical and astrological phenomena, sunsets, tides, and weather predictions. It also contains verse, recipes, lists of public officials, tables of distances, and other items of interest. Most important, almanacs contain commentary on current events and politics, which helped keep Americans informed on the significant events of the Revolutionary period. Stearns’s 1776 issue contains a graphic description of the Battle of Lexington;
John Trumbull, M’Fingal (Philadelphia: Printed & sold by William & Thomas Bradford, 1776; Hartford, Conn.: Hudson & Goodwin, 1782)—a poem in four parts, two of which were published in 1776 and the final two published six years later. This epic work satirizes the cause of Loyalists and was a political argument for independence. It was widely popular in the colonies;
Noah Webster, A Grammatical Institute, of the English Language, part I (Hartford, Conn.: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin for the author, 1783)—the famous blue-backed speller that taught schoolchildren in the American vernacular for generations. It has never gone out of print and is estimated to have sold one hundred million or more copies.
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