Lifestyles in the Thirteen Colonies

Lifestyles in the Thirteen Colonies


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Lifestyles in the Thirteen Colonies

Before the start of the American Revolution, the majority of colonists made their living farming. Success depended on them growing a wide variety of crops, and whatever they grew extra, they sold or traded. Most of the foods that are available today were available during the colonial times. While tomatoes existed, they were still largely a wild plant and not considered to be edible. This was in spite of the fact that Native Americans had eaten them for centuries. Above all, the Colonists enjoyed a good ham, and every colony boasted that they had the best.

Colonists enjoyed getting up in the morning and having a stiff belt of hard cider. This ritual was even practiced by the very religious Quakers. The colonists also enjoyed wine and rum. Milk was not a popular drink, and as a result their teeth suffered. Colonists' teeth were usually terrible because they loved drinking tea and coffee with large amounts of sugar. Unfortunately, at the time, dentists did not exist. The average woman lost half of their teeth by the age of thirty. By the 1760's, false teeth were already beginning to appear.

Medical doctors were also very hard to find. Less than 200 people had medical degrees before the war. However, many more claimed to be doctors. They basically administered three drugs which were Carmelo, quinine, and mercury. Many doctors practiced Indian shaman medicine. They bled the sick, placed them in icy cold water, sweated the patient, and sometimes gave them laxatives.

Colonists entertained themselves by dancing and playing musical instruments. Thomas Jefferson played the violin 3 hours a day, and Benjamin Franklin could play the guitar, violin, and harp. The violin, flute, and recorder were the most popular instruments among the men, while the women largely enjoyed the harpsichord and piano. At the time, the recorder was called the German flute. The colonists also enjoyed attending concerts and theater. Almost all of the live theater of this time included music, and the musicians were very well paid. Dancing was equally popular. The favorite dance instruction book of the colonies was called “The English Dance Master,” and it contained 918 dances.

Fashions were all the rage in the colonies, and bright plush velvet was definitely popular. George Washington was known to hunt in a black velvet cap, with a jacket made of scarlet cloth and gold lace. Satin and silk stockings were also popular. Small waists were important, so women wore a tightly laced corsets, which were made from whalebone. At the same time, hoop skirts were in fashion. Before a ball or concert, some women would spend the day at their hairdresser. Hairstyles during the 1770's featured towers of hair as high as 2 feet of real and artificial hair. Women of this era spent a lot of money on cosmetic “paints” that made their cheeks rosy, and resisted perspiration. It was not uncommon for women of 14 to marry, and almost all women were married by the age of 18. Divorce was not common, and a wife's property legally belonged to her husband. At this time the houses were very small, and the families were big, making privacy almost non-existent.