Tag Archives: Colonial History

How Not to Dry Gunpowder

My office is in the little village of Medford, New Jersey.  I have looked up many of the little hamlets I have visited in the American County Histories Collection but for some reason I had never looked up the place where I spend every weekday.

I looked it up tonight out of general curiosity and a desire to learn more about this old town and its history and buildings.

I found out that an old building right outside of town called “The Nail House” got that name because the original owner, Mark Reeve, invented the first machine to cut nails with a head and ran his small manufacturing facility in the building.

I also was reminded of what I love most about this collection.


The Postal Act: A Free Press, Personal Privacy and National Growth

The Postal Service Act was signed into law by President George Washington on February 20, 1792. This legislation that established the United States Post Office Department as a permanent part of the Federal government of the United States.

From the Queen Anne’s Act that created a deputy postmaster general for the colonies through the Constitutional Post proposition in the early days of the Revolution, the ability to disseminate information safely, quickly, and consistently was of paramount importance to both the British crown and the colonists.

Monopolistic control over the flow of information was a powerful tool that the British colonial leaders used to their advantage.

William Goddard (1740-1817) was one of several publishers who used was forced to use private carriers to get their news past the prying eyes of the Crown post. Goddard experienced the abuse of authority by British directly in Philadelphia after he and Benjamin Franklin began publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The paper was unashamedly sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. To help keep a damper on revolutionary ideas, the local Philadelphia Crown postmaster failed to deliver out-of-town newspapers to Goddard. This, of course, deprived Goddard of critical sources of news and information.


Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalog, Pennsylvania Newspaper Record, and South Carolina Newspapers

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue primarily is a listing of marriages, deaths and obituaries between 1818 and 1870 from the Village Record, published in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Also included, however, is information about emigration patterns, customs and traditions, important events, medical history, biographical data, and more.

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Recorddocuments the move to industrialization from a predominantly agrarian culture established by Quaker farmers in the 18th century. The collection contains full-text transcriptions of articles, advertisements and vital statistics, providing insight into technology, business activity and material culture in a down-river milling and manufacturing community at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

It includes material from the following newspapers:

  • Delaware County American, Media, PA (1851–1871)
  • Delaware County Democrat, Chester, PA (two issues)
  • Delaware County Republican, Darby & Chester, PA (1833–1870)
  • The Post Boy, Chester, PA (few issues)
  • The Upland Union, Chester, PA (1825–1835; 1850–1852)

The Carolina Gazette

The Carolina Gazette contains a wealth of information on colonial and early American History and genealogy, and provides an accurate glimpse of life in South Carolina and America, with additional coverage of events in Europe, during the early days of this country.  The material is taken from the following 5 newspapers:

  • The South Carolina Gazette (1732-1775)
    South Carolina’s first successful newspaper was begun in 1732 and released its final issue in December, 1775. A “middle of the road” paper, the Gazette printed news of Europe, what the royalty had worn at the last formal event, news of the colony, notices of births, deaths, marriages and estate auctions, and advertisements, including those for runaway slaves. It contains a wealth of information on colonial/early American history and genealogy, and provides an accurate glimpse of life in South Carolina and America prior to the advent of the American Revolution.
  • The South Carolina & American General Gazette (1764-1775)
    Begun in 1764 by Robert Wells, it had many subscribers in other colonies by the mid-1770s, and was the only paper in the state to publish the full text of the Declaration of Independence. Ironically Wells, a loyalist, eventually was forced to leave the state.
  • The South Carolina Gazette & Country Journal (1765-1775)
    This publication was heavily pro-American and nearly always included scandalous stories of European royalty. While it tended to be “stuffy,” it was the only paper to discuss citizens who would not be considered among the elite in society.
  • The Gazette of the State of South-Carolina (1777-1780)
    One of several newspapers published in Charles Town, this paper was concerned primarily with regional happenings. It was established in 1777 by Peter Timothy, and was published by him and Nicholas Boden. Publication was suspended temporarily January 15–June 17, 1778, because the printing office was destroyed by fire.
  • The Charlestown Gazette (1779-1780)
    Printed weekly between 1778 and 1780 by Mary Crouch and Co., it was founded in special opposition to the Stamp Act, but also excelled at local news coverage while providing extensive listings of both marriages and deaths. Mary Crouch later moved to Salem, Massachusetts, where she continued publication for several years.


Inns of the Early U.S. in Pictures

Yesterday’s post described some of the early U.S. inns.  Here are pictures of 3 of them, taken from the same source.  Note that Clark’s Inn is located “facing the State House, on Chestnut St.”  The State House is now called Independence Hall.

Blue Anchor Inn and Dock Creek

Penny Pot-House and Landing

Clark's Inn - Philadelphia

American County Histories

Inns of the Early U.S.

The inns of the early U.S. are a far cry from the comfortable hotels we can stay in today.  Here is a description of one of them, taken from the History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, as found in the Accessible Archives database:


H0000110 HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA. 1609 – 1884. J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott. L.H. EVERTS & CO, 1884, p. 980.

IN olden times, such a thing as the modern hotel, with its fashionably-dressed and all-important clerk its vast smoking-room, carpeted parlors, gilt mouldings, and other luxurious appointments, was unknown. The modest inn accommodated “man and beast,” and the jolly landlord welcomed the wearied traveler,— and fleeced him, too, when the occasion offered,— and an active, bright-eyed barmaid waited on him, and provided those simple comforts,— a pipe a pair of slippers, a glass of hot punch or a tankard of foaming ale, and a cosy corner near the tap-room fire. If the cloth was coarse it was generally white and clean, at least in respectable establishments, and the plain deal table groaned under the weight of viands which, if they presented no great variety, were well cooked and wholesome. Our fathers were great eaters and stout drinkers, and there was no need of a French menu and wines with high-sounding names to whet their appetites; roast beef, a leg of mutton, ham and cabbage, a fat fowl, were the solid dishes laid before them; ale, port or Madeira wine, and a glass of Jamaica rum and hot water to top off, left them in a pretty good condition to find sleep on the clean bed,—sometimes a hard one,— prepared for them in the small room, whose bare floors, whitewashed walls, and plain curtains, did not invite dreams of palatial splendors.

The tavern, though it accommodated guests with bed and board, had more of the character of a drinking-house. The inn was rural in its origin, the tavern originated in the city, and was frequented not merely by topers and revelers, but by quiet citizens, bachelors having no fireside of their own, and men of family who went there to meet neighbors and discuss business or the news, while enjoying a quiet glass and pipe. The ordinary was an eating-house, something between the restaurant and the boardinghouse of our day. Coffee-houses, so called, which dispensed intoxicating drinks as well as the fragrant decoction of the Arabian bean, made their appearance later; they were but taverns in an aristocratic disguise.


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