The Second Turn, 1780-1820
Lesson 10: Dwellings - The Message of Houses and Their Contents, 1780-1820
Activity 1- one 60 minute session plus homework time
Activity 2- one 60 minute session plus homework time
Activity 3- one 60 minute session plus homework time
Activity 4- one 60 minute session plus homework time
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|Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background
Architectural styles of the times reflected the economic status and taste of the individuals who owned the houses. As this turn of the century proceeded from 1780 to 1820, many changes occurred in communication, transportation, technology, and economic opportunity that were reflected in the houses and what was in them. Landscapes around the houses also changed, reflecting changing tastes and increased availability and interest in plant materials.
For more information, read:
Teacher Background Essay: Dwellings - The Message of Houses and Their Contents
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|Intended Learning Outcomes
Students will understand that:
1. Houses and their contents and landscapes can reveal a great deal about social conditions, living standards, culture, and taste.
2. Architectural styles and household furnishings reflected the economic status and taste of the individuals who owned the houses.
Students will be able to:
1. Read and analyze historical documents.
2. Use primary sources such as inventories, clothing, and houses to extract information and make logical inferences.
3. Observe and draw artifacts.
4. Interpret a floor plan.
5. Create interpretive labels for artifacts
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|In Preparation for Teaching
1. Review Teacher Background Essay: Dwellings - The Message of Houses and Their Contents and Student Background Essay: Gardens in Deerfield.
2. Make copies of the William Stoddard Williams planting plan and diagram of John Wilson's orchard.
3. Download and print copies of the photographs and floor plans
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Primary and Secondary Sources:
1. Student Background Essay: Gardens in Deerfield
2. Dr. William Stoddard Williams' planting plan
3. Diagram of John Wilson's orchard and his list of trees, 1829
4. Inventory of Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams (1761-1838)
5. Inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783) (from Lesson 9):
6. Photographs of outside and inside of Wells-Thorn House
7. Photographs of Hinsdale Williams House and rooms
8. Floor plans of the Wells-Thorn house; floor plans of the Williams house
1. Student notebooks.
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||Materials in Context
1. Distribute copies of the inventory of Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams (1761-1835) and take out copies of the inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783) from Lesson 9. Explain to students that the Williams inventory was made more than fifty years after the Wells inventory.
2. Instruct students to study the inventories and to notice the differences between them. Discuss. [Teacher note: BR = bedroom, K = Kitchen, NC = north chamber, etc. Chambers are always second floor rooms which were used as bedrooms or for storage.] Have students notice especially the number of rooms, the section on books, and values being listed in dollars rather than pounds.
3. Distribute copies of the floor plans for the Wells house and the Williams house. As a class, identify the rooms and label them. Discuss the differences.
1. Write a paragraph about the differences between the inventories and the house plans of the Wells and Williams families. What do those differences suggest about how the life of the Williams family was different from the Wells family so many years later?
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Inventory of Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams (1761-1838)
Inventory of Ebenezer Wells (1730-1783), page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4.
Floor plans of the Wells-Thorn house
Floor plans of the Williams house
B. Wells-Thorn House
1. Ask students to look at the photograph of the outside of the Wells-Thorn House. After 1750, the house was enlarged. Ask them to notice the differences in the two sections of the house and discuss these differences. Ask:
- Which section do you think is the older? Why? (middle section- smaller size, fewer & smaller windows, no paint or ornamentation)
- Why might the house have been enlarged? (change in family size and fashion)
- What makes it possible for the newer section to have more and bigger windows, paint, and more ornamentation? (changes in technology, more cash, life was more secure, keeping up with the neighbors)
2. Instruct students to sketch both parts of the house in their notebooks.
3. Review pictures of the older section of the Wells-Thorn House (Lesson 4) and have a brief discussion about the contents of the rooms and what they tell us about the earlier time period.
4. Ask students to look at the photographs of the four rooms in the newer section of the Wells-Thorn house. Tell them that each room in this museum was furnished to represent a different time period. The first (south) parlor dates to 1775, the second (north) parlor represents 1800, the first (north) chamber is 1815, and the second (south) chamber is 1830. Note that the word parlor came from the French word "parler", which means, "to speak". These were rooms for talking and entertaining. The word "chamber" came from the French word "chambre", which means room. Chambers were usually bedrooms.
5. In the 1775 south parlor notice:
- the bed located in parlor (this would have been the "best" bed)
- curtains found only on the bed (textiles were expensive, and most people did not have carpets or curtains at their windows)
- the high chest (made by Simeon Pomeroy in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1775) which has curved legs, decorative carved shells, and brass hardware
- (chest is cherry with a mahogany finish; table with drop leaves is cherry
with a mahogany finish)
- paneled walls which are painted in a fashionable color and painted "crooked back" chairs
plastered and painted ceiling (with no more threat from Native Americans, lime needed for plaster could be brought to Deerfield from the western part of Massachusetts.)
more windows that are also larger (glass was cheaper and threats of attack had diminished.)
- shutters for warmth
- built-in corner cupboard filled with fancy things
- big fireplace with crane (cooking could have taken place here, even
though it is a parlor)
6. Instruct students to sketch 3 artifacts from the room in their notebooks. Along with each sketch, ask students to make notes about the artifact, its materials, design, and use.
7. Hold a discussion that encourages students to use their observations about the room's contents to make inferences about how the room was used and about life and attitudes in 1775.
8. In the 1800 north parlor notice:
- best room - no bed, no cooking
- room for having tea
- furniture around the edges of the room shows a room not being used.
- Furniture was moved around as needed and then replaced around the walls.
- clock (made in Northampton, Massachusetts - cherry, finished to look like mahogany)
- desk and bookcase (writing and reading done here, also cherry
finished to look like mahogany)
- walls papered (a new fashionable option for room decoration)
- window seats
- narrower floor boards (big trees running out, floors still scoured, became unfashionable to have wide boards)
- rose color - warm colors for the north side of the house
- folding window blinds (for privacy, warmth, and light control)
9. Instruct students to sketch three artifacts from the room in their notebooks. Along with each sketch, ask students to make notes about the artifact, its materials, design, and use.
10. Hold a discussion that encourages students to use their observations about the room's contents to make inferences about how the room was used and about life and attitudes in 1800. Ask:
- What are the differences between the uses of the 1775 parlor and the 1800 parlor? (1775- used for cooking, sleeping, entertaining, was an all-purpose room; 1800- no sleeping or cooking, mainly used as a study & for entertaining)
- Why is the 1800 parlor less of an all-purpose room? (The house now has more rooms with specialized purposes.)
- Why is the house set up this way? (It is a time of peace, the family's growing prosperity, and fashion of the times)
- What items in the 1800 parlor are signs of increased consumerism? More goods were made and marketed locally as opposed to European made goods. Values associated with purchased goods communicated a family's refinement. (clock, desk, books, wallpaper, mirror)
11. In the 1815 north chamber upstairs, ask students to notice:
- wallpaper and printed curtain fabric on the bed and at the windows -deer hide trunk - used for storage at a time when there were no closets; these were also used for traveling;
- fancy chairs - easily moved, decorated with paint
- card table - expandable for board games and entertaining; made locally using an English pattern book
- painted floor (wide boards upstairs in a non-public room, maybe finished in 1770s)
12. Instruct students to sketch 3 artifacts from the room in their notebooks.
13. Along with each sketch, ask students to make notes about the artifact, its materials, design, and use.
14. Hold a discussion that encourages students to use their observations about the room's contents to make inferences about how the room was used and about life and attitudes in 1815.
- What items in the 1815 chamber are signs of increased prosperity? (The bed hangings were made in England of printed cotton. There are curtains at the window. )
- What does the presence of a washstand in the room say about habits? (The washstand acknowledges the routine of regularized washings. Its presence in the chamber shows that daily washing moved from the kitchen to a private space. Washable cotton fabric and the washstand show evidence of cleanliness, which improved their health standards.)
15. In the 1830 south chamber (also upstairs) ask students to notice:
- no fireplace
- Venetian blinds made of wood and painted
- decorated chairs ("fancy" chairs)
- mirror, washstand
- grass matting from China on floor
16. Instruct students to sketch 3 artifacts from the room in their notebooks.
17. Along with each sketch, ask students to make notes about the artifact, its materials, design, and use.
18. Hold a discussion that encourages students to use their observations about the room's contents to make inferences about how the room was used and about life and attitudes in 1830. Ask: What does the absence of a fireplace tell you? (The room was on the south side, relied on solar heat, and was used for sleeping and storage).
Homework Assignment for Activity 2:
1. Select one artifact to draw from each room that illustrates the progression of taste and style, 1775-1830.
2. Write a catalog label for each of their drawings.
3. Write a few paragraphs that describe the changes between the 1775 and 1800 parlors and the front and middle sections of the Wells-Thorn House and what made it possible for these changes to occur.
Follow-up to Activity 2:
Put a good sample of drawings on the class time line at 1780-1820.
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Photos of the exterior of the Wells-Thorn House:
Photos of the interior of the Wells-Thorn House:
C. Anna and Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams House
1. Instruct students to look at the Hinsdale Williams house exterior.
2. This is the house of Ebenezer and Anna Williams, whose inventory students read in Activity 2. This house began with four rooms built in the 1750s.
3. Instruct students to sketch artifacts and take notes as before. As students view the rooms in #5-9 below, they should make note of anything reflecting the existence of increased consumer goods, changing fashion, and technological change.
4. Best Parlor. Notice:
- carpet from England
- French wallpaper
- "fancy" chairs (decorated with paint/gilt)-cupboard on one side of the fireplace, other side a matching door with no cupboard; this second door was added for the sake of symmetry, which was very important at this time.
- sofa, new form of furniture
- fireboard placed against the fireplace opening in the summer.
5. Family parlor (south side). Notice:
- many books (Mr. Williams had graduated from Harvard College)
- floor padded and covered with painted canvas
- padded chair
- slatted curtains - Venetian blinds
- desk and bookcase
6. Dining room. Notice:
- table with dishes from China (Today china is a generic term for dishes, but these porcelain dishes were imported from China.)
- cupboard with more dishes, from China and England
- arches very fashionable
- wallpaper from Boston
7. Kitchen. Notice:
- no sink, no refrigerator (separate pantry was on the colder north side)
- fireplace with bake oven in wall, covered by a door when the oven was not in use
- cast iron stove
- all surfaces plastered and painted
8. Census records of 1820 and 1830 show that unrelated people lived in the house. Who do you think they were? (farm hands, household help, Deerfield Academy students). Some information may be inferred from the ages of the boarders.
Homework for Activity 3:
1. Draw 3 artifacts that show the wealth and advanced living standards of the people living in the Hinsdale Williams House.
2. Write museum labels for these artifacts.
3. Write a few paragraphs to illustrate the wealth of the Williams family.
Follow-up to Activity 3:
1. Place some artifact drawings on the 1780-1820 section of the class time line.
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Photos of the exterior of the Hinsdale Williams house:
Photos of the interior of the Hinsdale Williams house:
D. A Planting Plan
1. Distribute Student Background Essay: Gardens in Deerfield, Massachusetts, Dr. William Stoddard Williams' planting plan, and the diagram of John Wilson's orchard.
2. Instruct students to read the student background essay and notice the variety of seeds available for sale in Greenfield, Massachusetts at this time (1820). Discuss.
3. Have students look closely at Williams' planting plan. Ask:
- Count how many varieties of radishes Williams is growing. Why might he be growing that many?
- Do they think his garden is typical of others in town?
4. Ask students to look at the diagram of John Wilson's orchard, noting the
variety of fruits he grew. Ask:
- What will John Wilson's family do with the produce from this orchard?
- Notice and discuss the order with which John Wilson has plotted the garden. What is the advantage of a plan? [To anticipate the size the plants will be at maturity influences the plan.]
5. As a class, brainstorm the following questions and discuss:
- What factors influenced the plan of a garden? (Think about the light, soil, size of family, and variety of needs.)
- At this time in rural America nearly everyone had a garden. Why are gardens so important in these years? (Think about this being before the railroad, supermarket, lawn mower, etc.)
- Cash was limited in this period, how might one's garden operate in the community's trade network? [For more information, see the exhibit area on Getting Things.]
Homework for Activity 4:
Write a few paragraphs that answer the following questions: Why do you think there would not be garden plans for the period 1680-1720? What specifically about the plans indicates attention to beautification of the landscape? If you were a passerby, what in particular would you notice about the house and grounds that would lead you to believe that E. H. Williams was a prosperous farmer?
Student Background Essay: Gardens in Deerfield
Dr. William Stoddard Williams' planting plan
Diagram of John Wilson's orchard and his list of trees, 1829
Exhibit: Getting Things
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Use Homework for Activities 1-4 to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.
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