There were few packing houses where meat was packed in large quantities, and many families in the country, or cities, put up their own meat, and had their own smoke houses, using hickory chips to make the smoke.
In the country, as a rule, people dressed very plainly, mostly in home spun goods. In the cities, there were some, (not many) gentlemen, who wore ruffled shirt bosoms, cuffs and even collars, frequently most elaborately pleated, brass buttons, buff or white clothes, and boot straps to hold their trousers down, as you see in the pictures of Brother Jonathan, or Uncle Sam. Many ladies had elaborate toilets, and elegant brocade silk dresses. Occasionally, not often, a carriage would be driven with one or two footmen, who rode behind standing – both driver and footman in livery. This was a relic of nobility, from the old country, and copied by some of our ultra class. It is not generally known that the beautiful songster, the Baltimore Oriole, is named after the liveried servants of Lord Baltimore, whose livery was black and gold.
William Wirt, who defended Aaron Burr on the charge of treason, dressed elaborately. When Burr engaged him in his defense, he had him to solemnly promise he would not drink during the trial, as he had a weakness that way. Instead of drinking, Wirt had plates of bread cut in small cubes, soaked in whisky, which he ate during his main speech, which cleared Burr of the charge. On one occasion, Wirt, who was always absorbed in his thoughts while in motion, walked against a cow. Without noticing it, he politely bowed, saying – “I beg your pardon, madam,” and passed on. On another occasion, he walked off the Pratt Street dock, soiling his elaborate toilet.
Before the days of furnaces, bath rooms, and hundreds of other conveniences we now have, people lived, moved, and had their being, nearly the same as now, but now they do not use warming pans to warm up the beds, and do not have to turn around to warm first their front, then their backs, before a brisk hickory fire, nor do they use foot tubs for washing their bodies, yet in those days people lived and were happy.
In olden times, it was the custom for watchmen to call out the hours of the night. “It is half past one o’clock and a starlight night,” and bell-men went around the street ringing a bell calling – “Lost child – little boy – three years old, etc.” describing the child.
But few, if any, houses had water in them. I remember going out in the yard in the winter, as well as in summer and letting the water run over me from the hydrant.
I think in the fifties, it was, when we had a long tailed comet, which extended from horizon to horizon. It was a grand sight. For some reason, I did not see, or, do not remember the meteoric shower of 1833, which is said to have been one of the most wonderful pyrotechnic exhibitions ever produced, causing great fear among many ignorant people, and probably some who were not so ignorant.
In the fifties, I frequently saw steamboats from the Missouri River loaded with Buffalo robes, packed in bales, about the size of cotton bales. These bales were piled on the decks of the boats, like we now see cotton bales. This shows the great numbers of wild buffalos there were, but they had to give way to civilization.
In early days steel pens were unknown, quills were used, nor were envelopes used. A letter would be folded so one side slipped into the other fold, and a wafer or sealing wax was used to fasten them together. Blotting paper was unknown and black sand was used to absorb the superfluous ink. Postage was 25c for a single letter.