Thursday, October 25, 2012

OH MY GO*, HOLY &*(!


Holy crap! I was learning how to put up multiple layers of framed paintings from the crown molding, when the unthinkable happened. NO, I was not the one! But, yes! Someone dropped a painting from the early 1800's. The painting already had a fairly large rip along with some scarring on the frame. So, if any were to have been dropped, at least it was the one that was already damaged. When it happened, I could just stand there with my hands over my mouth. The frame pretty much shattered, with the beautiful gold gilt flying all over the landing. So sad! I felt like the man in the painting had been personally hurt. I felt bad even though it was an inanimate object.
I hate to say it, though... at least I wasn't the one that did it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Farming As Fashion (Part Two)

Farming As Fashion

(Part Two of Three)


Georgian Farming Technique Changes

Deforestation had not been segregated to the seventeenth century alone. Losing forests came at a faster clip during the eighteenth century. The planting of grain in the areas where the unwanted woods had been removed created a visual reminder of Britain’s ability to conquer and bend nature to the will of the English gentleman farmer. “We convert huge forests into pleasing fields, and exhibit through these… provinces so singular a display of easy subsistence and… felicity” that every one beheld their beauty.[1] The government created a formal analysis of whether the loss of oak (that had been the foundation of the ship building economy) was economically feasible when placed alongside the proposed increase of cereal that was to feed the nation.[2] So much oak had indeed been lost, that farmers had been encouraged to plant oaks alongside drives and used as borders.

Border hedges enclosed other areas that had previously been considered wasteland. Fens, which were low-lying lands that had been usually covered in water such as marshes and bogs, began to be drained by rerouting rivers. The Bedford River became the Old Bedford River, and the New Bedford River by straightening out the waterway into two direct lines, and speeding up the flow.[3] New windmill drainage also assisted in the draining of the lowlands. This, in fact, speeded up the process. Over 700 windmills, costing around £17,000 drained some 30,000 acres of fenland.[4] “Drainage schemes were often uncoordinated, so that drainage of one portion of the fen was often achieved at the expense of inundation others… Arable land use was also at a low level in the silt fens for much of the eighteenth century.”[5] Because of such conditions, landlords allowed, “Only limited conversion to tilth.”[6] As a result of small leaseholds required by the large landholders, by the end of the eighteenth century, the fenlands had gone from fishing and fowling areas to some of the most productive farmland in the country. Most of the arable fields and improved pastures had been the best grazing marsh in the country. Suppressing common rights of the people had awarded the absentee landlords much property in these areas. [7]

Grazing land became plowed fields, and vice versa for landlords in Georgian England. Many different experiments occurred as the farmer tried to find out which formulation created the better use of property.  This was because “no growth in real grain output early in the eighteenth century” occurred.[8] It was generally understood, however, that the larger farms were much more productive. Simply meaning, that where there was more land, more produce should have been grown.

Because of larger production, it was also understood that the larger plantations had the surpluses, opulence, and social position that the smaller farms did not.[9] These large estates still did not generate profits as “nine-tenths of the… planters of [the] day were… failures”.[10] Washington’s profit of his estate, considered profitable for the century, had a return of only 2.25%.[11] He was “a good businessman” and made “farming pay”.[12] If such a low return was considered profitable, and he had been a better businessperson and farmer than the average husbandman of the time, then this was simple proof that farming had been unprofitable, even for the large elite plantation owners.

Plantation owners of this time tried to procure higher output by changing the rotation system from the three-field system to a four-field system. Losing fallow land and planting crops that placed nitrogen back into the soil helped this situation. Turnips and clover were the two main nitrogen-bearing fodder crops that revolutionized the country, and therefore the world. Created in Norfolk, the system retained the region’s location as its title.[13] The Norfolk four-field system took over the world, not necessarily because it revolutionized farming methods (which it did), but because of the reports that the larger estates had started using it. The popularity of the methods used by the elites raced throughout England. Even with this new system, “little.. fortune was made by the sale of products from… farm[s]. Few farmers [had] grown rich that way…. Wealth was due in part to inheritance and a fortunate marriage, and most of all to the incremental increase on land.”[14] Many estate owners were “shrewd enough to buy at a low rate and hold until it became more valuable.”[15]

Valuable estates produced the principal crop of wheat, just as most of England and her colonies.  Other crops included barley, oats, peas, beans, and tobacco, and the fodder crops of turnips and clover where also grown. Rye had been the principle food crop at the beginning of the century, but was replaced by the higher yielding, and more popular wheat very early on.[16] Barley had surpassed wheat as principal crop in the latter half of the eighteenth century, but wheat regained its role as leader in 1800. Rye output dropped dramatically at that time, never to be a leader again.[17] The Georgians had not been interested in yield, as such, but more interested in sales price.[18] As output had not kept up with demand, prices rose, but profit did not because labor prices also increased.[19] Since “for the wealthy, the countryside was not agriculture”, this simply had not been important to them.[20]

Agriculture’s Norfolk System created a system where fodder plants grew instead of allowing the field to lay fallow. The fodder was then collected and delivered directly to the animals. Animals had been “increasingly stall fed” during the eighteenth century, which “allowed for better husbanding of animal manure.”[21] Gangs of women and children went into the field and pulled the crop and carried it to the animals. The animals then devoured the crop in their winterized location.  Corn straw was then placed in the stall as feed and bedding for the animals. The animals urinated and defecated on the bedding, which allowed for composition of the straw. At the end of this procedure, this fully loaded manure was taken and laid out over the fields as fertilizer by the working field men.[22]

Fertilization of fields had occurred for centuries, but this newly, high potent soil conditioner encouraged better cultivation. Fields of better grass also stimulated the improvement of pasture animals. This would never had occurred if enclosure had not increased dramatically during the eighteenth century.[23] There had been four main outcomes of the further enclosing of the countryside. Enclosure dealt the “final blow to a long-established lower-class domestic economy.”[24] It allowed for higher output and better profits to those with more property. Enclosure allowed the “greedy tyrannies of the wealthy few to oppress the indignant many.[25]” More importantly, it fundamentally changed the landscape physically, and also “turned the land into an absolute private property” of which the wealthy owners, who had owned most of the enclosed land, could boast ownership.[26]

Owners and husbandmen found it easier to boast the most modern technology. Threshing machines had been introduced late in the 1700s.[27] Just as modern men, the Georgians produced their equipment with pride whenever possible. George Washington proudly showed his horse-drawn threshing machine to many visitors.[28] Seed drills had been invented in the seventeenth century, but did not become fashionable until the eighteenth. Even though they technically did not make any significant change in output, many farmers began using them.[29] The newest ploughs had been improved. This was accomplished by the advancing functionality, and the stronger materials used in their manufacturing. Steel was harder, which allowed the fertilizer to be turned into the under layers of earth, which also allowed the seeds to be planted easier.[30] St. John de Crevecoeur proudly boasted to his friend, “Had you never tried, you never had learned how to mend and make your ploughs.”[31]

Ploughs of the general population of farmers had obviously been of lesser quality than those used by the wealthier husbandmen, which was also true of their livestock. The peasantry began their agricultural revolution foray of livestock with pigs. Pigs had been the very first animals that were bred specifically for better quality food. These animals were chosen because of their large litters, short gestational period, and their ready reproduction.[32] Bacon, being the main product for hogs, needed to have extremely high fat content during this time period. Breeding books were not kept regularly for these experiments until 1791, of which the “date of the birth of the piglets (known as the ‘brawning’), the size of litter, and the number of piglets born alive and dead, as well as the number reared” were the only things that were recorded.[33] Even here, there had been no mention of their quality, and there was no appreciation of breeds included either.[34] However, breeding did affect end use, and the carcass weight (the weight of the animal after slaughter) was considered the best price, even if this was not necessarily cost effective after all of the expenditures of raising the animal had been tallied. [35] A very fat animal had more meat than a thinner one, and the animals with large carcasses were fashionable beginning in the late seventeenth century and continued through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries.[36]

The middle of the eighteenth century also saw changes in sheep farming. Until this time, the animal had mainly been kept for manure purposes. Breeding moved sheep into wool production as “market conditions were such as to form a strong inducement to attend to the production of wool to the neglect of the carcass.”[37] The 1720’s found that English wool prices dropped as Irish wool became more fashionable.[38] Then, as the middle of the century dawned along with the popular four-field agricultural system, the sheep once again moved to a manure-based animal. However, the long woolen sheep which produced better manure also grew the better wool that was soft and wearable.[39] Once again, popularity ruled the breeding process. During the latter half of the century prices fell, only to rise during the Napoleonic Wars. This sales increase obviously occurred because of the needs for uniforms for the soldiers.[40] Prices fell again, this time dramatically, due to an over abundance of stock. Heavy duties were then issued to foreign fleece to try and keep wool prices high for the Brits. Along with increasing the wool supply, this tariff ended up having the opposite effect than the one desired. [41] Pride had kept this industry going, not income.

Originally Written for class at American Military University

[1]J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. Letters from an American Farmer. (1782), Location 408. Kindle Edition.
[2] Citation needed
[3]  Williamson, 103.
[4] Ibid, 109.
[5] Ibid, 107.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 107, 108, 112.
[8] Turner, 327.
[9] Ibid, 416.
[10] Haworth, 2616.
[11] Ibid, 2675.
[12] Ibid, 2693.
[13] Turner, 873.
[14] Haworth, 2616.
[15] Ibid, 2621.
[16] Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell. Images of the Past: Farming Industry. (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books, LTD., 2010.), 7.
[17] Turner, 847.
[18] Ibid, 564.
[19] Ibid, 249.
[20] Manor House, Episode Four, Video, produced by Caroline Ross-Perie (2003; Arlington, VA: PBS: Public Broadcasting System, 2012.)
[21] Turner, 282.
[22] Taylor Speer-Sims. “Landscape Changes Caused by Different Farming Techniques”. (Charles Town, WV: APUS, September 7, 2012). (Accessed September 27, 2012).
[23] Turner, 1062.
[24] Porter.
[25] Ibid, 211-212.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Turner, 1114.
[28] Haworth, 2555.
[29] Turner, 1098.
[30] Haworth, 1008.
[31] de Crevecoeur, 498.
[32] Turner, 51.
[33] Ibid, 1168.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid, 1983.
[36] Ibid, 1991.
[37] J. A. Perkins. Sheep Farming in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Lincolnshire. (Lincolnshire: Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, 1977.),  6.
[38] Ibid, 12.
[39] Ibid, 15.
[40] Ibid, 17.
[41] Ibid, 20.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Decision Made!

So, as some of you know, I had a huge problem with the place that I have been renting for the past seven years. My landlord stopped paying the mortgage, even though I continued to pay the rent. The bank took possession of my home, and now I have to find a new place. Yes, I was beginning to look throughout the East Coast, as well as back in Tennessee, where my family still resides for the most part, thinking that I had some time. Unfortunately, I do not. :(

Today, the crucial decision was finally cast. I am going back to Tennessee until I finish my Master's program. This trek will commence two weeks from today. This is the best decision for me and my children. I will miss everyone here in Aurora/Naperville, Illinois! I promise to keep you in my thoughts and not forget you. I hope that you will all still continue to love me and wish me (and Dean and Sid) well as we push into new territory!

Wish us well!

Monday, October 22, 2012

PBS Showing of BBC's "Queens Palaces"

House History Show on Britain's Royal Residence Palaces

Last Sunday I found, quite by accident a BBC special that aired on PBS about one of the Royal Palaces. The show was on Windsor Castle, which those that know and love me know that this is definitely one of the places that I adore! So, even though my boyfriend was over, and it was Sunday night, I made him watch it with me. NOT SO BAD! Even though there was quite a bit of information that I knew, it was a fun watch. The hostess was Fiona Bruce, who is also the host of the British Version of Antiques Roadshow, but John said that he really couldn't understand her due to her accent. I understand her easily, and loved the fact that the show used someone that I have become familiar with, and whom I feel is trustworthy. I must say that I liked this show very much and thought that I would put it on my "To Purchase" List, but then promptly forgot because I went to bed immediately afterward. Boo to me on that one!

Tonight, The Steve Buscemi show or Nucky (these are the two names that I use for this show - Boardwalk Empire) was over and I started clicking the channels, and what did I find? Yes, that's right another installment of Queen's Palaces! Hooray for me! Yes, John was here again (He's falling in love with BWE just like me), and he was hoodwinked into watching today's episode, which was Holyrood House. Not only was I excited about another episode, but I was getting to see a palace that I know nothing about... or so I thought. Now, the first episode was full of information about the palace, and showed quite a bit of the castle (not as much as I've seen in other shows, but enough to wet John's appetite). However, tonight's episode was missing shots of the palace. They show the gallery; Mary, Queen of Scot's bedchamber; the bed where Bonnie Prince Charlie slept; and the stairwell along with a few pics of the outside and courtyard. This was mostly history on Mary and Charlie, which I knew already. When they finally got around to showing the staircase (which is amazing, btw), John said "I was wondering if we would ever see anything of the castle." Then when it was over, I was disappointed because I really didn't see much. Am I overzealous in wanting meat along with my potatoes?

I am really excited because this seems to be a miniseries of Palace histories! OOOOOO LOVELY! So, is there a next week's episode? I'm not quite sure because I can't seem to pull it up on the PBS list, but it looks like there are at least on three other episodes that I haven't seen. I'll look again next Sunday, and then I'll know for sure. Maybe you can find out if it's showing in your area by looking here OR, if you would just like to purchase it, it is currently under $20 here The Queen's Palaces. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farming as Fashion (Part One)

Taylor Speer-Sims
September 30, 2012

Farming as Fashion

Photo taken by author (1)


            Human beings have been farming for over 7,000 years, but only the Georgians used it as a part of their character. Growing vegetables for food has been a basic industry that required high intensive labor throughout the centuries.[1] Food production changed due to farming techniques and revolutionary technology.[2] Besides horses for racing, the eighteenth century Georgians had been the first people to develop animal breeding as a business. Fens and forests were reclaimed as farmland throughout the century and on through into the nineteenth century.[3] Enclosure laws allowed for the land to be more productive by the utilization of the four-field system, which controlled the produce planted and also created a better pasture environment for animals. More importantly, enclosure showed the areas owned by the gentleman farmer.[4] The income of the farmer had been very low, and in some cases was completely negligible.[5] There certainly had been gains in agriculture during the 18th and early 19th centuries, but it was because the gentry had wanted higher income, bragging rights, and to be within the highest fashion, not because they had been interested in actually creating an agricultural revolution. Farming during the Georgian period was pursued more for fashion than for substance.

Background on Farming

            Farming began as hunter-gatherers started collecting seeds of plants that they enjoyed. These early enterprises began around 7,500 years ago. Sweeping through Europe, this became the prime source of food, replacing the earlier sources of gathering the chosen vegetation, and hunting whatever animal that just happened to come along. Interestingly, this was also the time and reason for the first separation of social classes. The separation began because of the quality of the fields, production characteristics, and vegetation output.  This may have been just a small divide between the landed wealthy and those less successful. [6] However, “origins of inequality in something small that over the centuries was going to build up into hereditary inequality” began almost eight centuries ago with ancient men.[7]

             Those ancient men that had better plots most probably had the better crops. There was no way that these early agrarians, known as the Linearbandkeramik, knew about fertilizer or how to leave the land fallow. They were probably just lucky in their choices of land. There has been no evidence that has suggested that they knew what great planting land looked, smelled, or for that matter, tasted like. They perhaps chose acreage that was close to water, and also most probably wanted the most area that they could personally manage. Obviously, farming had been highly labor intensive, so the best laborers were, in all likelihood, the best planters.[8]

            High labor was also used in the creation of the implements that the Linearbandkeramik people used to turn their soil. Because there had been so much time in creating such a tool, only those that lived on the higher output plots had been able to afford these expensive adzes. These prized farming tools were the only items buried with any of the Linearbandkeramik bodies, which indicated the distinction of the classes. So, only those with the highest output were the most advanced.[9] This was the only symbol of wealth that this society held dear, and it was so important that they carried it with them into the afterlife.

            This way of agricultural life continued for quite some time with very little variation. The middle ages saw changes from the old way of just planting any given area, to a two-field rotation setting. Planting for a specific time, they then left the land fallow as other plots were cultivated.[10] The wealth of the person throughout England was based upon the quantity, rather than quality of land that the individual had a responsibility to, especially if that responsibility included ownership. The social status of a man started with the noble that held the largest acreage then went from the yeoman and tenant farmer to the peasant. Again, the worth of each man was based upon his land.[11]

            While land had indicated the status of a man throughout England, it was not usually used as payment, although it had been previously, and was still so for military service in the Georgian period.[12] Payment to landowners, workers, and for services rendered via contract had been corn. Corn as a term used many other forms of grain besides maize, had been the main form of specie throughout the isle.[13] In Ireland, payments and value was based upon milk cows. Just as in the earlier Linearbandkeramik people, the value was definitely placed on output. So therefore, the more expensive the milk cow, the higher the output of milk the cow produced. To further the idea of the value of currency along, the higher quantity of the better milkers, the wealthier the individual.[14]

            With the price of the cattle being the status symbol in Ireland, the ring fort had been created as a way to protect the wealth of an individual and his clan from raiders of other factions trying to steel cattle.[15] In England, the main way of keeping livestock was allowing them to roam free. Were there no raiders on the big island? Most probably there were, but it seems like communal herding had been more conducive to each area here, as money was grain, and not cattle. Common land had been preferred until the Black Death came around.[16]

            With the horrible pandemic, towns and countrysides emptied either somewhat, and in a few cases completely. Giving the opportunity for those that could afford it, land was gobbled up. The wealthy used this as a way to gain more land than they already had. Property was cheap but labor prices rose because there were less people to work the fields. Nobles began enclosing fields that used to be free range as many families ceased to exist. Depopulation of territory had been a great inducement to accrue additional property at a discounted price.[17]

            These early enclosures used hedges as their barriers. Many of these hedges were of elm, ash, crab, hazel, sallow and holly. All of these produced either fruit or forage for animals that had been kept within. Fruit trees were able to not only keep the animals within a certain area, but they also marked off territory for others to keep out. Land plots within a close distance from the area’s estate manor had been ornamental as well as utilitarian.[18] Termed Enclosure by unity, “possession occurred when a single individual acquired all the land in a township; the common rights were terminated and the landscape could be hedged, walled or otherwise rearranged at will.”[19]

            Just because there had been some enclosure during the middle ages does not mean that it became an burgeoning fad. Open fields were still very much in large supply. Common grazing and planting were still not only necessary, but had also been generally preferred. Twenty percent of the entire Isle had been open and common fields used for grazing animals and planting gardens.[20] Most husbandmen kept cows and pigs, very little kept sheep or goats. The highest grown staple had been rye and wheat for eating, and barley for beer.[21]

            Many of these locations used the same two-tiered system until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[22] The yeoman’s revolution was the first upheaval in the changing formation of farming. Cereal yields increased due to careful selection of seeds.[23] Much of England had been enclosed by this time, which resulted in “the practice of alternating long pasture leys and periods of cropping on the same piece of land - something which served both to improve the quality of the pasture and to improve arable yields.”[24] Another invention of this time was floating. An artificial irrigation kept the land warmer by keeping it under water, which was an insulation from the winter’s cold weather. This allowed the animals to have been brought into the fields earlier as the grasses grew continually larger.[25]

            Could this have been the true agricultural revolution? After all, output grew quickly starting from the middle of the seventeenth century. [26] This century certainly began the revolution, but it did not culminate as that of the later centuries. Innovations did occur. Seed drills were introduced, but they had not been readily used, and wheat became the primary crop as the seeding of rye diminished.[27] The three-field system invented during the seventeenth century allowed “the other fields [to] lay under a spring-sown crop and an autumn-sown crop, such as beans and wheat respectively” along with another that lay fallow as the community’s herds of livestock had been allowed to roam free.[28]

            The Yeoman’s Revolution began as the husbandmen were looking for ways to generate higher income with their produce. [29] Yeomen were not necessarily poor, and in point of fact, were not usually so. However, they were also not nobility. This was a key point as they had continually looked for ways to become country gentry. The more money one made, the easier it was to purchase more property, which then promoted the idea of higher wealth. The appearance of wealth was even more important than actually being wealthy. This was true for the yeoman as well as for the aristocracy.

            The act of 1832 abolished the rule of having a minimum of income of at least 40 shillings a year to be able to vote. [30] Until that time, the power of the vote had been given to only those persons that literally owned income-producing property. So, not only had it been important to own the land, but also there had to be some sort of production that showed profit. This could have been from rental as well as for agricultural purposes. So, owning property and renting out to yeomen and husbandmen, generated income to allow for the minimum allowance.

            Husbandmen of the seventeenth century began to improve their animal crop by breeding. The first animals were the obvious, horses. Horse breeds were more important because of the aristocracy. The nobles paid more for better horseflesh. Those that had higher ingenuity bred the best horses for a better paycheck. The nobles bred better horses for bragging rights and for comparison with their peers. The better horses usually belonged to those with the highest incomes. [31]

            Higher incomes had not been the idea behind the breeding of the first meat animal. Pigs and hogs had been the staple of many of the non-gentry for centuries. They were easily kept, and lived off of scraps and rooting wild plants. Pork was not as fat before enclosure because they were not confined within a pen. These animals roamed free throughout the towns, villages, and forests.

            Deforestation began during the seventeenth century, which also assisted with the growing demand for land for cultivation and animal husbandry. Wasteland forests, especially royal forests, found themselves freed from forest laws of the Crown. These areas were afforested, divided, and sold off before they were enclosed. Riots ensued from the peasantry that had beforehand used the forests as either their homes, and/or a source of food and income.[32] Wildlife that had abounded in the woodland either moved out or disappeared completely.[33]

Originally written for class at American Military University
1. Arthur Devis. "Thomas Lister and his Family" 1740. Oil on Canvas. Art Institute of Chicago.

[1] Zach Zorich. “The Seeds of Inequality.” Archaeology Magazine. September/October 2012, 21.
[2] Robert Lee. Personal interview with author. September 11, 2012.
[3] Tom Williamson. The Transformation of Rural England: Farming and the Landscape 1700-1870. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002.), 106.
[4] Roy Porter. English Society in the 18th Century. (New York: Penguin Books, 1991.), 212.
[5] Paul Leland Haworth, George Washington: Farmer. (1915.), Location 2616. Kindle Edition.
[6] Zorich.
[7] Alexander Bentley. Quoted in Zach Zorich. “The Seeds of Inequality.” Archaeology Magazine. September/October 2012, 21.
[8] Zorich.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Lee.
[11] Williamson, 1-28; M.E. Turner, J.V. Beckett and B. Afton. The Transformation of Rural England: Farming and the Landscape, 1700-1870. (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001.), 410,  Kindle Edition.
[12] Haworth.
[13] T.R. Malthus. Observations on the Effects of the Corn Laws, and of a Rise or Fall in the Price of Corn on the Agriculture and General Wealth of the Country. (London: J. Johnson and Co., 1814.), location 116. Kindle
[14] Finbar McCormick. “The Decline of the Cow: Agriculture and Settlement Change in Early Medieval Ireland. N.d.,287072,en.pdf. (accessed September 13, 2012.)
[15] Ibid.
[16] Williamson,
[17] Ibid, 8
[18] Williamson, 12.
[19] Ibid, 8.
[20] Ibid, 13.
[21] Turner, 887.
[22] Williamson, 11.
[23] Ibid, 12.
[24] Ibid, 2-3.
[25] Ibid, 3.
[26] Turner, 225.
[27] Ibid, 302.
[28] Williamson, 31.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Haworth, 2616.
[31] Williamson, 229.
[32] R.A. Butlin. The Transformation of Rural England c.1580-1800: A Study in Historical Geography. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.), 38.
[33] Williamson,

Great T-Shirts and More!

See other gifts available on Zazzle.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...