colonial kitchen 1775-1800
This room is almost totally furnished with pieces made in New Hope, Solebury Township and Bucks County.
The fireplace, center of kitchen activity, has a large iron swinging crane for hanging kettles and pots, and a beehive bake oven with it's door in the left rear. The exterior portion of the beehive oven has been removed.
Cooking was done primarily by placing pots on trivets with hot coals underneath. A meal would require 5-6 piles of coals all over the hearth. Kettles were hung from the crane at different heights to keep the food warm and the keep one full of boiling water. Meat would be broiled on skewers set in front of the main log and turned by a ratchet and weight device.
Baking done in the oven was an all day job. Early in the morning a fire was burned in the chamber for 2-3 hours. When the oven reached the optimal temperature (400 degrees), the wood and coals were scraped out onto the fireplace hearth. Bread needed the highest temperature and went in first and was followed by pies, cakes and cookies. Finally the oven was used to dry vegetables and fruit. Baking was also done on the hearth in a covered iron pot called a Dutch Oven.
Fireplace cooking was a major hazard for the women of the day. With their long skirts they had to take great care to avoid the numerous coals and ashes all over the hearth. The pine dough trough table, the tilt-top settle table and the different Windsor straight chairs are fine examples of early local craftsmanship as is the baby's high chair.
The fireplace and cooking utensils, pewter and slipware plates and numerous glazed crocks were all essential in a kitchen of the late 18th century. On the table are a coffee grinder, corn scraper and pudding molds.
The colonial housewife, with no more means than the simple devices you see in this room, made marvelous meals, breads and pies, churned butter, made candles, and managed the household. The spinning wheel is signed and is a flax wheel. Flax is a blue flowered plant grown for it's fiber and it's oily seeds. The fiber is spun to make a thread or yarn that is then made into linen cloth.
The odd-looking device, rather like giant tweezers, hanging on the kitchen wall, was used to wring out wet washing. The iron-ribbed basket in the floor stand is a cressett, an early lighting device for the bow of boats and barges. It was filled with pine tree knots and oily rags and when lit acted as running lights, especially for night fishing.
Baths were taken in the tin bathtub. You might be lucky to have a lukewarm bath since you had to carry buckets of cold spring water in, warm it up in the kettle in the fireplace and then put it in the tub. Since it was so much work to fill the tub, the entire family would each take a bath using the same water in the tub. Children would be the last ones into the tub. When everyone finished, you still had to empty the tub and dump the dirty water outside.
Supposedly the tradition of June weddings arose because June was the earliest month that you could comfortably bathe, an event that would be desirable prior to the wedding.