The selected documents provide historical understanding of the lives of ordinary people and the culture of early nineteenth-century New England. The documents may be used to support studies about family, childhood, youth, courtship and marriage, aging, or holidays and celebrations.
Suggestions for using the documents:
Primary Sources Bessie Remembers Learning to Dance and Sing, Reminiscence Christopher Columbus Baldwin, Diary Entries about Leisure Edward Jenner Carpenter, Apprentice’s Diary Fourth of July Scenes, Reminiscence Fourth of July Toasts How to Behave Politely at a Dance, Advice How Young People Should Behave Mary Cogswell’s First Dance, Letter Mary White, Diary Militia Day in Brimfield, Reminiscence Mr. Gander’s April First, Children’s Story Pamela Brown at Twenty: Diary Sophia’s Christmas in New York, Children’s Story Susan Blunt’s Childhood, Reminiscence Thanksgiving Scenes, Three Descriptions The Ladies Benevolent Society Fair, LetterPapers and Articles Historical Background on Leisure in Early 19th-Century New EnglandTeacher Resources Reading Primary Source Documents: Hints for Students Reading Primary Source Documents: Hints for TeachersActivity Sheets Primary Source Document Guide Primary Source Document Guide
- Use the selected documents to gain insight into the social interactions, celebrations and leisure activities of the past. Some activities combined work and play for both children and adults, while others were primarily social. An activity may be leisure because of the attitude brought to it. Picking blackberries might be a play activity for children, but if the berries were sold at a store for cash or trade, did that make it work?
- Some additional questions to think about as you read the documents:
How did people spend their free time?
What did they consider amusing or entertaining?
When did they find time for leisure activities?
- Compare leisure activities of the past with those of today.
- Additional historical background information is available in the Papers and Articles.
- An Activity Sheet is available to assist with analyzing primary documents.