Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - RR0069
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
|I. Fairs in England||Pages 1-3|
|(A)Notes on Sturbridge and Bartholomew Fairs||Appendix i-xiii|
|II. Fairs in Virginia||Pages 4-69|
|(A) Seventeenth Century||Pages 4-7|
|(B) Eighteenth Century||Pages 8-69|
|1. In Williamsburg||Pages 21-33|
|2. In Fredericksburg||Pages 34-50|
|3. In Richmond||Pages 51-55|
|4. In Hanover County — Newcastle||Pages 56-60|
|5. In Suffolk||Page 61|
|6. In Augusta County — Staunton||Page 62|
|7. In Frederick County — Winchester and Mecklenburg||Pages 63-65|
|8. In Alexandria||Pages 66-67|
|9. In Norfolk||Page 68|
|10. In Petersburg||Page 69|
|III. Fairs in Other Colonies||Pages 70-88|
|IV. Appendix:Notes on Sturbridge and Bartholomew Fairs||Pages i-xiii|
|V. Illustrations — listed on next page|
|VI. Bibliography||Pages xiv-xix|
|I.A Country Fair in Pennsylvania. Ca. 1824||Following page 88|
|II.A British Fair. 17th century||Following page xiii|
|III.A Village Fair by Joseph Nollekens (d. 1748)||Following above|
|IV.Bartholomew Fair (From fan of ca. 1728)||" "|
|V.Up-and-Down (Detail from fan of ca. 1728)||" "|
|VI.Peep-show, Theatrical booth, Rope-dancer's booth (Re-drawn from fan of ca. 1728)||" "|
|VII.Drinking stall, Toy booth, Apple-woman (Re-drawn from fan of ca. 1728)||" "|
|VIII.Southwark Fair by William Hogarth. Ca. 1733||" "|
|IX.Scenes from Bartholomew Fair — ca. 1770-1800 Flockton and his Puppets, Booths, Animals, Merry-Go-Round||" "|
|X.Bartholomew Fair — ca. 1807. Rowlandson & Pugin. Theatrical booths, Ups-and-Downs, Merry-Go-Round, etc.||" "|
|XI.Sports of a Country Fair — Cartoon — ca. 1810 Showing Booths, Up-and-Down, Games, Horse-race in background||" "|
|XII.A Village Fair — French Print — 1832||" "|
|XIII.Wrestling at a Country Fair. 17th century||" "|
|XIV.Peep-Show — Cartoon dated 1780||" "|
|XV.Bartholomew Fair, showing Cattle Pens Rowlandson, ca. 1805||" "|
|Brook Green Fair (Rowlandson, ca. 1805)||" "|
|XVI.Greenwich Fair " "||" "|
|Rag Fair " "||" "|
Although the honor of establishing fairs and markets in England has been usually attributed to Alfred the Great and the Anglo-Saxons, one authority traces English fairs to the Roman occupation, stating that they were added to by the Anglo-Saxons, and further encouraged by the Normans.1 According to an eighteenth century writer on fairs, "The Institution of Fairs and Markets" was "coeval with the first rude outline of Society; as the People were emerging from primitive Barbarity, and began to live in Villages and incorporated Towns…"2 Certainly, fairs were mentioned in the Old Testament and were familiar in ancient Greece and Rome.
Whatever the origin of the English fair, it was an institution for the promotion of trade and commerce in Great Britain many years before the English made their first permanent settlement (Jamestown — 1607) in the New World. The right to hold fairs could only be obtained through royal grant, or by "long and immemorial usage and prescription, which presupposes such a grant."3 Fairs, with their 2 accompanying Courts of Piepowder1 — to administer quick justice in cases arising at the fairs — were held throughout the kingdom at stipulated times, places, and for a specified number of days. The smaller fairs were chiefly markets. However, the "pleasure fair" existed from early times side by side with the fair which was a "great market"; and by the seventeenth century the Bartholomew Fair, in West Smithfield, London, was in large part a pleasure fair — although it also became the chief cloth sale in the kingdom.2 In 1625, fearing an epidemic of the Plague, Charles I issued a proclamation prohibiting people from resorting to any fairs within fifty miles of London until "it shall please God to cease the infection now reigning amongst them." The proclamation mentioned particularly the "two Fairs of special note and unto which there is usually extraordinary resort out of all parts of the Kingdom, the one kept in Smithfield, near the City of London, called Bartholomew Fair, and the other near Cambridge called Stourbridge Fair."33
Although the Sturbridge and Bartholomew fairs were far larger and more elaborate, both as markets and "pleasure fairs," than any fair in the English-American colonies, contemporary notes, descriptions and illustrations of these English fairs are appended to this report, as of possible interest.1
The Virginia Gazette sometimes carried news of fairs in Great Britain:
"London, Nov. 10.  Last Week at Kingston Fair in Surrey, there were three times the Cattle brought there to sell than us'd to be, and yet not half the Number sold that generally us'd to be sold there; and that the Graziers and Drovers, made a terrible Complaint of the Scarcity of Money and how low Cattle sold; young Horn'd Cattle, that us'd to sell for 7 or 8 1. a Pair, wou'd not fetch above 4 1. 10 s. and 5 1. a Pair at most, and Sheep in Proportion, so that the Farmers, Graziers, and Drovers have a very bad Time on it; and yet the Butchers here keep up their Meat at high Rates; a Gentleman who had a very fat Ox fit to kill, which weigh'd about 140 Stone, was offer'd 9 d. and 10 d. a Stone for him; at last he agreed to kill it, and sell it for 1 s. a Stone, which was reckon'd a Price."2
"LONDON, October 14. 
They write from Bridgenorth, that the Hops brought the Week before last to that Fair, all sold off from about 1 1. 10 s. to 4 1. per Hundred; and that a Countryman had his Pocket pick'd there of 14 Guineas."3
"GLASGOW, … 
Extract of a letter from Kilmarnock, July 31.
At the fair in this place, on Thursday last, there was a great show of both Scotch and Irish horses, which sold at high prices; likewise several hundred packs of wool were sold at this fair, from 40 s. 7 1. sterling a pack. Same day the woollen manufacturers made a procession through the town, representing all the different branches of that useful manufacture, from the wool's being taken from the sheep's back to the finishing it in all the different kinds of carpets, blankets, and cloths made here, a specimen of each kind being exhibited to publick view. The workmen were all clothed in the proper dress of that part of the work performed by them, carrying their implements in their hands, and accompanied with drums, violins, and other musical instruments. …"4
In commissions to the royal governors of the Virginia colony, the British crown gave "full Power to appoint Fairs, Marts and Markets," as the governor, with the advice of Council, thought fit.1 Little progress was made, however, in establishing. towns or in developing fairs and markets during the seventeenth century. The colonists, as their settlements spread and the cultivation of tobacco developed, found it more lucrative to raise tobacco; and the British merchants found it to their interest to see that the colonists continued dependent on Great Britain for their merchandise.
In 1649, "the priviledge of a weekly markett, to be holden upon every Wednesday and Saturday," was granted at Jamestown, and a site was set off for a market-place.2 There is no record that such markets were ever held at Jamestown. In 1654/5, an "Act for regulateing of Trade and establishing Ports and Places for Marketts" was passed by the General Assembly. This act gave commissioners in each county authority to "appoint the day of the week for their markett."3 But in 1655/6, because "divers inconveniences" were "like to ensue by reason of the act for marketts and regulateing of trade," the act was repealed. The repealing act included the clause that if any persons 5 settled in places where merchants would "willingly come for the sale or bringing of goods," such men would be "lookt upon as benefactors to the publique."1 In 1657/8, an act, bearing title "Encouragement for Markett Places," repeated this clause as to "benefactors to the publique."2
In 1665, the right to hold two fairs yearly was allowed at James City,3 according to notes from the Council records; but, again, nothing seems to have come of this privilege. Concerning all this, the historian, Philip A. Bruce, wrote:
"No description of the mercantile condition of Virginia in the seventeenth century would be complete without some reference to the repeated but unsuccessful attempts to establish regular markets in the Colony. The fair was one of the oldest of the trade institutions of the mother country, having its origin and principal encouragement in an age when population was sparce, and when it was therefore necessary to have fixed occasions on which people could come together from a distance and exchange their products. The introduction of the fair into Virginia would have been natural not only on account of the commercial traditions of the inhabitants as scions of the English stock, but also because of the scattered population of the Colony. In 1649, it was decided to hold markets every week at Jamestown, which was one form of the English fair. These markets were to be restricted to Wednesdays and Saturdays. … Ground seems to have been assigned for the site of this market-place.
In 1655, the Assembly determined to establish one or more market-places in each county, to be 6 situated in the neighborhood of a river or creek, with a view to greater accessibility. Here all the trade of the country was to be concentrated; the articles imported from England or elsewhere were to be brought to these points from the ports prescribed by law… It is a curious commentary upon the provisions of this elaborate statute that only, two years after its passage, the Assembly passed a second Act declaring that whoever established a market, 'whether the merchants shall come for sale or not,' shall be looked upon as a public benefactor; a tacit confession that the previous law, like all laws restricting the action of the traders, had proved a failure. The instructions given to Culpeper in 1679, to establish markets and fairs in the Colony, seem to have come-to nothing. All endeavors of the kind were likely to have the same end, not only because they were opposed to the interests of the merchants but also because of the configuration of the country, which was unfavorable to any concentration of the population, even of the same parts, for however brief a time."1
The Act passed during Lord Culpeper's administration "for cohabitation and encouragement of trade and manufacture,"2 in which places were specified in each county for a town, did little good. Writing of this act ca. 1705, the Virginia historian, Robert Beverley, blamed the London merchants for its failure.3 Again, in 1691, "An act for Ports, &c." was passed in the General Assembly, and places were appointed in each county for a port or town; but in 1692/3 the act was "suspended till their majesties pleasure shall be known therein, or till the 7 next assembly."1 In spite of the suspension of this act, "divers tracts of land" were purchased and laid out for ports and towns in some of "the respective places appointed," many of which had "conveyed lots or halfe acres therein to severall persons who have built thereon." So in 1699, "An act for confirming titles to towne Lands" was passed by the Assembly.2 This same Assembly passed the "Act Directing the Building the Capitoll and the City of Williamsburgh,"3 which moved the seat of government from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, where the city was to be built. This act stipulated that when erected, the city could be incorporated by charter; and it gave the governor power, "by Letters Patents under the Seale of this his Majestyes Colony," to grant Williamsburg the "Liberty and Priviledge of holding and keeping such and so many Markets and Faires" as he should think fit.4
From the existing records it seems safe to assume that no fairs were held in the Virginia Colony during the seventeenth century. Jamestown, the only place in the Colony which was actually granted the right to hold fairs, did not take advantage of the privilege.
In 1705/6, "An act for establishing ports and towns,"1 was again passed by the General Assembly. This act established a town in each county, gave each town a name, and added a number of inducements which had not been included in the earlier acts. Among them, each town, when established, was to have its Court of Hustings; could have "a market at least twice a week, and a fair once a year"; and could have "a merchant guild and community with all customs and libertys belonging to a free burgh." The town at James City was "to be called James City, and to have Tuesdays and Satturdays in each week for market days, and the twentieth day of October and four following days, exclusive of Sundays, annually their fair." In York the town was "to be called York, and to have Wednesdays and Satturdays in each week for market days, and the first Tuesday in October and four following days annually their fair."2 Sixteen such towns were named in the act. This act was repealed by proclamation on July 5, 1710.3 In 1709, "Reasons for Repealing the Acts pass'd in Virginia and Maryland relating to Ports and Towns," were explained:
"The whole Act is designed to Encourage by great Priviledges the settling in Townships, and such settlements will encourage their going on with the Woolen and other manufactures there, And should this Act be Confirmed, the Establishing of Towns and Incorporating of the Planters as intended thereby, will put them upon further Improvements of the said manufactures, And take them off from the Planting of Tobacco, which would be of Very 9 Ill consequence, not only in respect to the Exports of our Woolen and. other Goods and Consequently to the Dependence that Colony ought to have on this Kingdom, but likewise in respect to the Importation of Tobacco hither for the home and Foreign Consumption, Besides a further Prejudice in relation to our shipping and navigation."1
In 1705, "An Act Continuing the Act directing the building the Capitol and the city of Williamsburg; with additions," passed the Assembly.2 This act again mentioned the incorporation of Williamsburg; and noted that the governor had power to appoint "markets and fairs" when he thought fit. But even the capital city developed slowly. In speaking of the governor, Francis Nicholson, Robert Beverley wrote, ca. 1705:
"…he caused the Assembly, and Courts of Judicature, to be remov'd from James-Town, where there were good Accommodations for People, to Middle-Plantation, where there were none. There he flatter'd himself with the fond Imagination, of being the Founder of a new City. … There he procur'd a stately Fabrick to be erected, which he placed opposite to the College, and graced it with the magnificent Name of the Capitol.
This imaginary City is yet advanced no further, than only to have a few Publick Houses, and a Store-House, more than were built upon the Place before. …"3
The Rev. Hugh Jones, who was in Virginia as Professor of Mathematics at the College of William and Mary from ca. 1717-1721, gave the following reasons for the Virginia planters' cooperation with the British merchants' wishes, insofar as towns were concerned: 10
"…most Houses are built near some Landing-Place; so that any Thing may be delivered to a Gentleman there from London, Bristol, &c. with less Trouble and Cost, than to one living five Miles in the Country in England; for you pay no Freight for Goods from London, and but little from Bristol; only the Party to whom the Goods belong, is in Gratitude engaged to freight Tobacco, upon the Ship consigned to her Owners in England. …
Thus neither the Interest nor Inclinations of the Virginians, induce them to cohabit in Towns; so that they are not forward in contributing their Assistance towards the making of particular Places, every Plantation affording the Owner the Provision of a little Market; wherefore they most commonly , build upon some convenient Spot or Neck of Land in their own Plantation, though Towns are laid out and establish'd in each County; the best of which (next Williamsburgh) are York, Glocester, Hampton, Elizabeth Town, and Urbanna.
The Colony now is encreased to twenty nine Counties…"1
In 1717, the "Freeholders & Inhabitants of the City of Williamsburgh" petitioned the Governor and Council for a charter "Incorporating the Inhabitants of sd city by such name & with such priviledges & Immunitys as shall be thought fitt for the good Government and improvement thereof"; and the Council gave opinion that "the granting a charter…for granting the priviledge of Fairs & marketts & other Immunitys for the good government of such as shall come to reside therein"2 would encourage the growth of the city.
It was not until 1722 that a charter was finally granted the City of Williamsburg — the charter noting that "of late Years, especially during the Administration of our trusty and wellbeloved Alexander Spotswood Esqr.," the town had "very greatly increased in the Number 11 of Inhabitants and of public and private Buildings."1 The charter named a Mayor, a Recorder, six Aldermen, and gave rules for their succession, and for electing twelve Common Councilmen, to be "a Body incorporate, and one Community, for ever."2 It gave them, or their successors, "Power & Authority to have, hold, and keep, two Markets weekly in some convenient Place in the said City, to be by them appointed (that is to say) on every Wednesday and every Saturday, in the Week; and also two Fairs yearly to be held and kept on the twelfth Day of December, and on the twenty third Day of April, commonly called Saint George, his Day in every Year,…for the Sale and Vending all, and all Manner of Cattle, Victuals, Provisions, Goods, Wares and Merchandizes, whatsoever. On which Fair Days, and on two Days next before, and on two Days next after, each of the said Fair Days, all Persons coming to or being at the said Fairs, together with their Cattle, Goods, and Merchandizes, shall be exempt and priviledged from all Arrests, Attachments or Executions, except for Toll and Process from the Court of Pipowder."3 A toll, "not exceeding six Pence on every Beast and three Pence on every Hogg and the twentieth Part of the Value of any such Commodity sold therein," was allowed, to be "laid out and expended for the Benefit, and Advantage of the said City." A Court of Pipowder could be held by the "Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen or any three of them, of which the Mayor, and Recorder shall be one," for "Hearing and Determining all Controversies, Suits and Quarrels" which might arise during the fairs.412
Thus Williamsburg became the first incorporated city in the Virginia Colony, with the right to have markets and fairs. We cannot say how promptly the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council took advantage of this privilege. A market-place was laid off near the center of the town, and weekly markets may have been held soon after the incorporation. The Rev. Hugh Jones, writing ca. 1724, mentioned the market-place and markets, but made no mention of fairs:
"Near the Middle [of Williamsburg] stands the Church …called Bruton Church, where I had the Favour of being Lecturer.
Near this is a large Octogon Tower, which is the Magazine or Repository of Arms and Ammunition, standing far from any House except James Town Court-House…
Not far from hence is a large Area for a Market Place; near which is a Play House and good Bowling Green.
Williamsburgh is now incorporated and made a Market Town, and governed by a Mayor and Aldermen; and is well stock'd with rich Stores, of all Sorts of Goods, and well furnished with the best Provisions and Liquors."1
A search through existing records has produced no information on fairs in Williamsburg prior to 1739. In November of that year it was announced that "a F A I R" would be held in that city "for the Buying and Selling of Horses, Cattle, Hogs, Sheep, &c., and all sorts of Goods, Wares, and Merchandizes." "Good Encouragement" was promised anyone who would "bring such Things to the said Fair, for Sale."2 Prizes were offered for several contests, among them horse-racing and foot-racing. This was the first notice of a fair being actually held 13 in Virginia to appear in The Virginia Gazette. Williamsburg may have held the first town fair in Virginia; but this was not Williamsburg's first attempt. From the wording of the notices, previous fairs had "not met with the desired Success, for want of sufficient Tryal and Experiment."1
In 1714, a James Taylor of New Kent County had petitioned the Governor and Council for "a Charter…for holding two fairs in a year upon his Land in the sd County, which lyes on severall of the principal Roads between James River & York, & very convenient for the Inhabitants between the said Rivers." The Lieutenant-Governor, Alexander Spotswood, with the "advice of the Council," was "pleased to order that a Charter be prepared under the Seal of the Colony for granting to the Petitioner the sd privilege of two yearly fairs in May & October for the terme of Seven years as tending to-the advancement of the Trade & Commerce of this Colony."2 Having found no further record concerning this private charter for fairs, we do not know whether fairs were ever actually held on Taylor's land in New Kent County.
In 1736, an "entertainment" was held in Hanover County3 which was repeated, and developed into something not unlike a fair in the years 14 following. But it was not until 1745 that fairs, as such, were allowed to be held in Hanover County in the town of Newcastle.1
As other towns in the Virginia Colony developed, some were granted the privilege of holding markets and fairs. In arranging to have a bill prepared for establishing the town of Strasburg, in Frederick County, in 1761, George Washington — a burgess for that county — wrote the founder of the town to ask if he "wanted Fairs appointed," so that the whole could be done in one bill.2
Whether a town, when granted the right to hold fairs, took advantage of the privilege is not always known. In many instances we have found no record one way or another. Little information on such fairs was published in contemporary newspapers; and it is probable that, if held, they were merely markets for "the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes" — as the acts usually specified.
The General Assembly with, of course, the consent of governor passed acts allowing fairs to be held in the following Virginia towns during the eighteenth century:
1722 - Williamsburg (fairs allowed by charter)3 1736 - Norfolk Borough4 15 1738 - Fredericksburg1 1742 - Richmond2 1745 - Newcastle (Hanover County)3 1748 - Suffolk; and "a town in Augusta County"4 1752 - Alexandria5 1752 - Winchester6 1761 - Staunton (Augusta County); Strasburg (Frederick County); and New London (Bedford County)7 1766 - Mecklenburg (Frederick County)8 1784 - Petersburg9
It seems safe to assume that fairs were held regularly in the following towns between the years 1751 and 1757, for they were listed in almanacs during those years as follows:
 "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept
At the City of WILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April,
and the 12th of December, Yearly, and to continue
three Days each.
At FREDERICKSBURG, on the first Wednesdays in
June and October, Yearly.
At RICHMOND Town, on James River, the second
Thursdays in May, and November, Yearly.
At NEWCASTLE Town in Hanover County, the second
Tuesdays, in May and October, Yearly, And,
At SUFFOLK Town in Nansemond County, the first
Thursdays in May, and November."1
The next almanac of which we have found a copy is for the year 1754, and to the above list of fairs, three towns are added:
AT STAUNTON, in Augusta County, the 4th Wednesdays
in May and November.
AT WINCHESTER in Frederick County, the 3d Wednesdays
in June and October.
AT ALEXANDRIA in Fairfax County, the last Thursdays
in May and October."2
The "FAIRS in VIRGINIA" were noted as above in almanacs for the years 1756 and 1757;3 after which, unfortunately, such listings were dropped from the almanacs.17
From descriptions of colonial fairs, it is reasonably certain that few of the special attractions to be found at the "pleasure fairs" in England made their way to America. We have found no record of merry-go-rounds, ups-and-downs, or over-boats, or even peep-shows, at any of the Virginia colonial fairs — or elsewhere in the colonies.1 As for monsters, freaks, menageries, etc., no records have come to light. An English comedian who travelled from Virginia to Hagarstown, Maryland, in 1799, was surprised to learn that "the far-famed Monster of Madagascar called the One-horned Boukabekabus" was on display in Hagarstown. He wrote: "This was the first importation of a Bartholomew-fair novelty I had met with in the States." But on inspection, the "monster" proved to be a fake.2
The colonial fair was first and foremost a market "for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes."3 Prizes, "or bounties," were sometimes offered for the best stock and poultry. The fair was also a place where men met to make and pay debts. Land, houses, storehouses, and personal property were offered for sale at fairs — privately and by public auction. Occasionally, a lottery was drawn at a fair.18
For amusements — contests for prizes seem to have been the most usual diversion advertised: for skill in cudgelling, wrestling, manual-exercises, foot-racing, dancing, singing, violin-playing, greased-pig-chasing, etc. Prizes were offered to the most beautiful maid. In towns large enough to warrant their attention, companies of actors sometimes arranged to give plays during fairs. Such plays, however, were held at the local play-house or theatre, and not on the market-square, where the fair usually took place.
The most popular attractions of the fairs in Virginia and Maryland were the horse-races, which were often scheduled for fair days. These were held at race-tracks near the town. Purses were subscribed, and many gentlemen, who had no interest in the other activities, would attend the races. Concerning the Virginians' love for horse-racing, the Rev. Hugh Jones said that "almost every ordinary Person keeps a Horse," and one could be "more certain of finding those" one wanted to see on business at a horse-race "than at their Home."1 Concerning racing in Virginia, J. F. D. Smythe wrote some years after Jones:
"There are races at Williamsburg twice a year; that is, every spring and fall, or autumn. Adjoining to the town is a very excellent course, for either two, three, or four mile heats. Their purses are generally raised by subscription… There are also matches and sweepstakes very often, for considerable sums. Besides these at Williamsburg, there are races established annually almost at every town and considerable place in Virginia;…the inhabitants, almost to a man, being quite devoted to the diversion of horse-racing. Very capital horses are started here, such as would make no despicable figure at Newmarket;…"219
As detailed descriptions of colonial fairs are few, it is possible that amusements and activities of which we have found no mention sometimes took place. Fireworks, wire or rope-dancers, sword dancers, and acrobats were seen in Virginia from time to time1 — although no occasion has been noted where such an attraction occurred at a fair. In October, 1755, "that elaborate and celebrated Piece of Mechanism, call'd the MICROCOSM or THE WORLD IN MINIATURE" was "to be seen and heard, at the late Play-House" in Williamsburg.2 Puppet-shows were brought to the Williamsburg theatre on at least two occasions; but were not scheduled to coincide with the fairs on April 23rd and December 12th.320
The material on Virginia fairs which a careful search through available records1 has brought to light follows in this report. These references are arranged town by town in chronological order. Williamsburg, the first Virginia town to hold a fair, has first place. Following the Virginia notes, references to fairs from newspapers in other colonies are appended.2 These notes are not exhaustive, as no attempt has been made to search through statutes, assembly records, and documents pertaining to colonies other than Virginia. They merely represent references to fairs which appeared in some of the eighteenth century newspapers in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina prior to 1785. Many issues of the papers are missing during the period included.
1699: "An Act Directing the Building the Capitoll and the City of Williamsburgh," passed by the General Assembly of Virginia in June, 1699, stated that the governor
"…of this his Majestyes Colony and Dominion" was impowered "by Letters Patents under the Seale of this his Majestyes Colony and Dominion to grant unto the said City of Williamsburgh the Liberty and Priviledge of holding and keeping such and so many Markets and Faires at such Time and Times and upon such Conditions and under such Limitations as he shall think fitt."1
1705: In October, 1705, "An Act Continuing the Act directing the building the Capitol and the city of Williamsburg, with additions" was passed by the General Assembly, which again gave the governor the power
"…to grant unto the said city of Williamsburg, the liberty and privilege of holding and keeping such and so many markets and fairs, at such time and times, and upon such conditions and under such limitations, as he shall think fit."2
1717: On November 13, 1717, a petition "of the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the City of Williamsburgh" was presented to the Council,
"praying that for the encouragement of the said Place now the seat of Government a Charter may be granted for incorporating the Inhabitants of the said City by such name and with such priviledges and Immunitys as shall be thought fit for the Good Government and improvement thereof." It was "the Opinion of the Council that ye granting a Charter for incorporating the.said Inhabitants of the said City, for granting the Privileges of Fairs and Markets and other Immunity for the Good Government of such as Shall come to reside therein will tend to ye increase and Encouragement of the said City."3
1722: On May 28, 1722, a "Petition of the ffreeholders and Inhabitants of the City of Williamsburgh" was presented to the House of Burgesses praying that the House would
"make such proper Application to the Governor as they shall think fit, to Induce him to Incorporate the 22 the Inhabitants of the Said City According to the Act of Assembly directing the building the Capitol and the said City."1 On May 30, 1722, Mr. Clayton, Mr. Blair, and Mr. Jones were appointed to prepare an address to "the Governor upon the Subject matter of the Said Petition."2
1722: The address, which was brought into the House and approved on June 2, 1722, read as follows:
"To the Honble Alexander Spotswood his Majests Lieut Governr of Virginia.
We his Majests most dutiful and Loial Subjects the Burgess, of this Assembly humbly beg leave to represent to your Honor the great Satisfaction we have in beholding the prosperous Condition of the Capital City of this Colony flourishing under your auspitious Governmt That place which a few yeares Since could hardly find reception for One half of our Body can now commodiously entertain the whole. The Number of the Inhabitants and the great Concourse of People resorting to this place we humbly conceive require a Strict regulation of Government…and also a better manner of furnishing Provisions and necessaries for their Subsistance than is commonly practiced in this Country.-
We are assured the People now Inhabiting this City of Wmsburgh are in a Capacity of Supporting the honor and Charge of a Corporation and as a former Assembly have thought fit to Impower the Governs of this Colony to Incorporate the ffreeholders and Inhabitants of the said City in Such manner as he should judge proper. We humbly hope Your Honor who alwaies Study the benefit and advantage of his Majests Subjects committed to your. Charge will be pleased to Extend the Roial favour to the Inhabitants of the Said City and grant his Majests Letters Patents for Incorporating them with Such Powers ffranchises Liberties and Privileges and in Such maner as you in your great wisdome shall think fit.-"3
1722: The charter incorporating the City of Williamsburg, appointing the mayor, recorder, six aldermen, and twelve common councilmen, a Court of Hustings, etc., was signed by Alexander Spotswood, July 28, 1722. On authority vested in him by the crown, the governor gave the city the power to hold markets and fairs, as follows : 23
"…AND FURTHER WE OF OUR ESPECIAL GRACE, certain Knowledge, and meer Motion, for us, our Heirs and Successors by these Presents, give, and grant, to the said Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Common Council Men, of the said City, and to their Successors, for ever, full and free Licence, Power & Authority to have, hold, and keep, two Markets weekly in some convenient Place in the said City, to be by them appointed (that is to say) on every Wednesday and every Saturday, in the Week; and also two Fairs yearly to be held and kept on the twelfth Day of December, and on the twenty third Day of April, commonly called Saint George, his Day in every Year, or on the Day next following, each or either of them, in Case they shall happen to fall on a Sunday for the Sale and Vending all, and all Manner of Cattle, Victuals, Provisions, Goods, Wares and Merchandizes, whatsoever. On which Fair Days, and on two Days next before, and on two Days next after, each of the said Fair Days, all Persons coming to or being at the said Fairs, together with their Cattle, Goods, and Merchandizes, shall be exempt and priviledged from all Arrests, Attachments or Executions, except for Toll and Process from the Court of Pipowder. AND that the said Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Common Council and their Successors, for ever, shall have Power to sett such reasonable Tole upon all such Cattle, Goods, Wares and Merchandizes and other Commodities as shall be sold in the said Markets and Fairs respectively, as shall be by them thought reasonable, not exceeding six Pence on every Beast and three Pence on every Hogg and the twentieth Part of the Value of any such Commodity sold therein. PROVIDED ALWAYS THAT THE TOLL to be rated and assessed on the Cattle and Goods, so sold, which shall be belonging to the Freemen Inhabitants of the said City shall be but one Half of the said Tole, which shall be rated on other Persons not Freemen of the said City, AND that the said Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen or any three of them, of which the Mayor, and Recorder shall be one, shall and may hold a Court of Pipowder, during the Time of the said Fairs for the Hearing and Determining all Controversies, Suits and Quarrels that may arise and happen therein, according to the usual and legal Course in the like Cases in England. AND WE do for us and our Successors give and grant to the said Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen, and Common Council and to their Successors for ever, all and every the Tole, Profits, and Perquisites, arising, due or incident from or to the said Markets, Fairs and Court of Pipowder, to be by them or the major Part of them used, laid out and expended for the Benefit, and Advantage of the said City."1
Ca. 1724: The Rev. Hugh Jones, who left Williamsburg in 1721, wrote ca. 1724 of the markets in Williamsburg, but made no mention of fairs :
"Williamsburgh is now incorporated and made a Market Town, and governed by a Mayor and Aldermen; and is well, stock'd with rich Stores, of all Sorts of Goods, and well furnished with the best Provisions and Liquors."1
1738-1739: Records of the Common Council of the City of Williamsburg are not extant, so we have no way of knowing when the mayor, recorder, aldermen, and common council first authorized fairs to be held in the city. The Virginia Gazette (publication of which began in Williamsburg in 1736) made no mention of fairs in Williamsburg until November, 1739. But from the references at that time, it is evident that at least an attempt had been made to have fairs before, which had not met with much success. If a fair was held in Williamsburg the year before (1738), it is possible that the acrobats, who were announced as being in Williamsburg on April 21, 1738, may have performed at the April 23rd (St. George's Day) fair:
"Williamsburg, April 21.2
There lately arriv'd here, a Man and his Wife, and with them two Children, who perform the Agility of Body, by various Sorts of Postures, Tumbling, and Sword Dancing, to greater Perfection than has been known in these Parts for many Years, if ever."
1739: However, the first reference to a Williamsburg fair appeared in The Virginia Gazette, November 23 - November 30, 1739 (page 3, column 2), as follows:
"WILLIAMSBURG, Novem. 30.
On the 12th Day of the next Month, a FAIR will be held in this City, for the Buying and Selling of Horses, Cattle, Hogs, Sheep, &c. and all sorts of Goods, Wares, and Merchandizes. And it is assur'd, That good Encouragement will be given to Persons who shall bring such Things to the said Fair, for Sale.
There will be several P R I Z E S, of considerable Value, given by the Inhabitants of the said City, to be contended for, by Horse and Foot Racing, and several other sorts of Diversions; the Particulars of which will be in our next."
The next issue, November 30 - December 7, 1739 (pages 3 and 4) gave more detail as to the forthcoming fair:
"WILLIAMSBURG, December 7.
WHEREAS Two FAIRS are appointed to be held in this City Yearly, viz, on the 23d of April, and on the 25 12th of December, out of a laudable Design to encourage the Trade thereof, and to be a Means of promoting a general Commerce or Traffick among Persons that want to buy or sell, either the Product or Manufactures of the Country, or any other Sorts of Goods, Wares, or Merchandizes: But as this Intention, like many others that are new and uncommon, has not met with the desired Success, for want of sufficient Tryal and Experiment; It has been taken into Consideration, by the Gentlemen and other Inhabitants of the said City; and they have, by a voluntary Contribution, raised a Sum of Money to be appropriated in such Manner, and to such Uses, as shall seem most conducive to the desired End,
IT is therefore Agreed upon, and Ordered, That the following Sums of Money shall be given as Bounties, at the next FAIR, to be held at Williamsburg, on the 12th Instant, viz.
TO the Person that brings most Horses to the said FAIR, and there offers them to Publick Sale, at a reasonable Price, there shall be paid him, as a Bounty, (whether he sells them, or not,) a Pistole.
TO the Person that brings the best Draught Horse for Sale, as aforesaid, a good Horse-whip shall be given.
TO the Person that brings most Cows, Steers, or other horned Cattle, and there offers them for Sale, as aforesaid, a Pistole shall be given.
TO the Person that brings most Sheep, and there offers them for Sale, as aforesaid, for each Sheep, Six Pence shall be given.
TO the Person that brings most fat Hogs, and there offers them for Sale, as aforesaid, for each Hog, Eight Pence shall be given.
AND that suitable Encouragement shall be given to all Persons that shall bring any Sorts of Goods, Wares, or Merchandizes, and offers them to Sale, as aforesaid, in the Place where the FAIR is usually held.
N.B. None of these Bounties are intended to be given for the Stocks of Cattle, &c. that belong to Williamsburg.
Pens will be prepar'd for keeping up Sheep, Hogs, &c. in the Fair.
AND for the Entertainment and Diversion of all Gentlemen and others, that shall resort thereto, the following PRIZES are given to be contended for, at the Fair, viz.
A good Hat to be Cudgell'd for; and to be given to the Person that fairly wins it, by the common Rules of Play.
A Saddle of 40 s. Value, to be run for, once round the Mile Course, adjacent to this City, by any Horse, Mare or Gelding, carrying Horseman's Weight, and allowing Weight for Inches. A handsome Bridle to be given to the Horse that comes in Second. And a good Whip to the Horse that comes in Third.26
A Pair of Silver Buckles, Value 20 s. to be run for by Men, from the College to the Capitol. A Pair of Shoes to be given to him that comes in Second. And a Pair of Gloves to the Third.
A Pair of Pumps to be danc'd for by Men.
A handsome Firelock to be exercis'd for; and given to the Person that performs the Manual Exercise best.
A Pig, with his Tail soap'd, to be run after; and to be given to the Person that catches him, and lifts him off the Ground fairly by the Tail.
There will be several other Prizes given: And as the Fair is to hold Three Days, there will be Horse-racing, and a Variety of Diversions every Day; and the Prizes not here particularly mentioned, (for want of Room) will be then publickly declared, and appropriated in the best Manner.
The Horses that run for the Saddle, are to be Enter'd before Ten o'Clock on Wednesday Morning next, with Mr. Henry Bowcock, in Williamsburg; those that are not Contributors, to pay 2 s. 6 d. at Entrance. The Horse that wins the Saddle, not to run for any other Prize this Fair.Proper Persons will be appointed to have the Direction and Management of the Fair, and to decide any Controversies that may happen, in relation to the Bounties and Prizes to be bestowed."
1739: The Virginia Gazette for December 7 - December 14, stated that the fair lasted three days (December 12th - 14th). The horse-races seem to have been the most newsworthy event which occurred:
"WILLIAMSBURG, December, 14.
Last Wednesday the FAIR began in this City, and held Three Days. Several Horses, Cattle, Sheep, and Hogs were brought for Sale; some of the Horses, and all the Cattle, Sheep, and Hogs were sold, at a good Price, except about 40 Hogs that were brought in late this Afternoon, which will be sold this Evening, or Tomorrow, there being Purchasers enough for them, The Bounties that were offer'd, (as publish'd in our last) are and will be readily paid.
The Prizes were all contended for. There was a Horse Race, round the Mile Course, the First Day, for a Saddle, of Forty Shillings Value. Eight Horses started, by Sound of Trumpet, and Col. Chiswell's Horse, Edgcomb, came in First, and won the Saddle: Mr. Coke's Horse, Sing'd Cat, came in Second, and won the Bridle, of 12 Shillings Value; and Mr. Drummond's Horse, _______ [sic] came in Third, and won the Whip.
The Second Day, a Silver Soop Ladle, of 45 Shillings Value, was run for, the same Ground; and was won by Mr. Coke's Horse. Mr. Gooch's Horse Fop, came in Second, 27 and won the Bridle, of 12 Shillings Value; and Mr. Stanhope's Horse won the Whip.
The Third Day, a Saddle and Bridle, of about 40 Shillings Value, were run for, the same Ground; Mr. Gooch's Horse Fop, came in First, and won the Saddle and Bridle; Mr. Drumond's Horse came in Second, and won the Bridle, of 12 Shillings Value; and Mr. Booker's Horse Tail, won the Whip.
If there had been more timely Notice of the Encouragement intended to be given to those who brought Horses, Cattle, Hogs, &c. to the Fair, it is generally believed we should have had great Numbers brought in. The extraordinary Benefit of Fairs in England, and even in several Places on this Continent, both to Buyers and Sellers, is so well known, that there needs to be no Argument in its Favour: We only want to put the Experiment in Practice here: We have as good a Beginning as we cou'd reasonably expect; and it's not doubted but it will in a few Years be brought to great Perfection, if zealously promoted by the Gentlemen and other true Lovers of the Country's Interest.
The foregoing are the only references to a fair in Williamsburg to appear in The Virginia Gazettes (1736-1780). No further attempt was made to promote or publicize the Williamsburg fairs, which probably amounted to little more than large markets.
1751-1757: Almanacs printed in Williamsburg each year gave, during the years 1751-1757, the dates and places where fairs were held in Virginia. After 1757, this information was discontinued. Between those years, Williamsburg headed the list:
"FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.28
AT the City of WIILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April, and the 12th of December, Yearly, and to continue three Days each. …"1
Horse-races and theatrical performances sometimes occurred on the Williamsburg fair days — especially the April fair days (23rd, 24th, and 25th), which fell toward the end of the April session of the General Court.1 In the fall they occurred during the October Court, rather than in December.
Notes on the plays and races in Williamsburg, which may have coincided with the fairs, follow:
1751-1772: THE THEATRE in Williamsburg
In the fall of 1751, a theatre was erected back of the Capitol in Williamsburg for Walter Murray and Thomas Kean, and their Company of Comedians. They opened on October 21, 1751, with Shakespeare's "Richard the Third." This was toward the end of the October General Court. There is no record that they continued performances until the December fair. However, they returned to Williamsburg in April, 1752, during the April General Court, and presented a performance on April 24th — the second day of the Williamsburg fair:
"By Permission of His Honour the G0VERN0R,29
At the New THEATRE, in WILLIAMSBURG,
For the Benefit of Mrs. BECCELY,
On Friday, being the 24th of this Instant
Will be performed, a COMEDY, called the
TRIP TO THE JUBILEE.
The Part of Sir Harry Wildair to be performed
BY MR. KEAN.
BY MR. MURRAY,
And the Part of Angelica to be perform 'd
BY MRS. BECCELY.
With Entertainment of SINGING between the Acts:
Likewise a DANCE, called the DRUNKEN PEASANT.
To which will be added, a Farce, called the
TICKETS to be had at Mrs. Vobe's, and at Mr. Mitchel's,
In the summer of 1752, Lewis Hallam and his Company of Comedians arrived in Williamsburg, and purchased the new theatre behind the Capitol. Hallam stated that they remained in Williamsburg "eleven months before we thought of removing";1 and as they performed several times weekly during that period, plays doubtless occurred during both the December, 1752, and April, 1753, fairs. Concerning this company, Dr. George Gilmer of Williamsburg wrote a friend on November 14, 1752:
"…By Capt. Lee in the Sally arrived one Hallam with a Company of Strollers…
Before Court they acted thrice a week at about 60/2d a night. Since Court every night except two and received sometimes as much as £300 a night. Notwithstanding they take so much money never were debts worse paid…"2
During these years the Hallam Company's repertoire included "The Merchant of VENICE," "The Tragedy of Othello," a "Farce, call'd The Anatomist: or, Sham Doctor," and pantomime performances.3 The company left Virginia in 1753, toured other colonies, and went to Jamaica, where they remained several years, and where Lewis Hallam, Sr., died. No plays were advertised as being presented in Williamsburg between 1753-1759.
The widow Hallam married Mr. David Douglass, who reorganized the company as the American Company of Comedians; and they returned to. the colonies in 1758. They played in Williamsburg at intervals during the 1760's.4 Little information on the plays and dates of performances during these years appears in The Virginia Gazettes — but many issues are missing during the period. A list of plays performed by the company in Annapolis was published in the Maryland Gazette for May 15, 1760. It included seventeen plays and eleven farces, most of which were probably performed in Williamsburg also.30
Another company, The Virginia Company of Comedians, played in Williamsburg in April, May, and June of 1768 — and probably performed during the April fair. Their plays and farces included: "A TRAGEDY, called DOUGLAS"; "a farce, called The Honest Yorkshireman"; "the DRUMMER, with MISS IN HER TEENS"; "a TRAGEDY, called The Orphan, or the Unhappy Marriage"; "…a Pantomime Entertainment…called HARLEQUIN SKELETON, or the BOURGOMASTER TRICKED"; "The CONSTANT COUPLE, or A Trip to the Jubilee"; a farce "called The Miller of Mansfield"; a tragedy "called the GAMESTER"; "a farce, called POLLY HONEY-COMB"; "THE BEGGAR'S OPERA"; and "a farce, called THE ANATOMIST, or SHAM DOCTOR." A number of dances were added to these plays: "a comick dance, called the BEDLAMITES"; "The Coopers"; "the Cowkeepers"; "the Drunken Peasant," etc.].
After this the Williamsburg theatre was inactive until June, 1770, when Mr. Douglass' American Company of Comedians returned. They also played in Williamsburg in April, October, and November, 1771; and April, 1772, when they gave notice that the theatre would be closed:
"…at the End of the April Court, the American Company's Engagements calling them to the North-ward, from whence, it is probable, they, will not return for several Years."2
The 1771-1772 repertoire included: "THE TENDER HUSBAND"; "THE HONEST YORKSHIREMAN"; "THE WEST INDIAN"; "THE MUSICAL LADY"; "KING LEAR"; EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR"; "DAMON AND PHILLIDA"; "A WORD to the WISE"; "FALSE DELICACY"; "The PROVOK'D HUSBAND: Or, A JOURNEY to LONDON"; "THOMAS and SALLY: Or The SAILOR's RETURN"; "The ORACLE"; "THE WAY TO KEEP HIM."3
It is very possible that performances during April coincided with Williamsburg fair dates — if the fairs were still being held on April 23, 24, and 25. In November, 1772, Mr. Gardiner's Puppets were exhibited at "the THEATRE in WILLIAMSBURG" — the last performance in this theatre of which we have found notice.431
1740-17__: HORSE-RACES in Williamsburg
Races were held in Williamsburg during the April General Court, during the October General Court, and even at other times during the year.1
William Byrd was in Williamsburg April 14 - May 6, 1740, attending the General Court and meetings of the Council. He did not mention the fair in Williamsburg, but did note in his diary that he went to a horse-race on April 22nd - the day before. St. George's Day.
"…The weather was warm and. clear, the wind southwest. I wrote letters till 9 then went to the capitol and sat there close till 3, then dined with Wetherburn and ate boiled fowl. After dinner walked to the races and then went to the Governor's and stayed till 9…"232
1740-17__: (Horse-Races in Williamsburg - continued)
George Washington and his bride were in Williamsburg April 18 - May 5, 1759. Washington's diary for the period is missing, but his expense ledger noted that he paid a racing debt on May 4th - which may have been incurred at any time during that period:
"May 4, Friday Williamsburg.
'By Racing £4 By my Wife 3£ Ledger A."1
In April, 1764, there was evidently a race in Williamsburg; for Robert Wormeley Carter made the following entry in his diary on April 17, 1766:
"…paid Coll Tayloe my Fathers Subscription to the Wmsbg Purses for Octobr 1763 & Apl 64 - - £1:0:0."2
In April, 1766 - April, 1769, the following races were run for the Williamsburg purse:
"WILLIAMSBURG, April 25. Yesterday the Williamsburg purse of 100 1. was run for, and won with ease by Traveller, the property of the Hon. John Tayloe, Esq; the horses that started against him were John Dismal and Janus, the former belonging to Lewis Burwell, Esq; the latter to Francis Whiting, Esq; who was withdrawn after the first heat."3
"WILLIAMSBURG, APRIL 23. This day Bellair, a horse belonging to the Hon. John Tayloe, Esq; galloped over the course, near this city, for the Williamsburg purse of 100 l.
no horse appearing to dispute the prize with him."4
"WILLIAMSBURG, May 5. On Thursday last [April 28] the Williamsburg purse of 100 l. was won by Partner, a horse of Capt. Littlebury Hardyman's. The horses that started against him 33 were, Col. Richard Lee's horse Mark Anthony, who got the first heat, but was broke down the second; Remus, the property of Col. Lewis Burwell of Gloucester; and Molly, a mare of Armistead Lightfoot, Esquire's, who was distanced in the first heat."1
"WILLIAMSBURG, April 27, This day the Williamsburg purse of 100 l. was run for, at our race ground, by Nonpareil, the property of the Hon. John Tayloe, Esq; Mark Anthony, belonging to Capt. Littlebury Hardyman, and Fanny Murray, the property of Nathaniel Walthoe, Esq. Mark Anthony won the first heat with ease (in which Fanny Murray was withdrawn the second mile going round) the other heat Nonpareil more warmly contested, but Mark Anthony came off victor."2
According to writers who visited Virginia in the 1770's and 1780's, horse-races continued to be held in Williamsburg in the spring and fall. Thomas Anbury has been quoted on this subject;3 and a few years after his account, J. F. D. Smythe wrote:
"There are races at Williamsburg twice a year; that is, every spring and fall, or autumn. Adjoining to the town is a very excellent course, for either two, three, or four mile heats. Their purses are generally raised by subscription… There are also matches and sweepstakes very often, for considerable sums. Be-sides these at Williamsburg, there are. races established annually, almost at every town and considerable place in Virginia…the inhabitants, almost to a man, being quite devoted to the diversion of horse-racing."4
However, The Virginia Gazettes contain no further reports on the Williamsburg races after 1769; and they were doubtless suspended during some periods of the Revolutionary War.
In 1738, the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act allowing two fairs yearly to be held in the town of Fredericksburg, "for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandises." The act was to remain in force for a stated period of time. In 1742, fairs having been found "in a great measure to answer the ends proposed by the said act, in increasing the trade of the said town," the act was continued. The fair days were changed in 1740 and, again, in 1769.
The Fredericksburg fair seems to have been the most active and successful fair to be held in the Colony. Horse-races were held during the fairs. In 1752, the Company of COMEDIANS at the "new Theatre at Williamsburg," gave notice that they intended to go to Fredericksburg "to play during the Continuance of June Fair." Land, houses, slaves, etc., were sold at this fair, and lotteries were drawn there.
The following acts, notices, advertisements, etc., indicate the activity of the Fredericksburg fair from the time of its establishment throughout the colonial period:
1738: "An Act for allowing Fairs to be kept In the Town of Fredericksburg.
I. WHEREAS, allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Fredericksburg, in the County of Spotsylvania, will will be very commodious to the inhabitants of those parts of Virginia, and greatly increase the trade of that town:
II. Be it therefore enacted, the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Burgesses… That for the future, two fairs shall and may be annually kept and held, in the said town of Fredericksburg, on the first Tuesday in June, and the first Tuesday in October, in every year; each to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandizes, whatsoever: On which fair days, and on two days next before, and two days next after each of the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares and merchandizes, shall be exempt and priviledged, from all arrests, attachments, and executions, whatsoever: Except, for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits and quarrels, that may arise and happen, during the said time; in which cases, process may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner, as if this act had never been made; any thing herein before contained, or any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary thereof, in any wise notwithstanding. And that this act shall continue and be in force, for two years, and from thence to the end of next 35 session of assembly, and no longer. Provided always, That nothing herein contained, shall be construed, deemed, or taken, to derogate from, alter, or infringe the roial power and prerogative of his majesty, his heirs or successors, of granting to any person, or body corporate or politick, the privilege of holding fairs or markets, in such manner as he or they, by his or their roial letters patents, or by his or their instructions to the governor… for the time being, shall think fit."1
1740: "An Act, for appointing several new Ferries; and for altering the Days of hold n Fairs in the town of Fredericksburg.
IV. And whereas, the days appointed for holding fairs at the town of Fredericksburg… as they are now settled, are found to be inconvenient, Be it further enacted… That, for the future, the said fairs shall be held and kept, in the manner directed by the act, for allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Fredericksburg, on the Wednesday next after the court days of the said county of Spotsylvania, in the months of June, and October, in every year; any thing in the said last mentioned act, to the contrary thereof, in any wise, notwithstanding."2
1742: "An Act, for continuing the Act intituled, an Act, for allowing Fairs to be kept in the town of Fredericksburg.
I. WHEREAS the act of Assembly, made in the twelfth year of his present majesty's reign, intituled, an act, for allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Fredericksburg; which hath been altered by one other act… will expire at the end of this present session of Assembly: And the same hath been found, in a great measure to answer the ends proposed by the said act, in increasing the trade of the said town :
II. Be it therefore enacted… That the said act intituled, an act, for allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Fredericksburg; together with so much of the said other act… as relates to the holding the fairs, shall continue and be in force, from and after the end of this present General Assembly, for and during the term of four years, and from thence to the end of the next session of Assembly."3
To be S0LD, to the highest Bidder at Fredericksburg Fair, in June next, In Conformity to an Act of Assembly, pass 'd the last Session, 36 SEVERAL valuable Tracts of Land, Part of the Estate of George Carter, Esq; deceas'd, viz. 3312 Acres in Prince William and Fairfax Counties; 2941 Acres in Prince William County; 6943 Acres in Prince William County; and 8365 Acres in Frederick County."1
TO be Sold, on the first Day of the Fair in Fredericksburg, in June next, Two Lots, joining upon the main Street of the said Town, with a good Dwelling-house, Store-house, Kitchen, and other convenient Out-houses. The Person now in Possession, has Five Years of a Lease yet to come, which he is willing to give up, on reasonable Terms.
A Considerable Number of choice SLAVES, most of them Virginia born, are to be expos'd to Public Sale, at Fredericksburg Fair, next June.
To be S0LD, at Fredericksburg June Fair, by Col. William Beverley, for which his Honour the Governor will execute Deeds of Conveyance, TWO Thousand Nine Hundred Acres of Land, lying in the County of Spotsylvania, called Camm's Land; about 22 Miles from Fredericksburg, well wooded and watered, convenient to Mill and the Main Road…"3
1746: "THIS is to give Notice, that there is to be sold, at Fredericksburg Fair, in October next, to the highest Bidder, for ready Money, or Bills of Exchange, a Lot in Falmouth, with a good Dwelling-house, Stone. Cellar and Chimnies, Kitchen, Stable, and other convenient Out-houses, with a good Garden, well paled in.
STOLEN from Fredericksburg, last June Fair, a small black Horse, a natural Pacer, shod before, branded on the near Shoulder MK…
… Ten Shillings Reward, paid by
1751: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
AT the City of WILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April, and the 12th of December, Yearly, and to continue three Days each.
At FREDERICKSBURG, on the first Wednesdays, in June and October, Yearly.
At RICHMOND Town, on James River, the second Thursdays in May, and November, Yearly.
At NEWCASTLE Town in Hanover County, the second Tuesdays in May and October, Yearly, And,
At SUFFOLK Town in Nansemond County, the first Thursdays in May, and November."1
1750/51: "TO be S0LD, or Rented, next June Fair, the Race-Horse Tavern, commonly known or call'd the Long-Ordinary. Also sundry Houshold Goods, to be sold to the highest Bidder, by the Subscriber, living in Fredericksburg; also to be sold, a good Billiard Table. Twelve Months Credit will be allow'd, upon good Security.
1751: "A PURSE of Fifty Pistoles will be run for, at Fredericksburg, the second Day of June Fair. Each Horse carrying 140 lb. Weight, 4 Miles at a Heat. Those who are inclinable to bring their Horses, must enter them with the Subscriber, Six Days before-hand.
1751: "TWO Lots in Fredericksburg, where Mr. Doncastle and
Mr. Black lately kept Tavern will be sold, next June Fair, to the highest Bidder, for Cash or Bills. Eight Months Credit will be allow'd on giving Security, as usual.
George Washington. "4
1752: "Williamsburg, April 30, 1752.
THE Company of COMEDIANS, from the new Theatre at Williamsburg, propose playing at Hobbs's-Hole, from the 10th of M to the 24th; from thence they intend to proceed to Fredericksburg, to play during the Continuance of June Fair. We therefore hope, That all Gentlemen and Ladies, who are Lovers of Theatrical Entertainments, will favour us with their Company."5
1752: "To be SOLD, at publick Sale, at Fredericksburg June Fair next, NEAR Forty convenient Lots of Land, consisting of half an Acre each; adjoining and near the said Town of Fredericksburg, at the lower End, several of them are contiguous to the River, where is deep Water, and convenient Places for Landings, and several others on the main Street extended from the Town, and other convenient Streets, by
1752: "An Act for continuing the act, intituled, An Act for reviving end amending the acts for allowing Fairs to be kept in the towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond.
I. WHEREAS the act of Assembly made in the twentieth year of the reign of his present majesty,…which will expire at the end of this session of Assembly, bath been found very useful, and of great benefit to the inhabitants of the said towns, by increasing the trade thereof,…
II. BE it therefore enacted,… That the said act…shall continue and be in force, from and after the expiration thereof, for and during the term of seven years, from thence next following, and from thence to the end of the next session of Assembly."2
1754: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
AT the City of WILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April, and the 12th of December, Yearly, and are to continue three Days each. AT FREDERICKSBURG, on the first Wednesdays in June and October, Yearly. …"3
1754: "On Twelve Months CREDIT, and a moderate Price,
I WILL sell several very valuable Lots of Land, adjoining the Town of Fredericksburg, on each Side of the main Street extended: …
N.B. If I don't dispose of as many Lots as I propose, by private Sale, I intend to sell them at public Sale, at next October Fredericksburg Fair, on Six Months Credit.
Newpost, April 10, 1754."4
1755: "On Wednesday the 4th Day of June, being June Fair, at Fredericksburg, a valuable Tract of Land, in Orange County, containing 1000 Acres, …
Johnathan Gibson. "5
1755: "To be SOLD, on the second Day of June Fair, at Fredericksburg
FOUR fine convenient LOTS, in the said Town, two of which join the lower Warehouse; the other two are the same whereon the late Col. Willis lived. …
1755: "To be S0LD to the highest Bidder,
PUrsuant to the last Will and Testament of Mr. Robert Bagge, deceased, on the first Day of June Fair next, in Fredericksburg, for ready Money, a very valuable Tract of Mountain Land, containing 1000 Acres, lying in Orange County…
Robert Seayres, )
John Rennolds, )Executors"2
1755: "To be SOLD, the first Day of OCTOBER Fair next, at Fredericksburg,
A Valuable Tract of Land, pursuant to the last Will and Testament of William Woodford, Gent. deceased, containing 1600 Acres…within six Miles of the Town of Fredericksburg. As also the Negroes and Stock thereon, to the highest Bidder…
1756: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept,
AT the City of WILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April, and the 12th of December, Yearly, and are to continue three Days each.
AT FREDERICKSBURG, on the 1st Wednesdays in June and October, Yearly.
AT RICHMOND Town…the 2d Thursdays in May, and November, Yearly.
AT NEWCASTLE Town in Hanover County the 2d Tuesdays, in May, and October, Yearly.
AT SUFFOLK Town in Nansemond County, the 1st Thursdays in May, and November.
AT STAUNTON, in Augusta County, the 4th Wednesdays in May and November.
AT WINCHESTER, in Frederick County, the 3d Wednesdays in June and October.
AT ALEXANDRIA, in Fairfax County, the last Thursdays in May, and October."4
1756: "To be S0LD at October Fair next, in Fredericksburg, pursuant to the last Will and Testament of William Woodford of Caroline County,
SIXTEEN Hundred Acres of Land, or thereabouts, within seven Miles of Fredericksburg Town…
N.B. Many Gentlemen who purchased Effects at the Sale of Woodford's Estate, have neglected to pay for the same: They are desired not to delay the Payment longer than October Fair, where Attendance will be given for that Purpose."1
1757: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept,
AT the City of WILLIAMSBURG, the 23d of April, and the 12th of December, Yearly, and are to continue three Days each.
At FREDERICKSBURG, on the 1st Wednesdays in June and October, Yearly.
At RICHMOND Town, on James River, the 2d Thursdays in May, and November, Yearly.
At NEWCASTLE Town in Hanover County the 2d Tuesdays, in May, and October, Yearly.
At SUFFOLK Town, in Nansemond County, the 1st Thursdays in May, and November.
At STAUNTON, in Augusta County, the 4th Wednesdays in May and November.
At WINCHESTER, in Frederick County, the 3d Wednesdays in June and October.
At ALEXANDRIA, in Fairfax County, the last Thursdays in May, and October."2
1760: June, 1760
"May 29, Thursday. Fredericksburg.
'lost on the Race 3/ Tickets for Ball 25/'
May 30: 'By Treating the Ladies 4/.' Ledger A.
June 4, Wednesday. Fredericksburg.
'To Cash paid you at the Fair Fredg. £40.' Account with Fielding Lewis - Ledger A."3
1761: [June, 1761]
"June 3, Wednesday. Fredericksburg.
'Shoemakers at Fredericksburg &ca. 12/6' - Ledger A.
[ Note by ed.] - Washington went to Fredericksburg to attend the fair, and probably returned to Mount Vernon in June…"4
1763: "An Act for amending the act, entitled, an act for enlarging the towns of Fredericksburg and Winchester, the City of Williamsburg, and town of Dumfries, and for other purposes therein-mentioned.
V. And whereas the act for allowing fairs to be held in the said town of Fredericksburg, which proved very advantageous to the trade and commerce of the said town, is expired: Be it therefore further enacted…that the said act, made in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of his late majesty, entitled, an act for continuing the act, entitled, an act for reviving and amending the acts for allowing fairs to be kept in the towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond, as to so much thereof as relates to the said town of Fredericksburg, shall be, and the same is hereby declared to be revived, and shall be and remain in force from and after the passing of this act for and during the term of seven years, and from thence to the end of the next session of assembly.
"1766 "Marlborough, April 8, 1766
To be SOLD At Fredericksburg, in Virginia, at the Fair there, the Day after the County Court there, being on the Third Day of June next, ABOUT Twenty valuable SLAVES consisting of…"2
1766: "To be SOLD at Fredericksburg June Fair,
ABOUT twenty very valuable SLAVES, consisting of house servants, watermen, some tradesmen and labourers, and among them three children, for cash, or good bills of exchange. Credit will be given, upon good security, until April the 10th next, and five per cent. will be discounted for immediate payment. I will warrant an undoubted title, as some doubt may be raised by designing people to disappoint the sale, the greatest part of them having been formerly mortgaged by Capt. Thomas Dansie to William Lightfoot, Esq; deceased.
JOHN MERCER. "3
1766: "To be SOLD to the highest bidder, at Fredericksburg Fair, in June next,
EIGHTEEN hundred and forty acres of LAND, part of a tract called Brookesby, in Orange county; …
JOHN ROWZE ) Executors of
ROBERT BROOKE ) W. Brooke"4
1766: "To be SOLD at Fredericksburg Fair, in June next, A TRACT of LAND, containing about 3500 acres. It lies on both sides of the northermost branch of Matapony river, about 10 miles from Fredericksburg, … I propose selling it in 4 lots, either privately or publickly. I shall be up some days before the fair, and will show the land to any that desire it; or William Ellis will do the same, who lives on it. I expect part paid down, and credit will be given for the rest, as shall be agreed upon….
1766: "To be SOLD at Fredericksburg Fair in October next, pursuant to the will of Mr. ROBERT BAYLOR, deceased, and a decree of King and Queen county court,
A TRACT of LAND, in the lower end of Spotsylvania county, containing about 1100 acres, lying about 18 miles from Fredericksburg, a great part of which is good for grain or tobacco…
GREGORY BAYLOR, ) Executors.
GEORGE BROOKE, )
N. B. The land will be laid off in lots, if required."2
1766: "FREDERICKSBURG RACES.
ON Thursday the 9th day of October a purse of twenty pounds, ready money, to be run for by any horse, mare, or gelding, not more than quarter blooded, the best of three four mile heats, or as near that distance as the ground will admit of, carrying nine stone for 14 hands, give and take seven pounds for each inch above or below that size.
And on Friday the 10th day of October a purse of ten pounds, ready money, to be run for by any horse, mare, or gelding, that has not any mixture of the English or foreign breed, the best of three two mile heats, or as near that distance as the ground will admit of, carrying the same weight, give and take, as for the above purse.
The horses that are to start for either of the above purses are to be entered, shown, and measured, at Capt. George Weedon's, on the Monday preceding the races, paying for the first purse 20 s. and for the second 10 s. which entrance money is to be given to the second best horse, &c. running for each purse, according to the rules of racing, to be adjudged by Gentlemen appointed by the subscribers, who are also to regulate every matter on the field, and determine any disputes that may arise.
Three horses are to enter and start, or no race, and no entrance will be allowed at the pole, or any time after the day fixed for that purpose.- There will also be sundry other diversions; and it is proposed, on the first race day, to hand about a subscription for future races at Fredericksburg, on such terms as may be most agreeable to the Gentlemen present, who are encouragers of the turf."3
1767: "At the next June Fair in Fredericksburg,
will be S0LD,
A GOOD assortment of European and other MERCHANDISES, about 250 l. sterling value, in two lots, late the property of Mr. William Scott, deceased, and the sub-scriber in partnership.
1767.: "To be SOLD at publick auction, on the 8th of September next, at the town of NORFOLK, …
Likewise will be SOLD, to the highest bidders, on Wednesday the 7th of October next (being Fair day) at the town of Fredericksburg, in the county of Spotsylvania, on two years credit…
SEVERAL LOTS, and parts of LOTS, in the said town, whereon are many improvements, viz. The brick storehouse now occupied by Mr. Neil M'Coul, two very commodious dwelling-houses, kitchens, meat-houses, &c. the same to be set up separately… Also one half acre LOT, on the river side, next below Royston's warehouses, on which is a very good stone dry warehouse and salt house. Likewise two half acre lots near the river, opposite to the Quarry Landing, whereon is a large and convenient stable, corn house, and granary;…
-- The above premises being the property of the late William Scott and Co. JOHN MITCHELL ) One of the surviving
1767: "To be S0LD, on Wednesday the 25th day of November (if fair, otherwise next fair day) on the premises,
SIXTEEN hundred acres of LAND, in the counties of Orange and Culpeper… The land will be laid off in lots, and the purchase money to be paid at three equal payments; the first to be on the day of the next Fredericksburg June Fair, the second that time twelvemonth, and the remainder the June Fair in the year 1770, giving satisfactory security to JOSEPH JONES."3
1768: "I TAKE this opportunity to return my thanks to those who have been so very obliging as to encourage my lottery, and to inform them that it will be drawn on the 9th of June next, the time last proposed.
I should take it kind if the adventurers would send their tickets by their acquaintances that come to the Fredericksburg Fair, that the fortunate may receive their prizes, and those that have not paid for their tickets, are requested to pay before the drawing. 44 I have a few tickets yet on hand, which I would gladly dispose of, as it is my desire to turn their value into commodities more Suitable to the oeconomy of the present times.
Tickets to be had of Mrs. Rathell in Williamsburg, at the small price of 10 s. each.
Fredericksburg, May 16, 1768."1
1768: "A SCHEME of a LOTTERY for disposing of a tract of land, slaves, &c. belonging to the subscriber; and as it is intended to raise a sum of money to discharge my debts, I hope it will meet with that encouragement due to an honest intention. …
The drawings will be at Fredericksburg, on the first day of the next October Fair, The managers are Mr. Roger Dixon, and Mr. Alexander Wodrow, of whom tickets may be had…
1768: "FREDERICKSBURG, July 6, 1768.
A SCHEME of a LOTTERY, for raising Four Hundred and Fifty Pounds, to be laid out by the managers or any six of them, towards building a new church in the town of Fredericksburg, and in the purchase of an organ for the said church.
|1 Prize of||£ 500||is||£ 500|
|3000 Tickets,||at 20 s. each||3000.|
£. 15 out of the 100, to be deducted from the prizes is ---- 450.
The said LOTTERY will be drawn on the 7th day of JUNE next (being the first day of the Fredericksburg fair) at the town-house, under the direction of Mann Page, Fielding Lewis, Charles Dick, Roger Dixon, Joseph Jones, Hugh Mercer, James Mercer, Charles Washington, Lewis Willis, George Weedon, Charles Yates, and Francis Thornton, Gentlemen, or any six or more who can attend. Tickets may be had of the said managers.
1769: "To be S0LD at Fredericksburg October fair next, agreeable ie will of Dekar Thompson, deceased,
PART OF A LOT, containing a quarter of an acre of ground, in the town of Falmouth, whereon is a convenient storehouse, a large warehouse, and a stable,… Also a half acre lot in the said town of Falmouth, with a good storehouse, and a large brick kitchen, the latter not quite finished. Mr. Thompson kept store on this last lot several years before he removed to the other. …
ARTHUR MORSON, )
EDWARD MOORE,) Executors"1
1769: "FREDERICKSBURG, Sept. 6, 1769.
THE Fredericksburg CHURCH LOTTERY is prepared for drawing at the October fair next. The Gentlemen who had TICKETS to dispose of, and on credit, are requested to return, or pay for them immediately."2
1769: "An act for continuing and amending an act, intituled An act for reviving and amending the acts for allowing fairs to be kept in the towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond, and for enlarging the town of Fredericksburg.
I. WHEREAS an act, intituled An act for reviving and amending the acts for allowing fairs to be kept in the towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond, as to so much thereof as relates to the said town of Fredericksburg, will expire at the end of this present session of assembly, and it is necessary that the same should be further continued and amended: Be it therefore enacted… That from and after the last day of July next, the fairs shall be held in the. said town of Fredericksburg, on the Monday next after the third Thursday in May and September annually; any thing in the aforesaid act, to the contrary, notwithstanding.
II. And be it further enacted, That the said act, except so much thereof as is contrary to this act, be, and the same is hereby continued for the term of seven years, and to the end of the next session of assembly. "3
1770: "To be SOLD …
And at the Fredericksburg June fair, will also be sold, two lots of land under the tenure of the late George Gray, lying on the Horsepen run, in Culpeper."4
1770: "FREDERICKSBURG, July 25, 1770.
NOTICE is hereby given, that by a late Act of Assembly [court days for Culpeper and Spotsylvania are changed &c.]
Also, by another Act of Assembly, the fairs at Fredericksburg are altered to the Monday next following the third Thursday in May and September annually; and that the first fair, agreeable to the said act, will be on Monday the 24th of September next, of which the public are desired to take notice."1
1770: "FREDERICKSBURG FAIRS
are altered, by a late act of Assembly, from June and October to May and September. The ensuing FAIR will be on the 24th of the month; and on that or the following day, the inhabitants and neighbouring Gentlemen propose giving a genteel PURSE for a horse race. Particulars will be advertised in this paper."2
1770: "FREDERICKSBURG fairs are altered, by a late act of Assembly, from June and October, to May and September. The ensuing fair will be on the 24th of the month, and on that, or the following day, the inhabitants, and neighbouring Gentlemen, propose giving a genteel purse for a horse race. Particulars will be advertised in this paper."3
1771: "To be SOLD at Fredericksburg, on Monday the 23d of September next, being fair day (the sale formerly advertised being prevented by badness of weather)
ABOUT fifty choice SLAVES, used to cropping and farming. Twelve months credit will be allowed, on bond with security, bearing interest from the date. I have also some other slaves to dispose of at private sale, among whom are two carpenters, and a few house servants. I will also sell the plantation whereon I now live, in King George county, opposite to Fredericksburg, with or without the ferry. …
1771: "FREDERICKSBURG, August 20, 1771.
TO BE SOD, at the Townhouse in Fredericksburg, on the 24th Day of September next (being the second Day of the Fair) Several Articles belonging to the Estate of the late JOHN MERCER, Esquire, deceased; the Particulars appearing in the Catalogue now published. …
I have reserved the first Day of the Fair for my Clients, and request they will be so obliging as to do their Business with me on that Day, as it will be impossible for me to attend to any other Business than this Sale on the other Days of the Fair.
I beg Leave to remind the Purchasers, at the last Sale, that the Bonds will become payable the 23d of September next; …
1771: "FIFTY CHOICE SLAVES to be sold at, Fredericksburg, on Monday the 23d of September, being Fair Day."2
1772: "For SALE, at FREDERICKSBURG Fair, on the 25th Instant (May)
AN extraordinary good BLACKSMITH, a good CARPENTER and sundry other valuable Slaves, for ready Money. A good Title may be depended on.
1772: "TO BE SOLD, pursuant to the Will of Mr. ROGER DIXON, deceased, for the Benefit of his Creditors, at the ensuing September Fair in Fredericksburg, and to be entered upon at Christmas, the following LANDS, namely.
NEAR three Hundred Acres adjoining the Town, several unimproved Lots, the Ferry opposite to Mrs. Washington's, and a Lot, with Houses, &c. in the Occupation of Mr. Crawford, in the town of Fredericksburg, about three Hundred Acres in a Tract called Chalky Level, three Miles from the said Town, a valuable Tract in Culpeper …"4
1772: "TO be SOLD by the Subscriber, at next FREDERICKSBURG SEPTEMBER Fair,
A NEGRO Woman and four Children, … I have likewise for Sale a House, Storehouse, and two valuable Lots, in the Town of Fredericksburg.
ALEXANDER KENNEDY. "5
1773: "FREDERICKSBURG, April 2, 1773.
AS I intend for Britain, in June, I propose selling, on Monday the 24th of May next, being Fredericksburg Fair Day, or privately as may be agreed upon before, four Hundred Acres of LAND upon the Fall Hill, three Miles from Town, with TWENTY SLAVES, and STOCKS of CATTLE, &c. Ten and one Third Acres of MEADOW LAND, adjoining the Town. The FERRY and FERRY LOTS, together with the Store and Warehouses thereon. For ready Money, Bills, or Tobacco, as may suit the Purchasers.
JAMES HUNTER, Junior."1
1773: "FREDERICKSBURG, February 24, 1773.
WHEREAS some of those indebted on the Books have not paid due Regard to my Advertisement of the 1st of December last, I give this last Notice, that all and every Account not paid off, or a good Part of it, before the 30th of April, or our May Fair at the farthest,…will most certainly be put into the, Hands of a Lawyer…
1773: "PURSUANT to an act of Assembly, empowering the vestry of the parish of St. George, in Spotsylvania county, to sell part of the land, belonging to the said parish, in the town of Fredericksburg, notice is hereby given that the said land will be sold, by the churchwardens, at Fredericksburg May fair, at the house of Mr. George Weedon, by public vendue; it is divided into four lots, situate on the south side of the main street, between the Town House and Mr. George Mitchell's store…"3
We learn that the Fredericksburg May Fair Purse of 50 l. will be run for the 24th, when it is expected there will be great Sport, there being some of the first running Nags in training for it, among them the noted Miss Alsop, belonging to Moore Fauntleroy, Esq; and Kitty Fisher, a gray Mare the Property of William Fitzhugh, Esq; of Chatham. She ran at the last Annapolis Races, from whence she brought a Sweepstake and one of the Subscription Purses.
We also hear that the Gentlemen in Dumfries are establishing a Jockey Club there, which is to be much on the same 49 Footing with that at Fredericksburg1… They have secured an exceeding good Ground, and the Subscription being patronized by the leading Gentlemen in the Place, there is little Room to doubt of its Success."2
1775: "T0 BE SOLD
To the highest Bidder, on THURSDAY the 20th Instant (APRIL) being Court Day
ALSO will be SOLD, at Fredericksburg MAY Fair, the Reversion of sundry valuable SLAVES, now in the Possession of Mrs. Anne Dansie, who has her Life in them, among whom is a valuable House Wench, and five Fellows,
… THOMAS ROSE."1
1775: To be sold, at public sale on Monday the 22d of May, being Fredericksburg fair,
THREE LOTS of GROUND, being part of the public square in the center of town, adjoining that whereon the markethouse is built …
MICHAEL ROBINSON, ) churchwardens"2
1783: "An act concerning fairs in the town of Fredericksburg,
the court of hustings thereof and for other purposes.
I. BE enacted by the General Assembly, That the act, intituled, "An act for reviving and amending the acts for allowing fairs to be kept in the towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond," so far as the same relates to the said town of Fredericksburg, shall be, and the same is hereby revived; and that from and after the last day of February next, the fairs shall be held in the said town of Fredericksburg on the first Tuesday in June and October annually, any thing in the said recited act to the contrary notwithstanding.
II. And be it further enacted, That the said recited act, except so much thereof as is contrary to this act, shall be, and the same is hereby continued for the term of seven years.
III. And be it enacted, That from and after the said last day of February, courts of hustings in the said town of Fredericksburg shall be held on the first Monday in every month; … "3
In May, 1742, an act "for establishing the Town of Richmond,"and "allowing fairs to be kept therein" was passed by the General Assembly - the part concerning fairs to continue in force for four years. The act was revived in 1747. We have found no record as to how soon after' the act of 1742 a fair was held in Richmond; but it is apparent from the Virginia Almanacs between the years 1751-1757, that fairs were being held in Richmond during those years.
The following references to the fairs in Richmond have been found in the sources which are extant and available:
1742: "An Act, for establishing the Town of Richmond, in the county of Henrico, and allowing fairs to be kept therein.
III. And whereas allowing fairs to be kept in the said town of Richmond, will be very commodious to the inhabitants of that part of this colony, Be it further enacted… For the future, two fairs shall and may be annually kept and held, in the said town of Richmond, on the second Thursday in May, and the second Thursday in November, in every year; each to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, Goods, wares and merchandises whatsoever: On which fair days, and on two days next before, and two days next after each of the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares, and merchandizes, shall be exempt and privileged from all arrests, attachments, and executions, whatsoever, except for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits, and quarrels, that may arise, and happen, during the said time; in which cases process may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner as if this act had never been made: Any thing herein before contained,… to the contrary thereof, in any wise, notwithstanding.
V. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That this act, as to so much thereof as relates to holding fairs in the said town of Richmond, shall continue and be in force four years…and no longer."1
1747: AT A GENERAL ASSEMBLY, summoned to be held at The Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Thursday the sixth day of May, in the fifteenth year of the reign of…George II… And from thence continued, by several Prorogations, to the thirtieth day of March,…1747.
Private acts. Chap. I. An Act for reviving and amending the acts for allowing fairs to be kept in the Towns of Fredericksburg and Richmond."2
1751-1757: THE VIRGINIA ALMANACK, For the YEAR of our LORD GOD 1751.
[Same notice in the almanacs through 1757, after which notices concerning fairs in Virginia are dropped from almanacs.]
"FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept
At RICHMOND Town, on James River, the second Thursdays in May, and November, Yearly.
1773: "An act to establish and enlarge the power of the trustees of the town of Richmond, in the county of Henrico, and for other purposes.
VI. And whereas so much of the act of assembly, made in the fifteenth year of the reign of his majesty…intituled An act for establishing the town of Richmond…and allowing fairs to be kept therein, as relates to holding fairs, is long since expired, and the same, if revived, may be a means of increasing the trade of the said town: Be it therefore further enacted… That so much of the said recited act as relates to the holding fairs in the said town of Richmond, shall be and is hereby revived, and shall continue and be in force, from and after the passing of this act, for and during the term of seven years, and from thence to the end,of the next session of assembly."1
1773: "A Purse of SEVENTY POUNDS,
TO be run for on Shocko Hill, in the Town of Richmond, the second Thursday in November (being the first Day of the Fair of the said Town) by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, that never won or started for a Purse or Course Match of 10 l. Value. Any Person that offers to enter a Horse, Mare, &c. is to prove, by the Oath of two creditable Persons, that the said Horse, &c. offered to be entered, never won or started for any Purse or Course Match of the said Value of 10 l. To run two Mile Heats, and the Horse that gains the two first Heats to win the Purse. All Horses 14 Hands high to carry 140 lbs. Weight, and all Horses, &c. under that Size, to be allowed 14 lbs. for the first Inch, and 7 lbs. for every Inch after. All Horses above 14 Hands are to carry 7 lbs. Weight for every Inch they are above 14 Hands, over the 140 lbs. A Subscriber to pay 20 s. Entrance, and a Non-subscriber 5 l. The Horses, &c. to be entered with, and measured by, JAMES GUNN, in Richmond Town, the Day before running. To be ready to start by one o'Clock. The Entrance Money for the second best Horse."2
1773: "FOUND in one of the Streets of Richmond, about the Time of the Fair, a SILVER WATCH. Any Person proving their Property may have it returned by applying to the Subscriber, who formerly advertised it there, and quite neglected thinking farther of it till this Time, as the Watch was not in his Possession.
1774: "THE FAIR IN Richmond TOWN BEGINS THE second Thursday in May (being the 12th) the Purse will be run for the first Day of the Fair, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, carrying Weight for Age, according to the Rules of Racing. Certificates will be expected for the Age of the Horses, &c. Any Horse under Size, will be allowed Weight for Size. All Horses, &c. to be entered with James Gunn, the Day before.
N.B. Any Person that is inclined to start a Horse may become a Subscriber, by sending a Line to James Gunn."2
1774: "WILLIAMSBURG, May 26.
We hear from Port Royal, that on the 17th Instant a Purse of fifty Pounds was run for there, and won by Moore Fauntleroy, Esq'rs bay Mare Miss Alsop.
The Subscription Purse of 75 1. run for on the 12th Instant, at Richmond, being Fair Day, was won, with Ease, by a sorrel Mare of Mr. William Hardyman's, against a Mare the Property of James Parke Farley, Esq; a Horse belonging to Mann Page, Junior, Esq; of Gloucester, and a Mare of Mr. Halcott Pride's."3
1774: "LEFT at my house; in Henrico, at the fair in May last, by some person unknown, a white horse, about 14 hands high, appears to be very old… The owner may have him on proving his property, and paying charges, by applying to me, in Richmond town.
1774: "THE PURSE in Richmond TOWN WILL BE run for the first Day of the Fair at that Place, which is on the second Thursday in November, next, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, carrying Weight for Age, according to the Rules of Racing. All Horses, &c. are to be entered with James Gunn, the Day before. "554
1774: "THE PURSE in Richmond town will be run for, as usual, the 1st day of the fair, which is the 2d Tuesday in November next, by any horse, &c. carrying weight for age, according to the rules of racing; all horses, &c. to be entered with James Gunn the day before."1
1774: "CUMBERLAND COUNTY, September, 28, 1774.
THE SUBSCRIBER, AFTER A SERIES OF MISFORTUNES, unnecessary to enumerate here, requests to meet his Creditors at Richmond Fair, the second Thursday in November, when he hopes that those Persons who have any Demands against him will appear with their proper Vouchers in Order to compound, as he is desirous to make all the Satisfaction his Abilities will admit of, equally among those to whom he is justly indebted. …
HARTWELL MACON ."2
1775: "FIFTY VERY LIKELY
Among them some valuable tradesmen, will be sold at Richmond fair, for ready money, by the SHERIFF of James City county."3
1775: "FIFTY VERY LIKELY SLAVES,
Some of them very valuable Tradesmen, will be sold at the Richmond Fair, for ready Money, by The SHERIFF of James City County."4
1775: "FIFTY VERY LIKELY
Among them some valuable tradesmen, will be sold at Richmond fair, for ready money, by the SHERIFF of King William county."5
1782: "An act for incorporating the town of Richmond, and for other Purposes.
II. And be it enacted, That the said freeholders, house-keepers and inhabitants, and those persons who shall hereafter become freeholders, house-keepers or inhabitants as aforesaid, shall be a body politic and corporate, by the name of the mayor, aldermen and commonalty of the city of Richmond, and by that name have perpetual succession and a common seal. …
III. And be it enacted, That they and their successors, by the name aforesaid, shall especially have power to rent, erect 55 or repair work-houses, houses of correction, a court-house, prison, market-house, and hospitals…to purchase fire-engines, to hire proper fire-men…to appoint and pay watchmen…to hold two fairs in each year, to wit, one on the first Thursday in May, and the other on the first Thursday in October; to fix fines upon every billiard-table and tippling-house, booth or tent, within.the jurisdiction of the corporation, and to demand reasonable fees for every ordinary-license within the same, over and above those established for raising a revenue; and to expel disorderly persons who shall not have been resident therein for twelve months.
Before the town of Newcastle was established in Hanover County, "entertainments," or celebrations, were held in 1736 and 1737 on St. Andrew's Day (November 30th), for the purpose of gathering the inhabitants together. While these festivals were not fairs (in that there was no buying or selling of "cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandizes"), they did include contests for prizes and horse-racing — such as were held at some of the colonial fairs. Therefore, the descriptions of these events are included in this report. The 1736 "entertainment" was held at Page's Warehouse in Hanover County. In 1737 the event was held at "the Old Field, near Capt. Bickerton's":
1736: "WILLIAMSBURG, November 26.
We hear, from Hanover County, that on Tuesday next, (being St. Andrew's Day,) some merry-dispos'd Gentlemen of the said County, design to celebrate that Festival, by setting up divers Prizes to be contended for in the following Manner, (to wit,) A neat Hunting-Saddle, with a fine Broad-cloth Housing, fring'd and flower'd, &c. to be run for (the Quarter,) by any Number of Horses and Mares : A fine Cremona Fiddle to be plaid for, by any Number of Country Fiddlers, (Mr. Langford's Scholars excepted:) With divers other considerable Prizes, for Dancing, Singing, Foot-ball-play, Jumping, Wrestling, &c. particularly a fine Pair of Silk Stockings to be given to the handsomest Maid upon the Green, to be judg'd of by the Company,
At Page's Warehouse, commonly call'd Crutchfield in the said County of Hanover, where all Persons will find good Entertainment."1
1737: "Williamsburg, October, 7. We have Advice from Hanover County, That on St. Andrew's Day, being the 30th of November next, there are to be Horse Races, and several other Diversions, for the Entertainment of the Gentlemen and Ladies, at the Old Field, near Capt. John Bickerton's, in that County, (if permitted by the Hon. William Byrd, Esq; Proprietor of the said Land,) The Substance of which are as follows, viz.
1. It is propos'd, That 20 Horses or Mares do run round a Three Miles Course, for a Prize of the Value of Five Pounds, according to the usual Rules of Racing: That every Horse that runs shall be first enter'd with Mr. Joseph Fox; and that no Person have the Liberty of putting in a Horse, unless he is a Subscriber towards defraying the Expence of this Entertainment, and pay to Mr. Fox Half a Pistols of it, at entring his Horse. 57 2. That a Hat of the Value of 20 s. be cudgell'd for; and that after the first Challenge made, the Drums are to beat once every Quarter of an Hour, for Three Challenges, round the Ring; on no Answer made, the Person challenging, to be entitled to the Prize; and none to play with their Left Hand.
3. That a Violin be played for by 20 Fiddlers, and to be given to him that shall be adjudged to play the best: No Person to have the Liberty of playing, unless he brings A Fiddle with him. After the Prize is won, they are all to play together, and each a different Tune; and to be treated by the Company.
4. That 12 Boys of 12 Years of Age, do run 112 Yards, for a Hat of the Value of 12 Shillings.
5. That a Flag be flying on the said Day, 30 Feet high.
6. That a handsome Entertainment be provided for the Subscribers, and their Wives; and such of them who are not so happy as to have Wives, may treat any other Lady. And that convenient Booths be erected for the Purpose.
7. That Drums, Trumpets, Hautboys, &c, will be provided, to play at the said Entertainment.
8. That after Dinner, the Royal Healths, his Honour the Governor's, &c. are to be drank.
9. That a Quire of Ballads be sung for, by a Number of Songsters; the best Songster to have the Prize, and all of them to have Liquor sufficient to clear their Wind-Pipes.
10. That a Pair of Silver Buckles be Wrestled for, by a certain Number of brisk young Men.
11. That a Pair of handsome Shoes be danced for.
12. That a Pair of handsome Silk Stockings of One Pistole Value, be given to the handsomest young Country Maid that appears in the Field: With many other Whimsical and Comical Diversions, too tedious to mention here. The Horse-Race is to be run that Day, fair or foul; but if foul, the other Diversions are to be continued the next Day.
The Subscription Money to be paid on the said Day in the Field; and Notice will be there given, who is to receive it. And as this Mirth is design'd to be purely innocent, and void of Offence, all Persons resorting there are desir'd to behave themselves with Decency and Sobriety; the Subscribers being resolv'd to disountenance all Immorality with the utmost Rigour.
As such Meetings and Entertainments are somewhat New, in these Parts, it may not be improper to acquaint my Readers with the Occasion of this. Hanover County is large, well seated, and inhabited by a considerable Number of Gentlemen, Merchants, and creditable Planters, who being desirous of cultivating Friendship, and innocent Mirth, propos'd an annual Meeting of the best Sort, of both Sexes. Mr. Augustine Graham, Clerk of the County, a generous Batchelor, desirous of effecting so sociable a Design, provided a handsome Entertainment for the Gentlemen and Ladies, on the 30th of November, last, and for their Diversion, gave several Prizes 58 to be contended for, by several Sorts of Exercise and Agility, all at his own Expence; and was honour'd with a great deal of Company; who were so well pleas'd with the same, that it was then resolved and concluded on, for keeping up the same Spirit of Friendship, and good Society, to have an annual Meeting at the Expence of the Gentlemen, by Subscription; accordingly a Subscription was set on Foot, and many of the Gentlemen have generously contributed towards defraying the Expence of the Entertainment and Diversions, this year; and propose the same annually.
I am desir'd to acquaint the Scots Gentlemen, That as this Meeting is fixt for St. Andrew's-Day, partly to commemorate the Patron of their Country, it's hoped they'll contribute to the carrying on and continuing the same, by the Favour of their Company and Encouragement."1
1737: "Williamsburg, Nov. 18.
We hear from Hanover County, That the Prize to be run for there, on St. Andrew's, Day, by 20. Horses, &c. is a neat Saddle, with a handsome Silver-lac'd and fring'd Housing: That several Gentlemen have already enter'd their Horses; and 'tis believ'd the whole Number will be made up. The Posts are already set up at the Place mention'd in the former Papers; and 'tis expected there will be a great deal of Company."2
1737: "Williamsburg, Dec. 9. …
In some of our former Gazettes we gave an Account that there was to be a Meeting of the Gentlemen and Ladies, in that County, on St. Andrew's Day, as well to propogate good Society, as to commemorate that Patron, &c. We can now inform our Readers, that there was accordingly a Meeting at the Time and Place, appointed, of a great Number of Gentlemen, Ladies, and others; Booths were set up, and an extraordinary good Dinner provided for them, with Variety and Plenty of Liquors. The Horse and Foot Races were run; and all or most of the Prizes contended for, and won. The fine Saddle and Housing were won by a Bay Horse belonging to one Tynes, of Caroline County; but 'tis said Mr. James Littlepage is to have it. During the Time a Flag was display'd, Drums were beating, Trumpets sounding, and other Musick playing, for the Entertainment of the Company, and the whole was manag'd with as good Order, and gave as great Satisfaction, in general, as could possibly be expected."3
The town of Newcastle was laid off on land formerly in New Kent County; but by 1744, when the General Assembly passed an act "to confirm the lots of the town of Newcastle, to the purchasers thereof," it had been added to Hanover County1. In 1745/6, the Assembly passed an act allowing fairs to be held in Newcastle, as follows:
"An Act, for Preventing the building wooden Chimnies in the several towns therein mentioned, And pulling down such as are already built in the said towns; and to restrain Hogs going at large in Newtown, and Newcastle.
VI. And whereas allowing fairs to be kept in the said town of Newcastle, will be very commodious to the inhabitants of that part of this colony, Be it further enacted, That for the future, two fairs shall and may be annually kept and held, in the said town of Newcastle, on the first Tuesday in April, and the third Tuesday in November, in every year, each to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes, whatsoever; on which fair days, and two days next before, and two days next after each of the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares, and merchandizes, shall be exempt and privileged, from all arrests, attachments, and executions whatsoever; except for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits and quarrels, that may arise and happen, during the said times, in which cases process may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner as if this act had never been made: Anything herein before contained, to the contrary notwithstanding."2
The dates of the Newcastle fairs were changed by Act of Assembly in 1748;3 but the act was repealed in 1752, by proclamation, at the King's order.4 In April, 1752, the Council and Burgesses prepared an address to the King, explaining why in small towns fairs had been allowed without incorporating the towns - evidently part of the reason for the repeal:
"… The small number of inhabitants, and the want of persons properly qualified to constitute a corporation, is the reason that your majesty's lieutenant governor 60 hath not granted these towns [Suffolk, Newcastle, and a town in Augusta County] a charter. To assess a toll on the commodities brought to these fairs would frustrate the intents of the acts. Neither do the people desire a court of piepowder; their monthly county courts, and the authority allowed your majesty's justices of the peace being sufficient to determine their differences.…"1
The change of dates for the Newcastle fair was evidently allowed, because fairs were held as follows between the years 1751 and 1757:
"FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
At NEWCASTLE Town in Hanover County, the second Tuesdays in May and October, Yearly."2
We have found no further information concerning the Newcastle fairs in the sources available.
We have no information on the fairs in Suffolk, except that they were allowed to be held there. In 1745, the General Assembly passed an act for "erecting a town at Constance's, warehouse, in the county of Nansemond," to be "called by the name of Suffolk."1 In 1748, the Assembly passed an act "for allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Suffolk, and preventing hogs and goats going at large there,…" This act was repealed by the King's order, in 1752,2 but apparently it was re-enacted, because Suffolk was one of the places where fairs were held in Virginia — certainly between the years 1751-1757:
"FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
At SUFFOLK Town, in Nansemond County, the first Thursdays, in May, and November. …"3
In 1748, an act was passed by the General Assembly entitled "An act for establishing a town in Augusta county, and allowing fairs to be kept therein."1 This act was repealed in 1752, by order of the King,2 but apparently fairs were held at Staunton by 1754, even though an act to establish the town of Staunton did not pass the Assembly until 1761:
1754: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept,
At STAUNTON, in Augusta, County, the 4th Wednesdays in May, and November."3
1761: "An Act for establishing the towns of Staunton, in the county, of Augusta, and New London in the county of Bedford, and Strasburg in the county of Frederick.
II. And whereas the allowing Fairs to be kept in the said towns will be very commodious to the inhabitants of those parts, and greatly increase their trade, Be it therefore further enacted… That for the future two fairs shall and may be annually kept in the said towns of Staunton and Strasburg on the second Tuesday in June and November, and for the said town of New London on the fourth Thursday in May and November, in every year, and to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandises, whatsoever; on which Fair days, and two days before…"4
In Mrs. Stanard's Colonial Virginia, Its People and Customs, there is the statement:
"Fairs were held at several other places.Than Williamsburg and Fredericksburg, and in 1762 Staunton in The Valley had one. During it Elizabeth Hog and Priscilla Christian went to Crow's store and got as 'a fairing' a present of ribbon from the clerk."5
In 1752 an act was passed by the Assembly "for establishing the town of Winchester, and appointing Fairs therein." The clause concerning fairs follows:
1752: "III. And whereas allowing fairs to be kept, in the said town of Winchester, will be of great benefit to the inhabitants of the said parts, and greatly increase the trade of that town, Bell, therefore enacted… That for the future, two fairs shall and may be annually kept, and held, in the said town of Winchester, on the third Wednesday in June, and the third Wednesday in October, in every year, and to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes, whatsoever; on which fair days, and two days next before, and two days next after, the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares, and merchandizes, shall be exempted, and privileged, from all arrests, attachments, and executions, whatsoever, except for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits, or quarrels, that may arise and happen during the said time, in which case process may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner as if this act had never been made…"1
1754: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
AT WINCHESTER in Frederick County the 3d Wednesdays in June and October. …"2
In 1761, an act was passed for establishing the several towns, including "Strasburg in the county of Frederick." In getting the town of Strasburg established, George Washington, burgess from Frederick County, wrote Peter Stover, who laid out the town, concerning fairs for the town, and the act included a clause allowing fairs. We have no further information concerning the fairs at Strasburg:
1761: [George Washington to Peter Stover, Williamsburg, November 9th] "…I gave your Petition into the Assembly on Friday last which was received, and a Bill orderd. to be brought in for establishing a Town according to the prayer of it; …I also desird him [Israel Christian] to ask you if you wanted Fairs appointed, that the whole might be done in one. …"364
1761: "An Act for establishing the towns of Staunton, in the county of Augusta, New London in the county of Bedford, and Strasburg in the county of Frederick.
II. And whereas the allowing Fairs to be kept in the said towns will be very commodious to the inhabitants of those parts, and greatly increase their trade, Be it therefore further enacted… That for the future two fairs shall and may be annually kept in the said towns of Staunton and Strasburg on the second Tuesday in June and November, and for the said town of New London on the fourth Thursday in May and November, in every year, and to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandises, whatsoever; on which Fair days, and on two days next before…"1
In 1767 an "act for establishing Fairs in the town of Mecklenburg, in the county of Frederick," was passed by the Assembly, which was disallowed in 1768. We do not know that fairs were ever held in Mecklenburg, as we have no further information on the subject:
I. WHEREAS allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Mecklenburg in the county of Frederick, will be commodious to the inhabitants of those parts and greatly increase the trade of the said town: Be it therefore enacted… That for the future two fairs shall and may be annually kept and held in the said town of Mecklenburg, on the second Wednesday in June, and the second Wednesday in October, in every year, and to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares and merchandize, whatsoever: On which fair days, and two days next before, and two days next after, the said fair, all persons coming to, being at, or going from, the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares and merchandize, shall be exempt and priviledged from all arrests, attachments, and executions, whatsoever; except for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits, or quarrels, that may arise and happen during the said time: In which case, process may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had…"2
1768: "BY HIS EXCELLENCY
For publishing the ratification of one Act of Assembly, the repeal of five passed, in April, 1767.
WHEREAS his Majesty was pleased in Council the 12th day of August, 1768, to signify his approbation…of one act…
And was pleased also to signify his disallowance of five acts passed in the same year, intitled as follows, viz.
An act for establishing fairs in the town of Mecklenburg, in the county of Frederick. ."1
In 1748, an act was passed by the Assembly for "erecting a town at Hunting Creek warehouse" in Fairfax County,1 which town was named Alexandria.2 Although Alexandria was not incorporated until 1779,3 the following act "for allowing Fairs to be kept in the town of Alexandria," passed the General Assembly in 1752; which act was revived in 1755. Fairs were held there by 1754, and doubtless for many years thereafter:
I. WHEREAS allowing fairs to.be kept in the town of Alexandria, in the county of Fairfax, will be very commodious to the inhabitants of those parts of Virginia, and greatly increase the trade of that town:
II. BE it therefore enacted la the Lieutenant Governor, Council, and Burgesses… That for the future two fairs shall and may be annually kept, and held, in the said town of Alexandria, on the last Thursday in May, and the last Thursday in October each, to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes, whatsoever; on which fair days, and on two days next before, and two days next after each of the said fairs, all persons coming to, being at, or going from the same, together with their cattle, goods, wares and merchandizes, shall be exempt and privileged from all arrests, attachments, and executions whatsoever, except for capital offences, breaches of the peace, or for any controversies, suits,. and quarrels, that may arise and happen during the said time, in which cases processes may be immediately issued, and proceedings thereupon had, in the same manner as if this act had never been made; and that this act shall commence immediately after the end of this session of Assembly, and continue and be in force for two years, and from thence to the end of the next session of Assembly, and no longer."4
1755: "An Act for reviving an act, intituled,, An act for allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Alexandria.
I. WHEREAS the act of Assembly made in the twenty fifth year of his present majesty's reign, intituled, An act 67 allowing fairs to be kept in the town of Alexandria, expired at the end of the session of Assembly held in the month of August last, and it being necessary and convenient at this time, to revive and continue the same:
II. Be it therefore enacted, by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and Burgesses… That for the future, two fairs shall, and may be annually kept and held in the said town of Alexandria, on the last Thursday in May, and the last Thursday in October, each to continue for the space of two days, for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, victuals, provisions, goods, wares, and merchandizes whatsoever; on which fair days, and on two days next before, and two days next after… [Same as preceding act, to "commence immediately after the end of this session of Assembly, and continue and be in force for ten years,… and no longer.]
1754-57: "FAIRS in VIRGINIA are kept.
AT ALEXANDRIA in Fairfax County, the last Thursdays in May and October."2
In his earlier diaries which are extant, George Washington did not mention the Alexandria fairs; but in October, 1785, he mentioned going to the races in Alexandria.3 It may be that these were held to coincide with the fair, as was customary in many places.
In 1799, the spring fair was held in April, according to the following notice:
THE APRIL FAIR will be held in Alexandria, agreeably to an act of Assembly, on the 15th, and continue three days, for the purpose of selling Stock of every kind, Horses, Cattle, Sheep and Hogs. All those who wish to sell their superfluous Stock, fat Cattle &c. &c and all those who wish to buy, will attend at the time aforesaid. A Lot, near the centre, belonging to Messrs. Corn & Wisemiller, is intended for the reception of the stock of every kind, in Duke-Street.
April 13, 1799."4
Although by its charter, dated September, 1736, Norfolk borough was given the right to hold two fairs yearly, courts of pipowder, etc., we have found no record that fairs were held in Norfolk until 1773, and nothing further concerning the fairs there:
1736: "An Act to confirm the Charter of the Borough of Norfolk; …
I. WHEREAS by a charter lately passed under the great seal of the colony of Virginia, bearing date, at Williamsburg, the fifteenth day of September… L737, the town of Norfolk is erected into a borough, by the name of The borough of Norfolk; and the inhabitants thereof, are made a body corporate, consisting of a maior, recorder, eight aldermen, and sixteen common council men…
… With power to elect and send one burgess, to sit in the house of burgesses,… And to hold and keep three markets weekly, and two fairs yearly; and to hold courts of pipowder; … "1
1773: "NORFOLK, September 15, 1773.
I AM directed by the Common Hall of this borough to give notice that the first Monday in April and October in every year is appointed for holding of public fairs, or meetings, for selling such goods or commodity as may be brought thereto, free from toll, and agreeable to charter: Every person coming to, being at, and returning home, from such fair, held within the said borough, is exempted from all prosecutions and arrests at common law for three days preceding, and three days after, such fair is held; and, for the encouragement of the industrious farmer, and housewife, a handsome bounty will be given to those who produce for sale the finest and best wove Virginia manufactured linen, or woollen cloth, either plain or mixed, also for the best beef, veal, mutton, lamb, poultry, of all kinds &c. &c.
JOSEPH CALVERT, Serjeant."2
The town of Petersburg was incorporated in 1784, and was allowed to have two fairs yearly, as follows. We know nothing further concerning these fairs.
1784: "An act for incorporating the town of Petersburg, and for other Purposes.
I. BE It enacted by the General Assembly, That the towns of Petersburg, Blandford, Pocahuntas, and Ravenscrofts, shall henceforth be united and stiled the town of Petersburg, and bounded as followeth:
II. And be it enacted, That the said freeholders, housekeepers, and inhabitants… shall be a body politic and corporate, by the name of the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty, of the town of Petersburg; and by that name have perpetual succession and common seal.- …
… That they mayor, aldermen, and commonalty and their successors, by the name aforesaid, shall especially have power to rent, erect, or repair work-houses… and to hold two fairs in each year, to wit, one on the second Thursday in October, and the other on the second Thursday in May; to fix fines upon every billiard-table and tippling house, booth or tent, within the jurisdiction of the corporation;…"1
As in Virginia, fairs in the other colonies were primarily for the buying and selling of cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, and various goods, wares, and merchandise. Horse-races were often held on fair days — especially in Maryland. In some places added attractions were advertised. An "ingenious Piece of CLOCK WORK" representing "eight Men, ringing eight Bells" was displayed during a fair in Philadelphia in 1744.2 Pigs with their tails soaped were run for; "a cheese was grinn'd for by old men and women"3 in a 1747 fair; and various other contests for prizes were held. No reference has been found to peep-shows, merry-go-rounds, ups-and-downs, or overboats in any of the records we have found concerning the colonial fairs.
References to the fairs in colonies other than Virginia follow. Although the first reference quoted does not mention a fair, the description of the rope dancing is included as of possible interest:71
1724: The American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), May 7, 1724, (page 4, column 2)
"This is to give Notice to all Gentlemen, Ladies and others, That there is newly arrived to this place the famous Performance of Roap-Dancing, which is performed to the Admiration of all the Beholders,
1st, By a little Boy of seven Years old, who Dances and Capers upon the strait Roap, to the Wonder of all Spectators.
2dly, By a Woman [sic], who Dances a Corant and a Jigg upon the Roap, which she performs as well as a Dancing Master does it on the Ground.
3dly, She Dances with Baskets upon her Feet, and Iron Fetters upon her Legs.
4thly, She walks upon the Roap with a Wheel-Barrow before her.
5thly, You will see various Performances upon the Slack Roap.
6thly, You are entertained with the Comical Humour of your Old Friend Pickle Herring.
The whole Concluded with a Woman turning round in a swift Motion with seven or eight Swords Points at her Eyes, Mouth and Breast, for a Quarter of an Hour together, to the Admiration of all that behold the Performance.
There will likewise be several other diverting Performances on the Stage, too large here to mention.
The above Performances are to be seen at the New Booth on Society Hill, To begin on Thursday next, being the last day of April, and to continue Acting, the Term of Twenty Days and no longer.
The Price upon the Stage is Three Shillings, in the Pit Two Shillings, and in the Gallery One Shilling and Six Pence.
To begin exactly at Seven a Clock in the Evening."
1727: Ibid., August 10, 1727, (4:1) "On the 2d Day of October next the Time of the Fair at New-Castle, will be exposed to sale by public Vendue, two Plantations lying…"
1728/29: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), March 18, 1728/29, (2:1)
5. and 6. Edw. VI Chap. 14 "All persons buying or causing to be bought any Merchandize, Victuals or other Thing coming by Land or Water, toward any Market or Fair to be Sold, or toward any City, Port, Haven, Creek, or Road of this Realm, or Wales, from an Parts [sic] beyond the Seas to be Sold, or making any Bargain, Contract or Promise; for buying or having the same so coming, before they shall be in the Market, Fair, and ready to be Sold; or making any Motion by Word, Letter, Message or otherwise to any Person or Persons, for the enhancing the Price, or dearer selling of any of said Things, or disswading 72 moving, or stirring any Person coming to the Market or Fair; to forebear bringing any of said Things, to any Market and to be Sold, are declared to be Forestallers.
The Penalties of this Act are; For the first Offence, two Months Imprisonment,' without Bail and Forfeiture of the Value of the Goods bought or had, &c.
2d. Offence, Six Months Imprisonment, and Forfeiture of double the Value of the Goods, &c.
3d. Offence, To be set in the Pillory in the City, where the Fore-staller dwells, and to forfeit all his Goods, &c. and to be committed to Prison during the King's Pleasure. …"
1728: The New York Gazette (New York, New York), May 6, 1728, (4:2) "Jamaica Fair Opens on Tuesday the 7th of May Instant, and continues four Days, where will be Exposed to Sale variety of Goods and Merchandize, and several fine Horses will be there to be Sold. It is expected that the Lyon will be there to be seen."
1731: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 22, 1731, (4:2) "AT a Petty Sessions of the Peace, held for the County of Burlington, at Burlington the 16th Day of April, 1731, it was considered that FAIRS generally occasion great Concourse of People from the most adjacent Places, and that at present it is not meet for keeping the FAIR at Burlington as usual, by reason of the great Mortality in Philadelphia, and other Parts of Pennsylvania, where the Small-Pox now violently rages: Therefore, to prevent to the utmost Power of the said Justices, the further spreading of so epidemical and dangerous a Distemper, and. more especially for that the approaching Heat of Summer may render it more malignant and fatal, It is Order'd, That MAY FAIR next, be, and is hereby prohibited to be kept in the said Town of Burlington; and all Persons are hereby to take Notice accordingly, as they will answer for their Contempt at their Perils."
1733: The Boston Weekly News-Letter (Boston), October 11, 1733, (2:2)
"These are to give Notice of the Autumn or Fall Fair, which is to be at John Brown's Tavern-Keeper at Hampton-Falls, upon the 17th and 18th Days of October next, for to sell Fat Cattle and Sheep: There will be also a considerable number of fat Horses brought thither from the Eastward, fit for either the Collar; the Saddle or the Sea which will be Sold very reasonably; or otherwise traded for. The Place where the said Fair is to be held, is but Seven Miles to the East of Newbury Ferry."
1733: Ibid., October 25, 1733, (2:1)
"BOSTON, October, 24, 1733.
We have Advice by a Letter from Hampton-Falls,
That the 17th and 18th Instant, being the Days appointed for holding the Fair at that Place, (as Advertised in this Paper) for selling fat Cattle, Sheep and Horses; it was observed that 73 the said Fair was carried on peaceably, and, as is supposed, advantagiously both to the Buyers & Sellers; about Seven Hundred Pounds, on the second Day of the said Fair, was there paid for the Creatures above-mentioned, but chiefly for fat Cattle."
1734: The American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), November 21, 1734, (3:2) "Two counterfeit Twenty-Shilling New-Castle Bills are just discovered, which have been passed at the Fair, and 'tis suspected that no small Number have been dispersed at the same Time. …"
1735: The Boston Weekly News-Letter (Boston), April 17, 1735, (2:2)
"Province of New-Hampshire,
GEORGE, the Second by the Grace
L. S. of God of Great-Britain, France and
Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
To all People to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting. KNOW YE, That We of Our especial Grace, certain Knowledge, and meer Motion, for the due Encouragement of Trade and Traffick within Our Parish of Hampton-Falls, in Our Province of New-Hampshire in New-England, and for the more effectual carrying on of the same there, have given and granted, and do by these Presents, Give and Grant to the Inhabitants of Our said Parish, and their Successors, the Privilege of having, holding and keeping two Yearly FAIRS, in the said Parish forever, each to continue Two Days together, and no more; the one to begin on the last Tuesday in April, and the other on the last Tuesday in October annually: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, the Privilege of Keeping Two yearly FAIRS as aforesaid, for the Ends and Purposes above expres'd to the said Inhabitants and their Successors for ever. In Testimony whereof we have caused Our Province Seal to be hereunto affixed. Witness JONATHAN BELCHER, Our Governor and Commander in Chief in and over Our said Province, the Twenty fourth Day of October, in the Eighth Year of Our Reign. Annoque Domini, 1734
By His Excellency's Command,
with the Advice of the Council, J. BELCHER.
Richard Waldron, Secr.
This is to give Notice, That agreeable to the above Grant; the FAIRS will be kept at Hampton-Falls, ,the Days therein prefixed. All Persons who have any Business to Transact at the said Fairs, are desired to observe the same, and attend accordingly.
N.B. Sundry d'verting Exercises not usual in this Country, will be performed, and to be seen at Brown's Tavern at the said Hampton-Falls, each Day of said Fair."
1735: The American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), May 1, 1735, (4:1)
"There will be Sold at the Fair in Philadelphia, on the 16th and 17th of this Instant May, at reasonable Prices, a large Number of Books of sundry sorts, to wit, of Law, Physick, Divinity, Philosophy, History, and Mathematicks."
1735: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), May 22, 1735, (4:2)
"LOST May the 17th, from one of the Stalls in the Fair a Piece of dark green Half-yard Persian, containing 27 Yards. or thereabouts, marked on the End of the Stick that it was roll'd on, 2s. 6d. … Caleb Ranstead."
1736: Ibid., November 4, 1736, (3:2)
"ON THURSDAY the 18th Instant
being the Third Day of the Fair,
AN OX will be roasted whole, for the Entertainment of the Country, at the House of JOSEPH STENNARD in the Northern Liberties of PHILADELPHIA."
1737: The American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), June 9, 1737, (3:1)
Repeated June 16, 1737, (3:2)] "RAN-away from Thomas Potts, of Colebrook-Dale Iron-Works at the Fair in May, a Negro Woman named Beck…
She had Liberty to come down to the Fair, where she happen'd to meet with a Sailor, who, taking a Fancy to her, intic'd her away.
1740: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 3, 1740, (3:2)
[Same notice in The American Weekly Mercury, April 3, 1740, (3:2) — repeated April 10, 17, 24, and May 1, 1740)
"NOTICE is hereby given that the Fairs will be kept at the Burrough of Willington1 on the 28th and 29th of April, and on the 24th and 25th of October in every Year, when it is proposed to keep a Fair for Horses, Cattle &c.
Signed per Order
Willington, March 29 1740."
1740: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 20, 1740, (3:1)
"NOTICE is hereby given, that the FAIR will be held at Wilmington the 24th of this Instant October."
1740: Ibid., November 6, 1740, (3:1)
"At the FAIR will be published,
POOR RICHARD'S and John Jerman's ALMANACKS: Also, Sheet ALMANACKS and Pocket ALMANACKS, for the Year 1741."
1742: The American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), May 20, 1742, (in postscript)
[Repeated May 27, 1742, (4:1)]
"Notice is hereby given, That by Virtue of a Charter lately granted to the Freemen and Inhabitants of the Town of Lancaster, 75 in the County of Lancaster, two FAIRS will be kept yearly in the said Town, viz, on the first day of June, and the first day of November: And that the first Fair will be held the first day of June next, and continue that day and the day following."
1744: The Boston Evening-Post (Boston), May 14, 1744, (3:2)
"This is to give Notice, That the Fair will be opened at, Bristol, the Third Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in May, according to Law."
1744: The Pennsylvania Journal or Weekly Advertiser (Philadelphia), November 8, 1744, (3:1)
Same notice in The American Weekly Mercury, November 8, 1744, (4:1) - repeated November 15, 1744.] "During the Fair,
At the Crooked-Billet adjoining to the Market-Street Wharff, will be shewn, An ingenious Piece of CLOCK WORK, Which among many other Curiosities, represents eight Men, ringing eight Bells, truly round ringing and Changes, much in Imitation of Ringing in England; with two young Men and a Lady walking, the Lady turning Head over Heels like a Mountebank, and the Clock drawing a Curtain, and firing a Pistol. Likewise a Tower and Steeple, eight Bells true round Ringing and Changes. Also a wooden Image that blows a Bellows, strikes Fire, lights a Candle and fires off a Gun: The like of this never heard of in England; and the whole put into better Order than ever. Price to Men and Women Six Pence, to Children Three Pence."
1745: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), September 6, 1745, (4:2) [Repeated September 13, 1745, (3:2)]
"On Tuesday the 17th Day of this Instant September, and Wednesday the 18th of the same Month, a Fair will be kept at Mr. Murdock's Old Fields, near Queen Anne Town, in Prince George's County.
On the first Day of the said Fair will be run for by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, Thirty Pounds Current Money; to run three Heats, two Miles each Heat, and to carry one Hundred and ten Pounds Weight.
On the Day following will be run for on the same Course, Twenty Pounds Current Money, to run three Heats, and carry the same Weight; the winning Horse on the first Day, to be excepted on the second.
The Horses, &c. to be Entered with Mr. William Beall, at Queen Anne, on each Day of Racing; paying Thirty Shillings Entrance each Horse, &c. for the first Prize: and Twenty for the second.
All Differences and Disputes are to be determined by Thomas Harwood, and Thomas Brooke, junior." 76 The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), September 20, 1745, (4:1) Repeated September 27, 1745, (4:2)]
"On Thursday the 10th of October, 1745, Friday the 11th, and Saturday the 12th of the same Month, a Fair will be kept at Baltimore Town, in Baltimore County.
On the first Day of the said Fair will be run for, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, Ten Pounds Current Money; to run three Heats, half a Mile each Heat, and to carry one Hundred Twenty-five Pounds Weight.
On the second Day will be run for Five Pounds Current Money, to run three Heats the same Distance, and to carry the same Weight; the winning Horse the first Day to be excepted on the second.
On the third Day will be run for Three Pounds Current Money, the same Course, three Heats; the winning Horses on the first and second Days to be excepted.
The Horses, &c. to be entered either with William Hammond, or Darby Lux, at any Time before the Day of Racing; paying Ten Shillings for each Horse of the first Day, Seven Shillings for each Horse of the second Day, and Half a Crown for each Horse of the third Day.
A Hat and Ribbon of Twenty-five Shillings Value to be cudgelled for on the second Day, and a Pair of London Pumps to be wrestled for on the third Day.
All Disputes that may arise, to be determined by William Hammond, Charles Ridley, and Darby Lux."
1745: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 17, 1745, (3:2)
"Notice is hereby given, that there will be a Fair held at Lancaster, for the sale of Horses, Black Cattle, &c, and all sorts of Merchandize, on the Twenty-fifth of this October, to hold that Day, and the Day following; the first of November, mentioned in some Almanacks and Prints, as the Day for holding said Fair, being entered by Mistake."
1745: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) October 18, 1745, (4:1) Repeated October 25, 1745, (4:1)
"On Wednesday the 30th day of this Instant October, and Thursday the 31st of the same Month, a Fair will be kept in the old Fields near John Conner's in Anne-Arundel County.
On the First day of the Fair will be Run for by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, Twelve Pounds Current Money, to run three Heats two Miles each Heat, and to carry one hundred and twelve Pounds.
On the day following will be run for on the same Course Eight Pounds Current-Money, to run three Heats, and to carry the same Weight; the winning Horse, &c. on the first day, to be excepted on the second.
The Horses, &c, are to be entered with John Conner on each Day of Racing; paying Twenty Shillings Entrance each Horse, &c. for the first Prize, and Fifteen for the second.
All Differences and Disputes are to be determined by Mr. David Weems and Mr. Richard Harwood.
N.B. Those Gentlemen that subscribe for the Benefit of the Fair, to pay but half Price for Entrance."
1746: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 10, 1746, (3:2)
"These are to give Notice, That on Wednesday the 16th Day of April next, at the Borough Town of Trenton, in the County of Hunterdon, in the Province of New-Jersey, will be held and kept a FAIR for selling and buying of all Manner of Horses, Mares, Colts, Cows, Calves, Steers, Hogs, Sheep, and all other Cattle, Goods, Wares, and Merchandizes whatsoever: Which said FAIR will be held and kept the same Day above-mentioned, and two Days next following, pursuant to a Clause in a Charter of Privileges lately granted to the said Borough Town of Trenton, for that Purpose. Philadel. March 27, 1746"
1746: Ibid., September 18, 1746, (7:1}
"On Monday the 20th of October next, being the Fair day at Germantown, will be exposed to public sale by vendue, …"
1746: The Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia), October 16, 1746, (4:1)
"Germantown, September the 23d. 1746
On Monday the 20th day of October next, being the Fair day at Germantown, will be exposed to publick Sale by Vendue, …"
1747: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), March 24, 1747, (3:2)
[Repeated April 14 and April 21, 1747]
"On the 30th of April, a FAIR will begin at Queen's-Town in Queen-Anne's County; where will be given, to be run for by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding; viz.
On the first Day of the Fair; Seven Pounds Current Money, the mile, three Heats.
On the second Day, Four Pounds like Money; the Quarter, three Heats.
Each Horse to carry 140 Pounds weight. Any Horse to run the second Day, except the winning Horse of the first. And on the third Day, Wrestling, Cudgelling, and several other Diversions.
The Horses must be Entered with Benjamin Sutton in Queen's Town by 10 of the Clock the first Day of the Fair, paying Seven Shillings for the first Prize, and four Shillings for the second; which Money arising on the said Entries, to go to the second best Horse, each Day."
1747: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 2, 1747, (3:3)
[Also in Ibid., April 9, 1747, (4:3)]
"Frederick-Town, March 30, 1747
On the 30th day of April next, will be held a FAIR at Frederick town, in Caecil county, to continue three days. The first day will be given Five Pounds current Money, to be run for, three heats, (each heat a single quarter) by any number of horses, mares, or geldings; not exceeding six; after which a smock to be run for by women. On the second day, Three Pounds current money to be run for, by horses, &c. in manner aforesaid; a hat to be cudgell'd for, and a 78 pair of pumps to be wrestled for. On the third day will be run for, by any number of horses, mares, or geldings (not exceeding twelve) Thirty Shillings current money; each man to ride his neighbour's horse; the hindmost horse to win the prize. A pig with a soap'd tail to be run for. A cheese to be grinn'd for by old men and women; with several ' other diversions too tedious to insert.
N.B. The horses to be entered with James Hughes, three days before the Fair. No horse that runs the first day will be allowed to run the second."
1747: The Maryland Gazette, (Annapolis) May 12, 1747, (3:2)
[Repeated May 19 and May 26, 1747] "May 6, 1747
On the 21st Instant, a Fair will be held in Prince-George's County, near Mr. Kennedy Farrell's at Rock Creek, in Mr. Henry Wright Crabb's old Field.
On the first Day, will be run for, by any Horse, Mare or Gelding, a Prize of Ten Pounds Currency.
On the Second Day, a Prize of Six Pounds, like Money; and none to be excepted but the winning Horse of the first Day And on the third Day, a Prize of Four Pounds like Money; the two winning Horses only excepted.
The Horses are to run three Heats, two Miles each Heat, and to carry 120 Weight. The Horses to be entered with Mr. Farrell, the Morning of the Race, Paying as many Shillings as Pounds are Run for, each Day. The Distance 100 Yards. All Differences and Disputes, if any arise, to be determined by
H. W. Crabb"
1747: Ibid., August 18, 1747, (3:2)
[Repeated August 25, September 15, and September 22, 17437 "On the 29th of September, will be Run, on the Race-Ground near Annapolis, a Match for Fifty Guineas.
And the day following, a Subscription Race for Twenty Pounds Current Money, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, carrying Nine Stone, the best of Three Heats. A Non-subscriber to pay Twenty Shillings Entrance."
1747: Ibid., September 8, 1747, (4:1)
[Repeated September 15, 22, 30, 1747; October 7 and 14, 1747]
"The Subscriber hath obtained a Patent for keeping a FAIR at Frederick-Town, near Monocacy, on the 21st Day of October, and the 10th Day of May next, each Fair to continue Three Days; and for a Market to be held there every Saturday after the first of November next. All Persons who will bring any Goods, Merchandizes, Cattle, or any Thing else to the said Fairs, or Markets, to sell, shall be free and exempt from the Payment of any Toll, Stallage, Piccage, or any other Charge, for the Term of Five Years next ensuing this last day of August 1747.
1747: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), September 8, 1747, (3:2)
[Repeated September 15 and 22, 1747]
"Whereas there is a Fair appointed by Act of Assembly to be held in Baltimore-Town, on the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, in October yearly; the Commissioners of the said Town hereby give Notice, that whoever brings to the said Fair, on the first Day thereof, the best Steer, shall receive Eight Pounds current Money for the same; also a Bounty of Forty Shillings, over and above the said Eight Pounds. The said Steer afterwards, on the same Day, to be run for, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding not exceeding 5 Years old, three Heats, a Quarter of a Mile each Heat, not confined to carry any certain Weight: The winning Horse to be intitled to the said Steer, or to Eight Pounds in Money, at the Option of the Owner.
On Friday the second day of said Fair, will be run for the Sum of Five Pounds current Money, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, the same Distance, not confin'd to carry any certain Weight. Also a Bounty of Forty Shillings will be given to any Person that produces the best Piece of Yard wide Country-made white Linnen, the Piece to contain 20 Yards.
On Saturday the third Day, a Hat and Ribbon will be cudgell'd for; a Pair of Pumps wrestled for; and a white Shift to be run for by Negro Girls.
The Horses to be entered with William Lux Clerk of said Town, any Time before the Day of Running, paying for the first Day Five Shillings, for the second Day Half a Crown. All Disputes that may arise, are to be determined by the Commissioners of the paid Town: And all Persons are exempted from any Arrests, during the said Fair, and the Day before, and Day after; except in Cases of Felony, and Breaches of the Peace, according to the Tenure of the above-mentioned Act."
1747: Ibid., October 7, 1747, (3:1)
[Repeated October 14 and 21, 1747]
"Lost, on the last Day of the Fair, on the Race-Ground near this City, a very good Castor Hat.
The Person who finds and brings it to the Subscriber, shall have Five Half-Crowns Reward.
1747: Ibid., October 28, 1747, (3:2)
[Repeated November 4, 11, 18, 25, 1747] "Lost, during the last FAIR, a Woman's Side Sadle, without any Covering, the Seat Buck-skin almost new. A Horse strayed away with it on his Back, but was taken up without it.
Whoever finds and brings it to the Subscriber, shall have Ten Shillings Reward.
1748: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 16, 1748, (4:1)
"Philadelphia, April 14, 1748.
On Thursday, the 5th day of May next, will be held a fair at Frederickstown, on Sassafrass River, Maryland, to continue for three days; where will be given the first day a prize of Six Pounds, Maryland currency, to be run for by any number of horses, mares, or geldings, not exceeding six, the half mile, three heats; and in the evening a ball for the ladies. The second day will be given Three Pounds, like money, to be paced for by any number of horses, mares, or geldings, not exceeding six, the half mile, three heats. The third day will be other diversions,. such as cudgeling, wrestling, &c. &c. &c. &c.
The entrance-money for the first prize five shillings, and for the second, three shillings: And all pedlars and retailers of liquor, who keep stalls or booths, shall pay five shillings each, to
1748: Ibid., October 13, 1748, (3:1)
"Philadelphia, October 13, 1748
These are to give not1ce, that on Wednesday, the 19th of this inst. October, at the Burrough-town of Trenton, in the county of Hunterdon, will be held and kept, A FAIR, for the selling and buying of all manner of horses, mares, colts, cows, calves, steers, hoggs, sheep, and all other cattle, goods, wares and merchandize whatsoever; which said FAIR will be held and kept the same day abovementioned, and two days next following, pursuant to a clause in a charter of priveleges, granted to the said Burrough-town for that purpose."
1751: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), May 8, 1751, (2:1)
Last Wednesday, being the first Day of our Fair, a Match was Run on the Race Ground near this City, the best of three Heats, each Heat being two Miles and a half, between Mr. IGNATIUS DIGGES'S Bay Horse Vendome, and Mr. HARRISON'S Grey Horse Beau, for Sixty Guineas, which was won by the former, who got the two first Heats."
1752: Ibid., April 9, 1752, (3:2)
[Repeated April 16, 23, 30, 1752; and May 7, 1752]
"To be Sold by Public Vendue,
On Friday the 8th Day of May next, being the second Day of the Fair, at Baltimore Town, by the Executrix of Col. William Hammond, deceased, …
Also, to be Sold at Annapolis, the second Day of May Fair next, at the House of Mr. Soumaien, …
1753: The Boston Evening-Post (Boston), October 8, 1753, (2:2)
"Whereas there hath been great Inconveniences both to the Town of Londonderry and to Strangers, in reference to New-Stile and Old upon account of the Fair of said, Derry; therefore we the Select-Men of said Derry, have made Inquiry, and Found that by the Act of Parliament all Fairs and Markets shall stand according to Old-Stile; and thereupon we have thought fit to advertise,
THAT the Fairs of Londonderry, in New-Hampshire, shall be holden on the Fourth Tuesday of October, and also of May N. S. hereafter.
Subscribed at Londonderry the 14th of Sept. 1753.
By Samuel Barr )
Samuel Allison, jun.) Select-Men." John Humphry )
1753: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), October 11, 1753, (2:3)
"Notice is hereby given, That the FAIR, which was to have been held at Upper Marlborough, on Tuesday the 16th Instant, is put off 'til the Tuesday following, on Account of the Election.
By Order of the Subscribers,
Benjamin Barry, junior
1755: The Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia), June 5, 1755, (3:2)
"FOUND in the last fair at Noxon Town, a certain quantity of Gold, …"
1755: The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), September 4, 1755, (2:3)
[Repeated September 25, 1755; October 2, 9, 16, 1755]
"Lost at the Fair, near Mr. Joseph Howard's, over South River, sometime in June last, a Gold Ring, and some Money, in a blue Silk Purse, the Poesy of the Ring is, It was my Fancy for to range; I like my Choice to well to change. Whoever will bring said Ring to Mr. James Sanders, near Queen-Anne, shall have Two Pistoles Reward, paid by
JAMES SANDERS, junior."
1758: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 26, 1758, (3:3)
"Philadelphia, October 25, 1758
Stopt at Noxontown Fair, on Monday last, two large Silver Spoons, …"
1759: Ibid., May 10, 1759, (3:2)
"By Order of the BURGESSES and COMMON-COUNCIL of the Borough of Bristol, May 5, 1759.
Notice is hereby given, that at the ensuing, Fair, to be held within the Borough of Bristol, the 16th Day of this instant. May, there will be exposed to Sale, in open Market there, sundry Horses, Mares, and Colts, of different Ages; a Sett of six Horses, well accustomed to a Team: also Cows and 82 Young Heifers, near calving. As this is the first Attempt M in this Province, to introduce the Custom of selling and buying live Cattle at Fairs, in Imitation of the Mother Country the Advantages of which in bringing the Buyer and Seller together. promoting the Circulation of Money, and enabling People more easily and certainly to pay Debts, are so obvious and apparent, it is hoped all Persons will so far encourage this first Attempt, that as well as Bristol, at all other Places, which have Grants for holding Fairs, the Practice of buying and selling all Sorts of live Cattle, may, by Degrees, be introduced and continued for the future.
N.B. The said Fairs, shall be Custom free for selling live Cattle, for seven Years from this Time. Signed by Order,
DAVID PINKERTON, Clerk"
1762: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), February 11, 1762, (4:1) "Whereas about the last Fair held in Philadelphia, a Boat was taken away from Joseph Warner's Wharff, …"
1764: Ibid., March 8, 1764, (2:3)
"An ACT to suppress FAIRS in the Town of Salem,
WHEREAS the holding of Fairs in the Town of Salem, has by Experience been found inconvenient and unnecessary; therefore be it enacted by the Governor, Council and General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the Authority of the same, that no Fair shall hereafter be held in the Town of Salem; any Law, Usage or Custom to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding. (Passed at Burlington the 7th of December last.)"
1764: Ibid., March 22, 1764, (3:2)
"NOTICE is hereby given,
THAT, in Virtue of a Patent from the Governor and Commander in Chief of the Three Lower Counties on Delaware, and Province of Pennsylvania, a publick FAIR will be held and kept at the Town of Dover, in the County of Kent, on the 21st Day of April, and 20th Day of October next, and on the same Days every Year for ever, unless the said Days happen on a Sunday, and then to begin on the next Day, and to continue for two Days, for the Selling and Buying Horses, Cattle, and all Sorts of Goods and Merchandize; Stalls and Booths will be erected and prepared to such as will attend the said Fairs, and all Manner of Encouragement given to them."
1764: Ibid., July 5, 1764, (1:1) "Stopped and supposed to be stolen from Lancaster Fair, the following Goods, viz. a Quantity of Irish Linen, one Piece of Poplin, a Bundle of sewing Silk, one Pair of Shoes, and several Pairs of Stockings, likewise some Money. …"83-a
1768: The New Hampshire Gazette, October 28, 1768, (3:2)
"NOTICE is hereby given, That a FAIR will be held at Rye, at the House of Abraham Libey, Innholder, the second Tuesday in November next, and every Year on that Date for the future."
1768: The New Hampshire Gazette, November 4, 1768, (3:3)
"At the Fair,
Which is to be held at Rye next Tuesday, will be Sold a Number of good LEATHER BREECHES, &c. &c. Also a good second Hand CHAISE."
1770: The New Hampshire Gazette, September 28, 1770, (4:3) "WHEREAS for a number of Years past, a FAIR has been held in the Town of Rye, the first Tuesday and Wednesday in November, which being late in the Year and often bad Weather, many are desirous of having it sooner -- Therefore Notice is hereby given, That this present Year, and for the future, it will be held the third Tuesday and Wednesday in October, at Mr. Abraham Lebbee's in Rye."
1773: The New Hampshire Gazette, October 22, 1773, (1:4)
"The Fair is to be held at the HOUSE of ABRAHAM LIBBY, in Rye, on the first Tuesday and Wednesday in November next as usual."
1774: The New Hampshire Gazette, October 14, 1774, (3:3)
"The Rye Fair,
Is to be the last Tuesday and Wednesday in this Month at the House of Mr. Abraham Libby, where good Entertainment will be given for Man and Horse."
1744: The Pennsylvania Gazette, (Philadelphia), September 20, 1764, (1:2) "Notice is hereby given that the Fall and Spring FAIRS are appointed to be held in the Town of Dover, for Kent County on Delaware, by Patent, on the 12th Day of October, and in April, as advertised last Spring, and to continue two Days each Fair, Sundays excepted."
1764: The Boston Evening-Post, (Boston), October 15, 1764, (2:2)
"Cambridge, Aug. 3. We hear from Huntingdon, that at the Races there last Week, a certain Noble E----, who, though placed in one of the highest Offices of State, has Condescension enough to put himself upon a Level with the Meanest of his Majesty's Subjects, entertained a Company of Foreigners and Friends, by way of filling up some vacant hours, not destined to the Circus, with the following truely polite and classical Amusements — First, The Hunting of the Hen; performed by a Set of Men with their Hands muffled; the first that pulled a Feather to be declared the Victor, and to have the Hen for his Reward---Secondly, A Diving Match; enacted thus; a Shilling, or other Piece of Money, was placed at the Bottom of a Tub of Water, to be dived for by Men with their Hands tied behind them, (if the Competitors had large Heads of Hair so much the better) the Person who could first bring it up in his Mouth to have it for his Pains--- Thirdly, A Race by Men tied up in Sacks: What an improvement upon this last Diversion would it be to have it performed by a Set of hobbling University Doctors, properly skewer'd up in their congregational Robes, which are so peculiarly suited for this Purpose: May not one hope if ever a Person of his L---p's Taste should gain a proper Degree of Influence among us, to see this Hint put in Practise?"
1764 : The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), December 20, 1764, (1:1) "Was found in Chester Fair, the 16th of October last, a Pocket Book, …"
1767: New York Journal or General Advertiser (New York, New York), April 9, 1767 supplement (2:2)
"TO BE RUN FOR
At the Fair at Perth-Amboy, on Friday the First of May next, a PURSE …
Perth-Amboy, March 18, 1767"
1767: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), December 24, 1767, (3:3)
[Same notice in The Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia), November 23, 1767, (2:4)] "Monmouth County, New Jersey, Nov. 9, 1767.
Whereas on Thursday, the 22nd of October last, was lost, in the Princetown Fair, a red Leather Pocket Book, with a Silver Lock, containing …"
1768: The New York Journal or General Advertiser (New York), August 25, 1768, (3:3)
"WHEREAS many Inconveniencies frequently attend the Sale of Horses, Horn Cattle, Sheep, and Swine, far want of some public convenient stated Market or Fair, where Sellers and Buyers may …meet for that Purpose. --
…" [Establishes an annual market at Newark]
1768: The Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia), November 7, 1768, (4:3)
"October 26, 1768
Stolen on Friday last, out of John Anderson's lot, at Noxonton fair, a dark bay horse, …
1769: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 12, 1769, (3:1)
"? The Fall Fair at Princetown will be held on Wednesday and Thursday next, being the 18th and 19th Instant."
1769: The New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (New York), November 20, 1769, (3:3)
"On Monday next, the 27th Inst. at the FAIR, at RICHMOND TOWN, on Staten-Island, will be run for …
The Fair to be held three Days."
1770: The Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia), April 16, 1770, (2:2)
"PHILADELPHIA, April 16.
The SPRING FAIR at Princeton, will be held on Wednesday and Thursday the 18th and 19th Inst. …"
1771: The New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (New York), May 13, 1771, (3 :2)
"The FAIR at Westchester comes on Tomorrow, where will be ready Sale for all Sorts of Cattle. A House of good Entertainment is kept there by Mr. George Youngs."
1772: The Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia), April 9, 1772, (3:3)
"Dover, Kent county on Delaware, March 27, 1772,
WHEREAS many disorders have been committed, and great inconveniencies have arisen by means of the drinking-stalls, or booths, which have hitherto been suffered to be kept by Foreigners during the Fairs at Dover; For the preventing of which in future, this public notice is given, by order of the Worshipful the Justices of Peace for the county aforesaid, that no Foreigner will hereafter be permitted to sell or vend any mixed liquors, or spirituous liquors by small measure, during the continuance of the Fairs in said town, and any person who shall offend in the premises, may depend on being prosecuted for the same, and all concerned are desired to take notice accordingly.
Clerk of the Fairs and Market"
1772: The New York Journal or General Advertiser (New York), April 30, 1772, (3:2)
"ON TUESDAY the Fifth of May next, the Half Yearly FAIR held for this City, will be opened upon the Commons, and will continue from that Day till the FRIDAY Evening following, during which Time, all Persons have free License to sell and' dispose of all Manner of Goods, Wares and Merchandizes, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Hogs, &c."
1722: The Pennsylvania Chronicle (Philadelphia), October 10, 1772, (3:3) "Once more the FAIR at Princeton will be held on Wednesday and Thursday the 21st and 22d of this Instant."
1774: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), May 11, 1774, (3:3)
"Bristol Borough, April 13, 1774.
THE Burgesses and Common Council of the said Borough have thought fit to order, that for the future, the following Rates shall be paid for the Stalls and Stands hereafter to be erected in the Fairs held in the said Borough, viz. for every Stall 7s 6, and for every Stand (except for such as are taken for Earthen Ware and Wooden Ware, which are to be lett as usual) 3s 9. All Persons, who may attend the said Fairs, to dispose of their Goods for the future, are hereby desired to take Notice of the same.
Signed by Order of the Council,
JOSEPH HALL, T. Clerk."
1774: Rivington's New York Gazetteer (New York), August 18, 1774, (3:3)
"AT Elizabeth-Town, New Jersey, the beginning of October next, at the time of the Fair, will be run for … Elizabeth-Town, August 16, 1774."
1774: The New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (New York), September 19, 1774, (3:3)
"On the second Tuesday in October next, at ten o'clock in the morning, a FAIR will be opened at Rye, agreeable to act of assembly, to continue four days, for the sale of horses, cattle, sheep, and all sorts of goods; of which the subscriber is appointed ruler.
1775: The New York Journal or General Advertiser (New York), October 12, 1775, (4:1)
"NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN,
That the Fair at Westchester, will be held as usual, on the last Tuesday of this instant, October, where sheep, cattle, &c. will be exposed to sale, with all sorts of country produce."
1784: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 6, 1784, (1:2)
According to Charter granted to the town of Easton, in Northampton county, a Fair will be held on the fourth Tuesday in October next, and on the fourth Tuesday in April, and so yearly, for the purpose of buying and selling of all kinds of goods, wares and merchandize.
Sept 27, 1784."
1785: The Connecticut Courrant (Hartford), March 13, 1785, (2:3)
Will be opened on the twenty-seventh day of April next, to be continued three days.
SAMUEL W. WILLIAMS, Reg'r.
Wethersfield, March 12, 1785"
1785: Ibid., April 26, 1785, (3:3)
"Auction at the FAIR
The subscriber proposes to open an Auction (by permission) at the FAIR at Wethersfield, where will be sold a quantity of Hard Ware, Dry Goods, Bottled Porter, Virginia Land Warrants, Continental Money, Loaf Sugar, &c &c.
N.B. Any Gentlemen that have Goods of any kind to dispose of, or Public Securities to sell or exchange, the subscriber will be very happy to serve them.
FREDERICK BULL. Hartford, April 26, 1785."
1785: The Pennsylvania Journal (Philadelphia), October 1, 1785, (3:2)
"Noxonton Fair removed to Warwick."
1785: The Connecticut Courant (Hartford), October 3, 1785, (1:2)
At a Meeting of the CIVIL AUTHORITY and SELECT-MEN, in the Town of Newton, convened on the 22d. Day of September, A.D. 1785, the following By-Laws were made and established…"
1785: Ibid., October 3, 1785, (3:2)
The FAIR at Wethersfield will be opened on Wednesday the 26th day of October next, and to continue three Days.
SAMUEL W. WILLIAMS, Reg'r.
Wethersfield, Sept 27, 1785"
1785: Ibid., October 24, 1785, (2:3)
"At Public Auction,
At the FAIR in Wethersfield,
On WEDNESDAY next.
A large and general assortment of DRY GOODS, among which are the following Articles, viz. …"
1786: Ibid., March 27, 1786, (2:3)
Notice is hereby given to the public, That the FAIR will be opened in Salisbury, according to the grant made by the General Assembly, on the 11th day of April, at sunrise, and to continue to sunset on the 13th, near the Meeting House--Where all Merchants and others are invited to resort for the purpose of making gain.
March 20, 1786 SAMUEL LEE Register."
1786: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), October 11, 1786, (3:2)
(In Place of Noxonton)
Continued at the usual Time, viz October 21."
The Virginia Gazette carried very few notices of fairs in other colonies. The following brief notes are all that have been found in this paper:
"NEW YORK, Nov. 6.
We hear from Westchester that at the fair held there last week a man from the Jersies drank, in two hours, 12 quarts of cider and two quarts of rum, and to keep it down eat only 100 cakes."1
"NOTICE is hereby given, that a Fair will be held at Halifax Town, in North Carolina, on Thursday the 6th of November, to continue for three Days for the Sale of Horses, Cattle, Pork, and Tobacco, and also of every Kind of Country Manufacture. "2
"NOTICE is hereby given, that a FAIR will be held at Halifax town, in N. Carolina, on Thursday the sixth of November, to continue for three days, for the sale,of horses, cattle, pork, tobacco, and every kind of country manufacture."3
"NOTICE is hereby given, that a FAIR will commence at Halifax town in N. Carolina, on the first Thursday in November, to continue for three days."4
"The noted horse WHIRLIGIG, imported into Pennsylvania by Mr. John Allen of Philadelphia, will be for sale at the fair in Halifax on the first Thursday in November. The principal reason for selling him is, that he is owned among too many partners.
A Scotch merchant, William Gregory, who was travelling from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Philadelphia, wrote of attending a fair in Maryland : 88
October 12, 1765: "… Fed my horse and proceeded towards Rockhall. On my way came to a place where there was a fair and 2 horse races. Stayed there an hour; drank Punch and saw the diversion. Then set off once more to the ferry-place, Rockhall, but found the ferry-boat happened to be over at Annapolis,…"1
Recently, in working on the theatre, Mr. Rankin came across a reference to a merry-go-round or whirligig of some kind, which was apparently in Philadelphia about the end of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.
Although it does not change the situation with regard to colonial fairs - in fact it lends weight to the conclusion we were forced to reach - I think you will be interested in the note. The writer describes the device as being something most unusual, even in 1830-44:
"Very aged persons have told me of a celebrated place of amusement out Third Street by Vine Street. It was the place of Charles Quinan's — always pronounced Queen Ann's place. It stood on the site of Third Street, not then opened; and was famous for alluring the citizens of middle life. There he kept 'flying coaches and horses;' they were affixed to a whirligig frame. The women sat in boxes for coaches, and the men strode on wooden horses — in those positions they were whirled around!"[From: John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, In the Olden Time; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and Its Inland Part of Pennsylvania, from the Days of the Founders. 2 Vols. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: 1844, Vol. I. pages 278-279. (1st edition: 1830)]
There were numerous small fairs held in England and Wales for the buying and selling of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and country products and produce, as well as goods, wares, and merchandize. A new edition of Owen's Book of Fairs,1 published at the end of the eighteenth century, listed hundreds of fairs held in England and Wales, in some fifty-two shires or counties (a large county like Somersetshire having as many as eighty-six places where fairs were held during a year). The dates of the fairs were given, and the principal items for sale at each were listed in the above-mentioned book. Far the greatest number of fairs offered horses, cattle and sheep for sale; but many of them also offered the specialties of the section of the country: iron, wool, leather goods, linen, millinery, haberdashery, cabinet-work, jewellery, toys, "pedlary," etc., were listed at. various places; and some fairs even included days for "the hiring of servants." The larger English fairs were more elaborate than any fair held in the English-American colonies during the eighteenth century. Probably the smaller county fairs were more like the colonial fairs.
The Sturbridge Fair near Cambridge, and the Bartholomew Fair at Smithfield, London, were the largest and best known of the English fairs. As early as 1625, these two fairs were mentioned in a proclamation issued by Charles I, as being "two Fairs of special note and unto which there ii. is usually extraordinary resort out of all parts of the Kingdom."1 One authority on English fairs stated that "The greatest fair in England was that of Sturbridge; the greatest fair in London that of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield."2 By 1630, Charles I noted that there were then "at hand three great Fairs of Special note, unto which there is extraordinary resort from all parts of the kingdom" — the Bartholomew Fair, the Sturbridge Fair, and Our Lady (or Southwark) Fair.3
The first trace of this fair was found in a charter granted about 1211 by King John to the Lepers of the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen at Sturbridge, by Cambridge, for a fair "to be held in the Close of the Hospital on the Vigil and Feast of the Holy Cross." It soon became "the most important fair held in Great Britain."4 In the centuries that followed, there was constant conflict between the Town of Cambridge and the University of Cambridge over the fair and its tolls.5 However, this conflict did not hinder the success of the Sturbridge Fair. It was considered, according to a nineteenth century authority, to continue through the eighteenth century: "a most important mart for all sorts of manufactured goods, as well as for horses, wool, and hops. "6
An interesting account of this fair was written by Daniel De Foe, who visited it in 1723. De Foe's account, published in 1724, described the fair as follows:
"I now draw near to Cambridge… I cannot omit, that I came necessarily through Sturbridge Fair, which was then in its height. …
"It is kept in a large Corn-field, near Casterton, extending from the side of the River Cam, towards the Road, for about half a Mile Square.
If the Husbandmen who rent the Land, do not get their Corn off before a certain Day in August, the Fair-Keepers iii may trample it under foot, and spoil it, to build their Booths: On the other Hand, to ballance that Severity, if the Fair-Keepers-have not done their Business of the Fair, and remov'd and clear'd the field by another certain Day in September, the Plowmen may come in again, with Plow and Cart, and overthrow all and trample it into the Dirt; and as for the Filth, Dung, Straw, &c, necessarily left by the Fair-Keepers, the Quantity of which is very great, it is the Farmers Fees, and makes them full amends for the trampling, riding, and carting upon, and hardening the Ground.
It is impossible to describe all the Parts and Circumstances of this Fair exactly; the Shops are placed in Rows like Streets, whereof one is called Cheapside; and here, as in several other Streets, are all sorts of Trades, who sell by Retale, and who come principally from London with their Goods; scarce any trades are omitted, Goldsmiths, Toy-shops, Braziers, Turners, Milleners, Haberdashers, Hatters, Mercers, Drapers, Pewterers, China-Warehouses, Taverns, Brandy-Shops, and Eating-Houses, innumerable, and all in Tents, and Booths, as above.
This great Street reaches from the Road, which as I said goes from Cambridge to Newmarket, turning short out of it to the Right towards the River, and holds in a Line near half a Mile quite down to the River-side: In another Street parallel with the Road are like Rows of Booths, but larger, and more intermingled with Wholesale Dealers, and on one side, passing out of this last Street to the Left Hand, is a formal great Square, form'd by the largest Booths, built in that,Form, and which they called the Duddery; whence the name is derived, and what its Signification is, I could never et learn, tho' I made all possible search into it. [Duddery is evidently derived from the old word Dudde, signifying cloth ('Promptorium Parvulorum,' ed. Way, i. 134). Duds for clothes is still used as a cant word, and by the Scotch (Bailey's 'Dictionary;' Glossaries to Burns and Walter Scott)] The area. of this Square is about 80 to 100 yards, where the Dealers have room before every Booth to take down, and open their Packs, and to bring in Waggons to load and unload.
This place is separated, and Peculiar to the Wholesale Dealers in the Woollen Manufacture. Here the Booths, or Tents are of a vast Extent, have different apartments, and the Quantities of Goods they bring are so Great, that the Insides of them look like another Blackwell Hall, being as vast Ware-Houses pil'd up with Goods to the Top. In this Duddery, as I have been inform'd, there have been sold E100,000 worth of Woollen Manufactures in less than a Week's time, besides the prodigious Trade carry'd on here, by Wholesale Men, from London, and all Parts of England, who transact their Business wholly in their Pocket-Books, and meeting their Chapman from all Parts, iv. make up their Accounts, receive money chiefly in Bills, and take Orders: These they say exceed by far the Sales of Goods actually brought to the Fair, and deliver'd in Kind; it being frequent for the London Wholesale Men to carry back orders from their Dealers for £10,000 worth of Goods a Man, and some much more. This especially respects those People, who deal in heavy Goods, as Wholesale Grocers, Salters, Brasiers, Iron-Merchants, Wine-Merchants, and the like; but does not exclude the Dealers in Woollen Manufactures, and especially in Mercery Goods of all sorts, the Dealers in which generally manage their Business in this manner.
Here are Clothiers from Hallifax, Leeds, Wakefield and Huthersfield in Yorkshire, and from Rochdale, Bury, &c, in Lancashire, with vast Quantities of Yorkshire Cloths, Kerseyes, Pennistons, Cottons, &c., with all sorts of Manchester Ware, Fustians, and things made of Cotton Wool; of which the Quantity is so great, that they told me there were near a thousand Horse-Packs of such Goods from that side of the Country, and these took up a side and a half of the Duddery at least; also a part of a street of Booths were taken up with Upholsterer's Ware, such as Tickings, Sackings, Kidderminster Stuffs, Blankets, Rugs, Quilts, &c.
In the Duddery I saw one Ware-house or Booth with six Apartments in it, all belonging to a Dealer in Norwich Stuffs only, and who they said had there above £20,000 value in those Goods, and no other.
Western Goods had their Share here also, and several Booths were fill'd as full with Serges, Du-Rays, Druggets, Shalloons, Cantaloons, Devonshire Kersies, &c, from Exeter, Taunton, Bristol, and other Parts West, and some from London also.
But all this is still out done, at least in show, by two Articles, which are the peculiars of this Fair, and do not begin till the other part of the Fair, that is to say for the Woolen Manufacture begins to draw to a Close; these are Wooll, and the Hops, as for the Hops there is scarce any Price fix'd for Hops in England, till they know how they sell at Sturbridge Fair; the Quantity that appears in the Fair is indeed prodigious, and they, as it were, possess a large Part of the Field on which the Fair is kept, to themselves; they are brought directly from Chelmsford in Essex, from Canterbury and Maidstone in Kent, and from Farnham in Surrey, besides what are brought from London, the growth of those, and other places.
Enquiring why this Fair should be thus, of all other Places in England, the Center of that Trade; and so great a Quantity of so Bulky a Commodity be carry'd thither so far: I was answer'd by one thoroughly acquainted with that matter, thus: The Hops, said he, for this part of England, grow principally in the two counties of Surrey and Kent, with an exception only of the town of Chelmsford in Essex, and there are very few planted anywhere else.v.
…I must not omit here also to mention, that the River Grant, or Cam, which runs close by the N.W. side of the Fair in its way from Cambridge to Ely, is Navigable, and that by this means, all heavy Goods are brought even to the Fair-Field, by Water Carriage from London, and other Parts, first to the Port of Lynn, and then in Barges up the Ouse, from the Ouse into the Cam, and so, as I say to the very Edge of the Fair.
In like manner great Quantities of heavy Goods, and the Hops among the rest, are sent from the Fair to Lynn by Water,.and shipped there for the Humber, to Hull, York, &c, and for New Castle upon Tyne, and by New Castle, even to Scotland itself. Now as there is still no planting of Hops in the North, tho' a great Consumption, and the Consumption increasing Daily, this, says my Friend, is one reason why at Sturbridge Fair there is so great a Demand for the Hops: He added, that besides this, there were very few Hops, if any worth naming, growing in all the Counties even on this side Trent, which were above forty miles from London; these Counties depending on Sturbridge Fair for their supply, so the Counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Northampton, Lincoln, Leicester, Rutland, and even to Stafford, Warwick, and Worcestershire, bought most if not all their Hops at Sturbridge Fair.
These are the Reasons why so great a Quantity of Hops are seen at this Fair, as that it is incredible, considering too, how remote from this Fair the Growth of them is, as above.
This is likewise a testimony of the prodigious Resort of the Trading people of all Parts of England to this Fair; the Quantity of Hops that have been sold at one of these Fairs is diversely reported, and some affirm it to be so great, that I dare not copy after them; but without doubt it is a surprising Account, especially in a cheap Year.
The next Article brought hither, is Wool, and this of several sorts, but principally Fleece Wool, out of Lincolnshire, where the longest Staple is found; the sheep of those Countries being of the largest Breed.
The Buyers of this Wool, are chiefly indeed the Manufacturers of Norfolk and Suffolk and Essex, and it is a prodigious Quantity they buy.
Here I saw what I have not observ'd in any other county of England, namely, a Pocket of Wool.
This seems to be first call'd so in Mockery, this Pocket being so big, that it loads a whole Waggon, and reaches beyond the most extream Parts of it, hanging over both before and behind, and these ordinarily weigh a Ton or 25 Hundred weight of Wool, all in one Bag.
The Quantity of Wool only, which has been sold at this Place at one Fair, has been said to amount to L50,000 or L60,000 in value, some say a great deal more.
By these Articles a Stranger may make some guess at the immense Trade carry'd on at this Place; what prodigious Quantities of Goods are bought and sold here, and what a confluence of People are seen here from all Parts of England.vi.
I might go on here to speak of several other sorts of English Manufactures, which are brought hither to be sold; as all sorts of wrought Iron, and Brass-Ware from Birmingham; Edg'd Tools, Knives, &c, from Sheffield; Glass-Wares and Stockings from Nottingham, and Leicester; and an infinite Throng of other things of smaller value, every Morning.
To attend this Fair, and the prodigious conflux of People which come to it, there are sometimes not less than fifty Hackney Coaches, which come from London, and ply Night and Morning to carry the People to and from Cambridge; for there the gross of the People lodge; nay, which is still more strange, there are Wherries brought from London on Waggons to plye upon the little River Cam, and to row People up and down from the Town, and from the Fair as Occasion presents.
It is not to be wondered at, if the Town of Cambridge cannot Receive or Entertain the Numbers of People that come to this Fair; not Cambridge only, but all the Towns round are full; nay, the very Barns, and Stables are turn'd into Inns, and made as fit as they can to Lodge the meaner Sort of People.
As for the People in the Fair, they all universally Eat Drink and Sleep in their Booths and Tents; and the said Booths are so intermingled with Taverns, Coffee-Houses, Drinking-Houses, Eating-Houses, Cook-Shops, &c, and all in Tents too; and so many Butchers, and Hagglers from all the Neighboring Counties come into the Fair every Morning with Beef, Mutton, Fowls, Butter, Bread, Cheese, Eggs, and such things; and go with them from Tent to Tent, from Door to Door, that there's no want of any Provisions of any kind, either dres'd or undres'd.
In a Word, the Fair is like a well Fortify'd City, and there is the least Disorder and Confusion (T believe) that can be seen anywhere, with so great a Concourse of People.
Towards the latter End of the Fair, and when the great Hurry of Wholesale Business begins to be over, the Gentry come in, from all parts of the County round; and the' they come for their diversion; yet 'tis not a little Money, they lay out; which generally falls to the share of the Retailers, such as Toy-shops, Goldsmiths, Brasiers, Iron-mongers, Turners, Milleners, Mercers, &c, and some loose Coins, they reserve for the Puppet. Shows, Drolls, Rope-Dancers, and such-like, of which there is no want, though not considerable like the rest: The last Day of the Fair is the Horse-Fair, where the whole is closed with both Horse and Foot-Races, to divert the meaner Sort of People only, for nothing considerable is offered of that Kind: Thus Ends the whole Fair, and in less than a week more, there is scarce any sign left that there has been such a thing there. …
I should have mention'd, that here is a Court of Justice always open, and held every Day in a Shed built on purpose in the Fair; this is for keeping the Peace, and deciding Controversies in matters Deriving from the Business of the Fair: The Magistrates of the Town of Cambridge are Judges in this Court, as being in their Jurisdiction, or they are holding it by Special Priviledge: Here they determine Matters in a Summary way, as is practis'd in those we call Pye-Powder Courts in other Places, or as a Court of Conscience; and they have a final Authority without Appeal."1
The Sturbridge Fair flourished throughout the eighteenth century, and well into the nineteenth. A graphic description of the fair was presented in Hone's Year Book for 1827: its theatrical booths, displays of wild beasts, wild men, conjurors, tumblers, rope-dancers, clowns, dwarfs, giants were described; as well as its booths for cheese, hops, oysters, manufactured goods its coffee-houses and taverns; its close for horses to be sold, etc.2
The fair still lingered on in 1882, although its commercial greatness had long since passed away. Three of its features then remained: it continued as a horse-fair, onion-fair, and wooden-ware fair.3
The Priory, Hospital, and Church of St. Bartholomew were established in Smithfield ca. 1102, by one Rahere, a court minstrel and jester, who became its first prior. Rahere also established a fair to be held on the Feast of St. Bartholomew, within the priory walls — the tolls from which were to go to the hospital of the Priory. In 1133 King Henry I granted a charter for the fair, which was "wont to be celebrated in that place at the Feast of St. Bartholomew"; in which he forbade "any of the Royal Servants to implead any of their persons…On those three days, to wit the eve of the feast, the feast itself, and the day following, to levy dues upon those going thither."4 Succeeding kings granted new charters. We are told that by 1186 "the clothiers of all England and the drapers of London" had "their booths and standings within the Church Yard of this Priory, closed in with walls and gates, locked every night, and watched for safety of men's goods and wares."5 By 1292, the fair having spread outside of the Priory walls, and into London proper, disputes arose between the Priory and the City of London as to the tolls.6 By viii. degrees London claimed and collected more of the tolls, and after the dissolution of the Priory by 1538, most of the tolls went to the city.1 This fair was long the scene of "miracle plays," and of tumblers, jesters, dancers, etc. By the seventeenth century, the Corporation of London had taken aver control of the fair, which was formally opened by the Lord Mayor of London. The Bartholomew Fair was the chief cloth fair in England, and it was also the chief pleasure fair. At the fair plays were presented in booths erected for that purpose; wrestling matches were held; tumblers, sleight of hand artists, rope-dancers, monsters, and wild beasts were on exhibit. An account of the many activities at the Bartholomew Fair, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is contained in Henry Morley's Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair.2 This work cites early broadsides which have survived, advertising attractions at the fair:
"In Bartholomew FAIR. At the Corner of Hosier Lane, and near Mr. Parker's Booth; There is to be seen A Prodigious Monster… a Man with one Head and two distinct Bodies"; -- "A Changling Child. To be seen next door to the Black Raven in West Smithfield… Aged Nine Years and more; not exceeding a Foot and a-half high…"; -- "…a Child…that has three Legge"; -- "…A Little Farey Woman…being but Two Foot Two Inches high…"; -- "…a Tall English-man, Eight Foot High, but Seventeen years of Age,"3 etc.
The Bartholomew Fair was also famous as a toy fair, and its "Bartholomew Babies," or dolls "elegantly dressed and carefully packed in boxes"4 were in great demand.
In 1698, a Frenchman, Monsieur Sorbiere, described a visit to this fair:
"I was at Bartholomew Fair. It consists of most Toy shops, also Fiance and Pictures, Ribbon shops, no Books; many shops of Confectioners, where any woman may commodiously be treated. Knavery is here in perfection, dextrous Cut-purses and Pickpockets. I went to see the Dancing on the Ropes, which was admirable. Coming out, I met a man that would have took off my Hat, but I secur'd it, and was going to draw my Sword, crying out, 'Begar: Damn'd Rogue!'… ix. when on a sudden I had a hundred People about me, crying, 'Here, Monsieur, See Jephthah's Rash Vow;''Here, Monsieur, see The Tall Dutchwoman;''See The Tiger,' says another; 'See The Horse and No Horse whose Tail stands where his head should do;''See the German Artist, Monsieur;''See The Siege of Namur, Monsieur:' so that betwixt Rudeness and Civility, I was forc'd to get into a Fiacre, and with an air of haste and a full trot, got home to my lodgings."1
A fan on which events at the fair were represented, was sold at the Bartholomew Fair ca. 1728.2 The various attractions at the fair depicted on this fan are described in Morley's book cited below: A peep-show, "The Siege of GIBRALTAR"; a Toy Booth, with pickpocket in action nearby; a rope dancer's booth; Lee & Harper's Theatrical Booth; the famous conjurer and sleight-of-hand artist Fawkes' booth; and Up-and-Down; a drinking booth; an applewoman and other peddlers; and "Pye Corner with its 'delicate Pig and Pork" are all depicted on the fan. A photograph of the illustrations on the fan, and enlarged sketches made from them, which illustrate Mr. Morley's volume, are here included.3
By 1729, Henry Fielding, "from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane," had taken over a theatrical booth "In the George Inn Yard in Smithfield" for the duration of the Bartholomew Fair, where many plays were presented.4
A few notices from The Daily Post, London,5 give an indication of some of the entertainment to be found at the fair:
The Daily Post (London), August 23, 1725.
[Repeated August 24, 1725] "At Fawks's Booth joyning to Lee's Great Booth in Smith-field Rounds, during the Time of the Fair, is to be seen the Four following Curiosities, viz
First, His surprizing Tricks by Dexterity of Hand, far exceeding all that ever perform'd in the Kingdom; with several curiosities of that Kind entirely new and different from what has been shown by any other Person.
Secondly, The wonderful Activity of Body by his Famous x. Posture Master, far exceeding all that ever perform'd in Europe. Thirdly a Miracle in Nature being a Woman with a Horn in the back Part of her Head Ten Inches long; who is allow'd by sir Hans Sloan and the Royal Society, to be a surprizing Curiosity, Fourthly, A Spring Musical Clock of a new Invention, performing an Entertainment of Musick on Variety of Instruments, with an Aviary of Birds to such Perfection, as hardly to be distinguish't from Life itself.
N. B. At his Booth adjoyning to this, is to be seen the greatest Piece of Art of a Poppet Show that ever was invented, being the whole Play of St. George staying the AEgyptian Dragon; with the Comical Humours of Punch and his Man Gudgeon. Also, a curious Machinery, the whole being entirely new, and far exceeding any that ever was seen of the Kind before. Concluding with the performances of a little Posture-Master, about 8 or 9 years of Age, that never perform'd for Mr. Fawk's before.
Both the Performances being to be seen from Ten in the Morning till Ten at Night."
The Daily Post (London), August 24, 1725."During the Time of Bartholomew Fair, in a large Room, at the Back of Mr. Penkethman's Booth, will be shewn a most curious and surprizing Picture, invented by Mr. Penkethman, and painted by Tellemans of Antwerp and others, representing the Royal Family from the King of Bohemia to this Time; as the King and Queen of Bohemia; the Princess Sophia; his most Sacred Majesty King George; his Brother the Duke of York; the Queen of Prussia; their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales; their Highnesses the Prince Frederick and the young Princesses; the nine Muses attending, and playing on several Instruments, in Honour of that August Assembly; with Hercules Killing of Hydra; St. George the famous Champion of England Killing the Dragon; Cupid, the God of Love, grinding his arrows; All Moving and in Action, Tho' painted on a Flat; the like never seen in England before, and worthy to be seen by all who are lovers of Art and Ingenuity.xi.
N. B. There is a Passage for the Quality thro' the Booth, or off the Stage into the Room. To be seen any Time of the Day. Prices, Half a Crown, Eighteen Pence, One Shilling, and Six Pence.
The Daily Post (London), Saturday, August 23, 1729, p. 2."At Mr. Fielding's
Great Theatrical Booth,
In the George-Inn Yard in Smithfield, during the time of Bartholomew Fair, will be Acted, a diverting Dramatic Opera, call'd HUNTER: Or, the Beggar's Wedding. With Alterations, Consisting of Variety of English, Scots and Irish Ballad Tunes, with additional Songs never perform'd therein before; particularly, a Song of the Chimes of the Times, and the Contented Farmer, sung by Mr. Mountfort. The Part of Hunter by Mr. Charke; Chaunter, Mr. Hulet, Tippet, Mrs. Egleton; Phebe, Mrs. Roberts; and the other parts by Mr. Smith, Mr. Mountfort, Mr. R. Williams, Mr. W. Williams, Mr. Boman, Mrs. Shireburn, Mrs. Goodshaw, Mrs. Fitzgerald, Mrs. Frances, and others. With Entertainments of Dancing by Mons. St. Luce, lately arrived from Paris, in the Characters of Pierot and Harlequin; and Mr. Fisher-Tench Charke, in the Characters of the Dusty Miller and a French Peasant, The Songs in the Opera, and the Select Pieces of Musick between the Acts, will be perform'd by a good Band of Instruments, accompany'd by a Chamber-Organ provided on this Occasion, and played upon by the best Hand in England.
N. B. The Booth is very Commodious, and the Inn-yard has all the Conveniencies of Coach-Room, Lights, &c, for Quality and others; and shall perform this Evening at Four, and every Day during the time of the Fair; beginning exactly at two o'clock, and continuing every Hour till Eleven at Night."
The Daily Post (London), Saturday, August 23, 1729, p. 2. "At Lee's and Harper's
Over against the Hospital Gate in Smithfield,
During the time of Bartholomew Fair
Will be perform'd that celebrated Entertainment, call'd
The Siege of Bethulia: Containing
the Ancient History of Judith and Holofernes.
Together with the Comical Humours of Rustego and his Man Terrible. The Part of Holofernes by Mr. Mullart; Achior, Mr. Roberts; Rustego, Mr. Harper; Terrible, Mr. Morgan; Judith, Mrs. Spiller; Dulcementa, Mrs. Purden; and all the other Parts by Persons from both the theatres, with new additions of Entertainments; and Variety of Singing and Dancing by the best Masters; particularly an Italian Song by Mrs. Fitzgerald, Sen.
The genuine Copy of this Droll is to be sold in the Booth, and only printed by and for George Lee, in Blue-Maid Alley, Southwark."
The Daily Post (London), Saturday, August 23, 1729, p. 2."FAWKES At his BOOTH at the lower End of Lee's and Harper's Over against the King's Head in Bartholomew Fair, performs the following Entertainments.
xii. 1. His surprizing and incomparable Dexterity of Hand, in which he will perform several intirely new Curiosities, that far surpasses any thing of that Kind ever seen before.
2. A curious MUSICAL CLOCK, that he lately purchas'd of Mr. Pinchbeck, Clockmaker in Fleetstreet, that plays several fine tunes on most instruments of Musick, and imitates the melodious Notes of various Kinds of Birds, as real Life; Also Ships sailing, with a Number of curious and humorous Figures, representing divers motions as tho' alive.
3. Another fine CLICK or MACHINE, call'd Arts Masterpiece, or the Venetian Lady's Invention, which she employed Work-men to make, that were 17 years contriving; the like of which was never yet made or shewn in any other Part of the World, for Variety of moving Pictures, and other Curiosities.
4. A Famous TUMBLER just arrived from Holland, whose Performances far exceeds Lic7 any thing of that Kind L1J this Kingdom. Also his little Posture-Master, a child of about five years of Age, that performs by Activity Such wonderful turns of Body, that the like was never done by any one of his Age or Bigness before.
Beginning every Day at two o'Clock, and ending at Eight."
The Daily Post (London), Monday, August 25, 1729.By Rayner's and Pullen's
Company of Comedians,
During the Time of Bartholomew Fair, at the Black-Boy on the Paved Stones near Hosier-Lane, Smithfield, will be presented that celebrated Entertainment, call'd
THE BEGGAR'S OPERA. The Part of Mackleath by Mr. Powel, Polly, Mrs. Rayner, Lucy, Mrs. Pullen; and the other Parts by Persons from the theatres. To which will be added, several very diverting Entertainments of Singing and Dancing; particularly the MAIDEN'S CASE, by Mrs. Rayner.
Beginning at Eleven o'Clock in the Forenoon, and concluding at Eleven in the Evening."
In his Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair, Mr. Morley gives descriptions of the fair until its gradual decline and dissolution. By 1849, the fair contained "only a dozen gingerbread stalls"; the shows having been re-moved to the New North Road, Islington."1 Another chronicler of the Bartholomew Fair quotes a detailed description of the stalls, covered and uncovered, and the booths for the shows, etc., from Hone's Every Day Book (ca. 1825).2 The vice and corruption which surrounded the fair brought about numerous restrictions by the Corporation of London to xiii control the situation. In 1839, the City Solicitor advised "an absolute refusal, to let standings for show booths in a fair that was created in the first instance for the purposes of trade."1 In 1843, the City authorities prohibited the "assembling of 'shows' of any and all kinds in Smithfield."2 By 1855, the fair, which had lived for seven centuries, had ceased to exist.
[Note: With the exception of The Virginia Gazette, the issues of the following newspapers are those included on microfilm supplied by the Library of Congress — now on file with the Institute of Early American History and Culture, The Virginia Gazette Index, and all known issues of that paper, on microfilm and otherwise, have been examined.
"Storm-stead shows used to emphasize the severity of a Thrums winter. As the name indicates, these were gatherings of travelling booths in the winter-time. Half a century ago the country was overrun by itinerant showmen, who went their different ways in summer, but formed little colonies in the cold weather, when they pitched their tents in any empty field or disused quarry and huddled together for the sake of warmth: not that they got much of it. Not more than five winters ago we had a storm-stead show on a small scale; but nowadays the farmers are less willing to give these wanderers a camping-place, and the people are less easily drawn to the entertainments provided, by fife and drum. The colony hung together until it was starved out, when it trailed itself elsewhere. I have often seen it forming. The first arrival would be what was popularly known as 'Sam'l Mann's Tumbling-Booth,' with its tumblers, jugglers, sword-swallowers, and balancers. This travelling show visited us regularly twice a year: once in summer for the Muckle Friday, when the performers were gay and stout, and even the horses had flesh on their bones; and again in the 'back-end' of the year, when cold and hunger had taken the blood from their faces, and the scraggy dogs that whined at their side were lashed for licking the paint off the caravans. While the storm-stead show was for licking the paint off the caravans. While the storm-stead show was in the vicinity the villages suffered from an invasion of these dogs. Nothing told more truly the dreadful tale of the showman's life in winter. Sam'l Mann's was a big show, and half a dozen smaller ones, most of which were familiar to us, crawled in its wake. Others heard of its whereabouts and came in from distant parts. There was the well-known Gubbins with his 'A' the World in a Box:' a halfpenny peepshow, in which all the world was represented by Joseph and his Brethren (with pit and coat), the bombardment of Copenhagen, the Battle of the Nile, Daniel in the Den of Lions, and Mount Etna in eruption. 'Aunty Maggy's Whirligig' could be enjoyed on payment of an old pair of boots, a collection of rags, or the like. Besides these and other shows, there were the wandering minstrels, most of whom were 'Waterloo veterans' wanting arms or a leg. I remember one whose arms had been 'smashed by a thunderbolt at Jamaica.' Queer bent old dames, who superintended 'lucky bags' or told fortunes, supplied the uncanny element, but hesitated to call themselves witches, for there can still be seen near Thrums the pool where these unfortunates used to be drowned, and in the session book of the Glen Quharity kirk can be read an old minute announcing that on a certain Sabbath there was no preaching because 'the minister was away at the burning of a witch.' To the storm-stead shows came the gypsies in great numbers. Claypots (which is a corruption of Claypits) was their headquarters near Thrums, and it is still sacred to their memory. It was a clachan of miserable little huts built entirely of clay from the dreary and sticky pit in which they had been flung together. A shapeless hole on one side was the doorway, and a little hole, stuffed with straw in winter, the window. Some of the remnants of these hovels still stand. Their occupants, though they went by the name of gypsies among themselves, were known to the weavers as the Claypots beggars; and their King was Jimmy Pawse. His regal dignity gave Jimmy the right to seek alms first when he chose to do so; thus he got the cream of a place before his subjects set to work. He was rather foppish in his dress; generally affecting a suit of grey cloth with showy metal buttons on it, and a broad blue bonnet. His wife was a little body like himself; and when they went a-begging, Jimmy with a meal-bag for alms on his back, she always took her husband's arm. Jimmy was the legal adviser of his subjects; his decision was considered final on all questions, and he guided them in their courtships as well as on their death-beds. He christened their children and officiated at their weddings, marrying them over the tongs.
"the storm-stead show attracted old and young—to looking on from the outside. In the daytime the wagons and tents presented a dreary appearance, sunk in snow, the dogs shivering between the wheels, and but little other sign of life visible. When dusk came the lights were lit, and the drummer and fifer from the booth of tumblers were sent into the town to entice an audience. They marched quickly through the nipping, windy streets, and then returned with two or three score of men, women, and children, plunging through the snow or mud at their heavy heels. It was Orpheus fallen from the mountebacks were, and how satisfied were we to enjoy it all without going inside. I hear the 'Waterloo veterans' still, and remember their patriotic outbursts:—
On the sixteenth day of June, brave boys, while cannon loud did roar,
We being short of cavalry they pressed on us full sore;
But British steel soon made them yield, though our numbers was but few,
And death of victory was the word on the plains of Waterloo.
"The storm-stead shows often found it easier to sin k to rest in a field than to leave it. For weeks at a a time they were snowed up, sufficiently to prevent any one from Thrums going near them, though not sufficiently to keep the pallid mummers indoors. That would in many cases have meant starvation. They managed to fight their way through storm and snowdrift to the high road and thence to town, where they got meal and sometimes broth. The tumblers and jugglers used occasionally to hire an outhouse in the town at these times—you may be sure they did not pay for it in advance—and give performances there. It is a curious thing, but true, that our herd-boys and others were sometimes struck with the stage-fever. Thrums lost boys to the showmen even in winter.
"On the whole, the farmers and the people generally were wonderfully long-suffering with these wanderers, who I believe were more honest than was to be expected. They stole, certainly; but seldom did they steal anything more valuable than turnips. Sam'l Mann himself flushed proudly over the effect his show once had on an irate farmer. The farmer appeared in the encampment, whip in hand and furious. They must get off his land before nightfall. The crafty showman, however, prevailed upon him to take a look at the acrobats, and he enjoyed the performance so much that he offered to let them stay until the end of the week. Before that time came there was such a fall of snow that departure was out of the question; and it is to the farmer's credit that he sent Sam'l a bag of meal to tide him and his actors over the storm.
"There were times when the showmen made a tour of the bothies, where they slung their poles and ropes and gave their poor performances to audiences that were not critical. The bothy being strictly the 'man's' castle, the farmer never interfered; indeed, he was sometimes glad to see the show."
Reference from Richard Southern
S. P. M.
November 17, 1953
cc: Mr. P. Middleton
Dear Mr. Southern:
Attached are 2 prints of sheet 100 sk. dated November 19, 1953 showing my thoughts on the peep show. As you can see I used the print you sent of Billy's Raree Show of 1797 and figure 5 of your report of May 23. Although the date of this print is later than the period we are considering the character of the peep show displayed seems acceptable to me, the more so because the Chinese influence in design was well in evidence in Virginia shortly after 1750.
I had hoped to make my sketch at the scale of ¾" = 1'-0" but found it too small to show detail with clarity so I doubled the scale to 1-½" = 1'-0". For some reason it is a scale I am not myself fond of—an opinion I hope you do not share. However, it does permit a clear showing of the detail. We will be happy to have your comment. No doubt you will find things to criticize and if so we will be equally glad to hear about them.
After the show has been put in operation in Williamsburg we may find the need for another. If so I had thought we might follow the Hogarth design.
Since lightness is essential the use of American white pine for most of the woodwork suggests itself. This wood is very light, very strong and easily worked and was widely employed in the colonies. Among its other virtues white pine can be cut into quite thin boards. The other materials are shown by notes on the drawing.
I have not shown details of the construction of the roof as yet. It will consist of some light hip rafters with intermediate rafters framed into them arranged in such a way that there will be a sufficient opening at the top to vent the candles below and so that the roof can readily be removed.
At each corner will be a light, metal scroll from which is suspended a bell fixed to swing. In studying some of the eighteenth century 2 English handbooks on Chinese architecture by Twopenny and others I noticed that the reptiles at the corners in this print should be dragons rather than serpents. I have substituted a scroll which appeared in these books more frequently than the dragon on the corners of little pagodas.
Although I have indicated the crown as of metal I would prefer to see it of some lighter material like papier-mache. Perhaps you may have some suggestions on this score. The size of the crown bothers me a little because it seems somewhat out of scale but I do not see how it can be much smaller to cover the square roof top. The artist of the print has taken some liberties in this respect I think!
The flag staff will have to be rigidly fixed to the crown and to the roof top, details of which I have not yet worked out. The flag I had hoped could be of a stiff material with a profile to simulate waving so that the wording would be legible at all times. I do not quite know what material to suggest. It might be possible to use a very thin piece of wood on which linen could be glued the whole well painted and varnished. I hesitate to suggest sheet iron because of its weight. Of course, there are several possible compromises in modern materials such as sheet aluminum or one of the thin composition boards which might be acceptable in that it would be concealed by the paint. I am inclined toward on eof the latter providing it resembles in thickness what might have been used in the eighteenth century. The flag will have to swing with the wind. Here again I have not determined its working pending the decision on material.
For the canopy I have suggested canvas, or possibly linen, stretched on a wire frame and well painted and varnished decorated with a fringe and little finials. The canopy seems a logical device to keep rain from the vent in the top of the roof despite the fact that the print shows the crown with a cap inside.
The box is composed of a light frame work of sills, posts and pates to which is nailed the outer covering of thin boards. It may be that we will be able to make the boards 3/8" thick and lessen the size of the framing members somewhat which will be all to the good. The bottoms of the side boards extend below the bottoms of the sills to provide a drip. Otherwise rain water would creep into the joint and soon rot it out.
I gave the peep holes considerable study by making several sizes and looking through them to determine the proper size and field of vision at the 9-½" I have allowed for the distance to the proscenium from the front of the holes. My experiments were as follows:
Diameter of Hole Size of Field of Vision 3 5/8" 9" x 9" 4 ¼" 14" x 14" 4 ½" (selected) 18" x 18" 4 ¾" 20" x 20" 5" 24" x 24"
I found it difficult to determine the precise limits of the field so that these figures can be more or less. I assumed that the peep hole should center, vertically, on the proscenium. Frankly, I am concerned about the sight lines because of the horizontal distance from the center line of the stage and scenes to the peep holes and the fact that the observer will see them at an angle with the possibility that the near side of the proscenium will cut off a certain amount of the scenes — see ½ Plan at "B" — though less for the left eye than for the right. I also put up 2 holes 20" apart and found 2 grown men could use them without crowding. For children I suppose that the showman would have some boxes to stand on.
I have shown a candle port on one side for access to the candle sconce in the center of the auditorium between the peep holes. The door is mounted on leather hinges and operates with a typical cupboard turn. See below under illumination.
The scene strings on the outside I believe are self explanatory. For those on the inside I made a model which seems to work satisfactorily. I made the scene of stiff artist's illustration board. A hole was punched in each end as shown in section "D" and strings were attached. The left hand string proceeds upward to a screw-eye set at right angles to the scene whence it continues approximately horizontally to a larger screw-eye set diagonally at the center line. From here it passes to the hole in the outer boarding and downward to its ring and tack or hook. I should think a tack or small nail would be preferable to a hook to reduce play in the lines to a minimum. The right hand string proceeds as above in reverse until it reaches the center eyelet where it doubles back as it continues to its hole, ring and tack alongside its mate. By this means the scene remains in a horizontal position at all times providing the 2 strings are tied together at the ring. The center eye is met slightly in back of the line of the other two and the lines extend in back of the scene to the hole. The string I used was of a rather cheap variety and I can easily see that it would soon wear out. I am fearful of little pulleys because the strings would so easily jump off the wheels and get stuck. As things work out to provide a flexible scheme for changing the scenes a border seems called for before the first scene and possibly wings to mask the strings and grooves. Then the scenes could be raised or lowered in any sequence desired.
The grooves as shown are ½" x ½" strips of a hard, fine grained wood which hereabouts would be maple or walnut brought to a good polish and slightly rounded on the corners. The strips are set ¼" apart. I had thought the scenes themselves could be a modern, rigid composition board such as our Masonite which is 1/8" thick with smooth hard surfaces. On this could be mounted a pictorial sheet representing a scene. I have shown 19 grooves. this may be too many or they may be too close together but I suppose that the number of scenes we procure or have made would have something to do with the matter. On the other hand I had thought it wise to 4 get in as many as possible for flexibility. If less than this number were used the remainder could stay in off stage position or the grooves stand vacant.
The size of the proscenium I have shown is somewhat less wide than the scenes as they must extend across the full width of the box to engage the grooves. Presumably the pictorial part of the scenes would be pasted or glued to the central portion of the drop leaving a plain strip on either side. This would also have the virtue of keeping the picture free from wearing in the grooves.
I would appreciate your suggestions for the treatment of the proscenium.
In the matter of the pictorial part of the scenes do you think we could obtain originals? If so we would probably have to reproduce them by some means to fit the dimensions we settle on as suitable to our scheme.
For illumination I have indicated 3 candle sconces, one placed on the auditorium floor between the peep holes against the outer wall and one behind each side of the proscenium. If it becomes necessary to alter the size and position of the proscenium perhaps the latter 2 sconces would be impractical and the illumination would then be concentrated in the first position. The candle port would serve the auditorium sconce while access to candles on the stage would have to be by the removable rear panel.
In drawing the trestle I ran into a problem and what I have indicated may well be at variance with your thoughts. Illustrations 4 and 5 show a pair of trestle legs for each bos. Illustration 1-a clearly shows 2 sturdy horses. This system would undoubtedly work satisfactorily. As you see I chose the trestles but I found they could not be made stable without stretchers which are not shown in either illustration 4 or 5. As I show them the trestle can easily be folded up for transporting.
The following is merely something to shoot at:
|Red orange or Chinese lacquer red —||trestle, roof, canopy, flagstaff|
|Vivid green||border of flag —|
|Vivid yellow||field of flag —|
|Gilt —||Bell scrolls at roof corners, crown, canopy fringe and small finials above canopy bells, finial at top of canopy, finial at top of flag staff.|
|Yellow Buff —||outside of box|
On illustration No. 5, The Boy's Own Paper, is shown The Magic Maze which contains 3 reflecting mirrors set in triangular form in plan. Is this by any chance in the period of our 4 other amusements?
Concerning the possibility of using a lense at the peep holes I find that in our collections here there are 2 indoor peep shows with lenses designed to look like pieces of furniture. They both work on the same principle but are of different forms. The simpler is a flat box about 27" long, 19" high and 2-¼" deep. This box is fixed to an upright at each end which in turn rests on low legs running at right angles to the box which are joined together with a stretcher. The back of the box is hinged at the top and can re raised to a 45 degree angle where it is held in place by a little prop. In the front of the box is a round lense 6" in diameter. To operate the machine is simple. It is placed on a table or other convenient flat surface. The back contains a mirror and when raised reflects the image of an illustration placed on the table directly below it. The illustration must be well illuminated. When looked at through the peep hole the scene is magnified and gives to a certain degree an illusion of depth or third dimension provided the eyes are held fairly close to the lense.
The other machine is in the shape of a cabinet with a bracket foot and nice moldings and is about 24" wide, 42" high and 20" deep. On top of this is another little cabinet designed somewhat like the dial case of a grandfather clock and is about 12" wide 14" high and 10" deep. Instead of a dial it has a panelled door in front which when opened reveals a lense 7" in diameter masked with wood at top and bottom some 1-½". At the rear the lower half of the back is hinged at the top and can be opened up and fixed in a vertical position. On the floor of the cabinet a print is placed at 45 degrees in a fixed position within the upper cabinet. When the front is opened the image may be seen through the peep hole.
The first cabinet described is attributed to c. 1765, the second is later although believed to be of the eighteenth century.
Both lenses appear to be for the use of both eyes of a person viewing the scenes.
I will be very much interested to have your comment and hope that the drawing reaches you safely. All of us here send along our warm regards.
Singleton P. Moorehead
Dear. Mr. Southern
I have brought my drawing of the roundabout to a point where it needs your scrutiny and your advice. I am therefore enclosing 2 prints of it dated December 1, 1953 numbered 100 sk. I have carried out many of the parts in some detail, as in the case of the peep show, because I wanted to see if they worked. I must confess on many points I have been on an uncharted course but that is inevitable I suppose.
I have assumed that the roundabout would have been capable of disassembly in order to move it from place to place which fact posed my greatest problem. In order to solve it I had to rely on the use of bolts to join parts and fixing the bolts with wedge shaped keys driven through slots in the bolts to draw the parts firmly together. The use of nuts threaded to the bolts would have bee simpler in some respects but I believe they were rarely employed in the colonies. Not long ago we designed two kinds of large cannon carriages and built 4 of them in our own shops. I refer to them here because they also were dismountable and had a number of bolts holding the various parts together which were fixed by keys and washers. Our precedent for this was very full. An original eighteenth century mortar bed which we purchased in England likewise had the same system of fixing the bolts. I have also seen this method in other eighteenth century examples.
The Spinning Frame and Collars
The rim I have imagined as 12 sided in form composed of 12 rim pieces having at each end an L shaped strap which fits into a slot in a wrot iron washer on top of each spoke. The straps and washers are counter sunk so that the tops of the rim pieces and the spokes are flush to provide a level seating of the platform.
The platform is circular and consists of 12 sections bolted and keyed to the rim as shown. I could see no practical method of fixing them to the spokes. To give some bearing for the platform I set each rim piece on a straight line between spokes. 2 It is true that the bolt heads project above the flat surface of the platform but I should think this could be got around in placing the seats for the riders.
The Spokes and Lower Collar
There are 2 parts involved in the lower collar — one is fixed upon which rides the upper or revolving part. The former is wrot to an L shape so that no part of a spoke or the revolving part will bear or wear on wood. The latter is a circular flat band punched to receive the bolts which fix each spoke. Bearing for the fixed part is provided by a shoulder 1 ½" wide worked into the mast or center post. Presumably the bearing surface between the 2 parts would be well greased.
The Spars and Upper Collar
The upper collar is also dual. The fixed one bears on another shoulder on the mast while the revolving one is similar to that of the lower collar except that the holes receive hooks fastened to the spar ends with revetted bolts.
The Mast and Crossed Sills
The mast is round terminating in a square base which is held at the crossed sills by a smaller continuation of itself in the form of a tenon. At this point the sills are half lapped, in all forming a somewhat complicated joint but I cannot see any other way of handling the problem. Lateral bracing of the mast seems imperative so that I show 4 knees fixed to mast and sills with keyed bolts.
As mentioned under "C" the mast is formed to have 2 shoulders to support each of the collars. At its top is a turned round finial into which the mast is let and which is fastened to the mast by the wrot iron flagstaff which acts as a dowel. You may wish to see another form for the finial and you may feel that the shoulders should be omitted although the illustrations could be interpreted as indicating them. For the flag I wonder if you may have any suggestions?
The Riders' Seats
I did not attempt to show the riders' seats. From the illustrations I assume that they were placed between spars. In our case I imagined them as occupying every other space giving a total of 6 consisting of a sequence of horse, horse, car, horse, horse, car. The vacant spaces would then provide room for the pushers. Some sort of little step ladders must have been used to get the riders to their places but I have not shown them., The distance above ground of the platform is shown as 3'-0" which would be a reasonably comfortable height for the pushers, neither too low for adults nor too high for boys.
Thinking in terms of the eighteenth century American colonies the materials would probably have been white oak for the crossed sills, knees and mast and white pine for the spinning frame.
In your report of May 23 you mentioned the fact that Mr. Murphy indicated the possibility of the roundabout being fabricated by an available English firm. I can foresee that we might wish to take advantage of their services at least for providing the seats unless in your estimation special technical knowledge they might possess would preclude our making th e working drawings and building in our own shops the spinning frame, mast and cross sills. At this point it would be helpful to know, approximately, how much the firm's charge would be for 4 horses and 2 cars f.o.b. Williamsburg — the horses not fitted with harness since we would prefer to do that here to insure authentic design in a very obscure field. After receiving your comments and criticisms of the drawing and the above text we could estimate the cost of the balance of the work. The total estimate would then be submitted to our officers as previously mentioned.
There is the further possibility that having the machine fabricated by an English firm would be less expensive than doing so here but I think transportation and customs charges would more than make up for the difference.
By the time this reaches you Christmas will be nearing so I take this opportunity in which my associates join of sending you our very best wishes for the holiday season. WE have also ordered a package sent for you and your family which we hope will arrive in time.
Singleton P. Moorehead
Dear Mr. Southern
Enclosed are 2 prints of sheet No. 100 sk. dated December 9, 1953 showing a proposed scheme for the overboats for your review and comment.
I have assumed that this machine should be dismountable as in the case of the roundabout. As to be expected several problems arose which I mention in the following.
The Supporting Frame
The illustrations do not show much of the supporting frames because the delineation of the crowds at the fairs naturally obscures this detail. Of the uprights we are sure at least. I have imagined that sills would be essential as would diagonal braces. thus, I have shown each upright resting on its own sill and braced fore and aft by diagonal members. These two sills are joined midway by another like the bar of an H. Where it meets the other sills it does so by half-lapped joints through which a tenon extends from each upright. The braces would be fixed in place by keyed bolts. The intermediate sill is necessary for rigidity of the structure. I have introduced some terminal cuttings and chamfering to dress things up a little which should be permissible because it was commonly done in so much 18th century machinery and in many structures where framing was exposed to the eye.
The Main Axle
For lateral bracing this member must, I think, be rigid and well fastened to each upright although illustration 10 does not tell us. Since the intermediate sill is essential for lateral bracing the same is true of the main axle to make the whole supporting frame a proper structure.
The Wheel or Revolving Arms of the Boats
As noted on the drawing the arms must be well fixed to each other at right angles to revolve about the main axle as a unit but just how I have not worked out. At the moment I am still puzzling about what sort of a bearing would have been used in the 18th century at this point. I doubt if a bearing of wood on wood for practical reasons would have been found suitable. I am appealing to Mr. Hamilton in Boston, Massachusetts, who made our windmill model and who knows well American and English machinery methods. For our purposes a special, concealed ball or roller bearing would be ideal. This is what we propose for the great bearing of the windshaft on the structure of the windmill. It would greatly facilitate the turning of the arms by hand.
I was interested to see how the artist of illustration 10 handled the arms in relation to the boats. He did it in such a way that the spaces between each pair of arms are the same thus permitting boats of equal widths. It seems to me this is an indication of reliability of the drawing.
Revolving the arms.
So far I do not see how this can be accomplished easily by hand because the arms as they approach the ground are pretty high except for a short distance where the showman can grasp them to urge them around. Perhaps crossbars were installed between and at the end of the arms which the showman could pull downward with a pole and hook. It may be that the wheel and boats will turn more easily than I imagine and that I am overly concerned about a simple matter.
Axles for the boats
In studying the axles for the boats in relation to the arms it seemed to me that it would be preferable if they were fixed therein. Illustration 10 bears this out in showing the metal boat supports hooked over the axles thus indicating that the fixed axles turned within the hooks. I can hardly believe that the hooks shown in illustration 10 were as ponderous as shown by the artist. Accordingly I have lightened them considerably. What their bearing on the axles would be is another problem I have not yet solved and which I expect to pass on to Mr. Hamilton. space is tight here and it will not be easy to conceal a ball or roller bearing. Any suggestions you may have about this bearing and the one mentioned under 3-a will be very welcome.
The metal supports.
I have tried to interpret realistically the metal supports for the boats from the axles as shown in figure 10. The chief problem seems to be to place the vertical members terminating in the hooks on the line of the center of gravity of the boats when loaded. I have not attempted to compute this as yet and have guessed at it but I feel sure our artist of illustration 10 has shown has shown his too far forward. It may be he has shown them in 3 this position to provide hand holds for the passengers. From another point of view I should think they would be preferable as I show them whereby they can be bolted or otherwise fixed to the upper part of the sides of the boat, surely a structural gain.
The outer side battens.
Battens are clearly shown in the illustration on the sides of the boats but under the straps of the metal supports. I think it hardly reasonable to suppose that this represents artistic license. Therefore I have shown the battens as having the straps bent up over them. I have placed them to coincide with the inner battens or seat blocks thus providing a good arrangement for fastening the strap rivets to the boat. The outer battens if well fixed to the sides of the boats would transfer the weight of the boat to the straps satisfactorily which no doubt explains their presence in the illustration—awkward though they may be.
For rigidity and good nailing I show 2 more inner battens at the floor line and hand shelf line. the latter is essential to hold together the vertical end boards and to transfer weight to the straps. The former is needed to join the end boards and the floor. All the battens are fixed to the boards by nails driven through and clinched.
Boards of the back and foot rest.
The foot rest is clearly shown in the illustration and how it is nailed to the end or side boards. I have followed our artist in this. The boards of the back I imagined as horizontal and nailed to the end boards in the same way.
The seat I show resting at each end on battens or blocks. It would be further fixed by nails driven into it from the face of the back boards.
The hand shelf.
Here I follow our artist. The shelf would have to be hinged at one end which could be done with 2 offset chest strap hinges. At the other end would be a small hinged hasp engaging a staple to which it could be fixed by a wooden pin held by a leather thong. We have numerous 18th century examples of such hardware here to follow.
In 18th century Virginia woodwork exposed to the weather was usually painted. From the observations in your report of My 23 I take it that it would be permissible to paint the supporting frame and arms or wheel a natural wood color. It would be much more preferable to do so than to let the wood be untreated. Do you think it permissible to paint each boat a different color?
With warm regards from us all
Singleton P. Moorehead
In studying certain of the prints Mr. Southern procured for us in England it occurred to me that a listing in text of the various amusements and other activities shown in a brief descriptive manner would be useful for those interested in the subject. In the prints themselves so much is going on and is represented at so minute a scale that it is almost impossible to assess each activity by visual means alone.
Two of Mr. Southern's prints and one from our own files have been selected for this treatment.
Bartholomew Fair. Painting for a fair c. 1728. Print in British Museum. Original discovered by Mr. Southern elsewhere.
Background - from left to right.
Peep Show - The Siege of Gibraltar.
This is well described by Mr. Southern in his report of May 23, 1953 and of which an enlarged photograph of his is in Architecture's files.
Contains for sale small horns, dolls, toy animals, rattles, necklaces, a small mirror, bows for arrows, small spontoons of which a little boy has just purchased one. His small companion, a girl, is eating a sweetmeat.
Ground Booths for Shows Note: ground booths did not have walk-ups as the entrances were at ground level.
The first has an advertising cloth above the parade showing a tightrope walker and is labelled "rope Dancing is here." Several handbills are posted on the booth but are illegible in the painting. Next is a larger booth with a bigger parade. A 3 sided sign (probably a paper lantern) over the entrance reads: "Lee Harper is Here." A handbill on the wall repeats this information. The high cloth or banner is inscribed "Judith and Holophernes" and shows the gory scene. Several costumed actors enliven the parade, one of whom is blowing a trumpet. It is noticeable that the booths are of rough boards indicating that they may have been of a temporary nature. An open space containing a set of overboats is next—see Mr. Southern's report and sketch in detail in Architect's office by SPM for a description. Following the gap is a small booth and parade labelled on the high cloth "Fauxs Dexterity of hand" showing a bewigged man doing tricks at a table. Beside this is another banner 2 entitled "Fauxs famous posture master" on which appear a series of acrobats. On the parade is a harlequin and a man blowing a trumpet. Below is seen a man purchasing admittance at the entrance from a woman across what must be a small, hinged counter. Next is a shop with meats hanging in front and 2 unreadable signs indicating the sale of "cyder" and wines.
Overboats - see above.
Meat Shop - see above.
Foreground - left to right.
A woman, standing, displaying food for sale, possibly cakes, in a basket which she holds by each hand. Another woman, seated, holding up a drinking urn at a simple table with 2 kegs the label on one reads "Holland-Geneva," the other is illegible. Two men are shown drinking at this gin stand. Beyond is a woman at a small stand crying oysters a tub of which appears on the stand with a few opened ones nearby on the table. Near this is another woman seated at a small table crying apples in a basket. Next is a woman wheeling a wheelbarrow full of pears or pineapples. Above are shown a table with a grill being worked by a seated man with a pair of bellows. On the grill are a number of round pieces being cooked. Also seated at this table on a bench is a man drinking from a glass. Continuing to the right is another gin stand on which is a keg marked "Geneva." Seated on a bench are a man and a woman drinking while the proprietor looks on. The last attraction is a prettily designed small two-wheeled chair pulled by a team of dogs nicely harnessed. A small girl is riding in the chair, the proprietor leads the team while a fond mama supervises all.
Edmonton Statute Fair - from a painting by John Nixon, 1788 in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Background left to right.
In general this print shows a more animated scene than that just described. There are many more people and for this reason the detail of amusements, booths, pedlars' activities are somewhat hidden by the crowds.
A shop front with men and women grouped before it conversing gaily buying from a pedlar. Men and women are seen leaning out of second story windows. Above a door an interesting globe lamp. Below the group is more of the crowd composed of all sorts of people jostling each other, laughing and brawling. Behind all this continues a row of buildings of a permanent nature and in a gap between them can be seen a high cloth suspended from a spar on a mast showing a giant man and a female dwarf with barely legible printing
"The Tall Derbyshr Youth - 7 foot 113 On the gallery are showmen crying the show one of whom holds up an enormous shoe presumably belonging to the "Tall Youth." A cloth on the parade rail is labelled "JOBSONS." Beyond is another mast and spar sign with figure rope dancing, a gap follows then come more booth shows which appear to be temporary one, perhaps, being a caravan. First appear 2 mast and spar signs. The upper, on which sits a monkey, is entitled "Grand Hunting Tiger of Bengal" which is shown in ferocious posture. The lower shows an enormous porcupine and is shown in ferocious posture. The lower shows an enormous porcupine and is labelled "The Fretfull Porcupine." At the bottom appears another monkey holding a rope tied to the top of the mast. Next is a single mast sign picturing an unpleasant hyena-like creature "Lion Monster from Patna - alive." Below these signs is a parade with several persons crying the shows. On the rail-cloths are added legends—"Grand Conjuring" and "Learned Dog." Below is a typical crowd milling about. Among them may be seen part of a curious portable booth. A handbill appears on its side "Grand Movable Wax Work - Sea Flight - British Dancers." The booth is square in plan and twice as high as wide. The top is in the form of a half cylinder. On the ridge is a frame from which are suspended 5 small bells. One end of this frame continues upward as a staff to support a flag. Behind is a large post supporting a beam which continues across the street to a nearby building. From the beam hand 2 signs—one large the other smaller. The larger is pictorial and shows an angel below which appear the words "John Locke." The smaller sign is labelled merely "Neat Post - Chaises, Saddles." This sign is not part of the fair but rather an adjunct of the permanent buildings. In the distance beyond the sign is some sort of coach piled high with people around whom the crowd surges waving hands at them. Farther in the distance is a simple roundabout with 3 riders and a pusher. From the mast flies a flag. This is described in Mr. Southern's report.
The Little Woman only two feet & a half."
Foreground - left to right.
First is seen a cloth covered table with a stool nearby on which an oyster woman rests her foot while opening oysters on her knee. Empty shells cover the ground near her. On the table is a wooden tub and several figures surround the table eating oysters. Next is a group receiving handbills of a performance from a man which are labelled "The Wandering Jew." Behind the crowd among which can be seen a little girl with a toy drum. Behind appears a booth where toys are hung in rows from the ceiling such as masks, drums, swords and a toy gun. The booth continues with a blank wall in front of which is an animated scene of excitement caused by a horse in full tilt bearing a man and a woman while dashing directly into the throng. Around the corner of the booth and at its end there is another shop on which is a sign reading "Samuel Allspice, Gingerbread Baker, Confectioner from London." the counter is being raided by a large bear on the loose. The crowd in this vicinity is agitated as are the 3 terrified shopkeepers behind the counter. The run=away horse is no doubt frightened by this crisis. In the center front is a mother with an infant in her arms flanked by a small girl carrying a doll and little boy in a cocked hat carrying a toy wheelbarrow. This group is well dressed and appears to be fleeing in agitation from the scene of the ear. Next appear a blind fiddler carrying a tambourine being led by a woman carrying what appears to be a folding stool. In front of them is a dwarf in costume holding a hoop and leading a dog on whose back rides a monkey in costume. Beside the dwarf is a girl in a sort of costume playing a stringed musical instrument identified by Mr. Rhea as a hurdy-gurdy, a popular instrument at the time. It has a crank at one end which revolves a wheel coated with rosin which rubs 4 the strings and produces a continuous note. On the top of the instrument is a keyboard. When pressed notes are produced. The instrument is held by a strap about her neck and seems to resemble a similar instrument slung on the back of the peep show show woman in Hogarth's Southwark Fair. Before the girl are 3 dancing dogs dressed in costume surrounded by the amused crowd.
Behind this scene appears a large booth show with a parade and a walk-up. The walk-up is crowded with people going to the show some of whom can be seen paying the admittance. See also an enlarged detail of this area in Architecture's files. On the parade are a number of actors crying the show to attract attention. An amusing incidental here is a panel on the gallery rail with a grotesque figure of a dwarf painted on. Holes appear for the face, hands and feet which are all occupied by a concealed. person grimacing and gesturing. Above the gallery are the advertising cloths. The first shows a series of figures. The second Punch, Joan and the Devil. Printed on the cloth are the words "The Padlock & Enchanted Island with the Merry Interlude of Punch, his wife and the Devil." Below the Parade is a scene of excitement as someone falls surrounded by laughing figures.
Southward Fair by Hogarth - 1733
Far Background - left to right.
A crowd perhaps watching actors on a parade. next a series of booths with articles for sale and people standing in front.
Background from left to right
First an equilibrist swinging on a rope stretched between the tops of buildings across a narrow street or alley. Next is a group of wooden structures housing play booths probably of a temporary nature as they are shown as composed of boards. The first is a small booth where masks and dolls are hung up for sale. Next is Lee and Harper's booth identified by lettering on a painting of the Trojan horse entitled "The Siege of Troy is here." On the parade are 6 actors in various costumes crying the show. This booth is a ground booth and thus has no walk-up. On the roof is a staff and a large flag. Next is a smaller booth with its parade. Another painting shows on top Adam and Eve in the Garden and below a vivid scene labelled "Punches [sic] Opera." Wherein Punch is about to dump Dr. Faustus from a wheelbarrow into Hell's mouth" according to McPharlin in The Puppet Theatre in America. On the parade is Harlequin and a Punch-like figure riding a dummy horse. At the end of the parade is a small booth where Punch and 2 other little figures are seen in the form of glove puppets worked from within the draped booth. Seen above the roofs of these booths is a church tower from which flies the English flag. A rope descends diagonally downward on which can be seen the figure of an acrobat sliding diagonally downward on which can be seen the figure of an acrobat sliding rapidly earthward on the rope. Next is a gap or street filled with people. In the crowd is seen, in the language of the editors of The Works of William Hogarth, "…a shift and hat, carried upon poles, designed as prizes fro the best runner or wrestler." The crowd continues to the left in front of the 2 booth shows just described. A mountebank is shown standing on a platform eating fire. Terminating the right of the picture is a building, 5 perhaps an inn, with a permanent bracket sign containing a tree and 2 horsemen. Beside this is a large opening in the gable of the building where can be seen a girl with a child or a monkey in costume next to her beating a drum. Next is a paper box sign entitled "Royal Wax Work." Below are cloths showing acrobats.
Foreground - left to right
This and the background are well described by the editors in The Works of William Hogarth particularly the collapse of a show booth parade on the unsuspecting people below. Another paper lantern is shown here. About to be engulfed in the collapse is a dwarf playing a bagpipe. A monkey in costume wearing a sword and a cane dances beside him. The dwarf is tapping a small board resting on the ground with his foot to cause 2 miniature figures to dance. Next are a man and woman throwing dice on a little table. Next is an animated group the more important element of which is composed of a small Negro in costume blowing a trumpet, a pretty girl beating a drum and a hero, in costume, strutting. They appear to be a troupe or part of a troupe crying an entertainment. Next is seen a peep show in considerable detail. The above editors refer to it as "…a Savoyard exhibiting her farthing show…." She has her back to us on which is slung a hurdy-gurdy similar to the one shown in Nixon's painting of the Edmonton Statute Fair mentioned above. Beside the show woman stands a boy beating a drum presumably crying her show. More crowd appears and in back a man gesturing as he holds a pigeon in one hand—doubtless a magician. In the lower corner appears a swordsman on horse back described in the Works as "…a player at back-sword, riding a blind horse round the fair triumphantly, in all the boast of self important heroism, affecting terror in his countenance, glorying in his scars, and challenging the world to open combat…a folly for which the English are remarkable."
S. P. M.
cc: E. P. Alexander
A. P. Middleton
Dear Mr. Moorehead,
A number of interruptions have hindered our correspondence sadly of late, and I apologize for them and am anxious to re-establish touch. Among the more operative of these have been my undertaking a detailed reconstruction-model of an Elizabethan playhouse for the British Council, and a very acute problem of better premises for model-building than were at first available to me. I am glad to say all the problems have now been met and the model of the theatre of 1716 is now well on the way.
I have to thank you for the arrival of a number of drawings this month with their accompanying, interesting letters; namely, those for (A) the details for the model theatre (sent 3 Nov.), (B) the Peepshow (24 Nov.), (C) the Merry-go-round (4 Dec.), and (D) the Overboats (10 Dec.). I will deal with the last three letters first and leave the theatre model to a separate sheet.
As a preliminary, referring to the third paragraph of your letter dated 24 Nov. 1953: You suggest the possibility of a second peep-show, and consider the one in the Hogarth print. I feel I ought to say that of all the reference I have collected this print puzzles me most, because (a) it seems to have a roof of a design unadapted to any form of peepshow we know, (b) it shows no strings, (c) the position of the operator (?) is exceedingly puzzling — the hidden hands seem almost to suggest that glove puppets might be in the box. In short I am not thoroughly convinced that it is a peepshow as we use the term.
On the other hand, I feel that the box shown on the Bartholomew Fair fan is quite authentic and suggest it might be the basis for any second peep show.
With regard to your detailed comments:
Here almost the whole matter is technical construction and in this field my own experience is small beside yours; it seems better, then, simply to say that I have studied your notes with great care and have no alteration to suggest.
I will look for any information that may offer suggestions regarding the two problems of bearings, and the curiously obscure matter of working the boats.
As to the painting of each boat a different colour, I am inclined to say I am against this, and repeat that I imagine most Georgian work of this sort to be quiet in colour.
Thank you for your letter of 3 Nov. with its full details and drawings. All matters are well covered and, as I say, work is now going ahead.
Concerning the light-fittings: I found they would be so small as to need very minute work. I am now considering submitting the matter to the School of Jewellry at the Royal College of Art, and will write to you if the prospect seems promising.
I note your comments on Curved Partitions, etc., and am going ahead on those lines.
After working on an Elizabethan playhouse some sort 80ft in diameter it is strange to feel how small this model is, though it is to the same scale, and I very much expect that details of hinges and so forth will have to be simplified to keep the general impression true and clear.
It is drawing near time for me to ask if your experience in shipping material from Europe to Williamsburg indicates any best method? I think the model will be finished by February. I will crate it and shall be glad to hear if you would like it sent by any particular route, otherwise I will decide at this end and forward you particulars.
And now, finally, may I send you a very warm expression of thanks for the most generous box of eggs which arrived in perfect time and quite intact. My family join me in enthusiastic appreciation and revive, with me, all the liveliest memories of those pleasant occasions when it has been our good fortune to meet any one from the offices of Williamsburg.
With heartiest wishes to you all for the New Year,
Yours very sincerely,
S/ Richard Southern
Dear Mr. Southern
I have read with interest you letter of December 29, 1953 and appreciate very much the reproduction in color of the green painting of Bartholomew Fair.
Since our last exchange I have found an interesting article on Peep-Show Prints by Frank Weitenkampf in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library for June, 1921. I have had some reproductions made of this and enclose a copy for you. The illustrations are very clearly reproduced in the Bulletin itself but are rather faint in our copy. It is very doubtful if a copy of the original bulletin can be found on the market.
I am very grateful for your many comments and suggestions. They will be incorporated in the working drawings and specifications of the peep show, roundabout and overboats as these are developed.
Concerning the peep show I find it will be comparatively simple to have the pulleys turned in metal which is good news. The strings, I am told, should be of nylon for long wearing qualities. Again to mention lenses at the peep holes. Although they were employed in the piques satisfactorily I do not believe they would be feasible for peep shows because of the moving forward or backward in depth of the succeeding scenes whereas in the optiques the field of vision is fixed thus permitting a fixed lense. You will note in Peep-Show Prints a well illustrated little stool for children to stand on in The Halfpenny Showman. Although not clearly shown in your copy the showman is working strings which are quite legible in the original. The box has its top opened up as would, I suppose, an optique. But strings are shown indicating a moving field of vision. I do not see how it would work with a fixed lense!
I have heard from Mr. Hamilton concerning the bearings of the overboats. He is much concerned at the narrow space between the sides of the boats and the revolving arms. He points out that a child's arm could get caught and be severely injured. He hopes we will widen this space from _5" as now shown to at least 1'-0" and preferably 1'-6". I must admit this consideration never occurred to me and I am sure he must be quite right about it. About the bearings he recommends a type common in early wind and water driven mills in the colonies. A shaft revolving in a bearing has a series of iron straps let into it so that the surfaces of the straps are slightly proud, i.e. raised above the surface of the shaft. They run parallel to the length of the shaft and are held in place by collars or by bolts. They are about 1 ¼" to 1 ½" wide spaced ½" apart. The raised or proud effect is helpful in holding grease. The bearing is of wood. Such bearings, says Mr. Hamilton, will last for many years and work quite freely.
At this point I would like to raise a question for your consideration concerning the puppet show. I have discussed this further with my associates here who will be concerned with its operation. They favor a rather small booth seating from 15 to 20 people, possibly a few more, and prefer a ground booth rather than a walk-up show since their audience will be composed largely of children. There is also a preference for hand puppets 18 inches or less in height, worked from below, which would appear in an opening raised sufficiently above the floor level to allow for operation. In such an arrangement it would seem unnecessary to slope the seats as in the case of a walk-up thereby simplifying some disturbing problems in seat construction and requiring only a few benches at ground level easily got to or vacated. Under these conditions would you advise a parade?
You have mentioned and sent illustrations of the simple tents to house such a show but I am uncertain how one would be designed under the conditions mentioned above. Traditional tent forms at circuses, fairs, and carnivals in this country are so different that I find I have no experience to guide me.
Before leaving this subject I do wish to say that we are delighted to have all the material you have sent about the larger walk-up shows and I have no doubt that at some future occasion it may become a reality. After an added word from you I will prepare a sketch of a puppet show for your comment.
Again, also, so many thanks for the wealth of material and comment you have sent us on the amusements.
We would very much like to have the copy of Sergeant Bell and his Raree-show by Peter Parley. It sounds extremely interesting.
With kindest regards from us all.
Singleton P. Moorehead
Dear Mr. Moorehead,
Thank you for your two letters of 12 and 13 January.
The model of the 1716 Theatre is progressing and I have taken note of your helpful suggestion of a shipping firm, with whom I shall soon be discussing dates.
Concerning now your letter on 18th-century Fairs. I am most grateful to you for forwarding me the copy of the New York Public Library Bulletin article on Peep-shows. I agree with your point about lenses for the eye-holes — perhaps, however, a small pane of plain glass in the peepholes would suit all needs.
I have forwarded to you by surface mail a copy of Sergeant Bell and his Raree-show. I hope no customs difficulties will be encountered.
Mr. Hamilton's point about the trapping of hands in the revolving arms of Overboats is very important, and I thoroughly agree we should take it fully into account. I believe his suggestion for the bearings is also a good one.
It is only in the matter of the puppet show that I feel uncertainty. I am not sure what attitude to take here. I can, on the one hand, agree to the suggestion of a small glove-puppet booth such as you outline, and leave the matter to be developed at your end, helping as much as I can with answers to questions. And I do not know that I have any clear justification to do more.
On the other hand, I think I should submit some misgivings. I take it glove puppets are now envisaged, but I have no evidence that glove puppets were used as the main attraction in 18th-century fairs, and know no reference to them — except as a sort of exterior side show advertising a string puppet performance within the booth. Glove puppets appear to have been used in Elizabethan times and earlier, and there is some suggestion that the puppets introduced into Ben Johson's Bartholomew Fair were glove puppets. At the other end of history — in the 19th century — we find the rise of the 'Punch and Judy Show' as known today. But this was unknown, I believe, in the 18th century, and I think any move to introduce this particular show into an 18th-century fair would be incorrect. Of the string puppet show at that time we have some evidence as I have already shown in my reports.
I — like you — find the problem of the detail of a very small booth tent for some 20 people difficult. I do not at the moment know how we 2 should design it, but will seek information.
In this uncertainty about the puppets I have turned again to Mr. George Speaight, as our chief authority on their history. I showed the notes on 'Puppets in the 18th century which Dr. Middleton had collected to him. His reply was fairly critical and I think I should send you his points for your and Dr. Middleton's consideration.
In addition to the books quoted in the Bibliography Mr. Speaight would add Paul McPharlin's The Puppet Theatre in America, 1524 to 1948, Harper and Brothers, 1949. 'This is a most excellent and comprehensive history, amplifying and expanding many of the points to which Dr. Middleton makes allusion.'
Mr. Speaight goes on 'I hope it will not be thought discourteous of me to point out that the section on PLAYS FOR PUPPETS in Dr. Middleton's paper is almost entirely inaccurate. He cannot, of course, be blamed in any way for repeating information that has appeared many times in other books, but after some six years research on the question I am in a position to state that very little of the history printed in the popular puppet articles will stand up to a critical investigation. For instance:
- 1.Dr. Johnson never said puppets could act Shakespeare.
- 2.Macbeth was not played by puppets in 1797 or at any other time.
- 3.'Punch and Judy' did not originate near Napes, it was not written down in 1796, and it would be completely wrong to put on a performance of a Punch and Judy Show as an example of a mid-eighteenth century puppet performance.'
The position now seems that we here must leave the decision to you and your associates — who may have more information than we have — about the nature of an early puppet show in America. But if you should decide to consider Mr. Speaight's offer of part of his MS — or to postpone decision till his book appears — I will do all I can at this end to help. This latter of course is true whatever course you decide.)
I have had an acknowledgement of my enquiry about the costs of building details of merry-go-rounds from Messrs. Savages, who promised to send figures to me in due course.
With warmest good wishes
Yours very sincerely,
S/ Richard Southern
Director, Theatre Planning Dept.
Dear Mr. Moorehead,
Further to my letter of yesterday: I have this morning had a reply about the cost of roundabout construction from Messrs. Savages Ltd., and I hasten to inform you of the relevant points. They say:
- (a) We could produce the four horses and two cars required but in the absence of further details we cannot quote a price at this stage.
- (b) The cost of producing the roundabout centre and rotor as detailed in your Drawing No. 100 SK would be approximately £210. 0. d. at our works, King's Lynn.
- (c) Comparing your drawing with an old print illustrating an 18th century fairground, the details shown on your drawing appear to correspond.
- (d)We regret we have no records of the constructional details of portable fairground theatres.
Before embarking further on this project we think it essential to discuss the matter personally and we shall look forward to hearing from you a date and time when you could make the journey to King's Lynn.'
It seems to me that this price is a fair one, but I have to await your opinion. As to the matter of making the horses and cars, I well see that any practical estimate is not easy unless they are supplied with some examples to show the extent and detail of the carving. This I did not go into in my first letter to them, believing it better to take actual pictures of contemporary roundabouts and discuss the problem with them.
I should be glad to hear your opinion of the above and to know whether you would like to have me go up to King's Lynn and discuss the affair in detail with Messrs. Savages?
Looking forward to your reply.
With good wishes
Dear Mr. Southern
I received your two letters of February 2 and 3 safely and thank you form them.
Letter of February 3.
We are much obliged for the information concerning the cost of fabricating the structure of the merry-go-round as noted under "b" and the added information under "a,c,d." I have discussed the cost of item "b" with our construction people here and it appears that there would not be enough advantage in price to offset the customs charges and shipping costs if Messrs. Savages Ltd., built the center and rotor in England. There would be a certain advantage in building the structure in our own shops from the point of view of maintenance and having our own mechanics familiar with the construction.
As to the horses and cars it would be most helpful if Messrs. Savages could give you an approximate estimate of cost. You mention that this will mean added travelling, etc., for you. If you feel this will exceed our financial arrangement I hope you will not hesitate to let us know.
Letter of February 2.
With respect to the puppet show we are very glad to have your frank appraisal of the proposal for its design in my letter of January 12 as we are to have Mr. Speaight's comments.
From what you say about the proposed publication of Mr. Speaight's History of the English Puppet Theatres, I should think it would be of great advantage if we could obtain a typescript of the portions of the MSS. which throw light on our problem, in the meantime postponing our decision on design until we have had a chance to study the typescript and send you another proposal. We would be obliged if you would first let us know what expenses would be involved in obtaining the typescript. Actually, we have so little information about early puppet booths in America that we must rely on English precedent in any case. The availability of this MSS. seems almost providential under the circumstances. Thus your intercession in our behalf has not only been rewarding but deserves our sincere appreciation.
You have previously acknowledged to us your obligation to Mr. Speaight for his help and we are, therefore, equally indebted to him. I would judge that a fitting opportunity will arise for us to express our thanks in a letter when we hear from you that the typescript is under way or otherwise arranged for. Perhaps at the same time we might send 2 him some of the descriptive publications of Colonial Williamsburg. If you have other suggestions we would be happy to have them.
Now that we are in agreement on the major part of our 4 Fair amusements, I enclose a check in the amount of £100 in dollars drawn on our local bank representing the final payment of our financial arrangement of March 9, 1953 for the 4 Fair amusements. I hope you will feel it satisfactory for this to include the unfinished correspondence between us about the puppet show and possibly some minor exchanges concerning the other 2 amusements.
The copy of Sargeant Bell and his Raree-Show has arrived and I send you our many thanks for your trouble. I can really see how invaluable it will be.
With the best of wishes from us all,
Singleton P. Moorehead
cc: Mr. A. P. Middleton
Attached is a copy of an article by George Speaight, the leading authority on the English puppet theatre. This was procured for us by Mr. Southern and is to be included in a proposed Italian encyclopedia. Although brief, it will be useful to us.
I am now having copies made of Mr. Speaight's The History of the English Puppet Theatre from which he very kindly consented to make a typescript of those passages of interest to us. The book will not be published until late this fall and is now only in manuscript form.
S. P. M.
For a General Survey of the subject reference might also be made to my article on PUPPETS, PUNCH & JUDY, MARIONETTES, etc. in "The Oxford Companion to the Theatre."
Note: This material is not to be released for any reason without permission of the author.
July 29, 1954
There can be little doubt that puppets were brought to England during the middle ages by minstrels and jongleurs from the continent, but documentary proof of their existence is hard to find. The famous 14th. century illuminated MS of "Li romans du boin roy Alexandre" in the Bodleian Library illustrates a glove puppet show, but as this was probably painted in Flanders it cannot be accepted as indisputable proof of English conditions. It is, however, certain that moving images, such as the Rood of Grace at Boxley, had found a place in English churches by the 15th century, and eventually these seem to have developed into actual religious puppet performances; such a one, of The Resurrection of Our Lord, was exhibited at Witney previous to the Reformation, in about 1500. It is probable that a tradition of both secular and religious puppet shows had been established in England, and that they were merged into one in the 16th. century.
From about 1560 onwards allusions to puppets in contemporary plays and pamphlets become common; they were known to Shakespeare's audiences, and certainly to Shakespeare himself, as a crude robust vulgar popular entertainment, presented at fairs and busy street corners. the plays they performed were certainly never any of the literary dramas of the age, but well known stories from the Bible, from popular legend or from history; we learn that historical characters from many different ages might be bundled together into a knock-about scene of farce and tom-foolery. The texts of these plays were probably never written down, but an example has fortunately been preserved in the puppet play of "Hero and Leander" introduced by Ben Jonson into Bartholomew Fair in 1614. It seems certain that the type of puppet most common at this time was the glove puppet, and the voices of the puppets were rendered by some device into the form of a high pitched squeak; the show was introduced and explained by an "interpreter," who stood in front of the stage.
During the Elizabethan period there are many references to the "Italian Motions," which had first appeared in England in 1573. It is not always clear exactly what kind of show was intended by these "motions," which sometimes included clockwork automata and peep shows, but it is probable that true puppet shows were among them; there are, however, no Italian names recorded among the puppet showmen who travelled round England at this time, and Italian Commedia dell'Arte themes or characters do not appear to have been absorbed in any way into the repertory of the Elizabethan and Jacovean puppet theatres.
In 1642 the outbreak of the Civil War led to the closing of the London theatres, and these remained shut throughout the Commonwealth; during these 18 years the only kind of living theatre that was ordinarily available to the people were the puppet shows, with their unsophisticated renderings of folk stories, spiced with medieval ingredients like the devil, who usually appeared at the end of the play to carry away the bad characters.
In 1660, however, Charles II was restored to the throne; the theatres were opened, and England was visited by many continental artists and performers. Among these came Italian puppet showmen; to Signor Bologna, 2. who set up a booth in Covent Garden in 1662, must go the credit for first introducing the character of "Pollicinella" into England; he was closely followed by Antonio Devoto, whose puppet booth at Charing Cross met with great popularity and distinguished patronage until 1674.
The character of Pulcinella, who was soon anglicized as Punchinello and then as plain Punch, was taken to the hearts of the English people, and within a few years he was finding his way into the native puppet shows. Here he took over the role of the old English stage clown, perhaps in his turn a descendent of the medieval Vice, who provided comic relief in every play; in the English puppet theatres of the late 17th. and 18th. centuries Punch appeared in a vast number of different stories, biblical, historical and legendary, as the clown or fool of every play. He soon acquired an English wife, named Joan, who nagged and scolded him unmercifully, and at the end of the play he was often carried away by the devil in the medieval tradition.
It would appear that the puppet shows introduced by the Italians after the Restoration were performed by string marionettes, and from this time this type of figure seems to have become generally used. It is certain that the Punch plays of the 18th. century were acted by marionettes. They were moved by wires - probably a strong wire to the crown of their heads covered with a network of fine threads (as described by Quadrio) to disguise the method of control used. The tradition of speaking for the puppets through a kind of squeaker was continued; and an interpreter still explained the show from before the curtain.
In size the English marionettes of the 18th. century varied from Lilliputian figures of .5 metres high to almost life sized wax puppets, 1.5 metres tall. The operation of these large marionettes must have presented many problems, but it appears to have been described in 1744 by Francisco Quadrio in his Toria de regione d'ogni poesia (vol. III part 2 p. 245) when he wrote that "the English, with their ingenious skill, have to-day developed this invention (of large marionettes sliding in grooves and supported by counterweights) to perfection…."
While the popular folk puppets continued with their unchanging traditional repertory at fairs and villages, there were during the 18th. century a number of fashionable puppet shows presented in the West End of London. The first of these was that of Martin Powell at his theatre in Covent Garden from 1711 to 1713, which was patronized and described by many of the literary wits of the day, and which made a special feature of burlesques of the Italian Opera, which was then just finding a place on the English stage. Nicolini's famous combat with a live pig, and many droll comparisons were drawn between the voices of the castrati singers and the squeak of Powell's puppets.
Later examples of these sophisticated puppet entertainments were the seasons at the Old Tennis Court in James Street in 1738-40 presented by Charlotte Chakre, the eccentric and unfortunate daughter of Colley Cibber; "Piety in Patters," a parody on the craze for sentimental comedy, 3. presented by Samuel Foote, the clever actor and mimic, at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in 1773; the intimate revue called "The Comic Mirror" presented by Charles Dibdin, the famous writer of ballad opera and nautical songs, at Exeter Change in 1775-6; and the Patagonian Theatre at the same address from 1776 to 1781, which was brought from Dublin by a scene painter named John Ellis, who designed romantic and beautiful scenery for over forty full scale productions of light opera, comedy and parody, many of them the work of Irish dramatists.
A considerable stimulus to English puppetry was provided by the arrival of the Italian Fantoccini in London in 1770. The first of these troupes, presented by Carlo Perico, enjoyed an unbroken run of 21 months at the Great Room in Panton Street, presenting Commedia dell' Arte playlets built round the character of Harlequin, with many metamorphoses and trick effects; during the next twenty years no less than five different troupes of Italian Fantoccini made their appearance in London, all presenting a similar repertory, except that the last of these, directed by Carnevale, the assistant manager of the Opera House, introduced mainly French light operettas and comedies a ariettes into the elegant theatre at Savile Row, which was a focus of fashionable interest from 1790 to 1792.
Contemporary with the Fantoccini, London also welcomed the Ombres Chinoises, which was a Shadow Show of the kind popularized by Seraphin in Paris. Shadow Shows had been known in England in Elizabethan times and Ben Jonson introduced one into "A Tale of a Tub," but they now came with the excitement of a fresh discovery; they were first introduced into London by Ambroise in 1775, and in the next five years some half dozen different seasons were presented by French and Italian showmen.
Meanwhile the folk dramas over which Punch had lorded for so long were beginning to fall into decay, and by the end of the 18th. century they had degenerated into little more than a jumble of meaningless and indecent absurdities. The days of Punch appeared to be numbered. In these circumstances, however, he demonstrated his adaptability by abandoning the marionette stage entirely and becoming a glove puppet. As we have seen, there was a long tradition of glove puppet performances in England stretching back to Elizabethan and perhaps medieval times, and there is evidence that throughout the 18th. century glove puppets — including Punch, his wife and the devil — appeared outside the marionette booths of the fairs in short scenes of slap-stick and farce to collect a crowd and advertise the marionette plays within. By the end of the century, when the more elaborate and expensive marionette shows were beginning to fail, various showmen took to presenting glove puppet shows in the streets; the earliest record of one of these is in a painting by Thomas Rowlandson of 1775. Into these rough street performances were absorbed many of the characters and incidents from the 18th. century marionette plays, — Punch himself, his wife, his children, Scaramouche the clown, a beadle, a ghost, a hobby horse, a dog, a hangman and the devil had all appeared already in the marionette theatres; these characters were now introduced one by one to fall before Punch's stick; additional characters, like the Doctor and the black man, crept in; and two new pieces of popular business were created in Punch throwing his baby out of the window and in Punch tricking the hangman into hanging himself. Punch still always spoke through a squeaker, but in the process of becoming a glove puppet he was obliged to shed much of his old comic business and to acquire some new tricks more suitable to the practical limitations and scope of the glove puppet booth; in the result his character 4. has become somewhat changed from that of an interfering buffoon, who was smacked by all the other characters, into that of a ruthless assassin, who murders every character he encounters; it is certain, however, that he has always been regarded as intrinsically a figure of fun.
The exact location of Punch and Judy, as the street glove puppet show came to be called, is a matter of some uncertainty. Many commentators have given the credit for its introduction into England to an Italian showman called Piccini, whose performance was illustrated by George Cruikshank in 1828; it would seem, however, that there are marked points of dissimilarity between the English Punch and the Italian Pulcinella, both in their costume, use of the mask, physical shape, and in the detail of their street performances, and that the French Polichinelle of the streets was much closer to the English than to the Italian. Apart from superficial alterations, in particular the introduction of a live dog Toby and the substitution of a crocodile for the devil, the Punch and Judy as presented to-day is identical with that of 1828; it is still popular and though not often seen in the streets there are resident shows every summer at some 50 seaside holiday resorts.
Punch never returned to the marionette stage, which for along time was left in a very uncertain condition. Occasional foreign companies played in London; the Maffeys of the French Theatre du Petit Lazary in 1828-9 with a repertory of Harlequin plays drawn from the Italian Fantoccini, for instance, and Signor Brigaldi of the Royal Marionettes in 1852 with an interesting programme of political satires and burlesques written by contemporary English dramatists, but it was not until 1872-3 when Bullock's Marionettes ran for 8 months in Piccadilly that English marionettes returned to the West End.
From this time, however, there came about a great renaissance in the English marionette theatre; new troupes sprang up, some touring the fairs and countryside with popular 19th. century melodramas in portable puppet theatres, and others presenting variety programmes and pantomimes in theatres and halls in the big towns. The names of Darc, Barnard, Middleton, Clowes, Tiller and Chester and Lee deserve to be remembered. English marionette companies toured America and the Far East, and at this period there is little doubt that they were the most expert performers in the world; on the continent Thomas Holden attracted wonder and admiration wherever he went. Possibly an important element in the supremacy of the English puppet masters was their abandonment of the thick and prominent wire that had hitherto supported the heads of their marionettes, and their success in demonstrating that a marionette could be successfully controlled by strings alone.
The golden age of English puppetry, from 1870 to 1900, was however cut short by the invention of the cinema; and few of the great Victorian troupes survived long into the 20th. century. At the moment, however, when it seemed that the puppet theatre might disappear forever a new movement was growing up among artists and poets, who found in the conventionalized gestures and inscrutable mask of the puppet a medium for art and drama of great potentialities. This theory was, perhaps, first advanced by E. Gordon Craig in the pages of "The Mask" and "The Marionette," published from Florence between 1908 and 1929. Gradually artists began to experiment and 5. learn how the puppet is made and moved, and by 1920 Gair Wilkinson and William Simmonds were presenting performances of considerable interest and beauty, though to limited audiences. The artistic puppet revival continues to the present day with the work of Olive Blackham and others.
In 1925 the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild was founded by H. W. Whanslaw and Gerald Morice, and has continued ever since to provide a friendly meeting ground for amateurs and professionals. In recent years, particularly, the widest interest in puppetry has been shown by teachers, who have discovered that the puppet offers an educational medium of great value in handicraft and dramatic work; this aspect of puppetry has its own organization, the Educational Puppetry Association.
The professional marionette companies in Great Britain to-day are slowly increasing in numbers and quality; few of them consist of more than three operators, and as there is only one permanent puppet theatre in the British Isles — that of Miles Lee at Edinburgh — they are all compelled to tour. In these conditions elaborate productions are difficult to realize, and the general public tends to regard puppets as an entertainment only for children. Television, however, is proving an ideal medium for the puppet show and the British Broadcasting Corporation has now sponsored its own Television Puppet Theatre. There are good hopes that this ancient art still has a valuable part to play in 20th. century England.
(See also TIM BOBBIN, OLIVE BLACKHAM, JAN BUSSELL, CHARLOTTE CHARKE, WALDO LANCHESTER, MARTIN POWELL, JOHN WRIGHT.)
Dear Mr. Southern:
I received your letter of June 24 safely and am replying about the Fairs separately. I am afraid that the amusements, with the possible exception of the peep show, cannot be built at least for the present. This is due to certain stipulations in the local zoning and building ordinances which require rather definite indications from historical records that these were present and where they were located. We were aware of this but felt that by a serious research effort we would be able to provide the answers — if not specifically in Williamsburg then certainly in the other colonies. For Fairs themselves we found ample evidence but as for the amusements contemplated we were distressed to discover literally nothing until a much later period than ours. Under the circumstances I doubt that you need to follow up further on the matter of the horses and other seats for the merry-go-round.
The figure of the serving girl arrived safely and is now in place. Thank you very much.
Sometime ago we had a note from Mr. Robert Stanbury, who made the miniature fixtures, offering to send us some replacements for the missing candles. We cordially accepted his offer and he sent over an abundant supply.
All here send you their best regards.
Singleton P. Moorehead
Cir. Copy to
Legend: *Read by S. P. M.