What’s New at WDS – May 6, 2020

Below you’ll find three weekly columns created to keep you informed and entertained. Be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for more photos and information.

Everyday Living at WDS

18th-century social distancing? In this week’s Everyday Living at WDS we grasp that the concept of personal hygiene was vastly different in colonial New England! In our Health and Medicine class students learn that people believed bathing would destroy the natural oils on the skin, leaving them vulnerable to disease. Consequently, people generally bathed once or twice a year and then it was typically a sponge bath.

So, what did people do to combat the smell that was surely everywhere? They made sachets or scent bags (pictured here) with dried herbs, such as lavender, picked from an herb garden located just outside the kitchen, like the one at the Stevens House. They would hold the sachet to their nose to block some of the unpleasantness—phew!

Kids love making their own sachets while attending the class, so we’ve included simple instructions for anyone to make a sachet with whatever fragrant herbs they have at home. We’d love it if you would share photos of your homemade sachets with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough Box Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough Box

WDS Curator Rich Malley observes “Call me crazy, but based on the empty flour shelves in supermarkets recently, there must be an awful lot of bread baking going on at home these days!” Even those who have never baked a loaf of bread before are apparently using their enforced time at home to finally try that whole grain or sourdough recipe.

Bread was a major source of carbohydrates in the colonial diet, necessary given the amount of manual labor required to survive in that period. Large quantities of bread were baked in a home’s brick oven, often one day a week. Without the automatic bread makers found in many modern kitchens, 18th century women (who almost always prepared the meals) turned to the dough box or trough. Large enough to accommodate 10-15 pounds of flour, these wooden devices with their characteristic sloped sides enabled the ingredients to be mixed, kneaded and allowed to rise, oftentimes aided by warmth from the fireplace.

While some dough boxes were equipped with legs and hinged covers, many, like our example in the Deane house kitchen, were simply open-topped boxes which could be moved onto a table when in use. Note the cutout handles in each end for ease of moving. A cloth would cover the box during the rising process. Once the dough rose sufficiently it would be formed into loaves and baked in the preheated brick oven. Bon appetit!

Around the Grounds

In this week’s “Around the Grounds,” Property Manager Dick Agne shows us the first installed doorway of the new meeting room that leads to the terrace overlooking the beautiful WDS Colonial Revival Garden! Notice the full-glass windows that frame the door, increasing the light into the room and the view of the garden. Next, we have an artistic view through the garden fence looking back at an exterior view of that same meeting-room overlooking the garden. The third photo shows the southwest corner of the new addition, with brickwork being laid on the exterior lower section of the new conference room.

Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough BoxAround the Grounds Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough BoxIn this week’s “Around the Grounds,” Property Manager Dick Agne shows us the first installed doorway of the new meeting room that leads to the terrace overlooking the beautiful WDS Colonial Revival Garden! Notice the full-glass windows that frame the door, increasing the light into the room and the view of the garden. Next, we have an artistic view through the garden fence looking back at an exterior view of that same meeting-room overlooking the garden. The third photo shows the southwest corner of the new addition, with brickwork being laid on the exterior lower section of the new conference room. Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough BoxAround the Grounds Collections A to Z – “D” is for Dough Box