Colonial Culture

This is the essay for the 32nd week of the 7th Grade Ron Paul Curriculum. It’s about the culture of the Colonies.

The Structure of Colonial Cities


There were two types of cities in colonial America. There were Harbor towns and Seats of Government. Harbor towns were very important because the colonies relied on trade with Europe. This is why some of the largest cities in the colonies were organized around harbors.

Colonial cities had important features in common. Here is a list of the important features.

  1. Church Buildings. This was almost always the building that was built first in the city. There even might be several churches in one city.
  2. Government Buildings. In a city, there was at least the town hall and the courthouse. There could be even more buildings and if the city was small the town hall and the courthouse were the same building.
  3. Open Squares. Would be an open square so people could listen to people preach and tell them about cities in Europe.
  4. Grid-like street patterns. If you look at maps of colonial cities you can see all of them have a grid-like street pattern that usually runs from north to south and from east to west.
  5. The Market. The market was usually near the harbor where all the food was sold.
  6. The Tradesmen Section. The tradesmen section were the little shops were people sold all kinds of stuff or services. Sometimes it was in one place in the city and sometimes it was spread across the entire city.
  7. Lastly the Houses. The Houses usually belonged to the founders of the city or the ancestors of the founders of the city.


In the colonial cities, there were two branches of the government. The Governor’s Council and the House of Burgesses. The Governor was appointed by the king to represent the king’s interests in that city. The Governor’s Council was a group of advisors helping the governor. Usually, the Governor’s Council reigned longer than the Governor, because when a new governor was appointed he wanted the expertise of the old Governor’s Council so he reappointed them. The House of Burgesses was supposed represents the people interest in that city. The representatives were elected by the people every few years. Both had their own section inside the Capitol Building and there was a pathway between the two branches where they would have a meeting together.

Colonial Occupations


There where a lot of occupations in colonial America. Some that don’t exist to this day and some that do. I shall list 16 common occupations. See if you can guess what they all do.

  1. Barber. They cut hair, but in colonial times they also practiced bloodletting which was believed to heal diseases. This is where the colors for the barber pole come from. Red for bloodletting and white for the bandages.
  2. Blacksmith. The Blacksmith made anything to do with iron. He made horseshoes, pans, nails, etc. Blacksmith also acted as a dentist, but this isn’t the kind of dentist you would want to go to because the only method he knew to get rid of a toothache was to get rid of the tooth.
  3. Cabinetmaker. The Cabinetmaker didn’t only make cabinets he also made fine furniture and even the cases for the clocks that the Clockmaker makes.
  4. Clockmaker. The Clockmaker made new clocks, but most of his time went into repairing old clocks.
  5. Cobbler. The Cobbler made shoes and repaired shoes. In colonial times there actually was no difference between right and left shoes.
  6. Cooper. The Cooper made barrels so food and drinks could be stored in them.
  7. Doctor. The Doctors are still approximately the same as they were in colonial times. They treat people with diseases and illnesses and such. But in colonial time they were also the town’s pharmacy.
  8. Farmer. The Farmer grew food for the colonists like tobacco, wheat, corn.
  9. Grocer. The Grocer owned a grocer’s store which is nowadays known as a general store which had food but later also other stuff.
  10. Hatter. The Hatter made hats, which were mostly made out of beaver skins.
  11. Miller. The Miller ground the farmers corn and wheat into cornmeal and flour.
  12. Sailor. The Sailor. The Sailors either worked for the British military ships or on Merchant ships. The merchant ships were only allowed to trade with Britain but they still traded with other countries like France. The British military ships were trying to stop this.
  13. Silversmith. The Silversmith was very similar to the blacksmith and goldsmith only the silversmith worked with only silver.
  14. Tailor. The Tailor made and repaired people’s clothes, but people usually couldn’t afford it so they made their own clothes.
  15. Tanner. The Tanner made anything to do with leather, which included clothes, saddles and even buckets.
  16. Wigmaker. The Wigmaker wigs which, was a very popular clothing accessory during the colonial times.


Home Life in the Colonies


I shall go over what people in colonial times had in their houses, what they ate and what kind of houses they had.. Where they lived made a difference in their lifestyle. If they lived up north it was very cold during the winters and if they lived down south it was very hot during the summer. The early colonial houses were built of wood. The houses only had one room, which was called the keeping room. It is where the colonists, ate, slept, cooked and bathed all in the same room. The toilet was outhouse outside of the house. Sometimes the houses had an attic for storage space or even an extra bed. When the families size increased the houses were made larger. These larger houses were known as saltbox houses. After a while families became wealthier and the wealthy people could afford stone or brick houses. The wealthier houses also were always symmetrical.


Some common colonial furniture apart from the same kind of furniture we have today were a rifle, barrels, a hope chest and a spinning wheel. Rifles were kept in the house for hunting animals and also for the defense of the home. Some families were too poor to buy clothes so they made their own clothes with the spinning wheel. The barrels were kept for preserving food and drink. A hope chest was given to a daughter when the parents thought she was old enough to get it. The daughter would put everything she needed for her own house inside of it. Lastly, the beds in colonial houses were a lot different than what they are now. The frame was made of wood and there was a rope netting so the mattress would fall out. The mattresses were usually made of straw and if you were lucky or lived at a farm you would have a feather mattress.


The colonists ate anything the farmers would produce and anything they could trade with Europe. The usual diet was corn, squashes, fruits, vegetable, beans, porridge, fish and meat. The colonists couldn’t just buy the meat or fish from the store they had to go hunt for it with the rifle. Everyone in the household either drank, water, cider, beer and milk. Even the children were allowed to drink beer!


Growing Up in the Colonies


Now I shall go over what it would be like to grow up as a kid in the colonies. As a kid, you had very little responsibility before you were 6 years old. This is because people considered any child under 6 years old a “baby”. They would wear a big pillow around their stomach called a “pudding”. At age six the children got “big kid” clothes.


The children started doing a bunch of chores. Like cleaning the house, doing the dishes, taking care of the pets, fetching water, shaking the mattress and helping with their fathers work. Some of these are different than today because they didn’t have the same technology that we have now. The children would also be sent to dame school. Dame school was a school where the children learned to read. That’s all you needed to do to pass. Dame school was run by one volunteer who was the teacher. After passing the Dame school most boys and some girls would go to the regular school in town and learn arithmetic, writing and rhetoric. Boys were also given an apprenticeship where the boy would help the tradesman with his work and in exchange, the tradesmen gave the boy food, a place to sleep and taught the boy how to do his work. These apprenticeships could last from 3 years to 8 years. At the end of the apprenticeships, the boy would usually take over the tradesmen’s work when he retired.


But it wasn’t all work kids also had free time where they played several games. I shall list 7 games that the colonial kids used to play. Some of them are even played to this day.

  1. Checkers. Checkers which is exactly the same as checkers today.
  2. 9 Pins. Which is nowadays known as bowling.
  3. Jacks and Ball. In Jacks and Ball, you throw the jacks into the air and try to catch as many as possible before the ball bounces twice.
  4. 2 Sticks and Hoop. In this game, each person has 2 sticks an a hoop. They throw it at each other at the same time and try to catch both of the sticks and the hoop.
  5. Hoop and Stick. In Hoop and Stick, you try to keep the hoop rolling using the stick.
  6. Cup and Ball. In Cup and Ball, you try to use motion and physics to land the ball inside the cup.
  7. Lastly is an early version of the game baseball only back then there weren’t any official rules.


Girls and boys reached adulthood at different times and in different ways. A girl became an adult when she married somebody and moved out of the parent’s house which could be as early as 15 years old. Boys became adults when they were ready to support themselves with a career. Which could be as early as 13 years or as late as 20 years.