Category: Events

About our Costumes

Part 5 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

Since the 1930s guests have been charmed by the costumed volunteers serving food, singing, and demonstrating crafts at the Pilgrim Breakfast. We continue to wear 17th-century style costumes – even though they can be quite uncomfortable on a hot summer day!

The first Antiquarians diligently researched and recreated period clothing, seeking to understand its impact on everyday activities. They made costumes to wear at the Harlow Old Fort House, undoubtedly following the lead of Rose T. Briggs, who designed the costumes for the first Pilgrim Progress held in the summer of 1921 for Plymouth’s tercentenary (a tradition that also continues today). The 19th-century image of Pilgrims in all-black ensembles with large buckles on their hats gradually gave way to more historically accurate representations.

The costumes we use today have been passed down by many generations of Antiquarians – which means we have an assortment of styles to choose from. Most pieces were made for the Pilgrim Breakfast by our members, although there are a few ready-made items. Instead of the wool and linen used by 17th-century colonists, our costumes are mostly made of cotton. We also use modern conveniences like zippers.

Our goal is to add a festive element to our event, not to perfectly recreate 17th-century styles. Girls and women wear a skirt and bodice, apron, coif (cap), and kerchief. Boys and men wear breeches and a shirt. We always recommend leather shoes if our volunteers have them, but our priority is that everyone be equipped with comfortable and safe footwear for a busy morning running across the yard.

The costumes aren’t marked with modern sizes, which makes dressing a crew of over 20+ volunteers a unique challenge. The annual fitting before the big day provides a special opportunity to note the passage of time as our youngest volunteers outgrow the previous year’s costume. They return year after year, ascending the ranks from tussie mussie sellers to muffin distributors to assistant servers and (finally!) senior servers, fully responsible for serving the guests at one or two tables. We think the Pilgrim Breakfast’s future is ensured; we’re grateful for the many young history lovers who view it as an essential part of their summers.

Interested in creating your own Pilgrim costume for Plymouth’s 400th anniversary? Learn more from local reenactors and material culture experts: New Plimmoth GardSociety of Mayflower Descendants and Plimoth Plantation.

A Gallery of Antiquarian Costumes through the Years

 

Cooking Tips from Rose T. Briggs

Part 4 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

No series on Pilgrim Breakfast traditions would be complete without a few cooking tips from Rose T. Briggs. (We mentioned her in our first post and you can see a photograph of her in our third post.)

Rose Thornton Briggs, daughter of George R. and Helen Taber Briggs, was born in Plymouth on May 26, 1893, in what is now the Mayflower Society House on North Street.  She lived most of her life at Indian Brook, her parents’ home in Manomet, where her father had built many acres of cranberry bogs. Her mother helped found the Plymouth Antiquarian Society in 1919 and served as its President (1927-29). Rose was Assistant to the Directors and later Curator of the Antiquarian Society (1932-73). She was also active in the Pilgrim Society, serving as its first Director. She was considered a national authority on 17th-century Pilgrim life and an expert in historic clothing. She worked tirelessly to understand the past and to preserve Plymouth’s history. On September 23, 1981, Rose T. Briggs died and was buried at Vine Hills Cemetery in Plymouth. In his eulogy at her memorial service, the late Rev. Peter J. Gomes stated, “She labored night and day for the Pilgrims and was one of them in spirit and in fact.  She illuminated a time and a place far removed from us by her skillful and creative scholarship, and, in doing so, she added much light and joy to our own time.”

For sixty years Rose Briggs played a major role in shaping the interpretation of colonial life at the Harlow House. Her influence extended to the techniques used for preparing food at the Pilgrim Breakfast. Many thanks to local historian James W. Baker for sharing the following clipping from around 1957. The newspaper is unknown, but the title says it all: “Fireplace Cooking is Test of Real Culinary ‘Know How’”. The author, Margaret Clark, describes a lesson on making fishcakes from Rose.

Miss Rose T. Briggs of Plymouth is an expert on preparing meals in Pilgrim style, so we asked her for helpful suggestions after we went to the Pilgrim breakfast at the Harlow Old Fort House, Plymouth, and had eaten heartily of the fishcakes she cooks so perfectly in the ancient fireplace.

“Use a kettle well smudged from previous fires,” Miss Briggs recommended. “It is all right to scour the inside but leave the outside sooty, then it won’t smoke when you hang it over the fire.

“Before immersing the fishcakes in the hot cooking oil, I put them in this antique skimmer, so I won’t lose them in the depths of the kettle while they are cooking.

“Fireplaces are dark except where the fire is and it is impossible to see in cooking pots even if you sit down on a chunk of wood the right height, or a stool. We had to improvise a modern fry basket from our old skimmer. Cooks of the period may have used skimmers this way, too, though I haven’t yet found any drawing to authenticate our fry-basket skimmer as has been the case with some of our other improvisations.

“Fireplace cooking has made us realize how sensible the Pilgrim women were to wear caps. When you hang pots on hooks inside a fireplace your topknot goes inside the sooty interior as well as your hangs. If you don’t have a cap on, your hair would look like a hearth broom in no time.”

 

Memories of the Pilgrim Breakfast

Part 3 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

Lifelong Plymouthean and historian James W. Baker shared the following memories of the Pilgrim Breakfasts he attended in the 1950s-60s. His mother, Jane Cooper Baker (1908-1998), was a descendant of Sgt. William Harlow and an active Antiquarian. 

Recollections inevitably fade and commingle after 60 years, but I do have some surviving impressions. The breakfasts I attended from the early-1950s to about 1967 were not unlike those we have now, but details differ. The shaky card tables and venerable wooden folding chairs out under the great shady elm tree (now long gone) were arranged around the well box (ditto) and garden beds. Some guests were served in the house (not just when wet out) where fishcakes were on occasion fried in the fireplace. The rest of the operation was out of the old woodshed – I recall the excitement when the 1939 “kitchen” was modernized in 1967 – from which servers brought the baked beans, cornbread, “gems”, standard doughnuts and homemade relishes or ketchup in those very sturdy custard cups. Cranberry juice or water was served in rather small waxed paper “Dixie Cups” and of course, coffee. I do not remember any eggs, although they may have been served then. All of this for $1.25 – a tenth of today’s post-inflationary cost.

My mother was involved at various levels, from chairman of the Breakfast committee to organizer of the “tussie-mussies” which involved scrounging in other people’s gardens such as Mrs. Cyrus (Edith) Jones’ down Howes Lane, for example, pinning the tiny bouquets and ribbons together and delivering them to their young distributors in pans of water. Still, it all blends together into a hazy idyllic summer scene from those far-off days to the tune of locusts and the smell of crushed lemon balm leaves.


Report of Jane Baker, chairman of the Harlow House committee, November 5, 1959

“We have made two innovations to our breakfasts [July & Sept]. One is to post the menu at the gate so that unsuspecting tourists may be forewarned as I have met those for whom baked beans and fish cakes were just too great a challenge to their digestions. We have also added cranberry juice to the menu and it has been poured by our president at a table just outside the Harlow House door and at the entrance of the garden…I would like to mention here that the July Breakfast was directly preceded by the holiday which made it impossible for Mrs. Dunham to make her usual arrangements for ordering the food. Mr. Dunham, who is supervisory cook at the County Farm offered to prepare the beans and fish cakes from their kitchens, a great courtesy and convenience.”


Curious about the “gems” Jim mentions above? We’re pleased to share this description and recipe from The Plimoth Colony Cook Book (originally published in 1957). This book is available to purchase in our online gift shop.

Gems for Breakfast
Gem pans were heavy cast-iron pans with rather shallow oblong divisions with rounded bottoms. A gem was rather like a small oblong popover. Sometimes they were made with rye flour instead of white flour. Gem pans were introduced to Plymouth kitchens about 100 years ago [ca. 1850s]. They may still be found in antique shops. Home tinkerers like to keep nails in them.

Plymouth Gems
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
pinch salt

Mix all ingredients, beat well; pour into well-heated greased gem pans, and bake in a hot oven (400 F.) about 20 minutes. Eat immediately. Popover pans may be used, if desired. Fill pans only about 2/3 full.

Pilgrim Breakfast Receipts

Part 2 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

In 1957 the Plymouth Antiquarian Society published The Plimoth Colony Cook Book. It featured “receipts” used in Plymouth from the colonial period to the end of the 19th century. Antiquarians Elizabeth St. John Bruce and Edith Stinson Jones collected the recipes, preserving culinary methods and traditions passed down in local families for generations. Their meticulous documentation and faithful recreation using period tools provided the foundation for cooking demonstrations at the Harlow House.

The first pages of the cookbook feature recipes served to guests at the Pilgrim Breakfast. Recognizing that not everyone had access to a brick oven, the Antiquarians modernized the recipes for this publication.

Interested in recreating the Pilgrim Breakfast at home? Download our recipe sheet here.

Harlow House Mulled Cider

3 quarts cider
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
ginger, if liked
¾ teaspoon cloves
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Add the spices and salt to the heated cider and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 24 punch cup servings.

Harlow House Doughnuts

often called “Wonders”
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Beat sugar, eggs, and milk together, add butter. Sift 3 cups flour with rest of ingredients, add to first mixture and stir until smooth. Add more flour, if necessary, to make a soft dough. Chill dough overnight. Roll out on floured board and cut with doughnut cutter. Fry in fat hot enough to brown a 1-inch cube of bread in 40 seconds (375 F.). As doughnuts rise to top, turn and brown on other side. Remove, drain on absorbent paper.

Harlow House Baked Beans

2 pounds pea beans
1 onion
2 teaspoons mustard
½ cup molasses
½ teaspoon salt
3/8 pound salt pork

Pick over, wash, and soak the beans overnight. In the morning, drain, rinse, and cover with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until the beans can be pierced with a pin. Drain, put in bean pot with an onion in the bottom. Add mustard, molasses, and salt. Scrape and score the pork and bury it in the beans so that only the top shows. Cover with water and bake in a slow oven (300 F.) about 6 hours, adding water as needed. Uncover the pot for the last hour to brown the pork. 6-8 servings.

Harlow House Fish Cakes

4 cups potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup salt fish, picked and shredded
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Boil together potatoes and fish until potatoes are tender. Drain, mash, and beat in eggs. Drop by spoonfuls in hot fat, (390 F.) and fry for 1 minute. Drain on absorbent paper. 6-8 servings.

The Origins of a Plymouth Tradition

Part 1 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

The founders of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society sought to preserve not just the buildings and objects of the past, but also the traditions and skills of everyday domestic life. The Harlow Old Fort House, purchased in 1920, became their primary venue for practicing and teaching the household industries of colonial New England. A focus on open-hearth cooking led the Antiquarians to host food-related events for the public.

The earliest recorded Pilgrim Breakfast at the Harlow Old Fort House was in 1933. That year’s annual report on the Society’s activities included a very brief mention of this special event: “A delightful old fashioned Sunday morning breakfast was served at the Harlow House Oct 1st, after which the house was closed for the season.”

The Breakfast became a fixture in the Antiquarian Society’s annual calendar. By 1949 the Antiquarians established a schedule of holding two Breakfasts each year, on the Sundays closest to July 4th and Labor Day. PAS members prepared the meal, which costumed volunteers served to the public both inside and outside the historic house. The menu from the beginning featured fishcakes (or “fishballs”), baked beans, and cornbread.

Rose T. Briggs, who served as the Assistant to the Society’s Directors, used the Breakfast as an opportunity to showcase the traditional crafts that the Antiquarians demonstrated throughout the year at the Harlow House. Their innovative course for adults, “Household Arts of the 17th Century”, drew national attention. Held every July between 1935 and 1941, it featured hands-on lessons on preparing flax and wool, spinning, dyeing, weaving, candle making, and open-hearth cooking, supplemented by lectures on architecture, furniture, clothing, and by trips to other historic houses and museums.

The Pilgrim Breakfast was a family affair; the children of Antiquarian Society members were recruited at an early age to dress in costume, sell “tussie mussies” (small bouquets), and serve the guests. In the 1930s and 40s PAS member Souther Barnes and his siblings (Brooks, Mercy, Parker, and Philip Jr.) would help their mother, Mercie Hatch Barnes (1899-1992), cook inside the Harlow House. “I kept the fire going and she cooked the fishballs, which are like the fishcakes they serve today. She fried them by the spoonful in hot fat. That fire was so hot her face would be beet red,” Souther recalled in an interview with the Old Colony Memorial in 2019.

Coronavirus Updates

Due to the public health threat from COVID-19, the Antiquarian Society’s office and historic houses are currently closed to the public.

The following events have been cancelled:

  • March 28: Back Roads of the South Shore Symposium
  • April 4: Burial Hill Tour (click here for our virtual alternative)
  • April 23: Jr. PAS Paper-making Workshop
  • April 24: Plymouth 400’s Opening Ceremony
  • May 2: Burial Hill Tour (click here for our virtual alternative)
  • June 4: Burial Hill Tour(click here for our virtual alternative)

Any future cancellations or updates will be posted to this page.

We are still working remotely to share local history with you! Executive Director Anne Mason can be reached via email at director@plymouthantiquarian.org.

If you have young kids at home, please make use of our coloring pages, available to download here.

Thinking of everyone at this difficult time and hoping you stay well and take care as we hope for brighter days ahead.

 

Celebrate the 19th Amendment Centennial: Spring 2020 Events

ds_wilson_suffrage
The 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote, was ratified in 1920. As an organization founded by women, the Antiquarian Society is proud to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this landmark legislation.

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH EVENTS
Presented by the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters & Plymouth Public Library
Film Showing: Iron Jawed Angels
Friday, March 6, 1 pm
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
This 2004 film tells the story of a group of passionate and dynamic young women, led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who put their lives on the line to fight for the right to vote. Discussion to follow; light refreshments will be served. Free.
Reenactment: Susan B. Anthony
Saturday, March 14, 2 pm Canceled due to public health concerns
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
Meet reformer and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) in this engaging performance that brings history to life. Co-sponsored with Cape Cod Bank. Light refreshments will be served. Free.
Book Discussion: The Woman’s Hour
Saturday, March 21, 11 am Canceled due to public health concerns
Board Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
In The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote Elaine Weiss recounts the battle over ratification of the 19th Amendment and the final push in Tennessee. Light brunch fare served. Copies of the book are available one month in advance. Free.
For more information on these events, please contact Jennifer Jones, Assistant Library Director, 508-830-4250 ext. 230, jjones@townhall.plymouth.ma.us.

Plymouth 400 Opening Ceremony Procession
Postponed from Friday, April 24 to Friday, June 26 (details here)
March with the Antiquarian Society in the parade that will kick off Plymouth 400’s first Signature Event of 2020. Dress as early 20th-century suffragists to commemorate the 19th Amendment centennial. Marchers will gather at Stephens Field at 8:30am, step off at 10:30 am, and march from Lincoln Street to Memorial Hall.  For more information or to enlist as a marcher, please contact Executive Director Anne Mason at director@plymouthantiquarian.org or 508-746-0012.

Suffrage Sing-Along
Wednesday, May 6, 7 pm
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
Music united and rallied the women who campaigned for the right to vote. PAS Executive Director Dr. Anne Mason will teach the songs of the women’s suffrage movement and provide historical context. Song sheets will be provided so that everyone can lift their voices together – no musical expertise required! Free. This event is part of ArtWeek – a unique annual celebration of arts, culture and creativity.

 

WWI Centennial Poppies Project

The poppies that bloomed across battlefields and graves in France inspired Canadian surgeon John McCrae to write “In Flanders Fields” in 1915. Since the poem’s publication the poppy has been used as a symbol of remembrance around the world. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, PAS members and other volunteers knit and crocheted over 1,000 poppies to create a special installation on the Hedge House Lawn—a visual tribute to all those from Plymouth County who have served in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. This project was inspired by the 5000 Poppies initiative and generously sponsored and produced by PAS Trustee Denise De More.

_Q4A9166lesperance

Photo by Jeanne Lesperance

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Plymouth Men Lost in World War I

Robert Bain

George F. Barrett

Guiseppi Bernado

William C. Bonney

William R. Cottrell

Harvey Davenport

Arthur E. Doten

Walter A. Eastwood

Percy Fish

Chester R. Howland

Leonard B. Langille

Edward J. Lavoie

Joseph F. Lawrence

William R. Maybury

Harrison Murray

Llewellyn C. Small

Adam J. Smith

Samuel J. Smith

Horace D. Stringer

Joseph W. Taylor

Napoleon Viau

Michael J. Vitti

Chester W. Ward

Gustave T. Wirzburger

Dedications

The local community members who knit and crocheted poppies for the Plymouth Antiquarian Society’s WWI centennial installation made the following dedications:

 

In memory of my father, Aeneas M. Casey, who served in WWI, I have dedicated sixteen poppies; one poppy to his memory from each of his children, spouses, and grandchildren.

Stephanie Berlo, Quincy, MA

 

In memory of my uncles, Crawford Hoxie, Robert Hoxie, Milton Hoxie, and Channing Hoxie, and my dad, Gilbert Hoxie; all served during WWII.

Harriet Hoxie, Quincy, MA

 

In memory of William Henry Pitts, Fred Bates Morse, and Carl C. Lord, the three men from East Bridgewater who were lost in World War I.

Lois Nelson, East Bridgewater, MA

 

In honor of all veterans who served this country, including my grandfather, Wilfred J. Bois, who served in WWI.

Deborah Correa, Manomet, MA

 

In memory of my father, George Piepiora, my uncle, Joe Murphy, and my brother–in–law, Jack Manuel.

Helen Avitabile, Weymouth, MA

 

In memory of all service members, especially:

My father, C. George Piepiora (WWII 3rd Armored Division)

My husband, John R. Manuel (USN Vietnam Era)

My son-in-law, Andrew S. Rice (Army)

My uncle, Patrick Joseph Murphy (USN WWII)

Liz Manuel, East Wareham, MA

 

Dedicated to Anthony F. Noble (Army)

Kathleen Frye, Plymouth, MA

 

Dedicated to my dear Uncle Willy Bracco, who served in WWI. Truly forgotten – a dear sweet man. He was the only one of four brothers eligible to serve his country; the others were too young for WWI and too old for WWII.

Kathy Burns, Plymouth, MA

 

In memory of all veterans, especially James Callahan and his brother Mike, who was killed in action in WWII.

Evelyn Callahan, Stoughton, MA 

 

Dedicated to my father and uncles who served in WWII: David B. Freeman, James O. Freeman, and Howard E. Twombly.

Carolyn Freeman Travers, Middleboro, MA

 

In memory of Cameron MacDonald of Little Pond, PEI, Canada, who later became a US citizen, and of Edward Hutchinson.

Jane Murphy, Duxbury, MA

 

Additional poppies created by:

Karen Anastos, Hingham, MA

Jeannette Colas, Plymouth, MA

Janet Cole

Die Modlin Hoxie, Sandwich, MA

Barbara Keyes, Plymouth, MA

Mary O’Brien

Judith O’Neil, Rockland, MA

Susan Painter, Rockland, MA

Doreen Roderick, Quincy, MA

Martha Sulya, Monument Beach, MA

The Knotty Knitters, Kingston Public Library, Kingston, MA

Carol Zahn & the Monday Morning Knitting Group at the Center for Active Living, Plymouth, MA

And many others who did not provide their names

 

Special thanks to:

Plymouth Harbor Knits, Plymouth, MA and Yarns in the Square, Hingham, MA for coordinating, promoting, and collecting poppies for this event