Punch Bowls And Punches
THERE is no individual piece of china around which shines such a glowing halo of warm hospitality, of good-fellowship, of good cheer, as around the jolly punch-bowl. A plate, a mug, a pitcher, is absolutely devoid of any interest or sentiment save what may come from knowledge of past ownership, or from beauty or quaintness of decoration ; a teapot conveys a sense of cosiness and homeliness ; but a punch-bowl, even a common, ugly, cracked crockery punch-bowl—visions of good company and good companions rise at the very sight, even at the very name.
What tales of colonial and continental times an old American punch-bowl could tell if it only could and would repeat half that it has heard what gay drinking-songs, what stirring patriotic speeches, what sharp legal wit, what sober and circumspect clerical jokes, what kindly eleemosynary plans would echo cheerfully out of its great sounding bell could it, like the phonograph, give forth what has rung into it in the past ! What scenes of rollicking mirth, of dancing feet and dicing-games have been photographed on its insensitive and unchanging glaze ! In what scene of cheerfulness and of seriousness alike did not the colonial punch-bowl take its part ? It encouraged the soldier on eve of battle, it. bade the sailor God-speed. The heavy Delft bowl stood filled and refilled to the brim at the husking-party, the apple-bee, the wood-spell, the timber-rolling, the muster, the house-raising, the lottery-drawing, the election ; while the big India china bowl stood even on the church steps at an ordination or a church dedication. It held the water to christen the baby; it made cheerful the wedding -feast ; and even in times of sadness it was not banished, but side by side with the funeral baked meats the omnipresent punch-bowl stood to greet and cheer every sad comer.
Indeed, at a funeral the punch-bowl specially shone. Great pains were taken and no expense spared to properly concoct and serve the sombre funeral-punches. " Rum, lemons, a loaf of sugar, and spices," sometimes also " Malligo raisins and rose-water," were items on every reputable and a la mode, as they called it, undertakers' bills. A sober, responsible, and above all, an experienced committee was appointed to carefully mix and flavor the last libation that could ever be offered to the dead friend. Small wonder with such good cheer that even sober Judge Sewall openly called a funeral a "treat." And we can understand why a very worthy old gentle-man, a lover of the olden times, complained with much bitterness in the early part of this century that " temperance had done for funerals." The gayly-flowered and gilded punch-bowl was not sadly draped in trappings of woe, nor set one side in seclusion, but standing cheerfully in a prominent position with its spicy welcome, made even sad mourners feel that life was still worth living.
The punch-bowl certainly flourished proudly in America through the eighteenth century, just as it reigned in honor in England at the same time. Previous to that date the English prototype of the punch-bowl had been the posset-pot, and that primitive form still exists, and indeed is made and used in Derbyshire and the neigh-boring English counties to the present day. A few pos. set-pots have made their way to America with Derby-shire emigrants and have been gathered in by rapacious collectors. On Christmas eve in olden times the great vessel, which sometimes held two gallons, was filled with the " good drink," and a silver coin and a wedding-ring were dropped in when the guests assembled ; each partaker in turn dipped out a great spoonful or ladleful of the drink, and whoever was lucky enough to fish up the coin was certain of good luck during the ensuing year, while the ring-finder would be happily and speedily married. Posset was a very good mixture—a "very pretty drink "—not so good as punch, of course, but to us invested with a reflected glory. Hath not Shakespeare oft spoke to us of posset ? In my little Queen's Closet Opened," a book of culinary, medical, and potatory recipes collected by and for Queen Henrietta Maria, I find half a dozen rules for the brewing of " sack-posset." " To make a Sack Posset without Milk or Cream : Take eighteen Egs, whites and all, taking out the Treads, let them be beaten very well, take a pint of Sack, and a quart of Ale boyl'd, and scum it, then put in three quarters of a pound of sugar and a little Nutmeg, let it boll a few wames together, then take it off the fire stirring the Egs still, put into them two or three Ladlefuls of drink, then mingle all together, and set it on the fire, and keep it stirring til you find it thick then serve it up "—and not drink it, but cut it up and eat it, one might fancy. There is no recipe for punch in my "Queen's Closet." I fear Queen Henrietta did not know about that new drink, punch, in 1676, when this quaint old book was published. Had she done so, she had not needed so many nostrums for insomnia. Englishmen in India knew of it ; " spiced punch in bowls the Indians quaff," wrote one in 1665, and in 1697 Tryer spoke of it and basely libelled it as " an enervating liquor." The punchless Queen knew, however, how to make hypocras, metheglin, mead, caudle, cordial-water, aqua-cclestis, aqua-mirabilis, clary-water, gillyflower-wine, usquebarb, and, best and delectablest of all, she knew how to make a Damnable Hum, and I doubt not she served it in a punch-bowl as was befitting so noble a drink.
The posset-pot had some cousins in England—the goddard, the wassail-bowl, the gossip-bowl, the caudlecup—poor relations, however, and feeble ancestors of the glorious punch-bowl. To the Orientals, not to the English, we owe our punch-bowls and our punches. Punch or "pauch" was an Indian drink, and the word meant five, and was named from the five ingredients used in its composition—arrack, tea, sugar, water, and lemon-juice. A " pauch " was also a conclave of five men, a " panch-pillav " a medicine of five ingredients, and so on.
The English people took very readily to the new Oriental drink and the new vessel to hold it, as it did to everything else in India. We read in the old ballad of " Jock-o'-the-Side," "They hae gard fill up a punch-bowl," and when a ballad adopts a word, then it is the people's. As the potter's art advanced in England, great bowls were made to hold punch at taverns and halls, often for the special use of the potters themselves. Cheerful mottoes did these potters' punch-bowls some-times bear. For simplicity and terseness this excels, " One Bowle more, and then "—does it not speak a never-ending welcome ? A blue and white potter's bowl ten inches in diameter has this descriptive motto :
" John Udy of Luxillion his tin was so fine it glidered this punch-bowl and made it to shine. pray fill it with punch let the tinners sitt round they never will budge till the bottom they sound."
Glider meant to glaze, not to gild, and the verses refer to the stanniferous opaque white glaze formed by the use of Cornish tin.
Another bowl has these sententious lines :
" What art can with the potter's art compare ?
More serious rhymes still are found. At North Hylton, in England, were made many punch-bowls of lustre ware, and the proprietor, Mr. Phillips, must have been a very serious-minded and inconsequential man, or he never would have put these lines on so worldly a vessel :
" The loss of gold is great,
This bowl may, however, have been for a parson. On another specimen of the Hylton pottery gayly decorated with a print of a ship, a public house, and a hat-andfeathered young woman with an umbrella and small dog, are these sober and comically incongruous verses :
" There is a land of peaceful rest
Were it not for the public house, and the hat and feathers, we should know that this punch-bowl was surely made purposely to use at funerals.
One of the finest punch-bowls ever figulated is twenty inches and a half in diameter. It is of Liverpool Delft, painted in blue with ships and a landscape, and the inscription, " Success to the Africa Trade, George Dickinson." When we remember of what the " Africa Trade " consisted—the slave-traffic—we wonder the punch did not poison the drinkers. I have often seen this bowl referred to by authors as of extraordinary and unique size. It is not as large as the grand blue and white punch-bowl used by the first Continental Congress, a bowl which is now at Morristown, at Washington's Headquarters. I do not know whether this mammoth Congressional bowl is Canton china or English delft, for, since it stands in a cupboard, one cannot examine it closely.. The color and design are good, and the size impressive, and altogether it is a noble relic, for this courage-giver of those troubled and anxious Federal days may have played no unimportant part in the affairs and history of our nation; I regard it with grateful awe and veneration, and also with a rather unworthy pride and satisfaction in its great size.
There were hosts of punch-bowls at that date in America. Watson wrote-in 1830, of old colonial Philadelphia : " A corner was occupied by a beaufet, which was a corner closet with a glass door, in which all the china and plate were intended to be displayed for ornament as well as for use. A conspicuous article was always a great china punch-bowl." And they needed a punch-bowl, and a large one too, if we can trust the local annals of the time. William Black recorded in his diary in 1744, that he was given in Philadelphia cider and punch for lunch, rum and brandy before dinner, punch, Madeira, port, and sherry at dinner, bounce and liqueurs with the ladies, and wine and spirits and punch until bedtime. Well might he say that in Philadelphia " they were as liberal with wine as an apple-tree with its fruit on a windy day."
A clergyman named Acrelius gives us the most abundant proof why Philadelphians and their neighbors al-ways should need a punch -bowl. In 1759 there was printed in Stockholm a detailed account of Pennsylvania or New Sweden, written by this Parson Acrelius. He fairly revels in his descriptions of the appetizing drinks to be had in the new land, and he unctuously explains how to concoct the " mixed drinks " in the most approved fashion. Here is the list of American drinks that he sent back to Sweden to encourage emigration. French Wine, Frontenac, Pontac, Port-a-port, Lisbon Wine, Phial Wine, Sherry, Madeira Wine, Sangaree, Mulled Wine, Currant Wine, Cherry Wine, Raspberry Wine, Apple Wine or Cider, Cider Royal, Mulled Cider, Rum " which is like French Brandy, only with no unpleasant odor," Raw-dram, Egg-dram, Egg-nogg, Cherry-dram, Cherry Bounce, Billberry Bounce, Punch, Mamm, Manathann (made of small beer, rum and sugar), Hotchpot (also of beer, curd and rum), Sampson (of warm cider and rum). More familiar and modern names. appear also : Tiff, Flip, Hot Rum, Mulled Rum, Grog, Sling ; then come Long-sup, Mint-water, Egg-punch, Milk-punch, Sillabub, Still Liquor (which was peach brandy), Anise Cordial, Cinnamon Cordial—in all a list of , fifty drinks with an added finish of liqueurs, "drops almost without end," meads, metheglins, and beers. Now, do you wonder that they had great and many punch-bowls in Philadelphia ? What a list to make a toper wish that he had lived in Pennsylvania in colonial days.
Sober Boston was not one whit behind its Quaker neighbor. As early as 1686 John Dunton had more than one " noble bowl of punch " in that Puritan town. Bennett, a visitor in Boston, in 1740, wrote, " As to drink they have no good beer. Madeira wines and rum-punch are the liquors they drink in common." Boston people of fashion served a great punch-bowl of flip or punch before dinner. If the bowl were not too large it was passed from hand to hand, and all drank from it without the ceremony of intervening glasses. I doubt not it was a test of high fashion to handle well and gracefully the punch-bowl.
Various and strange were the names of the contents of these punch-bowls—names not on Parson Acrelius's list. Madam Knights wrote in 1704, that "the Bare-legged Punch had so awfull or rather awkerd a name that we would not drink." Berkeley wrote that the strong drink of Virginia in 1710 was " Mobby Punch, made either of rum from the Caribbee Islands, or Brandy distill'd from their Apples and Peaches." Another Virginian traveller wrote in 1744, Our liquor was sorry rum mixed with water and sugar, which bore. the heathenish name of Gumbo punch." " Pupello punch " was made from cider brandy. " Sangry punch " was probably an accented sangaree. " Rack punch " was made from arrack ; while " Jincy punch" I Ieave to the philologists, antiquaries, or expert bartenders to define or analyze.
Where are all those great punch-bowls now that we read of in history ? I wish I could see the punch-bowl used by the Newburyport ministers in their frequent social meetings, the punch-bowl in the picture painted over Parson Lowell's mantel, the picture with its great bowl, the parsons all smoking, and the cheerful motto, " In Essentials, Unity ; in Non-essentials, Liberty ; in All Things, Charity."
I should like to see the bowl which played such an important part in the transfer of the four hundred acres of land which formed the birthplace of Thomas Jefferson. Old Peter Jefferson made a very canny trade when he acquired the deed of that large tract in exchange for " Henry Weatherbourne's biggest punch-bowl full of arrack punch." Golden should have been that bowl, and vast its size, to justify its purchase-power.
I would I could see the great punch-bowls used by the rollicking, hunting, drunken clergy of Virginia in ante-Revolutionary times, at their " Monthly Meetings," the tale of whose disgraceful revelry has been told us by Mr. Parton in his "Life of Jefferson." Where is the punch-bowl used at the Wolfes Head Tavern in Newburyport, on September 26, 1765, "at the greate uneasyness and Tumult on acasion of the Stamp Act ; " the bowl from which the alarmed citizens of Newburytown drank fifty-seven pounds worth of " double and thribble bowles " of punch, and in company with which they had two pounds worth of supper and coffee. Well might we say, " 0 monstrous ! But one penny worth of bread to this intolerable deal of Sack !" " Great uneasyness," no doubt, they felt.
One of the oldest punch-bowls—indeed, one of the oldest pieces of china in the country—is the beautiful India or Chinese bowl now owned by Edmund Randolph Robinson, Esq., of New York. It is eighteen inches in diameter, of rich red and gold decoration, and is mounted upon a black wood stand upon which is a silver plate bearing the noble historical names of its past owners, so far back as known. It is supposed to have been brought to America by William Randolph, as his son, Sir John Randolph, is known to have long possessed it. This gentleman was one of the early Governors of Virginia, and Attorney-General in the first part of the eighteenth century. His son Peyton was president of the first Continental Congress in 1774, and Attorney-General of Virginia. From him it passed to Edmund Randolph—also Governor and Attorney-General of Virginia—aide-de-camp to Washington, and first Attorney General and second Secretary of State of the United States. He was the great-grandfather of the present owner. This beautiful relic has passed through good service as a christening -bowl for many generations of Governors and Attorney-Generals, as well as enduring a vast amount of use on less solemn occasions.
How many punch-bowls did George Washington own ? The great ' India china bowl with a picture of a frigate ; the "rose china " bowl now at Mount Vernon ; the fine great bowl now in the National Museum ; the china bowl given by him to William Fitzhugh. He gave a beautiful pinch-bowl to his friend and aide-de-camp, Colonel Benjamin Eyre ; another to Tobias Lear, and another to Mrs.. Allen Jones, of Newberne, N. C. And still less can we number the punch-bowls out of which he once drank. We all have one in the possession of some member of our family—I wonder, with all his punch-drinking, that the father of his country was ever sober.
This beautiful great bowl, eighteen inches in diameter, was given by Washington to Mrs. Allen Jones, and has had sad usage. It was buried in the ground to hide it from Tarleton's men, and is grievously cracked and broken. It is of richest decoration of red, blue, and gold on an India china ground. It is now owned by the Washington Association of New Jersey.
Washington's India china punch-bowl, which was at Arlington House in 184o, is thus described by Mr. Lossing. "The great porcelain punch-bowl has a deep-blue border on the rim spangled with gilt dots. It was made expressly for Washington, but when, where, and by whom is not known. In the bottom is the picture of a frigate and on the side are the initials `G. W.' in gold upon a shield, with ornamental surroundings. It is supposed to have been presented- to Washington by the French naval officers."
And the " rose china " bowl at Mount Vernon ! That was purchased by the Mount Vernon Association in 1891 from the Lewis estate, for $250—and it is broken too. It is sixteen inches across and five and a half in depth. On the rim, both inside and outside the bowl, is an odd pink and yellow band. Scattered over it are flowers of various colors, in which pink preominates.
The beautiful Chinese bowl given to Colonel Benjamin Eyre, the Revolutionary patriot, by Washington, is now in the possession of Colonel Eyre's great-grandson, Benjamin Eyre Valentine, Esq., of Brooklyn. It is about fifteen inches in diameter and five and a half inches high, of fine Canton china, and bears around the outside of the bowl a scene in a Chinese town, and at regular intervals flaunting flags of all the known nations which were then engaged in maritime pursuits, our new flag—the stars and stripes — being conspicuous among them. This bowl thus possesses an additional historical interest, in that it is the oldest known piece of Chinese porcelain bearing the decoration of the American flag. It is a, counterpart in size and shape to the Washington bowl now in the Smithsonian Institution, but the latter is decorated with Chinese landscapes and figures. It came into the possession of the Government through the sale of Washington relics by the Lewis family.
The most curious Continental punch-bowl that I have ever seen is the great bowl which is here shown. It is now owned by the Washington Association of New Jersey, and once belonged to Colonel Richard Varick, aide to Washington. It is a well proportioned vessel of Lowestoft or Canton china, about eighteen inches in diameter. It has a dark-blue border with festoons of gilt, and bears on the side, in well-chosen colors, all the words and design of the full certificate of membership of the Society of the Cincinnati. The winged figure of Fame, and the other symbolical figures are carefully painted, and all the Iettering, including the fine text of the Latin mottoes on seal and crest, is clear and exact. Doubtless a certificate of membership was sent to be copied when the bowl was ordered by Colonel Varick. It is in perfect condition, and is one of the finest historical relics of early Federal times that I have ever seen. It plainly shows the pride and delight of Revolutionary heroes in their new country and new associations. There are in the same building—Washington's Headquarters-half a dozen other punch-bowls, all of historical interest, and all large enough to show the vastly hospitable intent of the new-made citizens of the new Republic.
How pleased good, plain American Republicans were with that Society of the Cincinnati, and how it tickled their pride to wear the Order! Adams and. Franklin were seriously alarmed at the powerful hold and influence the decoration seemed to have, and used argument and ridicule against it. One patriotic and vain citizen had his portrait painted in the bottom of his punch-bowl, with the Order proudly displayed around his neck. Around him encircled that favorite emblem, the thirteen-linked chain ; great black links these were, with the name of a State in each. On the side of the bowl the Order was again displayed in larger size.
There is a gallant ten-gallon bowl in Upper Faneuil Hall, which belongs to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery of Boston. Captain Ephraim Prescott, when in China in 1795, procured this great bowl as a suitable present for his companions at arms. The generous captain died during the voyage home, and on its arrival in port the punch-bowl fell into strange hands. Thirty years later Hon. Jonathan Hunnewell heard of its existence, bought it for $15, and gave it to the military company for whom it was originally purchased. Curious old orders and entries exist about the purchase of wine, rum, sugar, and C sourings " for the manufacture of the ancient and honorable punches. " But if sowrings be scarce & dear, wine & rum only." You might make a punch without lemons, on a squeeze, but not without wine and rum.
" Sourings" ought to have been cheap enough. Even as early as 1741 lemons were plentiful and not at all dear. In the Salem Gazette in 1741, is this notice : " Extraordinary good and very fresh Orange Juice, which some of the very best Punch Tasters prefer to Lemmons, at one dollar per gallon. Also very good Lime Juice and Shrub to put into Punch, at the Basket of Lemmons. J. Crosby." So there was with all the punch-bowls, a regular profession of punch-tasting; just fancy it.
Occasionally there is some definite means of tracing the age of one of these pieces. Thus the fine, perfect punch-bowl owned by William C. Townsend, of Newport, is said to have been brought out by Captain Jacob Smith, of the Semiramis, a ship that, returning home in 1804 after an absence of three years, was lost on Nantucket Shoals. Of her cargo, valued at three hundred thousand dollars, but little was saved ; but, strange to say, this great punch-bowl, twenty-two inches in diameter, holding eight gallons, was brought off in safety. It has the typical Lowestoft border of blue enamel with gold stars, and on the sides are large medallions so European in appearance that at first they seem to stamp the bowl as English. Examination, however, shows that the figures have the almond eyes of the Chinese, as well as other Oriental characteristics, and were undoubtedly copied from French or English prints sent to Canton..
A modern writer thus sadly deplores the " good old times : "
" Fifty years ago the punch-bowl was no mere ornament for the side-board and the china-cabinet ; it was a thing to be brought forth and filled with a fragrant mixture of rum, brandy and curacoa, lemon, hot water, sugar, grated nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. The preparation of the bowl was as much a labor of love as that of a claret cup, its degenerate successor. The ladles were beautiful works of art in silver—where are those ladles now, and what purpose do they serve?" Yes, it is true, the days of universal use for the punch-bowl are over—ornamental and curious they now are, and nothing more. Lucky it is for us china collectors, that dinners and everything else a la russe did not obtain with our hospitable ancestors. No great tureens, no generous pitchers, no vast platters, and no noble punch-bowls should we now have to admire and gloat over, and place in our cabinets as monuments of ceramic art.. Had they lived as we do, not a single punch-bowl should we have to glory in and grow sentimental over. An ignorant butler would have carelessly and prosaically mixed the drink in his pantry. in any kind of a pot or a pan, and then ignominiously bottled it, and brought it in when required in driblets, in stingy little glasses that say plainly : " Drink this, and no more."
Indeed, I doubt we ever would have had punch, for in the gustatory and potatory laws of cause and effect, I know the punch-bowl evoked or generated punch instead of being made to hold punch. I would not go back to the rollicking, roaring, drunken ways of the olden time, but on the whole I am glad our grandfathers had those ways and bequeathed to us the glorious, great, ringing punch-bowls, in which they brewed and mixed and concocted, and from which they drank that " most insinuating drink " with which so often they got sadly, hopelessly " lusky, bosky, buffy, boozy, cocky, fuddled, balmy, pickled, screwed, funny, foggy, hazy, groggy, slewed, ruddled, dagged, jagged, comed, elevated, muddled, tight, primed, mainbrace well spliced, gilded "—or whatever elegant, chaste, colonial appellation our synonym-lacking language afforded to express being drunk.
One worthy tribute to an old punch-bowl has been written by one of our best-loved poets. I would his bowl had been like my theme, china instead of silverah, no ! I do not, for had it been of " tenderest porcelane" it might have been broken a century ago, and we should have known neither his punch-bowl nor his perfect poem. How true the opening verses !
" This ancient silver bowl of mine, it tells of good old times, Of joyous days, and jolly nights, and merry Christmas chimes ; They were a free and jovial race, but honest, brave, and true, That dipped their ladle in the punch when this old bowl was new."
And can I end better than with the concluding verses ?
" I tell you there was generous warmth in good old English cheer,
"I love the memory of the past, its pressed yet fragrant flowers,
" Then fill a fair and honest cup and bear it straight to me,
( Originally Published Early 1900's )