eliza pinckney


Tag yourself, founding mothers edition:

Dolley Madison, Sybil Luddington, Deborah Sampson, Elizabeth Hamilton, Elizabeth Monroe, Molly Pitcher, Phyllis Wheatley, Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Mercy Otis Warren and Eliza Lucas Pinckney.

3rd August, Eliza Pinckney

The Calendar Woman for 3rd August is Eliza Pinckney (1722-1793)

Eliza Pinckney was the first woman to be inducted into the South Caroline Business Hall of Fame after developing indigo as a major cash crop. She grew up on a sugar plantation in Antigua before being sent to London to complete her education where she developed a keen interest in botany. When she was 16, her father inherited three plantations from his father and Eliza began to play an integral part of managing them when he was away on business. She managed the three plantations – as well as over twenty slaves - while also taking care of her young sister while her brothers were still studying in England. Her father sent her seed types from Antigua and she experimented with them trying to find a crop that could supplement their rice cultivation.

When she received the indigo seeds in 1740, she used the knowledge and skills of enslaved Africans who had grown indigo in the West Indies and West Africa, successfully cultivating and processing it after three years of trial and error. With her father still located in Antigua, Eliza was able to work with indigo processing experts abroad and shared the seed with other planters, leading to an increase in indigo production. By the 1750s, indigo was second only to rice as the South Carolina colony’s commodity cash crop and the planters enjoyed a sharp increase in profits.

Eliza carefully copied all the letters that she wrote into a letter book which is now one of the most complete collections of writing from 18th century America, detailing life of an elite colonial woman throughout a lifetime. Eliza corresponded with friends and family, as well as business associates and botanists from across America, all of which is recorded. The book has passed from mother to daughter until it was donated to the South Carolina Historical Society. When she died in 1793 President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral in Philadelphia where she had travelled for treatment.

anonymous asked:

Do we have any pictures or any hints of what Laurens's childhood home looked like?

John’s first home was located in St. Michael’s Alley (south of Broad Street in Charleston, SC).  I haven’t come across any descriptions of this home other than this description of the nursery:

By the time little Martha arrived in 1759, if not long before, an imported cradle was a central fixture in the parental bedroom, which was also equipped with necessaries such as a candle stand, a warming pan, and a bedpan passed along from grandfather Laurens. Because Henry and his wife, Eleanor, anticipated extensive use for that nursery item, the cradle was probably one that rocked, featuring a ‘gauze pavilion’ with turned posts at its four corners to support mosquito netting. (The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay)

In June 1762, Henry Laurens purchased Mepkin plantation and then bought land in Ansonborough, SC about three months later.  The Ansonborough property was on the outskirts of Charleston whereas Mepkin was about 30 miles out.  Ansonborough appears to have been the main residence at this time while Mepkin may have been used moreso in the summer months (particularly to escape the diseases in the city).  The home in Ansonborough had “its own wharf and creek, four acres that included a green called Laurens Square, and [was] bounded by Pitt, East Bay, Centurion, and Anson Streets” (The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay).

Here’s a pretty thorough description of the Ansonborough property, provided in The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay:

Papa Henry’s pleasure in the new house glowed in his letters.  “Mahogany is the thing by all means for your Stair case.  You would agree in opinion with me if you saw mine.” Though the darker wood was costly, “in time it becomes abundantly cheaper as it is firm, durable, and gains beauty whether you will or not, with age, whereas Cedar is brittle, splintery and without an excess of rubbing and waxing fades and loses its colour in a very few years.”  He enjoyed careful oversight of every step.  “Cypress is the best and cheapest wood for wainscot, but your [English] oak in my judgment is infinitely preferable.  I have painted one room in my house Wainscoat color and pattern upon a coat of brown Plaister.  It stands very well and is much admired.”  His used of the magisterial “I” meant, of course, that he supervised the task, not actually performed it.

Henry Laurens wanted their new home on East Bay Street to be “worthy…to be occupied by a merchant,” to reflect his cosmopolitan horizons.  Spacious, roomy, and open rather than ornate, and somewhat unimaginative externally, the house was a “plain barn-like building” of brick, almost “square to the winds,” 38 and ½ ft. x 60 ½ ft.—pretentious not in ornamentation or iron grillwork but in acreage and gardens, “with a wall all upon the front of my garden [Wall Street].” Henry had purchased a “Mulatto” slave bricklayer, Samuel, that spring especially to create elegant garden paths around the house.  One feature visible from those bricked walks was a jerkin-head roof—a hipped roof cutting flat angles at the corners of the house.

Inside, the house from cellar to roof featured heavy-hewn timbers.  Two floors had four large rooms each, downstairs and upstairs, plus several small “apartments”—rooms topped by a “spacious attic” with room for wine storage in the hipped-roof corners.  Near the front door was a small hallway, “little more than a vestibule” on the south side of the structure, and a stairway on the left led to the upper story while a door on the right opened into the library.  (Surprisingly, Henry Laurens had omitted the wide central hall great Charles Town houses usually featured in hopes of luring every possible breeze.) But the library was a huge room (18’ 8” x 17’ 2”) with two hundred running feet of shelves, and the books were protected by beautiful decorative glass doors embossed with geometric shapes—octagons, squares, and triangles.  Behind the library was an equally hospitable dining room (17 ½’ x 17 ½’) with a paneled ten-foot-wide chimney all the way to the ceiling.  Immediately above, on the second floor, was the same size ballroom. Some of the fireplace mantels were marble, others elegantly carved wood—all in the highest tone of simplicity and dignity.  The mantels were undoubtedly imported from England, like the ones Henry had ordered for the house of his neighbor Charles Pinckney.

The dining room, with fancy mirrors and a very large “chimney glass,” boasted sconces on the wall, handsome pewter serving dishes, silver tureens, a brass warming pan, and a tinned Japanned waiter—to say nothing of elegant china for entertaining (family meals were served on earthenware).  Martha’s father knew his merchandise: he ordered mirrors “truly elegant and worthy of a place in a Dining Room occupied by a merchant.” But he returned the first ones: “their fault was their fineness.  They are too fine, I will rather say too large for my dining room.” Unfortunately, in the shipping from England to Charles Town, faulty packing had damaged some of the gilded ornamentation and scraped some of the “Quick Silvering.”  “The packer or workman ought really to be answerable,” he demanded. Upstairs in the drawing room, a harpsichord for Martha’s arpeggios and sonatinas held a place of honor, flanked by elbow chairs, a card table, a tea table, settees, and portraits.  To five-year-old Martha, the new home was a palace.

Since the locale and climate of Charles Town allowed a twice-yearly harvest, vegetables and many exotic trees—peach, apricot, mulberry, walnut, chestnut, fig, bitter orange, and pomegranate—flourished. British gardener John Watson was employed to cultivate the new Laurens acres into a charming botanical cornucopia. Henry and Eleanor wanted the kind of beautifully laid out English garden that was rare in the colonies, a display of the useful and ornamental plants that Carolina produced or that Henry could import.  In that sense, landscaping was a more overt statement of the Laurenses’ affluence and sophistication than the house itself.  Neighbors like Eliza Pinckney, who also prided herself on gardening, noted that “only 2 squares from her house, the rich merchant HL was filling his extensive grounds with every rare plant and shrub his numerous connections enabled him to collect.”  Little sisters Nelly and Patsy and their numerous cousins could fashion snapdragon dolls and chant the evocative flower names “foxglove,” “sweet alyssum,” and “periwinkle” as their mother instructed.

Philadelphia garden historian John Bartram, named royal botanist by the king in 1756, came for a visit the year after the Laurenses moved in.  He noted a remarkable “grape vine 7 ½ inches in circumference” at the new home of “Col Laurance [sic] in Charles Town.”  It “bore 216 clusters of grapes, one almost 11 in. long and over 16” in circumference, the grapes large “and as close set in the bunch as they could possibly grow.”  In addition, he admired “a fine young olive tree 15 ft. high, luxuriant.”  By contrast with this luxuriant green, Charleston streets were deep and dusty at a child’s eye level.  Laid out in regular, unpaved, and widely spaced design to allow breezes to reach the building from all sides, the soft sand made its choking way into noses and eyelids.  Narrow paths at each side would one day become sidewalks, but not yet.

The following are some paintings of Mepkin as done by Charles Fraser in Charleston Sketchbook, 1796-1806 (descriptions also from said book):

“Mepkin, the Seat of Henry Laurens, Esq.”

Mepkin was among the several tracts of land granted at the very commencement of the Colony to the three sons of Sir John Colleton, one of the eight Lords Proprietors.  It comprised 3,000 acres and lay nearly opposite Mepshew (now Pimlico), another grant of the three brothers.

John Colleton of the County of Middlesex, England, sold Mepkin in 1762 to Henry Laurens.  Vital affairs of the Colony, of the Revolution, and of the new state, all had a hearing there.  After the destruction of the house during the Revolution Henry Laurens built the one that is shown in the sketch, and in which Henry Laurens, Jr., was living.  As the latter had married a daughter of John Rutledge, Fraser was again among relatives, seeing familiarly a scene where history was made.

“Another View of Mepkin, May, 1803″

“A View on Mepkin”

The Avenue at Mepkin leads from the road along wooded ravines to the bluff close by the river, overlooking the rice-fields and the winding stream.  There stood the house of Henry Laurens.  Mepkin had great natural beauties, and throughout his life Henry Laurens had added to these by continuous attention to the possibilities of agriculture in South Carolina.

The following is “The House of Henry Laurens (1763-1914)”, a pencil drawing done by Alice R. H. Smith in 1911:

None of the buildings remain standing today, but you can visit the streets where the St. Michael’s Alley and Ansonborough properties once stood in Charleston, SC, and you can visit Mepkin Abbey (previously Mepkin Plantation) in Moncks Corner, SC.

Eliza Pinckney, wow. I saw her in my history book, which didn’t have much on her other than the fact that she was (I think) the first to grow indigo in South Carolina a bit before the Revolutionary War.


The Maryanne Moodie team has always been crazy about the wondrous world of color. From the fibers we hand pick for our yarn packs to the hues we surround ourselves with daily, color’s natural ability to awaken our senses is profound and dynamic.

When we think about the spectrum of colors that saturate our clothing, furniture, hair, and paint products, it’s astonishing to realize that, up until 150 years ago, all color was derived from plant and animal materials. The advent of synthetic dyes in the mid 1800’s made it possible to create vibrant colors without the use of natural materials. However, synthetic processes limited the complex diversity of hues that can be achieved using natural dyes. Feeling the need to connect with the rich and global history of natural dyeing and celebrate the colorful bounty of the environment, we embarked on an ambitious venture: to create hand-dyed weaving kits made from our favorite dyes of flora and fauna.

We chose six natural dyes to showcase the range and depth of color that natural materials can produce. Paired with a mix of fibers including silk, cotton, and wool, the end result is a textural medley that would make mother nature one proud mama.

We dyed our fibers using a process known as the cool dyeing method, where the fibers are soaked in a dye pot without the use of heat. Sustainable as it is effective, this method allows color extraction to occur subtly and without the risk of damaging more delicate animal fibers such as silk and wool.

Once our yarn had absorbed the color, the we pulled the skeins from the dye bath to be rinsed and dried. Nothing quite beats seeing the fruit of your labor, especially if it means beholding a mountainous, multicolored spread of freshly dyed fiber.

But we didn’t stop with yarn – the final additions to our Natural Dye Weaving Kit are the hand-dyed logwood and indigo looms. Our logwood looms are a rich, deep magenta that still highlights the natural texture of the original pine. Our indigo looms, dipped twice in a vat of the historical dye, are a mysterious sea-blue.

Paired with a matching yarn pack of a “warm” or “cool” colorway, the complete weaving kit is a visual feast for your eyes and weaving fingers alike. Limited edition, handmade with love, and eco-conscious, this is a great addition to any weaver’s collection. Visit our Etsy to get yours!

To offer a sense of the rich history and colors of our dye materials, here’s a teaser of each!

LAC (Laccifer lacca):

This beautiful pale pink comes from an unexpected, living source – a bug! The female Lac insect produces a hard resin, from which you can extract the dye for this blushing color. In ancient India, this buggy substance was used as a skin beauty treatment.

LOGWOOD (Haematoxylon campechianum):

This brilliant purple harbors quite a sensational history. Extracted from the roots of South America’s yellow heartwood tree, logwood was an incredibly valuable natural dye material from the New World. Struggling for control of logwood forests in the Americas, British and Spanish pirates battled over the valuable dye.

MADDER (Rubia tinctorum):

This ancient dye is also linked to early American history – the red coats of the British, originally dyed with the cochineal beetle, were dyed with madder root during the American Revolution. Madder root is also a key ingredient in the secret and complex recipe for the color “Turkey Red”, which traditionally included calf’s blood, sheep’s dung, and oak galls!

FUSTIC (Chlorophora tinctoria):
This yellow dye, derived from the tree Maclura Tinctoria, was used to dye military uniforms their khaki color during World War I.

OSAGE ORANGE (Maclura pomifera):
This beautiful buttercup color is native to the United States. Originally found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the Osage tree now grows across America, and the wood can even be foraged in Prospect Park!

INDIGO (Indicum):

Originally used in India, this valuable dye is now grown in the United States. Introduced by Eliza Lucas Pinckney in colonial America, Indigo quickly became one of colonial South Carolina’s biggest cash crops. Indigo is also traditionally used to dye blue jeans, although most denim you would buy today is synthetically dyed.