Numismatics provides vivid picture of 'Colonial Joe's' life

Published : 06/03/11
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I love studying the Colonial period of American history, and especially through numismatics we get a vivid picture of life in the Colonies. What was the average day like for the average Colonial guy? Let’s look at a page from Colonial Joe’s journal.

5 a.m.: Up at dawn, roll out of the straw.

5:15 a.m.: Maketh fire with flint sticks.

5:30 a.m.: Scrape crud off teeth with flint sticks.

5:45 a.m.: Maketh breakfast — hemp tea with hemp bark biscuits, topped with a dollop of lard.

6:00 a.m.: Hear noise outside cabin, see wild goat wandering about — capture and milk goat, shoot goat. (Note to thyself: easier to capture and milk wild goat after shooting.) Pack goat meat in salt pit — cover with dirt.

8:00 a.m.: Sweep top layer of dirt from dirt floor exposing fresh layer of dirt.

8:30 a.m.: Cultivate hemp grove. Remove annoying corn, oat and wheat weeds.

10:00 a.m.: Chat with traveling handcart merchant. Trade thy grandfather’s old wampum stash for nails. Merchant sayeth he hath good market for wampum at Chesapeake Bay, many people wander about to sell rubbish in a marketplace known as “cBay.” Some “collect” old wampum for pleasure, and even oft-times check upon each piece for flaws! Goeth to figure!

11:00 a.m.: Shoot pesky eagle. Trade eagle carcass to handcart merchant for more nails.

11:45 a.m.: Take midday nourishment —creamed squirrel on hemp wafers.

12:30 p.m.: Run routine maintenance on whiskey still. Check progress of current batch. Adjust coil, empty slobber box, partaketh in a sampling swig. Ahh, doth smooooth!

1:00 p.m.: Weave heavy hemp jacket and hat to stave away wind and cold of forthcoming winter.

3:00 p.m.: Prepare to go to village — cleanse thy visage with lye soap.

3:15 p.m.: Cannot find trinket pouch that containeth much-needed means of exchange. (Note to thyself: Must invent a way to ensure thy wilt never lose trinket pouch! Perhaps thy shalt attach a pouch or two on thyne trousers hence, in approximation where my hands doth hang. The pouch, of course, deriving its name from the Iroquois Indian term “pock,” which was a large sack filled of wampum and trinkets he carried about his back. Yea then! Thy heretofore, shalt with due diligence, affix a small “pock” on either side of thyne trousers. I shalt name them “pockettes,” whence shalt be a convenient placement of trinkets and means of exchange.)

3:25 p.m.: Found trinket pouch on dirt floor under dirt. Thy pouch therein containeth two crumpled notes of 3 shillings and 4 pence, plus one-ninth of a half two-pence, a half quarter cob, three-sevenths of two long-short bits, one-sixth of a half stuiver, one third douzain, a fifth of a half livre, five-thirds of three farthings, two bits of eight reales, four glass beads, and some gold slivers thy once clipped from a guinea. What it all equates to I know not, but thou hopeth with keen arithmetic thy may proffer a plate of cooked meat and a pint of sour ale.

3:30 p.m.: Gather musket and lantern for walk into village. Thereupon read a paper of news with fellow quaffers. More taxes imposed by England? Tyrant poltroons! Thomas Paine again writes of rebellion. Paine doth so irritate my conscience. Thy am able-bodied and believe thee cause, but shouldst thou join ranks or carry on thy hemp trade with said militia. It vexes me so! Further thou readst compelling gossip from Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin hath been accused of bribing privateers with handcrafted currency to transport clandestine Virginia tobacco to British noblemen in exchange for women and hard coin specie of gold, silver and copper, while simultaneously preaching independence and carousing an Indian maiden.

5:35 p.m.: Learned with delight thy hath enough tender for three pints!

6:00 p.m.: Begin dark journey back to homestead. Hear random musket shots in the distance. Thou devil doth play tricks in the night with thy lantern light and sour ale. Shoot thy musket into the heathen night. Devil be gone!

7:45 p.m.: Arrive to thy humble shack and rest mine weary feet. Repose by thyne fireplace and admire thy weaving of hemp coat and hat. Ponder to thyneself that winter shant truly arrive for six cycles of the Sabbath hence. Conclude to smoke thy hat.

8:30 p.m.: Floppeth down upon straw for thy slumber.

Jeff Reichenberger, of Wisconsin, collects U.S. coins, ancient coins, medals, paper money and numismatic literature. He enjoys history, research and writing. His “Low Relief” column is dedicated to low-stress discussions of insignificant numismatic subjects, written from the angle of a “regular guy.” Comments are welcomed at

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