19th Century Special Occasions

Beach Clambake


Mable Osgood Wright

In the nineteenth century, there were fewer special occasions to mark a person’s growing up, as pathways to adulthood were less clearly demarcated. Rather than attending school dances, Fairfield’s adolescents were more likely to socialize with the community at large. Courtship generally took place in settings oriented around family and neighbors, such as picnics, concerts, and fairs sponsored by churches, school programs, or “balls” held at private homes and halls. Depending on the season, there might be sleighing or skating parties, clambakes or oyster suppers, and celebrations such as spinning, quilting, or wood cutting bees, where neighbors gathered to work together.   


“…I went to Fairfield Woods to engage a fiddler,…we had an Oyster Frolic in Lockwood’s Swamp and in the evening a ball at John Hull’s” (Hull Sherwood, 1812)

“Last evening was a Ball at Mrs. Pike’s Ballroom attended by about 50 gentlemen and ladies. There has been 2 plays performed at Mrs. Pike’s this winter…” (Jonathan Bulkley, 1817)

“Today I raise the main body of my house with about 40 men. The frame comes together jointly and after which the air resounds with Huzza for every tongue…I provide a field for ball playing until supper is ready – we have a good Pot Pie…The principal part tarry in the evening and drink grog and sing by the spirit of it.” (Hull Sherwood, 1816)

19th Century Special Occasions