Posts Tagged ‘Colonial Williamsburg’

“…a Season more favourable to the Fermentation of Wine.” March 18, 1773

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Having read Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr.’s February 1773 article in the Virginia Gazette (and undoubtedly taking notice of Colonel Bolling, Jr.’s memorial of 50 Pound Sterling per annum) Andrew Estave published a response in Marh 1773.  He continues his support and preference for native vines noting that their resistance to accidents and that their  juice “is infinitely richer, and more spirituous.”  He does concede that while the native vines might cultivate best in the lower-parts of the country, the foreign vines might cultivate best in the upper-parts, of which he has no knowledge.  In the end, he acknowledges that The Vineyard has produced little over the last four years and asks the public to suspend their judgement a bit longer.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, March 18, 1773, Page 2

VINEYARD, near Williamsburg, March 10, 1773

Having read, in the Gazette of Mess. Purdie and Dixon for the 24th of last February, an Essay of Colonel Robert Bolling relative to the Establishment of Vineyards in this Country, I was tempted to take the Liberty of considering some of its Articles, without pretending to place myself of the same Parallel, or to engage in any Competition with its respectable Author.  My Intention is merely to communicate to the Publick the littler Experience, which, during four Years Residence in this Country, I have been able to acquire, particularly in Regard to the Cultivation of foreign Vines.

It is my humble Opinion, that the native Vines of the Country can alone be cultivated with Success; the foreign ones being exposed to too many and great Inconveniences.  Such are, in the first Place, the Injuries from Worms and Insects; secondly, the Mischief they suffer from the Rains, which generally fall about the Time of the Maturity of the Grapes, and give Occasion to their bursting, as well as to the Evaporation of their Spirit; thirdly, their ripening about two Months sooner than the native Grapes of the Country, at the very Time of the Year when the Heat is greatest, which cannot fail of precipitating the Fermentation in the foreign Grapes, and of rendering it excessive.

There is scarcely a Gentleman in the Country whose Experience of what happens to the foreign Grapes in his Garden will not convince him of the Justice of the preceding Observations.  If it was necessary, I might confirm them by the Experience of Colonel Baker of Smithfield, a very ingenious Gentleman, whose Curiosity has been particularly employed on this Subject.  He had collected in his Garden a Variety of foreign as well as of the native Vines of this Country, all of which appeared to succeed equally well until the Period of their ripening.  Then he found that the foreign Grapes were constantly spoiled by Accidents which I have already enumerated, while the Natives sustained no Injury, because probably their Skins are of a Nature capable of resisting the Insects, and the Rains; and because, too, they do not ripen until two Months after the foreign Grapes, at a Season more favourable to the Fermentation of Wine.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, March 18, 1773, Page 3

Let it be remembered, however, that what I have hitherto said relates entirely to the lower Parts of the Country; the higher, being altogether unknown to me, may justify perhaps the Opinion of Colonel Bolling, and be more favourable to the Cultivation of Foreign Vines.

With Respect to Colonel Bolling’s Apprehension that the Vines of the Country do not yield a sufficient Produce, and that their Fruit is not rich enough, I can affirm, from Experience, that Vines, planted and cultivated, bear a Fruit one third at least larger than what is found on the spontaneous Growth of the Woods; and that the Juice of the former is infinitely richer, and more spirituous.  Nothing therefore is required but the Skill of the Cultivator in letting them acquire the proper Maturity, and in their Management afterwards, to obtain from them a Wine of the best Quality.

The occasion introduces me to speak two Words with Regard to myself.  The Vineyard which I planted has appeared, hitherto, to answer for little to the Expectations of People that many beginning to despair of its Success; but I beseech them to suspend for a While their Judgment, and to consider a little the unlucky Seasons we have had for the two last years, nothing being more contrary to fresh planted Vines than excessive Droughts: Yet I hope, notwithstanding, with Heaven’s Assistance, to fulfill my Obligations before the Expiration of the Time with which I have been indulged.  It is the well founded Hope of the Publick’s

Most obliged humble Servant,

“…an Object of the greatest probable Utility to this Colony” March 11, 1773

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Within three weeks of the appearance of Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr’s article “Essay on the Utility of Vine Planting” the Virginia Gazette noted that he would receive 50 Pound Sterling per anum to pursue his experiment in the cultivation of foreign vines.  Throughout the year Andrew Estave and Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr. carried out a dialogue that appeared in the Virginia Gazette.

Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, March 11, 1773, Page 2

The Honourable the House of Burgesses, upon the Memorial of Robert Bolling, Esquire, of Buckingham, have directed the Treasurer to pay to that Gentleman fifty Pounds Sterling yearly, for the Term of five Years, in Order to enable him to prosecute his Scheme of cultivating Grapes, for the making of Wine; which he is convinced, from Experiments, may be propagated in the upper Parts of the Country, with singular Advantage to those possessed of such mountainous Lands as are scarcely fit for any other Purpose.  He has engaged a Foreigner, thoroughly acquainted with the Business, in all its Branches, to instruct him therein; which we heartily with Success to, as it appear to be an Object of the greatest probable Utility to this Colony.

The Experiment

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

There are relatively few articles related to Andre Estave’s early efforts at The Vineyard.  The first of several advertisements offering reward for runaway slaves from The Vineyard appeared October 22, 1772.

From the Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, Oct 22,1772, Page 3

RUN away from the Vineyard, near Williamsburg, a Negro Fellow named CUFFY, about thirty Years of Age, five Feet three or four  Inches high, had on a gray Coat and blue Waistcoat, and I imagine will endeavour to get to Norfolk.  Whoever bring the said Negro to me, or secures him in any jail, shall have TWENTY SHILLINGS Rewards, Besides what the Law allows.


While Andrew Estave was attempting to cultivate native vines at The Vineyard, Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr. was already convinced from his earlier efforts producing wine from native vines, that their were not suitable.  Instead he believed that Eurpean vines should be cultivated and on February 25, 1773 he published a long article to such affect.  As we shall see in a future post, several weeks after his article, Colonel Bolling, Jr. secured funding from the House of Burgesses to carryout his own experiments in cultivation.

Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, February 25, 1773, Page 1

Essay on the Utility of VINE PLANTING

In Virginia

Nullam, Vare, Facra vite prius feveris arborem,
Circa mite folum Tiburis et moenia atili.
Siccis omnia nam dura Deus propufuit.  Hom.

The Measure adopted by Government in the year 1769 is, at least in Theory, of as interesting a Nature as any which hath heretofore fallen under Contemplation, I mean that of a PUBLICK VINEYARD, if that Measure is, as I apprehend, the Ground Work of still greater Efforts; otherwise the one in Question appears but feeble for so flourishing a Community, considering what must have been the Views of its Promoters.

Before it is possible to form an accurate Judgment upon any Enterprise whatever, it is necessary to weigh its more immediate and more remote Consequences.  An Advance of Money is always odious to the People, and they are very like to blame their Representatives for such Advance unless they be convinced of its Utility.  The first Consequence of the above Measure is a publick Expense, and, if it be properly prosecuted, a continued Expense for several Years; yet I see no thing in the Gazettes to convince a Multitude of Persons (who, living sequestered on their Plantations, have not other Opportunities of Information) that their own Good alone is proposed.  To such, therefore, this Piece is directed; to such I would explain its, probably Tendency, and give my Ideas of the likeliest Plan to secure the most happy Effects therefrom.  However, as we are not likely to live long enough to see Wine any considerable Branch of our Exports, I shall consider it in a more limited View, as only sufficient for our own Consumption.  The Idea of the Advantages which would then accure needs only to be raised up to an Export, and that is sufficient for the present Purpose, and for the Persons for whom my Diligence is designed.  The better informed will receive no new Information; I request they will rectify my Errors.  Provided a publick Benefit arise, whoever is the Instrument shall always have my applause and Gratitude.  I intend well.  The Reader may rest assured I shall esteem it as a Favour to be prevented either from propagating Mischievous Opinions or promoting injudicious Measures.  At the same Time I solicit his Countennace in Support of whatever he may approve, not as a Favour to myself, but as a Duty to his Country.

We behold at this Time as most sever Contribution annually paid for Wine and Sprits to Madeira and the Islands of the West Indies, to the Amount we say (to be greatly within Bounds) of one Hundred Thousand Pounds.

Almost the whole Wines, and the best of the Spirits, are only to be found in opulent Families.  The Remainder, miserably bad, and of the most pernicious Quality, falls to the Lot of the interior People.

Let the Reader dwell a Moment on the Sum dispursed for those Articles; let him reflect what a Proportino of the Colony’s annual Industry is required to furnish that Sum, whether it be not of Consequence to supply ourselves with wholesome generous Liquor at a tenth Part of the Expense, and what important Matters might be effected by the ninety Thousand Pounds saved.

If our Measures are taken with Prudence, the wine we make will be a clear Addition to the Country’s Produce, and in no Respect lessen the Exportation of Grain.  Grain will not bear the Expanse of distant Land Carriage.  Lands convenient to Navigation need not be planted with Vineyards; remote Lands may, and the Liquors will bear the Expense of Transportation any Where.

It will be granted that, caeteris paribus, the Opulent are Proprietors of rich Land, and the Indigent those whose Lands are otherwise.  As very rich Lands (unless perhaps Culture greatly enlarges the Quantity of Fluids in the Grape, which is yet uncertain) as very rich Lands, I say, produce a Grape too pulpy, the Must they make ferments to Excess, whence a thin acid Liquor.  The fertile low Grounds will not, therefore, be employed in that Manner; nor will, as I conceive, the Government bestow Attention on them, or even on the rich high Grounds, unless remote from a Landing.  Our Business is to better our Condition.  Now we shall not better our Condition by applying our fine Grain and Tobacco Lands, which so amply reward the Cultivator, to any other than the present Purpose; nor will the Proprietors of such Lands be easily prevailed upon to change their Object.  It follows, then, that our poorer Lands, our remote high Lands and Mountains, are the proper Objects of Government’s Attention; which is the same Thing, in other Words, as to say, that the Scheme is calculated in a singular Manner for the Benefit of the poorer People: The Value of their Plantations will rise almost to that of the richest; large Tracts, at present desolate, will be filled with happy Families, now obliged to seek their Fortunes beyond the Mountains, to the present Loss and future Danger of the Colony; a small Tract will suffice a large Family; every Person in it will be usefully employed in the earliest and most agreeable of all Kinds of Culture; Provisions for several Children will be rendered easier than it now is for a single one; in Process of Time Slaves may be Prohibited from working in Vineyards; the Business will become honourable; the Poor be secured in a plentiful Subsistence; our Numbers, our Riches, our commercial Importance, and general Happiness, increased beyond Conception.  I will add, that we shall become a more hardy and manly Race of People, when our Constitutions are no longer jaundiced, nor our Juices vitiated by abominable West India Distillations, rendered still more detestable by our own fraudulent Mixtures.  If the Reader smile at the Observation, let however its Importance be considered.  Such are the Advanced, the Foundations of which was laid by the Establishment of a public Vineyard.

When the Proposition was agitated in the House of Burgesses, several Members were tender of their People, and averse from running them to any Sort of Expense.  There are whole Knowledge is inferior to their Goodness of Heart, but whole Understandings, naturally good, are open to Conviction, and very ready to restract an Errour of which they become sensible.  Though their Objections did not stifle, yet it is clear that it contrasted, the Measure.  The Government voted four Hundred and fifty Pounds to effect a Purpose to which it was wholly inadequate; which, if effected, and expanded, would double the Colony’s present Value.  That Inconsistency in the Vote will surprise Nobody acquainted with large Assemblies.  A succeeding Assembly made a farther Allowance, and showed a good Disposition; but that Advance only supports the former circumscribed Plan.  Estave’s Abilities are still confined to a single Vineyard, when, with proper Assistants, he might superintend four or five; yet this Effort is put upon the Footing of an Experiment, and is probably intended, by many, to determine finally, as to them, the Practibility of rendering this a Wine Country.  When an Experiment fails, the Intention is usually dropped; there is a Please for ever against a farther Prosecution.  It may be ill made, it may fail by Accidents, which may not happen in another * Place, and yet afterwards the Country be pronounced improper for a Repetition thereof.  Let us consider then the real Nature of this Experiment.  Is it whether Wine is made of Grapes?  The Experiment, to analyse it properly, is, first, whether Andre Estave can raise a Vineyard a Mile below Williamsburg which shall furnish a sufficient Quantity of Grapes.  Secondly, whether he can produce therefrom a Wine wholesome and potable.  We may be disappointed in both those Objects, without any reasonable Presumption against the Country or Climate.  That good Wine can be made here, as well as in other Countries (between which there is no sensible Difference) may be considered as unquestionable.  Why then should we be discouraged though Andre Estave fail of what, it is said, he has to so promising a Prospect of performing!  Let us persevere, by unrem itted Trials, to bring the present Undertaking to Perfection.  Let us, with the utmost Expedition, provide Vineyards in various remote Counties, and in Places wehre it would be lost Labour to cultivate Tobacco.  Let Orphan and spurious Children be bound to the Managers, and let us procure foreign Viners, and Vines from the same Countries whence we draw our Viners; and not depend singly upon our own Vines, of which, though I approve of farther Experiments, I have, from two Experiments, but an ill Opinion.  If they be proper for making the finest Wines, it is purely fortunate; but how little is that to be expected when no Experience of their Finess led to a Preference of them to any other?  Let us, without neglecting our own, imitate those who have profited by foreign Advantages.  The Wine of the Cape is made from Vines brought originally from Champagne, Canary from Vines of the Rhine, Madeira from those of Candia.  We may try the different Sorts of Vines among us, of which we have imported great Variety.  In a Country like this, it is honourable for Government to have always one or more great publick Objects.  What Country was ever more capable of Improvement?  What Object more interesting than to turn to Account such a Quantity of Acres as, as present, so far from being cultivated, remain unpatented and unentered?  The Cultivation of the Vine should be the Aim of our most serious Counsels and active Industry.  Will is cause an Expense?  I am willing to pay my Proportion, sure to be rewarded a Thousand Fold in the Good that will befall either myself, my Children, my Fellow Citizens, or all together.  If you are of a different Opinion, consider yourself as liable to be mistaken.   You may be right, perhaps; but if you prevent a Measure actually prudent and beneficial, and in the Degree suggested, consider whether the Birth of any Mortal was more pernicious to his Country than yours to your Country.  It is frequency the Lot of useful Propositions to be received with Derision; it requires some Capacity to comprehend all their Advantages; but where is the Ideot who cannot sneer?  Had the Persons who deried a Proposition made to the Assembly by the late Honourable William Beverley, Esquire, for the Education of certain Viners and Oil Pressers, had they, I say, never existed, the Country might at this Day not have an Effort to make towards introducing, may perhaps not towards perfecting, the former Business.  As the Project was then neglected, it behoves us to postpone it no longer.  Let the Remoteness of the Advantages make no Impression; it is an unpatriotic Consideration.  We are in no Danger of wearing out Time; with Time, they are infallible.  The King would remit his Quitrents, the Country its Taxes, I doubt not, for the Encouragement of Particulars, for a Time limited yet the Publick should rely on no private Endeavours.  Particulars can scarcely lose their Labour for several Years, unless with a reasonable Certainty of afterwards having their Vintage treated with Judgement, so as to reward their Sedulity and Patience.  The Government, if ever zealous to render this a Vine Country, must be at the Expense of providing or training Viners, and then we shall have Plenty of Vineyards.  Raisins are as easily made as any Thing of their Utility, and they would soon become common (See Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published by Owen).  The Greek Wines of the Archipelago are esteemed delicious.  The Russian Fleet has filled several of those Islands with Tumult and Distraction.  The Russian are favoured by the Greek Inhabitants, and are in Alliance with the King.  An Agent sent from hence might obtain Letters from the Ministry, and from the Russian Ambassadour at London to the Russian Admiral up the Mediterranean, and by his Means easily procure Vines and Viners from Naxos, Lesbos, Chios, Tenedos.  If that Attempt be Thought too arduous and expensive (as a Ship must be hired on Purpose, and the Plague is in the Neighbourhood) still great Facilities might be had in Tuscany by Means of the British Resident at Florence.  Vines cultivated on the Appenine, it is morally certain, would succeed in our back Country.  There is no sensible Difference between the Air of Tuscany and Virginia.

Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, February 25, 1773, Page 2

The great Number of English Gentlemen who reside at Florence, and spend much Money there, would give great Weight to an Application for Leave to engage Viners; and the more, as the Loss of the Viners would be the sole Inconvenience Tuscany would sustain, no Wines coming thence to America.  Those Viners should by no Means be mere Adventurers, they should be worthy Country People, qualified each for the Superintendence of four Vineyards.  Their Wages would undoubtedly be high, as the Service refereed to them would be important.  Four Time the Number of Labourers might also be engaged, acquainted with Pruning and other Branches of Culture; to be employed at the Recommendation of the former, as proper to carry on the Business in their Absence, and follow Directions.  Their Wages need not exceed ten Pounds Sterling.  I should also greatly recommend a few Viners from Champagne, though I believe the Italian and Greek Wines more pleasant, and more agreeable to our Constitutions; but I should never approve of introducing those Wines where are exported from Bourdeaux, or any like them.  Why, when endeavouring to introduce Wine into the Country, should we depend upon mere Accident for the Kind?  Or why introduce those Guienne and Gascon Wine so universally decried by the French themselves, as to obtain no better Appellation from them than that d’un Breauvage detestable, xtremely, detestable Drink?  Here I rest the Matter at present.  Having heard that Members of the Assembly desired to know the Sentiments of the People upon the above Subject, I give my Sentiments as one of the Number; at the same Time I endeavour to fulfill the End of my Writing, that of informing my retired Countrymen.  I recommend to all Freeholders to explain their Sentiments upon publick Vineyards to their Representatives, that they may be free to act in the Matter, without having their virtuous Conduct arraigned in their Counties by a Set of officious Fellows, who, conscious of their Inability to do the least Service, take a malignant Pride in exciting Suspicions against and throwing Obstacles in the Way of those who can be serviceable.


R. BOLLING, Junior.


P.S. Among the incidental Advantages that may be derived from what is above recommended, the Reader may give a Glance to the following:

1. To Great Britain. An easier Purchase of Madeira Wine, by the Diminution of the Demand from America.

2. A greater Demand from America of British Manufactures, as we should have wherewith to purchase in greater Plenty.

3. To this Country.  The Introduction of Glass blowers. [The Counties of Northampton, Accomack, and Princess Anne, might supply Kelp in Abundance.]

4. An easier Communication, north and south, between the different Parts of the Colony, with all the advantages of internal Commerce.  A ready Sale of [unreadable], etc. which will in Time be neglected by the Viners.

5. Great Value to remote indifferent and mountainous Lands, and to Timber proper for Staves.  [unreadable] of small Plantations, and consequently a great Increase of their Number; Detentions of the Poor from migrating to the Western Wa[unreadable] Advantages chiefly mention before, but which can never be too well considered, or too often repeated) whence, in Time, Towns replete with Tradesmen, Manufactures, Artists, Men of Science, &c. &c. whence, in fine, a great and flourishing People of inestimable Value to the Mother Country, and elsewhere the surest of her Protection.

Wine Related Reproductions from Colonial Williamsburg

John D. Rockefeller Jr. commissioned the first reproductions based on finds from Williamsburg in the 1930s.   Today the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation continues to license museum quality reproductions from a wide variety of manufacturers.  Proceeds from the sales assist in restoration, research, and education.  Some of the earliest productions consisted of three types of furniture to store wine decanters or bottles.


Kittinger Furniture was the prime manufacturer of Colonial Williamsburg furniture from the 1930s through 1990.  The first two pieces of furniture mentioned below, CW31 and CW32, were manufactured during the 1930s.

The first piece is the wine case CW31.  This double-tier case hold six bottles or decanters on each tier.  The top tier may be locked to prevent access to the bottom tier.  This was designed to hold wine decanter CW6.

The second piece is the wine cellerate CW32.  The top case contains a divided compartment that holds wine bottles and has a locking lid.  The bottom portion features a slide out serving shelf and a drawer for accessories.  The drawer has a pull handle.

The third piece is the wine cellerate CW162.  This piece is is almost five inches taller than CW32.  It also features knobs instead of a handle on the drawer.  The drawer also locks.

At least four cellarettes are in the Colonial Williamsburg inventory, three of which from the Raleigh Tavern.

  • Raleigh Tavern, Dauphne Room
    40-3251 Cellarette, walnut, American-Southern, late 18th century
    41-3583 Cellarette, walnut, American-Southern, late 18th century
  • Raleigh Tavern, Public Dinning Room
    30-57 Cellarette, applewood, American, c. 1790, Sheraton style, 2 drawers (perhaps CW162?)
  • The Coke-Garrett House, Kitchen, West
    1930-40 Cellarette, walnut and Southern yellow pine, American, 1780-1800.


To accompany the wine case and cellarettes the decanter CW6 was licensed by Royal Leerdam Crystal.  They are a Dutch company that has manufactured bottles since 1765.

Wine Decanter CW6, Manufactured by Royal Leerdam Crystal

The Blenko Glass Company of West Virginia manufactured a series of bottles and decanters.  CW40 is a beautiful hexagonal wine bottle that reproduces a bottle from John Greenhow dating to 1770.  It features a bottle seal stamped with, “Jno Greenhow Wmsbg 1770”.  For those who carefully read my earlier posts, you might remember snippets from John Greenhow’s advertisements in the Virginia Gazette from this post.

Wine Bottle CW40, Manufactured by Blenko Glass Company

Wine Bottle CW40, Manufactured by Blenko Glass Company

They also reproduced a beautiful ring-necked decanter CW42 based on a decanter from the Brush-Everard House.

Wine Decanter CW42, Manufactured by Blenko Glass Company

Of course these reproducion bottles and decanters might require a tray to carry them on. To do so, there is Gallery Serving Tray AP12.

Wine Names from Colonial Williamsburg

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Parks, September 04,1746, Page 3, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Parks, September 04,1746, Page 3, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Arrack – A distilled spirit produced through Asia and eastern Mediterranean.
Canary – Sweet Malvasia-based wines from the Spanish islands off the coast of Morocco.
Champaign – Champagne!
Claret – English name for red wines from Bordeaux.
Florence Wine – Wine from Tuscany.
French Coniack – The distilled spirit Cognac.
French White Wine – Not French red wine.
Hock and Old Hock – Wine from the Rhine regions of Germany, a contraction of hockamore which is the English of Hochheimer, meaning wines from Hochheim.
Lisbon and White Lisbon – Wine from Portugal.

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Purdie & Dixon, June 03, 1771, Page 3, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Purdie & Dixon, June 03, 1771, Page 3, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Malmsey – English name for Malvasia, a sweet rich wine from Greece.
Mountain Wine – English name for Malaga, a fortified wine typically made from Pedro Ximenez in northern Spain.
Rennish – Wines from Germany and Alsace.
Sower Wine – Could this be sour wine, which is low-grade wine mixed with some vinegar to prevent it from spoiling?
Tent – English name for Tinto, referring to the strong red wines from Spain and Portugal
Tokay – Long-lived wines from Tokaji, Hungary.

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Purdie & Dixon, August 15,1771, Page 3, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Varieties of Wine Available in Colonial Williamsburg

This post is just a casual look into the varieties of wine available in Colonial Williamsburg.  If I have the time I will analyze the relative valuation of the different wines and when particular wines were imported and perhaps, favorable.  I will certainly publish a follow-up post defining the types of wine mentioned in this post.

In looking through the estate inventories and advertisements in the Virginia Gazette, I cannot ignore the frequent references to slave. Amongst the valuations of wine and other household properties in the estate inventories are the names and valuations of slaves. Mixed amongst the store advertisements in the Virginia Gazette are advertisements detailing the names and descriptions of slaves that are for sale. In time I shall attempt to post on slavery and wine in Colonial Williamsburg. Did slaves tend the Virginian vineyards, did they help produce the wine, did they unload the pipes of Madeira, or draw off wine from a hogshead into a bottle?

The Governor's Palace in Ruins, Image from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Governor’s Palace was the official residence of the royal governor of the Virginia Colony.  It was completed in 1722 and was home to seven governors, ending with Thomas Jefferson.  The palace was home to many balls and large dinners.  The tables were set with the finest linens, silver, foods, and a large variety of wines from the extensive cellar.  In 1780 Thomas Jefferson moved the capital to Richmond and the palace served as a hospital.  In December of 1781 the palace burnt down.

The Reconstructed Governor's Palace, Image by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1935, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The site was purchased by Colonial Williamsburg in 1928 then passed on to William & Mary.  After two years of archaeological excavations the reconstruction of palace was started.  The new palace opened in 1934 including the meticulously reconstructed cellar for wine, beer, cider, and liquor.

A Wide Variety of Wine

The Governor’s Palace wine cellar is quite spacious and made me curious as to the selections of wines available in Colonial Williamsburg.  Wine was not only served at the Governor’s Palace but also at the taverns and private homes.  I set about some research using the Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library. I extracted the alcoholic inventories taken upon the deaths of John Marot (1717/18), Henry Bowcock (1729/1730), Henry Wetherburn (1760), and Francis Facquier(1771).  From these inventories I find 17 different classifications of wine: Wine, Old Wine, Malmsey, Champaign, Claret, Tokay, Hock, Old Hock, Madeira, Port, Red Port, Rennish, French White Wine, Sower Wine, Canary, White Lisbon, and Lisbon.  These wines were stored in pints, quarts, gallons, bottles, and pipes.  It is noted wether wine and Hock is old or not.

John Marot was a Heugonet refugee who settled in Williamsburg.  He received license to operate a tavern and purchased his property with an existing building in 1708.  He added to the building that more than doubled the size of the tavern.  In 1738 James Shields married one of the Marot daughters and took over control of the tavern.

Recorded York County Court, March 17, 1717/18
“INVENTORY of the Estate of John Marott decd as followeth Vizt

1 pipe of Sower Wine 5. -. –
52 Gallons of Madera Wine 7. -. –
22 bottles of Canary 3. 2. –
3 hhds of Cyder 3. -. –
4 ½ doz of Red Port 4.10. –
3 Dox & 10 bottles of Sower Wine 1. -. –
13 qts of Rennish 1.19. –
2 ½ Doz 7 1 pt Do [Rennish] 4.16. 6
6 Dox & 4 bottles Rennish 5.14. –
3 Doz & 9 bottles of Red Port 3.15. –
1 Doz & 8 Do 1.13. 4
4 Doz & 2 Do 4. 3. 4
4 Doz & 4 Do 4. 6. 8
3 Doz & 2 bottles of White Lisbon 3. 2. 4
8 Doz of Red Port 8. -. –
4 Doz of Bristoll Beer 1.17. 6
12 Pottle Bottles of french Do 3. -. –
To Capt Posfords Accot 11. 8. 4*
6 ½ Doz Madera Wine 4. -. –
3 Doz of White Lisbon 3. -. –
15 Gallons of French Brandy 10. -. –
6 Doz & 3 bottles of English Beer 2.15. –
4 Doz of Bristoll Beer -.12. –
3 Gallons of Anniseed Water 1. -. –
To Sundry Liquors & bottles -.19. –
1 box & 2 funnells -. 3. 6
Casks & Molasses 2.18. –
Sugar & pipes 3. 5. –
1 pott of Tammarins & 1 hammer -.2 . 6
2 Casks -. 4. –
Pipes -. 5. –
8 Doz of Wine 3. -. –
11 Bottles of Lisbon -.18. –

Henry Bowcock was an innkeeper who first secured a license in 1716.  He leased land from John Holloway where he kept another inn/tavern beginning in 1724.  He left all of his property to his “loving wife Mary Bowcock”.  Mary Bowcock applied for a license and continued to keep an inn.  In 1731 she married Henry Wetherburn.

Inventory and Appraisgment of the Estate of Henry Bowcock, late of York County decd.
York County Records
Book 17-Orders, Wills. (1729-1732), pp. 53-57 [March 16, 1729/30]

10 Dozn bottles Claret £ 7:10:-
46 bottles red Wine 1:18:4
70 qt bottles Renish 7:-:-
57 pints Do 2:17:-
42 qt bottles old Hock 4:4:-
10 qt bottles French White wine -:12:6
1 pipe Madeira Wine 20:-:-
71 qt bottles Welch ale 2:19:2
32 bottles Bristol Beer 1:1:4
79 bottles of Cask Beer 1:6:4
17 pts Shrubb 2:2:6
2 ½ Gallons Arrack 2:10:-
12 Gallons Brandy 3:12:-
4 Galls Cherry & Raspberry Do 1:8:-
4 Gallons Citron water 7:-:-
15 Galls Rum 1:17:6
2 ½ Galls Cherry Rum -:7:6
A large quanty of damaged Liquors of sevl. sorts in bottles 4:-:-

Henry Wetherburn was the most prosperous tavern keepers in Williamsburg.  He was first noted in local records in 1731 when he married Mary Bowcock.  His tavern is one of the original buildings of Williamsburg and has been in continuous use for more than 250 years.

[Wetherburn, Henry-Tavern Keeper Williamsburg, Va.]
[December 19, 1760]

4 Gallons Arrack £ 4.. 0.. 0
17 Doz & 4 Bottles of Beer a 9/ Doz. 7..16.. 0
18 Bottles Port 2.. 5.. 0
Part of Pipe Madeira Wine 20.. 0..0
1 [torn] Claret 4..10.. 0
[torn] Doz. and 4 Bottled Do a 21 Bottle 17.. 4.. 0
9 Doz and 10 Porter a ¾ Doz. 1..12.. 9
3 Doz and 8 Beer a 6/. Doz 1.. 2.. 0
43 1/2 Gallon[s] Rum a 4/6 9..15.. 9
3 Gallons Cordial 1..10.. 0

Portrait of Francis Faquier, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Francis Faquier was the son of Dr. John Francis Faquier, who was a director at The Bank of England.  He was a prominent figure in London, served as deputy to two Governor’s in Virginia before becoming lieutenant Governor for ten years.

From the Inventory of the estate of Francis Fauquier 1771, July 20

10 Pipes of Wine £50 500..0..0
76 Gallons Run @ 3/ 11..8..0
10 Do Peach Brandy @ 3/ 1..10..0
3 doz and 10 Bottles old Wine @ 40/ 7 ..13..4
7 doz and 4 Bottles Draft Do @ 24/ 8..16..0
5 Bottles of Arrack @ 5/ 1..5..0
210 Pint Bottles of Malmsey Wine a 20/ doz 17..10..0
2 Casks Porter 6..0..0
1 Jug Sallad Oyl 2..0..0
36 doz Bottles of old Syder a 3n per Bottle 5..8..0
3 doz Porter 1..0..0
26 Bottles Clarrett @ 3/ per Bottle 3..18..0
3 Do of Champaign 6/ 0..18..0
20 Bottles Tokay 3..0..0
112 Bottles @ 1/3 7..0..0
6 Casks Cyder 6..0..0
13 ½ doz old Hock 6/ 42..6..0
2 Pipes Madeira Wine recvd since the Death of the Honble Francis Fauquier Esq. 100

Goods Received by the Executor since the decease of the late Francis Fauquier deceased Shipped by John Norton

2 pipes Madeira Wine a £50 each 100..0..0
36 dozen Sweet cyder 5..8..0
1 small 1 round table 1..10..0
2 Barrels Cyder 2..0..0
5 Bottles Arrack 1..5..0
2 Hosghead porter 6..0..0
1 Half Jarr Sallad Oyl 1..0..0
9 Bottles Peach Brandy 0..6..0
3 Doz and 10 Bottles Madeira per Doz 40/ 7..13..4
7 Dozen & 4 Do 24/ 8..10..0
9 Dozen Arrack 7..0..0
33 Bottles Porter 0..18..6
9 Bottles Claret 1..7..0
76 Gallons Rum 3/ 11..8..0
10 Gallons Peach Brandy 1..10..0

Purchasing Wine

It appears that some wines were directly imported and others were purchased at auction or from merchants.

From the WILLIAM NELSON LETTERBOK 1766-1775 we find that the Governor directly imported six pipes of Madeira.
p. 52 [William Nelson to “Edwd Athawes Esqr & Son” of London]

Virginia Nover 24th 1767


There is an Affair happen’d, which gives me great uneasiness & Chagrine. The Governour imported this Year in the M[aderia] Packet 6 pipes of Wine 5 of which were delivered to him: the other marked F4F different from the others, was Intended, I believe, for his brother & was therefore not sent to Wmsburg by his order, but was Supposed to be landed in my Store or the Collector’s till the Ship should be ready to take it on again; but when Capt Innis came to receive those Wines, this Pipe was not among them nor was it inquired for as I was not at home. The Truth is, it was not landed at either Store, the Consequence must be, that it was Sent away with some other Wines by Mistake to Rappa or some where else… WN

In looking through the Virginia Gazette there is a wide variety of wine for sale, some through auction and most at stores.  Not found in the inventories above are Mountain Wine, Florence Wine, Tent, and French Coniack.

Virginia Gazette, Hunter, June 12, 1752, Page 1, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

“To be SOLD by the Subscriber, at his store in Williamsburg,…Red Port, Mountain Wine, and White Wine Vinegar… “,Publisher: Hunter , Page: 3, Column: 2, 1751-04-18

“To be SOLD, very reasonably, by the Subscriber, in Williamsburg…French Brandy, Arrack, fine Florence Wine, Red Port, Sherry, Tent, and best Vineger of different Wines. Joseph Scrivener.”, Publisher: Hunter, Page: 4, Column: 1, 1751-10-03.

“To be SOLD, by the Subscriber, near the Capitol, in Williamsburg, GENUINE French Claret, at 40 s. per Dozen, Samples whereof may be had at 4 s. a Bottle, net Barbados Rum at 5 s. per Gallon; also fine Madeira Wine…Daniel Fisher.” Publisher: Hunter, Page: 3, Column: 1, 1752-03-12.

“To be SOLD at JOHN GREENHOW’s store, Williamsburg,…ringworm earth… green, blue, and crystal convex and concave spectakles…wine by the gallon, cask, or pipe”, Publishser: Purdie & Dixon, Page: 4, Column: 1, 1766-04-11.

“To be SOLD at PUBLIC AUCTION to the HIGHEST BIDDER, on Monday the 8th day of August, at the DWELLING-HOUSE of the late Mr. WILLIAM PRENTIS, in the city of Williamsburg, and pursuant to his will…a pipe of fine old Madeira wine, and several dozens of bottles wine;…”, Publisher: Rind Page: 3, Column: 1, 1768-07-28.

 “To be SOLD at John Greenhow’s Store, near the Church, in Williamsburg, for ready Money, on reasonable Terms,…Old Spirits, best and common Arrack, Madeira, Lisbon, red port, Claret, Canary, and Renish Wines…”, Publisher: Purdie & dixon, Page: 3, Column: 2, 1771-12-12.

“The subscriber hath on hand, in the city of Williamsburg, a few hhds. of old Barbados RUM, a few hhds. of excellent CLARET, several cases of CHAMPAIGNE in bottles, a quantity of delicious French CORDIALS, best French COFFEE in barrels, best Coniack BRANDY, in baskets of two bottles each…to be sold at the publick store, on publick account, by    W. Aylett.”, Publisher: Purdie Page: 4, Column: 1, 1777-01-10

Exporting Wine

There was even small amounts of wine exported back to Europe.  From the Virginia Gazette:

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Parks, November 02,1739, Page 2, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

  • 1739, August 6, the ship Mary, Master Wil. Robertson, bound for London, contained 46 Gallons of Rum in General Cargo.
  • 1739, August 9, the ship Black Prince, Master John Sibson, bound for London, contained 1 Hogshead of Wine in General Cargo.
  • 1739, August 15, the ship Gooch, Master Charles Friend, bound for London, contained 1 Hogshead of Wine in General Cargo.
  • 1939, September 8, the ship Crofs-Galley, Master Jos. Pitman, bound for Bristol contained 125 Gallons of Rum, and 1 Pipe of Wine in General Cargo.

The Wine Bottles of Colonial Williamsburg

July 7, 2011 1 comment

Excavation at Wetherburn'sTavern,1965-66

Group of Ten Wine Bottles, 1740-1750, Inside Northwest Corner Kitchen of Wetherburn's Tavern

The Department of Archaeological Research has conducted archaeological excavations throughout Colonial Williamsburg for more than 60 years. Working in conjunction with the College of William & Mary they are curators of the largest Colonial-period archaeological collection in the United States.  All image in this post are sourced from the Colonial Williamsburg research website, unless noted otherwise.

Bottle Shapes by Age

Glass bottles were used to store a variety of beverages, food products, and medicines.  Medicinal bottles are more upright and cylindrical in nature.  Bottles that may look like wine bottles were also used to store non-wine beverages and cherries.  The so-called cherry bottles contained cherry pits and stems.  It is not known if they simply contained cherries, cherries in a liquid, or brandied cherries.  All of these bottles may be used to help date particularly areas of an archaeological excavation.

Beverage Bottles, George Wythe House, 1740-1760

Wine bottles may be identified by country of origin, date, and owner.

Wine Bottles, Shields Tavern, 1730-1760

Some wine bottles contain an applied disc of stamped glass known as a bottle seal. These bottle seals might be stamped with the owner’s name, the year of the bottle, or a coat of arms.

Wine Bottle Seal, Ravenscroft Cellar

Curtis Bottle Seal

Illustration of Bottle Seals, Ravenscroft, circa 1700

This beautiful decanter dates from the same period.

Miniature Madeira Decanter, Wetherburn Tavern, 1755-1765

While this post is concerned with Colonial wine bottles, the excavations reveal all sorts of artifacts.

The excavated wine bottles were used as models for reproduction wine bottles.  Throughout the buildings of Colonial Williamsburg you will find large displays of reproduction wine bottles.

Glasses and Bottles, Butler's Pantry, Governor's Palace, Image by TCTruffin(flickr)

Bottles in Carrier, Butler's Pantry, Governor's Palace, Image by jnshaumeyer(flickr)

Wine Bottles at Shields Tavern, Image by the Author