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Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 77-78.


Signs of consumer developments were everywhere in eighteenth-century colonial America. One notable change was in the use and availability of individual items, whether for eating, drinking, or sitting. In this excerpt, historian Richard Bushman describes key shifts in colonists’ experience of dining.

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"In the 17th century, most Americans ate meals out of wooden bowls with a spoon while sitting at a bench or on the floor. By the mid 18th century, at least half of the colonial population was “eating from plates with knives and forks while sitting at tables. A smaller group of this knife-and-fork population ate from some kind of refined earthenware…The rest of the knife-and-fork group ate from coarse earthenware, pewter or wood. A tiny population dined on imported porcelains.” From the early to mid-1700s on, the demand for goods like porcelain increased steadily. These British goods, including things like cloth, ceramics, and metal goods, were often highly decorative."


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