Klock Historic Restoration
& Indian Castle Church
The Art of Bundling
Being an Inquiry into the Nature and Origins of that Curious but Universal Folk-Custom, with an Exposition of the Rise & Fall of Bundling in the Eastern Part of North America.
By Dana Doten, 1938
The Decline of Bundling
How short the time is from the generation of anything, unto the dissolution of the same; but how immense and infinite both that which was before the generation, and that which after the generation of it shall be. All things that thou seest, will soon be perished, and they that see their corruptions, will soon vanish away themselves. MARCUS AURELIUS, Meditations.
SINCE BUNDLING has never been treated by historians as a legitimate subject for academic research, there has been slight curiosity manifested about the causes for the decline of the custom. Even Stiles is content with rather offhand explanations, mentioning briefly the censure of the clergy, the general improvement in economic conditions after the Revolution, and attaching special importance to an anonymous ballad, printed in an almanac about 1785. Although the almanac has been lost, a broadside copy of the song is still preserved by the American Antiquarian Society, at Worcester, Massachusetts, and Stiles, in his day, was able to identify it with the aid of very old men then living. If bundling had been the interesting but slightly vulgar vagary which Stiles often appears to consider it, the practice might well have been laughed out of fashion by such clever satire. But burlesque was only an aspect, not a prime cause, of the decline of bundling, as we shall see. In any case, however, let's hear the ballad.
A New Bundling Song
OR A REPROOF TO THOSE YOUNG COUNTRY WOMEN, WHO
FOLLOW THAT REPROACHFUL PRACTICE, AND TO THEIR
MOTHERS FOR UPHOLDING THEM THEREIN.
Since bundling very much abounds,
In many parts in country towns,
No doubt but some will spurn my song,
And say Pd better bold my tongue;
But none I'm sure will take offence,
Or deem my song impertinence,
But only those who guilty be,
And plainly here their pictures see.
Some maidens say, if through the nation,
Bundling should quite go out of fashion,
Courtship would lose its sweets; and they
Could have no fun till wedding day.
It shan't be so, they rage and storm,
And country girls in clusters swarm,
And fly and buz, like angry bees,
And vow they'll bundle when they please.
Some mothers too, will plead their cause,
And give their daughters great applause,
And tell them, 'tis no sin nor shame,
For we, your mothers, did the same;
We hope the custom ne'er will alter,
But wish its enemies a halter.
Dissatisfaction great appeared,
In several places where they've heard
Their preacher's bold, aloud disclaim
That bundling is a burning shame;
This too was cause of direful rout
And talked and told of, all about,
That ministers should disapprove
Sparks courting in a bed of love,
So justified the custom more,
Than e'er was heard or known before.
The pulpit than it seems must yield,
And female valor take the field,
In places where there custom long
Increasing strength has grown so strong;
When mothers herein bear a sway,
And daughters joyfully obey.
And young men highly pleased too,
Good Lord! what can't the devil do.
Can this vile practice ne'er be broke?
Is there no way to give a stroke,
To wound it or to strike it dead.
And girls with sparks not go to bed
'Twill strike them more than preacher's tongue,
To let the world know what they've done,
And let it be in common fame,
Held up to view a noted shame.
Young miss if this your practice be,
I'll teach you now yourself to see:
You plead you're honest, modest too,
But such a plea will never do;
For how can modesty consist,
With shameful practice such as this?
I'll give your answer to the life:
"You don't undress, like man and wife,"
That is your plea, I'll freely own,
But whose your bondsmen when alone,
That further rules you will not break,
And marriage liberties partake?
Some really do, as 1 suppose,
Upon design keep on some clothes,
And yet in truth I'm not afraid
For to describe a bundling maid;
She'll sometimes say when she lies down,
She can't be cumber'd with a gown,
And that the weather is so warm,
To take it off can be no harm:
The girl it seems had been at strift;
For widest bosom to her shift,
She gownless, when the bed they're in,
The spark, nought feels but naked skin.
But she is modest, also chaste,
While only bare from neck to waist,
And he of boasted freedom sings,
Of all above her apron strings.
And where such freedoms great are shared,
And further freedoms feebly bar'd,
I leave for others to relate,
How long she'll keep her virgin state.
Another pretty lass we'll scan,
That loves to bundle with a man,
For many different ways they take,
Through modest rules they all will break.
Some clothes I'll keep on, she will say,
For that has always been my way,
Nor would I be quite naked found,
With spark in bed, for thousand pound.
But petticoats, I've always said,
Were never made to wear in bed,
I'll take them off, keep on my gown,
And then I dare defy the town,
To charge me with immodesty,
While I so ever cautious be.
The spark was pleased with his maid,
Of apprehension quick he said,
Her witty scheme was keen he swore,
Lying in gown open before.
Another maid when in the dark,
Going to bed with her dear spark,
She'll tell him that 'tis rather shocking,
To bundle in with shoes and stockings.
Nor scrupling but she's quite discreet,
Lying with naked legs and feet,
With petticoats so thin and short,
That she is scarce the better for't;
But you will say that I'm unfair,
That some who bundle take more care,
For some we may with truth suppose,
Bundle in bed with all their clothes.
But bundler's clothes are no defence,
Unly * horses push the fence;
A certain fact I'll now relate,
That's true indeed without debate.
A bundling couple went to bed,
With all their clothes from foot to head,
That the defence might seem complete,
Each one was wrapped in a sheet.
But O! this bundling's such a witch,
The man of her did catch the itch,
And so provoked was the wretch,
That she of him a bastard catch'd.
Ye bundling misses, don't you blush,
You hang your heads and bid me bush.
If you won't tell me how you feel,
I'll ask your sparks, they best can tell.
But it is custom you will say,
And custom always bears the sway,
If I won't take my sparks to bed,
A laughing stock I shall be made;
A vulgar custom 'tis, I own,
Admir'd by many a slut and clown,
But 'tis a method of proceeding,
As much abborr'd by those of breeding.
You're welcome to the lines I've penn'd,
For they were written by a friend,
Who'll think himself quite well rewarded,
If this vile practice is discarded.
*A typographical mistake for Unruly.
As all students of Pope know, the tone of eighteenth century satirical verse was seldom delicate. Popular verse must have been even less refined, and, when this technique was coupled with a subject so provocative as bundling, the result is, as in the above example, naturally rather forthright. The defenders of bundling were not slow to reply, and a rebuttal song of quite adequate virility was soon in circulation. We quote here from the copy "printed and sold by Nathaniel Coverly, Boston." This text, however, is but another version of a folk-ballad known as The Whore on the Snow Crust, which has been preserved, though somewhat imperfectly, by one Israel Perkins, who, when teaching school at the age of eighteen in 1786, transcribed the piece as best he could from memory. The verse quoted in Chapter I of this volume are from the Perkins' version.
Word of mouth circulation of such native classics must have been widespread and enthusiastic. Again we regret the century of suppression that has robbed us of so much genuine and hearty Americana. Perkins' version differs from the following mainly by the inclusion of a half-dozen stanzas which give specific examples of the poet's contention that sin may happen anywhere.
A New Song in Favour of Courting
Adam at first was form'd of dust,
As scripture doth record;
And did receive a wife call'd Eve,
From his Creator Lord.
From Adam's side a crooked bride,
The Lord was pleas'd to form;
Ordained that they in bed might lay
To keep each other warm.
To court indeed they had no need,
She was his wife at first,
And she was made to be his aid,
Whose origin was dust.
This new made pair full happy were,
And happy might remained,
If his help mate had never ate,
The fruit that was restrain'd.
Tho' Adam's wife destroyed his life,
In manner that was awful;
Yet marriage now we all allow
To be both just and lawful.
But women must be courted first,
Because it is the fashion,
And so at times commit great crimes,
Caus'd by a lustful passion.
And now a days there are two ways,
Which of the two is right,
To lie between sheets sweet and clean,
Or sit up all the night?
But some suppose bundling in clothes
Do heaven sorely vex;
Then let me know which way to go,
To court the female sex.
Whether they must be huggd or kiss'd
When sitting by the fire,
Or whether they in bed may lay,
Which doth the Lord require?
But some pretend to recommend
The sitting up all night;
Courting in chairs as doth appear
To them to be most right.
Nature's request is, grant me rest,
Our bodies seek repose;
Night is the time, and 'tis no crime
To bundle in your clothes.
Since in a bed a man and maid,
May bundle and be chaste,
It does no good to bum out wood,
It is a needless waste.
Let coats and gowns be laid aside,
And breeches take their flight,
An honest man and woman can
Lay quiet all the night.
In Genesis no knowledge is
Of this thing to be got,
Whether young men did bundle then,
Or whether they did not.
The sacred book says wives they took,
It don't say how they courted,
Whether that they in bed did lay,
Or by the fire sported.
But some do hold in times of old,
That those about to wed,
Spent not the night, nor yet the light
By fire, or in the bed.
They only meant to say they sent
A man to chuse a bride,
Isaac did so, but let me know
Of any one beside.
Man don't pretend to trust a friend,
To choose him sheep and cows,
Much less a wife which all his life
He doth expect to house.
Since it doth stand each man in hand,
To happify his life,
I would advise each to be wise,
And chuse a prudent wife.
Since bundling is not the thing,
That judgments will procure,
Go on young men and bundle then,
But keep your bodies pure.
The clerical opposition to bundling requires a brief analysis, but, since we are recording bundling songs, perhaps we should complete our presentation by including at this time the following, written about 1800 by "a learned and distinguished gentleman settled in Bristol County, Massachusetts, who was a graduate of Harvard University, and a doctor of divinity":
A Poem Against Bundling
DEDICATED TO YE YOUTH OF BOTH SEXES
Hail giddy youth, inclined to mirth,
To guilty amours prone,
And blush with me, to think and see
How shameless you are grown.
'Tis not amiss to court and kiss,
Nor friendship do we blame,
But bundling in, women with men,
Upon the bed of shame;
And there to lay till break of day,
And think it is no sin,
Because a smock and petticoat
Have chanced to lie between.
Such rank disgrace and scandal base,
All modest youth will shun,
For 'twill infest, like plague or pest,
And you will be undone.
Let boars and swine lie down and twine,
And grunt, and sleep, and snore,
But modest girls should not wear tails
Nor bristles any more.
Let rams and sheep mount up and leap,
Without restraint or blame,
But will young men act just like them?
Oh! 'Tis a burning shame!
It Is not strange that horses range
Unfettered to the last,
But youthful lusts in fetters must
Be chained to virtue fast.
Dogs and bitches wear no britches,
Clothing for man was made.
Yet men and 'women strip to their linen,
And tumble into bed.
Yes, brutal youth, it is the truth,
Your modesty is gone,
And could you blush, you'd think as much,
And curse what you have done.
To have done so some years ago,
Was counted more disgrace
Than 'tis of late to propagate
A spurious bastard race.
Quit human kind and herd with swine,
Confess yourself an whore;
Go fill the stye, there live and die,
Or never bundle more.
Shall gentlemen and ladies join
To practice like the brutes,
Then let them keep with cattle and sheep,
And fodder on their fruits.
This cursed course is one great source.
Of matches undesigned,
Quarrels and strife twixt man and wife,
And bastards of their kind.
But in excuse of this abuse,
It oftentimes is said,
Father and mother did no other
Than strip and go to bed.
But grant some did as you have said,
Yet do they not repent,
And wish that you may never do
What they so much lament?
A stupid ass can't he more base,
Than are those guilty youth
Who fill with smart a parent's heart,
And turn it into mirth.
Others do plead hard for the bed,
Their health and weariness,
So drunkards will drink down their swill,
And call it no excess.
Under pretense of self-defense,
Others will scold and say,
An honest maid is chaste abed
As any other way.
But where's the man that fire can
Into his bosom take,
Or go through coals on his foot soles
And not a blister make?
Temptation's way has led astray
The likeliest of you all,
And yet you'r found on slippery ground,
And think you cannot fall.
A female meek, with blushing cheek,
Seized in some lovers arms,
Has oft grown weak with Cupids heat,
And lost her virgin charms.
But last of all, up speaks romp Moll
And pleads to be excused,
For how can she e'er married be,
If bundling be refused?
What strange mistake young women make,
To hope for sparks this way!
Your fond bold acts can't lay a tax
That men will ever pay.
So cheap and free some women be,
That men are cloyed with sweet,
As horse or cow starve at the mow
With fodder under feet.
'Tis therefore vain yourselves to screen,
The practice is accursed,
It is condemned by God and man,
The pious and the just.
Should you go on, the day will come,
When Christ your judge will say,
In bundles bind each of this kind,
And cast them all away.
Down deep in hell there let them dwell,
And bundle on that bed;
There burn and roll without control
'Till all their lusts are fed.
The reader has undoubtedly by now heard quite enough of the influence of religion in Colonial times, but, since the Puritan clergy have been credited with the destruction of bundling, we must pause a moment over that theory.
We have witnessed both the power of Puritanism and its obsession with sin; that the pulpit should have fought bundling, and fought hard, was only to be expected. Bundling was not only a tempting-it was an open pleasure. Puritanism was allergic to it on both grounds.
Especially during the Great Awakening did bundling come under the direct fire of clerical eloquence. All religious revivals consist of frontal attacks on sin (as all political revivals square off against privilege). But even those of us who remember camp-meeting exhortations have much to learn of what a real war against Satan sounds like. Jonathan Edwards was fond of discussing the behavior of his congregation (perhaps the bundling behavior) in the following candid terms.
"And what abominable lasciviousness have some of you been guilty of! How have you indulged yourself from day to day, and from night to night, in all manner of unclean imaginations! Has not your soul been filled with them, till it has become a hold of foul spirits, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird? What foul-mouthed persons have some of you been, often in lewd and lascivious talk and unclean songs, wherein were things not to be spoken! ... And what unclean acts and practices have you denied yourself with! God and your consciences know what abominable lasciviousness you have practiced in things not fit to be named, when you have been alone;... What vile uncleanness have you practiced in company! What abominations have you been guilty of in the dark! Some of you have corrupted others, and done what in you lay to undo their souls (if you have not actually done it); and by your vile practices and examples have made room for Satan, and invited his presence, and established his interest, in the town where you have lived."
No wonder that Northampton, after more than twenty years of such preaching, decided in 1750 to let Edwards go, preferring the risk of a future hell to the reality of a current one. And, even as Edwards, the greatest Colonial reformer, found worse viciousness to be combated among his flock towards the end than he had when he began, so one may conjecture that the Puritan pulpit never effectually diminished the practice of bundling by threats of damnation. In fact, the grip of the Church on the lives of the people was lessening all through the eighteenth century; and, if bundling could not be prevented by Cotton Mather, it seems hardly probable that it was exorcised by Jonathan Edwards.
When pondering the theory that the improved standards of living which followed the Revolution naturally contributed to the decline of bundling, it is necessary to remember that this improvement did not for a long time affect the lives of country people. Town houses became rapidly more comfortable, more luxurious, but farm houses remained unaltered for almost another generation. There is certainly no correlation between the decline of bundling and, for instance, the general adoption of stoves or better lighting in rural sections.
City people, those who lived in the prosperous seacoast towns like Salem and Boston and New York, were by 1790 well-supplied with those domestic conveniences the scarcity of which had helped to produce bundling-ample room, enough beds, plentiful fuel, and the rest. Can it be that bundling simply went out of fashion? Is it preposterous to suggest that the "best people" gradually became more and more intolerant of a custom which had long ago ceased to be useful to them?
Peters, we recall, bluntly makes such a charge, when he attributes urban scorn of bundling to the possession of sofas. There is no evidence that bundling suffered from class distinctions while rich and poor alike were forced to content themselves with the Spartan severity of the pioneer settle.
This is perhaps no more than a random notion, but, if true, it would be far from a unique instance of a dog-in-the-manger attitude on the part of the aristocracy when lower-class morals are in question. "Let them use sofas!" might spring as naturally to cultured lips as "let them eat cake!"
We do know that no satirical poems were printed till bundling was definitely declasse with the "better element" in Colonial society. Without risking a dogmatic assertion here, we might safely suppose that fashion came to religion's aid, and enlisted satire in the common cause. Perhaps none of these allies alone could have prevailed against bundling-united they were potent.
The Revolutionary War itself must likewise be counted as a factor, if for no other reason than that the decline of bundling so shortly followed the end of hostilities. Bundling was by definition a provincial, a local habit. The unsettled conditions of war affected it drastically. With young men torn from their own villages, with young women separated from their accepted suitors, with armies of strangers marching the countryside, with excitement and danger and suspicion in the air; with seven or eight years of such confusion, bundling entered a stretch of rough and dangerous water. It could only survive by sacrificing some of its simplicity, if not its purity. And that is precisely the type of survival which occurred. The history of bundling after 1800 is the story of gradual weakening of moral fibre, as well as of gradual retreat geographically into the wilder and more remote sections of the country.
Let us follow for a moment this demoralized retreat, as it is occasionally illuminated by the evidence introduced in legal trials. In 1804 the Supreme Court of New York ruled in the case of Seager vs. Sligerland. An excerpt from the report shows that bundling was still the unchallenged custom in certain parts of the state. "This was an action for debauching the plaintiff's daughter, whereby he lost her service, and was put to expense in her lying in, &c.
"The defendant applied, on a case made and submitted without argument, to set aside the verdict, which was for 450 dollars, as being contrary to law, against evidence, and because the damages were excessive.
"At the trial the plaintiff's principal witness was his own daughter. She testified that the defendant, after a promise of marriage, frequently lay with her, and at length got her with child. That long before this period, the plaintiff and his wife knew that she and the defendant slept together at their house, without forbidding or discountenancing the intercourse. That before her pregnancy, her mother, in particular, had twice seen them in bed together.
"Per Curiam. From the summary of the testimony we are constrained to say, there ought to have been a verdict for the defendant. In actions of this nature, the daughter is supposed to be violated with force, against the will and consent of the father. It is then, and then only, that he is entitled to compensation for the loss of her service. But when he consents or connives at the criminal intercourse, he seeks with very ill grace a retribution in damages. Volenti non fit injuria. If he be not particeps criminis, he is something very like it. His assurance in coming here for redress can be equaled only by the indifference with which he submitted to the sacrifice of his daughter's chastity. We lay out of view the custom which it is agreed prevails in that part of the country, for young people, who are courting, to sleep together; nor can we conceive why this custom has been pressed into the plaintiff's service. If it furnishes an excuse for his carelessness, or his daughter's indiscretion, it is some apology also for the defendant."
No question was raised, it will be noted, as to the existence of bundling; only its relevance is an issue.
A generation later further evidence of the decline of bundling in upper New York State came to light when Rev. George Smith of Granville was tried by the Methodist Episcopal Church Conference, one of the charges being that he had "upheld whoredom." In a pamphlet protesting his exclusion from the church as a result of this trial, Smith printed some of the evidence, together with his own denials and defense. The tract, published in thought there was no harm in such a practice. He said no -it was a common practice in Hartford and Granville. As we passed through the bars, I expressed my astonishment; and he said there was no harm, for he used to do so himself when he was a young man, before he got religion. I went into the house. He told me the act was not contrary to Discipline or Scripture. After quarterly conference, Br. Smith took me out of doors, and said he had nothing against me. I then said to him, 'I have nothing against you only your advocating that infamous practice.' 'Why,' said he, 'the young people do so at camp meeting.' Roswell Kelly said he heard the defendant say the same about camp meetings."
Smith gives us his side of the case as follows. "The defendant recollects very well what he said about camp meeting. It was maintained by Kelly and Coleman that the act of Mr. Lamb, in lying on the bed with M. Qua, was sufficient to convict him of whoredom, in a civil court. The defendant told them he thought not; but if it was, then persons at camp meetings were guilty of the same crime; for he had known young men and women lie on the same bed together at camp meetings." A further stage in the decline of bundling is represented by the case of Graham vs. Smith, argued before Judge Edmunds in the Orange Circuit Court of New York State in 1846, or about a generation later.
"This action was brought by the plaintiff for the seduction of his daughter, a girl of about nineteen years of age. "The defense set up was the consent of the plaintiff. "The defendant was a young man living in the neighborhood, and became in the habit of visiting the daughter, and when he did visit her, he stayed until a late hour at night, and sometimes all night, generally blowing out the light, and sitting in the dark, sometimes in the same room in which plaintiff and his wife slept, and sometimes in an adjoining room, the only access to which was through the room in which plaintiff slept. Both rooms had beds in them, and they sometimes laid down on them together, but generally sat in each other's laps, and taking great liberties with each other's persons.
"All this was well known to the plaintiff, and he once advised his daughter that 'when Jess. Smith came to stay with her she had better have it in his room; that was the way his sister did.'
"In answer to this defense, several witnesses-among them three married women, who were mothers, and the wives of respectable farmers in the neighborhood-testified that that manner of courtship was the universal custom of the country; and one of the married women, who was fifty-six years old, said that such had been the custom since she was young; and she added, 'they sit in a room, alone, and blow out the candle, and having a bed in the room is no killing matter.' All the witnesses agreed in saying that a girl's thus 'staying with' the young men did not affect her character any.
"The Judge charged the jury that it had long ago been well settled as the law in this State, that if the parent in any way consented to or connived at his daughter's having criminal conversation with a man, he could have no redress against the man, however certain might be his loss of her service, or however serious to her the loss of reputation and position in society.
"The rule was a wise one, for it was calculated, by its appeals to self interest, to warn parents to be more earnest in teaching their daughters modesty and purity, and to be more watchful over their chastity than the customs of the society in which they moved might seem to demand. And since its first promulgation among us, some fifty years ago, it had undoubtedly had its effect.
"Some of the early settlers of this country, from the continent of Europe, had brought with them the immodest and dangerous custom which had been proved in this case, and about the time of the Revolution it was generally prevalent in the Dutch settlements on both sides of the Hudson River, insomuch that the idea that there was any thing wrong in it, did not prevail to a great extent, and even mothers thought it was 'no killing matter' to subject their young unmarried daughters to temptation, and behold them, without concern, surrounded by all the appliances to a fall from virtue.
"Fortunately, however, the rule of law referred to, rigidly enforced as it has been, and the advancing refinement and education of the people have caused the almost entire extinction of the custom. From the facts of this trial, it would, however, seem that the remains of it still linger in the land-back in the woods, and among the mountains, not habitually accessible to the moving, advancing world outside.
"But however great or limited its prevalence, it affords no excuse for a parent's remissness, or for his heedlessness as to his daughter's chastity-forms no exception to the rule that his consent to, or connivance at, her fall, deprives him of all remedy for the consequences." Bundling was, therefore, still extant in northern New York state shortly before the Civil War. In other sections, in Vermont, in Maine, on Cape Cod, the custom lingered on during the nineteenth century, often losing caste but frequently clinging stubbornly to its former respectable reputation. The progress westward is a story in itself. Logically enough the emigrants who pushed across the Mississippi and peopled the western plains carried with them at least remnants of bundling; and the custom doubtless proved appropriate to the new frontier, as it had to the old. There is much work to be done in following the trail of bundling into the northwest. At the present time we have scant evidence to guide us. But we can be sure the covered wagons carried bundling beds.
Partly as an antidote to slightly sordid legal history, the following letter is welcome. It was printed in the Waverly Magazine of Boston, in 1865, and, although not strictly a bundling document, it does carry a genuine bundling mood, does illustrate the survival of the bundling philosophy in the "wild west."
"I haven't dated this letter because I don't know where I am.. I am about nine miles from Julesburg at a little settlement on the South Platte River.... I am stopping at a little hotel about ten by thirty feet. The landlord is from Pennsylvania and seems to be doing a thriving business. It is just large enough for the bed and candle-box, set on a chair, upon which I am writing this letter. It is in one end of the building and separated from the next room by a bedquilt, which you must crawl under to come in or go out. But it is my room, and, after the jolting I have had upon the pony, I expect to have a good night's-
"Was ever a poor pilgrim in such a fix? Just as I had written 'night's' above, and had 'sleep' on the point of my pen, I heard a knock on the floor outside the bedquilt. " 'Crawl under!' said I. "Enters the landlord's daughter, a buxom young lady about seventeen years of age. She opened her rosy lips and spake as follows:
" 'Mister, don't take off your clothes when you go to bed.'
" 'Because I am going to sleep with you tonight.'
" 'Well, if you have no better reason than that-'
" 'Hush! Shut up! You told Pa you would not sleep with a man!'
" 'I had rather sleep with a wet dog.'
" 'Well, I have given up my bed to a sick man. I have been hard at work all day, and I have to work hard all day tomorrow, and I can't afford to stay up all night. That bed is wide enough for us both. I shall stay on the back side, and if you don't stay on your side, you'd better, that's all.'
"As she said this she raised from her dress an internal jacknife, such as farmers used in trimming fruit-trees, and then let it fall back with a chug. I comprehended the situation in half a moment, and unto the maiden I quoted as follows:
" 'Miss young lady, your intentions may, or may not, be honorable. My natural protectors are miles and miles away, beyond the boundless prairie, ignorant of the perils which beset their idol. Thus far I have not been insulted by your sex. I am a man of few words, but they are always emphatic. I will give you part of that bed, and that's all I will do. If you attempt, during the silent watches of the night, anything contrary to this firm determination, by St. Joseph, my patron saint, I will shoot you right through the mid-riff.'
"As I concluded, I laid a Slocum pistol upon the candlebox. A low chuckle outside the bedquilt gave evidence that paterfamilias had heard and approved the arrangement.
"My antagonist laughed, and saying, 'Mister, I reckon we understand each other,' bounced over the back side of the bed."
Do you not find the tone familiar? Who but Mark Twain ever wrote dialogue like this? If we cannot credit this superb American repartee to his pen, we can at least heartily regret his never openly letting himself go on similar aspects of frontier life.
In recent times Pennsylvania has taken the lead in bundling. And there, the situation is rather complicated.
In Chapter 2 we discussed the migration of German Protestants to Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn, and the direct importation of bundling thereby effected. Western Pennsylvania provided a safe refuge for small German sects like the Amish and Mennonites. To this day they preserve their distinctive way of life, their own peculiar garments and folk-customs and forms of worship. And they bundle.
The chief authority on Pennsylvania bundling is A. Monroe Aurand, Jr. of Harrisburg, who has issued through the Aurand Press in the last ten years half a dozen books and pamphlets largely concerned with accounts of contemporary bundling. There is seemingly no lack of direct evidence in this region, as both Aurand's informants and the files of local newspapers generously attest. Clearly, here in Pennsylvania we find the most complete and most interesting example of bundling survival in America. The phenomenon is accounted for by what might be termed the folk-tenacity of these odd, Pennsylvania Dutch sectarians. More fortunate than the Mormons, they have been permitted to retain their own special code of conduct. Until Aurand's research brought them to public attention the Amish had enjoyed a long, peaceful, and obscure bundling history.
It is necessary only to point out that many popular notions about bundling have been derived from this Pennsylvania material, and that, whereas Colonial bundling and Pennsylvania Dutch bundling share a common philosophy, the details of the two techniques are often quite dissimilar. One must beware, therefore, of attributing specific characteristics of this modern custom to the practice as it existed in the Colonial period.
If we take as a norm the Classic Period of American Bundling, in New England in the mid-eighteenth century, we perceive at once that surviving Pennsylvania practices vary widely from this standard. The question of the "bundling-board" is a case in point. It is often assumed that the bundling-board was a normal accessory in Colonial days, that a plank was almost invariably slid into place between the two lovers. But there are no contemporary references to such a contrivance; it appears only in the literature of recent Pennsylvania bundling. The only known description of a bundling-board actually existing today speaks of the plank as being unpainted in and of a different type of wood from the bed itself, which is considered to have been made in the 1830's. All the evidence points to a nineteenth century origin, probably a late nineteenth century origin for the bundling-board. And its use seems rather definitely limited to Pennsylvania. Finally, the burden of proof lies with the bundling-board enthusiasts to establish that such planks, if really employed, were intended as bundling barriers at all. They might have been constructed simply to separate children sleeping together, or for some other logical and innocuous reason.
From Pennsylvania also come stories of a prodigious variety of bundling garments-almost every sort of courting uniform apparently being in at least experimental use. Whether one interprets these costumes as German ingenuity or as evidence of a decadent stage in bundling, it is again a mistake to refer them back to the Classic Period which we have been studying. This type of remote control, this robot chaperonage is scarcely consistent with the principles of an honor system, such as bundling at its height really was.
Diverse variations have been played on the bundling theme in Pennsylvania. "Professional bundlers" were said to roam the countryside seeking the "bundling light", a candle set in the window of willing maidens; at one time group bundling, a sequel to sleigh-rides, apparently became so popular that at least one hotel was obliged to forbid bundling by guests. The list might be extended.
In general, Pennsylvania bundling lore is diverting but slightly confusing to the student of the Colonial period. Only after a thorough study of Amish and Mennonite culture, and only after making allowances for the century and a half which separate us from the Classic Period, can we appraise this contemporary bundling in terms of its Colonial counterpart.
Bundling survives elsewhere, of course. "Back in the woods, and among the mountains", as Judge Edmunds said, there are bundling groups which still defy our twentieth century customs. Sociologists will eventually find them out; writers will publicize them; newsreel photographers will doubtless make the most of them. But, for all practical purposes, this history of the decline of bundling may logically terminate with the Amish bundlers, with the staunch last stand of German bundling in America.
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