November 30, 2011

Colonial Rules for Children

A Pretty Little Pocket-book was one of the first books published that was specifically for children. It was published by John Newbery, who pioneered children's literature in the 1700s.The book teaches the alphabet using rhymes and includes a lot of images. 

The book includes a curious "letter" from "Jack the Giant-Killer" (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame) to instruct children to behave well. Even then, "favorite characters" were used to teach children valuable lessons.


The book came with a red and black, stuffed ball or "pin cushion" that was used as a behavior tool. If a little girl was good, her nanny or mother was supposed to put a pin on the red side of  her pincushion if she was bad, on the black side. When the girl got all 10 pins on the red side, it was recommended that the parents gave the girl a penny. The "ball" was the same as the pincushion but was called a ball due to gender norms of the time.

Lessons found in A Pretty Little Pocket-Book:

Rise Early in the Morning. Pg. 16
Keep themselves clean. Pg. 16
Study and learn their lessons. Pg. 16
Apologize for wrongs. Pg. 16
Not to swear or tell lies. Pg. 16
Say their Prayers. Pg. 19.

Rules for Behavior

  • “Make a Bow always when you come Home, and become instantly uncovered.”  Pg. 98
  • “Never set in the Presence of thy Parents without bidding, though no stranger be present.”  Pg. 98
  • “If thou art going to speak to thy parents, and see them engaged in Discourse with Company, draw back and leave thy Business until afterwards ; but if thou must speak, be sure to whisper.” Pg. 99
  • “Never speak to thy Parents without some Title of Respect, viz. Sir, Madam, &c. according to their quality.” Pg 99
  • “Approach near thy Parents at no Time without a Bow.” Pg. 99
  • “Dispute not, nor delay to obey the Commands of thy Parents.” Pg. 99
  • “Come not into the Room where thy Parents are with Strangers, unless thou art called, and then decently ; and at bidding go out ; or if Strangers come in while thou art with them, it is Manners with a Bow to withdraw.” Pg. 99
  • “Quarrel not nor contend with thy Brethren or Sisters, but live in Love, Peace and Unity.” Pg. 100
  • “Grumble not, nor be discontented at any Thing thy Parents appoint, speak or do.” Pg. 100
  • “Come not to the Table without having your Hands and Face washed, and your Head combed.” Pg. 101
  • “Sit not down until thou art bidden by thy Parents or other Superiors.” Pg. 101
  • “Be sure thou never sittest down until a Blessing be desired, and then in thy due Place.” Pg. 101
  • “Ask not for any Thing, but tarry until it be offered thee.” Pg. 102
  • “Find no fault with any Thing that is given you.” Pg. 102
  • “Speak not at the Table ; if thy Superiors be discoursing, meddle not with the Matter ; but be silent, except thou are spoken unto.” Pg. 102
  • “Eat not too fast or with greedy behavior.” Pg. 102
  • “Eat not too much, but moderately.” Pg. 102
  • “Eat not so slow as to make others wait for thee.” Pg. 102
  • “Make not a Noise with thy Tongue, Mouth, Lips or Breath, in eating or drinking.” Pg. 103
  • “Lean not thy Elbow on the Table, or on the Back of the Chair.” Pg. 103
  • “Blow not thy Meat, but with Patience wait until it be cool.” Pg. 103
  • “Throw not any Thing under the Table.” Pg. 103
  • “Frown not nor murmur if there be any Thing at the Table which thy Parents, or Strangers with them, eat of, while thou thyself hast none given to thee.” Pg. 10

A Pretty Little Pocket-Book Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Polly. With Two Letters from Jack the Giant-Killer as also A Ball and Pin Cushion; The use of which will infallibly make Tommy a good Boy, and Polly a good Girl (1787.)


  1. Printed and posted on our fridge!

  2. Love it. It's interesting to note the manners that have stuck with us.

    1. Those rules are nothing like now

    2. wow! nothing like our rules!!!


  3. “Throw not any Thing under the Table.” ??? Hmmm...methinks I hear a canine protest.

  4. Ken, I was originally researching this as a list of rules to teach the school children when they come to our historic site. :D

    “Grumble not, nor be discontented at any Thing thy Parents (or your tour guides) appoint, speak or do.”

  5. Jacqui, I think so too. There is a little dog in that first image.

  6. Ahhhh I can't believe how many of your wonderful posts I've missed! Such good stuff. I was surprised about the table manners part (e.g. 101). I thought colonial children were not permitted to sit at the table at all until they were of a certain age. Have I been wrong in my information? I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. You have to come visit Bron and I soon.

    1. I can't belive how many rules they have is there any more? I'm only 10 years old.

  7. Hey Jodi! We've missed you. I believe that they had to be invited, but once there, all of those other rules applied. They wouldn't be invited if they would misbehave or be an embarrassment.

  8. WOW!!! Interesting.


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