Object Name:
Decanter
Measurements:
10"
Material:
Blown Glass
Creation:

American

Tags:
Temperance; 19th Century Reform; Samuel Mazzuchelli
Dates:
Late 18th - Early 19th Century
Credit Line:
Mrs. Edwin B. Gute
Object ID:
M2018

Not long after our previous Artifact Ambassador’s story, Juliette Kinzie found herself in another unique social situation.  The Kinzies fostered a special friendship with a Ho-Chunk woman who had a particular fascination with the ways of the whites.  To the Kinzies, her name—given her by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a traveling missionary—was Charlotte.  On one of Charlotte’s visits to the Kinzies’ home, she requested to watch how white women cleansed their clothes on washing day.  Juliette granted her request, and Charlotte eagerly joined the Kinzies’ servants in their day’s work, having been provided with her own wash tub.

After a period of misunderstanding, Charlotte took to washing with vigor.  Eventually, she became overexerted.  Juliette wrote of her intent to provide Charlotte with a refreshing sip of wine or brandy.  Finding only a bottle of orange shrub in her pantry, she filled a glass for the visitor.  Juliette relayed, “She [Charlotte] took it with an expression of great pleasure; but in carrying it to her lips, she stopped short and exclaiming, ‘Whiskey!’ immediately returned it to me….pointing to her crucifix [another of Mazzuchelli’s gifts] she shook her head and returned to her work.”  This was apparently the first time Juliette had witnessed abstinence from drinking based expressly on “religious principle.”  Juliette found this personal conviction in Charlotte quite noteworthy.

The world of John and Juliette Kinzie—especially in her native New England—was in turmoil over this very issue.  The Second Great Awakening spawned many new social reform societies in America, especially the Northeast.  Temperance—one of the defining movements of this era—exploded in popularity on the American scene.  A yearly average of seven gallons of alcohol per-capita in 1825 plummeted to less than two gallons per-capita within two decades through grassroots movements and the work of revivalists such as Charles Finney and Lyman Beecher.  While Juliette had not previously observed the principled rejection of spirits, her knowledge of this movement as a whole must have made this particular occurrence all the more striking.

This week’s Artifact Ambassador is an early blown-glass decanter with applied neck rings and a fine mushroom-style stopper.  Decanters have been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to serve as an intermediate container between the barrel and the drinking glass.  Regardless of the reform movements, this type of decanter would have been a common site in many homes, even of those opposed to the excesses of alcohol.    To guide its use, social rules arose.  In the Kinzie family, for example, a distinction was made both in terms of use (social and medicinal) and the user (with male drinking more acceptable than the consumption of alcohol by females). 

This Ambassador thus represents an era in which accepted social traditions were being challenged in many ways.  In the Kinzies’ story, this shift in social norms manifested itself in an unexpected way within the interactions of Indigenous and Euro-American cultures.  The realm of social customs and standards of morality was, indeed, highly complex and unsettled at the time of this Ambassador’s manufacture.

A Touch of Temperance

October 1, 2019

The Historic Indian Agency House

1490 Agency House Road, Portage, WI 53901

historicindianagencyhouse@gmail.com

608.742.6362

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