LeRoy Historical Society - page 2

Page 2
(continued on page 4)
This summer, during our Summer
Exhibit on “play” the LeRoy bedroom
on the second floor will be trans-
formed into the children’s room of
1837. At that time, there were seven
LeRoy children. Thomas was 14. Au-
gustus was 13. Charlotte was 11 and
Helen was 9. Catherine was 7. Ed-
ward was 4, and Louisa was the baby.
(Two other girls, Caroline and Julia
had died young and were buried in
the old St. Mark’s graveyard.) There is
mention that Thomas and Augustus
attended school at the old Round
House on West Main Street. The girls
were probably schooled at home.
There are no diaries or letters from
the LeRoy family that can give a
glimpse of the children’s upbring-
ing or activities. The exhibit at Le-
Roy House relies on two books: “The
Boy’s Own Book” by William Clarke
which was published in New York
and Boston in 1829 and “The Girl’s
Own Book”by Lydia Maria Child pub-
lished in 1833. Both books outline
a wide variety of activities, sports,
games and pastimes appropriate for
children at that time. Lydia Child was
quick to point out that some of the
activities and games included in her
book might be considered too stren-
uous or might make children rude
and disorderly. But she continues:
“In this land of precarious fortunes,
every girl should know how to be use-
ful; amid the universal dissemination
of knowledge, every mind should seek
to improve itself to the utmost; and
in this land of equality, as much time
should be devoted to elegant accom-
plishments, reined taste and graceful-
ness of manner as can be possibly be
spared for holier and more important
duties. In this country it is peculiarly
necessary that daughters should be
so educated as to enable them to ful-
fill the duties of a humble station, or to
dignify and adorn the highest.” Wil-
liam Clarke adds: “the scholastic disci-
pline wisely allots certain hours in the
day for recreation; they (boys) should
be employed in healthful and agree-
able pastime, so as to render the boy
prepared to return with mental vigor
to his books . . .“
Children were encouraged to go
outside. Lydia Child wrote
“Walking
and other out-of-door exercise cannot
be too much recommended to young
people. Even
skating
, driving
hoop
,
and other boyish sports may be prac-
ticed to great advantage by little girls
provided they can be pursued within
the enclosure of a garden, or court;
in the street they would of course be
highly improper. It is true, such games
are rather violent and sometimes
noisy; but they tend to forma vigorous
constitution and girls who are habitu-
ally lady-like will never allow them-
selves to be rude and vulgar, even in
play.”
The LeRoy House had two gal-
leries connected to the back porch
that extended toward the back of
the property and enclosed a court-
yard behind the house that would
have allowed the LeRoy girls to play
within a courtyard. But it’s probable
that the girls might have gone on
walks with the governess through
the orchards and gardens that sur-
rounded the LeRoy House. The Girls
Own Book also encourages girls to
take an interest in gardening and
provides instructions for making
baskets out of lavender stalks. There
were many other outdoor activities
appropriate for girls.
Swinging
– although it is men-
tioned that it could be dangerous
if the girls tried to swing too high.
Both boys and girls could play on a
teeter-totter
or the see-saw.
Both boys and girls were encour-
aged to take up
archery
.
It’s rather curious that the image in
the Boy’s Own Book shows William
Tell shooting an apple off his son’s
head! Girls were encouraged to take
up archery because:
“Of all things in
the world, health is the most important.
I fear that little girls do not take suffi-
cient exercise in the open air.
“Everybody knows how to trundle the
Hoop
in the usual way; several pairs of
tin squares are sometimes nailed to the
inner part of the hoop which produce,
in the opinion of some lads, an agree-
able jingle. In some parts of England,
some boys drive their hoops against
“Let’s Play” - 1837
Staffordshire plate illustrating women
engaged in archery.
1 3,4,5,6
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