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Soap Making: The American Colonies - 09/06/2013


At first the earliest settlers simply brought a plentiful supply of soap along with them. The Talbot, a ship chartered by the Massachusetts Bay Company to carry persons and supplies from England to its colonies at Naumbeak now known as Salem and Boston, listed among its cargo 2 firkins of soap. A firkin is an old measurement which was a wooden, hooped barrel of about nine gallon capacity. John Winthrop, who was to become the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when writing to his wife in 1630 from Boston included soap in a list of necessities to be brought on her crossing to the New world.

After the colonists were settled and had been able to survive the first years of hardships, they found it more advantageous to make soap themselves using the copious amount of wood ashes, a natural result of their homesteading activities. With also a plentiful supply of animal fat from the butchering of the animals they used for food, the colonists had on hand all the ingredients for soap making. They did not have to rely on waiting for soap to be shipped from England and waste their goods or few pieces of currency in trade for soap.

Soap with some work and luck could be made for free. Soap making was performed as a yearly or semiannual event on the homesteads of the early settlers. As the butchering of animals took place in the fall, soap was made at that time on many homesteads and farms to utilize the large supply of tallow and lard that resulted. On the homes or farms where butchering was not done, soap was generally made in the spring using the ashes from the winter fires and the waste cooking grease, that had accumulated throughout the year.

 

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