7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Colonial Cradles

Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.

Sleep, my babe; thy food and raiment,
House and home, thy friends provide;
All without thy care or payment:
All thy wants are well supplied.

— From “A Cradle Hymn” by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)

The first time I saw a colonial cradle, I was visiting the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Concord, Massachusetts.
Nathaniel Hawthorne Home, Concord, MA
I was just a young girl and I can still see the rich, dark wood, so smoothly crafted with loving care. I remember imagining the children of the household that were rocked to sleep within the comforting confines. Seeing that cradle brought to life tender traces of the love and care of the people who had lived there. I cherished that memory long into adulthood, when I named my own son “Nathaniel.” And I still eagerly drink in the images of antique cradles wherever I see them.

Peregrine White's Wicker Cradle

The first cradle in America came over on the Mayflower in 1620. It was the Dutch wicker bed that soothed the first child born to the Pilgrims in the New World: Peregrine White. The young boy was birthed onboard the wooden vessel as it docked in Cape Cod Bay. It can still be seen at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Most of the cradles made in the colonies were wrought from wood and the designs ranged from plain, solid boards, to engraved embellishments along the panels, to spindled sides similar to modern crib designs.

Author Eric Sloan in American Yesterday wrote, “At one time or another, cradles have been attached to butter churns, turnspits, dog mills, and even windmill gears to give them automatic movement, but the simple rocker cradle remained in the American household for over two centuries before its disappearance.”

A rather unique cradle, thought to have multiple uses for nursing mothers, twins or invalids, was the “adult cradle.” These wooden cradles were about the size of a single bed, but built closer to the floor.

According to Jack Larkin in The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790 – 1840, not every infant slept in a cradle in Early America. “…it was common, noted the physician and reformer William Alcott in 1830, for an American mother to ‘sleep with her infant on her arm,’ and children often shared the parental bed until they were weaned.”

Cradle from Storrowton Village Museum

But whether some infants shared their parents’ bed or not, the cradle seemed to be the predominant shelter for little ones while they slept.

Shirley Glubock in Home and Child Life in Colonial Days writes:

“Nothing could be prettier than the old cradles that have survived successive years of use with many generations of babies….In these cradles the colonial baby slept, warmly wrapped in a homespun blanket or pressed quilt.”

How much better thou’rt attended
Than the Son of God could be,
When from heaven he descended
And became a child like thee!

Soft and easy is thy cradle:
Coarse and hard thy Savior lay
When His birthplace was a stable
And His softest bed was hay.

— From “A Cradle Hymn” by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)


  1. Love the verses...much better than Mother Goose.
    That cradle is so pretty. I have a cradle that my mom and aunt made for my oldest child...I will be using it for my two new grandbabies when they visit me. :)

  2. I agree with Debbie, those verses are gorgeous! Wow! And I do wish I could have had a cradle like that, how sweet they look--and I love that they were hand made with love for their children.
    What a great post! Thank you!

  3. Chaplain Debbie, what a lovely family heirloom to hand down through the generations! I wish you could post a photo of it for us! :) Thanks for coming by.

    1. I posted a picture of the cradle on your Facebook wall, Elaine.

  4. Thank you, Amber. The verses are amazing. But then, the composer was certainly a gifted writer. We are so blessed that words live on long after a person's years on earth are ended. Thanks for coming by!

  5. I love reading about cradles! My mother-in-law gave me the cradle that my father-in-law was rocked in to use for all my kids. It's a cute little miniature bed. I'm sure it would somehow be considered "unsafe" today, but I put every one of my 4 kids into it, knowing their grandfather was rocked in it also. Great memories and it will be fun to pass down!
    Love the verses. :)

  6. I love the verses as well, Susan. And what a wonderful heirloom to hand down! Beautiful family treasure. :)

  7. What a sweet post about cradles. Thanks for sharing those lullabys, too.

  8. Love cradles - interesting comment about the adult cradles, had never heard of them.


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