for the Dining Room
The John Fox House was built around 1832 and his descendants
lived in it continuously for more than a century afterwards. Refurnished
with locally made items from the mid-1800s, this house illustrates
the patterns of life in a prosperous, local farming family.
The dining room of the John Fox House is a long room
and appears today as it did in the 1840s. The Foxes ate their meals
in the dining room three times a day and also entertained visitors
with food. Breakfast was served soon after sunrise, so breakfast
time changed with the seasons of the year. This meal consisted of
hot breads, waffles, ham, sausage, eggs, bacon, beefsteak with stewed
or raw fruits, and strong coffee. The meal was eaten quickly since
the workday began early and much needed to be done each day. The
main meal of the day, called dinner, took place between 12:00 p.m.
and 2:00 p.m. and usually featured several meats, vegetables and
breads with a heavy dessert. Beverages with dinner might include
hot tea, coffee, cool buttermilk, or water. Wine was usually served
only when entertaining guests. The midday meal might last as long
as three hours, and children under 12 typically had to wait until
the adults were finished before they could eat.
The evening meal, called supper, would be served at
candlelight, or just at sunset. Supper was usually a light meal
of leftovers from dinner or even just a piece of cornbread crumbled
into a glass of buttermilk. In summer, a slice of watermelon might
do. Even in the hottest weather, there were truly no cold drinks.
Ice was unavailable except in the coldest times when it was not
needed. Many people considered cold beverages unhealthy. Heavy meals
during the day and light meals during suppertime was the norm. Since
the Fox family went to bed quite early, eating a light supper allowed
them to sleep more comfortably.
Pie Safe: This pie safe holds baked goods. Most pie
safes, such as this one, contain locks on the doors. Notice the
decorative design painted on the tin. What might these decorative
designs on the tin symbolize? Also, notice the basket underneath
the table, which is sometimes called a "burden basket."
Why would this be known as a "burden basket?"
Hunt Board: While the Fox family men were out hunting,
this hunt board was placed outside on the back porch to hold food.
Why do you suppose hunters would eat their food outside and away
from the dining room?
Children's Table: Once the adults finished eating
dinner, the children came to the dining room to eat at this drop
leaf walnut table. There was always enough food to serve everyone.
The children did not stay long at their meals. They could talk with
one another but no one was allowed to hum or sing while at the table.
They were encouraged to eat quickly so the table could be cleared
and the dishes carried back to the kitchen. Small children could
sit in the high chair at the table, but the very youngest ones ate
in the kitchen. Dogs were never allowed in the dining room during
China Cabinet: The China cabinet typically contained
canton ware china, which was placed in a forward tilt position to
detract dust and flies. Plates and cutlery were almost always kept
in the dining room.
Adult's Table: Food was served on the center turntable,
known as a lazy Susan. Each person sitting at the table could turn
the lazy Susan to obtain food. The chair seats were low so that
those sitting for meals would have their faces close to the plates
and there would be less chance of food dropping onto their clothing.
Washing clothes was hard work and wore the clothes out, so keeping
them clean was important. The tables were always covered with white
linen tablecloths at mealtime and large cloth napkins in the diners'
laps helped keep clothes clean.Six-petal flower (hex) designs come
to us from a long tradition of German and
Swiss-German origin. They were usually placed on barns to ward off
that might destroy crop harvests or livestock. Closer to our time,
designs like the one seen in the Lexington County pie safe have
been used only for decoration.
History of the Symbol
In the middle ages six-petal flower designs had specific
meaning. The sun wheel, for example, is an ancient Germanic sign
that figured in their view of the world through a nature-oriented
pagan divinity-structure. Hitler used a simplified "sun wheel"
sign for his swastika. That was definitely NOT the meaning of the
Hex signs of Dutch Fork folk in antebellum Lexington County. Remember
that Saxe Gotha settlers predated Hitler by two centuries.
The middle ages of the Christian era knew a set of
numerological "signs." In the case of the pie safe's six-pointed
star, that might refer to numerology. In that system,the number
six relates to the six days of God's creation of the world, and
also to the "Chrismon" (Christ monogram) which is formed
by the Greek letter X (chi) and P (rho), forming with its six "arms"
the title of Christ and symbolizing His power. St. Augustin saw
the special meaning of the number Six in the fact that it is the
sum of the first three numbers (1+2+3=6). The number Three, according
to Augustine, signifies perfection and is the key to the world as
a whole, being the symbol of God (Trinity) and the soul. As is so
often true of symbolism, the number Six also represents its direct
opposite: 666 being the number of the "beast," the devil.
The hexagram, constructed of two triangles, is also the seal of
Salomo, used by Jews and Muslims alike.
The pie safe's symbol is open to interpretation.
However, we may assume that the pie safe's creator did not know
much about all of this background and simply made a six-pointed
star. However, in folk art these symbols are perpetuated often unwittingly,
just by the belief that this type of sign has great power to ward
off evil because it is part of the divine. To this day, Pennsylvania
Dutch and Amish, continue the mediaeval European tradition of using
six-petal flower designs in decorative arts.
Dr. Helene M. Riley