Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Christa M. Beranek
Stephen A. Mrozowski
David B. Landon
The rise of refined behavior paralleled the expansion of colonial markets and consumer choice. Objects related to the refined consumption of food and drink took center stage in the transformation of colonial entertaining. The availability of new foodstuffs and the associated equipage transformed sociability and the meaning of eating and drinking. These changes coupled with the high level of social mobility in eighteenth century Massachusetts, meant that performances with novel objects became dynamic symbols of one's social status. Utilizing Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, this work explores how Rev. John Hancock, minister of Lexington, Massachusetts, expressed his social status through refined entertaining.
During the same period, religion was in a state of flux as the Great Awakening called into question the authority and status of ministers. In an effort to re-assert their authority the clergy professionalized, highlighting the value of educated ministers. Ultimately, this research provides evidence that spiritual leaders of communities adopted the social protocols of polite society and used new status-laden goods. Genteel entertaining was used as a social strategy that allowed ministers to perform and solidify their social status and position in the secular community.
Rev. Hancock exhibits many of the changes that occurred during the eighteenth century. His profession and education offered a certain level of status, however specialized objects for entertaining suggest that Hancock was also incorporating many of the new mannerly and novel consumption protocols that became part and parcel of gentility. Rev. Hancock as the spiritual leader of Lexington experienced a status transformation during the first half of the eighteenth century. Rev. Hancock, it seems, was economically middling, but culturally elite. It may appear that elements of gentility and religion would be in conflict, but in many ways the social role and high level of cultural capital that ministers assumed, required that they also assume polite ways of entertaining and living as way of signaling and performing their high level of social status to those around them.
Kosack, Katie Lynn, "Entertaining, Dining, and Novel Drinking: Rural Gentility and the Reverend John Hancock's Household, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1700-1750" (2010). Graduate Masters Theses. 7.