Yankee Notions #9: Yankee Puzzle
by Becky Brown
Yankee Puzzle can stand for Yankee Notions of financial solvency versus Southern ideas of living on credit. The puzzle may be how cliches about Yankee miserliness become so embedded in the culture.
Thomas Ford in his 1854 History of Illinois summarized cultural differences he'd seen between settlers there. "The people of the south entertained a most despicable opinion of their northern neighbors.... a genuine Yankee was a close, miserly, dishonest, selfish getter of money."
Massachusetts-born Hetty Green (1834-1916)
became a stock character, the female New England miser,
typecast for being close with her money
and ridiculed for being far more successful than most men.
M. T. Caldor's fiction "A New England Girl: Out in the Cold" in Gleason's Literary Monthly imagines a southern woman explaining it all to an Englishman:
"Indeed we are not at all alike---the inhabitants of two countries could not be more widely different! We look down on them as your nobility look down upon the boors who perform their menial services,...mean, pettifogging, miserly Yankees."
Antebellum paper money from a Boston bank
Pettifogging meant an undue attention to detail, details such as the bank balance.
Aholiab Johnson's account book. Connecticut.
Yale Law School Library collection
Caldor's reference to the English nobility is a telling link. One is struck by similar attitudes about liquidity and solvency. English aristocrats and their Southern imitators lived in debt. New Englanders had a notion that borrowing was bad.
English misers by Thomas Rowlandson
British elite were no fonder of solvency than Southern planters
Basic differences go back to the English aristocracy whom the Southern elite were so keen on copying. Both cultures depended on an agricultural economy that paid at crop time. One borrowed till the windfall arrived---some years it didn't.
Yankee Puzzle by Denniele Bohannon
About 1800 Englishman John Davis visited South Carolina and wrote an account:
"Planters are generally considered as the wealthiest people in the state...but they are not the most moneyed people....they seldom can command a dollar in cash, and are besides continually in debt. The long credit which merchants and traders...are obliged to give...is a subject of universal complaint....Whatever credit the Carolinians may deserve for their 'unaffected hospitality, affability'....the payment of their debts can never be reckoned among their virtues."
Generous "Southern Hospitality" was a staple of Southern pride.
Paying the grocer and the wine merchant was not.
Under two different economic systems Northerners were viewed as skinflints; Southerners wastrels.
The pattern of half square triangles was published
as Yankee Puzzle about 1890 by the Ladies' Art Company.
Their sketch seems to be missing a few lines.
The pattern is just a single triangle shaded in very light, light, medium and dark fabrics.
For the 12" block. Cut squares 3-7/8" (2 very light, 6 light, 6 medium and 2 dark). Cut each diagonally into two triangles.
For the 18" block. Cut squares 5-3/8".
Attributed to Canadian Fanny Ross Riley Rowley, a child of escaped slaves
See a post here:
Yankee Puzzle by Dorry Emmer
This Month's Tangible Yankee Notion
Thread Caddies & Spool Holders
Rachel Young King Anderson, Missouri
All those spools of thread rolling around....
You could organize them all by buying a spool holder for one or
two dozen spools.
Missing pincushion at top
A purchased thread organizer might be considered an extravagance.
Especially if one had a handy relative...
Old-Time Tools & Toys of Needlework by By Gertrude Whiting
who could make one out of a few nearby parts.
Becky Brown's Blocks 1-9