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A Day in the Life of the Powell Family

A photographic essay by 1998 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute participants

Introduction / Father / Mother / Daughter / Slaves / Summary

Benjamin Powell (born by 1732, died 1791)

  • Head of household
  • Husband and father
  • Grandfather
  • Father-in-law
  • Master to slaves
  • Master to apprentices
  • Eligible to vote
  • Legal representative of family
  • Building contractor
  • Carpenter
  • Landowner/Planter
  • Common Council
    Committee of Safety
  • Grand juror

Mr. Powell awakens soon after Mrs. Powell has begun her day. He bathes and shaves at the wash stand, and then dresses for the day.

Wash stand
Mr. Powell working at his desk

Mr. Powell plans his day, reviews business and household finances, writes several letters, reads the Virginia Gazette and studies his architectural books. Mrs. Powell, Hannah, and Rose, Mrs. Powell's personal slave, go to the market in town.

Cate serves breakfast as soon as Mrs. Powell returns from the market.

After breakfast, Mr. Powell puts on his wig, waistcoat, coat and hat. He goes into town to conduct business. His first stop is at the Capitol, where he is Keeper of the Capitol Key, responsible for maintenance and repairs of the building.

Mr. Powell walks down the hill from the Capitol to the Gaol to check for any necessary repairs. His next stop is at the recently completed Public Hospital. Mr. Powell was the building contractor for the hospital, and continues to oversee the final stages of the interior work.

Capitol Building
Bruton Parish Church

Mr. Powell passes Bruton Parish Church on the way to a meeting of the local Committee of Safety at the Courthouse. He stops, as he often does, to admire the bell tower, which was one of his earliest building contracts in the city.

Mr. Powell returns to his home at two of the clock, just in time to welcome Mr. James Geddy, the silversmith, and his wife. The Powells and their guests sit down to the main meal of the day, elegantly served and with enough variety to appeal to every taste. Mr. Powell takes his place at the head of the table. Mrs. Powell directs the service of dinner, and makes sure that the art of conversation is practiced.

Mr. Powell and Mr. Geddy remain at the table after dessert has been cleared, while Mrs. Powell escorts the ladies into the parlor for tea. Soon the gentlemen join them for music and dancing.

Dining and Conversation
Dancing in the Parlor

The young ladies and gentlemen continue their dancing into the evening hours. Mr. Powell enjoys a rest in his chair in the bedchamber. He hopes that by socializing with the right young gentlemen, Hannah will make the acquaintance of a suitable suitor.

After a light supper of leftovers from dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Powell retire for the night at about ten of the clock.

Mr. Powell taking his ease Mr. and Mrs. Powell's Bed