American Colonial Life

Colonial Life in the first 13 Colonies

Colonial Life in the first 13 Colonies

This article provides an overview of American Colonial Life  providing facts and information at a glance in respect of:

  • American colonial life in the late 1700s
  • Introduction to American Colonial Life
  • The establishment of the first 13 colonies and  American Colonial Life in the 1700's
  • The History of American Colonial Life
  • American Colonial Life from the first colonists and settlers to the American Revolutionary War
American Colonies Index

History of the first 13 Colonies and how they became the United States

The colonization of America and the fascinating events that led colonists and patriots down the Road to Revolution

American Colonial Life

Learn about the history and day to living of American colonial life in the late 1700s. Gain an insight into the clothing, food and daily lives of the men, women and children who were the first settlers and colonists in the 13 British American colonies during the 1600 and 1700's. The first section details Early Colonial Life, the population growth and American Colonial life  in the 3 Regions and 13 Colonies and the next section details daily life in Colonial America.

Surviving Early American Colonial Life - Starving Colonists and Hostile Indians
Daily American Colonial Life was extremely harsh for the first settlers and colonists. They were faced with a new country, unknown territory and no friends, relatives or neighbours to help them. Some of the Native American Indians, like the Powhatan Native Indians, saved the lives of the first colonists and pioneers such as Captain John Smith. John Smith was captured by Chief Powhatan but was saved by his daughter, Pocahontas which led to the colonists receiving help from the Native Americans. The Powhatan became unhappy with the colonists encroaching on their homelands and stopped trading with them in an attempt to starve them out and the First Powhatan War erupted. The first colonists endured a terrible period  between 1609-1610 that would become known as the 'Starving Time'. The Powhatan Wars continued until the defeat of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1646. The very survival of the first colonists of Virginia was due to the rule of Thomas Dale and Good Order in which he organised the colonists to work, ensuring that crops were planted and seeds sown. Wars with the Native American Indians continued throughout the period of Colonialism - American colonial life was harsh indeed requiring determination and strong work ethics to succeed in American Colonial Life.

Early American Colonial Life - The Great Migration
The Puritans had strong work ethics and were determined to overcome all odds to achieve their quest for religious freedom in North America and sailed 3000 miles on the Mayflower Ship and established the Plymouth Settlement. In the spring of 1630, John Winthrop led a fleet of 11 vessels and 700 passengers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other colonists and settlers followed. Between 1620 and 1640 twenty thousand English men, women, and children crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle New England  in the Great Migration. The lands occupied by the new Americans expanded and 13 colonies were established. By 1775 there were 2.5 million people who had travelled to North America to enjoy the colonial life.

American Colonial Life in the 3 Regions and 13 Colonies
There were 3 main regions in Colonial America. They were the New England colonies, the Middle colonies and the Southern colonies. American Colonial life varied between the three regions and their lifestyles were based on:

  • Colonial Life dictated by Climate: The hottest colonies were in the South
  • Colonial Life dictated by Geography: Rivers and waterways, mountains, soil
  • Colonial Life dictated by Natural Resources: Timber, iron, copper, fish, whales, coal, furs - Refer to Colonial Food
  • Colonial Life dictated by Industries: Dictated by natural resources
  • Colonial Life dictated by Government: Charter Colonies, Royal Colonies or Proprietary Colonies
  • Colonial Life dictated by Religion: Regions and colonies were at first dominated by a specific religion such as the Puritans
  • Colonial Life dictated by Wealth in Colonial Society: Status dictated lifestyles including the clothing and dress of colonists, their food, their education and their occupations

The three regions and the names of the first 13 colonies are detailed in the following chart and map of the British American colonies - click any of the links for articles about American Colonial life and lifestyles in each of the three regions and 13 colonies.

American Colonial Life - Founding of the 13 Colonies

Map of 13 Colonies Chart

Colonial Life - Map of the 13 Colonies

Colonial Life - Jamestown

Daily American Colonial Life

American Colonial Life
The history of American Colonial Life moved away from the early struggles and survival for life, to making a good living and a good life in the colonies. America was a land of equality and opportunity - with the exception of slavery. The numbers of poor people in North America remained tiny compared to the numbers of impoverished people in England. The majority of Americans in the Middle Colonies worked on, and many owned, small farms. The plantations dominated in the Southern colonies but were owned by a privileged few and worked on by slaves. American colonial life in the New England colonies focussed on town life and people worked in industries like ship building - refer to Colonial Trades and Occupations. American Colonial Life revolved around the various occupations and this is how people made a living. But what about the daily activities of the colonists? What was Daily American Colonial life really like? The following fact file provides a fast insight into many day to day elements of Colonial Life.

Daily American Colonial Life in the late 1700's

 Daily Colonial Life Fact 1Colonial Education: The education of girls was practically non-existent - they were taught household skills related to running the house or farm and raising the children. Wealthy boys were tutored at home. Other boys attended a Dame School up to the age of five then went on the Elementary or Grammar schools until they were 14 years old. Wealthy boys were sent to colleges or universities.
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 2Colonial Women: The lives of women were dictated by their status. Wealthy women had servants and slaves and directed the work.  
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 3Rights: Women could not vote. Men of the wealthy upper class could vote and hold public office. Men of the middle class could also vote but few held public office. Men of the lower classes could not vote and most were illiterate. Indentured servants and slaves did not have the right to vote.


 Daily Colonial Life Fact 4Marriage: Women were be married by the time they were 20 years old. Men married at a similar age. Widows and widowers married quickly, usually within a year.
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 5Divorce:  Divorce was practically unknown as Colonial America was essentially a divorce-free society
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 6Children:  Women bore large numbers of children. Eight children was normal but as the child mortality rate was extremely high up to five of the children would have died before they reached maturity.
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 7Colonial Clothing: The types of clothes worn by colonists depended on wealth and religion. The upper classes wore fine materials, dress and ornaments. Puritans wore the simplest types of clothing. Poor people wore cheap 'homespun' garments 
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 8Medicine: Most doctors and physicians were poorly trained and not highly esteemed. When a physician was not available, a barber was often called to tend the sick
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 9Diseases: There were no cures for deadly diseases such as typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, measles, whooping cough and influenza. 
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 10Cures for Diseases - Powdered dried toad was used to treat smallpox which afflicted one out of five people in the great epidemics
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 11Colonial Houses: The type of houses ranged from log cabins, farmhouses, town houses to great colonial mansions. 
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 12Colonial Society: Male dominated society where women were subservient to the men
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 13Rights: Women could not vote. Men of the wealthy upper class could vote and hold public office. Men of the middle class could also vote but few held public office. Men of the lower classes could not vote and most were illiterate. Indentured servants and slaves did not have the right to vote.
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 14Indentured Servants: Indentured Servants were not paid any wages for the term of the contract (5 - 7 years), they could not vote, buy or sell anything, they were not allowed to marry or to leave their houses or travel without permission
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 15Entrepreneurs: Commercial ventures and land speculation were the surest ways to gain wealth quickly
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 16Transportation: There were very few roads, people travelled along dirt tracks. The preferred way to travel was along the coast or by rivers and waterways 
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 17Mail: An inter-colonial postal system was established in the 1750's
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 18Newspapers: There were about 40 one-sheet newspapers in the 1700's that were supplemented by pamphlets, leaflets, and journals
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 19Colonial Government: The 13 colonial governments took a variety of forms by 1775. 8 colonies had royal governors, who were appointed by the king, 2 colonies were under proprietors who themselves chose the governors, 1 colony was self-governing and elected their own governor
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 20Colonial Food: Food in Colonial America was plentiful and included a lot of meat, although the diet could be coarse and monotonous
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 21Heating and Plumbing: Heating was basic via a fireplace and houses were drafty. There was no plumbing or running water.


 Daily Colonial Life Fact 22Leisure: Men enjoyed themselves with card playing, horse racing, cockfighting, and fox hunting. Women occupied themselves with useful indoor activities including sewing, quilting and embroidery. Dancing was seen as a joint leisure activity
 Daily Colonial Life Fact 23Colonial Religion: The American colonies adhered to all denominations of the Christian religion and many people were expected to say daily prayers and always attend church on Sundays. Rich people sat at the front and poor people sat in the back benches.

Daily American Colonial Life in the late 1700's

Colonial Life

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