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Archiver > 1776 > 2003-05 > 1052606336

From: Angie Rayfield <>
Subject: Re: [1776] Bundling Bags
Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 17:38:56 -0500
In-Reply-To: <8A7F2193-832C-11D7-AFBC-000393CCBB70@southwind.net>

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At 04:15 PM 5/10/2003 -0500, lanita miller wrote:

>Okay, explain to me about the Bundling Bags. In the movie, "THE PATRIOT"
>one young character was sewed into one for the night, at his girlfriend's
>house. I have heard of these before, but wondering about when did this
>custom start, why did it start, and when did the custom stop?

I did a little creative "theft" for some of the info here -- found it on
another list <G>...
One curious custom of early America was the practice of "bundling".
Couples, usually those planning to marry, were allowed to sleep
together--clothes on, folks. According to The New Columbia Encyclopedia
they were "sometimes separated by a board, or the girl's legs were tied
together or the couple was in some other way constrained from completing
the sexual act." While this method of courting may seem bizarre to us now,
it's important to remember the reasons (alleged, at least) why it was so
popular. A young man might walk several miles in freezing cold weather
after a hard day's work to visit his sweetheart. In the interest of
conserving precious firewood and lantern oil, the young couple was allowed
to bundle, thereby pursuing their courtship in a comfortable and practical


Though it was a practice rarely spoken of and usually denied, bundling was
used by courting couples. Since most arose before dawn and went to bed not
long after dusk and worked in between, something had to be done to give a
caller an opportunity to call on his beloved. They could not stay up all
night, since the fires would be put out as the rest of the family went to
bed to preserve fuel and out of safety, so bundling allowed the courting
couple to continue to talk without catching cold or worse. Bags, boards,
bolsters and even pillows were used to separate the couple. Each was more
of a mental barrier rather than an absolute physical barrier, although such
extreme measures as sewing the bag closed were probably taken by some
From what I've been able to dig out, the practice goes back heaven only
knows how long, and appears to have largely died out early in the 1800's
(not completely, but largely - some of the reading I've done would seem to
indicate that it's still practiced in some areas or among some groups, even
if it's largely unacknowledged). I don't know, but I would guess that
changing social standards and styles would have been largely responsible
for it fading away.

By the mid 1800's, if not earlier, in this country there had been a huge
shift towards being "ladies" and "gentlemen." In England, these terms had
definite implications -- just because you were female, it didn't mean you
were a lady. The term would have been used only to refer to very
upper-crust, aristocratic woman, definitely of a particular social
class. European visitors to this county were amazed that almost *all* the
women seemed to be considered "ladies." (Except, of course, for those
servant types, like the Irish, or the nigras, don't you know?) And as time
went on, "ladies" were to be sheltered from darned near
everything. Ladies, of course, didn't sweat (they glistened <g>). Bodily
functions simply didn't exist. (If you've read "Gone With the Wind,"
you've got a decent idea of the social standards at the time, regardless of
what you may think of some of the historical accuracy <g>.) Ladies barely
ate. A belch was a catastrophe. (I've sometimes wondered what would have
happened if a woman -- excuse me, lady -- farted <g>.) Pregnancy simply
wasn't acknowledged, babies simply magically appeared.

My guess is that this attitude shift was the death of bundling. Churches
began to see the practice as immoral, probably leads to impure thoughts,
too. And spending that much time in what was a rather intimate setting,
even if fully dressed and sewn into bags, would probably lead to a lot
more, um, knowledge, of the opposite sex than would have been considered
appropriate. (Those nasty bodily functions again <g>.)

Angie Rayfield

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