The High Constable

Dutch Town Homes,
page 5 of 8

This alcove betste was much like a cupboard; it had doors which closed over it when unoccupied and shut it from view. This does not seem very tidy from our modern point of view, but the heavily curtained and upholstered beds of other countries gave but little more opportunity of airing. Adam Roelandsen, the first New York schoolmaster, had these betste built in his house; and Jan Peeck, the founder of Peekskill, had four betste in his country home, as certainly were needed by a man who had — so he said — “a house full of children and more besides.”

The sloep-banck, or slaw-bunk, was another form, a folding-bed. This was also set within closet doors or hanging curtains. It was an oblong frame filled in with a network of rope or strips of wood, set apart like the slats of a bed. This frame was fastened to the wall at one end, the bed’s head, with heavy hinges; and at night it was placed in a horizontal position, and the unhinged end, or foot of the bed, was supported on heavy turned legs which fitted into sockets in the frame. When not in use, the frame was hooked up against the wall and covered with the curtains or doors.

Other sloep-bancks were stationary. One sold in Albany in 1667 to William Brouwer was worth ten guilders. Parson Chandler as late as 1755 said the beds in Albany were simply wooden boxes, each with feather-bed, undersheet, and blanket cover. The kermis bed, on which the Labadist fathers slept in Brooklyn, was a pallet bed. Another bedstead often named was the trecke-bedde, or the sloep-banck ap rollen, which, as its name implies, was on rollers. It was a trundle-bed, and in the daytime was rolled under a high-post bedstead, if there were one in the room, and concealed by the valance of calico or chiney.

The beds were deep and soft, of prime geese feathers. For many years the custom obtained of sleeping on one feather-bed and under another of somewhat lighter weight. The pillow-cases, called “pillow-bears,” or pillow-clothes, were often of checked linen. The hangings of the bed when it was curtained were also, in families of moderate means, of checked and striped linen, in wealthier houses of kidderminster, camlet, and harrateen.


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