Wednesday May 7, 1794–Two hundred and twenty years ago today, Jane Franklin Mecom passed away in Boston, MA. Jane was the beloved sister of Benjamin Franklin and was an avid reader and a lively correspondent.
As is customary, Jane left belongings to members of her family, but to her granddaughter Jenny Mecom she left the majority of her household effects:
“In consideration of the extraordinary attention paid me by my Grand Daughter Jane Mecom exclusive of her common and necessary concerns in domestic affairs & the ordinary business of the Family, I think proper to give and bequeath unto her several articles of household furniture, particularly as follows The Bed, Bedstead, and Curtains which I commonly use, the three pair of homespun sheets lately made and the Bedding of every kind used with this Bed both in Summer and Winter, consisting of two Blankets, a White Counterpane and two Calico Bedquilts, one of which is new; The Chest of Drawers and Table which usually stand in my Chamber, and six Black Walnut Chairs with green bottoms also two black Chairs, my looking Glass which I bought of Samuel Taylor and which commonly hangs in my Chamber, a large Brass Kettle, a small Bell mettle skillet, a small iron Pot, a large Trammel, a pair of large Iron hand irons, a shovel and a pair of Tongs, a Black Walnut stand and tea board, two brass Candle sticks, a small Copper Tea Kettle and one half of my Wearing Apparel of every kind.”
My mind conjures up Jane’s room, her humble bed with homespun sheets, and her skillets, irons and pots clustered around the fireplace. Possessions. Things left behind. When a loved one passes, it seems that if one can hold something that was once theirs, one can thereby embrace that loved one for a bit longer. When Jenny crawled into bed after a hard day’s work, did the calico bedquilt remind her of her dear grandmother, and thus provide a bit of comfort?
We can thank historian Jill Lepore for tracing down Jane Franklin’s writings and piecing together, as one would a quilt, the facts of Franklin’s life as retold in Lepore’s latest book, Book of Ages: the life and opinions of Jane Franklin. Lepore’s book presents as one both poetry and history, for her exquisite use of language and knowledge of facts provides one with a captivating biography to be gobbled up and savored, simultaneously.
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: the life and opinions of Jane Franklin, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), pgs. 247, 245-246