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Northern Europeans generally wore their shirts and shifts or more during sex. Full nudity was uncommon until much after the colonial period. Full nudity was described as "from nature," while a person wearing a shift was "naked in [his, her] shift." "Undressed" was a state between nakedness and dress. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p. 125
History of Nudism in Modern America
Early New England settlers -- 16th century Puritans -- with their non-pleasure, morality-enforcing ways were so afraid of nudity, and the lust it could foster, that they refrained from bathing. Long forgotten were the robust ways of the ancient Greeks, who performed feats of strength and skill during the first Olympics, which of course was the earliest documented form of nude recreation.
However, as the colonial era gave way to a free and independent United States of America, "radical thinkers," including Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau, publicity lauded the benefits in daily naked walks, or as they were called, "air baths." Other nudists of note included President John Quncy Adams, who regularly bathed nude in the Potomac, as did the much beloved fictional characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn who skinny dipped with joy and abandon.
But these so-called radicals continued to remain a very small minority of the population until the dawn of the 20th century brought more formal nudism to America. [end excerpt]
were often topless. Native Americans of the Amazon Basin, usually went nude or nearly nude; in many tribes, the only clothing worn was some device worn by men to clamp the foreskin shut. However, other similar cultures have had different standards. For example, other native North Americans generally avoided total nudity, and the Native Americans of the mountains and west of South America, such as the Quechua, kept quite covered. [end excedrpt
Young America' at UNC's Ackland to trace colonies' march to nationhood By ANDY BERNER Ackland Art Museum
The exhibition also features one bronze and seven marble sculptures, including Hiram Powers’s famous "Greek Slave" (modeled 1841-43, carved ca. 1873), a work that summarizes the complicated situation of America’s aspiring artists. Powers was eager to demonstrate his command of the nude figure, which European academies taught as the highest expression of art, but America’s Puritan and Calvinist background made nudity controversial. By showing an idealized figure of a woman enslaved and disrobed by barbarians against her will, Powers avoided hinting at wanton sensuality. And by invoking the subject of slavery, he alluded to Americans’ mounting concerns about an issue that threatened their government's stability. [end excerpt]
American Art III From Independence to Civil War: 1783-1861
Hiram Powers, a sculptor from Vermont, also settled in Florence. His Greek Slave (modeled 1841-1843, Smithsonian Institution) was the most admired American sculpture produced before the Civil War. The nude manacled woman has the posture of a classical Roman sculpture of Venus and represents virtue or chastity. Nudity was acceptable in art if it represented a higher ideal rather than a specific woman. In this case the figure represented a Greek woman taken captive by the Turks, thus calling attention to widespread fear of Ottoman (hence non-European) victory in the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s. [end excerpt]
Quotes & things to think about
Bathing led to nudity. Nudity led to promiscuity. So believed the colonial lawmakers of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Philadelphia was especially strict in those early years. You could be jailed there bathing more than once a month.
Ablutions or Bathing, Historical Perspectives
# Colonial America’s leaders deemed bathing impure, since it promoted nudity, which could only lead to promiscuity. # Laws in Pennsylvania and Virginia either banned or limited bathing. For a time in Philadelphia, anyone who bathed more than once a month faced jail.
THIS ENDS THIS SERIES.