In the 21st Century, I carry a laptop computer everywhere I go. You see, as an educated person, I generally work with my mind and for that to have any meaning whatsoever, I must communicate those thoughts, ideas, analyses, and such to others. While far fewer people were educated in the 18th Century and even then, they received far less education, many people (both men AND women) were what we would today term knowledge workers. They kept records, they wrote, did computations, they did all the things we do today but they did these things by hand.
In my 18th Century personea, I don’t carry a computer or a smartphone but instead have the period equivalent, my writing portable desk. This is the 18th Century laptop, and many gentlemen and men of letters traveled with them, just as I travel today with my computer bag.
Corresponding with the written word is certainly not novel or unique to the 18th Century but in Colonial America, we have an explosion of literacy that really was. Driven by the Protestant arguement that every man must read, and interpret, the Bible without an intecessor, New England communities began public schools (generally of a religious nature). By the 1750’s, literacy in New England was approaching 35% (its only about 80% in 2019!). Add to this relatively cheap printed newspapers and pamphlets (book binding is still costly) and its little wonder the first freedoms Congress sought to protect in 1793 was the Freedom of the Press.
So in all my personae, whether I am a Gentleman, a tradesman, or a private soldier scribing a letter home to the Misses, I bring pen and ink.
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