"blowing out"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Mar 28 15:32:17 UTC 2008

This intrigues me too -- is it a different view of society than I
would have expected from my small familiarity with the period?

At 3/28/2008 09:46 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>This passage seems to have thee difference senses of "blowing out",
>but what these senses are isn't at all clear.
>         The Boston Artillery will attend the "blowing out"** ball
> at Manchester, N. H., March 19 (Monday.)  On the next evening,
> 20th, there will be a grand ball at Lowell, on the occasion of the
> "blowing out."  Pushee's band will be on hand as
> usual.  [footnote]  ** "Blowing out" means when the girls do not
> work by candle-light.  [quoting a Boston newspaper]
>          We have known "blowing out" balls in the interior of New
> Jersey before now, where the boys and girls, after blowing out the
> candles, continued "blowing out" until day-light.  We thought the
> custom obsolete in New England, however.
>         New York Daily Globe, March 12, 1849, p. 2, col. 4
>#3, what the boys and girls do in Jersey, seems to indicate a
>practice like bundling?  In any event, there's a sexual
>association.  The connection with "blowing out" is perhaps based on
>the sense of regaling one's self, treating one's self to a good time?

"Blowing out" - the 1842 "sucking"?  (Not suggested seriously.)  Did
bundling take place in New Jersey?  I thought it was confined to New
England, and perhaps more common in Vermont than elsewhere.  Or
perhaps in the Quaker areas of West Jersey?

>The Editor of the Globe I take it was put in mind of this sense by
>an apparent implication of the paragraph from the Boston paper.  But
>I'm sure that the young men of the Boston Artillery were all most
>virtuous chaps, and don't believe that the balls in Manchester and
>Lowell were of the ballum rankum sort.  (If you don't know what a
>ballum rankum is, ask Jonathan, Jonathon, or Captain Grose.)   The
>expression perhaps has reference to a militia exercise, perhaps
>practice firing of artillery?  And treating that as a major event by
>having a dance afterwards?

By 1842 militia musters had become objects of ridicule (I can supply
some references).  Although I don't know how the "Boston Artillery"
(the "Ancient and Honorable" company?) would have been performing at
that time.  Also, I would think artillery would not have been fired,
either then or in the 18th century -- the musters were often held on
town commons, with multitudes of spectators; and they were becoming
more disorderly, with accidents.  Grenados, yes -- Sewall refers to
an accident in 1703, when a shell "broke", severely injuring
someone's hand.  As for dances, the early 1800s were a period of a
Puritanical revival, with religious and civil authorities
discouraging dancing.  (In 1810 Boston, a "masquerade ball" was
cancelled when the selectmen threatened legal action.)  But
apparently the farmers' daughters (or were they immigrant Irishmen by
1842?  Which is a little before the great flood of immigration)
working in the Lowell and Manchester mills were permitted balls --
unless these were high-society events whose sponsors had co-opted a
term from the working class?


>The definition of "blowing out" offered by the Boston paper doesn't
>help at all.  The definition seems to me to connect to a labor
>demand.  The girls working at the Lowell factories were pretty
>obstropulous at this time, and were perhaps refusing to work by
>artificial light?

This is what I would infer from the article -- a straightforward
interpretation.  But I have no other evidence.


>I don't see these senses in the OED, DARE, or the A-Man's
>dictionary, nor the O-Man's.
>GAT, who's baffled.
>George A. Thompson
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre",
>Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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