September 9, 2013

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Courting Rituals in America, Part 1: Bundling

Photo courtesy of the Charles P. Rogers Bed Archive,
Original publication A. Monroe Aurnad, Jr., 1938


There was a time when parents put their daughters in bed with a man for the night.  Practiced in Colonial times in America it was called bundling, tarrying or bed courting. The idea was to allow intimacy between the couple without sex to see if they were compatible for marriage.

Wrapped in blankets or a bundling bag, sometimes with a board between them (called a bundling board) the couple were expected to talk to one another throughout the night.  The practice was largely limited to winter with the boy staying at the girl's house. There was the added advantage that if the girl got pregnant (those blankets and boards didn't always work), the parents were fairly certain of the father.

Bundling was common in Colonial America especially among the Pennsylvania Dutch.  It was still practiced in the mid-nineteenth century.  By the twentieth century, except for a few accounts among the Amish, bundling had died out.

References and additional reading:

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