The Original Adult Coloring Book: Theorem Painting




Adult coloring books are dominating the bestseller lists. This isn’t surprising when you consider that there’s a long tradition of American women coloring inside the lines.

Stencils first caught on in the colonies as an inexpensive way to simulate carpet on bare floors and add color and pattern to plaster walls. Late eighteenth and early nineteenth century finishing schools, academies that taught middle and upper class young women the feminine “accomplishments,” included drawing and painting in their curricula.

Students learned to draft by copying from books of engravings.  Stencil paintings became popular as a way to introduce younger students to color and composition but quickly grew into an art form of their own. The preferred surface for stencil painting was fine paper or velvet.



A copy for sale from Bow Windows of London.

A copy for sale from Bow Windows of London.


Instruction books — bestsellers in their day — abounded. In 1805 J.W. Alston published Hints to Young Practitioners in the Study of Landscape Painting… Intended to Show the Different Stages of the Neutral Tint… to which are Added, Instructions in the Art of Painting on Velvet.

Next came Matthew Finn’s 1830 Theoremetical System of Painting, or Modern Plan, fully explained in Six Lessons; and Illustrated with Eight Engravings, by which a child of tender years can be taught the sublime art in one week. To which are added, The Theory and Practice of the Old School, in the introduction of Landscape and Figure Painting; with many valuable receipts on the subject. This longwinded title gave us the shorthand we use today: theorem painting. The Historical Society of Early American Decoration offers reprints.

Stencils made their way into memorial art as well and resulted in extraordinary compositions:



memtheorem crntheorem


There are even contemporary artists making theorem paintings today. If you want to try your hand at theorem painting, Jean Hanson sells kits, books, and supplies. And if you’re feeling adventurous enough to stencil your walls, Yankee Stencil has you covered.


The Best Brews in the Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts, this October


Early Americans put back the equivalent of about eight drinks a day. They enjoyed rum, cider, madeira, port and brandy combined in some truly tasty recipes you can still make today, and they especially loved beer. 

If you’re looking for a pint during your visit to Salem, you’re in luck. These spots offer an impressive selection of craft and micro brewed beers, ales, stouts, and even local cider.

Salem Beer Works 278 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 745-2337

IMG_3094This outpost of Boston Beer Works brews its beer on the premises. Check out the brew kettles on your left as you walk in. They offer tasting “flights” of four beers each chosen by the brewer–or you can select your own. They come in adorable tiny glasses perfect for sampling. The pumpkin beer is a seasonal favorite and comes in a spiced-sugar-rimmed glass. There’s a Salem Pale Ale, a Witch City Red, Bunker Hill Blueberry (often with berries floating in your glass) and even a small selection of gluten free beers and ciders on tap.


Scratch Kitchen 245 Derby St, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 741-2442

Scratch’s selection of local Massachusetts beers can’t be beat, and this is your best choice if there are children in your party. The atmosphere is family friendly and the bacon dusted popcorn is always a hit. They smoke much of their meat in house, so fans of bacon and brisket should check these dishes out. Their hours vary seasonally, so definitely call ahead.

Gulu Gulu 247 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 740-8882

Their menu reads like an encyclopedia of well-chosen New England beers and they’ve got a respectable list of imports as well. If the food reminds you of the “creative cooking” of your favorite local semi-vegetarian spot in college, that’s probably because Salem is a college town and Gulu Gulu is a student favorite for their late night hours.

Far From the Tree 108 Jackson St, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 224-2904

Local cider served in their brand new tasting room. Food is bring your own or order from local restaurants. The Rind cider–flavored with orange ride and coriander–is a stand out.

Steve’s Quality Liquors 36 Margin Street, Salem, MA 01970 (978)744-4220

IMG_3219For an amazing selection of beer to take back to your hotel check out Steve’s Quality Liquors, part of the local family owned super market that’s served downtown Salem for more than 80 years. They carry lots of hard to find specialties including 17th century themed selections from Mystic Brewery like Spectral Evidence and Day of Doom.

The Best Ice Cream in Salem, Massachusetts

Visitors to the Witch City might be surprised at the number of ice cream shops not just in Salem itself, but on the way to Salem. New Englanders take ice cream seriously. We’ve even got our own terminology for our favorite treats in Massachusetts. We call sprinkles “jimmies” and milkshakes “frappes.” No matter what you call the trimmings, though, it’s hard to get a bad scoop of ice cream in the Bay State. These are some of Salem’s best:,

Maria’s Sweet Somethings 20 Front Street, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 825-9111

IMG_3009This sweet shop housed in a historic block of Federal storefronts is crammed with candy, but the real attraction is upstairs in the back. Maria’s serves Richardson’s ice cream, a regional favorite from a creamery in Middleton. They make two New England flavors of note: Frozen Pudding and Purple Cow. Hours vary seasonally, but Maria’s is usually open to 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on the weekend, making this Salem’s late night ice cream go-to. At the candy counter they take credit cards, but ice cream is cash only.


E.W. Hobbs 167 Fort Avenue, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 745-7691

IMG_2986Most tourists never make it as far as the Willows, but for those with a car, this pint-sized seaside resort is worth the trip. A relic of Salem’s Victorian past when the North Shore of Boston was known as the Gold Coast and the wealthy summered from Swampscott to Rockport, The Willows offers amazing views and the salty sweet charms of E. W. Hobbs. The Hobbs family has been making their famous popcorn on the same machines for more than 100 years. Definitely try the popcorn, but don’t miss the homemade ice cream. Hobbs serves a regional favorite called Frozen Pudding, rum flavored ice cream studded with candied fruit.

Salem Screamery 60 Washington Street, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 826-5703

The Screamery is on the way to the train, in case you need a last minute scoop. Their ice cream is made in house and the flavors range from vanilla and chocolate to unique creations like potato chip toffee made with local candy from Sweet Lydia’s of Lowell. The cold brewed Atomic coffee flavor makes a great double scoop with almost anything else on the menu. On weekends in October they’re open to 10pm

Captain Dusty’s 143 Derby Street, Salem, MA 01970 (978) 744-0777

Located on Derby Street between the National Park and the House of the Seven Gables, Captain Dusty’s is part of local chain with two other outlets on the North Shore. Captain Dusty’s also offers its own versions of Purple Cow (black raspberry with white and dark chocolate chips) and Frozen Pudding. They also make excellent milkshakes, so this is your opportunity try out your New England vocabulary and order a “frappe.”