When most people hear the word Puritan today, they think of dour people in black who never had sex. That's not quite true. The Puritans encouraged lots of sex within a marriage, and the New England Puritans had a very high birth rate.
In order to ensure a successful marriage, and therefore a successful sex life, young people went through a lengthy courting process. One goal was to make sure both families approved of the union, but another was to let the young man and woman become well acquainted.
Unfortunately, a few factors made this difficult. Courting couples could not be left unchaperoned, so young beaus had to visit their sweethearts in their families' homes. If you've ever been in a house built in the 1600s you know they are often quite small. Private conversation between the couple was impossible, what with the whole family sitting in one small room, and a watchful grandmother seated between the young man and woman.
How then, were a young couple supposed to get acquainted, and maybe even whisper some sweet nothings into each other's ears?
From this page about the history of hearing aids.
Through a courting tube, of course. A courting tube was a long wooden tube through which the lovers could talk to each other without being overheard. The young woman would place one end in her ear, and her beau would speak softly into the other. To hear her reply, the young man would then put his end in his ear when she spoke. The tube could be passed in front of or behind grandma, so it worked even with a chaperone separating the couple. Ingenious! Repressive social rules were overcome with a cumbersome, but effective, device.
The courting tube is sometimes also called a speaking tube or courting stick, but by whatever name I first read about it in Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fisher.
Next week - more shocking Puritan sex secrets!