Thursday, May 9, 2013

Extant British Blanket c. 1776

Note the two single yarn blue stripes along the edge,
faded broad arrow and GR cipher.

                   This blanket is in the collections of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, donated by the descendant of Captain Gershom Bradford. Check out the entire blog post:  Evacuation Day and a Discarded British Blanket at Historical Digression.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In search of historical markers: the Gunpowder Incident, Gloucester Point...

The Magazine at Williamsburg:  Provincial or Royal property?
          I have always been fascinated by the events of spring, 1775 in Virginia, to which we today refer as the Gunpoweder Incident.  Generally speaking, this involved Royal Governor Lord Dunmore's authorization for Royal Navy personnel to confiscate provincial arms powder stores in Williamsburg, securing them aboard Royal Navy shipping. As events unfolded there are political agitators (Patrick Henry), enraged gun-toting farmers (the Hanover Militia) and provincial bureacrats (Receiver General Richard Corbin) caught up in the fury.  What's not to like, this is the kind of stuff  worthy of the Drudge Report!

Virginia Gazette [1]
         I am currently conducting research into routes, sites and events associated with the Gunpowder Incident (1775) and the march South to Gloucester (1781) in planning preservation march events.  In my search I came across a helpful site (link), Colonial that locates State Highway Historical Markers.  Pretty useful, and user friendly!

Historical Marker, Site Map locator:  A Useful tool
Hope you enjoy this tool as much as I did.  Apparently, if we march to Laneville to demand payment from Richard Corbin (Provincial Receiver General) for the gunpowder, we're crossing the Pamunkey and Mattaponi in flatboats!

[1] Virginia Gazette.  Retrieved from

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

18th century trousers for ne'er-do-wells, if the shoe fits...

Jack and Ostler in trousers [1]  Two of my
favorite recurring "ne'er-do-wells".
       ...And so, on to trousers, or is it trowsers?  I find it interesting that, like the sleeved waistcoat/stablejacket of a few weeks past, we find the sailor and the ostler dressed in similar fashion.   Apparently cartoonists liked this juxtaposition as well.  Perhaps because there was an on-going competition for the uppermost of the disenfranchised and lampooned of the bottom two rungs of the social order?

      In any event, I decided to make a pair of trowsers that would be appropriate to the farrier, farmer, mechanick and Jack Tar.  There are actually a lot of visual references for the last half of the 18th c, which led me to make a pair that were close fitting and hemmed above the ankle (as the vast majority seem to have been).

Details from "An Englishman" [2], "The Jealous Clown"[3], "Jemmy's Return"[4]
     You will note from all three examples that the petticoats are under siege.  The randiness of Jack Tar was a well-liked theme, for certain.  In any event, the fit of breeches and trousers in extant art and frustrating experience has shown that I am better off making my own patterns to achieve the proper fit.  This I did on brown paper after taking detailed measurements.  The initial piecing went well enough, with a tow linen and some striped lined scraps for the lining.  The exception to "well enough" were the pockets and the waistband.

l-r 1.  Pinning the interior pockets, 2.  Side pocket detail,
3.  Fall Front, 4.  Rear gusset, eyelets.
      Making the pockets inside out and backward caused me to break out the seam ripper more than once.  I also had to reduce the waistband and increase one pleat on the rear panels...that's a good thing!  Yes you do see machine zig zag in the upper left, I only had four days to work on these before Battersea.  Normally I do a hand blanket stitch to prevent the linen from fraying.

A "Ne'er do well" at Battersea, Petersburg, Virginia
Photo Credit:  Carson [5]

      In the end, the trousers were ready for the Battersea event.  I'm happy to say received a great compliment second hand, "Who is that guy from the First Virginia?  He looks like he actually works in his clothes."  He obviously didn't know about the zig-zag that lieth beneath.
      I'm loath to share that-the compliment, that is, but it helps me to make a point about some vitriolic posts I've seen online recently directed at newcomers.   At eighteen I farbtastically showed up to an ACW event in Williamsburg in a poly-wool blend non-1862 uniform with a fur bowie-knife scabbard. I know, I know!  Falling in with a "hardcore-progressive-campaigner unit", the snide comments made me actually do the research to scrap that and better my ACW impression-but then again I have tough skin...not everyone does.  I always remember that feeling when I see clothes that don't fit right, or accoutrements that are clearly off the rack from a sutler, or the proverbial stainless steel canteen or haversack-at-the-knees.  I'm still learning (after nineteen years in living history), which is the nice thing about seeing other "maker's" blogs for the "how to" and the rapid proliferation of online repositories (see links to the right) for the "why-for".  But I hope that I complement and encourage, more than tear down or create division (and give credit where credit is deserved).


       "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."

                                                                  -Proverbs 6:16-19

[1] Newton, Richard. (1797), The Long Horse., Laurie and Whittle, London.  Retrieved from

[2] Dighton, Robert. (1781),  An Englishman taking a French Privateer, Carrington Bowles, London.    

[3] Collet, John. (1778), The Sailor's Present or the Jealous Clown, Carrington Bowles, London.

[4]  Artist unknown.  (1787), Jemmy's Return., Robert Sayer, Fleet Street, London.  Retrieved from

[5] Carson, Stephanie (2013) Retrieved from