Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virginia's "Best Rifle Counties" ca. 1781

Link to Western Va county maps showing the evolution of counties from 1738 on:

Virginia's Counties in 1738

Virginia's Counties in 1770

 Virginia's Counties in 1776

Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette May 29th, 1781 (Lafayette in the American Revolution Vol IV page 143)

"I am sorry it has not been in your power to send me the County Returns of Militia. I assure you returns weekley are indispensably necessary to enable the Executive to keep Militia in the Field. I did however on receiving Information from Colo. Walker that the Enemy were reinforced call for one Fourth of the Militia of Washington, Montgomery, Botetourt, Rockbridges Augusta Rockingham and Amherst, which (the last excepted) are our best rifle Counties. They will rendezvous at Charlottesville and there expect your orders..."

An article titled Henry County. From Its Formation in 1776 to the End of the Eighteenth Century (The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 9, No. 4, Oct 1902) contains some very interesting extracts detailing the prices of arms for the use of that county during the American Revolution. In all, Henry county impressed 10 smooth bored guns/shot guns and 8 Rifle Guns for the militia of the county from 1776 to 1781.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fun link: the "Mayo Island" Powder horn

From Colonial Williamsburg's excellent online Emuseum

Mayo Island powder horn
May 20, 1774
Maker: George Deval
Origin: America, Virginia, Richmond area
OL: 14" OW: 3 1/8"
Cow horn, wood, ink & brass
Museum Purchase

Acc. No. 2011-4
Engraved powder horn with faceted & carved spout, embellished with a reinforcing ring set slightly back from the tip. The whole of the horn goes from a dark cream color to a darker greenish color as it nears the spout. Its rounded soft wood base plug is retained by 5 cast brass tacks (one of which is missing) and has a rectangular patched repair, with a tiny brass wire loop, is inlet into the center of the plug. Engraving shallowly executed, a problem compounded by subsequent wear.
Inscription(s): "George Deval His Powder Horn Come From Isld. Mayo May 20, 1774"
By the French and Indian War, engraved powder horns were extremely popular in the American Colonies, and were carried hunting and during military duty alike.
This horn was created either by or for a George Deval of Mayo Island in the spring of 1774. Since the only locatable Mayo Island is in the James River at Richmond, this piece is an extremely rare example of a pre-Revolutionary War Virginia powder horn.

Engraved on the horn is a scene of large masted ships and manned rowing craft filling the waterway around a hilly town, likely representing Richmond. Other decorative engravings include geometric designs, trees and a bird. In a band spanning the lower portion of the horn is the inscription "George Deval His Powder Horn Come From Isld. Mayo May 20, 1774."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Morgan Morgan, Indian Spy and travelling man....

Morgan Morgan, son of Nathanial Morgan (a fellow who just wasn't always very creative in naming his children) served in quite a few places during the revolutionary war, in addition to being a customer at McCorkle's store in New Dublin Va (see he served as a "spy" against Indians and Tories, was with Wm. Preston of Smithfield plantation in North Carolina, marched against the Cherokees and was part of the guard at Fort Chiswell.

Morgan's pension application from 1833 details his service:

Morgan's father ran this ad in the Va Gazette in 1775 (NB the sideplate may have been marked MM for Morgan Morgan):

FINCASTLE, May 21, 1775. RUN away from the subscriber, living on Neck creek, near Mr.Thopson's mill, an Irish servant man named THOMAS BENSON, about 5
feet 9 inches high, wears his own long black hair tied, and has lost the half of his left hand little finger; had on a home made flax linen shirt, a pair of tow linen trousers, and carried with him a blue home made cloth coat, a red and yellow silk and cotton waistcoat, buckskin breeches, a rackoon hat, a brass mounted long smooth-bore gun, marked on the side-plate MM 1769, and on the barrel W. MORGAN, a shot-bag and powder-horn, a canister with 2 lbs. of powder, a falling axe, a pocket compass, &c. &c. He likewise stole his indentures, and, being a very good scholar, it is probable he may make an assignment on them. He is supposed to be with Samuel Ingram's servant man, as they both went off about the same time. Whoever secures the said servant, so that I get him again, shall have 5 l. reward, and, if out of the county, reasonable charges, paid

For more information about the family:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reproducing the Hunting shirt- the quick and dirty version


this image to the left is *NOT* a hunting shirt- and is fit for wear over clothes while on the dung heap or a waggon. It is made of the same materials, and has some of the same shapes, but seriously, no matter how much folks want it to be, it just plain doesn't fit the period descriptions and images (most solidly being caped, fringed and "open before"). The origins of this early American garment are murky at best, and definitive documentation on that front is elusive. If you do an F&I impression, there are likely FAR better choices than this garment (like a coat/matchcoat/jacket and etc), or for that matter a shabby undocumented attempt at "backdating" it by omitting the capes/fringe or any of the other elements that make a hunting shirt unique. Instead of making something up, why not copy and actual garment that fits with period descriptions and images?!? Although possible, there doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence of a pull over "hunting shirt" in the 18th century, so smart money goes with something that is split down the front.

Neal Hurst's Honors Thesis is a must read on the topic:

Trumbull on the topic:

You expressed an apprehension, that the rifle-dress of General Morgan may be mistaken hereafter for a wagoner's frock, which he, perhaps, wore when on the expedition with General Braddock; there is no more resemblance between the two dresses, than between a cloak and a coat; the wagoner's frock was intended, as the present cartman's, to cover and protect their other clothes, and is merely a long coarse shirt reaching below the knee; the dress of the Virginia rifle-men who came to Cambridge in 1775, (among whom was Morgan,) was an elegant loose dress reaching to the middle of the thigh, ornamented with fringes in various parts, and meeting the pantaloons of the same material and color, fringed and ornamented in a corresponding style. The officers wore the usual crimson sash over this, and around the waist, the straps, belts, &c., were black, forming, in my opinion, a very picturesque and elegant, as well as useful dress. It cost a trifle; the soldier could wash it at any brook he passed; and however worn and ragged and dirty his other clothing might be, when this was thrown over it, he was in elegant uniform.

I remember to have seen in Connecticut a regiment of militia drawn up for review, of which the battalion companies had adopted this rifle-dress of white linen with black straps and hats. A grenadier company had been selected of the tallest and finest men, and dressed at considerable expense in a handsome uniform of blue coats and scarlet under-dress. I first saw the regiment at the distance of half a mile; the grenadiers appeared small, and the rest of the regiment seemed grenadiers; the cause is obvious - the rifle-dress is loose, and the sleeves above the elbow loose like the ladies’ dresses of the present day, and the figure of course appears larger than if dressed in a coat with tight sleeves and body; besides which, opticians teach us that white objects always seem larger than objects of the same size, but of any other color.
J. T.” p. 18.

Longacre, James B., and Herring, James; “The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans.” Volume III. Henry Perkins, Philadelphia. 1836. [Google Books.]

By 1768, ads in the Va Gazette indicate that Virginians knew what a "hunting shirt" was, although correspondence in the Washington papers makes a strong case for this apparently Virginia born garment being fairly unknown outside of areas north of Pennsylvania. Incidentally, Pennsylvania broadsides from 1775 proclaim that "The Virginian back Woods Men have a very good Reason for their hunting shirts, for as they wear no Breeches, Decency requires that their upper Dress should be of this Form "

Portrait of Captain Samuel Blodget in Rifle Dress

As with anything else, step #1 is to do your homework first to ensure that such is the *right* (or appropriate) garment for your who/what/when/why- for our purposes (Western Va ca 1768-1783) we have that nailed down as a fairly common garment (the image is Blodgett in Rifle Dress by Trumball, at the VMFA).

For a legit RevWar period hunting shirt pattern in a low priced book see Sketchbook '76 by Robert L. Klinger (also patterned in Katcher's excellent Uniforms of the Continental army):

Further info on this particular shirt can be found here:

Numerous vendors sell both unbleached/natural linen (aka osnabrigs aka BROWN LINEN) and white linen (which is what three of the four surviving shirts are made of)- this seems to be a common material for these things in the period. Manufactured pre fab 'fringe' that matches the originals is hard to come by, for many applications, unraveling a two inch or so strip of the same fabric used for the body is a good way to go for fringe.

A few quotes on the subject can be found here:

and some references to colors here (don't be afraid to use WHITE or natural undyed linen):

Get three or four yards and wash and iron it first.

These folks usually stock a good selection of appropriate linen:

Period descriptions and surviving garments show a few variations existed- amount, construction and location of fringe, some had pockets, wrist closures (buttons and loops vs sleeve buttons and etc) and some appear to have had ties in the front or were closed with a belt.

Original Hunting shirt on view at Fort Pitt, note dark spots showing remnants of woolen ties

If you are a total hand sewing neophyte, you might want to go through Gilgun's Tidings from the 18th century.

after that, read this:

Neal Hurst on Hunting shirt construction

Speaking very broadly, you need to make a normal 18th c style body shirt that is split down the front, caped and fringed (some of the original shirts do exhibit subtle nuances that differ).  Original shirts were sometimes folded over at the shoulder line or in some cases folded at the sides.  Most shirts would have been made of a fairly narrow linen (26-32 inches or so wide).  Additionally, you might want to pleat the forearms and cover that transition line with fringe after stitching them down, as seen in the picture below.

 The sleeve pleating can be applied either before or after the wrist band (cuff) has been finished, but the majority of surviving shirts appear to have had this applied after the cuff was completed.

As with a lot of this stuff, DIY is cheaper, and you are learning a period hands on activity- or you can do what I did when I first started and spend hard earned money on something that is quick and easy and not right at all.  Another option (likely the BEST way to go as he has examined more originals than anyone I know of ) would be to take one of the great detail heavy Hunting shirt workshops with Neal Hurst.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Self sufficiency myth...or what was in a frontier store?

A frequent topic amongst those obsessed with backcountry history is the availability or lack thereof of European manufactured material goods. A lot of 19th and quite a few 20th century authors placed a heavy emphasis on the romantic image of the stalwart frontiersman (and woman) in buckskin clothing head to toe, weaving coarse linsey woolsey by their fires at night and producing all of their family's necessaries (I assume folks could weave, farm and hunt much more rapidly in the 18thc century as those are time consuming ventures!). Although in some cases families did weave and produce limited amounts of textiles for their own consumption and at times barter or sale, taking a hard look at probate inventories, store accounts and primary documents quickly deflates the notion that frontier Americans were not a part of the global economy and consumers of large quantities of imported goods (even those engaged in the deer skin trade or those living in far flung areas).

One of my favorite recent books on the subject is a discussion of John Hook's store in New London (Bedford) Virginia is Martin's Buying into the World of Goods. Although many Virginia stores in the back country trafficked heavily in rum and coarse osnaburg linen many also carried items that were purely luxury goods. Conway Smith's Book The Land That Is Pulaski County features a lengthy description of the goods available ca. 1774-1777 at McCorkle's store in New Dublin Virginia.

colored baize, silk ferret, gingham, muslin,
frieze, cambleteen, white and green Persian, tammy cloth, silk cloth, "oznabrig", Irish linen, holland, stroud; cambric, calico, queens net, "forrest" cloth, flowered lawn, dimity, broadcloth, callimanco, flannel, blue and green "durant", shalloon, buckram, gauze, permentum, brown and white sheeting, plush "for making shot pouches", apron lawn, saddle cloth, cloth for "leggons" (leggings), coating material, fringed housing, deer skins and otter skins. There were also white and colored threads, needles, thimbles, scissors, papers of pins, a variety of buttons, hanks of silk, tapes, ribbons, lace-and for dyeing cloth, indigo and copperas.

As far as clothing and accessories:

[locally manufactured] raccoon hats, felt hats, gloves, fine and plain shoes, coat strops, shirts, stocking breeches, stockings, garters, shoe buckles, shoe brushes, razors, pocket looking glasses, and watch chains. For the ladies there were silk bonnets, calico gowns, stockings, garters, necklaces, fans, silk gauze handkerchiefs, linen and spotted lawn handkerchiefs, printed and check handkerchiefs, shoes, gloves ,looking glasses...hunting shirts ,leggings,children's shoes and hats.

Hardware included:

pewter tableware, queen china plates, knives and forks, pewter spoons, toddy ladles, toddy spoons, teaspoons, teakettles, brass kettles, skillets, iron pots, brass pots, tin pans, tin kettles, frying pans, butcher .knives, irons, combs and brushes, rugs, trunks, Dutch blankets, pewter candle molds and candle snuffers, guns, gun flints, lead, powder, shot, shot pouches, knives, lead bars, pig iron, chest locks, cupboard locks, padlocks, grindstones, shears, reaping hooks, carpenter's rules, carpenter's compasses, claw hammers, hinges, nails, screws, cuttoes, drawing knives, handsaws, whipsaws, rasps, files, chisels, gimlets, rope, catgut, scales, money weights, salt bags, sacking, alum, soap, tallow, hemp, Dutch quills, penknives, inkholders, ink powder, paper by the quire and sealing wax....

Foodstuffs included:

Venison hams, salt, pepper, white and brown sugar, butter, all­spice, nutmegs, coffee, rum, tea and chocolate.

Smith concludes:

"The year of 1774 found settlers in the land that is now Pulaski County living better than we had imagined."

Similar goods were available in the Matthews store (both available by contacting the Greenbrier Historical Society):

The Mathews Trading Post", published in The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society: Volume 1, Number 1 (Lewisburg, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society, August 1963).

Frances Alderson Swope, comp., "The Matthews Trading Post Ledger, 1771-1779,"
Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society 4 (1984), 20.

Happy shopping and research!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moccasins and Shoe packs

"Their Shoes,when they wear any are made of an entire piece of Buck-Skin;except when they sow a piece to the bottom, to thicken the Soal. They are fasten'd on with running Strings ,the Skin being drawn together like a Purse on top of the Foot,and tyed round the Ankle. The Indian name of this kind of Shoe is Moccasin"

"The History and Present State of Virginia,in Four Parts:
By Robert Beverly, 1705, Pages 163-164

Two views from here and here of the Ligonier moccasin with a reproduction 

Beverly's description includes the use of an applied sole, something many descriptions and extant 18th century moccasins lack. The dug moccasin from Fort Ligonier (illustrated in Sketchbook '76 and shown above) has that feature, although many argue this is a working life repair. Evidence exists that such repairs were being done in the period.  Intrepid researcher Steve Rayner recently uncovered and shared the following:

17th [February 1766] I got a pair of Mogoseens that David Moor mended for me he soled and heel tapd them and I found the thread he charged 11s/Bay old Tenr. 

p 165 (Diary of Matthew Patten of Bedford, NH from 1754-1788, Rumford Printing company, Concord, NH 1903).

In addition, a March 19th, 1776 dated account (courtesy Nathan Barlow) lists the following line item among other footwear repairs.

To Soleing one pair of Mongesons & mending Shoes -/2/6

Although the expenses are listed for "Captain Jonathan Clark", the inclusion of the name John Hoy points this towards being Clark's company of the 8th Virginia Regiment as both men's names are mentioned in this 8th Virginia pension application and this muster roll.

 "Shoe packs" or "shoepacks" seem to have been an Anglo adaptation of Native Moccasins.

19th century writer Rev. James B. Finley defined them as "shoe-packs, or a kind of half shoe and half moccasin.",%20or%20a%20kind%20of%20half%20shoe%20and%20half%20moccasin.%E2%80%9D&f=false

Joseph Doddridge on shoe packs:

"Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes, could make shoepacks. Those, like mocassons, were made of a single piece of leather with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot. This was about two inches broad and circular at the lower end. To this the main piece of leather was sewed, with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason . To the shoepack a sole was sometimes added."

June 23, 1768
The Pennsylvania Gazette Augusta County, in Virginia, June 6, 1768.
RUN away from the Subscriber, living near Stanton, the first Day of May last, a Convict Servant Man, named Michael Ferral, about 28 Years of Age, of a fair Complexion, has pale curled Hair, is about 5 Feet 9 or 10 Inches high, thick lipped, round shouldered, and small legged; He had on, and took with him when he went away, a brown Coat, and Jacket, bound round with Worsted Ferriting, Buckskin Breeches, and a Fur Hat, all about half worn, two Pair of Worsted Stockings, one Pair black, the other blue, and a Pair of Shoe packs on his Feet. Said Servant pretends to be a Doctor, and a Weaver; he has with him a Bank Note, upon the Bank in London…

October 22, 1778 The Pennsylvania Packet

RAN AWAY from Mossy Creek Iron Works, Augusta county, Virginia, on the 30th of September last, an English convict servant man named THOMAS ORTON, about thirty years of age, near six feet high, slender made, marked with the smallpox, speaks thick and a little through the nose, has a down look, and in common very dirty; had on when he went away, a tow shirt and trowsers, a short jacket made without skirts, of light colour, lined with linen, a straw hat looped with blue wool, a
pair of shoe packs, and is supposed to have a pass of good hand writing. Whoever taken up the said servant, and either brings him home or secures him in any gaol so that his master may get him again, shall have the above Reward and reasonable charges, paid by HENRY MILLER.

Although not a great choice in wet weather (save those pennies for an additional pair of handmade 18thc European style shoes!), Moccasins or shoe packs were at times worn on the frontier out of necessity for lack of European style shoes:

Doctor Thomas Walker's Journal
(6 Mar 1749/50 - 13 Jul 1750)

April 16th. Rai(n). I made a pair of Indian Shoes, those I brought out being bad.

May 10th. We staid on the River and dressed an Elk skin to make Indian Shoes--ours being quite worn out.

11th. We left the River, found the Mountains very bad, and got to a Rock by the side of a Creek Sufficient to shelter 200 men from Rain. Finding it so convenient, we concluded to stay and put our Elk skin in order for shoes and make them.

14th. When our Elk's skin was prepared we had lost every awl that we brought out, and I made one with the shank of an old Fishing hook, the other People made two of Horse Shoe Nails, and with these we made our Shoes or Moccosons.

July 7. We kept up the Creek, and about Noon 5 men overtook us and inform'd that we were only 8 miles from the inhabitants on a Branch of James River called Jackson's River. We exchanged some Tallow for Metal and Parted. We camped on a Creek nigh the Top of the Alleghaney Ridge, which we named Ragged Creek.

8th. Having Shaved, Shifted and made New shoes we left our useless raggs at ye camp and got to Walker Johnston's about Noon. We moved over to Robert Armstrong's and staid there all night. The People here are very Hospitable and would be better able to support Travellers was it not for the great number of Indian Warriers that frequently take what they want from them, much to their prejudice.

Pension Application of Philip Harless: R4613

Boutetourt, VA
That in the spring of 1779 he volunteered under the command of Captain John Lucas
[pension application W5468] and served from the 1st of April untill the first of October That he took the Oath of fidelity as an Indian Spy to be engaged against the Indians and was stationed in a garrison situated on Sinking Creek a tributary stream of New river in that part of Bottetourt County that is now Giles…….. That he recollects of a party of Indians commiting murder on some of the Inhabitants and that a part of the men from the garrison where he was stationed persued after the Indians to rescue a prisoner and persued on untill some of them become bear footed and was compelled to make Mocquinsans out of raw Deerskins
Sometimes moccasins may have been used for concealment of the wearer's identity:

Adam Stephen to George Washington, September 27, 1755, Report on Fort Cumberland, Maryland

FT CUMBERLAND Sept 27th. 1755

A party of Volunteers were ordered out, under command of Capt. Savage to reconnoitre the Bottom of Will's Creek. They Rous'd three Indians and fired at them but Soon lost Sight of them. We Continue Alert, and want men much. The Indians discover our Parties by the Track of their Shoes. It would be a good thing to have Shoe-packs or Moccosons for the Scouts. --

Cresswell had them made for him:

The journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774--1777

Saturday, August 19th, 1775. Waiting for Mr. Anderson. Employed an Indian Woman to make me a pair of Mockeysons and Leggings.

Tuesday, September 5th, 1775. At Kanaughtonhead.
Went to the meeting where Divine service was performed in Dutch and English with great solemnity. This Chapel is much neater than that at Wale-hack-tap-poke. Adorned with basket work in various colours all round, with a spinet made by Mr. Smith the parson, and played by an Indian. Drank Tea with Captn. White-Eyes and Captn. Wingenund at an Indian house in Town. This Tea is made of the tops of Ginsing, and I think it very much like Bohea Tea. The leaves are put into a tin canister made water tight and boiled till it is dry, by this means the juices do not evaporate. N. did not choose to go into the town, but employed herself in making me a pair of Mockesons.

Fort Pitt--Thursday, September 14th, 1775. Got to Fort Pitt about noon. Left our Girls amongst the Indians that are coming to the Treaty. Great numbers of people in Town come to the Treaty. Terrible news from the Northward, but so confused I hoped there is little truth in it. Friday, September 15th, 1775. Very few of the Indians come in yet, the commissioners have been waiting for them a week. Shall be obliged to stay here some time to see the Treaty. Saturday, September 36th, 1775. Got acquainted with Mr. Ephraim Douglas, an Indian trader. Found him sensible and an agreeable companion. N. finished my Leggings and Mockeysons, very neat ones.

Virginia Gazette(Purdie), Williamsburg ,September 20, 1776.

RUN away from the subscriber in Alexandria, the 12th of August last, ANDREW KELLY, an Irish servant man about 5 feet 8 inches high, by trade a brick-maker, of a fair complexion, has short brown hair, very talkative when in liquor, which he is fond of, and is inclined to be fat; had on, when he went away, short brown cloth coat and waistcoat, old brown linen shirt and trousers, and buckskin mockasons. Possibly he may offer to enlist in the land or sea service, or attempt again to go to the British troops. Whoever secures him in any jail, so as I get him again, shall have SIX DOLLARS reward.JAMES PARSONS.


DESERTED from my company of continental regulars raised in Washington county, Virginia , the following soldiers, viz. Thomas Price , of a fair complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches high, had on when he went away a striped cotton fly coat and waistcoat, linen drawers and leggings; he was born in South Carolina , on the waters of Broad river. John Chambers , born in England , has lost one of his great toes, and has a large scar on the back of his neck, occasioned by the wound of a ball; he is about 5 feet 9 inches high, and had on when he went away a white hunting shirt and leather leggings and mockasons. ... Whoever secures the above deserters, so as I may have them again, or delivers them to any of the officers of col. Charles Lewis 's battalion, shall have the above reward, or five pounds for each.

Another possibility is “The Virginia moccasin is made of one piece of skin gathered by means of a seam along the upper side of the foot and another along the heel. A part of the skin formed a loose flap on each side, reaching a few inches up on the leg and fastened around the ankle by means of strings, or the moccasin was drawn together like a purse around the ankle. [1] ...”

[1] “W. R. Gerard, ‘Virginia Indian Contributions to English.’ /American Anthropologist/ (N. S.) vol. 9, p. 97.” p. 153.

My first attempt at Moccasin making (based on the Sketchbook '76 drawing) went very poorly. I hope to give it a whirl again later and will post the results if I have a better time of it than my first trial. Further discussion from more successful folks on making moccasins can be found here:

A really good online tutorial can be found here:

A pattern here:

And an instructional DVD:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dutch blankets

Dock Scene by Abraham Jansz Begeyn ca. 1662

"But to return to our subject: no time was lost; we struck whilst the iron was hot, fixed Mr. Cocke off with a good Queen Ann's musket, plenty of ammunition, a tomahawk, a large cuttoe knife, a Dutch blanket, and no small quantity of jerked beef. Thus equipped, and mounted on a tolerably good horse, on the ___ day of April, Mr. Cocke started from Cumberland river, about 130 miles from this place, and carried with him, besides his own enormous load of fearful apprehensions, a considerable burden of my own uneasiness.

Letter of Judge Henderson to Proprietors remaining in North Carolina
Boonsborough June 12, 1775

Dutch blankets appear in great quantities in 18th century documents from Virginia. They were used by Soldiers (the most common type of blanket specified in the accounts from the Va Public Store for Va Continental use), Indians, Slaves and civilians alike and seem to have been VERY common.

Pennsylvania Packet, 13 May 1778

DESERTED from Capt. Nathaniel Fox's company of the 6th Virginia,
James Anderson, a black soldier, six feet high, about forty years of age, rather spare made, and fond of liquor; had on when he went away, a light grey cloth coat and waistcoat: the coat faced with green, a pair of oznabrig overalls, and a small round hat with a piece of bear-skin on it: He took with him a pair of leather breeches which he had to clean, and also his firelock, cartridge-box, and new Dutch blanket. He is a ditcher by trade, and it is probable will endeavor to get employment in this State. Whoever apprehends said deserter and delivers him to some officer of the regiment, or secures him so that he may be brought to his regiment again, shall receive TWENTY DOLLARS reward.
John Gibson, Col. 6th Virginia Reg.

Governor Dinwiddie to Colonel George Washington.
“June 24th, 1757...
Col. Stephen is highly blameable to take any of the Regimental supplies for the Indians... If any of the Dutch Blankets rem’n, and not wanted for the Indians, I’ve no objection to their being replaced in the room of those made use of.” p. 654.

Virginia Gazette
(Purdie & Co.), Williamsburg ,
May 2, 1766.

RUN away from the subscriber, the 16th of February last, two Virginia born Negro men slaves, of a yellow complexion, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high; had on when they went away Negro cotton waistcoat and breeches, shoes and stockings, and osnabrugs shirt, and took with them several other clothes, and five Dutch Blankets. One named CHARLES, is a sawyer and shoemaker by trade, carried with him a set of shoemaker tools, is about 28 years of age, speaks slow, can read, and may probably procure a pass and get on board some vessel. The other named GEORGE, about the same age, is round shouldered, which causes him to stoop when he walks; they are both outlawed. Whoever brings, or safely conveys, the said slaves to me, in the upper end of Charles City county, shall have 5 l. reward for each, if taken in this colony, if out thereof 10 l.

“27. Clough Overton. May 20, 1783. Dutch blanket, £3:9:0; 1 pr billiard balls, 5:10; Otter skin 6:0; shoe buckles, knee buckles, a cabin in Harrodsburg, etc., £103:10:10.” p. 133.

“Records of Lincoln County (Concluded).” In “The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky.” Vol. 12, No. 34. The State Journal Company, Frankfort, Kentucky, 1914.

Appearance and Origin

So- what did these "Dutch" blankets look like and where did they come from? Aside from knowing that they must have likely been quite visually distinct from French point, English duffel and English "rose" blankets, there is a dearth of information in the second and third quarters of the eighteenth century, but we do have a few hints:

Invoice of Sundries to be sent by Robert Cary and Company for the use of George Washington:

"...100 yards Dutch Blankets."
June 1776  Dr. Nicholas Flood probate inventory Richmond County, Va
 16 Dutch Blankets 1 ps. 8£.15 do do in anor 7£10s 15.10. 0

[William Lee] to Richard Henry Lee.
“Paris, 12 September, 1778.
My dear Brother:...
I have sent from Holland 2,000 Dutch blankets and 3,000 pr woolen stockings, on acct of the Secret Committee.” p. 480.

Hd. Qrs., Newburgh, May 15, 1783.
The Blankets which I used to Import for my Negros came under the description of Dutch Blankets, abt. 15 in a piece, striped large and of the best quality, such I now want. In case of a purchase, I would have them sent to my House upon Potomack River consigned to Mr. Lund Washington at Mr. Vernon abt. 10 Miles below Alexa. 

Thomas Jefferson refers to them several times,  equating them with striped blankets in 1787, and mentioning width in 1788:

"As I could find a use here for 3. or 4. striped blankets (sometimes called Dutch blankets)"
Papers: 1 January to 6 August, 1787 - Page 598

"Dutch Blankets 6/4 wide— 15. in a piece"
Papers: Mar. to 7 Oct. 1788 - Page 393

In case there was any doubt as to whether or not all Dutch blankets were identical, the following advertisement from the Virginia Gazette helps muddy the waters.

"Dutch Blankets of all Sorts" Virginia Gazette, August 22, 1771

Expanding the search through the mid 19th century adds a few more clues:

 The Kentucky Gazette, 17 June 1797

Ten Dollars Reward. Ran away from the subscriber, on the 13th instant, SAM, a likely Negro man, five feet ten or eleven inches high, rather slim, but straight and well made, with long hollow feet, of a dark complexion, about twenty two years old, he took with him a blue
cloth coat, a short country fulled lead coloured ditto, a thin home made ditto, a pair of black breeches, a black half worn wool hat, and a twilled Dutch blanket, with sundry other clothing. I will give the above reward for said Negro if delivered to me, in Fayette county, on Steele _____, or Five Dollars if secured in any jail so that I get him. MOSES HICKS.

Thomas Jefferson  again equates them with striped blankets on December 27, 1812
"Dutch or striped blankets..."

Britische Waaren-Encyklopädie/British War encyclopedia
Hamburg in der Nemnichschen Buchhandlung/London bey Thomas Boosey

"Unter Dutch Blankets, verstehen die Englander die Scharzen, oder wollener Decken, die in der Nahe von Solingen in Grosser Menge verfertigt werden."

"Under Dutch Blankets, the English understand the Scharzen, or woolen blankets, which are made in the vicinity of Solingen in large quantities."


The archaic textile term Scharzen is defined in the 1809 publication Tagebuch einer der Cultur und Industrie gewidmeten Reise (Diary of a journey dedicated to culture and industry). p450

"Here, in ancient times, a fabric whose chain was linen and the weft was cowhair, under the name of Scharzen, was made. In recent times, this article has gone into woolen bedspreads, which one calls outright and sometimes wrongly Scharzen now and then..."

By 1839 we have the Comprehensive Lexicon of merchandise knowledge in all its chapters" [ thanks to Gottfried P. for the translation help!]

Vollständiges Lexikon der Warenkunde in allen ihren Zweigen AD. 1839

"Dutch Blankets-Are white, woolen, both sides twilled blankets with colorful stripes at the edges and colorful flowers at the corners, 4 ½ to  6 feet long, 4 feet wide, which mostly are shipped to America...Rose Blankets, white, woolen, un-twilled, of various sizes with worked-into flowers or figurines in colorful wool on the corners, are from Kilkenny and other production centers of Ireland..."

Multi colored striped Dutch Blankets ca. 1566-1794

Blanket Fragment from Burr's Hill in Rhode Island

In addition to the above sometimes confusing notes from the historical record, we have surviving fragments of a striped twilled blanket from a Native burial site named Burr's hill in Rhode Island. The Burr's hill site roughly dates from the mid to latter end of 17th century, "The earliest European trade objects in the Burr's Hill collection date from the early seventeenth century or possibly even the late sixteenth century..." and on the other end "some of the glass beads are of types dating as late as 1710-1745." A Queen Anne era "AR" stamped stoneware mug on page 57 indicates a production date range for that object of 1705-1714. Fragments of these blankets can be seen in black and white in the Burr's Hill dig report and are also shown in color in Montgomery's excellent Textiles in America. As stated in the Burr's Hill dig report on page 102 "Blankets of this type were woven in the seventeenth century in both Holland and England..."and  "...[fig. 94 caption] Wool blanket fragment, probably of Dutch or English manufacture."


 A Woman at her Toilet by Jan Steen, ca. 1665

Grocer's shop by Frans van Mieris 1715


Similar blankets can be seen in numerous 17th and 18th century paintings by the French Le Nain Brothers, Jan Steen and etc., although one of my favorites is the dock scene at the top of the page (by Dutch painter Abraham Jansz Begeyn c1662)- these twill woven, striped blankets from Holland are likely what Americans would eventually call "Dutch" blankets. In addition to the visual evidence, there are correlating 18th century quotes mentioning multiple colored striped blankets from Pennsylvania. A 1714 letter from James Logan to Edward Hackett describes similar blankets in the Indian trade " ...3rdly. Striped Blankets that are white like other Blankets only towards the ends they have generally four broad Stripes as each 2 red and 2 blue or black ... they are sold by ye piece containing 15 blankets for about 3 lbs 10/." (See Montgomery's Textiles...  James Logan Papers in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania,  Logan's letter book, 1712-15)." Forty five years later, a "new Blanket, with red and blue Stripes on the Sides..." was listed as stolen in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1759 (see image below).

Pennsylvania Gazette- April 12, 1759 ad mentioning a new red and blue striped blanket.


Above are a couple reproduction "Burr's Hill" blanket variations based on period images and the extant fragments (The three color blanket at right is by Robert Stone hand weaver NB: Mr. Stone does not agree with my hypothesis, and produces a fine product at a fair price).

Odds and Dead Ends

The multi-colored stripe motif seems to have persisted in blankets of unknown or non Dutch origin for some time. Below is an image of a Cherokee ca. 1820 (interestingly enough the same artist depicted a Seneca woman in a point blanket, was this possibly a regional preference?) and a Witney blanket scrap woven in the 1860s.

Single color striped Dutch Blankets 1656-1825

In addition to multi-colored stripe decorations, some "Dutch" blankets may have been made with a single color (red seems to predominate in what I have found so far) stripe pattern, and both styles seem to have existed contemporaneously,  Esaias Borse and Frans van Mieris the Younger depicted both styles about 75 years apart from each other.

The Tennessee Gazette And Mero-District Advertiser; January 31st, 1807
Lost or Stolen...A New Saddle, with plated piece of metal over the pummel and Cantel.  It had no saddle cloth except a Dutch blanket with red stripes, fastened to the Saddle together with a Valise pad attached thereto..." 

The three wool blankets shown below are  from the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum collection. The top two were donated together, and are described in Onder de dekens, tussen de lakens by A. Meulenbelt-Nieuwburg as "dated at the end of the 18th, beginning of the 19th century". The top two are both center seamed, and feature a three color printed cotton edge binding with a floral motif and brown ground instead of the red woolen thread blanket stitch typically used in England and America. The brown striped blanket has an odd ribbed plain weave that is very similar to excavated 16th century textile fragments from Amsterdams Historisch Museum (see Onder de dekens... page 50).

Late 18th/early 19th c blanket from Drenthe. Foto Nederlands Openluchtmuseum

Late 18th/early 19th c blanket from Drenthe. Foto Nederlands Openluchtmuseum  

19th c blanket from Drenthe. Foto Nederlands Openluchtmuseum



Gem Museum the Hague from Het Hollandse pronkpoppenhuis 



Hopefully more information on this once commonplace item will come to light. I am indebted to the assistance of many others with this topic, especially Mike G., Steve R., Matt N.,  Robt S. and Tom A., who have shared a wealth of great info and leads on this front- thanks guys!