Tuesday, May 10, 2011
"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.
(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.
So- what did these "Dutch" blankets look like and where did they come from? Sadly, there is a dearth of information in the second and third quarters of the eighteenth century but we do have a few hints:
Washington To CLEMENT BIDDLE
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.
[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.
Ford, Worthington Chauncey, ed.; “Letters of William Lee, Sheriff and Alderman of London; Commercial Agent of the Continental congress in France, and Minister to the Courts of Vienna and Berlin. 1766 - 1783.” Volume II. Historical Printing Club, Brooklyn, New York. 1891.
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.
The Tennessee Gazette And Mero-District Advertiser; Date: 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..."
Thomas Jefferson December 27, 1812
"Dutch or striped blankets..."
Vollständiges Lexikon der Warenkunde in allen ihren Zweigen AD. 1839
["Comprehensive Lexicon of merchandise knowledge in all its chapters" - thanks to Gottfried P. for the translation help!]
"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..."
In addition to the above sometimes confusing notes from the historical record, we have surviving fragments of striped twilled blankets from Native sites like Burr's hill in Rhode Island. The Burr's hill site roughly dates from the latter end of 17th to the beginning of the 18th century. Fragments of these blankets can be seen in the Burr's Hill dig report and are also shown in color in Montgomery's excellent Textiles in America:
Similar blankets can be seen in numerous 17th and 18th century paintings by the 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 are likely what 18th century Americans called "Dutch" blankets.
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)"
Below are a couple reproduction "Burr's Hill" blanket variations based on period images and the extant fragments (Right is by Robert Stone hand weaver):
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. and Robt S. who have shared a wealth of great info and leads on this front- thanks guys!