Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dutch blankets

"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."


"... Bale No 2-Stript Dutch Blanketing ..9..2y[ard]s @ 15/6 7/11/-"

Invoice of Goods shipt Aboard the Catherine William Warden Mas[te]r for Quebec on accot & Risque of Bogles Cross Munro Glassford & Co. Neil Jameson papers Vol.1 1757-62 Miss. Div. Library of Congress [ Readings in American Business History - Page 62 Peter A. Coclanis].

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."



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)."

In the 1772 Dutch language version of Peter Kalm's travels in North America,  He describes the Indians living near Montreal in 1749 as "Clad in White cloths, roughly unshorn cloths, of that kind
which one does use for blankets on the beds. The Wilden [Indians] always wear such garments...Most of the time there are some at the edges blue and red stripes."

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 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 

Mother sits with her child wrapped in a blanket Jan Luyken 1712 Rijksmuseum


Philipp Georg Friedrich von Reck's depictions of Yuchi Indians in Georgia ca.1736 show several similar blankets, however the Hanover native identified them as having English origins.

"The Indian King and Queen of the Yuchis, Senkaitschi."
"(6) A woolen blanket" "The king wears a buffalo skin, the queen wears a British blanket from Charles Town.

The Papers of Sir William Johnson, Volume 9

 August 1756  William Johnson.  Memorandum of Sundry Articles necessary for Indians (Huntington Library LO 1389 [A]).

p562 Memorandum of Indian goods...

Blankets of different sizes, Kersey Whale....
Common Indian Blankets of 20-24-&30 in a piece
Red striped Do. qty 15 in a peice...

In 1764 Richard Byron executed a series of watercolors depicting Canadian Natives in the St. John River Valley. Two of his studies include what appear to be white blankets with thin red stripes.

"Micmac Indian of Nova Scotia" drawn by Richard Byron in 1764
Sotheby's Auction Catalog Oct. 1991 Lot  267 C

"An Indian Squaw" drawn by Richard Byron in 1764
Sotheby's Auction Catalog Oct. 1991 Lot  267 E 

Two paintings by Hyacinth de La Pegna (1706-1772) of Prussian soldiers ca. 1758/9 are shown on the excellent Kabinettskriege blog by Alex Burns ( link ). All of the blankets are depicted as off white with blue stripes, and three stripe variations are shown.

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. Ken. H., and Tom A., who have shared a wealth of great info and leads on this front- thanks guys!