Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Imported and domestic knitted goods (Part One)

Jean Baptiste-Greuze (1724-1805) - Knitter Asleep

Knitted goods both domestic and imported are seen in store inventories, personal inventories and on imported goods advertisements in the Carolinas.   Knitted or worsted caps, stockings, Scotch "bonnets" for men, mitts and mittens were the most common knitted items in the 18th century.  

For the love of god - please do not use Outlander as a historical resource for knitted or crocheted items. They are modern interpretations plus there were no crocheted items during the 18th century.  There were no knit shawls or sontags - those don't show until the 19th century for women. Crochet did not come around in popularity until the early to mid 19th century.   I highly recommend Mara Riley's patterns and also Sally Pointer.  If you are on Ravelry, they have patterns for sale there as well.   18th Century Material Culture page also a great resource for images of original items. 

Okay....back to our regular scheduled program.  

Scotch blue bonnets

"The North Carolina Weekly Gazette" New Bern, NC 24 December 1773

Anson county had many Scots-Irish settlers as well as New Hanover, Duplin, Bladen and Cumberland counties. Here is one example of a runaway enslaved person named SHIE from Anson County, North Carolina wearing a "scotch" bonnet.  

I have found several bonnets listed in inventories in New Hanover County such as James McDonough. Talking among other historians from North Carolina, we agree that these more than likely were blue "scotch" bonnets. 

"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,"  James McDonough, 1760; citing New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States, State Archives, Raleigh, NC




In Neill Buie's 1761 Cumberland County inventory, a bonnet (again more than likely a scotch bonnet) sold for 3 shillings, 4d.  It is underlined in blue.

"North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,"  Neill Buie, 1761; citing Cumberland County, North Carolina, United States, State Archives, Raleigh 
Scots Bonnet- to order
Source: Sally Pointer
Example of plain scots bonnets or blue bonnet. 


Worsted Caps or Knit Caps


Particularly you see worsted caps or knit caps imported into the colonies and sold in stores.


Worsted, knit, milled caps are all seen being imported in the Colonies and including the Carolinas.  

Imported French goods to be sold at Mrs. Batchelor's store 1778 -
North Carolina Weekly Gazette, New Bern NC
9 January 1778.

Runaway Welsh indented servant boy.  January 1773 -
The North Carolina Gazette, Wilmington NC
13 January 1773

mens blue mill'd caps 1768 SC -
"Mens blue mill'd caps" The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston SC
8 August 1768



Blue, red and white worsted cap 1746 Derby, England -
The Derby Mercury, Derby Derbyshire, England
24 September 1746
Another variation of the woolen cap this one a blue, red and white worsted cap on.  A runaway prisoner for the County Goal in Derby, England.

This is my take on this cap.  Blue with red stripes and white at the edge



Stripe, scarlet and mill'd woolen caps 1763 SC -
The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston SC
12 November 1763
"Stripe, scarlet and mill'd woolen caps"


 Knitted goods whether imported or domestically manufactured were a part of the clothing of the men in the Carolinas.  Knitting needles are found in many store inventories as well as women's inventories sometimes with a stocking or mitten still on the needles.  Despite this, imported knitted goods were available to many people in the 18th century.  My next article will be on stockings, mittens, and knitting needles.  

I will close this part with a knitted cap that was found at Dry's Wharf at Brunswick Town/ Fort Anderson State Historic Site near Winnabow, North Carolina.  The photos are courtesy from Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson









Based off the archaeological findings, the cap dates from 1748.  My friend Hannah Smith wrote about the conservation work on it for her Master's Thesis, which I have linked here. 


There is some debate if this was a stocking that was altered to create a men's cap, or was this someone who was learning to knit and created this unique cap.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Store inventories: worldly goods in various locations

Worldly goods in Edgecombe County, North Carolina 1750s versus 1770s


While perusing through inventories and various county records, I have come across a few inventories that I believe are store inventories.   


Edgecombe County was formed in 1741 out of Bertie County, the county is named after Richard Edgecombe, a member of Parliament and a lord of treasury, who became the First Baron Edgecombe in 1742. Edgecombe’s boundaries have changed a few times until it reached its current edges. In 1746, part of the county became Granville County; in 1758, another part was used to create Halifax County; and in 1777, yet another small portion was used to establish Nash County. 

North Carolina’s ninth oldest incorporated town, Tarboro served the county and the state as a thriving inland port and merchants and farmers used the Tar River largely for trade and transportation until the Civil War. 

Not quite the eastern seaboard of wealth, it could be considered the back country at one point in the early settlement of the county 1740s-1750s but as trade routes were created, wealth and worldly goods expand into these areas.  What I noticed is that one sees a lot of Virginia currency noted in these inventories and sales papers.  

William Whitehead in 1751 has three pages of inventory ranging from woolens, linen, check,  stockings, shoes, hats, blankets and etc. 
Sale of William Whitehead's estate listing numerous textiles and goods
1750 Edgecombe County, North Carolina




Noted textiles are: blue linen, 3/4 check, sheeting, narrow garlix, calico, plads, duroy, broadcloth, lincey-wollce, brown sheeting and shalloon.  9 pairs of thread stockings are listed as well.  This is the first time I have seen a reference to "lince woolce" in North Carolina.  We see many references to linsey-woolsy north of the Carolinas but very few 




More thread stockings, sagathy, milled duffil, german serge, holland, a parcel of ribbon, note there is shoes listed as well. 




Then in another possible store inventory is the estate of Major Joseph Howell dated 1750.  Joseph Howell is listed as a merchant in 1746. 



90 1/4 yards of fine osnaburg, coarse ditto (62 Ells), 53 23/4 yards of Scotch osnaburg, 66 yards of fine cotten? 51 3/4 yds of 3/4 check and then a piece of red stripes 23 yds, 1 piece of 3/4 ditto 69 Ells.  

Here is another page from his inventory again "blew" linen is listed along with other textiles.   There are "worsted" caps, linen handkerchiefs, culge handkerchiefs, knitting needles and variety of buttons, threads, and etc.  What we do not see are ready made goods of womens' hats, bonnets, clothing and etc.  


Joseph Howell has several pages listing various textiles, goods and etc. in his inventory.  We correspond it with the sale papers to clarify the textiles and goods listed and how much they sold for. 



Friday, February 14, 2020

"Check your Aprons: Fashion and Function in a Common Object"



 Detail from The Enraged Macaroni, 1773; Lewis Walpole Library



Aprons: Practical, functional, and fashionable







There has been a lot of discussion about aprons lately on social media.  There are great resources available for viewing original aprons and even websites that provides a wealth of information such as http://www.larsdatter.com/18c/aprons.html 

So, what is the point of my blog article.  Well, mine is solely on the types of aprons that are found in the estates of women and their spouses in North Carolina.  By looking at the inventories, wills, and then corresponding it with newspapers advertisements for goods imported, runaway ads and etc., we come to the conclusion that aprons were a staple in a woman's wardrobe during the 18th century. Not only as a practical item of clothing but they also could serve as a fashionable piece as well.  It was common for women to have both check'd aprons and white aprons in their wardrobe. 

In the 89 inventories and wills of both women and their spouses  who resided in North Carolina from 1738-1783, I have found (and I keep finding more) there were 230 aprons listed.  That is a average of 2.5% aprons per estate.  


There are some estates that skew the numbers like the 1748 inventory of the Green estate of Edgecombe County, North Carolina  which lists 23 aprons - 14 linen, 1 short apron worsted and 8 aprons.

Another inventory that skews the numbers is Mary Brewton's.  She has 18 aprons. 



Mary Brewton's estate in New Hanover County, North Carolina lists 11 fine and 7 coarse aprons. 


Mary Coen of Pasquotank County had 16 aprons listed. 
Elizabeth Hanner also of Pasquotank County had 11 aprons


Rachel Hill's inventory in 1763 lists the most variety of aprons in all the inventories  that I have found.




2 1/2 worn check't aprons, 3 old check't ditto; . . . 1 new white holland apron; 1 1/2 worn garlix ditto; 1 1/2 worn muslin ditto, 1 old ditto, 1 1/2 worn check't apron.


Another 2 inventories of interest that have a variety of aprons listed are Sarah Prichard of Burke County and Amelia Mott of New Hanover County.

Sarah had 1 black crape, 1 check apron, 2 linen aprons in her 1768 inventory.   

While in 1771,  Amelia had 1 old check apron, 1 check apron, 1 white apron and 2 aprons.    If they bothered to describe the check and white apron what makes the other "2 aprons" different?  

What makes it frustrating when researching is when they only list the items in the inventories or sales of the estate, they only list x amount of "aprons" but do not describe or list the type of textile.  

Here is the math and breakdown of percentages of aprons 

63% "apron" or 146 aprons 
7% linen or 17 aprons
 7% check or 16 aprons 
 5% white or 11 aprons
 5% fine or 12 aprons
 3% coarse or 7 aprons
3% muslin or 4 aprons

The rest are either 1% or less which are: 

Garlix: 2 aprons
Old: 3 aprons
Silk: 2 aprons
Cotton: 2 aprons
Holland: 2 aprons
Lawn: 1 apron
"Gause" flowered: 1 apron
Flowered: 1 apron
Worsted: 1 apron
Black Crape: 1 apron

However what I am not finding are "blue" aprons.  I have one reference for a runaway in Charleston in 1783 but they do not show up in any inventories or wills in North Carolina.  So, one could speculate that this is a New England/PA/MD regional item.   They do show up in English newspapers for runaways or stolen items. 


Ready Made Goods and Imported textiles



By looking at ready made goods and imported textiles in both North and South Carolina this gives researchers a glimpse of what was available during the 18th century.   Consumerism was key especially in port cities like Wilmington and New Bern, North Carolina and then Charleston, South Carolina.   It is key in the back country as well.  Goods are going inland to stores in areas like Cross Creek, North Carolina and to Cheraw, South Carolina.


I included South Carolina in this post as the newspapers for SC from 1750-1770 have become available for viewing, which is great for researchers.  

The following ads show specific textiles that are being sold for the manufacture of aprons and then also "ready made" accessories such as aprons.



"Gauze aprons, handkerchiefs and ruffles" to be sold at William Watkins store in Wilmington, The North-Carolina Gazette, Wilmington, North Carolina: 26 Feb 1766



Ready made "worked Muslin and Lawn Aprons" and"Gauze Aprons" for sale in Charleston, SC 1771.  The South-Carolina and American General Gazette

Charleston, South Carolina : 17 Jun 1771, Mon  •  Page 4




Long Apron
Listed on Meg Andrews 1770-1790
the fine muslin tambour embroidered throughout with rows of white cotton single and double flower sprigs, each 5 cm high, with twelve different designs, the lower corners with stylsied flowerhead surrounded by tendrils and leaves emerging from a drawnthreadwork rocky mound, the borders with gently scalloping with curving flower stems and cartouche infills,
Drop 38 1/2 in/ 98 cm drop. Hem width 50in/1.27 cm.


Here is a few advertisements for ready made aprons and the prices they are being sold for in South Carolina.

"The South Carolina and American General Gazette" November 4, 1771: Charleston, SC
What I like about this advertisement is that they are willing to take deer-skins as payment  for any of the above goods.

"The South Carolina Gazette" June 7, 1773  Charleston, SC

Monday, May 27, 2019

Seeking out worldly goods

In this day and age, historical diaries and documents are becoming available through online archives and university collections.  I stumbled across this diary a year or so ago and found some amazing items being purchased for the men and women of the "backcountry" of North Carolina.   

When I began interested in researching inventories of North Carolina residents and noting the wealth of goods and textiles of these women a friend of mine recommended this book.  "Buying into the World of Goods: Early Consumers in Backcountry Virginia" by Ann Smart Martin.  I highly recommend that you get a copy to read.  It is a great resource of information and sheds light into the consumerism of the 18th century.


Granted there is no book to describe the consumerism of North Carolina settlers, the diary of William Sample Alexander of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina 1770-1778 provides us with one example to the trading that was going up and down the wagon road from Charlotte to Philadelphia and also from Charlotte to Charleston.   People were finding ways to seek out worldly goods from the ports of Charleston, Wilmington (NC) and Philadelphia.   Granted not everyone was able to purchase worldly goods but to say everyone in the "backcountry" wove their own fabric, were barefoot and wore the simplest of clothing is simply not true.  They wanted to be just as fashionable as everyone else and consumerism is very apparent in this diary.  

As we continue to update our research and with the accessibility of online collections hopefully this research will help debunk the myths going around in the re-enacting communities as well as in the house museum field that settlers in the backcountry did not wear the latest fashions or had access to worldly goods.   It just simply isn't true and this diary along with other resources such as inventories and estate files should help debunk these myths.

[Reference to clothing and textiles to be purchased in Chester County, PA], in the William Sample Alexander Diary #1504-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.William Sample Alexander diary


Scan # 4 in the William Sample Alexander Diary approximately 1770
As we see on the first page the grocery list of items he has been requested to "fetch" for his family on his trip North.

"Memorandom of things to fetch for the family"

  • Blue Sagathy for one suit of clothes
  • 1 piece of 4(pound symbol above it?) linen
  • 3 pairs of silver buckles
  • 1 rain good writing paper
  • 1 doz linen handkerchiefs
  • white persian red lining  (bonnets)
  • black tafety with trimmings (bonnets)
  • 1 yd cambrick
  • 1/2 yd lawn
  • 2 calf skins (illegible)
  • check silk handkerchief

The bonnets is what struck me as "wow!"  Those are fashionable bonnets and the textile items such as cambric, lawn are probably to be used to make caps, aprons and other items.






The next page continues for items for the family and for neighbors

Scan # 5 William Sample Alexander Diary

"2 case bottle full rum 1/2 gallon each"red durant for 2 petticoats
3 bibles
2 pairs mens stockings thread & cotten
1 dozen knifes and forks
1 pair black silk mitts
1lb. pepper, 1 lb alspice,1 lb ginger
2oz nutmeg 4 lbs coffee"

Red durant for petticoats and black silk mitts.  Swanky!  Also note the spices and coffee.  

For Sally Thomson: "9 yds pale blue calimanco, 2  1/4 yds cambrick, brown sattin bonnet white lineing and trimmings made at uncle (illegible).  1 1/2 yds of fine holland, womans riding whip horn handle silver & fashionable (illegible) mounted.

For Nancy Graham
1 barcelona handkerchief black

For Mr. Avery
1 calf skin
item crossed out

For Jean Semple - received 1 pound light
11 yds crape black and blue
1 yd black ell wide persian
3 yds black ferritan
1 yd canvas
3 knifes and forks
1 pair black gloves

For Wm Alexander Smith
20 lbs ground red wood received in cash 1 dollar





Here we see request for 3 1/2 yards of blue hair plush, 7 1/2 yds fringe and other items for James Wilson. 


Both items are from Scan #16 William  Sample Alexander Diary

While Abraham Alexander asks for 3 pairs stockings to wove in Philadelphia and one the rest to be wove in mits.  Received 3 shillings. 

Woven mitts?  You decide.



Scan #17 William Sample Alexander Diary

This is the final list of items to be purchased for friends and family.

It is noted that from Sally Thomson he recieved 1 half Joe and 7 shillings in racoons (pelts).

Jno. McKnitt
1 brass kettle hold 32 gallons
1 large ivory fan

For John Allen
1 pair womens shoes white or blue damask - 9 inches and 3/4 long so wide as to receive my hand to with my fingers to the toe.

For black ---- one pattern for gown red and white calico, 2 silk handkerchiefs, 2 black 1 check.  
What is interesting about this entry is that the pattern for the gown in red & white calico was marked out.

Skipping down to the bottom: Robert Donnal light colored Sagathy for Coat and Jacket with trimmings.








Scan #49 William Sample Alexander Diary

Here we see the invoices for the items purchased on the trip.  These pages clarify what was requested since his original list was very cluttered.  
Sarah/Sally Thomson

9 yds caliminco
1/4 yd cambrick
1 bonnet ~ this was a brown sattin bonnet with white lining.
1 cap
1 paper box
1 hair pin
 1 1/2 yd holland
1 womans whip

Nancy Grams
1 silk handkerchief - black barcelona

Jean Semple
11 yds Crape (blue & black)
1 yd canvas
1/2 set knives & forks
1 pair silk mitts - originally listed as 1 pr black gloves





Scan # 49 William Sample Alexander Diary

Jas. Wilson 
3 1/2 yds plush (blue)
7 1/2 yds fringe

Jno. McKnitt Alexander: 1 brass kettle (which was to hold 32 gallons) and 1 fan


Widow Edminson
4 1/2 yds Durant at 3/2 per yard = 0: 12:6
I am guessing this was the red durant for 2 petticoats.

Widow Sharp
1 yard persian
3 yds of black ribbon





















Scan # 51 William Sample Alexander Diary

This page clarifies the possible woven mitts for Abraham Alexander.

2 pair stockings to be wove, 1 pair mens cotton and linen the other womens all cotton for Elizabeth.  1 dollar worth credit? received 2 dollars.

For widow Edminson 1 pair stockings for John, cotten and linen received 5 shillings

For Isaac Alexander 7 pairs of stockings to be wove
Received 40 shillings.


















Monday, March 11, 2019

Run Away Girl






Runaway advertisements have become a staple for people researching 18th century material culture.  The digital age has helped us researchers learn more about those who were considered property whether as enslaved persons of color, indentured servants or convict servants and the clothing they were wearing.  



The first book to really spark my interest was "Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls" by Don N. Haigst.  It is a great resource for material culture.  However, there is only 1 runaway advertisement for North Carolina mentioned.

Unfortunately, the newspapers are limited in North Carolina.  Granted we have some printed as early as 1751 but the editions are sparse.  Lots of missing years and it makes it hard when doing research.  You tend to get jealous at the newspapers like up in PA, MD and VA where there are TONS of references to runaways.  I only have THREE runaway ads from 1757-1775  for North Carolina, 2 in NC newspapers and 1 from a VA newspaper.  However, those three give us a glimpse of what the women were wearing and the fashions of the day.









"North Carolina Gazette" April 15, 1757


"Ran away from the Subscriber in Newbern, an Irish Servant Woman named MARY LAMBERT, a short, lusty, full faced Woman, very fresh complexion, wears her hair down behind, which is very black, and curls handsomely, had a Blemish in one of her Eyes.  Had on a check'd Woolen petticoat, Callicoe gown, red stockings, and a pair of old Calimancoe shoes.  She took with her a dark color'd Callicoe gown, white Sattin hat, with red ribbon, a plain Lawn apron and other good Cloths.  Whoever brings the said servant to me in Newbern, shall have Forty Shillings Reward.        James Davis"


The first thing that struck my attention was her check'd woolen petticoat.  We don't see that very often in runaway ads or listed in inventories.  I am sure it was a nice warm alternative to a quilted petticoat.  

Then the listing of 2 types of callico.  I wonder if her Callicoe gown that she ranway in was a white callico while she took with her a "dark color'd" callicoe gown.     

And then the white sattin hat with red ribbon.  I wonder if the hat looked like the one is this image: 


Catherine, Lady Chambers, 1756 - Joshua Reynolds
https://www.wikiart.org/en/joshua-reynolds/catherine-lady-chambers
Circa 1750s


Then we move forward to 1773 in Wilmington, North Carolina
"North Carolina Gazette", September 22, 1773
"Three Pounds Rewand [sic]
Indented Servant Girl named MARY KELLY  lately from Ireland, but says she has lived 14 years in London; is about 18 or 20 years of age, five feet six or eight inches high, stoops in her walking, fair complexion and redish hair; had on when she went away a little round man's hat, green petticoat and black stuff shoes; took with her, two striped blew [sic] and white cotton, and one calico red flowers, short gowns, and 6 yards of dark colored calico not made up.  Whoever takes up the said run-away servant, and secures her in any of his Majesty's Gaols so that she may be had again, shall be intitled [sic] to the above reward, and if brought home all reasonable charges paid by me.

GEORGE BARNES
at the Sign of the Harp & Crown in Wilmington.  September 13, 1773"

Her green petticoat is interesting - wonder what color green it was?   Goose turd green, pea green but nonetheless it is green and striking enough to be noticed.

1770s is when we see short gowns make an appearance in North Carolina.  The estate of Ann Carter of Onslow County contained 4 short gowns.  Other inventories in the 1770s and early 1780s also list short gowns.

Janet Schaw describes them as a hot weather garment, "The heat daily increases, as do the Musquetoes, the bugs and the ticks. The curtains of our beds are now supplied by Musquetoes' nets. Fanny has got a neat or rather elegant dressing room, the settees of which are canopied over with green gauze, and on these we lie panting for breath and air, dressed in a single muslin petticoat and short gown.” (Journal of Janet Schaw, 1774-1776; in this entry, she is in Point Pleasant, North Carolina)

 It seems that Mary Kelly had 3 short gowns, two blue and white striped cotton and one calico with red flowers.   We see white ground with red flower callicoes in the 1770-1780s.
Colonial Williamsburg has several white callicoes with red flowers.  I wonder if this is what it looked like: 



Red Flower Calico



Then we have our final runaway ad.   She is a North Carolina runaway enslaved woman but it is posted in a Virginia newspaper.  It makes sense since Edenton is close to the tidewater region of Virginia. 


"Rind's Virginia Gazette" June 22 1775


"Run away from Edenton, in North Carolina, on the 27th of April last, a negro named ROAD, about 28 years of age.  She was born in New England, and speaks in that dialect has remarkable thick lips, wears her hair combed over a large roll, and affects gaiety in dress.  She had on, and took with her, a homespun striped jacket, a red quilted petticoat, a black silk hat, a pair of leather shoes, with wooden heals [sic], a chintz gown, and a black cloak.  She is supposed to have forged a pass, and may endeavor to pass as a free woman, and change her clothes and name.  Whoever will take up the said wench, and return her to the subscriber, or to Joseph Blunt, esquire of Edenton, or to Keder Merchant, esquire, of Currituck, or secure her in any of the majesty's gaols, and notify the owner,shall receive FORTY SHILLINGS reward and reasonable charges by  JOSIAH HALL"

Coming from Edenton, I wonder if she witnessed the 1774 Edenton Tea Party since Penelope Barker's maiden name is Blunt.   Also there were many residents of Edenton who settled there from New England, so one can speculate that she was brought down as a teenager since she speaks in "that dialect."  An upper class family no doubt owned her based off her wardrobe.  She wears a homespun striped jacket and red quilted petticoat and a black silk hat.  She wears her hair in the latest style with the front roll and she took a chintz gown and a black cloak.  The cloak I wonder was it a capuchin or cardinal?

If you are wondering if one is worth more than the other in reward money well,  yes and no.   Mary Lambert and Road were worth the same amount.  40 shillings = 2 pounds.  While Mary Kelly was worth 3 pounds.  Maybe because she was younger?  Who knows.  And if you are wondering about the conversion for currency well....

12 pence = 1 shilling
20 shillings = 1 pound

These three women escaped their owners and I hope to live better lives.  By running away, and their owners posting in the newspapers descriptions of them and their clothing - they provide us a glimpse into their lives of those who lived in North Carolina during the 18th century.