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Deciphering the Names of Fabrics found in 18th Century Trade and Gift Lists.

By Jason Melius

One of the stumbling blocks of an accurate 18th century impression is differentiating between what an 18th century writer was describing and how our 21st century minds interpret the meaning. Like a lot of things, words change meaning over time, especially when discussing fabrics. Today, when we hear the word “fustian” we automatically think of the cheap, thin cloth found at Wal-Mart for $2 a yard. However, in the 18th century, “fustian” was an entirely different beast (being predominantly linen, or a linen blend, in the 18 th century). Thankfully, people like Florence Montgomery and Hallie Larkin have produced works which are immensely helpful in improving our understanding of these sometimes archaic terms. First we are going to take a look at an example of some of the goods that were available to Native Americans in the South. I have selected a list of trade goods published in a book every Native interpreter should have in their library, “Their Bearing is Noble and Proud Volume II” by James F O’Neil II. “Indian Goods at Fort Cumberland Sept 17th. 1755. Taken from Letters to Washington. 2 pr. Red Stroud 1 half pr. Blue do. 6 blue Strouds 3 pr. Blue ½ Thick 2 pr. White do. 3 half ps. Do 3 ps. Red do 33 p blue Indian Stockings 3 ps. Imbost Large ¾ of a pr. Garlix 4 doz. 11 plain Shirts 3 doz. 3 Boys do. 8 ps. Stuffs & Callimanco 1 pr. Str Gr. Holland 6 Laced Hats 6 ps. Brd. Ribbon 4 Large Hat Feathers 2 parcels gold & Silver Tassells 14 ? Vermillion 6 Small lookg. Glasses In the Chest with Sundries 9 rolls fig. gartering Rolls Red do. Parcels Thread 1 Doz 11 Mens ruffled Shirts 2 Doz 10 pr Wome. Stockings 14 Mens worsted Caps a remnant of Callicos 8 Silver Meddals 8 yd. of Ribbon a quantity of black and a large parcelty of white Wampume 1 fine Laced Coat 4 fine Wastcoats &c 2 p Breeches 4 Indian Guns 20 Cutlashes 4 p. Side Pistols

3 doz. Large knives 2 doz Clasp do. 8 doz brass mounted knives 3 papers Rings 1 paper Sleeve Buttons 5 do. Beads 3 large brass kettles 1 small do 1 paper Auls 4 Coyls brass Wire large 12 Coyls Small do. The above taken from Col. Innes’s List left by him--… Chas DickVol. I P.89.” Page 15. But this list is from Ft Cumberland, which is in Maryland… Yes, but the Cherokee and Catawba were very active in this area between 1755 and 1758… So let’s take a look at some of the fabric terms. “a remnant of Callicos”. Callico is probably the most misinterpreted type of fabric among reenactors today. Most of us think of brightly printed cotton fabrics with paisley designs, elephants and other oddities. According to Rolt’s mid 18th century dictionary, Callicoe – one of the general names for the cotton-cloths of India; being a particular kind of cotton, brought from Calicut, and other places, both white and coloured; which was formerly much worn in England for the garments of women and children’ but now prohibited to be worn, printed or coloured, otherwise than by needlework, upon account of its prejudicing the woolen and linen manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland. While Callico was available with printed designs, we have to be very careful about which designs are chosen. It is necessary to have a working knowledge of 18 th century printing techniques and cost. Those are beyond the scope of this article and may be covered in the future. A great deal of thought should be put into the use of printed calicoes as well. These excepts from a letter by Edmond Atkin from the Amherst Papers regarding how presents were to be given to Natives will provide some guidance:

“Virginia, October, 1759 Reward Proposed to be provided at any time by the Government of Virginia& promised by his Majesty’s Agent & Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Southern District of North America to 100 Cherokees; Catawbas; or other friendly Indians… etc” “Guns: one to each Man that wants it, or, to him that does not; either 6 yards of Callicoe for a jacket & Petticoat or 8 yards of ¾ Garlix for two Shirts for his Wife; which will interest the Women in the expedition& will prevent the buying & Selling spare guns for a trifle; being commonly Spent on Rum.” “10 Ps Callicoe 5/18 5/12 9t 150 yds of different Colours & figures Cost 1/5 Do in lieu of Guns for Jackets & Peticoats –“ From these excerpts it can be demonstrated that printed Callicos were intended for the use of Native women, not men. But it is also clear that not all Callicos were printed! Printed trade shirts were extremely rare in the southeastern region of the colonies in the period under examination; even later in the century they were still the least common type of shirts traded or gifted.

Reproduction fabric Swatch

Detail of a Woman’s Pocket circa 174 9

“8 ps. Stuffs & Callimanco”. According to Montgomery, “Stuff is a general term for worsted cloths.“ Worsted wools tended to be lighter weight wool, suitable for summertime wear as they tend to be strong fabrics but poor insulators. Callimanco is a type of Stuff, or worsted wool which can be plain or striped and sometimes even including small flowered designs with in those stripes. “¾ of a pr. Garlix”. “A linen cloth first imported from Goerlitz, Silesia. It could be fully or partially bleached: ‘ There are several sorts, the first is a blew whiting [bleaching agent] and ell -

wide garlits, which is of a browner whiting’. “ So, Garlix is an off-white linen and is probably one of the most commonly imported fabrics of the 18th century both for Natives and Whites. “1 pr. Str Gr. Holland”. “Linen cloth. Once specifying the country of manufacture for a wide variety of linen goods, “holland” later became the generic name for linen cloth, often of fine quality.” Hollands were sometimes found in stripe patterns, with the dyed yarns of cotton.

Striped Hollands Swatches from Textiles in America “3 pr. Blue ½ Thick”. Half Thicks were a course woolen cloth available in a plain weave as well as a twilled weave like Kersey. It was often used for outer garments because of its insulating nature. “2 pr. Red Stroud”. Stroud was a woolen cloth from the Gloucestershire region of England woven and dyed along the River Stroud. For the Indian trade it was very often dyed with a “saved list” or un-dyed area along the selvedge edge. Strouds were some of the most common woolens seen on trade and gift lists.

Though not included in this particular list, there is one additional cloth term which should be addressed. Check shirting is commonly seen on trade lists in our area of interest.
“70 doz Check shirts”. From “List of Presents Necessary for Choctaw Congress, 1778”

Checks can be a tricky subject. Most folks immediately think of the large gingham tablecloth checks when we see “check shirt” listed. These are far from the only check patterns available in the 18th century market. For the better part of 13 years, Nathan Kobuck and I have been discussing the idea that other types of check fabrics might be more common. From extant articles we find that large check patterns tended to be reserved for upholstery and drapery. The smaller check patterns are what all reenactors should be looking for when considering cloth for shirts and other garments. There are numerous surviving samples of check cloths in museums and collections in America and Europe. Checks are defined by Montgomery as “a fabric made of any fibers in plain weave with colored warp and weft stripes intersecting at right angles to form squares.” Fortunately for our purposes, there is a Southeastern attributed bag that survives in Aberdeen, Scotland which is lined with a woven check cloth linen. Incidentally, there are two finger woven bags in the British Museum, both having identical woven check cloth liners, which are fairly similar to the Aberdeen piece. The liner of the Aberdeen bag is composed of alternating thick and thin blue lines forming a checkered pattern on a white ground. The British Museum pieces have two thin blue lines bordered by a thick blue line intersecting to form its check pattern on an off-white ground.

Check Swatches from Textiles in America In both cases, there are similar examples found in the 'Checked cloth' section of Montgomery's Textiles in America. Although a gingham check also appears in this section, the narrower colored lines on a light background predominate. Given the utilitarian lifestyle of native men, and acidic soil found in the Southeast, there is no archaeological evidence what the textile looked like. However, when considering the exclusivity of checked cloth in Southern trade and the inclusion as liners for the woodlands bags it is fairly safe to argue that multistriped windowpane checks are a better option for a South Eastern style trade shirt than a gingham check. While not all encompassing, this should give folks a good place to start when looking at trade and gift lists of the 18th century. The author would strongly encourage the reader to purchase not only Montgomery’s Textiles in America but also Hallie Larkin’s Swatches: A Guide to Choosing 21st Century Fabrics for 18th Century Clothing. Textiles in America is essentially a dictionary of fabric terms found from the 17th to mid-19th centuries in America. It is invaluable in that there are not only verbal descriptions but many black and white and color plates of the fabrics described in the text. Larkin’s work is equally valuable as it contains over 90 swatches of

fabric, organized by fiber content. It not only allows you to see and feel the fabric to aid in your purchases, but it also tells the reader how the fabric was used in the 18 th century so we can differentiate between upholstery fabric and clothing fabric.

Works Sited: Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting and Proper 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Scurlock Publishing Co. Texarkana, TX 2000 Mays, Edith. Amherst Papers, 1756-1763 The Southern Sector: Dispatches from South Carolina, Virginia and His Majesty’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Heritage Books, Inc. Bowie, MD 1999 Montgomery, Florence M. Textiles in America {1650-1870}. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY 2007 O’Neil, James F. II. Their Bearing is Noble and Proud. Volume II A collection of trade lists and narratives regarding the appearance of Native Americans from 1740-1815. J.T.G.S. Publishing, Dayton, OH. 2007 Shaw, Helen Louise. British Administration of the Southern Indians 1756-1783. Originally presented as the author’s thesis, Bryn Mawr College, 1929. Printed Lancaster Press, Lancaster, PA. 1931