Monday, February 28, 2011

Sources for Sources

Thanks to the internet and searchable online archives, finding primary source material for research is a great deal easier than it was even a few years ago.

Some of the best archives with search capabilities:

Old Bailey Online

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey are the published transcripts from trials held at the Old Bailey from 1674-1913.  They are searchable by date, subject matter and keywords.

Boston Public Library

America's Historic Newspapers 1690-1922 are a database of published newspapers, for 18th century purposes they contain published newspapers from many of the 13 colonies and can be searched by date, location of publication, type of article and keywords.  Massachusetts residents are able to attain an online library card which enables full use of the archives.

Accessible Archives

For an annual membership these archives are keyword searchable with mainly18th century Pennsylvania newspapers and publications.

Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection

A searchable collection by keyword or date, this is a treasure trove of 18th and 19th century British Prints.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Researching Cloaks and Everything Else

How did Sue Felshin find the documentation and resources used to write her article on short cloaks?

The first step is to recognize the various types of sources that provide information while studying historical costume.  They can easily be broken down into two main categories, primary and secondary.

Primary sources are original uninterpreted information.  For our purposes a newspaper advertisement, diary, inventory entry, ledger or artifact can be a primary source.

New Hampshire Gazette, June 29, 1774
This advertisement tell us that a black silk cloak with taffeta (smooth lightweight silk) on the outside and a persian lining (lightweight silk often used to line 18th century garments) is interlined with blue baize (a heavy woolen cloth) was lost in Newington, New Hampshire.

Reading a primary 18th century document can be a challenge.  Creative and inconsistent spelling and odd abbreviations are the norm.  Textile terminology can be often confusing and incomprehensible utilizing unfamiliar words in unusual ways, almost a new language and it is not English! 

A dictionary is invaluable when studying a new language, and the best textile dictionary currently available to us is Florence Montgomery's, "Textiles in America 1650-1870", ISBN-10: 039373224X.  Her comprehensive explanations combined with an easy alphabetical format makes looking up words such as "persian" a snap!

Secondary sources are written by those not directly involved with the primary event, such as analysis of and comments on primary sources.  Sue's article on short cloaks, uses primary sources for information, but her conclusions while based on those primary sources becomes a secondary source.

Short Cloaks

Sue Felshin has written a comprehensive article on short cloaks as worn in the 18th century.  Documentation for colors, hoods, capes (collars) and styles are outlined in great detail.  While actual artifacts of woolen short cloaks have not survived,  there are a variety of period prints and art from which Sue draws many of her conclusions.  Follow this link to find the full text of her article on the Hive Website.  Here is a short excerpt-

Short cloaks vs. long cloaks

There really is nothing like a long cloak for keeping warm and dry when standing or walking in cold rain or snow. Long cloaks are cut generously so that you can overlap and hold them closed in front of you to keep the warmth in and the cold and wet out. But you can’t do anything in a cloak. If you turn or bend, the cold starts to slip in, and if you need to use your hands, you lose all warmth as you open your cloak. The hood keeps you from seeing in any direction except in front of you, and when you turn your head to try to see, you find yourself looking at the inside of the hood. And cloaks are heavy, and if it warms up a little you can’t really cool off by throwing the sides back; you’ll choke.

 Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection
The knowing one taken in (detail), c. 1760. 760.0.7
An utterly typical short cloak in every way: length, width, collar, strings, color, and apparent material (fulled wool).

 A typical short cloak was less full than a cloak: it was only lightly pleated or gathered. This was not only economical but practical as a narrower short cloak swings around and gets in the way less. Short cloaks varied greatly in length, but most were about wrist length. When you wear a wrist-length short cloak, you can use your arms without opening the short cloak. When you are not using your arms, you can fold your arms and tuck in your hands so that you can keep your hands and arms warm even without mitts. Or you can cool off by letting the short cloak hang open or by throwing the sides of the short cloak behind you

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The first buzz!

We are now in our sixth year of Hive Programs at Minuteman National Historical Park.  The purpose of the each of the Hives has been to help each other develop as re-enactors and participate in Revolutionary War related events at the Park, reaching the highest standards possible in the re-enacting community.

Over the years our topics have included many elements of 18th century life with a special emphasis on recreating 18thc clothing as worn in New England.  We have decided to document and share as much as possible the goings on (Buzz) from the Hives held in previous years as well as current programs. We hope the information found here will be helpful and informative.

Posts will come from a variety of authors, including Sue Felshin, Hallie Larkin and Stephanie Smith and others who have yet to know they are going to write an article for us!