Salem Shopping in 1774

I’ve been having more fun going through old presentation and research files that I mentioned in an earlier post. This post will be short (on pictures) and sweet (on shopping wishlists) as I share three fabulous advertisements from 1774 editions of the Essex Gazette. Oh, to have a time machine and go back to do some shopping!

John Appleton May 3 1774

Excerpt from Essex Gazette, May 3, 1774

First up… the offerings of John Appleton at his store in Salem. Appleton advertised wares as early as 1768 in the same newspaper. This particular advert has quite the listing, including:

Calicoes and Patch… striped linen for jackets, taffeties … padusays… blue, green and cloth-coloured damasks, … Long lawn, cambricks, Plain and flowered lawns, Lawn aprons, diapers … Cardinal silk … Cotton velvits, …Silk ferrets … Stay trimmings… Women’s English & Lynn shoes … and fish-hooks.

According to the advert, these goods were recently imported from London, and are listed as ‘A fine Assortment of English, India, Irish & Scotch Goods, at the very lowest Rates.’ The image scan is a bit too fuzzy to make out the spelling of every item but one can get a sense of the breadth of variety without knowing the specifics. (And for the record I now want a Cardinal silk cloak… because why not?)

Next up is and advertisement from the following week, May 10-17, 1774. This time we can see the offerings of Nath’l Sparhawk… which is just the best name ever for a shop owner!

Nathaniel Sparhawk May 10 1774

Excerpt from Essex Gazette, May 10, 1774

He had advertised Beavers and Bohea (among other items) in January of the same year but in May was running a much longer column. His goods were coming from London and Bristol and I found it interesting that he named the specific Captains who made the journey. I’m also curious that he sells by wholesale and retail at his ‘CHEAP STORE in King-Street, SALEM, a few Doors above the Custom-House.’ Was cheap a favorable way to describe a shop? Curious minds are wondering but have no answers… yet.

Sparhawk offers many items in common with Appleton, but a few differences can be found including the following:

…changeable lutestrings, black ditto … Quality shoes & coat bindings, Gold and silver Prussian ditto … Children’s red Morocco leather shoes … Black and white whimsey caps, with cords … Plain and flower’d serges … Black and white spider-net, Queens’ gauzes … Black and white catgut … Women’s white and glazed and unglazed kid gloves & mitts … and Coffee.

More than a few interesting items in the Sparhawk list! If I’m transcribing it correctly, whimsey caps (with cords of course) are by far the most curious to me. I’ve not done much serious 18th century fashion research in a number of years so it could be that this is a wildly popular and well-known term. However, it’s new to me and I love the idea of purchasing such an item to wear, just so I could ask for it out loud.  In other adverts, Sparhawk lists them with children’s items and in one case, specifically calls them Children’s Whimsey Caps so it could just a youthful garment – more’s the pity!

Excerpt from Essex Gazette, December 27, 1774

Excerpt from Essex Gazette, December 27, 1774

Last but not least we jump to the end of year for a December 1774 advert, this time provided by George Dublois. Like Appleton, Dublois had been advertising since at least 1768. Many of his goods are the same as the other shops – checks, linens, broad-cloths, camblets, stockings, and the like seem to be common to just about every ad for English (and Irish, Indian, and European) Goods of the period.

A few new additions to this particular set of three listings includes:

… Bath Frizes … knit breeches Patterns … Hatter’s Trimmings of all sorts … crimp and common cap Wire … letter’d and other Gartering, … and velvit Corks.

Velvit corks? Um, okay. A quick googling shows that to be a high quality type of cork. Who knew?

There’s more than a few terms that I’d love to look into more as time allows. But once again, the hour grows late today and I’ll have to save those efforts for another day. Until then, I’ll be having dreams of cap wire and whimsy caps and flowered serges and striped linen jackets… with a few velvit corks and fish hooks thrown in for good measure!


Blast from the past… 1770s style

Antique Nanking ware platter from Mine is almost as fabulous!

Antique Nanking ware platter from Mine is almost as fabulous!

Long story short (which is not one of my strengths…) I found myself at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts earlier today. A small revolutionary war encampment was happening and I went to meet the owner of The Georgian Kitchen. Sadly, I didn’t get to sample any food (total fail on my part not his!) but it did look delicious and I did snag some stunning Nanking ware platters and dessert plates.

This was my first visit back to the 1770s in quite a few years, and while I can’t be sure, I think it’s been nearly seven years since I last visited this particular historic site. As a super-involved RevWar reenactor from 1999 through 2009-ish, I spent many weekends at places like the Homestead. Being there on a beautiful day like today, it’s easy to recall many of the memories I created over the years and I have to admit that I still miss parts of the hobby.

One of things I miss most is teaching and presenting clothing workshops – I love seeing the look on someone’s face when they have an a-ha! moment in the midst of learning a new technique or when a smile pops up while modeling a new gown.

As I looked through my computer files for photographs of events in Danvers, my search came up empty but I did stumble upon a two presentations I gave related to 1770s clothing in Danvers. So instead of pretty event photos, I’m sharing some facts, figures, and what-nots from those notes. Without further ado…

danvers clothing 2007

While the talk was originally 90 minutes or so, I’m cherry picking some of my favorite bits and pieces here, including this unusual portrait of Nancy Bezoil Lane and one of her children. According to the notes I copied at the time, the auction site (F.O. Bailey) that sold the painting had the following to say:

Nancy Bezoil Lane and fifth child by Benjamin Blyth, 1781.

Nancy Bezoil Lane and fifth child by Benjamin Blyth, 1781.

A fine 18th C portrait of Nancy Bezoil Lane (Mrs. Nicholas Lane) and her 5th child (mother of 13 children) of Salem, Mass., in the manner Joseph Badger, from the Frothingham/ Smith family who have resided in Wayne, Maine since the early 1900’s;

There was one item in the sale that might have escaped unheralded but for a few bidders in the know. It was a large oil on canvas with its subjects identified through family history as Nancy Bezoil Lane and her fifth child of Salem, Massachusetts. Later information dug up revealed that her husband, Nicholas, was a sailmaker. The consigning family was from Wayne, Maine, and represented the Smith side of the Smith/Frothingham connection to the famous furniture makers of Massachusetts.

Apparently, the double portrait was misattributed. Listed as “in the manner of Joseph Badger,” at least two knowledgeable bidders blew off the Badger connection and proceeded on their own knowledge. The winner at $32,480 was dealer Marvin Sadik of Scarborough, Maine, who was dead certain that the artist was actually Benjamin Blyth (baptized 1746-after 1786).

He affirmed later: “There’s a lot of information on [Blyth] in the Massachusetts Historical Society…I’ve had it cleaned, and it looks terrific, and the woman has a wonderful coiffure. It was painted in 1780. We found that out by checking her birth date. It was in Salem.” He later added, “She’s sitting in a Chippendale chair, and the baby is holding a teething ring. I just got it back from the conservator…There are only about three known oil portraits by Blyth, so cleaned up it looks wonderful.”

Sadik referred to a very similar painting in Nina Fletcher Little’s Paintings by New England Provincial Artists 1775-1800 on page 55. “The painting is quite similar to mine of Mrs. Benjamin Moses, virtually the same size as mine, painted by Blyth in 1781, and it is in the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, and that is evidence enough for me.“

What is perhaps most interesting is that according to the Gloucester & Salem Vital Records books, Nancy’s husband Nicholas was a sailmaker and they married and lived first in Gloucester before moving to Salem, a major port town adjacent to Danvers. The portrait is a great pictorial example of what clothing was being worn by the middling sort and when combined with newspapers from the time, we start to get a more accurate sense of what was being worn in the area.

Although Danvers was primarily a farming community, its proximity and connection to the larger prosperous town of Salem would have exposed many residents to range of goods and services. And even Danvers had its own shops that catered to the fashion needs of the residents.

Here are a few of the listings that were included in the original presentation:

Date Shop Name Owner Business Location
1768 No info Nathan Andrews Cordwainer Unknown
1768 King’s Head Tavern William Jones Tavern Rd fr. Boston to Salem
1768 Bake House Benjamin Pickman, Esq. (of Salem) To be let Near new mills
1769-70 The Bell Inn Francis Symonds Selling India & English good; Entertainment for Man and Horse Near Salem
1774 No info Jeremiah Page Store & Shop adjoining to be let 1 m. east of Mr. P’s Tavern
1774 Mr. P’s Tavern Mr. P______ Tavern 1 m. west of J. Page
1774 Unnamed Joseph Jackson Assortment of English Goods, suitable for all seasons Opp. Capt. Page’s
1769-74 Unnamed William Pool Gloves, Leather Breeches, etc A little below Bell Tavern

Phew! The midnight hour is creeping upon us once again and while it would be lovely to add some more portraits and pretty dresses… that will just have to wait for another post. Happy stitching my friends… and for those that like the challenge of research, I hope you enjoy these little tidbits!

Update: Oops! My bad… this post was totally inspired by the Day 4 CoBloWriMo prompt: Write about a recent event you’ve been to or trip you’ve taken.

Francaise Dinner Gown – Part 2

This should probably be parts 2,3,4, and 5 due to all the sewing that’s been happening but, as usual, my blogging hasn’t kept up! I have had more needle time lately and it’s been surprisingly nice doing so much hand-sewing. No machines to set up, no ironing boards, no noise.

Why I’ve ended up sewing the whole thing by hand is beyond me… I think it might be muscle memory! I’ve almost always sewn and trimmed 18th century gowns by hand so it just sort of happened this time too.

Anyway, the petticoat is more or less down – just a few more tacking stitches are needed on the trim but I’m thinking I’ll leave those for some evening sewing once I get to the Inn on Friday night.


Those pocket hoops really create such a flattering skinny shape, eh?

The next step was assembling and pleating the sleeves. They ended up pretty snug around my arms but the fit perfectly over my shoulder. Guess I’ll just have to be extra ladylike and not flex my muscles too much while wearing the gown!


Pretty sleeves! They're based on ones in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion

It hasn’t shown much in the photos but linen has been used for the lining – an apple green for the bodice, and a tighter weave natural for the sleeves. Everything from the stash! I was especially lucky after taking a close-up look at the Kyoto gown sleeves and realizing that they were originally trimmed with pleated and ruched gauze. Flashback ten years to making a gauze-trimmed 18th century wedding gown. I must have bought 10-15 yards at the time…. and sure enough, I still had some tucked away in the silk box!
(Admittedly I might not get to adding that trim before the dinner but I’m ready when I do have time!)


Not so interesting... The left bodice front and back pleats.

Last weekend was spent sewing the back pleats down and finishing all the front bodice edges. Boring (and slightly painful) sewing but it had to get done. Ten straight hours of sewing through 4-10 layers… My fingers were so sore the next day!

That’s all the updates for now as the midnight hour is striking again. Up next… Details on the pocket hoops and stomacher!

Francaise Dinner Gown – Part 1

After the lengthy and sad winter thus far, I’m looking forward to some merry-making later in a few short weeks. With friends planning a fabulous Francaise Dinner for March 1st, I’ve pulled out a long neglected project and have spent the evening stitching away.

kyoto blue dress

Kyoto Costume Institute: AC7621 92-34-2AB

I’ve admired this particular dress in the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute ever since spying it in one of their books close to a decade ago. I had a color copy of the book page pinned to my bulletin board for years and somewhere along the way I picked up ten or so yards of a similar looking Waverly print. Bits and pieces had been cut and prepped – enough so that when I pulled some of it out tonight, I found a completely finished petticoat! Hemmed, waist bound with tape, and even the waist ties are hemmed at their narrow little ends!

The next pleasant surprise was finding that the self-fabric petticoat trim (pleats of two depths) had been cut to size, joined, and all edges pressed under. All that was lovely (and probably accounted for 3 hours sometime in the past) but it did mean that I was able to get straight to pleating and attaching trim tonight.

Here’s the first go round!close up of pinned pleats

The photo is quite yellow but one can see the deeper of the two pleated bands starting to take shape. The pleated band is 14″ tall and the first step was creating repeating box pleats about 1″ wide with an equal amount of space between pleats. Since I was doing this while sitting in bed and watching Bleak House, nothing has been pressed and looks much puffier than the inspiration gown. That aside, the proportions seem pretty close for my height. The top 3″ are pleated, then the next 4″ are ruched all over, and then the bottom 7″ are pleated. I stitched the panel to the petticoat at the lower level of the ruching to create an attachment point. Next I just went crazy stitching the ruched section down in random patterns. It didn’t start to look right until most of it was done and a pressing should improve it even further.

The upper and lower edges were sewn down to the petticoat with a running backstitch. I’m hoping to find some appropriate edging  and that will cover any stitching that shows and add a beautiful finish. Once the base trim was on, I started pinning the lower level of trim in place. This was simpler – just 1/2″ box pleats with equal space between. I’ve only pinned it in place as I was getting pretty tired of stitching!

I finally called it a night and gave it one quick try-on and lo & behold it actually looked the way I wanted it to!!

2014-01-29 22.00.34

Sadly the photo of a reflection doesn’t do much justice to my efforts but it is looking like a proper trimmed petticoat!

Now to get some sleep and start the next batch of sewing tomorrow!

Blue Butterflies & Flowers

HPIM2179Here’s a touch of Throw-Back-Thursday as I look at past projects and commissions. This lovely gown en fourreau was made in a 1770s style in medium weight printed cotton. I had spotted a gown made of identical fabric (white ground with repeating blue floral and butterfly motifs) featured in the Milliner’s Shop at Colonial Williamsburg about ten years ago so when I stumbled upon new yardage at a local fabric shop a year later, I scooped it right up.

My dear friend A.T. was the lucky recipient of this made-to-order gown and matching petticoat – both with self-fabric trim and blue silk bows on the sleeves. I’ve been hunting my photo files for closer views of the gown but thus far… no luck! However, I do remember that all of the trimming was made up of gathered ‘poufs.’ Strips of fabric were torn from selvedge to selvedge in varying widths according to where it would be placed on the gown. The bodice trimming used strips that were probably about 1.5″ to 2″ wide and each long edge was turned under and secured with a running stitch before gathering into the ‘poufs’ every 1.5″ or so.

The gown skirt started with trimming of the same width at the waist. As the trim progressed in S-curves along the front edges, I used slightly wider trimming. It’s hard to be sure, but from looking at the photo, the trimming strips were probably cut as wide as 4″ by the time I was trimming the lowest portions of the skirt. That same size of trimming is also used on the matching petticoat.

As with most of the gowns that I was commissioned with, only a few seams were sewn by machine. The bodice lining seams, the armsyce, the skirt sides and the petticoat sides are typically the few that see machine stitches. The remainder were sewn by hand and at the time I was making this gown and others, it was usually taking about 8-10 hours to complete a basic gown and 3 hours to complete a basic petticoat. I wish I could remember how long it took to do all that trimming but alas… no idea!!!

The sleeve ruffles added just the right finishing touch to the gown and I got lucky finding a blue silk satin ribbon that matched the print exactly. Speaking of the print – although they don’t show up in this fragment, there were indeed butterflies mixed in to the print and it still makes me smile when I find bits and pieces among my scrap bags!

blue butterfly fabric

No butterflies to be seen here… but still some lovely shades of blue!

Tutorial Time

Happy New Year!  I haven’t planned any particular firm resolutions for 2014 but here are a few things I would like to accomplish in no particular order:

  • 1911 yellow walking ensemble
  • 1923 picnic dress & hat
  • blue chintz sacque gown
  • stays patterning video tutorial
  • gown en fourreau photo tutorial
  • 1911 petticoat photo tutorial
  • scanning 1911 Priscilla magazines
  • 1820s blue corded corset (I’m currently lusting after the one below from the Met!

Cotton corset (1825-35), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.6417

Oh, and probably other random projects that pop into my head! But speaking of resolutions, I do really hope to stay on top of my blogging. I have mote than 15 years of miscellaneous tutorials and notes on extant costumes that need to make their way off my computer and on to these pages.

With that in mind, I’ve created a new page for tutorials that I will continue to expand as time allows. The first tutorial posted is Making Stays, 1730-1780, based on extant garment study, stays making workshops, and my experience making custom 18th century stays, and what I learned from teaching that process.


While the tips and techniques included are far from the only ways to constructs stays in an eighteenth century manner, I do hope the overview and photos will prove useful to others. Full handsewing directions are there for those that like the authentic route but I also found a few shortcuts when time is short and/or machine sewing is preferred but a reasonably authentic look is still desired.  I still haven’t managed to handsew an entire pair of 18c stays for myself so I’be had fun figuring out the most effective ways to “cheat” with a machine. Measuring for stays & adjusting patterns will be added shortly… I just need to find a willing model and some free time to shoot the photos & video!

Ugly Changeable Silk Gown Anglais – Part One

MVC-708XWell… maybe not ugly! But I have been referring to it as the wonderfully hideous silk or the hideously wonderful silk when describing it to others. It was purchased some months ago at Fabric Place in Woburn. Either before or after meeting Jane for dinner at Pizzeria Uno – we innocently walked across the mall to see what happened to be there. Of course, any trip to FP requires checking the silk remnant tables in the home dec section. And there was this interesting piece of silk. Orange and blue changeable taffeta. I fell in love instantly! Oh… and there was 11 yards in three pieces. Yep… it came home with me! I even liked it enough to pay full price…
And when I say that the silk is orange and blue… I mean nearly neon orange and a brilliant blue, almost turquoise. Yeah… there’s a reason I call it the ugly silk! It’s an interesting coppery, beige-y, blue-ish when shimmering in and out of the light. Ready to see it? Here goes…

The camera doesn’t quite do it justice but it’s not too far off, either. But that’s all for now… a movie just got put in and the lights have been shut off around me!