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Login Name Post: Southwestern Trappers and caped frock coats        (Topic#205678)
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
04-16-07 05:56 PM - Post#398500    


I was thumbing through the BOB that has the section on the southwest and the author states that the eastern style caped hunting frock was popular with the southwestern trappers. I've always kinda questioned it, with the age of the piece I'm wondering if anyone has come up with any new material or evidence for or against.

 
Anonymous 
04-17-07 09:49 PM - Post#398993    

    In response to Desert Rat

Rat,

There are a lot of things I've questioned in that article. Strangely enough I've found most of the information is reasonably correct, even though the interpretations of it may not be. The caped coat shown in it is not very correct in styling, but look at the caped buckskin 'southern Indian' coat the the Mountain Man Sketchbook I. Much better. I also originally thought that the mention of center seam leggings or 'mitasses' had to be wrong, but after talking with Cooner54 about this learned that center seam leggings were popular among many of the displaced eastern NDN tribes at the time including the Shawnee and Delaware and that some of the southern plains tribes used center seam leggings with long flaps. An example is the Audubon painting of Black Beaver that he posted here a while back. The picture of the long riding coat is based on an original Taoseno coat in the Museum of the Fur Trade, but the fellow's sombrero dates to a much later period as do his mocs. The short NM jackets are also generally PC. There is still some question as to whether the 'french-fly' trousers depicted in it are PC for the period, but I have an article from Charlie Hanson that suggests the breeches with a center fly may have been in use in the SW during the period. In terms of iornwork, comals were in use, but most examples I've seen were smaller and rounded. I've never seen the hanging griddle anywhere, but the spoons, chispas (fire steels), knives, etc. seem to be well represented. All in all, it was a pretty darned good article. The one thing I would question about it is just how much New Mexican gear your average white trapper would have worn. I doubt you'd have seen them 'duded up' Nuevo Mexicano-style in calzoneras and calzoncillos.

Sean

 
TANSTAAFL 
Cannon
Posts: 6528
04-18-07 12:44 AM - Post#399043    

    In response to Sean

I would have liked to have seen the gear worn by Marino Medina (Taos mountain man) in his hey day. Not what he wore in the pics of his later years, as here.



 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
04-18-07 10:33 AM - Post#399137    

    In response to Sean

  • Sean Said:
The one thing I would question about it is just how much New Mexican gear your average white trapper would have worn. I doubt you'd have seen them 'duded up' Nuevo Mexicano-style in calzoneras and calzoncillos.


I tend to agree, it seems that most of the reading I have done in the few first hand accounts that I have had access to, Americans did not think to highly of the Mexican men. I'll dig out my sketch book and review the coat you mentioned.

Thanks

 
Anonymous 
04-18-07 05:54 PM - Post#399306    

    In response to Desert Rat

  • Quote:
Americans did not think to highly of the Mexican men


Yes and no on that. I think some thought that and some didn't. There's definitely a few people like Charles Bent and others who thought little of New Mexican men. All at the time appeared fond of New Mexican women and many including Bent married these women or carried on long relationships with them. I don't believe that Kit was ever recorded saying anything derogatory towards New Mexicans other than sentiments toward Father Martinez who he blamed for Bent's death. But a lot of American authors at the time were also caught up in anti-Mexican sentiment after the war between Mexico and Texas and running up to the Mexican War. I think we need to take that into account when considering most 1840-50 era accounts as well as the anti-catholic sentiment of the time common among Americans. The reason I think what I said about the side-button Mexican trousers is that they are very foreign to what Americans at the time considered normal, whereas a short jacket wasn't nearly as much of a stretch for them. These pants were sometimes described by Americans as showing off the man's undergarments.

I really like that NDN coat in the MMSB I. It was attributed to displaced eastern NDNZ in TX, but there were a lot of these trapping in NM, CO, AZ, etc during that time.

Sean

 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
04-19-07 09:01 AM - Post#399522    

    In response to Sean

I guess my big question is what did the southwestern trapper rally look like? Did he in fact resemble his northern counterpart with lots of leather garments (style and fit a whole nother topic) or did they wear more fabric items? I'm assuming (that's not gotten me real far in the past) that fabric breeches, fabric shirt maybe leather leggings (the fringed side seam kinda doesn't seem right but I like them better than the "bota" or center seam) and then some kind of coat which the MMSB gives plenty of examples of were more common. I'm kinda basing this on the fact that the trappers in the southwest hit "civilization" more often and were able to re-fit more throughly before heading out again.

OK that's my 2 cents worth, please help me out, how far off base am I?

 
Doc Arroyo 
45 Cal.
Posts: 969
Doc Arroyo
04-19-07 10:24 AM - Post#399543    

    In response to Desert Rat

Some of the Norte Americanos were going from rendevous, autumn hunt south, wintering in Taos, spring hunt north, back to redevous. So they got clean shirts twice a year!

Have you read "Wah to Ya and the Taos trail" by Gerrard? He give a couple of great descriptions. One of my favorite, is when an trapper hears that Gerrard is going back to the fort, and hands him money to buy 4 new shirts.

The only items I might add would be leather pants, and blanket panchos. Both items seem to pop up in the journals that I have read.

I wear leather pants until it hits 80, then I switch to cotton or linen breeches and leggins. The breeches are cut with a "French" fly, since that was typical with the Spanish style of the day. Breeches were also common into the 1840's in Mexican California. I wear botas on occasion, shirt and vest most of the time. A leather coat most of the time, but a wool coat come out in really cold weather, and a hemp hunting frock comes out in hot weather.

Edited by Doc Arroyo on 04-19-07 10:25 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Anonymous 
04-19-07 11:12 AM - Post#399561    

    In response to Desert Rat

  • Quote:
I'm kinda basing this on the fact that the trappers in the southwest hit "civilization" more often and were able to re-fit more throughly before heading out again.


I think Doc is right here for some of the SW trappers, however its always tough and sometimes dangerous to develop a stereotype. The real question to ask is who are you talking about, because this was a diverse crowd.

During the 1810-late 1830's era you're dealing with a period where gringo trappers were mostly smugglers according to the Mexican government, and hence there wasn't a lot of mixing of styles. If you look at the estate of James Baird, trader and trapper who died in El Paso in 1826 (http://klesinger.com/jbp/estate.html), it reflects a lot of American goods and things that might have been rare or expensive in NM. Baird had been in NM and CHI for several years at that point. Sources like this suggest to me that the blending of cultures was slow. Many trappers who did not have permits to trap Mexican waters often had their catches confiscated or were charged outrageous taxes or duties, so the tendency was to sneak in furs and trade a few things under the table. These trappers in turn came from diverse backgrounds. Some drifted down from the northern Rockies, some across the Plains along the Arkansas River from Missouri, a substantial number were apparently Delaware or Cherokee coming from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas. Each group came with their own equipment and styles, and maybe traded a little for this or that as it was worn out or lost. However, some trappers like John Rowland, Kit Carson, Ceran and Marcellin St. Vrain, Ewing Young, and Antoine Roubidoux did convert to the Catholic church, became Mexican citizens, married New Mexican women, and received official trapping permits from the New Mexican Government. It only makes sense that such men would acquire some New Mexican clothing or equipment that was either traded for in the settlements or made by their wives. I would suggest that they were definitely a minority among SW trappers. I hope this sort of presents the breadth of the gradient that SW trappers might have represented. Another interesting source to look at is the trading list of James McNight who came to Mexico in 1822 with Thomas James.

http://www.xmission.com/~drudy/mtman/html/mcknight.html

This would give you some idea of the Anglo/gringo goods that might have been available there in the 1820's and 30's. American trappers would have been used to these sorts of goods, and may have sought them out when they came to Taos and Santa Fe.

I'm sure this all makes the situation clear as mud to you.

Sean

 
Doc Arroyo 
45 Cal.
Posts: 969
Doc Arroyo
04-19-07 11:46 AM - Post#399576    

    In response to Sean

  • Quote:
John Rowland, Kit Carson, Ceran and Marcellin St. Vrain, Ewing Young, and Antoine Roubidoux did convert to the Catholic church, became Mexican citizens, married New Mexican women, and received official trapping permits from the New Mexican Government. It only makes sense that such men would acquire some New Mexican clothing or equipment that was either traded for in the settlements or made by their wives. I would suggest that they were definitely a minority among SW trappers.


Agreed...except for Ewing Young. Even though he toed the line and did everything he could to become a New Mexican citizen to be able to get his trapping licence, he was always in trouble, and considered a banditi. Seems that he left a lot of people in doubt of his sincerity about being a citizen. I doubt that this fellow ever changed buckskins and moccasins for calzoneras and zapatos, but he may have worn a chaqueta when walking the square in Taos or Sante Fe.


 
Anonymous 
04-19-07 12:12 PM - Post#399582    

    In response to Doc Arroyo

Yup, Young was an interesting character and should not be included with those on this list. He converted to catholicism , married and had children with a New Mexican woman, but continually clashed with the governments in NM, CA and even HBC in Oregon. Interesting guy who seems to have had a head for business, but maybe not a head for politics. Agreed on the chaqueta and calzoneras. He was definitely a guy who held on to his American/Tennessee identity even tough he became a Mexican citizen. Charles Bent was of the same cut in this jib. He had a slightly better head for politics, but bad-mouthed New Mexican men and Catholics in general in private correspondence while he was the territorial governor. He eventually paid the ultimate price for underestimating them.

Sean

Edited by Sean on 04-19-07 12:17 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
04-19-07 04:51 PM - Post#399692    

    In response to Sean

It's interesting that McKnights list has "trowsers" and quite a few pairs of shoes. I wonder what the "knee straps" were for. Or if the market for the wrist bands was anglo or native?

 
Russian Bullmoose Man 
40 Cal.
Posts: 361
04-19-07 08:15 PM - Post#399790    

    In response to Sean

Converted to Catholic? Yes sir ree. You better, in the Southwest even Steven F Austin had to convert to Catholic, you couldn't hold land, or property in the southwest if you were not Catholic. Every so called person in Texas before they became their own nation had to be Catholic and go to Mass and whatever they had, to get anywhere in those areas such as
New Mexico, California, Texas.

I know many faked it to get titles, rights, and land, but you did sign the dotted line. Also looking at many of Austins styles including Bowie's clothing which both were land owners in Texas, the clothing was Spanish, style, not common workers, but Colonial Spanish looking. I know thry did this so authorities wouldn't notice them, like a tourist.
I went to Russia for a month and stuck out like a red turkey, and I quickly got into the normal look of everyone else, so I wouldn 't be bugged by beggers and police all the time. They did the same back in those days. So wearing a flat style hat most likely was used. But again back in the woods they used their own style.

 
Anonymous 
04-19-07 10:47 PM - Post#399843    

    In response to Desert Rat

Rat,

Cloth and clothing was supposedly in short supply in NM according to Becknell, but as I remember James' account they ended up eating a lot of the supplies they brought out because other traders flooded the market on that sort of goods. I reckon knee straps were leg ties, but who knows on the wrist straps.

Jeff,

I think we're talking two different situations here. The Texans were there to stay and wanted to blend because of that. Just good politics. However, there were fairly few American trappers who married and stayed in the early years of the NM fur trade. More later, but early on most drifted in, traded a few things, got loaded and in trouble, and then headed back north before some gal's brothers could track them down. The Delaware and Shawnee trappers don't appear to have tried to blend much. Although at least one named 'Where he was seen' in Delaware or an unmentionable phrase for this board in English supposedly married a Pueblo gal in Taos, and that got him in a lot of trouble in 1847.

Sean

 
Old Trapper 
32 Cal.
Posts: 13
05-16-07 12:39 AM - Post#408204    

    In response to Sean

Great thread going here -- one of the best discussions I've read so far!

I wonder if we shouldn't look a little broader at the Taos sub culture of trappers to also include those trappers in addition to Carson who settled with their New Mexican wives in the area that's now Colorado. That would include Charles Autobees, Tom Tobin, and a bunch of others in Arkansas River Valley around Pueblo. They stayed and raised families and have many descendents there today.

Antoine Leroux raised a family in the Taos area and has descendents there as well. Pauline Weaver also settled in Taos, but I don't know if he raised a family there. If you talk to the old locals in Taos some of them will also claim Jean Baptiste Charboneau as one of their part-time residents and report that he had a lesser-known half brother with a family in Taos.

Some of the lesser-known trappers may have blended in to the Taos culture so well that they are lost to history -- except for perhaps the local oral history that is still alive.

Even today the local Taos culture is very tight and you have to work hard to fit in to have a chance of being accepted. The trappers had everthing to gain by fitting in, and nothing to gain by staying outsiders. Who wouldn't want to marry a local dark-eyed beauty and get a share of a big Spanish land grant?

My personal opinion is that Northern New Mexico was already the Land of Enchantment in Carson's time. After the Mexican War some of them tried to have the best of both worlds, but prior to the Mexican War when they had to make a choice they chose New Mexico over the United States. That says a lot about how much they loved the country and the people. They didn't swap sides again until Kearny and his dragoons came riding in and raised the American flag.

Adopting the local material culture would not only have helped them fit in, but it also made economic sense as well. Why buy a wool blanket hauled over on a ship from England when you can have a more beautiful Rio Grande wool blanket for less money? Why buy Russian sheeting to manit up your plews when you you can get jerga for less money and it's more water repellent? Why use plains Indian moccassions when the local shoes turn cactus thorns better? Why pay a premium for Grimsly saddle from St. Louis when a Santa Fe saddle cost less and was just as good or better.

Seems like there's an argument for common sense and practicality in how much of the local culture trappers adopted.

 
Anonymous 
05-16-07 12:11 PM - Post#408357    

    In response to Old Trapper

OT,

Well said. The SW fur trade interests me because I live down here, but also because of the interactions of the New Mexican, American, and NDN cultures. It was also for the most part a fairly loose group of free-booters and smugglers instead of a company controlled industry. That makes it tougher to research. Folks like Pauline Weaver, Gabe (Hiram) Allen, James Kirker, James Johnson, the McKnights and Joe Walker as well as men like Swannock, 'Where He Was Seen', and Spybuck drift in and out of the SW history, largely under the radar of New Mexican authorities.

Glad to see we have some others here that are interested in this. Welcome to the board.

Sean

 
Russian Bullmoose Man 
40 Cal.
Posts: 361
05-16-07 01:14 PM - Post#408383    

    In response to Old Trapper

Good words OT
as to whiteman in the southwest? you must realize that in 1821 William Becknell started the trade in that region and by 1826 the wagons by the 100's were already going into New Mexico and mules/gold/silver were coming back to Missouri. in 26 William Becknell was working with the US goverment and with Mexico to "grade and survey a road" all the way to Santa Fe. If that was true, then you had major American goods going into that region. The southern fur trappers were already established in that area and this was way before the RONDEZVOUS ERA of the 30's til 1841?
Santa Fe was a major trade area and town and people from Old Mexico City to California were coming to that area to get American goods. Yes trade in that area was BIG TIME and I do believe that high priced American goods was overlooked if you lived in that area and could get a lower priced local item. Also if you wanted to become apart of the community, then yes, you took on some of the local looks and clothing. As to wearing the leather, like the North trappers, I'm sure in the mountains you did whatever you could to stay warm and wearing leather was the fashion, but in the hotter climate of New Mexico, cloth/fabric was and still is, what you have to wear to stay cool. The Santa Fe trail brought many new objects and items into old Mexico that the common man wanted, but through these trades we now have the Missouri Mules and the Spanish dollar was still legal tender up til 1857,
I think that clothing from the southwest could have a more of Spanish Flare and the noble blood or upper class would be wearing this type of clothing, California also had Old Spanish blood and many liked and wore their clothing with pride. The shorten "bolero jackets" that some were talking about is a favorite look and style, it almost has the military civil war jacket look to it. As to the button up leg pants, this was a prestage look and the rich wore these to show off the fact they had undergarments under them (rich). It does look cool and neat looking. I personally like that style and if you are going to play that type of persona from that region, go for it, but it most likely wasn't fur trappers clothing, but only rich people that were living and staying in that region.

 
Anonymous 
05-16-07 01:56 PM - Post#408405    

    In response to Russian Bullmoose Man

As an aside, the 'Missouri Mule' was really New Mexican in origin. It began with the Santa Fe Trade through traders and arrieros (packers) taking New Mexican Mammoth jacks back across the SF Trail to Missouri. Ewing Young got into the burro and mule trade making trips to Chihuahua City to acquire jackstock. As late as the 1870's the Apache raiding northern Mexico referred to Chihuahua City as the 'City of Mules'.

On clothing, cloth was a luxury in New Mexico for the lower classes. New Mexico was much more of a backwater than Texas and Mexico and hence trade goods were more rare and expensive. When Becknell made his first famous trip in 1821-22, there was high demand for cloth. However the market was not as big as early traders originally thought. James and McKnight had a hard time disposing of theirs and ended up losing money on the trip. New Mexicans prized the deer hides dressed by the Ute. New Mexicans traded slaves, blankets, and even horses to the Ute for their buckskins.

On cloth and temperature, that may be true, but its a whopping 55 degrees and raining here today at 8700 feet above sea level. Hot days in the desert are followed by cool nights. also, buckskin clothing is a lot more durable for hard service than cloth. There's an article in one of the old issues of the MFTQ that shows a pair of Navajo-made buckskin breeches, dating to the 1850's. They are button fly with silver buttons up the side as well.

Sean

Edited by Sean on 05-16-07 01:58 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Anonymous 
05-16-07 02:10 PM - Post#408414    

    In response to Sean

Regarding temepratures, etc.: one should remember/realize that until 1850 the world was still in the grip of the Little Ice Age - cooler temps prevailed even here in the Southwest..also altitude is a major factor as Sean noted - for example Santa Fe, Taos, and environs is over 7,000 ft ASL - days can be warm even hot, but once that sun goes down it chills off fast. The "low" country here where I live in SW Colorado is 6,500 ft ASL

FWIW - According to Stephen G. Hyslop in his book "Bound for Santa Fe", an excellent book which is highly recommended by Marc Simmons, author/expert emeritus on the Southwest, the disdainful "attitude" towards the Mexicans/Spanish by those from the States, doesn't appear until the mid-late 1840's during the "Conquest". His statement is based on his exhaustive research/reading of all the period journals available.

 
Anonymous 
05-16-07 02:22 PM - Post#408422    

    In response to Gray Wolf

Good info Chuck. You're right on the Little Ice Age. One of the most unfortunate things about the SW is that settlement and partitioning of water rights occurred at the tail end of the wettest and coolest period in the region since the Pleistocene.

I'll have to look up that book. The anti-New Mexican sentiments I've seen in print all date to the mid-late 1840's around the Mexican War era. However, I know that Ewing Young and many gringo trappers were not overly fond of the NM government in the 1820-30 period.

Sean

 
TANSTAAFL 
Cannon
Posts: 6528
05-16-07 02:50 PM - Post#408430    

    In response to Sean

I thought I had posted this, but, couldn't find it.?

I have read most of David Weber's books, and found his book, "The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540-1846" very interesting, but then, they all were.

If one is interested in factual (read as dry for some) Spanish/Mexican American history, Weber is hard to beat.

http://faculty.smu.edu/dweber/shortcv.html

 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
05-16-07 05:05 PM - Post#408469    

    In response to TANSTAAFL

Weber's book is really good although in some places dry don't begin to expalin it....

I'm reading "Old Bill Williams, Mountain Man" right now, the author's name is to hard to remember but it is very well written and for the most part seems well documented. One point the author talks about Bill giving up his traps and trying his hand at trading in the Square of Taos. It mentions he couldn't unload whole bolts of cloth and ended up giving up the things away and tacking his traps back to the mountains.

 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
05-16-07 07:57 PM - Post#408518    

    In response to Desert Rat

OK, so I was wrong in my earlier post. I looked up the story when I got home, Old Bill got tired of being on the other side of the table arguing prices with the locals. After the last straw he threw the bolts into the street and watched the women fight over the cloth. It would appear that cloth was highly sought after and quickly scooped up when it could be had.

The story is cited from the private papers of J.S. McGehee

The author of the book is Alpheus H. Favour

 
Anonymous 
05-16-07 11:39 PM - Post#408604    

    In response to Desert Rat

Rat,

Becknell reportedly came back with pack animals loaded down with sacks of coins. The profit was such that several traders went to Santa Fe the next year with goods. I don't think they flooded the market with cloth so much as tapped the poor Norteno's purses, hence James and McKnight arriving later in the season than their competition had a difficult time unloading their wares.

Sean

 
Desert Rat 
45 Cal.
Posts: 722
Desert Rat
05-17-07 11:05 AM - Post#408765    

    In response to Sean

Sean,
I agree with what you're saying, I think Bill just didn't like being on the other side of the table talking up prices instead of talking up the price of his plews. A key point is whether the story if true or not it does indicate that when he did give the cloth away it created quite a frenzy because it was a wanted and valued item.

 
TANSTAAFL 
Cannon
Posts: 6528
05-17-07 11:45 AM - Post#408784    

    In response to Desert Rat

He may not have liked it much, but he liked it well enough as to where he owned and operated a couple of trading posts on the Oregon Trail.

Fort Bridger, was not a fort per se, but a smithy and trading post, with a rather sorry assortment of goods at high prices, as per some contemporaneous journal entries I have read.

 
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