Leggings & Breech Clout and other Non-PC clothing

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Scarface

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I've been researching the proper attire for an early 19th Century Fur Trapper in the Rocky Mountain West. Alas, I am finding that the so called experts in the modern day are not accurate to what they are portraying. I was recently at an event where AAM fur trappers were giving presentations and they looked great in their worn and weathered leggings, breech clouts, and even their scarves on their heads like a pirate would wear. Now after doing research I am finding that is not even close to accurate. The fur trappers did not wear leggings and breech clouts like the native americans wore. They did not wear scarfs on their heads, etc.

Simply put, the fur trappers were typically poor fellows trying to eek out a living. They wore wool and linen pants. When those wore out they would wear pants made out of leather, but they were made as pants not leggings and breech clouts. They wore shirts made out of linen and other materials that was common for the day. Hats were low round crowns with wide brims, they also would have worn knitted toques and other hats common for the time period. When their hats wore out or lost they would stitch up wool blankets for head protection. In summary they would have been a rag tag looking bunch just wearing whatever to offer protection from the elements.

The era has been so romanticized that I am finding even those that are supposed to be experts in period correct clothing are not even close to being PC. They are romanticizing the era like everyone else. I'm finding that if a person researches what people wore post Revolutionary War into the early 19th century you will be more "Period Correct" and accurate than trying to look like a "mountain man".
 

tenngun

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Miller painted lots of skins, but the only mountain man I know of painted in leggings was a Delaware Indian.
Personally I THINK Miller exaggerated even the amount of buckskin clothing just based on what was taken to sell at voo.
Eastren Indian tribes turned in skins for cloth as soon as they could.
Buckskin of course is a magical clothing material, hot when it’s hot, cold when’s it’s cold and similar to nose mucus when wet.
I can’t think of any account of westerners in Indian leggings, though it shows up in eastren frontier communities. And just a few years after the MM period Bringham would paint folks coming back from the west... in cloth.
If’n you wants to do a mountain man, get you a cloth working mans out fit. IMHO
 

Scarface

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Miller painted lots of skins, but the only mountain man I know of painted in leggings was a Delaware Indian.
Personally I THINK Miller exaggerated even the amount of buckskin clothing just based on what was taken to sell at voo.
Eastren Indian tribes turned in skins for cloth as soon as they could.
Buckskin of course is a magical clothing material, hot when it’s hot, cold when’s it’s cold and similar to nose mucus when wet.
I can’t think of any account of westerners in Indian leggings, though it shows up in eastren frontier communities. And just a few years after the MM period Bringham would paint folks coming back from the west... in cloth.
If’n you wants to do a mountain man, get you a cloth working mans out fit. IMHO
Thanks for the reply. As you mentioned Buckskin is uncomfortable to wear. I am not familiar with Bringham, I'll do some research on that..interesting, thanks. When reading the Journals of Lewis and Clark they had to make clothes out of leather due their other clothes wearing out. Many accounts of the men nearly naked in tattered Buckskins especially when they wintered on the west coast. With that said the Native Americans preferred the white mans clothes and would trade for them. I do believe that your typical fur trapperr in the early 1800's wore cloth clothes when able.


I read an account where Kit Carson purchased cotton/wool blend pants at Ft. Hall if I remember the location right. There is an article in the 2010 Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal through the Museum of the Mountain Man about Euro-Americans wearing Breech Clout and Leggings in the Rocky Mountain West. 2010 is one I do not have so I had to order it. I am curious as to what it says. I am however certain that it was not the norm if at all by European Americans. I agree a cloth outfit for the early 1800's time period is probably the way to go.

Thirdly, it is not my attention to bash the AAM or any other organization. I really just want to get to the truth on what your everyday Fur Trapper in the Rocky Mountain wore on a day to day basis. From the research and hours of reading into the subject I am finding that it is not how it is commonly portrayed by the majority of re-enactors. The time period seems to have been romanticized to something it is not, but it also seems that romanticizing started with artists like Miller, rich folks like Stewart, and others before it was even over. Reminds me of the dime novels during the time period after the Civil War.
 

tenngun

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We had created the leather stocking myth before we had become a country. I do think early artist fed in to this . I THINK that typical white men in the frontier dressed just like any poor-lower middle class working man.
Folks wouldn’t want to see paintings of sights they could see in any farmers field or ware house in town.
So they painted skin clad folks, that’s what people wanted to see. The painting of Crocket and Boone as a white haired woods man come to mind.
Kurz, paining in the west just after the MM period shows cloth also as the predominant clothing.
And that brings up shoes boots and a recurring theme in our forum. Warm feet in cold weather. Western journals are full of moccasins. No doubt plenty of moccs were worn. However ledgers are full of boots and shoes. Again this is an ‘IThink’. I think boys bought shoes and boots and wore them when needed, useing moccs when appropriate, pulling on shoes when needed.
Back in my ‘golden buckskin brigade days I wanted to look just like I stepped out of a Remington painting, but now I think it a far cry from reality.
 

Scarface

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Brigham, not Bringham sorry.
George Caleb Brigham.
Thank for the information.

I've been thinking. I live in Wyoming where a lot of this history took place. Wyoming is a cold, desolate place even in the summer at higher elevations it gets cold. It was even colder back then as the Little Ice Age ended around 1850. I remember reading about Smith, Fitzpatrick and others at South Pass in July and waking up to ice as it was below freezing. WIth that said these fur trappers would have wanted to dress warm. The best material in those days was Wool. I can find more evidence that they would have worn coats of the day like Great Coats made of dense wool. I am finding that the Capote made out of wool point blankets might be an embellished myth as well. Coats were sent to the Rendezvous and trading posts that were called blanket coats. These were manufactured coats made from Wool and I think the Frock or Great Coat would be more historically correct than a coat made from a precious Wool blanket. Shoes...that is a good subject as well and I am inclined to believe that boots were being worn along with moccasins like you state.

Of course buckskin was used as it is documented in countless resources. As clothes wore out you had to use what was available. Was it preferred though, that is the question? As I stated in my first post. I think these boys were probably a rag tag looking bunch wearing whatever to survive the elements. The certainly weren't the majestic image of a Mountain Man that we think of. I have a beautiful piece of art titled "Green River Trapper" by David Wright. He is clad in his beautiful buckskins with beautiful bead work. His leather rifle case is also covered in beautiful beads. He is wearing a Beaver hat with small bill. If I could go back in time, that man dressed like that would not have existed at a Rendezvous. It is disappointing to me, but it is reality.
 

Loyalist Dave

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Simply put, the fur trappers were typically poor fellows trying to eek out a living. They wore wool and linen pants. When those wore out they would wear pants made out of leather, but they were made as pants not leggings and breech clouts. They wore shirts made out of linen and other materials that was common for the day. Hats were low round crowns with wide brims, they also would have worn knitted toques and other hats common for the time period. When their hats wore out or lost they would stitch up wool blankets for head protection. In summary they would have been a rag tag looking bunch just wearing whatever to offer protection from the elements.

The era has been so romanticized that I am finding even those that are supposed to be experts in period correct clothing are not even close to being PC. They are romanticizing the era like everyone else. I'm finding that if a person researches what people wore post Revolutionary War into the early 19th century you will be more "Period Correct" and accurate than trying to look like a "mountain man".
I know you're not "bashing" the AMM, but you haven't mentioned how you discovered that their impression using leggings and breechclouts is inaccurate, and how you established what was actually worn. So their presentation is an assertion, but..., alas..., without you mentioning the actual sources for your discoveries, then your information is but an assertion as well, perhaps based on speculation. IF you assert the fashions of the post AWI era of the East transferred to the West without variation..., you may be 100% right...., or you might also be making an assumption.

It's very tough for us to tell which viewpoint, because all of the above is generalities, which is the proper view...;)

LD
 

Scarface

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I know you're not "bashing" the AMM, but you haven't mentioned how you discovered that their impression using leggings and breechclouts is inaccurate, and how you established what was actually worn. So their presentation is an assertion, but..., alas..., without you mentioning the actual sources for your discoveries, then your information is but an assertion as well, perhaps based on speculation. IF you assert the fashions of the post AWI era of the East transferred to the West without variation..., you may be 100% right...., or you might also be making an assumption.

It's very tough for us to tell which viewpoint, because all of the above is generalities, which is the proper view...;)

LD
I have never read any literature or seen pictures from Miller etc. from that time period that depicts Euro-American Mountain Men wearing breechclouts and leggings like is commonly depicted today. As I posted, I have ordered the 2010 edition from the Museum of the Mountain Man that has an article about that very topic. I am curious as to what it says. The information that has survived shows that clothing, shoes, coats, etc. were taken to Rendezvous, trading posts etc. Of course they were wearing cloth clothes and would have left St. Louis wearing them. It is more likely than not that a poor fur trapper was wearing what was commonly available.

The Politics of what is "Period Correct" has admittedly been a turnoff for me as I delve into this topic. My family and I were at an event and a AMM member was bashing another member because he wasn't wearing "Period Correct" clothing. I had to chuckle because he was wearing an extravagant buckskin jacket which would have never been seen and a flat crowned hat that didn't come into use until the 1840's at the earliest. If I were to wear period correct cloth clothing there would be those that would say I wasn't being "period correct" even though there is more historical evidence to back up what I would be wearing vs. there "Indian" attire.
 

tenngun

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AMM want to do every thing right, and do their best. However I can’t think of one journal that puts MM in clot and leggings.
We do have drawings and paintings from the time and around the time that show skins, but by Kutz’s time, just after MM period we see predominantly cloth. And the ledgers of the goods taken to voo are woolen coats pants, linen shirts wool shirts boots and shoes.
Ruxton (ithink) puts a MM in a linen shirt, unless it’s worn out then an antelope skin shirt will serve. And such a shirt is called crude.
I’m not an AMMmenber and don’t know where they stand on leggings and clot but during MM period we just don’t see it referenced
 

Loyalist Dave

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If I were to wear period correct cloth clothing there would be those that would say I wasn't being "period correct" even though there is more historical evidence to back up what I would be wearing vs. there "Indian" attire.
Ah but how they react is not the issue, eh?

Folks that have invested a lot of coin are going to resist any changes. So who cares?
And then there is the axiom, "the more narrow the area of expertise, the more likely the person is to consider themselves experts in other areas". So you may find a person who is quite good at copying one image, a correct one, but if that image was of a very eccentric person (i.e. John Chapman) then there will be problems. OR that image was of a very specific geographic location, or the person depicted was in very fancy, ceremonial garb, not every day stuff.

The question is, OK you saw an incorrect hat on an "expert"..., but..., you need to be able to say to some of us who are actually curious, from where you got your information about what was worn, and what was not.

For example, I can show that Meeshach Browning was summoned from the very Western portion of Maryland to court in Annapolis just a few years after the War of 1812 ended, and he had his wife make him a brand new hunting frock. But..., when he arrived in town, he was stared at, as the townfolk had decades prior stopped wearing such attire. The account is in Browning's book, Forty-Four Years in The Life of A Hunter. So where Browning lived, it was a very nice piece of clothing, but where he ended his journey, he was not properly dressed, and so IF a person was replicating the attire of the Militia in Old Towne MD..., hunting frock = good, but militia from Baltimore or Annapolis at the same time period...hunting frock = wrong. NOW, which would be right for the Rocky Mountain fur trade, the hunting frock, or the civilian's coat in Baltimore? Both? Neither?

LD
 

tenngun

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That is always a point. How fast did people of the lower middle class and poor working men change to keep up with style?
We know FDC and NWG were used right up to the twentieth century. Appalachian poor boy gunsmiths were turning out brand new SMR right up till the Second World War.
Long mid eighteenth century waist coats are very handy in the woods compared to later shorter late eighteenth and early nineteenth.
The Delaware MM referenced above who’s name I always forget, is shown in the mountains in centerseam moccs and riflemans coat. A twenty to thirty year old gun isn’t out of the question, a heavy wool coat or waist coat doesn’t get a lot of wear and may be used long after it went out of style.
Cartoons from the time often show folks in out of style clothing. Paintings tended to painting the idyllic, or the wealthy in their best clothing. While cartoonist often drew exaggerated what he saw for comic effects.
journalists tended to write the unusual. We don’t see a lot of recipes for a bowl of cereal or eggs and bacon. Even in our face book record all our lifetimes age people don’t post the plainest part of their life.
When paper was expensive and journals hard to replace people were economic with what they wrote.
And our stuff is expensive. We may know x isn’t fully correct but we still use it as we spent our funds on the big items, and let little stuff slide.
 

Kansas Jake

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I have pictures of my ancestors and children in the late 19th century. They were all farmers. If I went by the pictures I would assume they wore suits, white shirts and ties for the men and fancy dresses with well done hair for the women. I have no pictures of them doing any kind of work. What would they have worn? I have a pretty good idea, but not recorded information.

This just illustrates the difficulty we have in knowing what MM wore day to day in the west. We can do several things that have come into the discussion here in looking at art from the period in the location. We can look at what was sent west to supply them and we do have some lists. We can look at the literature describing their life and what was going on given the caveat that most literature is written from someones perspective and may have an agenda.

I think this is an interesting discussion.
 

Scarface

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Ah but how they react is not the issue, eh?

Folks that have invested a lot of coin are going to resist any changes. So who cares?
And then there is the axiom, "the more narrow the area of expertise, the more likely the person is to consider themselves experts in other areas". So you may find a person who is quite good at copying one image, a correct one, but if that image was of a very eccentric person (i.e. John Chapman) then there will be problems. OR that image was of a very specific geographic location, or the person depicted was in very fancy, ceremonial garb, not every day stuff.

The question is, OK you saw an incorrect hat on an "expert"..., but..., you need to be able to say to some of us who are actually curious, from where you got your information about what was worn, and what was not.

For example, I can show that Meeshach Browning was summoned from the very Western portion of Maryland to court in Annapolis just a few years after the War of 1812 ended, and he had his wife make him a brand new hunting frock. But..., when he arrived in town, he was stared at, as the townfolk had decades prior stopped wearing such attire. The account is in Browning's book, Forty-Four Years in The Life of A Hunter. So where Browning lived, it was a very nice piece of clothing, but where he ended his journey, he was not properly dressed, and so IF a person was replicating the attire of the Militia in Old Towne MD..., hunting frock = good, but militia from Baltimore or Annapolis at the same time period...hunting frock = wrong. NOW, which would be right for the Rocky Mountain fur trade, the hunting frock, or the civilian's coat in Baltimore? Both? Neither?

LD
I"m sorry, I'm not following you. I am not debating if people in fur trade area were wearing clothes that were from previous styles due to geography, wealth, etc. I highly suspect they were, they wore whatever protected them from the elements And of course they were not wearing styles that were not invented yet like a flat crowned hat when hats of that era had a low round crown.
I have been involved in this hobby for years. I shot my first deer at age 13 with a .50 Caliber Muzzleloader. I love the history of weapons whether that be firearms, knives, axes, etc. I love reading about the explorations and discoveries. I guess I've always taken it for granted that Mountain Men wore buckskin shirts and trousers with moccasins. The older I get I have been thinking about getting a historically correct outfit. I assumed I would get what I see other reenactors wearing and that is buckskin leggings, breech clout and buckskin jacket or pullover shirt. I purchased a wool blanket to make my own capote. Now that I have really started researching this I'm finding that what I'm seeing wore for reenactments may not be that historically accurate. I honestly was not expecting this when I started down this gopher hole. I can find no documentation that white Euro-Americans were dressing up in breech clouts and leggings like Indians.. I have read that Mountain Men took great pride in looking like Indians, though they did not want to particulary look like one tribe as that get them in trouble. I have also read that even in the Rockies when clothes were being made out of buckskin they would be modeled after white man styles. I wholeheartedly agree with Tenngunn on a cloth outfit as their is countless documentation that those items were taken west and of course cloth pants and shirts, wool jackets, felt round crowned hats would have been worn in that time period. Was it more common than what we picture as the mountain man in buckskins? I'm starting to think it probably was.

The more I research this the more I believe that fur trappers wore clothes common to the era they were in and buckskin was a backup as that was available. Buckskin is notorious for being cold when it's cold. In Wyoming that is not a good thing.
 

Walkingeagle

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My thoughts tend to run that the wearing of buckskins would have been absolute last resort, as this cuts into profits. The vast majority were company men even though we like to think of them as “free trappers”, most were not. The company would not allow the use of skins (profit) to make clothing. I do believe that some scrap pelts/skins/furs would have been used for patching however. Cloth, and I believe mainly wool, would have been used for the coats and pants with cotton or linen for shirts. The costs to replace your clothing would have been deducted from your share of pay.
Walk
 

Zonie

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While cloth was likely the preferred material, I don't doubt that sometimes hide's were worn when the cloth garments were badly worn out.
Even a hide with all of its' shortcomings beats a shirt or trousers with big holes worn in them.

As for buckskins, deer and elk hide should have been widely available in the mountains. The men had to eat and from what I've read, deer and elk (in some regions) were some of the main sources for food when buffalo weren't running near by.
The fur companies had little or no interest in buying or claiming these hides as their prime interest was in beaver.
 

tenngun

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The miller paintings show skins and the journals record skin clothing. We know it was there. IMHO though as I can’t prove it, but I think skin is over represented.
Some use of skin I think is underrepresented is buckskin reinforcement of woolen trousers. Knees, seats, thighs, ect.
 

Loyalist Dave

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I"m sorry, I'm not following you.
OK let me break it down the another way..., you began with this:

I've been researching the proper attire for an early 19th Century Fur Trapper in the Rocky Mountain West. Alas, I am finding that the so called experts in the modern day are not accurate to what they are portraying.


So you have one group of "experts" in the modern day that are incorrect, compared to another group of experts in the modern day that you found by reading, that are correct.... OK so a) how did you decide which group was correct or incorrect?... and b) what were these sources that you read, so we can add then to our knowledge base?

I was recently at an event where AAM fur trappers were giving presentations and they looked great in their worn and weathered leggings, breech clouts, and even their scarves on their heads like a pirate would wear. Now after doing research I am finding that is not even close to accurate. The fur trappers did not wear leggings and breech clouts like the native americans wore. They did not wear scarfs on their heads, etc.
But you're not telling us from where the research comes? It's not uncommon to find historic sources that were once thought to be highly accurate, that are later found to be inaccurate, OR more likely used too broadly by the public. Not doubting you found credible sources, or that you're a credible judge of source materials, but until you add those details, it's just a assertion on your part.

Here's one from Maryland that was taught and retaught for years...,

"Yellow was not a colorfast color in the 18th century, so women who had yellow clothing often only wore such at night, to avoid sun fading."
(OK so explain the yellow in the Calvert colors [see my avatar] which were the first Maryland flag, as flags are meant to be seen in the day all day?)
"Um, well gee we never thought of that...."
(OK so what was the source for the information on the dye used for making yellow?)
"The Smithsonian Institution published a short book on the subject."
(
OK so when was it published and what was the title?)
"It was published a while ago, I think it was something like Natural Dyes of New England..., not sure."
(So it's out-of-date, and does it mention the use of Goldenrod, and is Maryland part of New England?)
"Well no, Maryland isn't New England....[checks the weathered photo copy of pages from the book] ..., and I don't see any mention of the use of Goldenrod for yellow or for anything."
(So you only know that for the dyes in the book, used in New England, they weren't colorfast, but you have no idea, perhaps, on whether or not goldenrod was available and used in New England, and less idea of what was going on in Maryland at the time, based on that book, right?)

Another more common one is the twisted wire, two-tined fork. Very very few such were found as artifacts. True, they are easily made, but without existing examples showing widespread use, the experts argued, one cannot be certain they were commonly found. THEN a literal pile of them were unearthed at a site. Apparently a container, either a cloth bag or more likely a wooden box had been dropped and abandoned during a hasty departure, and the forks remained while the container disintegrated over time. Once found, it was obvious that they were being made and used in larger numbers. Information changes over time.

So you mentioned the reaction of some of the "buckskin" people to what you found. They say they're right, you say you're right. Without the source for drawing the conclusions that you used...It's their opinion vs. your opinion.

That's the point I'm trying to get across..

LD
 

Scarface

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OK let me break it down the another way..., you began with this:




So you have one group of "experts" in the modern day that are incorrect, compared to another group of experts in the modern day that you found by reading, that are correct.... OK so a) how did you decide which group was correct or incorrect?... and b) what were these sources that you read, so we can add then to our knowledge base?



But you're not telling us from where the research comes? It's not uncommon to find historic sources that were once thought to be highly accurate, that are later found to be inaccurate, OR more likely used too broadly by the public. Not doubting you found credible sources, or that you're a credible judge of source materials, but until you add those details, it's just a assertion on your part.

Here's one from Maryland that was taught and retaught for years...,

"Yellow was not a colorfast color in the 18th century, so women who had yellow clothing often only wore such at night, to avoid sun fading."
(OK so explain the yellow in the Calvert colors [see my avatar] which were the first Maryland flag, as flags are meant to be seen in the day all day?)
"Um, well gee we never thought of that...."
(OK so what was the source for the information on the dye used for making yellow?)
"The Smithsonian Institution published a short book on the subject."
(
OK so when was it published and what was the title?)
"It was published a while ago, I think it was something like Natural Dyes of New England..., not sure."
(So it's out-of-date, and does it mention the use of Goldenrod, and is Maryland part of New England?)
"Well no, Maryland isn't New England....[checks the weathered photo copy of pages from the book] ..., and I don't see any mention of the use of Goldenrod for yellow or for anything."
(So you only know that for the dyes in the book, used in New England, they weren't colorfast, but you have no idea, perhaps, on whether or not goldenrod was available and used in New England, and less idea of what was going on in Maryland at the time, based on that book, right?)

Another more common one is the twisted wire, two-tined fork. Very very few such were found as artifacts. True, they are easily made, but without existing examples showing widespread use, the experts argued, one cannot be certain they were commonly found. THEN a literal pile of them were unearthed at a site. Apparently a container, either a cloth bag or more likely a wooden box had been dropped and abandoned during a hasty departure, and the forks remained while the container disintegrated over time. Once found, it was obvious that they were being made and used in larger numbers. Information changes over time.

So you mentioned the reaction of some of the "buckskin" people to what you found. They say they're right, you say you're right. Without the source for drawing the conclusions that you used...It's their opinion vs. your opinion.

That's the point I'm trying to get across..

LD
No, you were posting about clothes being used later than they were in style. That is what I wasn't following. Please follow along better before posting. You'll save a lot of people time from reading your posts.
 

cositrike

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I’m a bit confused. The op states that he’s been researching the proper clothing for rendezvous and has come to the conclusion that the wearing of leggings and breech cloth is wrong. I don’t see any evidence of the research though. To be honest, I’m not sure how you can research a negative.
 
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