Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Searching for Purple and White

As I'm in the process of making myself a new 18th century gown, I though I would share a bit of my research as well progress on the gown itself. Which, um, I haven't actually started as of yet. The fabric is however, washed, dried, and ready to go!

A few readers may be familiar with Don N. Hagist's book, Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls: A Selection of Advertisements for Female Runaways in American Newspapers, 1770-1783. It is a great resource. Below are a few examples from the book of purple and white gowns mentioned in run away ads. The ones in bold sound closest to my fabric, which by the way, I learned is a reproduction based on a textile in the Colonial Williamsburg collections. I believe the fabric is still available through the Mary Dickinson Shop in CW.

"a purple and white calicoe gown", p 48
"a coarse purple and white chintz gown", p55
"a callicoe gown, striped with a little purple flower", p 72
"purple sprigged callico gown", p 101
"one callico long gown, purple and white", p 129
"a dark purple and white calico long gown", p 154
"purple and white gown", p 181
"seven yards of new stamped linen, a purple and flower stripe", p 222

"Long calico gown with purple and white flowers" - Pennsylvania Gazette, October 4, 1764
"Large flowered purple and white short gown" - Pennsylvania Evening Post, September 21, 1776

CW collections  - Acc. No. 1992-139
An article from the Boston Evening Post, dated November 4, 1771, describes a ship wreck somewhere of the coast of New England. " ...  she had a roller for shipping an ensign staff, a number of white shirts and a purple and white calico gown hanging on her quarter rails, & and her quarter deck entirely gone." Apparently the weather was so bad that the crew who made the discovery were not able "to make any other discoveries."

The images below are samples of original 18th century textiles. The are from the Threads of Feeling exhibit and can be viewed on the Threads of Feeling Facebook page.

‘Purpel and white flowered cotten’. Cotton printed in small floral designs. Foundling number 11337. A boy aged about xxx, admitted 25 January 1759. Named John Hammersmith by the Foundling Hospital. Apprenticed 26 July 1769 to Mr Maycock, farmer of Thornton, Cheshire.

Threads of Feeling Facebook page
'Spriged cotten’. Cotton printed with sprigs and dots. Foundling number 13287. A boy aged about 21 days, admitted 30 June 1759. Named Hannah Carter by the Foundling Hospital. Died 17 February 1760.
Threads of Feeling Facebook page
Cotton or linen fabric printed with a leaf in green and black on a shelled background. Foundling 15387, a girl admitted 2 January 1760. The note reads: 'This child was born the XX December and Christien'd the XX Jan, by the name of Sarah Harbeson. She has had the Breast and tis humbly hop'd it will be continued as will not in all probability live without it.'

Threads of Feeling Facebook page


  1. I love purple prints and there are definitely not enough of them in repro fabrics, especially considering how popular it seems they were. That child's dress from CW with the "batwings" pattern is one of my favorites. They've just discontinued that fabric, though, and I'm so sad! Here's hoping we get something new (and equally purplely!) in exchange! :-)

    By the way, any updates on summer shoemaking plans?

  2. "Purple and white" and "red and white" seem to be two off the most common color combos. Would love to see more repros of both!
    As for shoemaking ... Brett said he is planning a couple trips up north this summer/fall. He'll be at Fort Ti in early August and may be coming to VT in September. We should try to set up a time for us "northerns" to get together and finish our shoes! How are yours coming along?

  3. I remember hearing the beginnings of the northern workshop negotiations, but I hadn't heard anything recently and was worried I might have missed something! Yes, we of the Northern Colonies most definitely need to get together soon to finish our shoes. Mine and Ashley's are in precisely the condition they were in when we scurried away aheard of the hurricane, so we still have a lot of work left to do!

    Are you planning on attending any New England Rev War events this spring/summer? If so, perchance we can meet up before the shoemaking resumes, just to say hello! :-)

    How is the progress going on the purple print gown? I'm looking foward to seeing it!

  4. Here are some of the events I'll be going to this summer. I might be at Stribrige Village as well. If you guys are interested in attending any of these event but don't have a group to go with let me know. My unit has a guest policy and you would be more than welcome to join us for an event or two.
    July 7-8 - Battle of Hubbardton, VT
    July 21-22 - BAR Fort Ticonderoga, NY
    August 4-5 – 235th Oriskany at Gelston Castle, Mohawk, NY
    September 15-16 - Fort at No. 4, Charlestown, NH
    I've also heard that the BAR is planning an immersion weekend at Eastfield Village September 22-23 but don't know any details.

    As for the gown ... I only have the back panel cut. Still fiddling with the fabric to get the back pleats to look nice. :)

  5. Huzzah! We're definitely doing Fort Ti and Fort at No. 4 (we were excited to see that one on our group's schedule because we remembered you talking about it last summer, and we've never been before). Our group is doing Oriskany, but we have a potential family scheduling conflict that weekend, so we personally haven't yet committed to that one. So we'll definitely plan to see you at Fort Ti, then, in July! We're with the 5th CT, by the way, if that helps us find each other. :-)

    We heard about the immersion event, but were wondering, after seeing Eastfield last summer, where exactly they plan to put all those people. Our groups as a whole isn't going, but the two of us might end up driving up for a day just to see what it's like, but not sure yet. It will be strange to go back there, though, after spending such an intense week last year!


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