It’s important for historical interpreters to accurately represent the range of material goods in use, ideally in the same “commonality” that they existed historically.  One of the oft-times under represented material goods among SE native reenactors is the checked or Holland checked shirt that was common on trade lists.

If you judge by the records of traders here in Georgia, “check” shirts were a lot more commonly traded/given than white or white ruffled shirts (unless someone knows that “check” means something other than a two-color “checked pattern” in cloth). I find lots of references across time periods in the south to “check” or “holland check” shirts. See Jim O’Neil’s Their Bearing is Proud and Noble  vols 1 and 2   for  references covering many time spans, cultural groups, and locales (the “18th Century Bibliography” page contains full bibliographic information on this book). Below are a few that I don’t think are in his citations, ranging from 1756 through 1786. 

References from Trade Lists:

Account of Wm Belcher with the state of Georgia, 1778 Mar. 3 / signed by Wm Belcher:
15 yds Check for 3 huntg shirts @ 20/
————————
List of articles delivered to Mr. James Durouzeaux, 1786 Nov. 4
6 best white ruffd. shirts @13/4 4. 0. 0
12 do. check … ditto 10/ 6. 0. 0
———————–
List of articles delivered to Mr. John Galphin, 1786 Nov. 3
2 doz: best white ruffled shirts @ 16.0/.
2 doz: do. check shirts 240/.
—————————-
List of articles delivered to Daniel McMurphy, 1786 Nov. 3
1 doz: best white ruffd Shirts 160/ 8.0.0
4 doz: Check ditto. 120/. 24.0.0
——————————–
Above references from Hargrett Rare Book Library, University of Georgia Libraries
—————————-
John Nash, December 1756, Lists of Indian Goods at Rock Creek
(Pub’d in: Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. Published by the Society of 
the Colonial Dames of America. Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton.–vol. 
01)
Linnen & Holland Checks from 8d–to 15d per yd.
—————
Source: Mississippi Provincial Archives, 1763-1766, English Dominion, Volume I, by Dunbar Rowland, Brandon Printing Co., Nashville, 1911, page
215.
1 White Shirt– 3 ” 
1 Check do– 4 ” 

One conclusion that can be drawn from the lists above and those published in Their Bearing is Proud and Noble is that there were more checked shirts given as gifts and purchased for trade than plain white or fancy ruffled.  As such, it seems appropriate that if the correct pattern and color can be found, more checked shirts should be worn at events than white.

The general assumption has been that these were a small blue and white “yarn dyed” check.  That is becoming less and less clear as further research by folks like Jason Melius, Joseph Privott, and Nathan Kobuck continues.

Prior to that research, I tried to identify what a “check” was, and got the the following responses to requests for information, courtesy of Veronica Wiese via the 18th Century Woman mail list on Yahoo! Groups:

“CW [Colonial Williamsburg] has a checked apron artifact.  It’s currently on display, and is pictured in _What Clothes Reveal_.  The check are small, approx.1/4”, IIRC.  There are checked fabrics in Montgomery’s Textiles In America and they appear small (~1/4″) but I don’t recall if the scale is actually given.  And anyway, Montgomery covers fabric samples rather than garment artifacts, so you mostly can’t tell if the samples were used for clothing or furniture.”

“Recently I had a chance to look  at the Temperance Pickering Knight quilted petticoat.  The lining was a 1/4″
white and yellow wool check.  My reaction when I saw it was of a the typical 1/4″ gingham that’s available in cotton today.”

“For example, the woman’s apron in Fitting&Proper, which probably is, as attributed, woven during the AWI, has a slightly unbalanced blue/white check of 4 threads blue/6 threads white, with a scale of about 6 repeats to the inch, more or less. Furnishing checks, on the other hand, could be over 1″ checks (or  a 2″+ repeat).”

“CW [Colonial Williamsburg] has a checked apron artifact.  It’s currently on display, and is pictured in _What Clothes Reveal_.  The check are small, approx.1/4”, IIRC.  There are checked fabrics in Montgomery’s Textiles In America and they appear small (~1/4″) but I don’t recall if the scale is actually given.  And anyway, Montgomery covers fabric samples rather than garment artifacts, so you mostly can’t tell if the samples were used for clothing or furniture.””Recently I had a chance to look  at the Temperance Pickering Knight quilted petticoat.  The lining was a 1/4″white and yellow wool check.  My reaction when I saw it was of a the typical 1/4″ gingham that’s available in cotton today.””For example, the woman’s apron in Fitting&Proper, which probably is, as attributed, woven during the AWI, has a slightly unbalanced blue/white check of 4 threads blue/6 threads white, with a scale of about 6 repeats to the inch, more or less. Furnishing checks, on the other hand, could be over 1″ checks (or  a 2″+ repeat).”

Burnley and TrowbridgeWilliam Booth, Draper and 96 District Storehouse carry good checks, “check” with them to see if they have any available (sorry for the pun).

Note: the blue “gingham” pattern discussed here is the standard “fatigue wear” pattern for most recreated military units.  More research is needed to determine if this was the type traded to native people, but it’s one place to start.  Other check patterns are equally useful – review the cotton checks in Montgomery’s Textiles in America for inspiration.

Comments are closed.