Mend It, Patch It, Make It Do©

While we strive for historical accuracy to the strictest degree in everything we make, it is important to realize the common person was not error-proof in making clothing and accessories. In the following photos the reader will see what might today be viewed as shoddy workmanship, however, for several reasons these garments are not extraordinary.

Pieced linings were common in eras when every scrap of fabric was used, and nothing was wasted. Then as now, some seamstresses and tailors were more meticulous with their stitches and buttonhole binding than others and there was quite a variance in skill level for those making clothing at home.

Below are just a few examples of pieced linings then the subject of patched clothing is another topic to be explored.

 

Jacket, late 18th century, reportedly French made. Note how many different fabrics are used to make the lining and the different sizes and shapes of the pieces. Collection of The Met.
A pieced lining found in a Spencer ca. 1815.
This coat belonged to Thomas Jefferson, ca. 1800, housed in the Monticello Collections. The article and photograph were found in the Colonial Williamsburg web archives. Light spots are seen in the middle photo, and period repairs on the elbows are seen in the photo on the right. They date this to being worn ca. 1800 and think it may have been worn during Jefferson’s term as President. The garment clearly demonstrates that even well-to-do people wore patched and repaired clothing and would not have hesitated to piece a lining.
Pieced coat lining, ca. 1745, collection of the Manchester Gallery of Costume.
Look closely at the area by the fourth buttonhole from the bottom on the stomacher part of the gown. The bottom (right) front of this part of the garment has been carefully pieced together and the horizontal seam can be clearly seen between the button/buttonhole and the ruched trim.
The website dates this waistcoat to ca. 1780s-90s, Nordiska Museet. Count the number of pieces sewn together to make the outer front of this waistcoat, and also note that no particular effort was made to align the stripes where the pieces are sewn together. This was almost certainly done to stretch a small piece of fabric enough to cut out the outer garment. The lining is also pieced using at least two different fabrics.
The lining on these stays is heavily patched.
Stays with patched lining and rather crude stitching. These were sold on ebay. Ca. 1780s-90s.

A La Polinaise

Polinaise is a fancy way of saying the skirt of a jacket is bunched up in the back.  Costume historians disagree on the specifics which will be largely ignored here as originals are found to support both theories. 

There is no question that the bunched-up skirts were worn and that they can be accurately recreated, the differing opinion is on what the garment should be called.  One school of thought dubs any such looped up jacket/gown as polonaise, while others refer to anything that does not meet the classifications below by the French term as “robe à l’anglaise retroussé”.   Retroussée, in this instance, is defined as skirts “looped up”. 

There’s a lot in a name, but in the end, I think it’s important to “recreate” rather than create your own version of what was worn during the 18th century and less important what you call it. 

Below is what some define as polonaise.  The issue under debate is whether the robe must meet at the neckline and have additional pleats at the sides to be called polonaise.  

What Is the 18th Century Definition of a Polonaise?

* The dress version — the robe à la polonaise (French/English; also called “polonese” or “poloneze” in English):

* Bodice and skirt of the robe are cut in one — no waist seam

* Robe has four pieces:  two backs, and two fronts

* The skirt of the robe is usually looped up using two ribbons, tapes, or cords, forming three swags

* The center-front of the robe meets at the neckline, then slopes away in an inverted “V” shape towards the waist and into the skirt (See below)

* Inverted pleats emerged at the waist from the side-back and center-back seams, creating more fullness in the skirt (see below)

* The bodice of the robe usually has 1-3 pleats at the side back, which serves to fit the robe closer to the body

* Under the robe is worn a separate or false waistcoat, bodice, or stomacher

* The sleeves generally ended just below the elbow, usually with a cuff (called “sabot”)

Photos: Glasgow Museums Collection. The noted features above are the inverted “V” front, and the pleated back. See above.

Article abstract:  The robe à la polonaise as worn in France and England in the late eighteenth century was a substantially different style from other fashionable gowns of the period and was remarkably popular in its own right. In addition to the looped-up overskirt, the polonaise was distinguished by the robe cut without waist seam and inverted `V’ front opening. It was probably derived from the Polish robe called `kontusz,’ as well as the looped-up skirts of the robe à la française. Contemporaries regarded it as a more `natural’ style of dress in line with the Enlightenment, and it was thought to be most appropriate for wear by middle- and upper-class women of young to middle age. The style featured revivals in the 1790s and late nineteenth century.  – Source:  Van Cleave, Kendra, and Brooke Welborn. “`Very Much the Taste and Various are the Makes’: Reconsidering the Late-Eighteenth-Century Robe à la Polonaise.” Dress 39, no. 1 (May 2013): 1-24.

The “bunching” is often referred to as “kilting” and is achieved by pulling up the bottom of the jacket/gown with loops, either on the under side or the outer side. 

This lovely green Polonaise, ca. 1780. Note there is no inverted “V” on the front of the bodice, nor are there visible side pleats on the skirt. The skirt is cartridge pleated onto the bodice. The Met. Robe a la Polonaise, ca. 1780.
“Polonaise”, ca. 1780, Musee Galliera, Paris.
Source below
“Robe a la Polonaise”, ca. 1787, The Met. There are pleats at the waist but there is no inverted “V” in front. Instead, there is contrasting trim that gets steadily wider from the neckline to the bottom of the skirt and continues around the bottom back. This trim was sometimes gathered, or ruched.
The buttons were sometimes placed as shown, and sometimes higher where the skirt joins the bodice. Loops attached to the under-side of the skirt are hung from self-fabric covered buttons.
Interior of a jacket/gown showing how the skirt is draped on the under-side. The tapes do not show on the outside when worn in this manner.
In this diagram from Janet Arnold the gown is labeled Polonaise 1770-1785. There is no inverted “V” in front and the skirt appears to be cartridge pleated although this does not show clearly. Note the placement of the buttons on which the ribbons hang to create the kilting effect.

The polonaise gown first came into fashion in the 1770s. It was a style of gown with a close-fitting bodice and the back of the skirt gathered up into three separate puffed sections to reveal the petticoat below. The method of suspending the fabric varied. Most often the dress had rows of little rings sewn inside the skirt through which a cord ran from hem to waist. Alternatively, ribbon ties would be used, with the ribbons forming decorative bows. However, in some instances the skirt was held in place by simple cords sewn to the inner waist of the dress and looped over buttons attached to the outside waistline. The stays underpinning the bodice of the polonaise were not markedly different from those which supported the robe à la française.  – The Met Museum. 

 

From The Met, 1774-93. Detail showing button placement.
The Met, “Robe a la Polonaise”, 1780-85. There is no inverted “V” and the skirt appears to be cartridge pleated to the bodice.

Muffs: A Useful Accessory

Muffs were used for centuries to keep the hands warm, and sometimes to keep up with incidental items. The diarist, Samuel Pepys penned on Sunday Nov. 30, 1662, “This day I first did wear a muffe, being my wife’s last year’s muffe, and now I have bought her a new one, this serves me very well.”
Yes, they’ve been worn by men and women although more so and for a longer time period by women and girls. It is a simple stuffed cylinder, open on both ends into which one places the hands for warmth. They were made of silk, wool, fur, etc.

While the images below are prime examples, muffs were not limited to the elite.  As is often the case, the better examples are what were preserved and the better off families could afford painted portraits.  

“Angora muffs. – These muffs are made with the Beard of goats from Angora, the country where these animals have been for a long time, silky and overall very white; that which is used for men’s muffs is of a great beauty. The price is 120 or 100 livres. One has them even for 4 louis or 84 livres.” – Notice de l’Almanach sous verre, 1786.

 

Mrs. Wilbraham Bootle, 1781, by George Romney. Ntl. Gallery of Scotland
“November”, 1781. “Birds dead!”. Carrington Bowles, London.
Madame de Pompadour with a fur muff. 1763.
Sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions, embroidered muff, 1770s-80s
British, ca. 1780. The Met.
Attributed to Francois Hubert Drouais, Paris, 1727-1775. Oil on canvas. Sold by Sotheby’s.

Last Will & Testament of George Washington

The following is the will left by George Washington in which he provides for his widow, Martha Washington, and an extensive list of relatives who either profited by the forgiveness of a debt or by receiving specified property.  He was obviously a wealthy man.  

He provided for the freedom of his slaves upon Martha’s death.  He said while he wished to free them upon his own death, doing so would be difficult because of the marriages of some with those of Martha and he did not want to separate families.  Upon Martha’s death all were to be freed.  The elderly and the children were to be taught to read and write and taught a trade.  While doing so they were to be supported from his estate.  He left options for William Lee “for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War”.  

He arranged for the dispensation of various historical relics which he possessed at the time of his death, including a box made from an oak tree “that sheltered the Great Sir William Wallace after the battle of Falkirk” and a gold-headed cane left to him by Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin.

Lastly he expressed his wishes for a notable university in this country and left funds for the building of it.  

WestFrontMansionMountVernon.jpg

[Mount Vernon, 9 July 1799]
In the name of God amen I George Washington of Mount Vernon a citizen of the United States, and lately President of the same, do make, ordain and declare this Instrument; which is written with my own hand and every page thereof subscribed with my name, to be my last Will & Testament, revoking all others.
Imprimus. All my debts, of which there are but few, and none of magnitude, are to be punctually and speedily paid and the Legacies hereinafter bequeathed, are to be discharged as soon as circumstances will permit, and in the manner directed.
Item. To my dearly beloved wife Martha Washington I give and bequeath the use, profit and benefit of my whole Estate, real and personal, for the term of her natural life except such parts thereof as are specifically disposed of hereafter: My improved lot in the Town of Alexandria, situated on Pitt & Cameron streets, I give to her and her heirs forever;1 as I also do my household & Kitchen furniture of every sort & kind, with the liquors and groceries which may be on hand at the time of my decease; to be used & disposed of as she may think proper.
Item Upon the decease of my wife, it is my Will & desire that all the Slaves which I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, tho’ earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by Marriages with the dower Negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same Proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the Dower Negroes are held, to manumit them. And whereas among those who will recieve freedom according to this devise, there may be some, who from old age or bodily infirmities, and others who on account of their infancy, that will be unable to support themselves; it is my Will and desire that all who come under the first & second description shall be comfortably cloathed & fed by my heirs while they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the age of twenty five years; and in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The Negros thus bound, are (by their Masters or Mistresses) to be taught to read & write; and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of Orphan and other poor Children. and I do hereby expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my Executors hereafter named, or the Survivors of them, to see that this clause respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the uncertain provision to be made by individuals.2 And to my Mulatto man William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom; or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which have befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so: In either case however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, which shall be independent of the victuals and cloaths he has been accustomed to receive, if he chuses the last alternative; but in full, with his freedom, if he prefers the first; & this I give him as a testimony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War.3
Item. To the Trustees (Governors, or by whatsoever other name they may be designated) of the Academy in the Town of Alexandria, I give and bequeath, in Trust, four thousand dollars, or in other words twenty of the shares which I hold in the Bank of Alexandria, towards the support of a Free school established at, and annexed to, the said Academy; for the purpose of Educating such Orphan children, or the children of such other poor and indigent persons as are unable to accomplish it with their own means; and who, in the judgment of the Trustees of the said Seminary, are best entitled to the benefit of this donation. The aforesaid twenty shares I give & bequeath in perpetuity; the dividends only of which are to be drawn for, and applied by the said Trustees for the time being, for the uses above mentioned; the stock to remain entire and untouched; unless indications of a failure of the said Bank should be so apparent, or a discontinuance thereof should render a removal of this fund necessary; in either of these cases, the amount of the Stock here devised, is to be vested in some other Bank or public Institution, whereby the interest may with regularity & certainty be drawn, and applied as above. And to prevent misconception, my meaning is, and is hereby declared to be, that these twenty shares are in lieu of, and not in addition to, the thousand pounds given by a missive letter some years ago; in consequence whereof an annuity of fifty pounds has since been paid towards the support of this Institution.4
Item. Whereas by a Law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, enacted in the year 1785, the Legislature thereof was pleased (as an evidence of Its approbation of the services I had rendered the Public during the Revolution and partly, I believe, in consideration of my having suggested the vast advantages which the Community would derive from the extensions of its Inland Navigation, under Legislative patronage) to present me with one hundred shares of one hundred dollars each, in the incorporated company established for the purpose of extending the navigation of James River from tide water to the Mountains: and also with fifty shares of one hundred pounds Sterling each, in the Corporation of another company, likewise established for the similar purpose of opening the Navigation of the River Potomac from tide water to Fort Cumberland, the acceptance of which, although the offer was highly honourable, and grateful to my feelings, was refused, as inconsistent with a principle which I had adopted, and had never departed from namely not to receive pecuniary compensation for any services I could render my country in its arduous struggle with great Britain, for its Rights; and because I had evaded similar propositions from other States in the Union; adding to this refusal, however, an intimation that, if it should be the pleasure of the Legislature to permit me to appropriate the said shares to public uses, I would receive them on those terms with due sensibility; and this it having consented to, in flattering terms, as will appear by a subsequent Law, and sundry resolutions, in the most ample and honourable manner, I proceed after this recital, for the more correct understanding of the case, to declareó5
That as it has always been a source of serious regret with me, to see the youth of these United States sent to foreign Countries for the purpose of Education, often before their minds were formed, or they had imbibed any adequate ideas of the happiness of their own; contracting, too frequently, not only habits of dissipation & extravagence, but principles unfriendly to Republican Governmt and to the true & genuine liberties of Mankind; which, thereafter are rarely overcome. For these reasons, it has been my ardent wish to see a plan devised on a liberal scale, which would have a tendency to sprd systemactic ideas through all parts of this rising Empire, thereby to do away local attachments and State prejudices, as far as the nature of things would, or indeed ought to admit, from our National Councils. Looking anxiously forward to the accomplishment of so desirable an object as this is (in my estimation) my mind has not been able to contemplate any plan more likely to effect the measure than the establishment of a UNIVERSITY in a central part of the United States, to which the youth of fortune and talents from all parts thereof might be sent for the completion of their Education in all the branches of polite literature; in arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good Government; and (as a matter of infinite Importance in my judgment) by associating with each other, and forming friendships in Juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree from those local prejudices & habitual jealousies which have just been mentioned; and which, when carried to excess, are never failing sources of disquietude to the Public mind, and pregnant of mischievous consequences to this Country: Under these impressions, so fully dilated,
Item I give and bequeath in perpetuity the fifty shares which I hold in the Potomac Company (under the aforesaid Acts of the Legislature of Virginia) towards the endowment of a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia, under the auspices of the General Government, if that government should incline to extend a fostering hand towards it; and until such Seminary is established, and the funds arising on these shares shall be required for its support, my further Will & desire is that the profit accruing therefrom shall, whenever the dividends are made, be laid out in purchasing Stock in the Bank of Columbia, or some other Bank, at the discretion of my Executors; or by the Treasurer of the United States for the time being under the direction of Congress; provided that Honourable body should Patronize the measure, and the Dividends proceeding from the purchase of such Stock is to be vested in more stock, and so on, until a sum adequate to the accomplishment of the object is obtained, of which I have not the smallest doubt, before many years passes away; even if no aid or encouraged is given by Legislative authority, or from any other source.6
Item The hundred shares which I held in the James River Company, I have given, and now confirm in perpetuity to, and for the use & benefit of Liberty-Hall Academy, in the County of Rockbridge, in the Commonwealth of Virga.7
Item I release exonerate and discharge, the Estate of my deceased brother Samuel Washington, from the payment of the money which is due to me for the Land I sold to Philip Pendleton (lying in the County of Berkeley) who assigned the same to him the said Samuel; who, by agreement was to pay me therefor. And whereas by some contract (the purport of which was never communicated to me) between the said Samuel and his son Thornton Washington, the latter became possessed of the aforesaid Land, without any conveyance having passed from me, either to the said Pendleton, the said Samuel, or the said Thornton, and without any consideration having been made, by which neglect neither the legal nor equitable title has been alienated; it rests therefore with me to declare my intentions concerning the Premises and these are, to give & bequeath the said land to whomsoever the said Thornton Washington (who is also dead) devised the same; or to his heirs forever if he died Intestate: Exonerating the estate of the said Thornton, equally with that of the said Samuel from payment of the purchase money; which, with Interest; agreeably to the original contract with the said Pendleton, would amount to more than a thousand pounds.8 And whereas two other Sons of my said deceased brother Samuel namely, George Steptoe Washington and Lawrence [Charles] Augustine Washington, were, by the decease of those to whose care they were committed, brought under my protection, and in conseq[uenc]e have occasioned advances on my part for their Education at College, and other Schools, for their board cloathing and other incidental expences, to the amount of near five thousand dollars over and above the Sums furnished by their Estate wch Sum may be inconvenient for them, or their fathers Estate to refund. I do for these reasons acquit them, and the said estate, from the payment thereof. My intention being, that all accounts between them and me, and their fathers estate and me shall stand balanced.9
Item The balance due to me from the Estate of Bartholomew Dandridge deceased (my wife’s brother) and which amounted on the first day of October 1795 to four hundred and twenty five pounds (as will appear by an account rendered by his deceased son John Dandridge, who was the acting Exr of his fathers Will) I release & acquit from the payment thereof. And the Negros, then thirty three in number) formerly belonging to the said estate, who were taken in execution sold and purchased in on my account in the year [ ] and ever since have remained in the possession, and to the use of Mary, Widow of the said Bartholomew Dandridge, with their increase, it is my Will & desire shall continue, & be in her possession, without paying hire, or making compensation for the same for the time past or to come, during her natural life; at the expiration of which, I direct that all of them who are forty years old & upwards, shall receive their freedom; all under that age and above sixteen, shall serve seven years and no longer; and all under sixteen years, shall serve until they are twenty five years of age, and then be free. And to avoid disputes respecting the ages of any of these Negros, they are to be taken to the Court of the County in which they reside, and the judgment thereof, in this relation shall be final; and a record thereof made; which may be adduced as evidence at any time thereafter, if disputes should arise concerning the same. And I further direct, that the heirs of the said Bartholomew Dandridge shall, equally, share the benefits arising from the services of the said negros according to the tenor of this devise, upon the decease of their Mother.10
Item If Charles Carter who intermarried with my niece Betty Lewis is not sufficiently secured in the title to the lots he had of me in the Town of Fredericksburgh, it is my will & desire that my Executors shall make such conveyances of them as the Law requires, to render it perfect.11
Item To my Nephew William Augustine Washington and his heirs (if he should conceive them to be objects worth prosecuting) and to his heirs, a lot in the Town of Manchester (opposite to Richmond) No. 265ódrawn on my sole account, and also the tenth of one or two, hundred acre lots, and two or three half acre lots in the City, and vicinity of Richmond, drawn in partnership with nine others, all in the lottery of the deceased William Byrd are given as is also a lot which I purchased of John Hood, conveyed by William Willie and Samuel Gordon Trustees of the said John Hood, numbered 139 in the Town of Edinburgh, in the County of Prince George, State of Virginia.12
Item To my Nephew Bushrod Washington, I give and bequeath all the Papers in my possession, which relate to my Civel and Military Administration of the affairs of this Country; I leave to him also, such of my private Papers as are worth preserving;13 and at the decease of wife, and before if she is not inclined to retain them, I give and bequeath my library of Books and Pamphlets of every kind.14
Item Having sold Lands which I possessed in the State of Pennsylvania, and part of a tract held in equal right with George Clinton, late Governor of New York, in the State of New York; my share of land, & interest, in the Great Dismal Swamp, and a tract of land which I owned in the County of Gloucester; withholding the legal titles thereto, until the consideration money should be paid. And having moreover leased, & conditionally sold (as will appear by the tenor of the said leases) all my lands upon the Great Kanhawa, and a tract upon Difficult Run, in the county of Loudoun, it is my Will and direction, that whensoever the Contracts are fully, & respectively complied with, according to the spirit; true intent & meaning thereof, on the part of the purchasers, their heirs or Assigns, that then, and in that case, Conveyances are to be made, agreeably to the terms of the said Contracts; and the money arising therefrom, when paid, to be vested in Bank stock; the dividends whereof, as of that also wch is already vested therein, is to inure to my said Wife during her lifeóbut the Stock itself is to remain, & be subject to the general distribution hereafter directed.15
Item To the Earl of Buchan I recommit “the box made of the Oak that sheltered the Great Sir William Wallace after the battle of Falkirk” presented to me by his Lordship, in terms too flattering for me to repeat, with a request “to pass it, on the event of my decease, to the man in my country, who should appear to merit it best, upon the same conditions that have induced him to send it to me.” Whether easy, or not, to select the man who might comport with his Lordships opinion in this respect, is not for me to say; but conceiving that no disposition of this valuable curiosity can be more eligable than the re-commitment of it to his own Cabinet, agreeably to the original design of the Goldsmiths Company of Edenburgh, who presented it to him, and at his request, consented that is should be transferred to me; I do give & bequeath the same to his Lordship, and in case of his decease, to his heir with my grateful thanks for the distinguished honour of presenting it to me; and more especially for the favourable sentiments with which he accompanied it.16
Item To my brother Charles Washington I give & bequeath the gold headed Cane left me by Doctr Franklin in his Will. I add nothing to it, because of the ample provision I have made for his Issue.17 To the acquaintances and friends of my Juvenile years, Lawrence Washington & Robert Washington of Chotanck, I give my other two gold headed Canes, having my Arms engraved on them; and to each (as they will be useful where they live) I leave one of the Spy-glasses which constituted part of my equipage during the late War.18 To my compatriot in arms, and old & intimate friend Doctr Craik, I give my Bureau (or as the Cabinet makers call it, Tambour Secretary) and the circular chairóan appendage of my Study.19 To Doctor David Stuart I give my large shaving & dressing Table, and my Telescope.20 To the Reverend, now Bryan, Lord Fairfax, I give a Bible in three large folio volumes, with notes, presented to me by the Right reverend Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor & Man.21 To General de la Fayette I give a pair of finely wrought steel Pistols, taken from the enemy in the Revolutionary War.22 To my Sisters in law Hannah Washington & Mildred Washington; to my friends Eleanor Stuart, Hannah Washington of Fairfield, and Elizabeth Washington of Hayfield, I give, each, a mourning Ring of the value of one hundred dollars. These bequests are not made for the intrinsic value of them, but as mementos of my esteem & regard.23 To Tobias Lear, I give the use of the Farm which he now holds, in virtue of a Lease from me to him and his deceased wife (for and during their natural lives) free from Rent, during his life; at the expiration of which, it is to be disposed as is hereinafter directed.24 To Sally B. Haynie (a distant relation of mine) I give and bequeath three hundred dollars.25 To Sarah Green daughter of the deceased Thomas Bishop,26 & to Ann Walker daughter of Jno. Alton, also deceased, I give, each one hundred dollars, in consideration of the attachment of their fathers to me; each of whom having lived nearly forty years in my family.27 To each of my Nephews, William Augustine Washington, George Lewis, George Steptoe Washington, Bushrod Washington and Samuel Washington, I give one of the Swords or Cutteaux of which I may die possessed; and they are to chuse in the order they are named. These Swords are accompanied with an injunction not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood, except it be for self defence, or in defence of their Country and its rights; and in the latter case, to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands, to the relinquishment thereof.28
And now
Having gone through these specific devises, with explanations for the more correct understanding of the meaning and design of them; I proceed to the distribution of the more important parts of my Estate, in manner following
First To my Nephew Bushrod Washington and his heirs (partly in consideration of an intimation to his deceased father while we were Bachelors, & he had kindly undertaken to superintend my Estate during my Military Services in the former War between Great Britain & France, that if I should fall therein, Mount Vernon (then less extensive in domain than at present) should become his property) I give and bequeath all that part thereof which is comprehended within the following limits viz. Beginning at the ford of Dogue run, near my Mill, and extending along the road, and bounded thereby as it now goes, & ever has gone since my recollection of it, to the ford of little hunting Creek at the Gum spring until it comes to a knowl, opposite to an old road which formerly passed through the lower field of Muddy hole Farm; at which, on the north side of the said road are three red, or Spanish Oaks marked as a corner, and a stone placed. thence by a line of trees to be marked, rectangular to the back line, or outer boundary of the tract between Thomson Mason & myself. thence with that line Easterly (now double ditching with a Post & Rail fence thereon) to the run of little hunting Creek. thence with that run which is the boundary between the Lands of the late Humphrey Peake and me, to the tide water of the said Creek; thence by that water to Potomac River. thence with the River to the mouth of Dogue Creek. and thence with the said Dogue Creek to the place of beginning at the aforesaid ford; containing upwards of four thousand Acres, be the same more or less together with the Mansion house and all other buildings and improvemts thereon.29
Second In consideration of the consanguinity between them and my wife, being as nearly related to her as to myself, as on account of the affection I had for, and the obligation I was under to, their father when living, who from his youth had attached himself to my person, and followed my fortunes through the viscissitudes of the late Revolution afterwards devoting his time to the Superintendence of my private concerns for many years, whilst my public employments rendered it impracticable for me to do it myself, thereby affording me essential Services, and always performing them in a manner the most felial and respectful for these reasons I say, I give and bequeath to George Fayette Washington, and Lawrence [Charles] Augustine Washington and their heirs, my Estate East of little hunting Creek, lying on the River Potomac; including the Farm of 360 Acres, Leased to Tobias Lear as noticed before, and containing in the whole, by Deeds, Two thousand and Seventy seven acres be it more or less. Which said Estate it is my Will & desire should be equitably, & advantegeously divided between them, according to quantity, quality & other circumstances when the youngest shall have arrived at the age of twenty one years, by three judicious and disinterested men; one to be chosen by each of the brothers, and the third by these two. In the meantime, if the termination of my wife’s interest therein should have ceased, the profits arising therefrom are to be applied for th[e]ir joint uses and benefit.30
Third And whereas it has always been my intention, since my expectation of having Issue has ceased, to consider the Grand children of my wife in the same light as I do my own relations, and to act a friendly part by them; more especially by the two whom we have reared from their earliest infancyónamelyóEleanor Parke Custis, & George Washington Parke Custis. And whereas the former of these hath lately intermarried with Lawrence Lewis, a son of my deceased Sister Betty Lewis, by which union the inducement to provide for them both has been increased; Wherefore, I give & bequeath to the said Lawrence Lewis & Eleanor Parke Lewis, his wife, and their heirs, the residue of my Mount Vernon Estate, not already devised to my Nephew Bushrod Washington; comprehended within the following descriptionóviz.óAll the land North of the Road leading from the ford of Dogue run to the Gum spring as described in the devise of the other part of the tract, to Bushrod Washington, until it comes to the Stone & three red or Spanish Oaks on the knowl. thence with the rectangular line to the back line (between Mr Mason & me) thence with that line westerly, along the new double ditch to Dogue run, by the tumbling Dam of my Mill; thence with the said run to the ford aforementioned; to which I add all the Land I possess West of the said Dogue run, & Dogue Crk bounded Easterly & Southerly thereby; together with the Mill, Distillery, and all other houses & improvements on the premises, making together about two thousand Acres be it more or less.31
Fourth Actuated by the principal already mentioned, I give and bequeath to George Washington Parke Custis, the Grandson of my wife, and my Ward, and to his heirs, the tract I hold on four mile run in the vicinity of Alexandria, containing one thousd two hundred acres, more or less, & my entire Square, number twenty one, in the City of Washington.32
Fifth All the rest and residue of my Estate, real & personal not disposed of in manner aforesaid In whatsoever consisting wheresoever lying and whensoever found a schedule of which, as far as is recollected, with a reasonable estimate of its value, is hereunto annexed I desire may be sold by my Executors at such times in such manner and on such credits (if an equal, valid, and satisfactory distribution of the specific property cannot be made without) as, in their judgment shall be most conducive to the interest of the parties concerned; and the monies arising therefrom to be divided into twenty three equal parts, and applied as follow33óviz.
To William Augustine Washington, Elizabeth Spotswood, Jane Thornton, and the heirs of Ann Ashton; son, and daughters of my deceased brother Augustine Washington, I give and bequeath four parts; that is one part to each of them.34
To Fielding Lewis, George Lewis, Robert Lewis, Howell Lewis & Betty Carter, sons and daughter of my deceased Sister Betty Lewis, I give & bequeath five other parts one to each of them.35
To George Steptoe Washington, Lawrence Augustine Washington, Harriot Parks, and the heirs of Thornton Washington, sons & daughter of my deceased brother Samuel Washington, I give and bequeath other four parts, one part to each of them.36
To Corbin Washington, and the heirs of Jane Washington, Son & daughter of my deceased brother John Augustine Washington, I give & bequeath two parts; one part to each of them.37
To Samuel Washington, Francis Ball & Mildred Hammond, son & daughters of my Brother Charles Washington, I give & bequeath three parts; one part to each of them. And to George Fayette Washington[,] Charles Augustine Washington & Maria Washington, sons and daughter of my deceased Nephew Geo: Augustine Washington, I give one other part; that is to each a third of that part.38
To Elizabeth Parke Law, Martha Parke Peter, and Eleanor Parke Lewis, I give and bequeath three other parts, that is a part to each of them.39
And to my Nephews Bushrod Washington & Lawrence Lewis, and to my ward, the grandson of My wife, I give and bequeath one other part; that is, a third thereof to each of them. And if it should so happen, that any of the persons whose names are here ennumerated (unknown to me) should now be deceased or should die before me, that in either of these cases, the heirs of such deceased person shall, notwithstanding, derive all the benefits of the bequest; in the same manner as if he, or she, was actually living at the time.
And by way of advice, I recommend it to my Executors not to be precipitate in disposing of the landed property (herein directed to be sold) if from temporary causes the Sale thereof should be dull; experience having fully evinced, that the price of land (especially above the Falls of the Rivers, & on the Western Waters) have been progressively rising, and cannot be long checked in its increasing value. And I particularly recommend it to such of the Legatees (under this clause of my Will) as can make it convenient, to take each a share of my Stock in the Potomac Company in preference to the amount of what it might sell for; being thoroughly convinced myself, that no uses to which the money can be applied will be so productive as the Tolls arising from this navigation when in full operation (and this from the nature of things it must be ‘ere long) and more especially if that of the Shanondoah is added thereto.
The family Vault at Mount Vernon requiring repairs, and being improperly situated besides, I desire that a new one of Brick, and upon a larger Scale, may be built at the foot of what is commonly called the Vineyard Inclosure, on the ground which is marked out. In which my remains, with those of my deceased relatives (now in the old Vault) and such others of my family as may chuse to be entombed there, may be deposited. And it is my express desire that my Corpse may be Interred in a private manner, without parade, or funeral Oration.40
Lastly I constitute and appoint my dearly beloved wife Martha Washington, My Nephews William Augustine Washington, Bushrod Washington, George Steptoe Washington, Samuel Washington, & Lawrence Lewis, & my ward George Washington Parke Custis (when he shall have arrived at the age of twenty years) Executrix & Executors of this Will & testament,41 In the construction of which it will readily be perceived that no professional character has been consulted, or has had any Agency in the draught and that, although it has occupied many of my leisure hours to digest, & to through it into its present form, it may, notwithstanding, appear crude and incorrect. But having endeavoured to be plain, and explicit in all Devisesóeven at the expence of prolixity, perhaps of tautology, I hope, and trust, that no disputes will arise concerning them; but if, contrary to expectation, the case should be otherwise from the want of legal expression, or the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the Devises to be consonant with law, My Will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and good understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants each having the choice of one and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by Law, or legal constructions, declare their sense of the Testators intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the Parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States.
In witness of all, and of each of the things herein contained, I have set my hand and Seal, this ninth day of July, in the year One thousand seven hundred and ninety [nine] and of the Independence of the United States the twenty fourth.

Marker Dedication

Sunday, December 6, 2020 the Alabama Society DAR, Phillip Hamman Chapter, dedicated a grave marker for Revolutionary War soldier, Phillip Hamman. The Alabama Society SAR were invited to be Color Guard.

Phillip Hamman arrived in America from Germany on 16 October, 1772, debarking from the ship Crawford, after which he settled in Greenbrier Valley, Virginia. He served with Capt. John Lewis’s Co. at the Battle of Point Pleasant on Oct. 10, 1774. He joined the 12th VA Regt in the spring of 1776. He later served as an Indian Scout. He and his wife, Christina, died in Jackson Co., AL. Their remains were moved to Valley Head, AL.

LADIES CASUAL CLOTHING: Stays vs. Sans Stays©

Whether or not women always wore jackets over stays or jumps is a hotly debated topic, some saying “always”, some disagreeing depending on whether they were at home going about their daily routine or not.  There are paintings from the period which depict women working in a shift and stays without a jacket.  I doubt most women would have left home (meaning their property) in just stays, but I definitely think they would have done so in their home and outdoors on their own property, and a few of the paintings do seem to be in a public place. 

Mara Riley phrased it well when she said, “Country women did not consider their stays to be intimate garments — in other words, they were not embarrassed to be seen working in their stays.  It’s unlikely that they would have gone to church, or to the town fair, in their stays…but there are depictions of peasant women working in their stays and shift-sleeves”.

Let’s look at a few of these paintings at the end of which we will also look at a few images of women working in bed gowns (not for sleeping) over stays.  These jackets were loose fitting allowing for movement and comfort, ideal for at-home wear and while working, but they were acceptable for other occasions as well.  They ranged from coarse linen to nicer linen or cotton chintz.  For information on other types of jackets see the separate article posted here.

“The Beautiful Kitchen Maid” by Francois Boucher (1703-70).
Nicholas Maes. “The Milkwoman”, c. 1660. While pre-18th century, this remained the basic informal dress of working class women through the 1700s.
Per Hillestrom (1732-1816).
Pietro Antonio Rotan (1707-1762).
The Attentive Nurse, Jean Simeon Chardin. 1747.
Bouchardon, “Baked Apples”. 1737-1742.
John Collet’s “The Elopement”, detail.
Detail from Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

EMBROIDERY on Clothing and Accessories, 18th C.©

This fichu is my work and the photo was taken while I was finishing the embroidery. It is now finished and ready to wear. I have a nice navy linen petticoat and jacket which I intend to wear this with. I should post a photo of the finished piece.  Each of the flowers was inspired by those in some original garment and combined to produce a unique design. Once I finished the embroidery, it was cut out following the drawn lines and hand hemmed around the three edges. It is linen fabric with cotton embroidery.


My work, my embroidered workbag. It is heavy natural colored linen, cotton lining, and cotton embroidery thread. Such bags served multiple purposes during the 18th century and mine is no exception. It may hold eyeglasses and personal items one day and quilt blocks or embroidery work in progress the next.
Jumps, RSD Museum See front below
LACMA museum.
V&A Museum. 17090-1729. Front. Linen, cord quilted and embroidered with silk thread.
Pockets worn underneath a petticoat and accessed through side slits in the petticoat.
Case, 18th century. Eooper Hewitt Collection.
Pinner apron, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Definitely not a utilitarian garment.
Embroidered and quilted petticoat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
LACMA, Los Angeles. 1760. Silk with silk and metallic embroidery.
Petticoat and caraco jacket, lavishly embroidered and obviously for a special occasion.  This may well have been professionally embroidered, at any rate it was not a working-class garment.
Man’s embroidered cap. 18th century.
Sothebys Auctions. Silk embroidered child’s cap, ca. 1730. Lovely oak leaf and acorn design.
Wallet, more than likely a gentleman’s. Mid to late 18th century. Antique Associates online.
Original fichu/neckerchief, 18th century. Antique Associates online.
Man’s waistcoat front.  Cooper Hewitt. Silk.  Mid-18th century. 
A sublime gentleman’s formal/court wear garment, ca. 1775-85. The Met. These intricate designs were almost always professionally done.
Still considered formal wear, but not as elaborate. he embroidered cuffs are detachable. With another waistcoat and the cuffs removed this could be worn for far less formal occasions.

LADIES’ CAPS©

Caps were worn by all classes, the difference being primarily the fineness of the fabric and level of decoration with ruffles and other trim.  Women weren’t as likely to wear caps in a formal setting as in doing work or “undress” (at home).  Almost always, the caps were white, the exception being a pink cap in one portrait.  They might be cotton, linen, organza, etc.  Silk ribbons, in any number of colors, were often used to ornament caps.  Caps were worn over dressed hair and sometimes a hat was worn over the cap.  Today, the caps are de rigor for covering a modern hair style. 

What you won’t find in searching period images is a “mob cap” which looks like a round shower cap.  Caps from the period have a distinct shape created using three main pieces – a caul (the body), the band, and ruffles.  A cap can have a single ruffle or be double ruffled.  It might also have a caul ruffle and another ruffle framing the face. 

If you have good sewing skills the American Duchess shows you how to make your own cap at: See:  https://blog.americanduchess.com/2017/12/correction-1780s-cap-pattern-american.html or Kannik Korner and others offer patterns which I prefer.  Generally a stiffer fabric makes up nicer and is less likely to collapse in wearing it.

Jean-Francois Gilles Colson (1733-1803)
Portrait of Mrs. John Broadbent and child. Philadelphia Museum. ca. 1793
Portrait, Marthe Marie Tronchin, 1758-61 by Jean-Etienne Liotard.
Sketchbook, mid-18th century, anonymous artist.
British Museum
Portrait, 1779. Nathaniel Hone Tate.
Etienne Aubry Versailles, 1745-1781
sketch 1770s
Portrait, Madame Charles-Pierre Pecoul, nee Potain. 1784

LADIES JACKETS: Mid to Late 18th Century©

Jackets were made of wool, silk, linen, Chintz etc. Length varied, somewhat, with the decades. They were worn for work or for dress as was determined by cut and fineness of fabric. They could be accessorized similarly to gowns and even working class women are sometimes seen in paintings with some form of jewelry.

From: “An album Containing 90 Fine Water Color Paintings of Costumes”, collection of Bunka Fashion College in Japan, ca. 1775.
LACMA. Woman’s Caraco. France. Ca. 1775.
Caraco, silk, metallic thread, French
The Met. Caraco. Ca. 1780.
Caraco, cotton, Belgian
The Met. “18th Century”. Caraco.
Caraco, silk, Italian
The Met. Caraco. Ca. 1785.
Jacket, ca. 1780, collections of the de Young and Legion of Honor Museums in San Francisco.
Pet-en-lair with quilted petticoat, Scottish, 1780-81, Glasgow Museum.
Metropolitan Museum, ca. 1775. Caraco jacket and petticoat. French. Silk. Front
Back, Met Museum, ca 1775.
Caraco jacket and petticoat. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Ca. 1770-80. Indian Cotton. English.
“The Sleeping Kitchen Maid” by Peter Jakob Horemans, 1765.
1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in solid, skirt in stripes, apron in floral, neckerchief in plaid / checks) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan.
1770s. Mixed fabrics.
Embroidered silk jacket (trøye, a rural version of the casaquin), ca. 1770. From The National Museum in Oslo (OK-06197)
Embroidered lady’s jacket, ca. 1770. National Museum of Oslo.
Casaquin de velours rouge, vers 1700-1725, France, Palais Galliéra, Musée de la mode de la ville de Paris sur Base Joconde
Casaquin de velours rouge, vers 1700-1725, France, Palais Galliéra, Musée de la mode de la ville de Paris sur Base Joconde
PLAID SILK CARACO JACKET, c. 1770. Narrow sea green vertical stripe over cream and tan horizontal bands, open neck, short angled sleeve, pleated peplum angled at front, all trimmed in wide self furbelows, looped silk cord and tiny tassels, lined in linen with adjustable lacing closure and front stays.
Plaid silk caraco jacket, ca. 1770, Whitaker Auctions.
Jacket, silk, linen, French
1725-30, French. The Met Museum.

Review of Nancy Loane’s Following the Drum

As a writer, I deplore the passing along of inaccurate undocumented information and I’m happy to see Ms. Loane debunk some of the Martha Washington myths that arose during the flowery Victorian era. A primary source is one written by someone who personally witnessed an event and wrote about it in a timely manner (before the memory dimmed and details blurred). Without primary source documentation, the information is doubtful at best.

Unfortunately, once published false information is quoted for generations and it never seems to die even after the myth is debunked.

Not only did Ms. Loane do an exorbitant amount of research in primary documents for what did happen, she addresses just when various myths were first penned, by whom, and why. In some cases, after an exhaustive search of available primary sources what Ms. Loane could not find speaks volumes.

Martha Washington has been described as circulating among the crude log huts at the Valley Forge encampment ministering to the troops, but this could not be documented in any primary source. None of the people who were at Valley Forge and wrote about their experiences spoke of Martha physically administering aid to the troops. Such comments were first written by George Washington Parke Custis, who wasn’t yet born at the time, some fifty-six years after the encampment.

Custis described his grandmother as a ministering angel at various camps when she is clearly documented by reliable sources as being elsewhere at the time and his accounts continued to grow more flamboyant as he grew older. Ms. Loane considers Custis a writer of poetry but not a historian, and other modern writers compared him to Mason Weems who created the story about George chopping down the cherry tree.

George Washington wrote a letter to the president of Princeton saying there was nothing particularly wrong with his step-grandson except for Custis’s, “aversion to study. . . mere indolence, & a dereliction to exercise the powers of the mind.” This isn’t a glowing recommendation for anyone attempting to write a historical account.

Martha was a cultured woman who knew exactly what was proper for a lady of her stature. Entertaining distinguished guests, arranging dinners or tea for the officers and their wives, outings for the ladies, and perhaps writing letters requesting donations from ladies of means is admirable for the time negating the need for creating stories to frame her in a good light.

Walking through the quarters of raggedly dressed and dirty men who came from all walks of life and may have carried on conversations unfit for a lady’s ears was unacceptable. Neither Martha or George Washington were documented as having made such a claim. No such account has been found in the writings of officers or their wives who were in the camps. As is Ms. Loane, I’m sure her “deeds of charity and piety”, were appreciated by those in her presence, but weren’t noted amongst the troops.

Ms. Loane gives an account of the officers’ wives who did spend time at the Potts home with Martha and various military and civilian visitors. Perhaps more importantly, she describes in great deal what the working women in the camps experienced – both the working class and the poor and wretched, and what they contributed to the aid of the troops. These latter were the laundresses, cooks, nurses, letter-writers, prostitutes, and wives who found themselves homeless when their husbands took up arms. A handful of women also took up arms.

Women born into poverty or who found themselves reduced to it through no fault of their own had few choices and slogging along in the mud behind the army hoping for meager rations or a coin for their labors was the best many of them could do for themselves and their children. Yes, there were children in camp and babies born in camp or on the way to camp, all of whom had to eat and most adding to Washington’s burden of obtaining enough supplies for all.

This book is well researched, well written, and deserves to be read. I highly recommend it.