Bands of Music in the British Army 1762-1790. Part 3

In the previous two postings, we’ve looked at what a band was, who were in them, what types of music a band played, and what kind of ceremonies they played at. Perhaps most interesting to those lovers of material culture and military uniforms is what these bandsmen wore.

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Figure 7: Detail, The Lynn Association as Review’d in the Year 1782, Artist Unknown

The uniform of a bandsman varied depending on the regiment. These men were not drummers and fifers so the rule of reversed facings does not apply to them. Ultimately, the uniform of the band was left up to the officers paying for them. One way to see what they wore is through deserter ads. This first one comes from our very own 17th:

Deserted from his Majesty’s 17th regiment of foot, quartered in Perth, John Humphreys musician, aged twenty years, size five feet six inches one-half, very swarthy complexion and jet black hair, black eyes, hollow cheeks, has a stoop in his shoulders, slender bandy limbed, has a very hoarse voice, talks thick, plays well on the French horn and fife; had on when he deserted the musician’s uniform of the regiment, viz. a scarlet frock, with white cap [sic – cape] and cuffs laced with silver, with white buttons having the number of the regiment, white cloth waistcoat and breeches, silver laced hat. He was apprehended (but escaped) on Wednesday the 7th in the Canongate; had on a bonnet, black coat, and wore a long staff in his hand.[13]

It’s important to note that the bandsman is not in reverse facings. These men were not drummers and fifers and were not held to the same rule that made them reverse colours. For most regiments, the bands simply kept the same colour coats as the enlisted and officers. The band of the 22nd Regiment did the same as the 17th. Their band wore red coats with the regiment’s buff facings, buff waistcoats and breeches.[14] 

Another deserter ad from the 21st Regiment or Royal North British Fusiliers describes:

JOHN GRANT, aged 23 years, 5 feet 2 3/4 inches high, born in Beverly, in Yorkshire, England, by trade a jockey, has brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion, a little pitted with the smallpox, and very thin made; had on, when he deserted, his uniform blue jacket, turned up with a red cape, and cuffs. Whoever apprehends and secures the above deserter, shall, by giving proper notice to Captain NICHOLAS SUTHERLAND, Commanding Officer of the said regiment, at Philadelphia, receive ONE GUINEA reward, over and above what is allowed by Act of Parliament for apprehending deserters.

N.B. He is supposed to be gone to Maryland, as he has a wife and a plantation in that province.[15]

The most interesting fashion trend of the 18th century comes from the Turks. Janissary clothing and g became incredibly popular in bands of music. Cymbals and jingling johnnies, long poles with numerous bells, became common sights. In the image below attributed to Thomas Rowlandson, the drummer and the cymbal both wear turbans in the Janissary fashion.[16]

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Figure 8: British Military Band, c 1790s, Attributed to Thomas Rowlandson

An even more striking example Janissary fashion is exhibited in the portrait of John

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Figure 9: John Fraser of the Coldstream Guards, c.1790, Artist Unknown

Fraser, a percussionist in the Coldstream Guards. He wears a large turban with feathers sticking out of it. His red coat features silver lace and tassels. His sleeves are red in the upper arm but turns into a white fabric. His instrument, the tambourine, is a direct import from Janissary music.  Bands of music were integral to the martial music of the British Army. Stemming from the Harmoniemusik movement of the 18th century, regiments adapted the instrumentation to fit their needs. The talented soldier/musicians of these bands played everything from military marches to operatic symphonies. To set them apart from soldiers and drummers, their uniforms reflected the tastes of their officers as well popular movements in late 18th century pop culture.


When the 23rd Regiment was inspected on May 27, 1768, Major General Oughton said:

“The band of Musick very fine. The whole perfectly well cloathed and appointed.”[17]

After John Rowe attended the concert of Fife Major McLean in Boston, he wrote in his diary that;

“there was a large genteel Company & the best Musick I have heard performed there.”

These bands were designed to impress their officers and audiences from the songs and instruments they played down to the lace on their coats.[18]


[13] Edinburgh Advertiser, 9 October 1772. Courtesy of Don Hagist
[14] Don Hagist, “Notes on Bands of Music in the British Regiments,” Originally published in The Brigade Dispatch, Volume XXVII, No. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 17-19.
[15] Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1771. Courtesy of Don Hagist
[16] For further reading on Turkish influence on European society, see Edmund A. Bowles, “The Impact of Turkish Military Bands on European Court Festivals in the 17th and 18th Centuries, ” Early Music 34, no. 4 (2006): 533-59, Raoul F. Camus, Military music of the American Revolution, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977
[17] Sherri Rapp, British Regimental Bands of Musick: The Material Culture of Regimental Bands of Music According to Pictorial Documentation, Extant Clothing, and Written Descriptions 1750-1800, Accessed September 4, 2017,
[18] John Rowe, Anne Rowe Cunningham, and Edward Lillie Pierce, Letters and Diary of John Rowe: Boston Merchant, 1759-1762, 1764-1779, Boston, MA: W.B. Clarke Co., 1903, Page 185, Accessed September 3, 2017.


Joshua is an undergraduate student at Rhode Island College majoring in Secondary Education and History. He’s been researching fifers, drummers, and bands of music during the eighteenth century for the past 5 years.

Read Part 1 and Part 2! This is the final part in a 3 part post.

On Portraying a Member of the Religious Society of Friends During the American Revolution

My personal re-enacting story is not unlike many, I have always loved history! From an early age, in fact as far back as I can recall my family were taking vacations that always included an historic site in our plans. My mother tells the story that we would visit these places and I would have so many questions but when she didn’t have an answer I would get upset. She soon resorted to purchasing a guide book at every site we would visit. My first taste of the 18th century was Colonial Williamsburg, as time passed my obsession with history was fueled by my family who would buy me books for every occasion, mostly Civil War at this time. The 18th century interest came after seeing the film Last of the Mohicans (I know but we all had to start somewhere) and instantly knew I had to get into the re-enacting somehow… but that would have to wait.

After my Bachelor’s Degree then Graduate School I finally was at a point that I could think about a hobby. The next several years I participated as much as I could attending events with the Maryland Forces, the 3rd Battalion Pennsylvania Provincial Regiment or Augusta Regiment, then Muskets of the Crown, which was my gateway into the Revolutionary War. Then came the ultimate opportunity, at least for me at that time, I met the Augusta Co. Militia, my re-enacting family and friends for life. I fell in with the ACM after being invited to attend an immersion event at Fort Frederick MD. I finally felt like I “fit”! This group of likeminded people with a laser like focus on accuracy, research and authenticity were just the group I was looking for. I have mostly moved my impression(s) away from the military life and more towards the civilian side of things, however I occasionally field with the ACM for militia company or rifle company events but for the most part my uniforms are retired, replaced by civilian clothing.

So, with that said when, where, and why the Quaker impression? It goes back to an event at Monmouth Battlefield where I knew I could not march nor did I have military gear correct for the impression, so civilian it was and lucky for me there was a need for civilians. There were several impressions available and I chose a New Jersey slave owner so my good friend Anna Gruber-Keifer would have someone to play off her Quaker impression with. It was a good thinking moment and I began to research the Quakers (opens HUGE can of worms) …

Courtesy The Museum of the American Revolution

The next event was the “With Peal to Princeton” march and again the civilian contingent came out but accompanied with that was the AMAZING opportunity to be involved with a promotional shoot for the Museum of the American Revolution. I was asked if I could portray a Quaker, I said yes and knew to do it right I would have to do my homework. I as many had the vision of the Quaker Oats Man in my head as the essential costume of a colonial Quaker. Well I needed to start digging for a better basis than that.

One of the few images available for Quakers of the time is found in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, by an Unidentified Artist. It depicts a Quaker Meeting with what appears one individual standing to give a Testimony. Here was my start, the “plain” attire consistent with the Testimony of Simplicity showed that my brown coat and black waistcoat could work. I would need to construct some breeches for the shoot. Additional research on Quaker dress of the period soon enlightened me further. Although plain dress alone does not make one a Quaker, it was simply an outward expression of faith and adherence to the tenants of the faith.

 Unidentified artist, British, 18th century or first quarter 19th century MFA 64.456

So profound was the dress that several 18th century authors made mention of it. One example comes from John Wesley (1703-1791) in The Sermons of John Wesley, Sermon 88, On Dress when he encourages his congregation to dress like the Quakers:

Traditional Quaker dress, 1767, United States of America 18th century. Engraving.

“I conjure you all who have any regard for me, show me before I go hence, that I have not laboured, even in this respect, in vain, for near half a century. Let me see, before I die, a Methodist congregation, full as plain dressed as a Quaker congregation. Only be more consistent with yourselves. Let your dress be cheap as well as plain; otherwise you do but trifle with God, and me, and your own souls. I pray, let there be no costly silks among you, how grave soever they may be. Let there be no Quaker-linen, — proverbially so called, for their exquisite fineness; no Brussels lace, no elephantine hats or bonnets, — those scandals of female modesty. Be all of a piece, dressed from head to foot as persons professing godliness; professing to do everything, small and great, with the single view of pleasing God”  

(emphasis mine)

In his text “Letters From An American Farmer”, J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur (1735-1813) writes:

John the Quaker, Cries of London, Anonymous

The manners of the Friends are entirely founded on that simplicity which is their boast, and their most distinguished characteristic; and those manners have acquired the authority of laws. Here they are strongly attached to plainness of dress, as well as to that of language;

Additionally I found this description of Quakers from Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) In his book “A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 2 published in 1806.

“Peculiar Customs” begins with dress.

The dress of the Quakers is the first custom of this nature, that I purpose to notice. They stand distinguished by means of it from all other religious bodies. . . . Both sexes are also particular in the choice of the colour of their clothes. All gay colours such as red, blue, green, and yellow, are exploded. Dressing in this manner, a Quaker is known by his apparel through the whole kingdom. This is not the case with any other individuals of the island, except the clergy . . .”


The Quaker impression went over well at Princeton, and the photos were used in a promotional campaign for the new museum. At Princeton, we had some great crowd interaction on the streets and even had the headmistress of the Friends School adjacent to the battlefield come up and engage me and others in some very meaningful conversation. With fuel for the fire I began reading more and researching the Quaker belief system, its origins, its impact on the Revolution etc.

To talk about all aspects of the Quaker religion, its impact on the social and political environment of the American Revolution is well beyond the scope of this post or my limited knowledge. I have, however over the past year begun to dig more deeply, not only on the Quaker faith but its history and impact on history. Some notable Quakers from this period were Thomas Paine author of Common Sense and American General Nathanael Greene. There are examples of Quakers participating on both sides of the conflict. As well as Quaker persecution by both sides. The most common reference to this I have found so far was regarding the “taking of oaths” which is against Quaker teachings. This led many in the faith to be branded as Loyalists and vice versa. I believe this is a good example of the difficulties many Quakers may have faced in keeping strong in faith while living in a “world turned upside down”. Recollections of the war were recorded by the likes of Phebe Mendenhall Thomas, Joseph Townsend, and Daniel Byrnes all of whom were present at the battle of Brandywine. Their stories shed some light into the thoughts and feelings of Quakers before during and after the battle.


I have always been fascinated by religion from an historical perspective so digging into the Quaker belief system was only natural for me. Although not a practicing Quaker in any stretch of the imagination, the idea of attending meeting now and again if for nothing else but to sit quietly and reflect seems a very inviting opportunity. I’ll report back if there is interest in my experience.

There are always common questions from the public that arise when I put on my “Quaker” kit. I get a lot of “who are you?” or “what are you doing here?” this one is especially true when at military specific re-enactments. Through trial and error, I have learned it is a good idea if one is going to represent a religion or its members, you had better know as much as you can about that religion. This is one aspect of portraying a Quaker that is an even bigger challenge for reenacting and public interactions. Here in Pennsylvania I have noticed that more often than not, you will come in contact with someone who is either a Quaker or has been exposed to the Quaker religion via a friends’ school etc. So, knowing what you are talking about IS VERY IMPORTANT.

One of the most common question that came up on a trip to the Museum of the American Revolution opening weekend was; “are you Ben Franklin?” As I don’t think myself looking much like this founding father except my generous size, I would explain “no I am portraying a member of the Religious Society of Friends or a Quaker”. Many times, this would be the end of the conversation, but I try to engage the public whenever possible throwing out the bait as to just how did the revolution impact this social, religious and political group of people and vice versa. The individual stories aside, one of the primary areas of conversation I try to engage the public in is the idea of being true to one’s beliefs in a world of political change and upheaval? To me this presents a huge talking point and draws some direct relationships between the world of Revolutionary America and the America we are experiencing today.

I take re-enacting not so much as a hobby to be enjoyed on the weekends but more of a calling. I put time and effort not only into my clothing, and elements of material culture, but into my interpretation to the public. I try NOT to perpetuate falsehoods or keep the stereotypes going. I am always trying to learn, expand my knowledge and engage people in the subject I have such passion about. I know I am no expert, I am no classically trained historian I am an amateur at best but I respect the people, places, and things that constitute our collective narrative and strive to present that to those who are willing to listen.

Brandyn is a father of three Cora, Clare and Liam, he and his wife Danielle reside in Northumberland Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and a Master’s degree from Edinboro University of PA. He has been a Certified Athletic Trainer for the past 21 years working in the clinical, high school, and collegiate practice settings.

He currently works in the occupational/industrial setting providing ergonomic services to clients in the Harrisburg area.

Laundry Methods During the American Revolution: The Really, Really Quick Version

There are several guides to washing laundry in the 18th century—some are quite detailed, while others are fantastically vague (“enough indigo to make the water sky blue”).  What follows is a quick compilation of several of those guides, various civilian and military notations about laundering in the American colonies, plus a few personal observations.

Encampment, Laundry
Crown Encampment with Laundry

Laundering an article of clothing was often done through the same process as finishing a newly-woven textile.  The process usually began with a soaking of some sort.  One method of soaking was to use a hot or cold lye.  This soaking process was usually referred to as “bucking,” and some households had a specific bucking tub or basket.  Bucking served to break down grease, loosen dirt, and whiten yellowed linen.  The items to be laundered were placed in the bottom of the tub, and a piece of cheesecloth was placed over the top of the tub.  Ashes were then placed on top of the cloth, and hot water was poured atop the ashes.  The lye was collected, then reheated, and poured through again.  Chamber lye was also used for bucking—as well as for removing lanolin from wool and setting dyes.  Hannah Woolley notes in The Complete Servant Maid (1677): “Before that you suffer it [linen cloth] to be washed, lay it all night in urine, the next day rub all the spots in the urine as if you were washing in water; then lay it in more urine another night and then rub it again, and so do till you find they [ink stains] be quite out.” [1] As this is an extended process, it’s not always a part of the wash cycle, but a part of what Hannah Glasse refers to as a “great wash.”[2]

Burt, Scots washerwomen
Burt, Scot’s Washerwomen

Once the soaking process was complete, soap was then applied to dirty spots and rubbed between the hands.  There is absolutely no evidence of rub boards, scrub sticks, or washboards in inventories, instructions, or images.  Experimental archaeology has shown two things: rubbing the item between the hands with soap or scrubbing the item along the inside of the bucking tub removes dirt and stains fairly well.  Occasionally, a laundress will be instructed to use a brush to work in a stain remover such as lemon juice or vinegar, but that appears to be referencing stains on woolens, fine linens, cottons, or silk.  Laundry bats and possers may also be used to squeeze water and soap (sometimes not soap) through clothing in order to clean it.  In some locations, laundry would have been trampled with the laundress’s feet, as shown in the famous (infamous) image of the Scots washerwoman.  A letter from Edward Burt, an Englishman traveling in northern Scotland in 1754 observed:

“… commonly to be seen by the sides of the river … in all the parts of Scotland where I have been …women with their coats [petticoats] tucked up, stamping, in tubs, upon linen by way of washing ….” [3]

 Occasionally, laundry was boiled BEFORE soaping, as John Harrower described  to his wife:

“They wash here the whitest that I have ever seed for they first Boyle all the Cloaths with soap, and then wash them, and I may put on clean linen every day if I please….” [4]

Most sources, however, note that hot water sets the stains and the clothes should be boiled after rubbing.  Janet Schaw, an Englishwoman, observed laundry being done in Wilmington, NC in 1776.  She wrote that

“all the cloaths coarse and fine, bed and table linen, lawns, cambricks and muslins, chints, checks, all are promiscuously thrown into a copper with a quantity of water and a large piece of soap.  This is set a boiling, while a Negro wench turns them over with a stick.”  [5]

From this, we can infer that most laundry would have been separated before boiling. 

Schaw also had much to say about the rest of the laundry process:

This operation [boiling] over, they are taken out, squeezed, and thrown over the Pales to dry.  They use no calendar; they are however much better smoothed when washed.  Mrs Miller showed them [how to wash linen] by bleaching those of Miss Rutherfurd, my brother and mine, how different a little labour made them appear, and indeed the power of the sun was extremely apparent in the immediate recovery of some bed and table-linen, that has been so ruined by sea-water that I thought them irrecoverably lost. [6]

Crown soap advert
Crown Soap Advert

Schaw also noted that North Carolinians were the “worst washers of linen I ever saw, and tho’ it be the country of indigo, they never use blue, nor allow the sun to look at them.”  [7] Indigo was used as a bluing agent— an optic brightener—and was added to the final rinse.  It is unclear as to how much indigo was actually used; a few guidebooks note that enough indigo should be added to “make the water sky-blue.”  Most bluing references in America are to fig blue or fig indigo, was probably a lesser grade of indigo.  As indigo was a cash crop of Carolina, it was readily available in the American colonies. Stone blue is another term seen on occasion.  

Blue could be added to starch, as noted in Amelia Chambers’s The Ladies’ Best Companion:

Moisten the quantity of starch you want to use, according to the quantity of your cloaths, with water, and put as much stone blue as is necessary. When the starch and blue are properly mixed, then let the whole boil together a quarter of an hour longer, taking care to keep stirring it, because that makes it much stiffer and is better for the linen. Such things as you would have most stiff, ought to be put first into the water, and you may weaken the starch by pouring a little water upon it. Starch ought to be boiled in a copper vessel, because it requires much boiling, and tin is apt to make it burn. Some people mix their starch with allom, or gum arabic, nothing is so good as isinglass, and an ounce of it is sufficient to a quarter of the pound. [8]

Starch receipts from the period used a variety of items: potatoes, rice, wheat, even horse chestnuts (patented in 1796 to Lord William Murray).

Once the rinsing and bluing was complete, the laundry was then dried.  Period images show laundresses drying laundry in any open space: on wash-lines (usually made from linen or hemp rope), across tents, hung on fences and bushes, and even laid out in the grass.  The sun acted as a bleaching agent.  (See above for Ms. Schaw’s comment on the sun.)  Once the laundry was dry, the laundress then faced the task of ironing or smoothing the linen.  Those items that needed ironing needed to be re-dampened and then were placed on a table with a cloth above and beneath (there are a few images of camp laundry being smoothed on the ground).  Then a wooden roller or heated iron was passed over the damp linen, stretching and smoothing the article of clothing.  

A Woman with Wash-Tubs null by John Varley 1778-1842
Varley, Woman With Tubs

There appears to have been much variation in the quality of the washing done in America.  While linen was the predominant fabric being washed, laundresses were also tasked with cleaning dyed and/or printed linens and cottons, woolens, and silk.  These materials could, indeed, be cleaned, but often required much more time and effort in their care.  As such, outer garment were not washed as often as undergarments, but they were most definitely cleaned.  


[1] Hannah Woolley, The compleat servant-maid; or, The young maidens tutor Directing them how they may fit, and qualifie themselves for any of these employments. Viz. Waiting woman, house-keeper, chamber-maid, cook-maid, under cook-maid, nursery-maid, dairy-maid, laundry-maid, house-maid, scullery-maid. Composed for the great benefit and advantage of all young maidens. (London: printed for T. Passinger, at the Three Bibles on London Bridge, 1677), 69.;view=toc
[2]  Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind Yet Published, (London: W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, J. Hinton, et al, 1774), 330.
[3]  Edward Burt, Letters from a gentleman in the North of Scotland to his friend in London … likewise an account of the Highlands with the customs and manners of the Highlanders, (London: Ogle, 1822).
[4]  John Harrower, “Diary of John Harrower, 1773-1776,” American Historical Review 6, no. 1 (1900), 84.
[5]  Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776, eds, Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews,  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921), 204.
[6]  Ibid., 206.
[7]  Ibid., 206.
[8]  Amelia Chambers, The ladies best companion; or, a golden treasure for the fair sex. Containing the whole arts of cookery … With plain instructions for making English wines … To which is added The art of preserving beauty, London: Printed for J. Cooke, 1800.

is an adjunct professor at Lord Fairfax Community College in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, an independent scholar, and a public historian.  She has a B.A. in History from Washington College in Chestertown, MD., and an M.A. in Early American History from the University of New Hampshire.

Her research areas include Germanic settlement and culture in the greater Shenandoah Valley, the material culture of followers of the British Army through the American Revolution, and the Women’s Land Army of America in Virginia and North Carolina during the first World War.  She is a founding member of the progressive civilian organization, The Laundry Company. She loves cats, coffee, and puns, and not necessarily in that order.

Disheveled, Poor and Shabby, The Average Soldier’s Wife

The hobby of reenacting as whole has undergone many changes in the past decade. I would say those changes were made in leaps and bounds towards outstanding impressions done by women in the hobby. We have had some excellent patterns become commercially available based on extant garments for the female living historian. (I’m looking at you Larkin and Smith. Thank you!) The digitization of museum collections and the sharing of those images on social media on sites such as Pinterest has been invaluable. The social networks have transformed our small and often insular community. We now have the ability to connect to one another in ways we never could have imagined. We can share images of our impressions with the world with a small very powerful computer we carry in our pocket. It takes but a second to have your new kit be the all the rage on various pages. Your image may be shared, liked, tweeted and loved. This past spring an event, attended by the 17th, at Short Hills produced some images that were happily shared on my wall. One in particular was of some friends of mine standing around a wash tub doing laundry in their stays and petticoats. It is an image that instantly sparked not only admiration for anyone doing laundry at an event but also a sense of recognition that I have seen so many images of working women wearing just such clothing while doing hard laborious work.

                The ability to properly portray Soldier’s Wives as they truly were is really not as difficult as some would have you believe. This is due to the fact that so many images exist from the last quarter of the 18th century. It also doesn’t hurt that we have some excellent purveyors of goods and craftspeople reproducing the material culture of that era, as well. We also mustn’t forget the excellent scholarly works that look into the common person’s clothing such as Dress of the People by John Styles or Wives, Slaves and Servant Girls by Don Hagist. These excellent books delve deeply into the subject and I highly recommend reading both of these publications to get a greater idea of the fabrics worn and the vernacular used in the period. Such wonderful terms such as Stuff, referring to worsted, Cassimere, referring to tropical weight worsted, Harebine, a wool silk blend that is slightly fuzzy on one side yet smooth and taffeta like on the other, Cherry Derry, a cotton silk blend that shows up repeatedly in merchant’s advertisements.

                I’ve decided to focus in on the visuals that I referred to earlier. In particular I have chosen a few images rendered by Paul Sandby that very aptly show the look of the common working woman. He focused most of his career painting landscapes, encampments and those living in some of the poorest areas of cities around the UK. He was prolific in his craft and gives us an excellent view of what he saw on a daily basis. The last quarter of the 18th Century was a time almost devoid of social welfare even if it was the “Age of Enlightenment”. These individuals lived in circumstances that would still be recognizable in the third world today. That is what it meant to be the poor working class in a major city in George III’s Britain at the time.  He painted them as they were, disheveled, poor, shabby, and most of all, very human.  This is the same exact social class of the Private Soldier’s wife which made up over 95% of all Followers of the British Army that we represent. The images I have chosen are from the 1750’s-1790’s as working women’s clothing often were not quite as fashionable or are hard to discern cut due to their ragged condition in the images.  The second hand clothing trade kept some pieces of clothing in circulation far beyond the time that a fashionable woman would have worn them.

women at the fireplace.jpg
Sandpit Gate 2nd in Series 1754.*  – Paul Sandby

These women appear to be washing indoors. You should notice that both women are in their shift sleeves, stays and petticoats. Take note the standing figure is wearing her handkerchief, as well. The Royal Collection.

disheveled woman at window
Sandpit Gate 3rd in series, 1754. * – Sandby

Perhaps my favorite in the series as it gives a highly detailed image of a woman working. Once again, take note of the shift, ferreted petticoats and stays with a handkerchief. Note the details of her windowpane check work apron, as well as the facing on the hem of her petticoat in plain (linen? Wool?)  fabric with a striped petticoat underneath. Her pin cushion hangs from her waist as well. The temporary removal of outer garments seems to have been fairly typical when doing manual, filthy or wet work. It is seen repeatedly in images of women doing laundry and other tasks. The Royal Collection.

Shoe Cleaning from the Twelve Cries of London series, 1759.*


This image once again shows a woman removing her outer garments such as a Bedgown or Gown to keep her outer garments free of filth or water. This seems to have been a common occurrence and for the working class something that was done in a public area. She also has her apron on and her handkerchief is worn covering her shoulders and chest. The London Museum.

The next undated Sandby Etching shows the simple Bedgown and Petticoat worn by a working woman. She is also wearing flat shoes which we see in many images of women of this class. As we have a General Order saying that Widows and Children of the Regiment may draw shoes and Hose form the company stores, flat shoes can be a valuable interpretive tool. You can see the wheelbarrow behind her which should be of much interest to those who do a laundry or Petty Sutler Impression.  Note the bare feet on the young boy scratching his head. The British Museum.

Undated – Paul Sandby

Last Dying Speech and Confession, 1759, from the Twelve Cries of London Series. This

Last Dying Speech and Confession, 1759.

 woman has to be the shabbiest of all of the women pictured here. You will notice her Bedgown, Petticoat and Flat Shoes. Please note she is not giving her dying speech she is selling copies of an executed person’s confession at the gallows, which you can see faintly behind her with a crowd around it. Nothing like a day’s entertainment.


Mackerel Seller, 1768. Lastly, this woman with her hand in her pocket, her blue pinner apron to keep the fish oil off her, scarlet cloak and aggressive expression is a personal favorite. She looks very much like many of us do after a weekend in the field hence this is a very achievable look. The surprising lack of gowns in these images is a bit startling but these seem to be the predominant theme in working women’s garments painted by Sandby. National Galleries of Scotland.

Mackerel Seller1768.jpg
Mackerel Seller, 1768.

This is but a small sampling of images that are available in digital archives most of which are free or have very little cost in acquiring images. The great hope is that you will investigate these terrific images for yourself, study the details, look at the surroundings and add these small details to your impression. It’s easy to be guided by others impressions but the guidance we should be taking is from period images. I chose these images because they illustrate what a soldier’s wife may have looked like after a while on active campaign. We know they are described as a rather ramshackle lot by the locals when the Convention Army passed through New England. Perhaps we’ll see some more working class clothing at events soon.

* Please note second in series is how Sandby numbered this image. It is the first shown in this post. 


is a a member of the 62d Regiment of Foot. She has been a Historic Interpreter since 1993. When she isn’t researching or doing experimental archaeology she is either antiquing or restoring the 18th century home she owns with her Husband Eric and their two very bossy cats Georgie and Charlotte.

The Things We Carry: On the Strength of the Army

A couple weeks ago we had a member of the 17th Regiment of Infantry, Damian Niescior, write about all the things he carried during a weekend in the 18th century as a soldier in the British Army… this week we have a follow up post brought to you by Carrie Fellows, who has been working and recreating 18th century domestic arts for more than 25 years. A year or so ago Carrie did a symposium with Kimberly Boice’s: Historie Academie, which I happened to attend where she did a talk and workshop on how to pack for an event. So upon request it reminded me that she’d be the perfect fit to talk about what a follower of the army would bring with them.

Read Damian’s blog post here.

Mary S. an attached follower of the 17th Regiment of Infantry


It can be difficult to explain to people what I do for fun. I combine my passion for history and the outdoors by interpreting the lives of women who, out of necessity, followed the Continental Army (and occasionally, the British army) during the American War for Independence.  I have portrayed a laundress, an officer’s servant, a refugee, and a soldier’s wife, but regardless of whom I portray, the things I carry with me may vary slightly according to season, but remain essentially the same. Over the years, I have refined and limited the number of objects I carry, lightening my load for travel on foot over long distances, rough terrain, and the occasional river ford.


Records of what women carried are practically nonexistent, but one can find clues in runaway ads, military records, and the occasional primary source. Women attached to the army had only what they brought away with them, or acquired on the road.  Women “on the strength” of the army were entitled to a half-ration of food (children received a one-quarter ration.) I am always hungry, and as rations aren’t always available, carry enough food to get by.

Tied about my middle, under my gown, a pair of pockets (1) is suspended. These contain both modern items (pocket on right) and period ones (pocket on left). I often leave my phone in the car unless I need to take photos for a talk or article, or will be in the deep backcountry.*  My car keys (40) are pinned firmly to the inside bottom corner of my left pocket.  In my right pocket: a sewing kit (2) or “housewife” – a roll of cloth with pockets to hold sewing supplies and tiny items like sleeve buttons, also a linen handkerchief (3), pocket knife (4), linen or woolen mitts (5), period scrip and real cash in a reproduction pocketbook (6), lip balm in a tin container (7).


I carry most of my gear in a wallet (8) – a rectangular cloth bag with a slit opening in the center. One places items in each end, then twists the entire thing at the center, closing the slit and forming a kind of narrow strap, then slung over the shoulder. I try to segregate the two ends into food/related items and clothing/personal items.  The food side holds a small bag of cornmeal or rice (9), cheese wrapped in 2 layers of linen (10 – the inner one dampened with vinegar); a cured sausage wrapped in brown paper (11), a small bag of walnuts (12), bread (13), tea (14), salt (15), seasonal vegetables (16), a spice bag, grater, candle ends and extra corks (17), paper packets of flour and pepper (18), and sometimes I even remember my fire kit: flint, steel, charcloth and tow in a tin box (42). Food-related items include a turned wooden bowl (19), which can serve as both drinking and eating vessel, an eating spoon (20), and a linen towel (21).

In the other end, I carry extra clothing items tied up together in a large kerchief (22): moccasins (23) and a man’s wool cap (24) for sleeping in, stockings (25), neck handkerchief (26), and a small paper notebook (27).  Some also carry a clean shift, but I do not, as I am rarely in a situation where there is privacy sufficient change it. Also: a tiny modern first aid kit in a red linen bag (28), personal toiletry items in another small drawstring bag: a tin box with soap and mirror (29), horn comb and bone toothbrush (30), handwoven wash towel (31), spectacles (32), allergy meds &, contact lens case (not pictured). Reenactor etiquette requires one to manage any non-historic personal care out of view as much as possible. Optional items, depending on the planned activity: a small bundle of mending patches and yarn (33), and a darning egg (34) to occupy time and to trade (mending skills have value), a large wooden cooking spoon (35), and a small axe (36). If there’s room, “luxury” items include a ceramic cup (37) and a big linen wallet that doubles as a straw tick (38).


I usually carry just one blanket (with a wool petticoat and cloak inside) rolled up, tied together at the ends to form a “U”, and carried across my body. I put on the wallet first, then the canteen (39) – the wallet cushions the strap – then the rolled blanket over that. The blanket helps keep both wallet and canteen secure, close to my body, and quiet as I walk – or run.

The last thing I pick up is my small iron pot (41), with its sheet iron lid tied on so it doesn’t rattle or become lost. If I have eggs or fruit, I pack it in the pot. It goes to every event with me. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that little pot – representing security, hot food, comfort (and home?) connects me to the women I portray who carried what they most valued when they followed the army.


*Nothing ruins an accurate setting faster than when the smartphones come out and glow blue at night.

biopic-carrie.pngCARRIE FELLOWS
has been interpreting 18th century domestic arts for more than 25 years and is the Sergeant of Women for the progressive living history group, Augusta County Militia. She has held positions in history nonprofits and museums as a curator, educator, director, and board member, and is currently the Executive Director of the Hunterdon County (NJ) Cultural & Heritage Commission. She and her husband Mark are addicted to old houses.

The Malicious, Morose Malady and the Vindictive, Vagrant Vixen: A 17th Regiment Story, Part 2

In this week’s blog entry, we return to finish the tale of Private Thomas Mallady’s post-war adventures, initially chronicled this past May by guest author Don Hagist. While the documentary trail might not give us all the information we could hope for, there are some clear messages about the nature of marital disharmony in post-war New England that should give any would-be deserter food for thought. For more soldiers’ stories, check out Don’s blog: British Soldiers, American Revolution.

Click here for Part I

— Will Tatum

Part II

The next week’s issue of the Western Star, on 18 September, carried Thomas Mellalew’s response, this time datelined from Pittsfield:

“To the Publick.
Whenever the character of an individual is notoriously attacked, it is incumbent on him, if he has any regard for his reputation, or respect for the opinion of the world, to come forward in his own defence. The writer is sensible that a private controversy between a man and woman, is not a very pleasing subject for the attention of the community: His only excuse is, that he write in his own defence.

“In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mellalew – a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world – a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.

“The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.”

“Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
Pittsfield, Sept. 1792.”


It didn’t end there. The next week’s issue of the Wester Star, dated 25 September, contained Hannah’s next volley, this one a barrage including statements from other individuals:

“To the Publick.
Thomas Mallady (or Mellalew) having asserted in the paper of last week, that the charges I have exhibited against him are not true, the following are submitted to the inspection of the publick. Hannah Mellalew.

“Middletown, February 18, 1778.
“These may certify that Thomas Mellalew and Hannah Andrews were married on the day of the date above, according to the form in the office for the solemnization of marriage, in the book of common prayer, by me, Abraham Jarvis, Minister of the Church of England.

Form of the Solemnization of Marriage
Excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer, 1662 edition

“These may certify whom it may concern, that Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as many persons called him) some years since lived in this town with his wife; and, while he lived in this town, he advertised his wife in the Springfield Newspaper, lest she should run him in debt when he was absent; and afterwards put in another advertisement, wherein he manifested his sorrow for the first, and said he had no foundation or just cause for publishing the first.


Furthermore, while he lived in this town, he made an appointment to meet a Negro’s wife, at a certain place in the night time, in a certain barn; and the Negro’s wife informed Mrs. Mellalew of the appointment, who procured sundry persons, one of whom was dressed in a woman’s clothes, to meet at the time and place appointed, when and where Mellalew attended in the dark, and his conduct was such, as caused them to lead him home to his wife; and he did not deny his intent in going to the barn, and in the barn called the Negro’s wife by name several times, before the persons lying in wait discovered themselves. The substance of the above was sworn to before me, as nearly as I can recollect, by two of the persons who were in the barn, and one of them who was dressed in women’s apparel.

P. S. Mrs. Mellalew’s character in this town is good, for any thing that I know.

Samuel Mather, Justice of the Peace.
Westfield, August 17, 1792.”

The story certainly didn’t end there, but unfortunately our documentary trail does. Further research might reveal what became of this former soldier of the 17th and his estranged wife, and help us decide whether he was “malicious and morose,” or she was a “vindictive, vagrant vixen.”

biopic-donhDON HAGIST
is a life-long British Army researcher and founding member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot (recreated). His scholarly career includes preparing and publishing numerous editions of period primary sources and analytical articles for the living history community. Most recently, Hagist has written two major books.

The first, British Soldiers, American War examines the Revolutionary conflict through the eyes of British soldiers’ narratives. The second and more recent is The Revolution’s Last Men, an exploration of the last veterans of the War for Independence who were captured through early photography. Hagist runs his own blog and is a regular contributor at the Journal of the American Revolution