Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
Center of the ohio country universe

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grandpa Simpson knew the value of a shilling...

 Belt rig made of bark tan leather. Closure button is a sleeve button made by Ward Oles
Axe and hoe made by Rick Guthrie

 Random Sporting image for can dress like this and kill 100 deer

High life below stairs....nice image of lower class folks....i think if you drank enough high life you would have the same look

 The Camp is green again, I mean really green. Like the forest moon of Endor green. The Ferns cover the ground hiding all the ore holes and the forest canopy is once again a great shield from..rain (what gives? It’s like god hates dry clothes).  Also for the record hunting shirts do not shed rain with the fringe. This was truly the brainchild of a person who never ventured into even a slight drizzle. Yes after a point the fringe does wick away water but this also the point everything on you is wicking away water.
      So With all the message board weirdness over the past few months I’ve started and restarted writing up a few blogs about my take on all the weirdness. Some were thoughtful critiques of some opposing schools of thought others were rants about the revolt against academic history by people who cling to rugged individualist ideals of a backcountry that didn’t exist. A few were straight up rants full of disdain and esoteric references like 4 people would get. Those were my favorites…But I sided on reason and figured I’d just break down some numbers for folks.

      Ok so you’re a hunter (long hunter/market hunter take your pick)  Ok, So why? Well why do people usually do anything, simple answer money. No matter how ya shake it the reason any of these guys did this was to make money. It wasn’t to spread the gospel, it wasn’t to spread the ideals of Liberty ,it was to make a living.  So looking at this as a business some basic principles of economics come into play. You need a market, a product, supplies and a way to move said product to market.

       So lets jump to the product: Half dressed Deer hides. The majority of these hides were destined for use in the construction of leather breeches or gloves (as well as in a a number of other consumer goods produced in the colonies and Europe) This was the occupation of hunters in the summer months. Summer killed deer produce a superior leather to that of winter killed hides.

      The reason for this is the fact that in the summer the follicles that hold the deer hair are smaller. The winter coat of white tail deer is made up of larger hair (larger follicles) to help create the dead air space that help keep the deer warm. Large follicles equals bigger holes in the hide equals bad leather..Simple?

      The winter months for the hunter was spent (even in the south) trapping beaver or other fur bearing animals for their pelts. Bear hunting for fat (grease) was also an important part of the trade. These activities plus things like cutting wood, helping clear land, etc made up the majority of the hunters year.
    Ok so now lets move on to a quote that breaks down the product pretty nicely. It’s from the Interview of Nathan Boone:
“The summer and fall hunt must have yielded entirely deer skins and these only half dressed. Graining means (if the Hair doesn’t get rubbed off) the scraping off of the hair and the grain, like a cussier leather; Then when dry the leather is rubbed across a staking board until it becomes somewhat soft; then it is said to be half-dressed and fit for compact packing. A heavily packed horse could carry about a hundred half-dressed deer skins of two pounds each.”
       Ok so here is a pretty specific definition of just what a half dressed hide is (process,weight) As well as a nice tidbit on just how much a horse could carry. To top if it off it’s from a guy whose dad was the king of the “Long hunters” so its pretty safe to say he might understand the family trade a little (of course he does say his dad was a good surveyor….and we all know how that turned out)
Now Mark Baker went into this area in his book “Sons of a Trackless Forest”(Mr. Baker in the off chance your reading this..two words for you 2Nd Printing the hobbie needs it!!!) but I’m going to go a little more into the subject. According to Morgan in 1768 the going rate for a half dressed deerskin was 1 shilling 6 pence per pound (quick reminder  12 pennies in a shilling 20 shillings in a pound)

***This description would also be usefull to folks wanting to make "bundles" of deerskins for trade scenerios. The Half dressed hide when stored in a dry place can last a long time***
    That means that the skins carried by 1 horse equaled around 10 pounds (not too shabby) now what about your overhead? I can here people now what do you mean overhead? Well Deer just don’t shoot themselves, except in Far side comics (Gary Larson reference..oh ya whose with me? No one?) Apart from the gun you’re going to need lead ball, powder, linen for patching and flints.
So lets look at the prices for gun related items at Fort Pitt in the 1760’s:
Rifle gun 7/10/0     A neat Fuzee  3/0/0
Lead 1 shilling 3 pence per pound
Powder 7 shillings 6  per pound
Patching linen  1/10 per yard
Powder horn/bag   7/6
Knife 1/3
Flints 2 pence

   Alright so without getting into the “average Rifle caliber” debate I’m going to go back to Baker’s research here. He uses Doddridge’s recollection of men carrying guns that shot “ more than 45 bullets to the pound”  so we’re lookin at a gun over .48 caliber.  SO personaly shooting a .62 caliber gun (roughly 20 balls to the pound) I’m going to need 5 lbs of lead (keeping in mind this is if I hit every deer with one shot and don’t get bored in camp and “shoot at a mark” with my fellow hunters while drinking shrub and have a chew/smoke…both of which I have to pay for)

     The powder for these shots also has to be considered the powder to lead ratio of two pounds lead to 1 pound of powder. This is also an x factor in the equation as what size charge did they use? This determines the amount of charges you get out of your horn. I know for example out of my 1 pound horn I get roughly 120 shots (I shoot 60 grains and have not had a problem knocking a deer down between 30-50 yards) The caveat here for me is I shoot “indian loads”  from descriptions it seems natives in the period  loaded half the powder of their white counterparts:
   William Clinkenbeard’s Interview “you could always tell an Indian gun. Never were so heavily loaded, nor sounded so loud, cracked flatter.”
      SO if you keep with the period ratio you’d need 2 ½ pounds of powder to shoot 100 deer.So we’ll say 3 lbs to keep the math even (and I haven’t found an entry for a half pound of powder) so all together your paying 1/5/ for the ammo to shoot 100 deer. Not so cheap

   Ok since man cannot live by lead alone You also have to take into consideration that clothes/gear break down, rip, rot and just fade away.  SO here is a rundown of what a basic “Doddridge”  inspired kit would cost you:

Shirt  (check shirt 12 shillings 10) Oznabrig shirt 15 shillings
Jacket  1/2/6
Handkerchief  5 shillings
Hunting shirt 1/2/6
Trousers    3 shilling 9 pence  /Leggings  9 shillings      /Breechclout 9 shillings
Shoes 10 shillings     /Moccasins    (1 dressed and smoked deerskin 8 shillings  2 awls 1 shilling)
Blanket a 3pt matchcoat 20 shillings
Kettle /6 shillings

    SO the basic kit of a shirt, jacket, hunting shirt, handkerchief, trousers, shoes, Blanket and a kettle is going to run you 4/12/7  SO add in a rifle, ammo, knife, horn and pouch and your looking at  overall expenses over 13 pounds!!! (not including the cost of flour, the horse, and the other items you’d need to conduct a longhunt)  So for the pack load of deer your already in the hole(is the free credit band in your head right now?).
      Granted the cost of the rifle and a lot of the durble goods (***ecomnomics term!***) isn’t going to be in the expense that goes into every packhorse load of deer skins. However there is A LOT of items I haven’t factored in here. But certain costs are going to be fixed (like lead/powder)
 The idea of the Lone rugged hunter walking thru the woods  shunning cloth for his deerskin clothing, that didn’t need anything from well…wrong.  One of the more famous “longhunter” quotes from one of the famous “Longhunts” is the carving by Bledsoe “2300 skins lost, ruination by God”   Stop and think about that for a second.  That’s possibly 160 pounds of lead ball (if they never missed) and 80 pounds of powder (and a hell of a lot of nettle woven cloth for patching…) Think about that next time you hear someone explain to the public they are a long hunter and carry everything they need for a long hunt on them. No wonder the poor guy needs a coverlet haversack so bad he has an extra 240 pounds of gear on him. Then again I have seen guys with an extra 240 pounds of gear on them but its normally in the form of squirrel cookers and giant iron “Celtic” blanket pins.

     Dang that’s a lot of numbers. Ok so whats this all mean? Well the simple numbers involved in “long hunting” and making money off it proves that this just wasn’t a fly by night operation.  The lead and powder to shoot 2300 deer was more than likely purchased thru store credit somewhere.  Not to mention all the gear needed to skin, process and haul the hides.   This is where I could go off on a tangent about 19th century ideas mixing with people’s Grandparents memories from depression era Appalachia and turning into a Grandpa Simpson like weird version of the past (“ I tied an onion to my pocket as was the style at the time”) But I’m not going to.

     And for the record if you spot any errors in my math drop me an email and I’ll correct it asap. Adding up 18th century foreign currency can make ya go cross eyed. To add a little more eye candy to this post I’ve put up a pic of a belt rig for a small game axe I sewed up. The rig is based off the Shelby Rig as well as a few other examples. It can be worn over the shoulder or as a belt. The axe was made by Iron Guru Rick “the godfather” Guthrie. I’ve used this axe to butcher a number of Deer over the past few years and honestly if you need something much bigger (blade is around 2 ¼  overall length is around 4 inches) I’d carry an axe.
 The smaller item is a Ginseng hoe based off an original Rick made. I purchased this a few years ago and was going to have a buddy handle it and just got it back a few months ago (lol still handleless) So I’m hoping to stash it in my pack later this season. Ginseng in Pennsylvania has its own season    So like Boone I’ll be on the lookout for the plants while I hunt.
 Now its back to sewing and weaving. I also have a giant cupcake to make for Cindy since she’s 3 today. Man do I feel old.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spotted scarves and Blue Plush OR How to Stroll in style...

Blue plush shot bag...I tie my lock cover and knife on the back of the strap

       Shot bag and Belt rig I made for my small game axe forged by Rick Guthrie. B&T spotted scarves underneath
    Jesus do I have a lot of catching up to do, SO in typical me fashion I have to admit I’ve been busy. The real world and my quasi job have been kicking my butt as of late. So Sorry to the folks who have been waiting for a new post (sorry Russ) but hopefully the stuff that have been kicking around in my skull will be worth the wait. Just what have I been up to? Let’s see canoe trip, Longhunter school, woodstime, reading and weaving like there is no tomorrow. Oh and don’t forget reading. SO this week I’m going to focus on getting all the stuff I wrote about into a coherent somewhat normal write ups. So since I missed a bateau ride this weekend I spent some time in the woods at the camp.
      While kicking around the woods I took some time to shoot at a mark. In doing so I was breaking in a new jacket I got from Jason Melius . It’s a short brown unlined jacket and is pretty sweet if I do say so. So while shooting the lock of the gun became caught on a handkerchief I had in my right pocket.quickly I realized I was bringing a reference to life.
     In his 1847 History of Kentucky Lewis Collin mentions a story (lack of footnotes dam you 19th cent) of Kentucky woodsman Micheal Cassidy:
But Cassidy to his consternation, found that his pocket handkerchief was tied round the lock of his gun, so as to prevent its being cocked, and he feared to untie it, lest the indian perceiving it, should fire”

    Cassidy is mentioned in the oft quoted Interview of William Clinkenbeard. He was in Clinkenbeard’s mess company on the Clark Campaign (a fact that point towards even frontiersmen such as Clinkenbeard serving in a military structure…Take that “I’m not in your dam militia” camp) It also flies in the face on the idea that the people in Kentucky wore only nettles and buffalo wool clothes. Unless of course this is a nettle/wool handkerchief….how much would that hurt to wipe your snuff boogies with. It also points out that Cassidy no stranger to the Dangers of the backcountry was probably sporting a jacket rather then a hunting shirt. If your wearing a belted hunting shirt over a jacket it’s tough to get to the pockets. AT the least (say he didn’t have the shirt belted) it shows him wearing a waistcoat and using the pockets (crazy right!). Now we could toss this reference out because it’s from a 19th century source that doesn’t mention the specific interview, but if we did that some of us wouldn’t be able to publish anything...ever.
        The handkerchief is one of those pieces of gear that is really ignored by most folks. Most simply sport a woodsy color checked cotton deal around there neck (or even dye this too with walnuts…come one guys). But from period artwork mixed with period references we can see these was quite a variety of these out there
. The styles shipped to Pittsburgh seemed to run the gambit from plain to fancy:
Invoice of goods on the Batteau Forbes headed to Kaskaskia 1768:
20 bordered Handkerchiefs no. 8 6 shillings
26 do. Do. 6 shillings
17 linen handkerchiefs 3 shillings
32 linen handkerchiefs different patterns 5
15 blue and white cotton Handkerchiefs 5 shillings

Hunters also seem to purchase Handkerchiefs with regular frequency:
June 4 1768 Alexander Ferguson 1 knife 5 “ 1 frock 12”10 1 comb 2” 1 Handkf 5”

July 22 1768 Simon Girty To 1 breech clout 9/ 1 Handkf 15/

And from the runaway ad Mafia:
September 14, 1769. BEDFORD, August 29, 1769. RUN away from the subscriber, on the 14th instant, an indentured servant man named WILLIAM RIDDLE. He is an Aberdeen's man, and talks the brogue peculiar to that part of Scotland, is about 18 years old, slender made, 5 feet 6 inches high, tan complexion, pitted with the smallpox, yellow haired, and a little freckled, had on when he went away an under Virginia cloth jacket with copperas coloured stripes, oznabrug shirt and long trousers, and a pair of Virginia made shoes with buckles. He stole when he went away a gun about 4 feet long in the barrel, and a little silvered in the stock at the muzzel, also a new printed linen handkerchief of two shillings sterling price, with red ground and white spots. It is imagined he will make for Carolina. Whoever conveys the said servant to me, at Bedford courthouse, shall have FORTY SHILLINGS reward, if taken in Virginia, and if in Carolina FOUR POUNDS. WILLIAM AUSTIN.

October 18, 1770. RUN away from the subscriber living in Augusta, near Stanton, a convict servant man named JOHN CEATON, an Englishman, about 5 feet 5 inches high; had on when he went away, a white hunting shirt with striped wristbands, a light coloured lappelled jacket lines with white blanketing, two coarse shirts, and a pair of trowsers, a pair of black worsted stockings, a spotted silk handkerchief, old shoes and brass buckles, a red-coloured wig and has crooked toes. Whoever takes up and secures said servant so that I may have him again, shall have FORTY SHILLINGS reward, besides what the law allows, and reasonable charges paid if brought home. ADAM REABURN.

  These scarves could have been worn around the neck, on the head or as pictured in a lot of period images in the pocket. The neckcloth and pocket scarf pop up in a lot of images of period working class people. Right now a great source for some killer handkerchiefs is Burnley And Trowbridge. The spotted scarves they carry are very close to an example in the Herkimer house and ones worn by sailors in the Benjamin West 1771 image “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians.”

     One theoretical way to sport a scarf (as in not a solid documented method) is in holding up your breech clout. Quite a few of these hunters purchase a clout the same time they purchase a scarf (or 2 scarves). Morgan notes that the French in Kaskaskia sport a scarf on their head, wrist and waist , so maybe this is the hunters adopting an idea picked up from the French. I have used a scarf as a clout belt for a few years now and have found it to be a pretty nice way of holding everything in place. Deerskin belts stretch or break, gartering cuts into you but handkerchiefs do a pretty good job (and don’t rot away from sweat/dirt)

     Also for folks that really want to go the extra yard…want to be super minimalist. Carry a pack that you can document just about anywhwere and anyone can afford…Wrap up your stuff in a handkerchief! Beats the hell out of a coverlet haversack (Why people? Why do you keep making/selling/buying these things? Think of the children….If you carry a coverlet haversack the terrorists win and You hate America) I’ve carried the basics wrapped in a handkerchief on quite a few scouts and it’s pretty simple and easy. If you get tired of carrying it in your hand a buffalo tug/belt works for a strap or simply put it on your gun/walking stick. Yes you can fit all the gear/food you would need for a weekend scout in a handkerchief and your pockets. What does that say about how much you need to carry?
   Another piece of gear made by Jason I broke in was my new Blue Plush shot bag. This type of bag is mentioned in a few runway ads as well as store records sometimes even purchased by…(shocking music) LONG HUNTERS! Me thinks the Harmons may have even purchased one…hmmmm does that mean long hunters didn’t always wear deerskin and nettles? is a mention of a plush pouch in the Virginia runaway ads:

August 16, 1776. Supplement. RUN away from the subscriber living on the levels of Green brier, two convict servant men. One named WILLIAM ROW, 18 or 19 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches high, of a fair complexion, has dark hair, is an artful fellow, and may forge a pass, as he writes a tolerable good hand; had on, when he went away, shirt, drawers, and leggins, of coarse country linen, and took with him a coat and waistcoat of cotton and linen almost white, also a smooth bore gun of the best sort, double breached, which had part of the stock broke off before, a shot bag and powder horn, very much carved, the strap of the powder horn made of striped girting, and the shot bag of blue plush. The other named ISAAC SINGER, 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high, about 25 years old, thin visaged, small made, of a dark complexion, and has very thin whitish hair; had on, when he went away, old leather breeches, a coarse shirt, brown leggins, and old shoes. They are both Englishmen, and took with them a fur hat, besides other things too tedious to mention. Whoever apprehends the said servants, and secures them so as they may be had again, shall have 40s. reward for each, if taken in the county; if out thereof 4 l. for each, paid by ARCHER MATTHEWS.

   The bag Jason made me is SWEET. It’s dimensions are on the small side (by average modern shot bag dimensions) It’s roughly 6 ¾ wide by 6 deep and had a linen divider in the center. It does look…Odd but it worked out great. I carried 25 roundball and loose shot on one side as well as a oil bottle, extra flints, piece of chalk and feather in it. The feather is for loading the gun based on Audubon’s loading description as well as for stopping up the touch hole to use the lock as a firekit.(please no hatemail on this one. I am an adult, I keep the gun pointed at a backstop while I do this if this makes you uncomfortable…don’t do it). I also took the idea Baker mention in a Muzzleloader. The feather is placed in the touchhole when in camp as a safety device and a sign the gun is loaded. The chalk well I’ll post the quote:
“Belden had soon reloaded, and with a piece of chalk carried for the purpose, he whitened the barrel of his rifle, took a more deliberate aim at the glaring target and fired again” trappers of NY (267)
SO I haven’t tried out the night shooting with chalk yet but it’s on my short list of stuff to try this summer. So if your looking for a quality handkerchief (or hunting shirt linen) check out burnley and trowbridge’s site   Also at the Eastern Woodland Indian Conf. Ward Oles of “At the Eastern Door” had some nice small glass bottles perfect to carry gun oil/paint in SO if your looking for a bottle drop him a line. 
Ok so I broke my mental block and can try and get back to posting these things with greater frequency. Also in the Vein of promotion I want to recommend an article for folks to check out. It’s in the current issue of the William And Mary Quarterly “Fashioning Moccasins: Detroit, the Manufacturing Frontier, and the Empire of Consumption, 1701–1835” Catherine Cangany (a new Buffalo trace reader) This was a great article that shed some light on just how important the “moccasin” was as a trade item. It also shed some new light on the idea of the “shoepack” (looks Like Msr. Tharp is going to get some long hunter customers) info on getting a copy here:
  Ok now back to work. Weaving for Williamsburg, orders and a soaking buffalo hide are all screaming my name, Not to mention the laughing 3 year old running out of the room with a matchcoat full of pins….