Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
Center of the ohio country universe

Friday, March 22, 2013

Knit Caps and natives

Idle Apprentice by Hogarth...nice striped knit cap

Image of Coureur du bois...white shirts, red caps  no wonder Cresap dressed his guys like this
  So the pack write up is finished except for getting the images right to post….blah.  So did you ever start reading a trade Ledger to relax after you finished a project and next thing you know its 12 hours later? My Living room looks more like the shack of a madman trying to Link the freemasons to the tracking device in his fillings then I think my family would like. Notebooks and file folders are in piles all around the room and each section only make sense to me. Yeah so that’s what happened when I thought  “I need to write down some stuff on natives in Knit caps from the Fort Pitt stuff” to finish off my current run of hat info.

    It Turned into a giant spread sheet of info of what was sold in what quantities and has ballooned out of control. I’m not going to toss it out on here just yet I’m going to focus on the knit caps but two things of interest for folks I found NO powder horns sold at the provincial store and I found No checked shirts being sold .The powder horn thing should make sense to you if You’ve lived with either me Or Mike Burke within the past 8 years or if you go to the Fort Pitt conf in a few weeks.

     Anyhow Knit caps are something I’ve been writing about for 12 years, ( OTT Vol. 8 No. 6 - November/December, 2001 An Alternative to the Bonnet by Nathan Kobuck ) I was first interested in them when looking into information on provincial rangers In western Pa/MD during the early part of the French and indian war. Groups like Cresap’s red caps seemed to have worn them to look more like their native/French adversaries. For example on April 23, 1756,  Cresap was leading 40 volunteer rangers, "all dressed in Indian apparel and red caps."  SO why would they do this? Well the answer is pretty simple…to look like the Enemy. A few months later it was reported in the Pa Gazette:
ANNAPOLIS, July 29, 1756.
We hear from the Mouth of Conecocheague, that four Indians, dressed in red Caps, and much like Col. Cresap’s Men, came down among the Inhabitants there, and killed and scalped two people, and then made off. A Party of 46 Men were immediately sent out after them; but they have not yet been able to meet with them.

 It’s pretty simple if you look at the facts from the area. Who were Cresap’s men fighting? French Canadians and their Native allies out of Fort Duquesne. What was the common campaign dress of the Canadians/natives? Red tuques and white shirts. This may seem like an overgeneralization but in a nut shell…It’s the facts ma’am.  Before James’s smith is even captured Cresap’s men were dressing like their enemies. Smith’s Black Boy’s don’t seem so original now do they?

 In the same area Knit caps were being traded to the English’s native allies:
December 1756, Lists of Indian Goods at Rock Creek
strip'd & scarlet worsted Caps from 5\--to 12--per dozn.
Silk Han kers: from 28\--to 33\
Silk Caps--@ 40\ --
Mens worsted Hose from 24\ to 45\--per dozn.
grey, green & red yarn Do.--from 10\6--to 15\--not many left
Mens beavr: Carolina Hats from 4\6--to 6\--not many left

Their use want simply limited to the MD/PA theatre of the war. Sir William Johnson was also supplying them to Natives in the northern theatre:
July 1756
To an indian at Albany 1 pair shoes, stockings, bckles, cap & handkerchief  1/6

July 19,1756 
 To 1 bear skin cut up for covers for their guns /16/
To 1 pair womens hose & 1 worsted cap /5/
To 2 ells red shalloon for signals for fighters & a cap  /9/

A Few years after the war Caps are stiff a popular trade item being sold at Fort Pitt in the Pennsylvania Provincial Storehouse. On June 26, 1759 a “windott” purchased  “1 worsted cap  for  /2/”. A few days later on june 30,1759  “Delawares” purchased  “1 worsted cap …1/6” as well as “4 Bandanoe Handkerchiefs @ 7/6…1/10”

     Going thru the Store’s waste book I found that from June 21,1759 to June 18, 1760 that 147 caps were sold.92 listed as worsted  and 55 simply as “caps”. The price range on these are all in the same ballpark so if these were cotton “workman’s caps”  or worsted caps I cant tell. Either way it makes quite a statement on the commonality of these items in this region. I found the purchase of caps was greater than the purchase of items like “shott”  or common hats at this particular store.

    I find these same items being purchase later I the 1760’s by Natives From “Mohican John’s town”. I have however not done a detailed count of the caps in the BWM Ledgers (yet, give me time. This is a sickness) They do show up again in the 1770’s on a list of good for the Delaware:
May 10, 1779  Estimate of goods to be sent for the Delawares
50 Pair Yarn Mittens
50 worsted caps

   I haven’t done as much searching in the 1770’s lists yet (I’m pretty focused on the 1760’s) but if the trend continues it should not be hard to turn up more lists of these caps on natives. I sound like a broken record but…ya got a shaved head your gonna want to cover it. I also think folks need to get past the mental Image that the native of the 18th century was living in a vacuum of deer skin and wampum beads.

Thought I’d also toss in a few refrences I found today going thru the Pa Gazette. The first is another runaw ad for a guy in white legging (or dirty white leggings):
September 13, 1775
RAN away from the subscriber, living in York county, near WrightFerry, an Irish servant lad, named JOHN GRAHAM, about 18 or 19 years of age, was born in the county of Armagh, and brought to this country in the year 1773 by one Samuel Wilson; he is about 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high, well proportioned, his shoulders rather broad for a person of his age and height, has a full face, with some scattering pockmarks, grey eyes, light brown hair, rather long to wear loose, which he sometimes ties behind; had on, and is supposed to have taken with him, an old hairbine coat, and old blue ditto, the skirts cut very short, old blue jacket, and old beaver hat, slouched and cut something in the maccaroni taste, hemp linen shirt and trowsers, his shoes are good, and rather large for him; he is suspected to have a pair of whitish Indian leggings and mockasons , and may endeavour to pass for a backwoods man, having lived some time with Capt. Hunter, at Fort Augusta. Whoever takes up said servant, and secures him in any goal, so that his master gets him again, shall have THIRTY SHILLINGS reward, paid by JAMES EWING.

And here is a neat little tid bit about some items a Cattawba had stolen from him:
 Charleston July 17, 1736 On Monday last, the Cataboes, mentioned in my last, left this Town, and going up the broad Path, the Head Man of them lying down to sleep on this Side the Quarter-house, he was robb'd of his Gun, Powder and Shot Pouch, an Otter-Skin bag, Shoes, Hat, and all what he had about him, which is supposed to be committed by some Run-away Negroes

    I’ve also added a Link to South Union Mills, They sell some great knit caps (and mittens and some killer stockings) So beat the rush and order your stuff soon. Blah I nee to get back to reading I’m writing up my talk for This Years School of the Long Hunter. Jason Melius and myself will be presenting a talk on War party camps and the gear they carried. This years school is shaping up to be a great time.
South Union Mills

   Rather then Reinvent the wheel Here’s a link  Ike Walter’s write up on Knit caps. He gives some great info on knit caps and images of originals. His wife is also a maker of These caps.