10:35 AM



above- Gold Miner is wearing a woolen shirt. Collection of Matthew Isenburg


Welcome back to my blog.....I am continuing my blog on shirts.
Per my hubby, who gave me his scans & cited the 1851 American Clothier Catalog:


From left to right 1, 2 ,3




Jim Miller was kind enough to send me the article he cited from the Magazine of the Midwest Open-Air Museum Fall 1995 Vol. XVI No. 3 by Thomas G. Shaw. 


This article shows the same #2 shirt (middle) from the Reed Brothers & Co. Clothiers and Importers of Dry Goods Catalogue 1853....I'd love to have a copy of this entire catalogue!


I found it a good read about the overshirt. He quotes from The Prairie Traveler: A Hand Book for the Overland Expeditions, that reads, 
"He recommends shirts of red or blue flannel such as can be found in almost all of the shops on the frontier." 
which I found on Google Book (thank you Harvard). You might like to read the whole book!


The prairie traveler: A hand-book for overland expeditions 
by Captain Randolph Marcy, 1859.


It reads:







Thomas Shaw's article mentions that shirt were ornamented with crescents, stars trefoils, etc.. and cites Holcombe, History of the First Regiment Minnesota Volunteers Infantry 1861-1864 1987, pg 12. (So that is a start to understanding the meaning of this heart...but 1861 is 5 years later than 1856 so there is more work to do)


I have a copy of the Merchant's Memorandum Book, All Varieties of Goods Kept by Country Merchants, 1853 by Luke Shortfield. This was a thick book listing almost anything a country merchant needed to buy for his store and it lists under Ready Made Clothing Red Flannel undershirts & overshirts. This primary source makes me agree that Red was the most popular color.


I compared the Red Heart shirt from the Steamboat Arabia next to a close up of the young miner's shirt (which I added more red by increasing through the magic of photoshop). These two flannel shirts are similar sewing design with the same buttons.






So, what conclusions can be drawn so far....

  • Red was a popular color for flannel shirts
  • white buttons were typical
  • flannel over and under shirts were considered ready made clothing

I've read the 1850 state census' and ready made clothing was often made by several factories, even ones that made only the button holes. So that might quiet the discussion why the buttons on these two shirts were sewn in different places. Remember thousands of these were needed so everyday clothing may not have been so carefully manufactured.


My curiosity make me wonder if there is a case of these shirts are still in the Arabia Steamboat Museum's freezer waiting to be opened. (did I ask loud enough?)


I appreciate that Thomas Shaw were to the trouble to write up such a good article so others could begin to exam the most common apparel. And if I ever met him I'd thank him for the kind compliment he gave:
In the midwest, two of the best sources for learning about mid nineteenth century overshirts are the museum of the salvaged Missouri River steamboats Arabia and Bertrand. Significant numbers of these shirts were part of each vessels' cargo. Other shirts may have been shipped as well but only the woolen ones survived over a century under water and mud. These shirts were intended for miners, teamsters and other laboring men of the upper Missouri River.
 Thanks again to Jim for the article and I am packing to join a group of friends for the Brimfield Antique Show near Sturbridge Mass.....Hopefully to do a day at Sturbridge Village when hundred of kids are on there for a field trip.....It's just like what happens at the Arabia Steamboat Museum....and you have to start with the young to educate them so they gain an appreciation for our past and that way they will ensure our history is preserved.