Sunday, 31 August 2014

Notes & Information on 18th Century Blankets.

Winter Trade By Robert Griffing.


Father Pierre Briard relates in the work Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents that in 1611 the Arcadian Indians "often wear our capotes, and in the winter our bed blankets which they improve with trimming and wear double". Also around this time Mother Marie de L'Incarnation recorded that she saw Indians wearing coats made from trade blankets {it should be noted that not all capotes were made in North America, nor were they all made from trade blankets}. While having established that blankets and blanket capotes were indeed used during the early years of the Age of Exploration; we should take the time to examine the quality of the material used and the colors which were prevalent.
During the early years we find that Indians used white, red and blue blankets. "In 1663, ten Normandy "white" blankets are listed among the goods belonging to the trader Jacques Testad dit Loforet. The term "Normandy" refers to the location of textile manufacture. In 1693, during a council held in Montreal involving the French authorities and twelve foreign Indians tribes "no less than 83 white blankets were given as presents." Another important aspect of these blankets were that some bore embellishments such as red or blue stripes at their borders, embroidery, and lace. In fact we see that when the trader Jean Mailhot died in 1687 an inventory of his "la morte" possessions included "seven blankets made of capote cloth trimmed with nonpareille lace". (a very narrow strip of ribbon which was made of false gold, silver or silk) Drawings by Jesuit Missionaries recorded that this trimming in many instances was done in a zig zag pattern and consisted of two pieces of lace.
The actual sizes of trade blankets also differed. During the 1690's the French introduced the "point system". The term "point" then referred to a unit of measurement. In fact the French verb " ‘empointer’ was used to describe that action of making stitches with a thread on a piece of cloth". The historical norms of these blankets ranged from 1 to 5 points, 5 being the largest and 1 being the smallest known as "cradle blankets". {It must be noted that blankets bearing up to 12 points can be found during this same time period HOWEVER these blankets were intended to be used as bedding for the Canadians and not trade items.}
"An analysis of 649 blankets sold to Indians at Fort Niagara between 1719 and 1722 gives an idea of the most popular sizes used in the fur trade; of this number, 64% were 2 point, 22% were cradle blankets, 10% were of 3 points and 2% were 4 points". One surviving example is reported to be a "two point blanket measuring 59x48 inches and weighs 3 lbs. 7oz."
During the early and middle years of the 17th Century attempts to regulate the growing trade of blankets were enforced. Pierre Boucher, then governor of Troi-Rivieres decreed that one blanket was worth at least five or six beaver pelts. Also the governor of New France Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy enacted a regulation that a white "Normandy" blanket could be traded for no less than six beaver pelts and what was known as an "Iroquois blanket" {coverte a L'iroquoise, a rateen blanket made from a lesser grade of material} could be had that the price of three beaver pelts.
The following is as example of some trade items and their worth in both Montreal and Albany in the year 1689:
Item Albany Montreal
8 lbs of gun powder 1 beaver 4 beavers
1 gun 2 beavers 5 beavers
40 lbs of lead 1 beaver 3 beavers
1 blanket of red cloth 1 beaver 2 beavers
1 white blanket 1 beaver 2 beavers
4 shirts 1 beaver 2 beavers
6 pairs of stockings 1 beaver 2 beavers
As trade relations grew competitiveness between the French and English colonies began to intensify. In an attempt to sway the fur trade away from French traders it was made known that in Boston, Massachusetts Colony, Indians could get a white or red blanket for one beaver pelt while in Montreal it would cost much more. Almost 30 years after the enactment of these price regulations Native Americans could still go to New England and get a blanket for one beaver while up in Montreal the price was then a heavy payment of six pelts. In order to subvert this shift in the colonial trade wars "voyageurs loaded with French goods (were sent) directly to the Indian Villages, and thanks to the Kings stores, each tribe yearly received a generous supply of presents". Although this did somewhat stem the tide the great difference in price did encourage a healthy black market trade with the English.
The growing concern with quality sparked the French government to attempt to procure a product as good as their English competitors. At the turn or the century (1701) the government of New France sent a letter to Versailles stating that among the traders there was not a trace of the "certain kind of red or blue cloth whose breadth is 1 ell 1/4" (5 feet.) and is called escarlatine" {Common trade blankets at the time were 1 ell and half or 6 feet long}. The Indians also tended to prize blue colored blankets possessing white stripes, and red coloured blankets with a darker selvage edge. Examples of English blankets were found and sent back to France for examination. These "escarlatine" blankets were divided into the following styles:
Red or blue with black selvedges, red with a white stripe the length of a finger close to the selvedge, red or blue with two white stripes the length of a finger; one close to the selvedge but separated by the length of two fingers.
By 1715, 200 examples of French made cloth were sent to New France with less than desirable results. The Native Americans liked the cloth and while it was much higher in quality it proved far too expensive for French general trading purposes. Other examples later sent proved not to be as strong or woven as tightly as the English products. The intendant of New France, Michel Begon commented that the "Indians are as much refined to judge cloth as the most skillful merchant, they manage to burn hair of a sample with the purpose of examining the quality of its woven structure".
By the 1720's governmental permission was granted to buy English made blankets for trade with the Native tribes. This move was purely political in nature and gave the French manufacturers time to improve on their products. Unfortunately while some French regional manufacturers did produce upwards of 100,000 blankets yearly destined for the Indian trade a lack of financial support hampered efforts.
By the later 1740’s records show a diverse collection of trade blankets. While the naturalist Petr Kalm described Indians wearing white and red blankets, "the white blankets having one or many blue or red stripes".Also found were green blankets bearing 7 to 8 stripes {manufactured in Montpellier}, blue and red blankets with white stripes {manufactured in Limbourg}, along with blankets with red and yellow stripes...made of dogs hair {manufactured in Bordeaux}.

18th Century Neck Ware Knots.

Two basic knots. (1) The simple knot, and (2) the flay knot or reef knot.

Here I have used just a simple knot on my neckerchief just like tying a cravat. The ends are then spread out and arranged so that they fill in the gap in the shirt and cover the upper chest.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Cork stopper making & Sizing.

Cork bottle stoppers in the 18th century were all made by hand.
1712 Bottle Corks.

1880 Bottle Corks.

Quercus suber (Cork Oak) bark, Portugal.

Cork Cutters.
Cork Cutter.
Cork Cutter.
A Cooper's Cork Bung Punch.

Fig. one. & 2 Workers busy making jams.
3 Merchant that matches the caps.
4 The way to round off the cap.
5 Manner of cutting the tip of the cap.
Established 6. A, A, A, A, the edges of the bench on which the support for the plug cut by the ends, as seen Fig. 5.
7 Bannette to receive indiscriminately all kinds of plugs coming out of the hand of the worker.
8 Bannette to match.
9 Pierre sharpen knives.
10 Knives.

Cork Presses for the sizing of corks.

However, we need to fast-forward to around 1660, when a French Benedictine monk by the name of Dom PĂ©rignon first used cork for the purpose for which its name has become indelibly linked – as a stopper for wine bottles. According to legend, this monk was responsible for making sparkling wine at the Abbey of Sainte-Vannes in the Champagne region of northern France, and was having trouble keeping in the wooden plugs soaked in olive oil that were the stopper of choice at the time. He noticed that compressed cork returns to its original shape when pressure is released, making it ideal for wine bottles.

The practice boomed among the winemakers of Europe, and there’s evidence of cork stoppers being widely used in Portugal during the mid-18th century, when cylindrical bottles with
a uniform neck were first used for port wine in Oporto. Strict laws governing cork production have been in place in Portugal for more than 200 years. Cultivation is banned uphill from water courses, for instance. But more importantly, bark must only be harvested from mature, healthy trees and a gap of at least nine years must separate harvests from an individual tree.  http://www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Staying_power_-_Apr_13.html
 The first references to cork date back to 3000 BC in China, where it was used in fishing tackle. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians and Persians were also familiar with the properties of cork, but it was not until man started to produce wine that it appeared as the most suitable material for closing the containers used to preserve it.
“You should put it into round bottles with narrow mouths, and then stopping them close with corks, set them in a cold cellar up to the waist in sand, and be sure that the corks be fast tied in with strong pack thread, for fear of rising out and taking vent, which is the utter spoil of the ale.”
The main products were stoppers for jars and bottles. There seems to have been a high level of diversity in the size and quality available. The household accounts of Petworth House (a stately home in Sussex) over a period of fifty years from 1755 show payment for quart, pint, best long, best long pint, best white, short long and fruit corks. These were all acquired from a firm of London corkcutters. They were supplied in canvas bags and paid for by the gross (or the dozen in the case of fruit corks.) A writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1736 complained that on trying to buy a gross of best corks, he was offered some that were “indifferent such as I would not have bottled up water gruel with.” On being challenged, the corkcutter returned “you didst not ask for good corks before” and brought out some fit for use. “Beyond these he had his very good corks, his fine corks, his superfine… seven degrees in all.”

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Portugal. Cork harvesting, processing and use 60 years ago.

This would have been the way it was done in the 18th century. Note the axes used, these are  still still being made and used today.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

18th Century Bottles and Cork Stoppers.

From the research I have done to date, bottle corks appear to have been straight sided or possibly had a slight taper. Bottle corks were manufactured from the bark of the Cork Oak tree.

Original 1712 bottle corks.

By Chardin.

By Chardin.

Unknown French artist 18th century.

Cork Making By Diderot.

Detail of cork making By Diderot.

Corkscrew Ring with Cover c. 1700 - 1730.

English or American Corkscrew & Pick c. 1725 - 1800(Winterthur)

Folding Flat Bow corkscrew.

English Silver & Iron Corkscrew and Caseby John Harvey of London c. 1750.