A LIVING HISTORY BLOG.

18TH CENTURY LIVING HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA.

Monday, 28 April 2014

More On Oilcloth and Canvas.

A Detail Taken From David MoMorier’s  Showing A Tent Possibly Made of Brown, Unbleached, Linen, c. 1751-1760 (The Royal Collection)


OILCLOTH QUOTES
Canvas
[ca'vas; canways; canwas; canvis; canvice; canvasse; canvass; canuis]
Nowadays a strong or coarse unbleached TEXTILE of plain weave made of HEMP or FLAX, mainly used for ships SAILS, or TENTS, and for artwork like oil PAINTINGS and TAPESTRY. Although these types of canvas were made throughout the early-modern period, canvas in the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth was the principal LINEN textile used for TABLE LINEN, BED LINEN and CLOTHING. In consequence retailers often stocked several varieties; for example [Inventories (1589)] had eleven sorts in valuations ranging from 10d to 18d the ELL. That a canvas seems to have denoted a SHEET at this time, may indicate how common it was to use this fabric for that purpose. During the seventeenth century its use on the table became virtually unknown and canvas bed linen also became uncommon except for use by the lower orders; for example [Inventories (1635)] listed canvas sheets for the servants. However it continued to be used for UPHOLSTERY (hence 'Easy Chairs stuffed in canvass') and for clothing to some extent. In this context a list prepared in the late seventeenth century of clothing necessary for an emigrant to America illustrates how canvas could be used, and how it compared with other TEXTILES. [Diaries (Josselyn)] recommended for each man a FRIEZE suit costing 19s, a CLOTH one at 15s and one of canvas at 7s 6d, along with a pair of canvas SHEETs costing 8s, and seven ells of coarse canvas to make a bed at sea for two men at 5s. At this time, there was quite a range of values given for canvas in the shops from as low as 6d up to 16d the YARD; somewhat lower than in the pre-Restoration period. Surprisingly, in none of the advertisements for runaways noted in eighteenth-century provincial newspapers did any of them wear garments made of canvas, though some retailers offered READY MADE canvas clothing for sale. Prices and valuations continued to fall after 1700 to as low as 4d the yard, but fine canvas continued to command high prices. Interest in canvas and the variety of uses to which it was put are reflected in several patents that claimed to prepare it for painting or as a wall HANGING, and for reducing the nuisance of mildew on SAILs by a process akin to tanning.
Types of Canvas were often designated by the town or region from whence they were originally imported, hence HESSIAN CANVAS, QUEENSBOROUGH CANVAS, SPRUCE CANVAS, VITRY CANVAS etc., although they appear in the Dictionary Archive in insufficient numbers to differentiate the one from the others in terms of quality. Most are found only in the early part of the period.
OED earliest date of use: 1260
Found described as BROAD, BROWN, COARSE, COLLAR, COLOURED, for CROSS STITCH, CUSHION, ELBING, ELL BROAD, DUTCH, ENGLISH, FINE, FLANDERS, FRENCH, Gound, GREEN, GREY, HOMEMADE, HOUSEWIFE, for a kitchen table, middling, NARROW, NORMANDY, NORTHERN, PACKING, PAINTED, QUILTED (with SILK), ROAN, SAIL, SAMPLER, of Shropshire making, STAY, STRIPED(with SILK, THREAD), THIN, TROYES, WHITE, YORKSHIRE Found describing CLOTH, SHEETING, YARN Found used to make APRON, BAG, BED at sea, board cloth, BODICE, BOLSTER, BREECHES, DOUBLET, DRAWERS, FROCK, HANGING, LINING, MATTRESS, NAPKIN, PACK CLOTH, PILLOW BERE, SHEET, SHIRT, STAYS, SUIT, TABLECLOTH, TESTER, TILT, TOWEL, TWILLY, VALISE, WINDOW BLIND Found imported from Dantzick, Germany, Holland Found measured in the shops by BALE, BALLET, ELL, PIECE, SMALL - BOLT, YARD Found rated by the BALE or BOLT, ELL, 100 ELL, PIECE
See also BARRAS, CUSHION CANVAS, HOLLANDS DUCK, MILDERNIX, POLDAVY, SAILCLOTH, TUFTED CANVAS, VANDELAS, WORKING CANVAS, YELLOW CANVAS.
Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.


 The famous sailor Captain John Smith wrote (OED): “Wee did hang an awning (which is an old saile) to… trees to shadow us from the Sunne” (1624) and “A tar-pawling; or yawning” (1626)...

"3 ells of linen for a tarpaulin"
~ Engage Francois Trotie, Montreal purchase, 1735 (Johnson, 5)

"It rained heavily all night…We had to cover the pelts and the merchandise with
the tarpaulin."
~ J. Dufaut, Manitoba, 1804 (Dufaut, 26)

"Their Bales are covered with light raven duck, or Russia Cloth; ours on the
contrary have heavy rotten Canvas…They have coverings of Russia Cloth, or
raven duck painted, to keep their Goods dry in their Battaux or canoes, we have
nothing at all…"
 Hutchins, 1781 ( ,358)

"Made of Russia sheeting in a piece which is 30 ells long. Each oil cloth must
contain 3 breadths of the sheeting 3 1/3 ells long, consequently there are three
oil cloths in each piece. Please observe likewise they must have two coats of
Spanish Brown paint…"
~ William Grant, Montreal, 1793 (Engage, 2-3)

"… canoe coverings of raven-duck oiled and painted."
Hudson Bay Company oilcloth from an 1817 ledger (Engage, 3)

"…I made a Lodge with an oilcloth near the small Lac de la puise on the
portage."
~ Jean Baptiste Perrault, Minnesota, 1784 (Perrault, 521)

"When we perceived the approaching storm, we fixed our thin light oil-cloth to
screen us from it."
~ Alexander Mackenzie, Route to the Pacific, 1793 (Mackenzie, 205)

"…it is only by means of our Oil Cloth we can preserve the property from getting
wet."
~ Alexander Henry (younger), Park River, 1800 (Gough, 74)

"…spreading our oil cloth, which was our flooring. Our beds, consisting of 4
excellent blankets sowed up in sheeting, like a mattress, & 2 to cover us all
rolled in a piece of oil cloth, served us for seats."
~ George Nelson, Wisconsin, 1802 (Nelson, 35)

"In this section of the fort were also various other buildings…an oil-house
where oilcloths were made with whale oil for the cargoes…"
~ L. Hargrave, York Factory, 1840 (MacLeod, xli)
Historical Documentation of Oilcloths:
Refuting John Curry's statement in his Longhunter 5 video that oilcloths were
not period for non-military folks:
A letter from George Morgan to his wife, June 28, 1766: "I sit quite comfortable
on boar my Boat, over the Stern of which I have Hoops & an Oil Cloth on them,
with Curtains of the same to let down before & behind." Carter and Alvord (ed);
tHE nEW rEGIME: 1765-1767; ppg 313-14 as quoted by Baker M: SONS OF A TRACKLESS
FOREST.
From Devereaux Smith's journal (Baynton, Wharton and Morgan Papers, roll #6,
frame 870, Penn. State Archives) "I found a packet on Board which I brought with
me & an Indian's powder Horn -- I made fast the Boat to a Tree, and packed up
the Goods together in her,-- Nailing a couple of Oil Cloaths over them in the
best Manner I coud,..."

Anburey, Thomas; "Travels Through the Interior Parts of America in a
Series of Letters by an Officer." 2 Vols. London, 1789. Houghton
Mifflin, NY 1923, Reprint, New York Times and Arno Press, 1969.

Burgoyne's Expedition, 1777.
Thomas Anburey, Volunteer and Ensign, 29th and 24th Regiments of Foot:
"Cambridge, in New England, Nov. 17, 1777...

The men were so harassed and fatigued with continually sitting and
lying on the ground, all huddled in a small compass, that three days
before the convention took place, they complained to the Captain who
commanded, that they were not permitted to fire on the enemy, whereby
they could obtain more ease, and therefore ought to be relieved, and
they received for an answer, when night came on it should be mentioned
to the General. The Captain desired me to go to head-quarters, and
when I arrived there, I found they partook of the hardships in common,
for the three Generals had just laid down on their matrasses, having
only an oil-skin to cover them from the weather; the Aid-de Camps were
sitting round a fire. ..."
Anburey, 2, p. 8-9.

"Cambridge, in New England, Nov. 20, 1777...
We were two days in crossing the Green Mountains, which are a part of
the chain of mountains that run through the whole Continent of
America, more commonly known by the name of the Allegheny Mountains:
the roads across them were almost impassable, and to add to the
difficulty, when we got half over, there came on a heavy fall of snow.
After this, it is impossible to describe the confusion that ensued;
carts breaking down, others sticking fast, some oversetting, horses
tumbling with their loads of baggage, men cursing, women shrieking,
and children squalling! It should seem that I was to encounter every
unpleasant  duty that can fall to the lot of an officer, for this day I
had the baggage guard; exclusive of being covered with snow, and
riding about after the bat-men, to keep them together, and to assist
each other, my attention was directed to a scene, which I did not
think it was possible human nature could have supported, for in the
midst of a heavy snow-storm, upon a baggage-cart, and nothing to
shelter her from the inclemency of the weather but a bit of an old
oil-cloth, a soldier's wife was delivered of child, she and the infant
are both well, and are now at this place. It may be said, that women
who follow a camp are of such a masculine nature, they are able to
bear all hardships; this woman was quite the reverse, being small, and
of a very delicate constitution." Anburey, 2, p. 24-25.
The Calendar and Quartermaster Books of General George Rogers Clark's
Fort Jefferson, Kentucky, 1780

Stores issued by order of Captain Robert George: to Mr. Miles,
quartermaster Sergeant, one musket or smoothed gun; to Captain Rogers
going to the Falls of Ohio, two muskets or smoothed guns and five tents
or oil cloths (VSA-50: 39)

also refs to Oil cloths or Spanish tents (from New Orleans)

Extract of a letter from Albany, dated April 2, 1757 printed in the
Boston Gazette, April 18, 1757.}

"This morning an account was bro't to town, that a large army of French
and Indians were seen at a small distance from the German flats, but few
here believe it. Sir William Johnson is still in readiness, with 1500 of
the militia. Every man in the French army that came against Fort William
Henry, was equipped in the following manner, viz. With two pair of
Indian shoes, 2 pair of stockings, 1 pair of spatterdashes, 1 pair of
breeches, 2 jackets, 1 large over-coat, 2 shirts, 2 caps, 1 hat, 1 pair
of mittens, 1 tomahawk, 2 pocket-knives, 1 scalping knife, 1 steel and
flint, every two men an ax, and every four a kettle and oilcloth for a
tent, with one blanket and a bearskin, and 12 days provision of pork and
bread; all which they drew on little hand-sleighs."

"...tarpaulins for covering the provisions and oilcloths to cover the gunpowder."
~ Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac, Memorial to the Council, 1719 (Kent 2001, 71 )

"They name prelat a large and heavy cloth, oil-painted in red, to keep oneself  from the rain."
~ Louis Franquet, French Military Engineer, 1752 (Delisle, 17 )

"A course linen painted red with oil, with which we cover the [canoe cargo] as further protection against the rain."
~ Louis Franquet, French Military Engineer, 1752 (Kent 2001, 71 )

"1 Oilcloth for every 4 men for tentage..."
~ Anonymous list of supplies for French Army in Canada, 1756 (Delisle, 42)

“…I made a Lodge with an oilcloth near the small Lac de la puise on the portage.”
~ Jean Baptiste Perrault, Minnesota, 1784 (Perrault, 521 )

“… we perceived the approaching storm, we fixed our thin light oil-cloth to screen us from it.” Journey of a Voyage through the north west continent of America. By Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
“3 ells of linen for a tarpaulin”
~ Francois Trotie, Montreal purchase, 1735 (Johnson, 5)


Oilcloth
The oilcloth or among the French termed such as; toile ciree or prelat, was a popular defense against moisture in living history. This item runs the gamut of uses and its history is deserving of an entire article. Oilcloth is basically a piece of fabric, saturated with oil and at times containing a pigment.

"...tarpaulins for covering the provisions and oilclothes to cover the gunpowder."
~ Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac, Memorial to the Council, 1719 (Kent 2001, 71 )

"They (Canadians) name prelat a large and heavy cloth, oil-painted in red, (..) to keep oneself from the rain."
~ Louis Franquet, French Military Engineer, 1752 (Delisle, 17 )

"A course linen painted red with oil, with which we cover the [canoe cargo] as further protection against the rain."
~ Louis Franquet, French Military Engineer, 1752 (Kent 2001, 71 )

"1 Oilcloth for every 4 men for tentage..."
~ Anonymous list of supplies for French Army in Canada, 1756 (Delisle, 42)

“…I made a Lodge with an oilcloth near the small Lac de la puise on the portage.”
~ Jean Baptiste Perrault, Minnesota, 1784 (Perrault, 521 )

“… we perceived the approaching storm, we fixed our thin light oil-cloth to screen us from it.”

By the 18th century large-scale oilcloth production was in use for roof and floor coverings in Europe. These “floor cloth” factories were operating in England by 1740. Linen or hemp cloth was the primary fabric used. Silk and cotton has also been mentioned as fabric for production of oilcloth, this being used for waterproof clothing manufactured more commonly in the second half of the 19th century (Cunnington & Lucas, 61). Oilcloth used in the Great Lakes fur trade did not differ much from these products. We know oilcloths were both ordered and produced on site for its use in the trade. Looking at some old journals and letters, and knowing the rough use it will occur, oilcloths of the trade may have been commonly made of a stout material.

"...account book of Canadian trader Forest Oakes includes a listing of silverworks, a spontoon, 2 sails and an "oil cloth" delivered to Grand Portage in 1771."
~ Fur Trade Oil Cloths in Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly, Engages, 2)

“Their Bales are covered with light raven duck, or Russia Cloth; ours on the contrary have heavy rotten Canvas…The[y] have coverings of Russia Cloth, or raven duck painted, to keep their Goods dry in their Battaux or canoes, we have nothing at all…”
Thomas Hutchins HBC, York Factory, 1781 (Rich, 358 )

“Made of Russia sheeting in a piece which is 30 ells long. Each oilcloth must contain 3 breadths of the sheeting 3 1/3 ells long, consequently there are three oil cloths in each piece. Please observe likewise they must have two coats of Spanish Brown paint…”
~ William Grant, Montreal, 1793 (Engage, 2-3)

Raven duck was cloth used for sails, hammocks, trousers and tents. The term “ Duck” originally refers to the type of weave used in canvas production. Originally, duck may have also been a lighter weight canvas as opposed to a more stout canvas. Duck canvas, originally of linen or hemp, developed into mostly cotton sometime around 1790. Certain canvas today have even acquired the name "duck" from simply having a treatment applied to it.
Russia sheeting is a medium weight, woven canvas cloth, primarily of hemp. Hemp seems to have been used by the French while some of the British canvas was linen (flax), though both countries mills varied. This is the “R.S.” found in Northwest Company journals for flour sacks, trousers and lead ball/shot bags. Russia/Asia has always been known as a great bast-fiber producing area. Importation of hemp fiber and cloth began early in this region, hence the term russia-sheeting.
The term oilcloth can be easily confused with sailcloth’s and/or tarpaulins. According to the 1867, Sailors Word Book, tarpaulin is: “canvas well covered with tar or paint to render it waterproof” it also adds, “If tar is not used but it is painted, let it be know simply as ‘paulin’ or oil cloth.” So at times, we may be talking about the same item.
Looking at Montreal merchant records of 1735 we find “linen for tarpaulins” being purchased in the amount of 3 French ells (Johnson, 4), a single French ell or aune measured 3 feet 8 inches. Montreal merchant Maurice-Regis Blondeau sewed and waterproofed his own tarpaulin of Russia-sheeting in 1780 as his canoes were being prepared to leave Montreal under the leadership of trader Jean-Baptiste Cadot (White 183-`84). Following are a few examples of the term tarpaulin used.

“3 ells of linen for a tarpaulin”
~ Francois Trotie, Montreal purchase, 1735 (Johnson, 5)

“…rained heavily all night…had to cover the pelts and the merchandise with the tarpaulin.”
~ J. Dufaut, Manitoba, 1804 (Dufaut, 26)

By 1823 a new type of waterproof fabric was making an appearance. The India rubber variety of fabric was developed and patented by Charles MacIntosh. The Fur Trade, though waning was still active, was this new discovery much in use in the Northwest?

“Two suits for each of the party, a summer and winter dress to be made uniformly, and of the waterproof Cloth prepared by Mr. McIntosh.”
~ John Franklin, Canadian Expedition request, 1824 (Franklin, 289)


(An ell (from Old Germanic *alinĂ¢ cognate with Latin "ulna")[1] is a unit of measurement, originally a cubit, i.e., approximating the length of a man's arm from the elbow ("elbow" means the bend or bow of the ell or arm) to the tip of the middle finger, or about 18 inches; in later usage, any of several longer units.[2][3] In English-speaking countries, these included (until the 19th century) the Flemish ell (34 of a yard), English ell (54 yard) and French ell (64 yard), some of which are thought to derive from a "double ell") From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

More on the sizes of an Ell here: http://www.sizes.com/units/ell.htm



1 comment:

Sara Seydak said...

Interesting to see the word "tarpaulin" in such later centuries. I'm used to only use it during Medieval studies or re-enactment to refer to awnings.