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 Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness

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Widows Son



Number of posts : 11
Age : 51
Location : Queensland
Registration date : 2019-07-18

Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness Empty
PostSubject: Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness   Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness EmptyJuly 20th 2019, 7:29 pm

Hi, I'd like to share an opinion on the myth of cloth being a rare and precious commodity.

Cloth made of wool, linen, cotton and silk have been popular and commonly traded goods for a long long time. Since the earliest activities of Europeans in the New World, cloth was traded with the natives....and a lot of it! The natives further traded it among themselves along their ancient trade routes.

Early explorers like La Salle, Ogden, and even Lewis & Clark mentioned meeting new native peoples whom were wearing clothing made of woven cloth and had woolen blankets.

Large and well supplied parties and expeditions outfitted themselves with the necessities and comforts of life to sustain them. So using cloth patching for bullets and char-cloth for fire starting was routine ordinary stuff. Leather was certainly and commonly used for clothing, but not exclusively.

And I haven't met anyone that would prefer to wear wet cold slimy chapping buckskins against their flesh when they could wear historically accurate woolen trousers. I've often wondered about the universal wearing of moccasins as opposed to stout boots.

Thanks for listening.
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Buck Conner
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Buck Conner

Male Number of posts : 3441
Age : 79
Location : UT
Registration date : 2015-10-20

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PostSubject: Re: Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness   Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness EmptyJuly 21st 2019, 8:58 am

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Hi, I'd like to share an opinion on the myth of cloth being a rare and precious commodity.


It depends on what your referring to for time frames with the word "myth". That would change "rare and precious commodity".  Before the French and Russian's came to the New World the natives made do with what was available, any natural material that could be broke down and the fibers weaved into a covering seemed to work very nicely as did animal hides.

There is no easy way to determine when clothing was first developed, but some information has been inferred by studying lice which estimates the introduction of clothing at roughly 42,000–72,000 years ago.

Native American Fashion from 1400 to 1800 - Early Native Americans clothing was very limited.  Many tribes wore animal skins and furs, along with other handmade items.  The women wore dresses or even went topless and only wore leggings and skirts.  If they did choose to wear dresses, many of the women would use nettle fibers to make the soft clothing, that was commonly worn under their dresses.  The native men wore breech clouts which went over the belt.  Very rarely would they wear shirts, only when it would get cold.  When it was cold, both men and women would wear a fur skin over them to stay warm. Sometimes the skins were limited, which led to many not wearing the hides frequently, some even went without clothing.  The shoes they wore were moccasins or mukluks, depending on the weather.


Availability of cloth on the frontier and wilderness 3989090


Native peoples of North America in certain regional areas did create textile clothing technologies that mainly utilized fibers harvested from gathered plant products and sometimes used spun thread made from hair from both domesticated and killed or captured wild animals. From Alaska down through the gathering cultures of the Plateau, Great Basin, and California tribes as far to the southwest as the border of Mexico, woven products were worn literally from head to toe. Hats, capes, blouses, dresses, and even footwear were constructed of plant material. In the north, this practice reflected the deleterious effects of the constant dampness of the coastal temperate rain forest climate upon skin products, and in the south it was largely due to the scarcity or rarity of large animals for skins. For example, as a means to maximize available resources, several Great Basin tribes had developed a system of weaving strips of the skins of small animals (like rabbits) into blankets or shawls.

Natural Embellishments

Before contact, the main decorative additions for clothing were paints and the quills of the porcupine and the shafts of stripped bird feathers. Entire feathers from a variety of birds were used as well, with the feathers from large raptors, especially the eagle, signifying prestige and sacred power among many tribes. Dyes and paints were used to color both the additive elements and the main bodies of the clothes themselves. These coloring agents were derived from plant and mineral sources, and in some areas very sophisticated systems for obtaining different colors from the local flora were in place. These products, as well as paints derived from regional mineral outcroppings, became important trade items.

Bone and shell ornaments were used as jewelry- bracelets, earrings, combs, and hair ornaments-and to a lesser extent as clothing ornaments. Extensive precontact trade routes existed for the distribution of these items, with the coveted shimmering abalone shells and the tapering conical dentalia shells that resembled miniature elephant tusks being traded from California and the more northerly Pacific Coast to the Great Plains and beyond to the Great Lakes region. Similarly, shells found in the Gulf of Mexico and ornaments cut from them were traded up river trade routes to areas in the Northern Plains, Midwest, and Great Lakes regions. A wide network also existed for the disbursement of the beads cut from Atlantic shells, later known to early European settlers as "wampum."

If you ever have a chance go to Mesa Verta Colorado and take the tour of their museum and look at the clothing and footwear (all made from Yucca fibers), you'll change your mind on what you thought was correct.

Most don't realize that breeches were worn in many of the trapping groups with wool blanket leggings. When in the water the leggings laid on the creek bank (dry - to be put on after traps were set). I'll have to look for an article I wrote for the AMM's magazine T&LR in the early 1980's about Mariano Medina's breeches and several other famous mountainmen that wore them also.

Having studied and lived the primitive life for most of my life (reading anything of note by researchers). I have found numerous accounts in fur trade journals, trading posts inventories  and trading companies records referring to first items sold at an encampment, rendezvous or gathering was cloth clothing, blankets or just bulk material.

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