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Wet weather gear?
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norseguy
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Joined: 22 May 2007
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Location: Wyoming, Big Horn Mountains
Real Name: Eric Distad

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My favorite shirt these days is actually a silk wool blend shirt and no matter how cold and wet it gets it wics the moisture away and keeps me warm and toasty...


Just Curious Here...
I am sincere when say I am not 'flaming', etc., etc...

But, Is there any 'documentation for a 'silk wool blend shirt?
Or is it one of those things that we use but we know are Not 'PC'?

If it IS 'Period'...I would really like to hear more about the 'WWW'?

If not...that's 'ok' too...

I just found it kind of interesting in a Thread about Wet Weather Gear amid Posts about how folks back 'then' didn't have or even need to have such...
(kind of like saying...I don't wear an oilcloth coat...I wear a PC Wool Coat, with a Gore-Tex Lining!)

<G>

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CT03
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Real Name: Christopher Treichel

PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the wool silk blend is stretching things a little... but not as much as lining your wool coat with gortex here nor there... I also have an all wool shirt but can be really uncomfortable... A friend suggested washing it in vinigar to make it more comfy, havn't tried that yet. They did blend cloth back then... you have heard of lindsey woolsey and such... On the other hand silk was pretty much cost prohibitive for a frontiersman and if imported was probably already in cloth form... My research on the subject has not found a whole lot other than lindsey woolsey and even not much in that area.

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Last edited by CT03 on Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:25 am; edited 2 times in total
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norseguy
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Joined: 22 May 2007
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Real Name: Eric Distad

PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

CT03 wrote:
Yes, the wool silk blend is stretching things a little... but not as much as lining your wool coat with gortex here nor there... I also have an all wool shirt but can be really uncomfortable... A friend suggested washing it in vinigar to make it more comfy, havn't tried that yet. They did blend cloth back then... you have heard of lindsey woolsey and such... On the other hand silk was pretty much cost prohibitive for a frontiersman and if imported was probably already in cloth form... My research on the subject has not found a whole lot other than lindsey woolsey and even not much in that area.


I would not mind having a truly COMFORTABLE All Wool Shirt...but None of Mine Really Are...They are just Too Itchy!
I have heard of some Wool Shirts that are 'finely woven' and not supposed to itch...but I have not located any appropriate PC ones...
If somebody here can point to any...I would appreciate it!
I think an ideal one would be a Collar-less Pullover Wool Shirt that could be worn Under Other Shirts? But I might be wrong...

Norseguy in WYoming
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CT03
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok so I posted... then did a little bit more research and happened to stumble on an article that dates it back to 1667... so were good... sort of still doesn't fix the issue of it being really expensive back then...

wool silk blend has been arround for as long as at least 1667 and was called Poplin back then... being produced in Avignon France... and then heavily exproted out of such places as Dublin Ireland...
Other blended cloths available back then include Fustian and lindsey woolsey.

http://books.google.com/books?id=cAwAAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA1-IA5&lpg=RA1-PA1-IA5&dq=wool+silk+poplin+origin&source=bl&ots=04zyS2CiAb&sig=_G4QSQmP7utk4fpP_msMbfriYu4&hl=en&ei=_TvwSvSJA4a7lAfRrfjxCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBgQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=wool%20silk%20poplin%20origin&f=false

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ccasada
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:56 am    Post subject: rain gear Reply with quote

Greetings!

Noted in the Journals of Captian John Knox the common use of a Cloak was reccommended for the men. I reproduced such an item of canvas, dyed black, and have used it countless times to remain in a somewhat zone of comfort. It can also double as a ground cloth and I have rigged it to make a shelter.

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Chuck
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J Branson
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Norseguy; You just described what is called a Jersey( or Guernsey,I cant remember witch cow) frock! They are still being made by a place in Jersey or Guernsey (England) There is documentation of them being in the Rockies (pre 1840) and earlier on the east coast(sailors) If you want I can get ahold of a buddy that bought one and get contact info for you.

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norseguy
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Real Name: Eric Distad

PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

J Branson wrote:
Hey Norseguy; You just described what is called a Jersey( or Guernsey,I cant remember witch cow) frock! They are still being made by a place in Jersey or Guernsey (England) There is documentation of them being in the Rockies (pre 1840) and earlier on the east coast(sailors) If you want I can get ahold of a buddy that bought one and get contact info for you.


Yes, Please Do...

Norseguy in WYoming
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Huntier
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Real Name: Adam Wilkey

PostPosted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:13 am    Post subject: warm clothes Reply with quote

When I was in the mountains the other day, I wore a wool FLANNEL shirt that I made with the collar and cuffs lined w/linen for comfort. It was only VERY marginaly itchy, and did it's job great. I had a linen caped hunting shirt over that, and despite residual snow on the ground, I was quite warm. as the temp climbed, I had to trade it out for my linen shirt. My briches and leggings were of hide, and I had my winter moc's on. After 5 hours of hiking in wet and snow, yes, they were wet, but they were warm! I drove home and they got cold, but had i stayed, I had a spare pair with me! I thought the wool/leather comb worked great! The avarage "mountaneer" out west is described as having leather from the waist down-with wool liners in the moc's and cloth from the waist up. The longhunters are described in contemporary works/sources, and being pretty similar.

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KarlK
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:48 am    Post subject: Enjoy this, a bit unedited though.... Reply with quote

“A Slight Rain or a Scotch mist that would wet a Englishman to the Skin”
Keeping dry historically for the Nor’wester
by Karl A. Koster

This article will hopefully be of interest to those involved with living history. Since reenacting mostly takes place in the great outdoors it is important to know how to prepare oneself for inclement weather. A modern umbrella or plastic raincoat sure brings a screeching halt to a realistic historic interpretation. Let us look at a wet world and how to be prepared historically. The Nor’westers had ways to protect themselves, and you should too.
Looking at the sky and learning simple weather lore is helpful, and can prepare you for inclement weather. Truths lie in some of the old proverbs.

“ The higher the cloud, the finer the weather.”

This is true unless we are speaking of those wispy cirrus clouds. Clouds tend to darken and fly lower when full of moisture. Those cirrus clouds are also called “mare’s tails” and according to lore, if their wispy ends point up, look for rain within 72 hours; downward wisps and you’ll be fine.
“ Halo around the sun or moon, rain or snow very soon.”

Weather experts agree with this one as well, in 12 to18 hours precipitation should fall if you see a bright halo. And those big fluffy cumulus clouds, they offer a happier nod;

“ Woolly fleeces strewing the heavily way…No rain disturbs a fine summer day”

Be warned though if those fluffy whites grow larger during the day and taller;

“ When clouds appear like rocks and towers...the earth’s refreshed by frequent showers”

Even knowing these traditional weather forecasting tips one can still be caught off guard. Being caught soaking wet in cold weather can be dangerous and life threatening. Sitting out a severe storm or heavy rain is both a good idea and was historically done. Journals tell that men stopped or delayed activity during rain or inclement weather, sometimes for days.

“four packs to dry that got wet.”
~ F. V. Malhiot, Wisconsin, 1804, (Malhiot, 212)

“Rainy Day, which prevents Men Working.”
~ John Sayer, Snake River, Minnesota, 1804, (Sayer, 37)

“Blowed very hard all Day, impossible to march, examined the baggages, Dryed Two Bales that got wet…”
~Charles Chaboillez, Rainy Lake, 1797, (Payette, 147)

Don’t let those rainy days bring you down. Think of them as an opportunity to implement the waterproofing skills of our forefathers. Is your clothing and gear protected from uncomfortable or damaging affects of moisture? If you feel ill prepared, read on.

Taking Shelter from the Storm
Early forms of protection are common sense; simply get out of the rain. Shelter could be simply fashioned by using objects found in nature or hauling protection with you. Tent use was evident in the traveling mode of the Nor’westers, though much of the time they appear to have been left to those of higher standing than your typical engage. Tents are mentioned in the journals of Alexander Henry (younger), John McDonald, Nicholas Garry, George Nelson, Michel Curot, Anthony Henday, Thomas Anderson, and David Thompson among others. The most common type of tent appears to have been a basic wedge tent. Besides a tent, tarpaulins and oilcloths could be fashioned into shelter.
Natural Protection
Natural materials could be employed when standard precautions were unavailable. Pine boughs, leaves or sheets of bark can serve as protection. Less impromptu choices have included tightly woven mats of reeds or grasses.

“…looking like rain, we made us a cabin of spruce bark, but no rain came.”
~ James Bartram, Canada, 1743 (Lamoreaux, 1)

“…stripping a tree of its bark, and lay under it to shelter me...”
~Alexander Henry, River Aux Sable, 1763 (Henry, 131)

“…the Wind with rain came in the face of our tenting which was only Birch Rind…”
~ Phillip Turner, Mesagami Lake, 1781 (Hearne, 310)

"....began to rain...we also made a tent with Bark [Elm] and passed the night comfortably enough."
~ Francois-Antoine Larocque,North Dakota, 1805 (Wood & Theissen 163)

A common combination of natural materials and portable shelter is the amazing bark canoe. Its use as a shelter is very evident. A paddle in the National Museum of Ireland collected by Jasper Grant in Ontario (circa 1806-09) depicts two men sleeping under a bark canoe. Here’s more documentation on this practice.

“As the Birch Rind is impervious to water; Canoes are made of it…when turned up. On shore, it affords good shelter to the Men, against Rain and the night.”
~ David Thompson, Canada, 1784-1800 (Thompson, 116)

“…storm increasing…We accordingly carried our canoe into the woods made on a rousing fire and took shelter under her, where we were perfectly comfortable.”
~ Alexander Henry, Two Rivers, 1800 (Gough, 72)

“The voyageurs…lighted a great fire, turned the canoes upside down, and, sheltered under them, were heard singing and laughing during part of this tempestuous night.”
~ A. Jameson, Lake Huron, 1837 (Jameson, 306)

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.”
~ Alexander Mackenzie, Route to the Pacific, 1793 (Mackenzie, 205)

"...the making and painting of 21 canoe oil cloths."
~ E. Thompson, in Grand Portage, XY Co. Outift for 1799 (Thompson 1969, 83)

“…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)

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)

The popularity of oilcloth started to fade rapidly once the use of gutta-percha sheeting began around 1859. Gutta-percha is a tough substance from the latex of several Malaysian trees of the sapodilla family. The material resembles rubber but contains more resin. This discovery limited the traditional uses of oilcloth. Oilcloth popularity lasted throughout the fur trade and into the covered wagons of westward expansion.
.
Clothing to Keep Dry
There are certain types of clothing worn primarily to guard against the elements. Some of these like spatter-dashes, weather-skirts or sherry-vallies were eastern or large settlement used items. Therefore, we will cover only those items likely used in the pays den haut.
Woolen blankets are considered clothing by many and was standard for the Native. The blanket can be a very useful in defense against wet conditions. The fibers in wool naturally overlap creating a natural shingling effect in its construction. The small remaining amount of lanolin in wool also waterproofs a blanket. Unfortunately, wool is scoured well and washed prior to spinning. This process removes most of the lanolin. In John Gay’s 1716 poem: Trivia; or the Art of walking the Streets of London he states;

“…The Frieze’s spongy Nap is soak’d with Rain, And Show’rs soon drench the Camlet’s cockled grain, True Witney Broad-cloth with it’s Shag unshorn, Unpierc’d is in the lashing Tempest worn…Be thine of Kersey firm, though small the Cost, Then brave unwet the Rain, unchill’d the Frost.” (Plummer 1969 page 42-43)

Need more proof of blanket usage and how well it works…read on…

“…before the invention of ‘mackintoshes’, coarse unscoured Witney cloths containing a certain amount of oil and grease were widely used as wagon and barge tilts, horse rugs, and cloaks to keep out the rain.”
~ Alfred Plummer, The Blanket makers, (Plummer, 42)

“…trade their beavers for duffel cloth which we give for them, and which they find more suitable than the beavers, as they consider it better for the rain…”
~ David Peterson De Vries, Albany, 1642 (Back 3)

“…a most terrible Storm came on…we are quite without shelter…passing our Time sitting in the Snow under an Oak with a Blanket wrapped round us.”
~ David Thompson, Northern Plains, 1798 (Wood & Thiessen, 120)

Occasionally a shelter was constructed from a blanket if conditions worsened and one needed to wait out a storm.

“…setting poles slantwise in the ground, tying others cross them, over which we spread our blanket and crept close under it…”
~ John Bartram, near Lake Ontario, 1743 (Bartram, 38)

“…in his tent, which comprised three walking sticks and a blanket.”
~ Samuel Hearne, Canada, 1770, (McGoogan, 117)

“… snowing very hard & blowing from the N.West…I froze the End of my finger in Belting my Blanket round me in the morning .
~ F.A. Larocque, Missouri River,1805 (Wood and Theissen, 153)

“Drops of rain fell … people take the precaution to cover their packs with their blankets….”
~F.V. Malhiot, Wisconsin, 1805 (Malhiot, 213)

“…each man layed down wrapped up in his blanket, exposed to whatever weather the night brought. In that latitude and season of the year, it is boisterous and severe, heavy storms of rain…”
~ Samuel Wilcocke, Knee Lake, 1819 (Masson, 215)

Match-Coats are an outer layer worn against changing weather. This is really nothing more than a large piece of material fastened at the waist and chest. Match-coats can be a basic as a blanket or some match-coats were cut into specialized patterns with lapels and braided cords to tie the front. Terminology of the use of blanket and match coat may be intertwined in journals. Often associated with Natives, match-coats were not just for their use. In fact, the British in the French & Indian War referred to match coats in their accounts. Great Lakes Native personas of living history are finding the match-coat to be a simple, historic, convenient and economical way to keep warm and dry. To fashion a match-coat from a standard blanket or period fabric, simply hold up the material behind your head, placing a portion over your head for the hood. Pull the material snug from around your waist and belt. Then extend your arms forward making sure that they are free to move. Lastly, gather the excess fabric from the shoulder area, and secure it across the chest by twisting in a gun-worm, stick or pin.

“…rained very fast, and took us at a disadvantage, for we had made no shelter to keep off the rain…One of our Indians cut 4 sticks 5 feet long, and stuck both ends into the ground, at 2 foot distance, one from another: over there he spread his match coat and crept through them…”
~ John Bartam, near Lake Ontario, 1743 (Bartram, 38)

Cloak, manteau or mantle is yet another item we can lump in with blankets and match coats. All these aforementioned items may mean the same thing in various journals; the difference can be that deceiving. Unlike the match-coat, it is traditionally not belted. It closes at the top and has a free flowing and skirted lower portion.

“Ample and large overcoat, that one wears in…winter against cold and rain…& in the country for protection against bad weather.”
~ Antoine Furetiere 1690 Dictionary (Gousse, 27)

“…we covered ourselves with my camblet* cloak.”
~ Alexander Mackenzie, Pacific NW, 1793 (Mackenzie, 207)

“I lay down in my cloak”
~ Alexander Henry the younger, Red River, 1800 (Henry/Coues, 92)

“The rain poured down in such torrents, that the little dog woke me by scrambling under my cloak to escape the water…”
~ George Back, Arctic Expedition, 1833-34 (Back, 223)

The capote, sometimes known as a blanket coat is one of the most common items seen at historical events today. The warmth and protection they provide is incredible. Unfortunately, more than one re-enactor can tell you of staying somewhat dry on the outside but sweating buckets on the inside. The fitted, commonly skirted and occasionally hooded Canadian Capote (possibly originally based on the early military justacorp) is appropriate for most portraying a Great Lakes persona. Most of the early capotes were not constructed of blankets but of several woolen materials. Eventually blankets were used to construct these extremely common coats.

“The clothing of the men, here in the summer, is a loose coat, made of blanket, which they buy either from the French or English settled in their neighborhood…”
~ Henry Ellis, Hudson’s Bay, 1746 (Beaudoin-Ross, 73)


“…a garment in form of a hooded gown, that sailors put over their ordinary clothing as protection against stormy weather.”
Diderot’s Encyclopedia 1751-1780, (Gousse, 12)

“Canadian peasants were described wearing a blanket coat which they fastened around the body with a worsted sash…”
~Thomas Anburey, Canada, 1776 (Gottfreds 26)

“…so cold… the men…could not resist it without the aid of their blanket coats.”
~ Alexander Mackenzie, Route to the Pacific, 1793 (Mackenzie, 68)

“…a long-skirted cloth coat or frock, of a dark gray colour, with a hood attached to it, which in winter time or wet weather he puts over his head. His coat is tied around the waist by a worsted sash…”
~ John Lambert, Quebec, 1806-08, (Lambert, 158)

The Great Coat is an item that works supreme in nasty weather. It is best described as a large woolen coat, commonly lined, that is buttoned up the front with at least one cape and a collar. Though not fur trade based, George Washington mentions of his great-coat; “… let it be made of such Cloth, as will turn a good Shower of Rain.” (Gilgun, 112) Lord Selkirk who made history at Lake Superior’s Fort William mentioned a great coat constructed of fearnaught**, (Selkirk, 235). Besides Selkirk, evidence of Great Coats exists in the Great Lakes.

“I then left the table and began to put on my Great Coat- it was a very wet night…”
~Stephen Jarvis, Canada, 1777 (Talman, 154)

“…the canoe upset & I Gun & all of canoe fell into the Water, and as I had my Great Coat upon me, it was with not a little difficulty that I reached dry land…”
~ Daniel Harmon, Ottawa River, 1800 (Harmon, 14)

The surtout (surtoot or sartoot) is another overcoat, the definition of a surtout is very confusing, and in nearly every dictionary and source book the description varies. It occasionally is mentioned with collar or cape, though they are always mentioned as an over-clothes item worn for protection against intrepid weather. In “Two Centuries of Costume in America, author A. Earle quotes Jamieson’s “Scottish Dictionary” considering surtouts; “ generally made of duffle…a garment shaped much like a man’s greatcoat, buttoned closely down the front, and with capes or collars…” (Earle, 623)

Other documented cases of surtouts include;

“…ragged and weather-beaten garments, I was furnished with a blue surtout, fretted at the elbows, worn at the button-holes, and stained with a variety of tints, so that it might truly be styled a coat of many colours, and to render this external department of my habit still more conspicuous and worthy of observation, the waist descended below my knees, and the skirts hung dangling about my heels…”
~ Jacob Bailey, Lower Canada, 1779 (Smith, 34)

“…when walking, I have found my English surtout sufficient; but, when sitting in an open cariole, exposed to the keen and piercing wind, the severity of which was increased by the velocity of the horse and vehicle, a thick great coat with a lining of shamois leather was not sufficient…”
~ John Lambert, Quebec, 1806-08 (Lambert, 112)

“Peter [a Native] …dressed in a handsome blue surtout-coat, with a red worsted sash…”
~ C.P. Traill, Upper Canada, 1832-35 (Traill, 286)

Match-coats, cloaks, capotes, great coats and surtouts vary from account to account. Please remember there may be many variables including length, closures, capes and hoods. It is important to repeat that these items may have shared names with one another as well in the eyes of the journalist.

Dry Feet
Dry feet are happy feet. With that said, you must know that regardless of the style of footwear, the construction method, the type of leather, or any amount of waterproofing, our forefather’s feet got wet! The trick often is to avoid wet feet and be comfortable with damp feet. Phillis Cunnington and Catherine Lucas said it well in their book Occupational Costume in America;

“…the battle against wet and mud has never really been won, since what is impervious to water is generally impervious to air…”
(Cunnington & Lucas, 350)

Today the practice of greasing or using repellants to waterproof footwear is common. Concerning footwear for wet and rough weather, James Dowie wrote in 1861s:The Foot and it’s Covering that leather would have been;

“…filled with grease or any of the repellants now used for keeping out water.”
~(Cunnington & Lucas, 350)

The big question is whether this was done earlier during the Fur Trade? Scottish observer John Duncan in 1818 thought his plan of wearing “… heavy Canadian moccasins, saturated with fish oil, and two pairs of socks” was the answer. According to his journal, frequent bogs finally penetrated the moccasins and left his feet wet and cold (Duncan, 203-209). The whole practice of treating footwear is rarely written about. Here’s a small bit of documentation provided by Peter Kalm and James Dittrick. In 1749, Kalm, while traveling through Canada and the Northern American colonies wrote of this exchange with fellow traveler Wm. Bartram:

“Mr. Bartram showed me an earthen pot, which had been found in a place where Indians formerly lived. He, who first dug it out, kept grease and fat in it to smear his shoes, boots, and all sorts of leather with…” (Kalm, 168)

James Dittrick now explains what happened to the first pair of moccasins his father had made him circa.1800:

“…greased, and putting them near the fire, on returning to my grief found that my shoes were all shriveled up, so that I could never wear them.” (Talman, 65-66)

These scant sources are the only proof of “greasing” footwear I have found. This may lead to a point of moccasins not lasting an owner that long? Would greasing be a concern on a temporary item?
The following are some tips that I find helpful for obtaining happy feet. First, know when not to wear moccasins. The foot is more resilient than we give it credit, and as far as historical accuracy going barefoot can’t be beat. When the weather cooperates, a bare foot jaunt is truly tantalizing. Also, when moccasins are your choice of footwear, keep a spare pair with you, a pair to wear giving you ample time to dry and mend your daily pair. When your main pair gets wet, by all means, take your time drying! Start the drying process right away, take it slow and remember the difference between steam and smoke, steaming is fine smoking is not! Quite often when you think your moccasins are dry, they are not. Dry them more.
Luckily, when it comes to footwear, there are other options besides moccasins to consider. Cobbled shoes, and boots can be documented and may offer better protection. Sabots or wooden shoes and clogs (leather upper and wooden soles) also are an option that can be documented to populated areas of New France.

“…the quantity of 1200 pair of sabots/clogs of good wood and assorted small and large…will be held to produce at least 100 pair/month in this city”
~ Montreal, 1689 (Seguin 474)

The solution of truly waterproof footwear was not far behind the Great lakes Fur Trade the first record of them this author could find was in 1830. Rubber, native caoutchouc from South America, galoshes were mentioned in England by James Devlin in his book The Shoemaker, of 1839. (Cunnington & Lucas, 351)
.
Hopefully now you are prepared for surviving the inclement weather the Northwest has to offer occasionally. At times we all get wet, but with this added knowledge, at least we can persevere historically correct. As Benjamin Franklin noted: “ some people are weather-wise, some are otherwise”. Keep dry and sunny days to all.


* Camblet: Originally made of camel hair, camblet was often a combination of wool and silk.
** Fearnaught: A thick, heavy wool cloth at times with a raised nap.


***Opening quote from A. Mackenzie, Great Bear Lake, 1805-06 (Keith, 233)

Some waterproofing recipes for fabric;

Variation 1
50% linseed oil
50% turpentine*
A pigment choice like iron oxide
Mix and paint onto canvas

Variation 2
Linseed oil
1 c. neat’s foot oil
1 c. melted beeswax
Mix and paint canvas

*A word of caution if your fabric has cotton fiber. Several have found that turpentine tends to make the threads weak and brittle over time.

Variation 3
10 qt. Water
10 oz. Lime
4 oz. Alum
Wait till water clears, then soak fabric 12 hours, rinse, then stretch and dry.

Variation 4
Bull or Cows Blood
1/10 of blood weight of lime
Mix & thin with water if needed
Remove fibrin/clot, you’ll be using the albumen or gelatin
Rub into canvas that is stretched tight

The drying and curing process of the recipes above can take 2 weeks, a month or longer depending on the weather. Take your time, and dry the cloth away from direct sunlight. Several light coats will provide maximum protection. An extreme word of caution! Please be careful with spontaneous combustion from linseed oil when dealing with, producing, and storing these tarpaulins!!!
Powdered pigments are available through art supply stores or paint manufacturers. A reddish-brown (Spanish brown) color works well for Great Lakes interpretations.

Keeping Your Firearm Dry
A firearm not going off could mean a lean dinner table or at least extreme frustration. Black powder is very susceptible to moisture, so keeping it dry is vital. Powder horns naturally do well in keeping moisture away. For added measure make sure to wax a horn’s plug to create a tight seal and prevent water from seeping in. Wax should also be place around and in the pinning holes of the end cap.
While you have that wax or tallow in your hand, be sure to fill all of the mortising gaps on your firearm. Wherever wood meets metal, rub in a bead of wax to keep out water. To keep the priming powder dry, “sandwich” a layer of wax between the rim of the pan and the hammer (frizzen). Another tip is to use wax to form a “dam” an inch or so up from the lock where the barrel and stock join. This prevents water from running down the barrel towards the pan. A simple lock covering made of greased leather, rawhide or fabric will aid as well. An extremely simple cover is to employ the oiled rag used for maintenance for the lock protection. A feather placed in the touchhole will naturally swell to keep moisture out. A tompion (wooden plug) may be used for the barrel, though this is a military practice and not documented for the fur trade. For safety’s sake, do not place a tompion in the bore of a loaded weapon.
A gun case is the final item needed to protect your gun from the damaging effects of moisture. North West trade guns used in the Great Lakes region were traditionally housed in red woolen sleeves for inland transportation (Else, 15). A very unique gun case as mentioned by John Long:

“Let us trade light Guns small in the hand, and well shap’d with Locks that will not freeze in the winter and Red gun cases, (for if a gun is bad, a fine case oft’n puts it of, being admirers of different colours)…”
~ James Isham, York Factory, 1743 (Gooding, 124)

“This skin [on the loon], which is very tough and thick, is dried and made use of as cases to cover their guns, to prevent the wet from spoiling them.”
~ John Long, Canada, 1777, (Long, 49)

“…loaded with ball, and primed, with a little piece of cotton laid over the priming to keep the powder dry.”
~G. Franchere, Fort George, 1814 (Franchere, 142)



EXTRA
"Red skies at night, sailor's delight, red skies at morning, sailor take warning"
True; high air pressure causes contaminants that difuse other colors in the spectrum.

"When the stars begin to huddle, the earth will soon become a puddle"
True: clouds are blocking stars

"Cold is the night when the stars shine bright"
True: No clouds no insulation



False ones:

The wooley bear caterpillars and winter's harshness
When ants travel in a straight line, expect rain.
Squirrels lay in a big supply of nuts, look for a hard winter


K. Koster
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norseguy
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Joined: 22 May 2007
Posts: 211
Location: Wyoming, Big Horn Mountains
Real Name: Eric Distad

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karl ?

All I Can Say Is WOW !!!

Thank You So Much For That DISTILLATION Of Documentation on 'Wet Gear'!!!

That is Really, Truly Helpful!!!

I Plan to Print It Off and Keep That Handy!

I Lift My Glass to You!!!

Norseguy in WYoming
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KarlK
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Joined: 24 May 2007
Posts: 287
Location: Grand Portage, Minnesota
Real Name: Karl Koster

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:42 am    Post subject: Article Reply with quote

It's a kind of updated version of one that was printed in some magazine years back by me. I am thinking Smoke & Fire News perhaps, don't think it was an old OTT article of mine?
Many of these articles and some new ones are currently being compiled for a simple book. It will have many period images as well. I have no idea when this will come out, but it is "in the works".
Enjoy and thanks for the kind comments.
Karl
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David A. Schmid
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good job Karl. Bravo
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Steve Stanley
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Posts: 44
Location: Somewhere between 21st century England & 18th century Acadia...........
Real Name: Steve Stanley

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Outstanding,Karl!
Steve
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