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Author Topic: Group Research Project: Wool Aprons!  (Read 6678 times)
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Elizabeth
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« on: March 25, 2015, 12:34:23 PM »

Would anyone like to help out? This is a group research project, wherein all who choose to do so share their best notes and sources for information related to a specific topic. Those notes and citations will be compiled into one basic summary article, and shared (so if you're contributing, please be willing to be quoted and to have your name included as a researcher.)

THE TOPIC: Wool Apron Use, 1830 to 1865

(References to male or female use are both fine; please specify which!)

Appropriate Sources: Primary source only, please. Artifacts, diary/memoir notes, ledgers, newspapers, letters, magazines, patterns, advertisements, etc are all keen.

Sharing the Notes: please cite your source, quote accurately, share as much context as possible, and give any hints you can on locating the same resource if it's a rare one.

For example, "I'm sure my grandma had one, and she was really old," is not going to work. Cheesy

"Clarinda Melbourne notes in her diary in 1850 that her mother sent her a wool broadcloth apron to keep the sparks from the dragon hatchling off her dress; she notes that she made it full-cut, gauged a band, and with a full-covering pinner, and added a pocket to the front to hold the charcoal bits the dragon is "so fond of crunching, though it is awfully dusty." Found in "Clarinda Melboure: Mother of Victorian Dragonology; Her daybook, 1840 to 1870" Published by Malfoy & Sons 1925, Chicago, page 200....would be totally cool. Cheesy

We'll let this run for awhile. Let's see what the documentation tells us!
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Elizabeth
EKorsmo
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2015, 01:12:31 PM »

What I've found on Google Books (1830-1870, searching for "wool", "worsted" and "woolen" aprons):

"The Maid-Servants are allowed yearly 2 Linen Aprons, and 1 Worsted Apron." Regulations for the internal management of George Heriot's Hospital Edinburgh, 1849

"...the white sleeves and apron some wear, or by the black calico sleeves and dark woolen aprons worn by others..." description of London fishmongers in London Labor and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew, 1851

"Woolen aprons" in period literature, primarily in historic and/or pastoral settings:

"...her bright face, swathed round with her blue woolen apron..." from Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell (1863, set "at the end of the last century")

"...my hands aching with cold, I had them wrapped in Grandma's blue woolen apron." History of Old Chester from 1719 to 1869 by Benjamin Chase, New Hampshire, 1869

"...she bade him follow her the next morning when she was to lead her flock to the hills, and watch where she dropped her woolen apron..." (note: this is an "Indian maiden" in a story set in Chile) from "Valpariso" in The Hunters of the World by Theo. Dielitz 1853 (English translation 1857, Philadephia)

"...her clean, but scanty and ragged woolen apron..." The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain by Hannah Moore, 1857 (story is set "some time ago" in Wiltshire, England).

What I'm not seeing is contemporary use of wool aprons, particularly in America.  Or non-fiction ("how to make a woolen apron", "every housewife should have a woolen apron", "have the maidservant don a woolen apron before scrubbing the front step").
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EKorsmo
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2015, 01:21:54 PM »

Also noting a tendency for any further description of woolen/worsted aprons to be either "blue" or "blue and white striped."

"...bareheaded, barefooted Highland lass, in a blue worsted gown, and blue and white striped worsted apron..."Harper's Novels New York, 1842

Finally a fire-reference:
"Every cook, while by an open fire, should wear a very wide and thick worsted apron. While swaying her body, lifting off and on heavy stew pots, it is surprising that her in-flammable cotton apron so often escapes the flames."
Comprehensive Treatise on Domestic Brewing
 By Christian Isobel Johnstone 1847
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MaryDee
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2015, 02:19:27 PM »

I just received the Workwoman's Guide by A Lady, originally published 1838.  What I have is a facsimile copy published by Opus Publications, Inc., Guilford, Conn (no date).     http://www.amazon.com/Workwomans-Guide-Lady/dp/0940983001/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427318194&sr=1-1&keywords=A+workwoman%27s+guide%2C+by+a+lady    I hastened to look up aprons, hoping to find something useful.  Unfortunately, the only reference to a wool apron is as follows, in the general paragraph on aprons:

"If for common use, aprons are made of white, brown, blue, black, or checked linen, of black stuff?"  p.76.

When describing specific types of apron for cooking and other housework tasks, the book generally prescribes linen.  There is no other mention of "stuff."  Once again, a British source, though often used in 19th century America.  

I've seen "stuff" defined as coarse wool fabric (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-fabric-called-stuff.htm) or a linen-wool mixture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuff_(cloth)) or a lightweight worsted (http://www.wmboothdraper.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_9_35&products_id=2171).  At least it evidently contains wool.  

I tried!  It looks as though EKorsmo may have hit the jackpot with the Comprehensive Treatise on Domestic Brewing!  If we can just find a few more!
« Last Edit: March 25, 2015, 02:22:58 PM by MaryDee » Logged
Elizabeth
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2015, 06:34:27 PM »

What's cool is, it's not an all-or-nothing project, and isn't an immediate now-or-never thing. The point is to see what we can all gather, and let it marinate, and see what else is out there, without pre-judging or pre-supposing what we *ought* to find. ALL evidence, pro and con, is useful. Cheesy

Elizabeth, you definitely hit some jackpots. Cheesy I'll pop some notes in late tonight.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2015, 12:59:23 PM »

This is a somewhat negative citation, in that the description is of a girl one step up from beggardom - and it's English. It's from a series interviewing and describing street-sweepers, in London Labour and the London Poor, 1865. She's wearing a black stuff apron over a very aged frock, and note the last sentence about how she can't go into service because she has "no clothes."

"This child had a peculiarly flat face, with a button of a nose, while her mouth was scarcely larger than a button-hole. When she spoke, there was not the slightest expression visible in her features; indeed, one might have fancied she wore a mask and was talking behind it; but her eyes were shining the while as brightly as those of a person in a fever, and kept moving about, restless with her timidity. The green frock she wore was fastened close to the neck, and was turning into a kind of mouldy tint; she also wore a black stuff apron, stained with big patches of gruel, "from feeding baby at home," as she said. Her hair was tidily dressed, being drawn tightly back from the forehead, like the buy-a-broom girls... "I carn't tell whether I shall always stop at sweeping, but I've no clothes, and so I carn't get a situation; for, though I'm small and young, yet I could do housework, such as cleaning."

As an aside, I wonder if she had Down's Syndrome, or something similar?
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Jessamyn
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2015, 06:58:18 PM »

"Stuff" is producing more results, all English, and all rather scornful.

From Bronte's Villette, 1853:

"Beside a table, on which flared the remnant of a candle guttering to waste in the socket, a coarse woman, heterogeneously clad in a broad-striped showy silk dress and a stuff apron, sat in a chair fast asleep. To complete the picture, and leave no doubt as to the state of matters, a bottle and an empty glass stood at the sleeping beauty?s elbow."

From Popular Moral Tales for the Young, 1850:

"Next morning Mrs. Ford went to the pump for water, and, as she came back, a girl of ten or eleven years old leaned against the door-post of No. 6, with her hands behind her, balancing herself on one leg. She seemed one of those pert children, cunning, sly, and unabashed, who are more knowing than their years. She wore a faded printed frock, a black stuff apron, a yellow glass necklace, and had her hair twisted up in papers all over her head, with small rings in her ears. She nodded very familiarly to Mrs. Ford, and bade her good morning."

From Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer's Amabel: A Family History, 1853:

" 'Mrs. R --, Aunt Taylor,' said Katie, secretly ashamed of the crooked wig, the tumbled cap, the venerable pair of ex-white gloves, and the rusty, black stuff apron.

" 'Happy, ma'am, to see you,' said Miss Taylor, rolling up in her queer way, and shaking hands. 'Excuse my working dress, but I was just moving the furniture in Mrs. Warner's room.' "

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EKorsmo
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2015, 12:24:16 AM »

I'd forgotten about "stuff".

The Ladies' Self-Instructor in Millinery and Mantua Making... Philadephia, 1853, page 121:

"Aprons--These are made of a variety of materials, and are applied to various uses. The aprons used for common purposes, are made of white, blue, brown, checked, and sometimes of black linen; nankeen, stuff, and print are also employed."
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2017, 09:46:50 PM »

I stumbled on another reference, in Miss Leslie's Lady's House Book (Philadephia, 1850):

"Children, in winter, should be dressed entirely in clothes of woollen [sic] or worsted, as these are less liable to catch fire and blaze, than linen or cotton. Even their aprons should be of worsted; for instance, bombazet or merino." (page 148)
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