Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Mystery of making shoes" An 1804 Indenture to a Shoemaker

This indenture recently came to the author's attention as part of current research on cordwaining. As of this writing, I have not been able to locate any shoes by Putnam or his apprentice, Joseph Verry, though there are numerous references to a shoe shop being part of the large Putnam family holdings (now administered by the Danvers (USA) Historical Society). It was occupied by Daniel Putnam and/or family members until the mid-19th century.

The document is printed as found in Fred Gannon, A Short History of American Shoemaking, 1912. Others may find this document as useful as I.

The indenture of Joseph Verry, apprentice 
to Daniel Putnam, Danvers, Massachusetts, shoemaker
March 16th, 1804

This indenture witnesseth that I, Daniel Verry of Danvers, in the County of Essex, Yeoman, Do put my son Joseph Verry, an apprentice to Daniel Putnam of said Danvers, Yeoman, to learn of his art or mystery of making shoes, and with him to serve after the manner of an apprentice from the day of the date hereof, for the term of five years and three months next ensuing: — During all which time the said apprentice is to serve the said Daniel faithfully, and obey all his lawful commands, he shall do no damage to his said master nor see any by others without giving him notice thereof. He shall not waste any of the said Putnams goods, nor lend them unlawfully to any person; he shall not play at cards, dice or any other unlawful game, whereby the said Putnam may be damaged; he shall not absent himself unreasonable time from his said masters service, neither by day or night; nor stay long at Ale-houses or Taverns; but in all things behave himself as a faithful and honest apprentice in the trade or mystery he now followeth. And I, the said Daniel Putnam, do on my part Covenant to and with the said Daniel Verry, that I will procure and provide for the said apprentice, sufficient meat and drink, apparil [sic], lodging, washing and mending, and other necessary things that he may want during said term. And when he, the said Joseph, has completed his apprenticeship, I, the said Daniel, do hereby agree to furnish him with a suit of furnish him with a suit of Clothes that shall be worth thirty dollars, or give him that sum of money, whichever he may choose. .And it is further mutually agreed that the said Joseph is to work half the said term at farming work.
And I, the said Daniel, do agree that the said Joseph shall have two months to go to school each of the next two winters; and if that should not prove sufficient to give him good learning, he is to have one month schooling the third winter; and I agree to pay him fifty dollars more besides the $30.00 above mentioned, after he has completed his apprenticeship. And for the true and faithfull performance of the said Covenant and agreement, we the said parties bind our selves each to the other firmly by these presents. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this sixteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and four. DANIEL VERRY. (Seal) And I, the said Joseph Verry above named, do hereby consent to the condition of foregoing indenture, and have hereunto subscribed my name. JOSEPH VERRY. (Seal.) Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of us. 

NB. the interlining of the fifty dollars after he had completed his apprenticeship, was~ interlined before signing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dawn Dolls & Their '70s Glam Fashions

Sometimes we all need a little fashion throwback. A sunny spring Sunday seems like a good time to add a little levity to our blog and pay homage to these tiny proto fashionistas!  Do you remember Dawn dolls?
They were made by toy manufacturer Topper (production ceased in 1973) for a short three years from 1970-1973. These diminutive dolls - about 6.5" tall - were all about fashion. In fact, Dawn herself was the owner (and top model, naturally) of the Dawn Model Agency. Her original pals were Angie, Jessica, Dale, Gloria, and, my favorite, Longlocks. It will come as no surprise to learn that they had good-looking boyfriends with perfect hair, who would accompany them to the fashion shows as escorts or supportive audience members.

One of my colleagues still remembers, in great detail, which dolls she had and their outfits. She even owned the oh-so-snazzy rotating fashion stage. (We did play with them a few times in the office as part of our "costume work," I confess.)  The Dawn dolls were less expensive than their larger counterpart, Barbie, so you could get many more dolls or fashion ensembles for the price. Now they are in the collectible category, so hold on to those dolls!  I suppose Bratz dolls will also be considered collectible someday - maybe they already are...

Thank you to Tara Vose Raiselis, Director Saco Museum  & Bridget Swift, Silk Damask Consulting, for their assistance.

Enjoy the Dawn fashion show, courtesy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

John Hancock's Fashion Flourishes

the flourish of John Hancock’s (1737-1793) eponymous  signature is well-known and highly recognizable. the graceful, Restrained Luxury epitomized in John Singleton Copley’s 1765 Portrait (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) Captures the moment before Hancock begins his political Journey. 
Together, they leave one with the image of confidence and Strength of character. John Hancock’s clothing selections, however, while not unusual for one in a position of affluence in colonial america, is perhaps less likely to fit comfortably into our impression of the American patriot or a Revolutionary, Particularly one who was actively sought out (with Samuel adams) as an enemy to BRitish colonial authority. The same may be said of many of his contemporaries who felt a disconnection between his political actions and the Fineries of his dress, his “shocking” yellow carriage, renowned largesse, love of entertainments and well-appointed beacon hill home (since demolished.)

We are fortunate that detailed Likenesses (including clothing and other accoutremonts), contemporary accounts and garments have survived and are available in the public domain.

At the Bostonian Society (, Hancock’s red silk Velvet jacket, c.1780s, possibly worn for his gubernatorial inauguration; at the New York Historical Society (, an elaborately embroidered silk waistcoat, c.1780s (attributed), and, at the Lexington historical society (, a second, simpler, waistcoat.

The Proceedings of the Bostonian Society Annual meeting, 1912 (p.41) records the following: “Court Suit. Crimson velvet body-coat, blue satin waistcoat embroidered with gold and drab silk trunks, formerly owned and worn by Governor John Hancock.” The items were given by Franklin Hancock of Haverhill, MA. 

John Hancock's (1737-1793) waistcoat (attributed), ca. 1780. The cream silk twill front panels are richly embroidered with a floral and garland motif, and bow-ties decorated with gold-painted metal sequins (spangles). As was common, There is a natural linen back panel and interior lining. Thirteen buttons covered with gold foil and gold wire serve as closures.  Gift of George Gibbs to the New York Historical Society

From the Lexington Historical Society, another silk embroidered waistcoat "worn by Gov. John Hancock." Image: 

This short piece, published late in the 19th century, gathers a number of delightful descriptions of Hancock’s garments:  

John Hancock, a character sketch, by John Roy Musick, 1898

“He seems to have been the leader of fashion--Genteel aristocrat of the day: As a young man ‘He wore a coat of scarlet, lined with silk, and embroidered with gold, white satin embroidered waist coat, dark satin small-clothes, white silk stockings, and shoes with silver buckles.’ It seems that this attire with the ‘three cornered gold laced hat constituted the gentleman of the period.’ His equipage, a coach and six blooded bays, were such as had never been seen in Boston. 

One who knew him in 1782 says: ‘He had been repeatedly and severely afflicted with gout, probably owing in part to the custom of drinking punch — a common practice in high circles in those days.’ As recollected at that time, Hancock was nearly six feet in height and of thin person, stooping a little, and apparently enfeebled by disease. His manners were very gracious, of the old style, a dignified complaisance. His face had been very handsome. ‘Dress at this time was adopted quite as much to the ornamental as the useful. Gentlemen wore wigs when abroad, and commonly caps when at home. At this time, about noon, Hancock was dressed in a red velvet cap, within which was one of fine linen. The latter was turned up over the lower edge of the velvet one, two or three inches. He wore a blue damask gown lined with silk, a white satin embroidered waist coat, black satin small clothes, white silk stockings and red morocco slippers.’ 

‘His apparel was sumptuously embroidered with gold, silver, lace and other decorations, fashionable among men of fortune of that period. He wore a scarlet coat with ruffles on his sleeves, which soon became the prevailing fashion.’  There is an anecdote told of Dr. Nathan Jacques, the famous pedestrian of West Newbury, walking all the way from that place to Boston in one day, to procure cloth for a coat like that of John Hancock, and ‘returned on foot with it under his arm.’” 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Gentleman's Silk Waistcoat, c. 1790

This handsome silk waistcoat with a linen back dates from c. 1790. Although the owner and maker are currently unknown, it is possible that the panels are English, sewn together locally, most likely in Maine. 

According to the museum director, Tara Vose Raiselis, there may have been size alterations at some point, indicated by the slightly mismatched embroidery (above). Note the neutral toned palette and stylised, geometric detailing. Light weight and without bulk it fits the desired male silhouette of the time. Embroidered buttons add to the charm. The waistcoat is an elegant, appropriate Neoclassical statement.

Currently under study, the waistcoat and is not on view and has not been published. Enjoy this special 'behind the scene' look into the collection of the Dyer Library/Saco Museum, Saco, Maine. 

All photos are courtesy, Dyer Library/Saco Museum

Friday, March 8, 2013

A French Neoclassical Apron: Marigold Yellow Silk Damask, c.1810

the French silk industry continued to flag in the later years of the 18th century and into the early 19th, due to fashion trends and International competition. Once Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor in 1804, He created much needed economic stability at home.  Of his many measures, he  reinvigorated the French silk industry. The use of bright hues, even unusually colored silks dominated the clothing ensembles of the well-to-do. The lively, marigold apron Pictured here, exemplifies this trend during the Empire period.  The Hamot textile concern, which survived until the 1900s, is a good example of the industry. (See  
The apron’s neoclassicism is subtle but clear -- note the long lines (perfect over a columnar high-waisted white gown), the elaborate cording and graceful tassels. Indeed, the use of silk for the apron would have continued the visual effect of lightness and opacity, without bulk or heaviness of the earlier Rococo styles.
This particular delicate wisp of silk was a stylish statement rather than the "work-a-day"woman's garment. 

It measures: 6" top width, 28" bottom width, and 28 1/2" length.
Collection of the Author via