Museums I Visited

Between 2013 and 2017, I visited a dozen museums and saw more than 100 caps.  Here is a list of the museums*, and the artifacts I saw at each one.

Image of fine gathered linen from Kent State Museum.

Each is listed with its museum dates. Those deemed eighteenth-century for this project are starred.

Many more leads could not be followed up because of time constraints.  More caps with eighteenth-century dates exist than were supposed, and, one assumes, more will be discovered.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

#49.366 18th C. * (child)

#49.370 (infant)

#51.238 (infant)

#45.787 (infant)

#99.848 1820’s

Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, Washington DC

#200.10.2 18th C. *

#1203 1777*

#78.65.9 1805

#82.138.9 1820

#2005.13 n.d.

#2464.2  1800

#1817 n.d.

#98.54.5 n.d.

#4510.2 n.d.

Kent State University Museum, Kent, Ohio

#1995.017.0467 1860

#1995.017.0399 1860

#1983.001.1493 1840

#1995.017.0455 1860

#1990.086.0002 1840

New Canaan Historical Society, CT

#CE 237 n.d.

#CE 419 19th C. *

#E169 19th C

#HS 19th C

#269B 18th C (Dutch)

#CE 173 18th C

#CE 164 18th C

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

(Which is not the same thing as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.)

#274535.2 late 18th C

#220965.20 late 18th– early 19th C

#6608 1780-1800*

#1971.1162.28 1800-1899

#254326.2 late 18th –19th C

#372.213 n.d.

#312686 n.d.

#6608-A 1775-99 *

#6700-B 1790-1810 *

#6609-B 1790-1810

#6608-B 1795-1815*

#6608-D 1775-1799*

#6608-C 1775-1799*

Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC

#HT1836 1820-1830

#HT1693 1820-30

#HT2908 (1722-1837)

#1855 late 18th C*

#2008.029.002 n.d.

#HT 4196 (a, b, & c.) n.d.

#2008.029.003 n.d.

#2006.041.003 Early 19th C

#HT6815 n.d.

#HT6392 1820

#HT 1641 n.d.

#HT1650 n.d.

#HT1644 n.d.

#HT1867 Late 18th C

#HT1868 n.d.

#HT5884 n.d.

#HT 1839 1790

# HT1876 n.d.

#HT 1872 n.d.

#HT1694 1850

#HT 1710 1850

#HT6309 1857

#HT1881 early 19th C

Genesee Country Village and Museum (Susan Green Costume Collection in the John L Wehle Gallery)

#88.195 1825

#2001.026 1800-1850

#87.213 1770-1800*

#91.70 1750*

#2004.102 1800-1850

#97.024 1815

#98.036 1750* (on display)

Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

Note: closed until further notice!

#87.35.825 1750-1800*

#87.35.138 1800-1860

#87.35.827 1750-1800*

#87.35.826 1750-1800*

#1973.37 n.d.*

#1000.179 n.d.

#1000.176 n.d.

#87.35.994 1820

Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

#1989.1891 n.d.(?)

#1989.1892 1800-1840

#1989.1890 n.d.(?)

#1989.1912 1800-1840

#1989.1903 n.d.

#1989.1882 1800-1840

#1989.1883 1800-1840

#1989.1886 1800-1840

#1989.1897 1800-1840

#1989.1902 1800-1840

#1989.1962 n.d.

#1989.1893 1800-1840

#1989.1894 1800-1840

#1989.1914 1800-1840

#1989.1954 (1953?) 1800-1840 (?)

#1989.1959 n.d.

#1994.3270 1790-1810*

#1989.1995 1790-1810*

#1989.28.11 n.d.

1990.21.3 n.d.

Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Gallery, Delaware

#1955.0003.013 1760* (child)

#1969.4675 1750-1800*

#1982.0064 1774-1826*

Henry Whitfiled State Museum, Guilford, CT

#942020 18th C or 1827

#955003D n.d.

Musee McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec

M987.32.1 1785

M987.32.2 1785

M965.136.86 early 19th C

M980.4.26 late 17th-early 18th*

*The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, NYC., and  Historic New England, (fromerly Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA)), Haverhill, MASS have caps with  eighteenth-century dates, but these 3 museums were undergoing renovations during the period of this study.   ?????


10 Best Practices for Your Museum Research Visit

[This is a repost of an article I wrote for the ARLIS Fashion Librarians SIG blog, July 14, 2014.]

Does your heart sing when you imagine going to a museum to see a child’s sampler from 1757? Do you dream of getting a good look in those incredible store-room drawers of linens and gowns and hats?  I have been doing a lot of this for my current research on 18th C caps.  Here are some things I think are Best Practices to follow.

DAR Aug 13 090

1. First, dig deep into the institution’s web page. If there is an online catalog, use it. Do not to ask the curator to do work you can do yourself.

Learn the policies regarding research visits: specific times, fees, forms, etc.

See if they have an institutional library; it may have unique resources, such as in-house reports or picture files. Do you need a separate appointment to use the library?

Discover the best contact person to receive your request to visit.

Consider bringing a colleague who has done this before and can help you the first time out. (Thank you, Sharon!)

2. Now you are ready to e-mail an informed request. Be as specific as possible. Tell them what you want to do: see, measure, pattern, photograph, etc. Tell them where you have already been to show you have some experience.

The online catalog is often not exhaustive; say, “I found this item that I am interested in, are there others like it?”

Ask about policies you could not locate: fees, forms, etc.

Suggest possible times to come visit, and be flexible.

3. Gather the tools you will need: loop, graph paper, pencils, camera, measure, gloves? (And be prepared to leave any or all of these articles in the locker as per policy.) Test your camera settings ahead of time; bring extra batteries.  Bring a flashlight for picture lighting.  Make yourself a checklist of what you want to examine in each item.

Bring the e-mail and phone number of your contact. Find out where you may park, which entrance to come to, and at exactly what time. Print off maps or set your GPS. Bring change for the meter.

4. Be on time. Find your contact person and do what they say. Ask again about policies and procedures. (You should already know these things, but make sure, in person, that you understand.)

If you are making a full day of it, ask when and how you may leave to eat lunch – and take your contact person out to eat.

Be ready for anything!  A volunteer might sit beside you all day, or you may be left alone in a room with a stack of boxes until closing time.  Some work rooms are roomy and sunlit; sometimes you work on top of a cabinet in the basement.


5. Be GENTLE and respectful of the materials. If you move the item, support all the cloth. Look at one item at a time, returning it to its box or stand when you are done.

Write the item’s number on a slip of paper that can be in every photo, to avoid confusion later. Photograph any accompanying documentation.

6. If your contact person is knowledgeable, ask permission to take some of their time today to discuss your research subject. Ask if they can refer you to other items, people, or collections.

7. Be done before your time is up. Don’t keep someone late at work today.

8. Write a thank you note. Send a donation to the foundation. When you go home, look over your notes, redraw your patterns, etc., as soon as possible.   Ask If the museum wants copies of your drawings, patterns, photos, etc., for their files.

9. Later, when you write up your research, give appropriate credit to the institution, and individuals who helped you. Follow their rules about publishing photos or academic vs. commercial uses.

10. Corrections and additions much appreciated! Tell me what you think.

photos: by Sherri Saines, DAR Collections, Washington, DC

The Evidence: American Portraits

Issues: add portraits

We have two main sources of evidence for anything we say about caps in the 18th C.: Portraits and artifacts. *  This article is about the portrait evidence.

Narrow the set of portraits to only those that are American, adult, 18th C, and women**.  Throw out English, and European and children, as see what is left. The results are surprising.

The numbers I use are based on a set of about 300 portraits gathered from books, internet searches, and museums visits, over a 15-year period.  I feel I can make these generalizations because, even as I add more portraits to the set, the ratios aren’t changing.

(This is an actual research method, where you gather data without making hypotheses, and stop gathering when you seem to be getting mostly repeats in the same ratios.  I was glad to learn this recently.)

Here’s what the I found:

  1. We have no cap evidence before 1750.  American portraits are rare in the first half of the century. Of the few we have, most wore no cap for their portrait.
  2. The majority of women across the 18th C wear no cap in their portrait.  There are feathers and flowers, pearls and ribbons in their hair.  Around 1765-1789, there is a vogue for veils in portraits called A la Turque. After 1785, younger women in Empire styles wore fewer caps in general than their elders.
  3. There are no genre paintings made in America until 1796.  These portraits are of women with money.
  4. Between 1750 and 1775, women wore one of two caps: one with a ruffle under the chin, and one without.  These are commonly called a “lappet cap” (ruffle under the chin) and a “round-eared cap” (ruffles curve around near your ears). There are more lappets than round-eared caps, especially among older women.
  5. After 1775, the cap world explodes with mushrooms and clouds of caps, piles of linen and lace, chef’s caps, bonnet-like styles, the Dormeuse, and the Corday. . .
  6. Until caps disappear from young and fashionable heads with the emergence of Empire styles in the late 1780’s.
  7. Meanwhile, older women continued to wear the lappets they had always worn.
  8. And Quakers wear an especially plain – and fine – version of the lappet that they wear for the next 100+ years.
  9. American cap styles are more sedate than many seen in portraits from Europe and Britain. We have only one portrait of a woman wearing really long lappets, lace or no lace, so common in French paintings. Another “missing” style is the scarf tied under the chin. Although these appear on poor women in Cries of Dublin, for ex., we do not find them in U.S. portraits or artifacts, perhaps only because we have no drawings of poor American women. Apart from Kilburn’s young woman, the dramatic butterfly cap is not apparent, although common in European portraits. Nor are there any ship – shaped hairdos with flags and feathers. Cap styles in the U.S. were, in general, more sedate.


I am not saying these women didn’t see the fashion plates, genre scenes, or portraits from England and Europe in a timely manner. We know they did.  They were aware of French hairdos and Swedish ruffle boxes. But their portraits offer no evidence they actually wore them.  And that was the question I was asking.  


**By “American” I mean the areas of the North American colonies that became the United States.  While this short hand is inaccurate for all you geography sticklers, it is necessary for brevity.

By “women” I mean adults and not children, or even teenagers, where we can tell.

By “18th C” I mean 1700-1800.

*Other sources are newspaper ads from milliners and makers, a handful of first-person mentions, court records, death inventories.  Here’s a wide-open field of research to plumb, digging into the ephemera. So far, I haven’t seen anything that describes the style of the cap.  But maybe you can find that to add to our understanding.

What Cap Should I Wear? What the Rev War Camp-follower had on her head (2nd draft)

Issues: add portraits; more citations?

I began this incredible odyssey many years ago with the question, “I am a camp-follower in the American War of Independence; which cap should I be wearing?”

IMG_20150606_224125669FNB- 031

So, here’s the easy answer: You can choose between 2 caps: one with a ruffle under the chin, and one without.  These are commonly called a “lappet cap” (ruffle under the chin) and a “round-eared cap” (ruffles curve around near your ears).

See the Glossary for more definitions.

I base this answer on a sample set of about 300 portraits of American women, and the more than 100 caps I have examined in museum collections in America.  I am chronicling this research over time with this blog, so you can see what I am seeing.

I’m also basing this on an assumption that camp-followers would not be seeking the latest styles because their circumstances demanded practicality and frugality.  Assumptions are dangerous things, of course, and no one that I know of recorded that sentiment directly, but it is supported by what we know of their difficult lives, documented in many sources.

Note: I would, however, fully expect visiting officer’s wives  to wear the fashionable piles of linen and lace that arose around 1775 and grew larger over time.  (More on that later…)

American cap styles are more restrained in general than French styles, of course (oh, those French!), but they are also more restrained than even English styles.

What should my cap be made of? 

The finest linen you can afford. Because linen of the era tended to be finer than ours, our lightest handkerchief linen (2.0- 3.0 ozs) is a good match.  And, of course, the richer your persona, the finer the cloth should be.

Does it have to be white?

Yes. Every artifact is plain white. There are a few examples of colored caps or cap covers in European paintings, and a few examples of a black kerch over a white cap in America. I am aware of only one American cap that is made of patterned cloth.

Do I have sew this by hand?

Yes, you have no choice because HA caps cannot be made on a machine. There are no hidden stitches.

Should I make the ruffle out of lace?

Only if you are an officer’s wife.  Lace was so very expensive, camp-followers shouldn’t include it on their caps.  What you can do, though, is make the linen ruffle from an even lighter linen than the rest of the cap.  This is common enough.  And, just like our WAI predecessors, maybe you can afford just 1/4 yard of that exquisite stuff to add to your cap.

Should I wear a ribbon?

YES! We should all be wearing a plain silk ribbon tied in a bow over the headpiece.  These can be pinned on so washing is easy. Depictions of even the meanest women of our era include a ribbon around her cap.

Can I piece it together from scraps?

Yes. I’ve seen caps pieced in all different places: the top of the headpiece and along the ruffle is common, but one cap I am just now copying has 3 pieces just in the caul.

Can I re-purpose used linen?

I say yes to used linen because we shouldn’t be as clean or tidy or new looking as we usually are.  Also, linen shirts from the second hand store are a really good source of finer linen than we can get easily by the yard.

1750 Mrs. Pemberton by Wollaston
Nice example of lappet cap with lace ruffles. Portrait of Mrs. Ebenezer Pemberton 1750 John Wollaston, American, fl. 1733-1775 Artstor IAP

I hate having something under my chin! 

I know, honey, but you got used to stays, didn’t you? And, yes, there are 2 portraits in which the lappet is left loose, but only 2 so far. (And only the French pinned them up, sorry. ) So, yes, you need to make yourself a lappet for next season.

Where can I get an HA pattern?  

I’m still saying Kannik’s Korner 6602 is the closest for the round-eared cap. It also includes really good directions and documentation.  But her sources are a smidge later than AWI.  I recommend starting here, but making the small size caul.

Also, the split ruffle is, of course, characteristic of the fancy caps, so save that for your not-a-campfollower outfit. I’m actually having second thoughts even about the shaped ruffle on this pattern, as all the ruffles I’ve seen on cap artifacts are straight strips.

For a lappet, you could start with Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor, which isn’t the most common 3-piece construction, but is at least verifiably accurate, really easy to make, and free on Google. Still, it’s 1789, but I have seen one dated earlier.

….I see a need for patterns that copies common construction for our era…  well, that’s a project for another day….  You can look at my notes and patterns on these posts and see what you can do.!

I’ve bought and tried just about every pattern out there. The most common problem is the caul is just too big (and I have a large head). Another common problem is directions adapting caps for machine sewing and muslin cloth. Ouch.

Here are some things we do not see in the American portrait evidence for 1750-1775:

  1. Caps that cover the face, or ruffles long enough to fall down the chin or into the eyes.  Reenactors frequently wear too big a cap, pulled too far forward.
  2. Caps with very large cauls.  Part of the problem here is we often don’t have the thick masses of hair to pull up under the cap, so it rides too low.  I wear a hairpiece to fill out my cap.  Even then, the large cauls of most commercial patterns are from a little bit later time.
  3. That very old BAR pattern that has a paddle-shaped, double-layered headpiece.  Just no. I’m still trying to figure out where that came from.  If an original exists for it, it is a rarity and should not be used.
  4. A lot more round-eared than lappet caps. In both the portrait evidence and the artifact evidence, lappets outnumber round-eared caps. My current count is 21 lappets to 2 round-eared caps among artifacts, and about 50 lappets to 30 round-eared caps in portraits.
  5. No tightly gathered ruffles down the front of the lappet.  The ruffle of a lappet is gathered only at the turn around the tips.
  6. No “butterflies”.  These are the caps with stiffly starched wings riding high on the head. One portrait of an American child has this. No adults.
  7. No ships, no birds, no turkey butts, no 3 foot hairdos, nothing from Versailles.  No evidence of this craziness exists for American women in portraits or artifacts.
  8. Gehret’s Rural Pennsylvania Clothing has a cap with a simple rectangular headpiece on a gathered caul, with strings under the chin, on Pg. 68.  This cap is only seen early and late in the century, and not during our time period.  Too bad! I made a bunch of these!