“Squared” Caps, Early and Late

1st draft; pics rev. wrote to alexis today. This is the last cap description.

Caps with a simple rectangle for a headpiece appear early and late in the 18th C.  This cap is probably an early one, but with so little to compare it to, it’s best guesses all around.  Its home is the McCord Museum in Montreal, Canada, #M980.4.26. It does not have an online record. The museum dates this cap as “late 17th? or early 18th” Century. If that’s true, it is the oldest cap I have found.

The Original

This one is very simple: a half-circle caul of linen attached to a rectangle of lace for a headpiece.  A tape gathers the caul at the nape, as is common.

Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. A rectangular headpiece of lace marks this cap as early (or late?) 18th C.
The lace headpiece will help us date the cap, perhaps?

The large size assures me this is an adult cap: 9″ high by 9.5″ from back to front edge.  The caul is made of two pieces, felled together down the center back line, with about 10 big stitches per inch.  The front edge of the caul is hemmed back with a 3/8″ seam. There aren’t any gathers sewn in.  The only gather is the drawstring along the bottom, which isn’t drawn through any casing in the cloth, but caught up within a looped string.  Two tapes, anchored at opposite ends, pull across one another through these loops to effect the gather.

The headpiece is a rectangle of lace with a motif of birds and flowers. Is is whipped onto the caul with big uneven stitches. The bottom edge is finished with another piece of lace sewn on that is about 1/2″ wide; the front is edged with a piece that is about 1/4 wide.  This makes me think the large lace piece is cut on those edges. One of the points has a small loop – for a tie or button? Please someone who knows lace come behind me here and help with the lace description!

 

 

Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author.. Close-up of inside of join of headpiece and caul shows unusual drawstring arrangement.
At the join of the headpiece and caul (inside), the arrangement of the tapes, sewn down, doubled through, and attached with a looped string.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author.. Close up inside of bottom edge of lace headpiece.
The lace that edges the bottom is sewn on with large straight stitches.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Close up of midpoint back, inside, of caul, showing construction of drawstring.
The felled join of the back of the caul can be seen, as well as the way the string is sewn down to created the loops.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Cap laid open to see inside details.
The hemmed caul and placement of edging laces.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Close up of lace, with motif of birds and flowers.
The lace design isn’t exactly centered; another reason to think it was cut from some other use.

 

Questions that remain

Other Squared caps that we have access to are few.  Burnston covers two of these in Fitting and Proper, pps 35-37. She dates these 1790-1810.  (West Chester, PA., items # 1989.1995 and # 1994.3270; I got to see 1994.3270, but didn’t see 1989.1995) Her descriptions in that book are clear and detailed, so I won’t repeat them here.  The other place a squared cap is described is in Rural Pennsylvania Clothing. (Caps C and E, pp 68-69.) Gehret notes these caps are late 18th C (some say they are even later.). All that to say there isn’t much to compare this cap to, especially if we want to date it to the early  1700’s.

Being housed in Montreal also adds the complication of possible French influence. The museum record notes the provenance as “Antwerp?” so it might be Belgian.  If so, it is technically outside the scope of this study, in which I am trying to keep to items from places that became the United States.

Still, if it is “late 17th, early 18th” century, it is the oldest adult cap I have found. 

Portraits

Ann Pollard portrait, 1721.
Ann Pollard, 1721, wears a cap with a squared-edged headpiece.

Few portraits show caps with squared headpieces.  Or, we might say, in few portraits are we sure we are seeing a really squared headpiece.  In many portraits, the cap is high and back too far to be sure; only the ruffle suggests the shape.

Ann Pollard was 100 when she had her portrait made.  Her caps looks definitely squared at the edges.  Since she is aged, I wonder if this was old fashioned at the time?  I’ve only found 2 other portraits with the same shape cap, and they are also early.

Then, in the 19th C, they show up again, and styles take off with additions of deep lace & ruffles, inserts and embroidery.

The Reproduction

I haven’t made a repro of this cap yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes: mccord 980.4.26 notes

Thank Yous and Permissions

Thank you to Alexis Walker, Curatorial Assistant, Costume and Textiles, who corresponded with me and helped me at the McCord.  I have written for her permission to use these images and discuss this artifact here.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship on this cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pieced Caul: Genesee 91.170.1

second draft; pics rev.

A uniquely pieced caul , and a unique method of felling seams, make this cap interesting.  It’s a lace-edged lappet, made of soft linen. The museum dates it 1750.

Genesee Country Village and Museum owns this cap. Genesee is a living history setting; its John L Wehle Gallery museum houses the Susan Greene Costume Collection. If you are interested in learning about caps, the Greene catalog is the place to start. Sadly, I got to Genesee at the end of my travels, having spent several years re-discovering much of the info she had already cataloged.  The marvelous catalog describes each item, and the caps are dated! If I had an endowment to offer, I would make sure this catalog was open to the public web.  I went there in search of the caps Kathleen Kannik references in her pattern KK-602. Those caps were dated 1815, but gallery curator Patricia Tice suggested I look at this cap and Genesee 86.213.  Bingo!

The Original

Lappet cap with tape measure showing the height to be about 12 inches.
Genesee 91.170.1 is a typical lappet, but the piecing of the caul is unusual.

Several construction details make this cap interesting and unique.  First is the pieced caul.  It’s made of a rectangle in the middle, a pointed rectangle on the bottom, and curved and gathered piece on top.  The bottom has a 1/4″ channel for the gather strings, which come out of 2 buttonholed circles on the outside CB.

Each piece is sewn together, and then felled with a criss-cross stitch inside, about 12 Xs to the inch.  I’d never seen that done, but it makes a neat finish, and lays down both sides of the folded seam at the same time.  Clever.

Those criss-cross felled seams are used on the join at the top of the headpiece, too.  The headpiece is stroke gathered to the caul, but after the gather, the caul is joined to the headpiece with the same kind of XX stitch.

The lappet is also pieced…. I’m beginning to see a pattern here….  the bottom 2″ ends are sewn with a straight stitch and left unfinished.

Linen cap, detail of back.
You can see the three pieces of the caul here.

The lappets are edged in 1″ lace (also pieced!), which the catalog says is CA 1700 Valenciennes Lace.  As I am not a lace researcher, (next life!) I accept her designation.  It is only slightly gathered, with enough bunching to get around the tip.  Short 3/8″ tapes are sewn on the underside, then threaded out through the lace, emerging on the outside point to be tied.  That means the lace would be under the bow when worn.

Questions that remain

The fact that everything here is pieced is intriguing.  (By now I am imagining a grandmother desperate to work up a cap with her granddaughter, “Here, Honey, I think I have enough left over…”  Which also explains why the cap shows no signs of wear?)

Portraits

1749-52 John Wollaston, Catherine Harris Smith (Mrs. Ebenezer Pemberton) (Artstor IAP)
Yes, I can use this portrait again and again.  Her bow appears to be silk, whereas this cap is tied with 3/8″ tapes.  1749-52 John Wollaston, Catherine Harris Smith (Mrs. Ebenezer Pemberton) (Artstor IAP)

The lace-edged lappet is a common mid-century cap.  One set of examples is John Wollaston’s gallery. It was either a big fashion during his painting years, or he had those 2 caps in his studio to choose from.  Gen 91.170.1 doesn’t have the extra bunch at the CF, like many of these portraits do, however.

 

The Reproduction

I had to remake pieces of this cap several times before I got it.  First the lappets were too fat, then they were too thin.  I put the holes for the gather strings on the inside, not the outside.  I was entirely finished When I discovered I put the bottom piece of the caul on upside down. I started over, and cut the same piece with the fold on the wrong side.  Egad.  I did finally got a satisfactory version accomplished — only to discover I once again put the holes for the gather strings on the wrong side.  So don’t look but this has 2 sets of holes.

 

Two caps, attempts at the same repro.
On the left, the first try; on the right, the corrected version.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: gen 91.170.1

 

Thank Yous and Permissions

This cap is presented here with permission, Courtesy Susan Greene Costume Collection, Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford, NY.  I worked with Patricia Tice on my visit to Genesee.   I also corresponded with Susan Green, who generously helped me understand what I was seeing here.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

This cap does not have an online catalog record. I am not aware of any other scholarship about this cap.