Requirement #1 of The American Mountain Men

  1. Must have a full set of hand-cut and -sewn clothing and handmade accoutrements. These must be researched for authenticity of the 1800-40 period and be of a type which would have been seen on men in, or moving to, the Rocky Mountains. Rifles, saddles, traps, blankets, and other accoutrements that would normally have required the work of a specialized craftsman need not be handmade but must be as authentic as can be purchased today.

This requirement and #2 are both required for advancement to Bossloper.

The clothing and accoutrements of the mountain man can be researched in many ways. Many sources are available from books and magazines to the internet. I would recommend a person replicate items that come from primary source documents. The Book of Buckskinning VII starts off with a wonderful article by Allen Chronister and Clay Landry about clothing. The Mountain Man Sketch books 1&2 along with the Voyageurs Sketch book are great references from the Hanson family of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, NE. The Encyclopedia of the Fur Trade published by The Museum of the Fur Trade is also a great resource. A person need take care using these books as they contain items from much later in the fur trade era than our targeted time of 1800-1840. Jim Gordon’s books on guns and knives of the fur trade are excellent references as well.

The Encyclopedia of the Fur Trade Volume 4 on Clothing and Textiles will help you to find printed cloth of the type and style of the rendezvous period. Stick to organic materials such as wool, linen, cotton and leather. I’ve listed cotton last as it was not as common as linen, just the opposite of what we see today. When it comes to colors, I like bold primary colors over subdued or pastel colors. You cannot go wrong with white. Blue, red, green, and yellow were common colors for trade items. Natural dyes from nuts and fruits are wonderfully appropriate for hand crafted items. Just beware that some common fur trade chemicals are now considered hazardous. Vermillion or Cinnabar is mercuric sulfide. While considered nonpoisonous, a little care goes a long way.

Along with the resources already listed The Trade Gun Sketchbook and Trade Rifle Sketchbooks are invaluable recourses. These were authored by the Hansons as well. Until the mid 1830’s, Hawken rifles and percussion rifles in general were scarce in the west. With the establishment of trading posts across the west and the demise of the rendezvous system the percussion system gained in popularity. This was due to the ready supply of percussion caps. When a trapper saw a supply wagon once a year at rendezvous a percussion rifle was not a practical weapon. To run out of caps was to have a heavy club instead of a rifle for months on end.

A word on stitching is in order here. Items that were made by professional seamsters and seamstresses have many orderly, tight stitches per inch. Similar to what a machine sewn garment looks like today. Items made in the field and repairs will be cruder than trade goods brought from St. Louis, however, in a time when all sewing was done by hand, most people would have more skill with a needle and thread than we have today. Practice and patience are the key. The following pictures illustrate what I mean:

A Roman Shoe from the 4th or 5th Century
A closer view of the stitching.

Alfred Jacob Miller is lofted as “the only artist to attend a rendezvous” and this is true. However, he painted in a “romantic” style and definite detail is lacking in most of his work. Rex Allen Norman has done a wonderful job of sketching Miller’s work and drawing out the details needed to recreate pieces from his pictures.

This is a good reference for female clothing if and when you choose to bring your lady friend along as your guest.

The following list includes some of the books from the Fur Press. Prices are no longer correct.

When it comes to leather, there is nothing like a good brain-tanned deer hide. If you don’t know a brain tanner or just want to save money by doing it yourself, the book I use is Deerskin into Buckskin.

About Gabe the Shootist

I am retired from public service, a trained gunsmith, pump mechanic, an old pipeliner, passable electrician, carpenter, truck driver, amateur blacksmith, proof reader, experienced hunter, shooter, reloader, avid canoeist, Renaissance man, jack of all trades, all around good guy (with the caveat: I won't be insulted, lied to or laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them.).
This entry was posted in American Mountain Men, Historical Clothing and Equipment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s