A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Object Thursday: In the Pocket

Mr Squizzero & Mr Cooke examine the suit

On January 8th, I had the pleasure of spending the whole day with collections researchers. This is not as common a thing as you might imagine, so I was pleased to make the most of the day.

Justin Squizzero, RIHS Programs Coordinator and former Director of Historic Interpretation at Coggeshall Farm Museum and Henry Cooke, Principal at Historical Costume Services, joined me for a look at men’s clothing in the RIHS Costume Collection.

Suit, ca. 1789. RIHS Collections 1895.4.3A-C

Suit, ca. 1789. RIHS Collections 1895.4.3A-C

One of my favorite suits in the collection comprises a brown broadcloth coat, waistcoat and breeches worn by Sion Arnold of Warwick (1767-3/27/1841), son of Oliver and Almy Green Arnold (1895.4.3A-C).  The style of the suit puts it plausibly at the time of Arnold’s 21st birthday in 1788; the catalog record date of ca. 1780 will be updated and the record republished. For now, take that circa to mean “research in progress.”

The broadcloth of the suit is not particularly fine—though it’s not fair to judge a fabric when its nap has worn off, the weave and the wool are probably of local manufacture, and even possibly from the Hartford Woolen Manufactory, the manufacturer who made the wool for the suit George Washington wore at his first inauguration in 1789; the color and texture remind Mr. Cooke strongly of the Washington suit, which he has studied and replicated. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of connection that gives me goosebumps.

1895.4.3A, Leather pocket lining

1895.4.3A, Leather pocket lining

Among the loveliest and most practical details are the pocket linings. While the suit itself is made of broadcloth and lined with calendared twill and coarse linen, the pockets are lined with a deliciously soft leather, probably deerskin. It’s a neat little detail: useful for carrying things, more durable than linen if you’re the type of man who carries pocket knives, and a surreptitious treat. It’s a feature I plan to borrow for the historical clothes I make.

~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections


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