Thursday, March 8, 2018

White Silk 18th Century Bonnets



For sale at etsy.com/shop/arachneattire.com


White: Believe it or not, the (distant) second most common color for silk bonnets after black in the period including, and surrounding the American War for Independence (Revolutionary War).

Examining Don Hagist's Wives, Slaves, and Servant Girls, I took a tally. I counted, the word "bonnet" mentioned 100 times int he advertisements. The number made calculating percentages rather simple. Out of those 100 bonnets, 69 were black. Eight more were black with colored linings - white, blue, or red. 77% of the bonnets described in the book were black. The next most common color was white with 12, followed by green with 5, and blue with 4.


The book is a collection of runaway ads from American newspapers from the Revolutionary war years, and is very helpful in determining accurate working class portrayals for the period. It is especially helpful, since a great deal of period imagery of women from the years between 1770 and 1783 come from England, and frequently depict upper class women.

Several of the white articles of headwear were called "bonnets" but were described as being made of linen, or cotton, making me wonder if they are what reenactors now call "caps", or if they were brimmed bonnets. Insight on this is appreciated, if you have any.

In any event, I hope my research is useful to someone.


My tally:

1770: Total Mentions of the word "bonnet": 6
Black (3), Black with blue lining (1) White (1) Brown (1)

1771: Total mentions: 7
Black (4) Blue (1) Green (1) White (1)

1773: Total mentions: 10
Black (9) Blue (1)

1774: Total mentions: 9
Black (7) White (1) Green (1)

1775-1776: Total mentions: 36
Black (25) Black lined with white (2) Black lined with blue (1) (2) Green (2) Blue (2) White (4)

1777: Total mentions: 10
Black (7) Black with blue lining (1) Black lined with red or "pale red" (2)

1778-1779: Total mentions: 15
Black ( 10) Black with white lining (1) Purple (1) White (2) Brown (1)

1780-1781: Total Mentions: 11
Black (4) White (3) Black with red lining (1) Green (1) Dove Gray (1) "Reddish worsted" (1)

100 bonnets mentioned.

Black (69) + 8 = 77
- Black with blue lining: (2)
- Black with white lining: (4)
- Black with red lining: (2)




Other Colors: 13 - Green: (5), Blue: (4), Purple (1), Dove Gray (1), "Reddish" (1), Brown (1)

White: (12)


White Silk Bonnets (1752-1782)


English Heritage, Kenwood
Accession Number: 88028844

And check out that awesome blue lining.  Note she wears a white cap under the bonnet.


1773A decoy for the old as well as for the young

1774: The Invitation.
C. 1770 Portrait of Miss Theophila Palmer (1757-1848), niece of Sir Joshua Reynolds, half-length, in a white dress and bonnet Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds

































1776:  A lovely youth and a Charming Maid. Danceing at the Masquerade.  A satirical print.



National Maritime Museum





1781: The Bird of Paradise, Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library



Sold to a private collector, Dec. 2000 for over GBP 15,275
Henry Robert Morland was most famous for his portrait of George III.





1780 - Portrait of Anne Howard Vyse by Tilly Kettle (British 1735–1786) Auckland Art Gallery





1780: The woman in the background of 

The Pretty Waterwoman, or Admiral Purblind just run aground by Peggy Pullaway





Runaway Advertisements Featuring White Bonnets: 1770-1782
From Wives, Slaves, and Servants by Don Hagist


1770: Runaway advertisement from the PA gazette: 19 year old Margaret Stephens wore a “white sarsnet bonnet” (Hagist, 11)

1771: Runaway advertisement from the NY Gazette: 26 year old Mary Gordon AKA Mary Dill who was described as “ pale fac’d, down look, takes snuff and much addicted to drink, and a great lyar,”  wore a “white bonnet” (Hagist, 17)

1774: A Runaway advertisement from the VA Gazette.  A “well set Mulatto woman Slave named Bess had among her possessions a “white cotton shift and bonnet” (Hagist, 56)

1775: Runaway ad for Ann Owen in the PA packet.  Ann had a “white apron, bonnet, and cloth shoes.” (Hagist, 77)

1775: Runaway ad Mary Patterson in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  “She had on, and took with her, an old white bonnet…” (Hagist, 78)

1775: Elizabeth Cleland.  Pennsylvania Gazette. “2 bonnets, one black, the other white.” (Hagist, 83)

1776: “mulatto woman named Bess” took a “white cotton bonnet, and one black silk.”  VA Gazette (Hagist, 91)

1776: PA Gazette. An Irish servant woman named Jane Shepherd took “One white halfworn peeling bonnet.”  (Hagist, 96)

1776: PA Gazette.  Irish servant named Margaret Kelly took a “white linen bonnet”.  (Hagist, 104)

1778: PA Gazette.  16 year old servant girl named Olive Oatley took a “white linen bonnet”.  (Hagist, 126)

1778 Royal Gazette NY.  “negro wench, Phillis” took a “white bonnet” (Hagist, 126)

1779 PA Packet.  Servant Mary O’Brien took a “white silk bonnet” (Hagist, 138)

1782: Maryland Journal. 35 year old “negro wench” “A white silk bonnet.”  (Hagist, 153)

1782.  PA Gazette.  15 year old Margaret Morris took a “white linen bonnet” (Hagist, 154)


1 comment: