Saturday, August 21, 2010
Sailors' Dress (Pennsylvania Gazette, 2-11-1784)
Dick Erwin was the epitome of youthful heartiness when he ran away in February of 1784 from Robert Allison of Uwchland, northwest of Philadelphia. Tall, Irish, and only slightly pockmarked, Erwin probably set out for the nearby city. He would have blended easily with the working populace there. Erwin sported a new felt hat, laced shoes, and white flannel (a soft wool not unlike modern flannel) trousers. What made his wardrobe particularly notable, however, and what may have been his downfall if it was recognized, was his jacket. It was cut in "sailor" fashion without tails and was "much torn in one sleeve." For some unexplained reason, he had pulled a stocking over the other sleeve, perhaps as a quick repair for more tears. Dressed in this fashion, Erwin could have easily found work along the waterfront in Philadelphia or, like so many young men before and after, gained a berth on one of the merchantmen docked there. Minus an awkward sleeve or two, he was already dressed for the part of a new breed of sailor - the Yankee mariner.