Chancery Courts as a Window on Social History
By Shannan Kain
“Civil War:All Tied Up”
Many interesting facts can be gleaned from historical court documents beyond what is assumed to be there. As an example, my research led me to a decision of the court in the
form of a monetary award in the amount of one hundred and twenty dollars. Thinking that this was a trifle sum and a waste of the court’s time and mine as well, I began determining relative dollar value.
Next I perused newspapers of Territorial Washington looking for the cost of goods in the 1860s and instead was lost in the array of available goods some unknown to me in 2008..Tended to have fabrics trims collars and laces for women and finished goods for men. I turned up funny information. My father used to tell my brother to pull up your drawers, a term that seemed frightfully old fashioned. As I discovered it was. Drawers are a pair of trousers made from thin muslin or other cotton. They were worn by soldiers under the harsh wool military –issued pants. Although not specified by my sources all of the photos show drawstring waists so I assume that is the origin of the term draw-ers.\
Another discovery in men’s fashion came from the same Brown Bros and Co, advertisement offering McClellan and Beauregard ties during the moment in time of the Civil War. George McClellan was a Union General albeit an unpopular one with President Lincoln who eventually fired him. Pierre Beauregard was McClellan’s Confederate counterpart. Both men were huge media draws at the time. First I assumed the ties to be ribbon ties in the shape of the General Sherman necktie. During Sherman's march through Georgia he tore up railroads and heated the rails over a fire. The rails were then twisted around trees--thus Sherman neckties. Maybe Beauregard and McClellan did the same thing but I never heard of them doing it.
Expecting their respective neck apparel to also be at odds I began my quest for facts. After many hours of research I discovered through repeatedly viewing portraits of the two men, that their ties appear to be identical in every manner except pattern. Beauregard sported a more flamboyant stripe where McClellan wore plain black. Even this fact is pure speculation at this point. Incidentally General Sherman wore the same tie as well.
What I can say is that all three men were among the first to wear a bow tie. By the 1860s the more complicated four-in-hand –knot tie (popular today) gave way to the bow tie as asimplistic form of the cravat. The bowtie and the ascot tie--- which had wide flaps that were crossed and pinned together on the chest --were the two most widely worn neckties of the time.