Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The well-dressed winter traveler (1879)

... Continuing the theme of "traveling to Leadville" (in a way, that's what we're doing here, as I count down the days to the release of Leaden Skies) , we'll turn now to the subject of "oh, what shall I wear" on that journey by stagecoach up to 10,500 feet in the Rocky Mountains in winter, 1879.

I promise you this: no Goretex is involved.

Here it is, survival fashion for that trip to Leadville, straight from a seasoned traveler (quoted from the Colorado Miner and appearing in the Denver Daily Tribune, February 4, 1879):

Wear a fur cap; carry a scarf that will fold around your head and neck with about six thicknesses; put on a thick flannel shirt and two more over that; one pair of drawers, and two more other that; let your vest, pants and coat be heavy, loose boots and a pair of overshoes may keep your feet warm; put a bottle of the best spirits in your pocket, for arctic emergencies, and then envelop yourself in a pair of California blankets as soon as you get on the coach.
Zounds! Sounds like the properly dressed fellow wears nearly all he owns, just to make the trip. And not a word said about the properly dressed lady. One can only imagine.

Now, here's an interesting thing: I wondered about these California blankets. Just previous to this quote, there's the line "... we advise everybody to go warmly clad, and to carry a pair of heavy blankets along..." Hence, "California blankets" must be very warm. But look up the term in a slang dictionary (I used the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang), and "California blankets" is hobo slang for "sheets of newspaper used for bedding or warmth" circa 1926. Apparently the term went from one extreme (really really toasty warm) to the other (barely adequate covering on a warm California night) in the almost 50 years between 1879 and 1926.

Next up ... more about the 1879 "Leadville craze."


Anonymous said...

Good writing is all about good research. People who buy your books usually have a least a basic working knowledge of things such as dressing warm during this particular setting. Writers can gain credibility with their readers by performing due dilligence in research. Nicely done.

- Steve Tremp

Heidiwriter said...

Brrr! Good post, Ann. Congratulations on your new upcoming book and on the series being accepted for the "One book, one community" program in Leadville, Colorado. KUDOS to you!!


Patricia Stoltey said...

I used to dress like that to get to work during frigid Indiana winters. Except for the bottle of spirits, of course.

Morgan Mandel said...

Now I'm curious. What exactly was best for women to wear on cold days in that day and age?

Morgan Mandel

Ann Parker said...

Hello all ...
Well, Morgan, I believe dressing for winter involved things lots of heavy wool and things like quilted petticoats. In a reference book I have, "The iIstory of Underwear," (a GREAT book), mentioned that suitable winter petticoats included "fancy alpaca, linseys, cashmere, or quilted silks."

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Brrrr. I'm so glad I was born in more modern times!


Ann Parker said...

Actually, Jane, I am too! :-) The thought of living in an era w/out antibiotics and all the other miracles of modern medicine sounds kind of scary to me.

Joyce4books said...

I love the reference to California Blankets! Wonderful information for another day. Congratulations on your new book! Hope to see you at Boom Days!

Joyce B. Lohse