Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Westward Ho! Part 2 Clothing

The Prairie Traveler ©1859

Excerpt on Clothing for your wagon train travel.


A suitable dress for prairie traveling is of great import to health and comfort. Cotton or linen fabrics do not sufficiently protect the body against the direct rays of the sun at midday, nor against rains or sudden changes of temperature. Wool, being a non-conductor, is the best material for this mode of locomotion, and should always be adopted for the plains. The coat should be short and stout, the shirt of red or blue flannel, such as can be found in almost all the shops on the frontier: this, in warm weather, answers for an outside garment. The pants should be of thick and soft woolen material, and it is well to have them re-enforced on the inside, where they come in contact with the saddle, with soft buckskin, which makes them more durable and comfortable.

Woolen socks and stout boots, coming up well at the knees, and made large, so as to admit the pants, will be found the best for horsemen, and they guard against rattlesnake bites.

In traveling through deep snow during very cold weather in winter, moccasins are preferable to boots or shoes, as being more pliable, and allowing a freer circulation of the blood. In crossing the Rocky Mountains in the winter, the weather being intensely cold, I wore two pairs of woolen socks, and a square piece of thick blanket sufficient to cover the feet and ankles, over which were drawn a pair of thick buckskin moccasins, and the whole enveloped in a pair of buffalo-skin boots with the hair inside, made open in the front and tied with buckskin strings. At the same time I wore a pair of elkskin pants, which most effectually prevented the air from penetrating to the skin, and made an excellent defense against brush and thorns.

My men, who were dressed in the regulation clothing, wore out their pants and shoes before we reached the summit of the mountains, and many of them had their feet badly frozen in consequence. They mended their shoes with pieces of leather cut from the saddle-skirts as long as they lasted, and, when this material was gone, they covered the entire shoe with green beeve or mule hide, drawn together and sewed upon the top, with the hair inside, which protected the upper as well as the sole leather. The sewing was done with an awl and buckskin strings. These simple expedients contributed greatly to the comfort of the party; and, indeed, I am by no means sure that they did not, in our straitened condition, without the transportation necessary for carrying disabled men, save the lives of some of them. Without the awl and buckskins we should have been unable to have repaired the shoes. They should never be forgotten in making up the outfit for a prairie expedition.
We also experienced great inconvenience and pain by the reflection of the sun's rays from the snow upon our eyes, and some of the party became nearly snow-blind. Green or blue glasses, inclosed in a wire net-work, are an effectual protection to the eyes; but, in the absence of these, the skin around the eyes and upon the nose should be blackened with wet powder or charcoal, which will afford great relief.

In the summer season shoes are much better for footmen than boots, as they are lighter, and do not cramp the ankles; the soles should be broad, so as to allow a square, firm tread, without distorting or pinching the feet.

The following list of articles is deemed a sufficient outfit for one man upon a three months' expedition, viz.:

2 blue or red flannel overshirts,
open in front, with buttons.
2 woolen undershirts.
2 pairs thick cotton drawers.
4 pairs woolen socks.
2 pairs cotton socks.
4 colored silk handkerchiefs.

2 pairs stout shoes, for footmen.
1 pair boots, for horsemen.

1 pair shoes, for horsemen.

3 towels.

1 gutta percha poncho.
1 broad-brimmed hat of soft

1 comb and brush.

2 tooth-brushes.

1 pound Castile soap.

3 pounds bar soap for washing clothes.

1 belt-knife and small whetstone.

Stout linen thread, large needles, a bit of beeswax, a few buttons, paper of pins, and a thimble, all contained in a . small buckskin or stout cloth bag.

The foregoing articles, with the coat and overcoat, complete the wardrobe.

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