to Charles Willson Peale
Finding that he had a
talent for painting, especially portraiture. Peale's
enthusiasm for the nascent national government brought him to
the capital, Philadelphia, in 1776, where he painted portraits
of American notables and visitors from overseas. His estate,
which is on the campus of LaSalle University in Philadelphia,
can still be visited. He also raised troops for the War of
Independence and eventually gained the rank of captain in the
Pennsylvania militia by 1777, having participated in several
battles. While in the field, he continued to paint, doing
miniature portraits of various officers in the Continental
Army. He produced enlarged versions of these in later years.
He served in the Pennsylvania state assembly in 1779–1780,
after which he returned to painting full-time.
Peale had a great
interest in natural history, and organized the first U.S.
scientific expedition in 1801. These two major interests
combined in his founding of what became the Philadelphia
Museum, and was later renamed the Peale Museum. This museum is
considered the first. It housed a diverse collection of
botanical, biological, and archaeological specimens.
to Titian Ramsay Peale
On "Christmas Day
1817, Titian Ramsay Peale (1799-1885), the seventeen-year-old
son of Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), noted painter and
founder of the nation's first museum, left Philadelphia with
zoologist George Ord (1781-1866) and sailed to Savannah,
Georgia. There, the two men joined the wealthy geologist
William Maclure (1763-1840) and naturalist Thomas Say
(1787-1834), whose pioneering work on American insects
"the self-styled Dr. T. R. Peale" had begun to
illustrate. All four, including young Titian, were officers of
the newly organized Academy of Natural Sciences in
Philadelphia. As Academy president, Maclure generously
supported fieldwork, although exact scientific expectations
for the trip to Florida remain unclear. According to Say,
Maclure delayed until December 12, 1817, to invite him to
follow in "the track of Bartram," Say's great-uncle
William Bartram (1739-1823) whose well-known travels into East
Florida had been published in l79l. Despite insights provided
by Say's correspondence at the Academy and Titian's few
letters home (now owned by the American Philosophical Society
in Philadelphia), there appears to be no full narrative
account of their trip other than Peale's description. This
trip to Florida established directions that Titian's long and
uneven career would follow. As an explorer, he accompanied
Major Stephen H. Long's expedition to the Rocky Mountains in
1819/20, collected birds again in Florida in 1824, traveled
from Maine to Colombia from 1829-1832, and joined the first
United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas in
Century Buckskin Hunting Shirt/Jacket
L. Brown, III
Ramsay Peale Hunting Jacket
Headquarters Museum, Newburgh, New York.]
Peale son of the famous American artist, naturalist, and museum
operator Charles Willson Peale, joined the Major Stephen H. Long
expedition as assistant naturalist in 1819. The expedition left
Pittsburgh and reached the Rocky Mountains, returning to the
East in late 1820. Peale had this hunting jacket/shirt made for
him over the winter of 1819-1820 probably by an Indian woman
near Council Bluffs, Iowa.
It is a
combination of smoked, tanned buckskin and early commercial
tanned buckskin, all sinew sewn. The main body is of the
European method of tanning, while the sleeves are of the Indian
process, as are the welted seams. Hunting shirt/jackets are very
rare today and this one is very special with the combination of
leathers, and another feature not seen very often is this jacket
was lined in a French Blue period cloth like fusian that we have
seen used in other garments. It is most unfortunate that most
garments used as everyday wear have a low survival rate.
The hunting shirt had its
beginning in Europe as a simple peasant smock; brought to
America it continued as a pull over smock, the working man’s
garment, usually made of tow or coarse linen.
Ramsay Peale Hunting Jacket
Headquarters Museum, Newburgh, New York.]
By the time
of the French & Indian War we find an off-shoot called the
hunting shirt, jacket, or coat. One description of the militia
at the battle of point Pleasant in 1773 describes the militia as
wearing "hunting shirt, many reaching to their ankles,
various colors. As the leaves in autumn."
We know of one surviving
linen hunting shirt of the revolutionary era; it is now at the
Washington’s Headquarters Museum, Newburgh, New York.
garment, chronologically, is the next earliest one surviving,
that I know about. Hollywood would have us believe that American
soldiers of the 18th century were wearing buckskin hunting
shirts, but we can find no evidence for it, all facts point to
linen and no paintings or sketches show buckskin hunting coats.
But in the 1830’s and
1840’s we have a great deal of graphic sources showing
buckskin garments in use in the West.
This shirt is
believed to be one of the earliest buckskin shirts to have
survived the hazards of time. The documentation shows this coat
being made before 1818 or 1819 on the Missouri River in the
present State of Iowa.
some features that should be noted, particularly to those
readers who might wish to reproduce this garment:
- All of the seams have a
welt sewn in them.
- While it is a simple
garment, the sleeves conform to the fashion of the period -
fairly tight, pinched at the wrist, flaring to the cuff.
- The belts, crossing in
the back, then tying in front, are interesting and unusual
- Titian Peale, then 19,
was of slight build and stood between 5’8" and
5’9" tall - thus the coat reached about halfway
between his crouch and knees.
The garment is made
similarly to a regular shirt of the period. It is essentially
two large rectangles with sleeves. The neck opening size is
determined by a gusset on the shoulder/neck seam.
Note that the collar and
the sleeve are one piece of material, folded over.
The sleeve is long; it
comes in at the wrist and flares out at the cuff. The cuff would
extend from the wrist to the knuckles. The cuff is made twice as
long as necessary and then folded under and sewn down.
The sleeve is left
un-sewn, or open, from the wrist to the knuckle of the little
If you wish to make this
garment, I would suggest making it first in muslin, to get your
proper fit, then going to buckskin.
This unique hunting shirt,
along with Mr. Peale’s, his moccasins, tailored buckskin
underwear, a pair of pistols and other memorabilia from the
expedition will soon be available for public viewing at the
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service,
St. Louis, Missouri (under the arch).
Good luck on reproducing either one of these interesting
is the real deal we built the Titian Peale coat, but be aware of
the old material called "fusian". It's the pickiest
fabric you'll ever encounter, makes 100% wool look like the
softest of cottons. Two under garments takes care of the
had this coat built to these specs. from the correct brain
tanned, commercial leathers, to the "fusian" baby blue
- All of
the seams have a welt sewn in them.
it is a simple garment, the sleeves conform to the fashion
of the period - fairly tight, pinched at the wrist, flaring
to the cuff.
belts, crossing in the back, then tying in front, are
interesting and unusual feature.
Peale's coat it reaches about halfway between my crouch and
contacted CJ Wilde (weaver for the fabric & belt), her and
Cathy Johnson dyed it at a Fort Osage event for the
correct color. "River Crossing" of Ft. Collins,
CO. was contacted for assembly (know for their outstanding
workmanship on primitive wear). Neat experience.