July 4, 2012

"Americans had the highest per capita income in the civilized world, paid the lowest taxes—and were determined to keep it that way."

In 1776.
Men wore clothes that were as colorful as the ladies' garb. One male fashion plate in New York ordered a suit of "superfine scarlet plush and a vest of light blue plush." Among the ladies, the beauty business was already a major force in the economy. "Fashion dolls" wearing the latest styles circulated through the city and the country. Women regularly spent a half day getting their hair "permanented" for a ball. Ladies seeking to preserve the sheen of youth spent a fortune on "paints" from China and lip salves from India.
I googled "superfine scarlet plush and light blue plush" and discovered "Colonial Folkways - A Chronicle Of American Life In the Reign of the Georges":
Cuyler of New York ordered a suit of superfine scarlet plush, with shalloon and all trimmings, a coat and vest of light blue hair plush with all the trimmings, and fine shalloon suitable for each. One merchant wanted a claret-colored duffel, another a gay broadcloth coat, vest, and breeches, and still another two pieces of colored gingham for a summer suit. All clothes, even those which were fairly simple and worn by people of moderate means, were adorned with buttons made of brass and other metals, pearl, or cloth covered.
And you, in shorts and a T-shirt, on Independence Day!

25 comments:

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I don't want FOP damnnit.

I'm a Dapper Dan man.

ricpic said...

Macaronis were not representative Americans circa 1776.

rhhardin said...

Small government means decisions are made where the relevant knowledge is.

Paddy O said...

One male fashion plate in New York ordered a suit of "superfine scarlet plush and a vest of light blue plush."

A yankee doodle dandy?

And, by the by, if I could find a superfine scarlet plush and a vest of light blue plush I would wear it in a second.

Mark O said...

Yeah, but my shorts are made of superfine scarlet plush. So just what's your problem?

Yours,

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Paddy O said...

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Wore some shorts and a T
And called it macaroni'.

pm317 said...

What are you wearing on this independence day?

pm317 said...

lip salves from India

Never heard of them.

EDH said...

Silly-looking mens' shorts and income tax rates are related...

according to the "laugher curve".

Patrick said...

And you, in shorts and a T-shirt, on Independence Day!

Yeah, but I'm taking the kids canoeing, so I'm exempt, right?

edutcher said...

They also could expect to live to their mid-forties or -fifties.

Anybody not covered by term limits should have to resign at 60.

Ann Althouse said...

And you, in shorts and a T-shirt, on Independence Day!

Declaring our independence from the Althouse dress code.

Actually, the plush stuff probably wasn't worn in Gotham during July or August.

Albany, maybe, but anybody who's sweltered through a mid-Atlantic summer knows 100 degrees and 100% humidity is suit in which they'll bury you.

Paddy O said...

One male fashion plate in New York ordered a suit of "superfine scarlet plush and a vest of light blue plush."

A yankee doodle dandy?


No, just Hatman.

Pogo said...

Happy Dependence Day!

When do we get our government-approved clothes? Will shorts be allowed? Mandated? Will XL and larger sizes be forbidden, in order to encourage us?

But I for one welcome our new tax overlords.

Forthenri said...

My wife says I'm superfine no matter what I'm wearing.

It took me over 20 years to begin suspecting she didn't mean it. But it's still just a suspicion - sometimes it's just better not to know.

cubanbob said...

So we started out as the richest per capita nation on earth. Give the progressive democrats ten, tops twenty years and we will no longer have that. All in the name of fairness.

So it was the TEA Party that fought for our independence, God willing, the resurrected TEA Party will once again restore our liberties and personal independence.

Jean said...

Brilliant....How Beautiful We Were

http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/american_studies/how_beautiful_w.php

Fritz said...

"Anybody not covered by term limits should have to resign at 60."

Hey, I haven't had my turn yet!`

Shanna said...

And you, in shorts and a T-shirt, on Independence Day!

I check the weather channel and it's currently 96. Shorts it is!

Happy Independence Day.

Mitch H. said...

I recently picked up some interesting factoids from a biography of Ethan Allen, who was a typical Connecticut Yankee in that his normal mode of interacting with his peers and neighbors was via lawsuit. One of the reasons that everyone was so incensed by the Stamp Tax was that the British imperial mercantile system drained the colonies of almost all specie, and the stamp taxes *had* to be paid in specie. Most large-scale transactions were conducted in paper transfers of property - usually speculative real estate claims - because there was no currency to pay off debts or make local purchases. All coin went right out the door to finance overseas debts driven by mass import of manufactures from Scotland or England.

Those southern slave lords with the massive incomes? In debt up to their chattels' eyeballs. Likewise, all that conspicuous consumption in fineries and tavern-owner-enriching drunken parties were underwritten by mass speculation in land, much of it barred from colonial settlement by the imperial Proclamation of 1763.

As for being under-taxed by European standards - where did those taxes go? To finance ballooning war debts, truly epic official corruption and self-dealing, and titanic standing armies and navies. And how taxed a given group of colonists actually were depended upon the colony in question. The New England colonies taxed themselves furiously, driven by their principles of "ordered liberty". The middle colonies had a tradition of low taxation, and the people who ran the Southern slave colonies were as jealous of their purses and privileges as any other given group of aristocratic bastards.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

My namesake paternal ancestor who immigrated to the U.S. in 1791 was born into German aristocracy.

After immigrating, he became a successful businessman in Philadelphia and describes in a memoir that he left for his grandchildren his life experiences including interactions with people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, Jerome Boneparte, and others.

His great-grandson donated the memoir to the Pennsylvania Historical Society. But before doing so, he wrote about the memoir and quoted from it extensively in an article published in November, 1882 entitled, "A Contemporary of Washington" in a magazine called "The Californian and Overland Monthly. A Western Monthly Magazine" (history buffs can find the magazine article referenced online).

I got a kick out of this passage describing the party in Hamburg celebrating his transformation from a child to a man when he turned 14 on August 19, 1788:

"I next decorated the outward man, and when that was accomplished, made the following appearance on entering the room:
Three-cocked hat and cane in hand; head dressed and powdered in the manner before described [I omitted for length]; stiffened shirt collar touching the ear and covering half the cheeks; white cambric cravat with pudding cushion covering the chin, and tied in a formidable bow in front; medallion breastpin; vest, of white silk or satin, embroidered with silver sprigs and border, single-breasted, with lapelled pockets; scarlet cloth dress-coat lined with white serge, with steel buttons highly polished and ornamented; yellow nankeen shorts, fitting tight, with buttons at the knees, and fastened above the calf of the leg with steel kneebuckles, in pattern to match the shoe-buckles; white silk stockings, and long quartered black morocco shoes, with silver buckles of a size which left but a small part of the shoe visible at the toe".

I assume all of the clothing was custom tailored and the shoes custom cobbled. Maybe the silversmiths, or jewelers or whoever sold the buckles and buttons kept some already in stock, who knows. Regardless, it must have taken several weeks to acquire all the material and fabrics and get everything made and properly fitted for the big day.

But yeah, I'm wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops.

Bill Harshaw said...

Some slight corrections: "Those white Americans, it turns out, had the highest per capita income in the civilized world of their time."
". In some parts of the South, 10% owned 75% of the wealth most of which was slaves

Comanche Voter said...

Don't give me grief. I put on a brand new polo shirt for my round of 18 early today--and I left the funny plaid pants at home. (Doesn't mean I wasn't wearing khakis.) I wasn't looking all that good, but at least I wasn't scaring the wildlife.

Methadras said...

Americans of colonial days had the highest standard of living and lifestyle of anyone on earth. Even back then.

YoungHegelian said...

What's not mentioned often enough is that many areas of the South American Spanish colonies had higher standards of living than the Spanish metropole (Spain was very poor until recently).

The wealthier colonists felt that they were treated contemptuously by the poorer Spaniards because they were "colonials" and such feeling of resentment helped fuel the Bolivarian revolutions. In general, Spain treated her colonies much worse than the British did the colonial Americans.

And, yes, after having my life and business shut down by the derecho coming through MD, I'm back in action. All that man has, is but straw before the forces of Nature.

RonF said...

It was 104 degrees today. If I wore all that I'd drop dead of heat exhaustion. It never fails to amaze me how MUCH clothing people wore back then.

RonF said...

I spent the morning wearing my Boy Scout uniform; short-sleeved khaki shirt with patches of various colors on it, a blue neckerchief with a gold maple leaf embroidered on the back, an orange neckerchief slide, olive drab shorts, olive drab knee socks with a 2" red band on the top folded over, and hiking boots. Wearing that outfit I helped serve 560 people blueberry pancakes, sausage, eggs, coffee, juice, watermelon and other such at my Troop's 13th annual July 4th pancake breakfast - all of which I have been a participant in.