Subject: gentleman officer
Culture: Colonial-Revolutionary Anglo-American
Setting: 13 Colonies, American Revolution, North America 18thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)
* Middleton 2002 236-238
"By the eighteenth century, ... local elites were emerging everywhere, usually from among the families of lesser rank who had come from England and decided to stay. A smaller number were also ex-servants who had made their way to the top. ... [I]n every province the gentry or merchants dominated social and political life, especially at the level of the provincial council. ... Whatever equality there might have been during the mid-seventeenth century had vanished after 1700.
"This domination by the elites was accepted without question, since the colonists' attitudes had been formed in Europe. Their acquiescence was reinforced by religious sanction. ... Inequality was so evident that few either questioned it or were ashamed to acknowledge it. It was part of the natural order. Members of the provincial council were addressed as 'honorable,' justices merited the term 'esquire,' town officials and persons of property expected to be called 'mister.' "[...] It was these discrepancies which helped to create an upper class in colonial America. However unintentionally, those who were successful began distancing themselves from the rest of society. Their way of life changed. They built larger houses and furnished them with the latest fashions from Europe. They bought carriages, dressed better, and now that they no longer had to engage in manual work, gave greater attention to personal hygiene and appearance. ... Wealthy settlers now saw themselves as leaders of society, rightfully chosen to serve as selectmen, justices, members of the assembly, and even councillors."
* Cox 2004 p39
"Respect for rank, one's own and that of others, was a key ingredient in honor. Even the poor potentially could claim an honorable reputation in the community provided that, in addition to their personal qualities, they showed appropriate respect to those above them in status. Those higher up the social scale completed their claims to gentry status not only by showing respect to social superiors but also by showing condescension, which in the eighteenth century meant humility and cordiality, to social inferiors. In addition, wherever they were on the social scale themselves, they always had to be careful to make the appropriate distinctions of rank among others. Gentlemen and gentlewomen found that their reputations for honor were fragile and had to be protected attentively. This was necessary because having a good and honorable reputation was absolutely essential to acceptance in polite society. Consequently, they would always strive for the highest standards of personal conduct to secure their reputations.
"For men serving in the army, a similar complex range of qualities was required in order to have an honorable reputation. Of course, bravery in action was the most obvious way to be recognized as honorable. Men of all ranks gloried in their military accomplishments."
* Evans 1938 p174-175
"Colonial Dress in the Eighteenth Century.-- With a lessening of the hardships incident to the establishing of homes in the new and undeveloped country, the Colonists were enabled to turn more of their attention to matters pertaining to dress. Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, the chief centers of social life in the Colonies, were the cities to which the new modes from across the sea were sent. An idea of sartorial conditions in the city founded by William Penn is gained from the following: 'Probably in no place on the Continent was the love of bright colors and extravagance in dress carried to such an extreme. Large numbers of the Quakers yielded to it, even very strict ones carried gold-headed canes, gold snuff boxes, and wore great silver buttons on their drab coats and handsome buckles on their shoes.' To the stately parties came the dignified gentleman in his powdered wig, known as the campaign wig, with its full, long curls, or the Ramilie, puffed at the sides with a long queue at the back. His square-cut coat was stiffened with buckram and whalebone, standing out from the figure to show the satin waistcoat with its prominent pockets, and close knee breeches. His stockings were scarlet, blue, or white with the elaborately embroidered clocks which gentlemen affected at the time. Small silver buttons fastened the velvet garters clasped just below his knee, larger ones securing the red-heeled shoe. The front and sleeves of the cambric shirts were finely ruffled, while the neck-cloth was closely plaited. A heavy cloak Roquelaure, of camlet or of drugget, at times fur trimmed, was thrown over this handsome costume, with a three cornered hat and a large muff to complete it."
* Baumgarten 1986 p52, 62
"By 1700 men's suits had assumed the three-piece format still worn in the twentieth century, although the components certainly differed in appearance from today's vested suit. Eighteenth-century suits had long coats, waistcoats that corresponded to the vest and were worn beneath the coat, and knee-length breeches buttoned at the center front. The three parts of the suit, the cut and style of which evolved during the eighteenth century, were not necessarily made of matching colors or fabric." [...]
... "A frock coat had a turn-down collar and a looser fit than a dress coat. It was worn after the second quarter of the eighteenth century for casual occasions and as informal wear in the country. By the 1760s, the frock coat became part of fashionable dress, and it began to be embellished with trimmings and embroidery."
* Hambucken & Payson 2011 p20
"A self-respecting man would not be seen in formal settings without a waistcoat and coat. The waistcoat, a form-fitting sleeveless jacket, evolved into the vest that still endures today. The large number of buttons harks back to earlier times when it was an indicator of wealth. In the 18th century, buttons were worn by everyone, but they were still valuable enough to be saved from old garments and used over and over again."
Accessories (Hat, Glasses, Necktie, Jewelry)
* Baumgarten 1986 p71
"Rounding out a man's wardrobe were accessories that included hats, caps, gloves, pocketbooks, handkerchiefs, and jewelry. A hat with its brim cocked up on three sides was the most common style of the period for fashionable wear."
* Neumann 1954 p150
"Most accounts of our Revolutionary War weapons give little attention to the pistol -- probably because it was decidedly inaccurate except at close range, and not included in most battlefield tactics. Yet, the handgun did see considerable service as a personal weapon. It was considered normal for civilians to carry pocket pistols for protection while traveling. Among military personnel, officers, mounted troops, and seamen used them as standard arms."
* Kalman 1993 p23
"Upper-class men often carried beautifully decorated canes and swords mostly for the sake of fashion."
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, LaRocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson 1993 p106 (Frederick Wilkinson, "American swords and knives" p104-121)
"[A]t the time [of the American Revolution] most American civilians with any claim to social standing owned a sword. This was less true in Europe where the fashion was already on the decline. Many of the leading figures of the Revolution carried their European swords into battle. Washington is said to have worn his smallsword with its rather old-fashion colichemarde blade on state occasions. Another Colonist General, Benjamin Lincoln, also had a colichemarde-type smallsword, although his had a brass hilt."
* Peterson 1956 p268, 271
"During the first part of the period [the French Wars and the Revolution] particularly, and indeed through the Revolution, the most popular single type of officers' arm was the small sword. It was the standard civilian arm and was thus available to many who were not able to obtain a strictly military piece.
"[...] About 1760 blued steel joined the hilt metals. Heart or boat-shaped counter-guards began to appear, and with them the quillon on the side of the knuckle-bow often returned. The pas d'anes were reduced to semi-circles, and after 1770 they became truly vestigial. About that time also, the hexagonal and colichemarde blade, which had disappeared from all but military specimens as early as 1720, were abandoned entirely and only the slender even-tapered triangular blades were left."
* Neumann 1954 p217
"SMALL SWORD: The popular civilian pattern at the time of the Revolution, it had a narrow straight blade for thrusting, and a light hilt -- which usually included a simple knuckle bow, pas-d'âne, and a bilobate counter-guard. The small sword is considered the most common type used by American officers during the war."
* Neumann 1973 p55
"The thin straight blade was designed only for thrusting, and required considerable training. In cross section its shapes were primarily triangular, hexagonal, elliptical, or diamond. The hilt usually included a simple knucklebow, pas d'ane, and bilobate counter-guard. Although firearms and uniforms were becoming standardized during the 18th century, the officer's sword design remained his personal selection until after the Revolution. Most had at least two swords -- one for ceremonial occasions, such as the small sword or cuttoe, and another for fighting (usually the saber or broadsword). The small sword appears to have been the most common style among American officers because of tis availability from civilian life."