Pitt Rivers Museum Tollemache Ensemble: Coat with attached hood, round cap, leggings
1822.214.171.124, 18126.96.36.199, 18188.8.131.52, 18184.108.40.206
Cynthia Cooper, Anne de Stecher, Jonathan Lainey, Beverly Lemire & Anne Whitelaw
Anne de Stecher:
Study of the Tollemache ensemble is a great opportunity to learn more about Wendat 19th- century commercial and diplomatic traditions and the connections and overlaps between the objects produced for these two purposes.
From the main photo of the Tollemache ensemble, seen before the Pitt Rivers visit and drawing on the history of the Lord Tollemache who was stationed in the Quebec garrison in 1838, my thoughts were that the outfit dated from around 1838. It shows similarities to the embroidered navy blue coats given as gifts in the ceremony of honorary adoption. I thought it might have been presented to that Lord Tollemache within the Wendat diplomatic tradition.
But, after seeing close-up photos of the moosehair embroidery style, the purple/lavender dye used in some of the floral motifs and in the animal hair in the metal cones, the characteristics of the fabric, and its cobalt blue color, I realized this did not fit with the 1838 date or style of ceremonial coats. It was probably several decades later, possibly the late 1850s or early 1860s.
Anne, I do not find reason to question the date ascribed to the coat particularly, although it is a garment whose stylistic features would not have varied significantly over several decades. The cut of the coat is not inconsistent with the 1840s, although it could be later – or even earlier. The peaked hood on the Tollemache coat is a very typical shape for such coats all through the 19th century. When worn down it lets the high standing embroidered collar stand out.
I would think the moosehair embroidery style is one of our best clues as to the date of the trim components at least, since we must also consider they could be earlier and applied to a coat of later date. Although I haven’t seen as much of this embroidery as you have Anne, I have noticed there seem to be three basic types that correspond roughly to three time periods. This seems to me to be of the earliest type. What do you think?
In this photograph, dated 1866, from the McCord Museum’s collection, we see François Gros-Louis carrying a pipe bag with pockets very similar to the embroidered trim on the coat. We have similar pockets in our collection. They are dark hide, with embroidered motifs similar to those on the coat, complete with animal hair in metal cones.
I see several hands at work in the various pieces of embroidery, in both technique and choice of motif. What else do you see?
The lavender/purple dye used in the moosehair floral motifs on the hide collar, cuffs, and in the animal hair of the cones, which I think is aniline dye, is helpful in that it suggests a post-1857 date. While vegetable dyes may have been used elsewhere to achieve lavender shades before the invention of aniline lavender-purples in 1857, in Wendat moosehair embroidery this color does not appear until after the early 1860s, in the dated collections I have seen so far.
The style of floral motifs is consistent with this early 1860s date. The motifs, while complex, do not fill the design field, there are fewer elements; the artists have left more negative space that the styles of the late 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s. In addition, the number of lines of oversewn moosehair to create vines and stems is fewer. This reduction in the number of motifs and amount of stitching may have been in response to increased demand and volume of production. The formal arrangement is consistent however, with earlier styles, with a central sinuous vine and leaves, flowers, and fruit branching off and the balanced asymmetry of the design.
I still wonder if this coat may have been part of commercial production.
I want to explore this sort of commercial production of the Huron Wendat further. Where we have embroidery of this type on rubber-soled footwear from the late 19th and even early 20th century – a good indication they were producing such embroidery on an almost industrial scale.
The coat was influenced by the style of Wendat chief’s coats in the embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and epaulettes, it was distinct from the ceremonial outfit in the fabric, hood and matching hat, and style - with a vertical collar rather than lapels. There is an ensemble like this one at the Musée du quai Branly, same fabric, similar coat style, in the seams of the back and their red piping, but with a detached hood, full trousers, white wool fabric, and in a child’s size.
I hope to see images of this ensemble to allow me to compare. But seeing the Tollemache coat prompted me to look into the Red River coats that children in Quebec wore in the 20th century, and which were particularly fashionable in the 1940s. They are navy with red piping, and while I always thought they were an “invented tradition” I now think the Tollemache coat is an early prototype of what they were based on. I am going to be researching these further over the next year.
The Tollemache ensemble and the Musée du quai Branly outfit may have been of commercial production, commissioned by visitors to the community who had been guests at a Wendat ceremonial event and requested a memento, in clothing that reflected this tradition.
The coats in this image, dated 1866, are also made of blankets and have similar épaulettes to the Tollemache coat. However they are cut to fit differently through the shoulders than the Tollemache coat.
In this 1868 image, note similar details to the Tollemache coat, including embroidered hide trim on the épaulettes and cuffs. Other images of the same woman show a small standing collar on the coat and a similar pinked trim on the seam of the hood to the one found on the Tollemache coat.
I had a recent conversation with Dr. Cory Willmott, whose expertise in trade textiles is a great resource. She places the wool as a trade textile, Yorkshire in origin, dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with the coat probably made up in Quebec.
It would be interesting to know if this fits with European clothing techniques of second half of the 19th century, which may have been interpreted by Wendat women in the commercial production.
I find that this coat shows evidence of the cutting and stitching expertise I would expect from a tailor, experienced in working with heavy wool textiles. I particularly noted the variety of lining fabrics: a printed cotton in the pocket, a glazed cotton in the sleeve, and a wool plaid in the body; this variety with respect to function is quite usual, although the plaid may not be a typical choice. A thorough technical analysis of the materials and dyes used in this garment would tell us so much more.