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Pioneer Clothing

Pioneers had to make all the thread they required for their clothing, draperies, sheets, towels and any other cloth needs. In Ohio, the materials most used were wool and linen. The wool from sheep was spun to make thread. To make linen thread, a plant called flax was grown, processed and spun. After the threads were spun on a spinning wheel, they were dyed to the color needed and, if possible, taken to a weaver to make yardage.

The making of material took a lot of time and work, which is why people had only a few sets of clothing. Girls would have learned how to spin, starting at the age of six. Dyes used included madder, copperas and indigo. In the mid 1800s, fine linen thread was used to make summer clothes, especially men’s shirts. Heavy linen thread was used to make storage bags or towels.

According to Sutton, for the early residents of Shelby County, Ohio, " consisted of the furs and skins of animals they had killed, or a little later along, of flax raised, spun and woven by their own hands. Any article that they had to depend upon purchasing at a store we dispensed with, for there were no stores within reach of them. Their nearest point of trade for several years was Cincinnati, at that time a small village, and it would take them a week or 10 days to make the trip through the woods without a road."

Ironing was done by placing a covered board between two chair backs and heating heavy irons on the stove. They kept at least two (and sometimes three) irons on the stove heating. 

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Water was hauled from nearby streams to wash all clothes by hand with homemade soap. Filling a large pot with water, the women would heat it over a fire. When the water was boiling, lye soap would be added along with the dirty clothing. This was then stirred, by hand, like the motion of a washing machine. The clothes were wrung out and hung to dry.

pioneerchildren.gif (37449 bytes) Boys wore shirts and pants made of cotton or buckskin, which is leather made from the skin of a deer. It is soft and strong, and yellow or gray in color. Girls wore skirts or dresses, usually made of brightly colored cotton called calico or gingham. It had stripes, checks or flowers in different colors.

It was very important for a boy to have a hat with a wide brim and a girl to wear a bonnet to protect their eyes. There were no sunglasses then and the pioneers spent many hours in the hot and bright sun. Boys wore suspenders and girls wore aprons and pantalets. None of the clothing had zippers since they had not yet been invented.

By 1839, there were 11 dry goods merchants in Sidney whereby residents could purchase or barter for material and/or sewing items.



'Pioneer' segment written in October, 1997 by Sherrie Casad-Lodge


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