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Historical Materials

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Clothing and Gear

Most sailors in the merchant ships of Lane's day made their own clothes on board, since their pay did not allow them to purchase ready-made items. A common clothing item was the canvas hat with a brim which was coated with tar to make it waterproof. This can be seen, along with the signature red flannel shirts, in many of Lane's paintings. Later on, fine canvas was impregnated with tar to make rudimentary waterproof oilskins. Fishermen's wives would sew red flannel shirts, knit woollen socks and "nippers," hand protectors for hauling in fishing line. Various lengths of cloth were purchased to make fishermans' pants and jackets. Good quality clothing and changes of clothing were critical to the success of a voyage, since sailors who became too dirty were vulnerable to typhus-carrying lice. In almost all ships, time was set aside during a voyage for making and mending sailors' clothes.


Peter Gott, The Cape Ann Fisherman (Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1856).

Peter Kemp, ed., Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (Oxford University Press, 1976).

Oak Hall, or the Glory of Boston
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

See p. 33.

Also filed under: Oak Hall »

Table showing the Quantity of Provisions, Slop Clothing and Small Stores for 200 men
Table from book
The Kedge-Anchor; or Young Sailors' Assistant. Brady, William, U.S.N. Fifth edition, New York. 1850

All U.S. Navy recruits were required to have the outfit as described in the table.

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Clothing+and+Gear (accessed July 24, 2024).
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