Sarah Clark – Runaway


By Sue Huesken


Burlington (New Jersey)

June 1, 1776


Ran away from the subscriber, on Wednesday last, the 29th ult. an Irish servant woman, named SARAH CLARK, about twenty-four years of age, and of a very dark complexion. Had on, when she went away, a dark calico gown, check apron, a black calamanco skirt, a blue and white check handkerchief, and a black silk bonnet. Whoever takes up the said servant, and secures her so that her master gets her again, shall have TWENTY SHILLINGS reward, and reasonable charges.


WILLIAM SMITH


This advertisement was taken from the Pennsylvania Evening Post published in Philadelphia, PA. Much can be learned about women's clothing during the Revolutionary War period by reading ads such as this one.


A few misconceptions that have been accepted within the re-enactment community can be debunked by this particular ad.


  1. Calicoes can be light or dark. Dark ones were considered fashionable. An ad in the Boston Newsletter, May 13, 1778, offers "to be sold by the person who prints dark calicoes an excellent sett of prints for the same."
  2. Aprons were not always white. White would have been totally impractical for everyday use. Those of us who cook can attest to this. Checks do not show as much dirt.
  3. "Skirt" is an acceptable term for a lady's lower garment. "Petticoat" was more frequently mentioned, but "skirt" is being used during this time period.
  4. Handkerchiefs were also more than just white.
  5. There is no mention of a cap but a black bonnet instead.
  6. Textile patterns were mixed. She did not seem to be coordinated.

Of course more questions than answers arise from ads such as this one. Did she have on a shift and/or stays? What about shoes and stockings? Was the gown long or short? What did the bonnet look like? I wonder if she was returned to her master!


This ad is one of 42 ads taken from the Pennsylvania Evening Post, 1775-1784. In these advertisements, 21 black bonnets are mentioned. I have never seen one worn by a re-enactor. Are there any extant examples? If anyone has information on bonnets, please contact me at the address below or look me up at an event; we need to learn more.


Sue Huesken, Rancocas Merchant, P.O. Box 41, Palmyra, NJ 08065.


Sue worked with Karen Mullian to compile and edit these ads into a recently published book titled, Had On and Took With Her: Clothing in Female Runaway Servant Advertisements from the Pennsylvania Evening Post (as published by Benjamin Towne from 1775-1784).


Copyright © 1996 Sue Huesken. All rights reserved.