Biographical Details on Boys' Clothing Styles: Ordinary People--Chronologial Listings--18th Century



Figure 1.-- One the basis of the success of his portrait "Boy with a Squirrel", Copley moved to England, in 1774 just as the Revolutionary War was beginning. It is one of Copley's most notable American portraits (figure 2). The boy is 9 years old Daniel Crommelin Verplanck. He seems extremely self-assured, dressed in adult clothing, as was the custom, and gazing directly at the viewer with the same bright, sharp eyes as those of the squirrel.

The HBC biography section is for people or families that have achieved some degree of notariety or fame. HBC readers in many cases have submitted family portraits. HBC has until now not added them to the biography section. We believe now that this is a mistake. Many of the HBC readers contributing family portraits can also provide details about the boy and him family. This background information help us to assess social trends and put the fashions involved in perspective. This is just why the biographical section is an important part of HBC. As a result, HBC has decided to create pages for these relatively unknown people, when some basic family data is available. Incidentally if you find a relative here, please do tell us somehing about him. Here we are listing these biographies alpahabetically to facilitate assessments of clothing styles during specific periods. We have collected only a few images of boys from the 18th century. As there was no hotography and only well to do families could afford painted portraits, the images we have are of the relatively narrow wealthy elite. We have few middle-class and working-class images of boys during the century.

Thomas Aston Coffin (Colonial America, 1759?)

This John Singleton Copley portrait shows Thomas Aston Coffin (17541810) from a prestigious Boston merchant family. For a Colonial boy you couldn't do betterthan to be painted by Copley. Thomas was the son of William (1723-1803) and Mary Aston Coffin (16991775) and the grandson of William and Anne Holmes Coffin of Boston. There were eight children. Thomas was the oldest and looks to be about 5 years old in te portrait. He wears an elaborate blue dress with a low neckline which may have been made of satin (figure 1). Very fancy for a boy, but the Copleys were a wealthy colonial family. I'm not sure when the portrait was painted, but I would guess 1758-59. His hair style seems similar to that we have noted girls wearing during this period. Thomas graduated from Harvard (1772). His brother William (1756-1804) served as commissary in Cornwallis's army and then as lieutenant in the 1st Bn., K.R.R.N.Y. Sir Thomas was the private secretary to Carleton (1782-83).

Daniel Crommelin Verplanck (Colonial America, 1771)

John Singleton Copley painted three portrairs for the Verplanck family, like mant New Yorkers at the time--of Dutch ancestry. The portrait of 9-year old Daniel is the most most ambitious undertaking of the set. It is also probably one of the best known portraits of a colonil boy. The portraits Copley painted of Daniel's father, Samuel, and his uncle Gulian are much more simple and rather stark. Daniel on the other hand is depicted in a glorious setting complete with classical pillers and luxurious landscape. The Verplancknfamily was one iof the most prominent in New York at the time. I am not sure why Daniel's portrait was more elaborate. Was this requested by the family? That seeems more likely than Copley's own idea as it took longer to paint and thius must have been more expensive. Daniel attended the city's best schools and his parents passed on to him their taste for the finest of everything. Perhaps his portrait exceeds theirs in grandeur, representing their high expectations for him. Daniel wears a stylish orange-red suit and matching knee breaches with an expensive brocaded vest. Nore there is no hint of skeleton suit and open collar styling which had begun to influence boys' dress in Europe. Daniel has done a remarkable job of taming a pet squirrel.

William Carpenter (England, 1767- )

American ex-patriot Ralph Earl painted William Carpeter, an English boy, in 1779. The painting is in the collection of the Worcester Art Museum. Willian has a bright red suit. His hair in the front is done in bangs rather than combed back like some of the boys at mid-century. We note some other portraits showing this or a smililar style. We are not sure, however, just how common it was. Nor or we entirely sure if this was a juveile style. Willian's hair is done in loose curls at the back to shoulder length, but can not be seen well at the back. The most notable aspect of his clithing is the bright red suit. We have seen younger boys wearing red suits at the time, but William is an older boy, about 12 years old when his portrait was painted. We are not sure about the conventions. We do not think adult men commonly wore bright red suits. How common it was for school-age boys like William we are not sure. The suit is three-pieces and all (the jacket, vest-waistcoat, and knee breeches) are the same bright red material. He wears his suit with an open-collar blouse.

Daniel Verplanck (United States, 1771)

John Singleton Copley painted three portrairs for the Verplanck family, like mant New Yorkers at the time--of Dutch ancestry. The portrait of 9-year old Daniel is the most most ambitious undertaking of the set. It is also probably one of the best known portraits of a colonil boy. The portraits Copley painted of Daniel's father, Samuel, and his uncle Gulian are much more simple and rather stark. Daniel on the other hand is depicted in a glorious setting complete with classical pillers and luxurious landscape. The Verplancknfamily was one iof the most prominent in New York at the time. I am not sure why Daniel's portrait was more elaborate. Was this requested by the family? That seeems more likely than Copley's own idea as it took longer to paint and thius must have been more expensive. Daniel attended the city's best schools and his parents passed on to him their taste for the finest of everything. Perhaps his portrait exceeds theirs in grandeur, representing their high expectations for him. Daniel wears a stylish orange-red suit and matching knee breaches with an expensive brocaded vest. Nore there is no hint of skeleton suit and open collar styling which had begun to influence boys' dress in Europe. Daniel has done a remarkable job of taming a pet squirrel.

Leonard Vassall (1772)

Copley painted Leonard Vassall with his father in 1772. Lenorard has his hair combed back and wore it long at the back.

Charles Mosley (United States, 1791)

Here we see a Charles Mosley with his mother, the wife of William Mosley. Charles wears a classic , bright red skeleton suit, a clear illustration of how European fashions dominated American fashions at the time, at least that of the European elite. Also note Charles' long hair. The portrait was painted in 1791 by Ralph Earl, and is located at the Yale Univ. Art Gallery. The subjects are Mrs. William Mosely and her son Charles. We know nothing more about the Mosleys. Earl painted in England (1778-85), but by 1791 was back in America so Charles must be an American boy.









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Created: 2:13 AM 2/25/2007
Last updated: 11:45 PM 12/24/2007