Overalls: Boys in the 19th Century


Figure 1.--This is one of the few 19th century images we have found of boys wearing overalls. This boy was 4 year and 11 month old. His name was Kennedy, Lu?he? Eugene. He was from Waterford or Mukwonago, Wisconsin. We are not sure this was an outfit he actually wore. Te contributor writes, "Are these clothes those this boy usually wore. Or is he a better-to-do boy just posing as a farmer boy? The fact he is photographed from back and front, I think, underlines this idea." HBC agrees. It looks more like aind of nostalgic effort to create a farmer look. The cabinent card is undated. We thought the lettering looked like the 1880s, but the blouse he iswearing seems more like the 1890s. The image is intersting because it provides a rare back view. Not small detail on the back. Note the small belt just below the waistline. I have not idea what the purpose of this was. We also wonder if this was the inspiration for the little rear belts on boys pants durung the 1950s and earky 60s.

While Levi Straus introduced overalls appeared in the mid-19th century. Tey first caught on for miners in California. They are now the icoic garment of the American farmer. I'm not sure, however, just when farmers began wearing them. They do not seem to have been common farm wear during the Civil War. we do not notice boys wearing them in the photographic record during the 19th century. This would presumavly be because mothers would dress up their boys in their best clothes for a portrait. But we alo do noy notice boys wearing overalls in early school portraits. The school portraits suggest that children did dress up for school to sone extent, but we suspect that schoolwear was a reasonable reflection of actual clothing. And we do not see boys commonly wearing overalls to school until the turn of the 20th century. So we are unsure just to what extent boys wore them in the 19th century.








HBC





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Created: 8:36 PM 1/31/2008
Last updated: 8:36 PM 1/31/2008