Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Merchant Traveling the Roads

White kittel, knee pants, stockings of the 18th century

Traveling, whether it involved great distances or just a trip to the nearest town, could be dangerous for the men and women of the Trier Land during the late 18th and early 19th century. Robbery and disappearances were common occurrences, especially on roads that were little traveled.

Martha Heit describes these "missing" or "waylaid" travelers as listed in the logs of the official government gazette of the times. There are too many for me to describe the clothing of all of them but here are the traveling clothes of a few of the merchants who took to the road.

The Elderly Gentleman from Wellen
Throughout the early years of the 19th century, the older styles from before the time of Napoleon were still worn, especially by those born before the "Little Emperor" had changed many of the laws and customs of the Rhineland. Such was the case of an older man who was traveling the roads with his son in 1827. The gazette records do not record the man's business, but it would appear that it was a profitable one based on the clothing he was wearing. The picture above gives you and idea of the garb of this 18th century middle-class merchant from Wellen

The description given to the police clerk, probably by the son, was very detailed. The older man's outer garment was a blue linen Kittel, a long, loose, smock-like garment, often used for work around the farm to protect the clothing underneath. A Kittel was also worn by well-to-do persons who wanted to disguise their wealth when they traveled the roads. But under the Kittel, the missing man had worn a dark blue Tuchrock, an undercoat that today would probably be called a suit jacket. It had a wide lapel and large buttons the size of a Prussian Taler (the size of the Taler did change over time but was always a fairly large coin). The picture below, a segment from a portrait painted in the 18th century, is a good example of the large buttons on the Tuckrock.

Under the Tuckrock, the missing man had worn a linen shirt with a collar that was all of a piece with the shirt and held together with a black silk scarf. Over the shirt he wore a dark blue high-closed vest, and Sammet (velvet) knee pants about culotte length. His knee length stockings were worn with a type of decorative garter and his low thin shoes closed with a silver buckle. On his head he wore a black hat with a brim and a low crown and underneath the hat he wore a more casual Zipfel (slightly pointed) cap, knitted from very fine wool.

When the man and his son had reached Konz, a town about seven miles from Trier, the father and son briefly separated. The father had gone into one of the businesses, possibly to "clean" himself from the dust of journey (says the police report) and after that he and his fine clothing were not seen again.

The Linen Weaver from Burbach

Mutze with Schirm (Museum in Honfleur, Normandy)

This weaver was about 40 years old and in Dec. 1835 he went on business to Gersweiler and disappeared. No one ever heard from him again. His clothing made it appear that he was a poor man, but robbers must have seen through his disguise which consisted of an old cap (Mutze) made out of dark material with a Schirm (a cap with a visor and sometimes ear flaps) as in the cap at the left. His cloth overcoat was gray and his trousers were made of black cloth. He had white linen gaitors and shoes that were in poor repair. Under his coat he had on an old worn-out shirt over which he had a muslin loose shirt, no scarf and no vest.

The Priest from Piesport

Priests also were "merchants" that had "customers" who needed "spiritual wares." In 1820 the priest from Piesport was on the road the day after Sylvester (New Year's Day) when the Mosel was greatly swollen, flooding over the path from Mannheim to Piesport. This priest never came home again; it is likely that he drowned. His clothing was of the style of the 18th century that was perhaps the official priestly dress of this time, something the author was unable to discover. He wore a large overcoat of dark green wool material with a collar, and part of the collar was a small standup necktie of a cotton material. The coat had a cuff that was also of cotton. Underneath His overcoat, he wore a typical priestly undercoat with small black buttons, a vest of black material, knee pants of black material with silver buckles and black stockings. His shirt was a form of muslin with crape cuffs. The letters WK were embroidered by hand about level with his highest breast bone. This most likely was a religious symbol of some kind.

The Jewish Tradesman
The occupation of Jewish men of the time was almost always that of a trader and/or money changer. This always made them a target for robbery when they traveled. In Saarbrucken, one such man is described as wearing a dark blue overcoat, a blue and white striped vest, a yellow scarf, blue trousers and a fur cap described as having a "Schirm". This could indicate that the cap had a visor, earflaps, or both.

A Robber from Landkreise Trier

A linen weaver from the Province of Westpfalen was attacked on 27 May, 1818 in the forest not too far from Trierweiler in the Landkreise Trier by an assailant who knocked him to the ground and left him for dead. The robber took 215 Taler; part made up of French Kronenthaler and the remainder of Prussian coins (The linen weaver must have traveled widely). The victim was found the following night and brought to Wintersdorf. Since he had met the man who robbed him the previous evening and, since the robber was dressed very well, the linen weaver walked with him as a travel companion. Thus the linen weaver was able to describe his assailant's clothing in detail: "blue linen Kittel, dark blue undercoat, dark blue vest, a pair of velvet pants, thin shoes with straps, a black silk scarf and a hat."

All people, but especially merchants who had to travel the roads any distance had a kind of fatalism, although they hoped for the best. But as you can see, it was a very unsure thing whether a man would ever reach his destination.


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