Clothing & Accoutrements



Market Wallet
The Wallet, or Market Wallet, is a rectangular bag with an opening in the center, made of cloth in various sizes and used as an all-purpose carrying item by civilians. It makes a great addition to a civilian kit, as haversacks are mentioned primarily in military descriptions.

The Wallet, being of a long length and narrow width, can be carried in several ways. It can be put around the neck so that each side rests on one’s chest or twisted at the center and thrown over the shoulder. The twist will keep the contents from falling out. The runaway ads in the Pennsylvania Gazette of the period list descriptions of it being tied to a saddle as well. Judging from these ads, the size varies greatly and a good deal can be fitted into them. Fabrics mentioned range from course and sturdy flax or hemp linens, tows, and osnaburgs to striped ticking and checks and occasionally even marked with the owners initials.

The pattern shown below is based on a Wallet in the collection of Historic Bethlehem Inc., a historical society located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. These dimensions can be used as guidelines but the wallets were, as mentioned above, of many sizes.

The Market Wallet
In the collection of Historic Bethlehem Inc. is a late 18th or early 19th century  (1790-1840) Market wallet.  Recently purchased for the museum at an auction in Lancaster County, PA the wallet is now on display in the Sebastian Goundie House.

The wallet is made of a single piece of natural linen with a cream to light color. It is of equal, plain weave, approximately 131 warps and 31 wefts per inch.  Overall dimensions are 12-1/8" by 39-1/4".  The end and center seams are felled on the inside and have approximately 1/4" seam allowance.  The slit is 14-1/4" long and 1-3/4" wide at its mid-point.  Its edges are rolled and Hemmed. 
Charles LeCount

 A note to women.  At one time there was a lengthy discussion concerning wallets on the Rev War List.  Much of the information being sited was from the Pennsylvania Gazette.  It was noted that only men were described in the ads as having wallets.  Anytime women are mentioned with a carrying item it is listed as a “bag”.    Unfortunately, they give no description of these bags.   I make this notation, as it is the goal of this project to have supported documentation on file unless otherwise stated.  Should anyone have further information on this subject would you please share it with us.  See Research Wanted: Wallets.


Knapsacks, Snapsacks, Tumplines:
Systems for Carrying Food and Clothing
Used by Citizens and Soldiers in 1775

By Henry M. Cooke IV

One of the challenges living historians face in bringing the past alive to the public is how to carry food and personal belongings with us in an accurate and historically appropriate manner.  The following paper intends to examine the different types of systems used in 1775 by militiamen and others for carrying food, clothing, and other personal items. By discovering how our historic counterparts dealt with these same challenges and duplicating them, we can bring forth yet another aspect of the life and times of eighteenth century New Englanders.

Historically, Massachusetts' militia laws required knapsack as part of their equipment.  An undated militia regulation, probably mid-1700's required soldiers to turn out with "his firelock in good repair, four pounds of lead in bullets, fitted to the bore of his piece, four flints, a cutlass or tomahawk, a good body belt round his body, a canvas knapsack to hold a bushel, with a good matumpline, fitting easy across the breast and shoulders, good clothing, etc."1  With the reorganization of the militia and the creation of Minute companies in the fall and winter of 1774-5 came the requirement that each soldier furnish himself with "a good Fire lock, Bayonett, cartouch Box, one pound of Powder, twenty-four balls to fitt their Guns, twelve flints, and a knapsack."2 The regulation also required that if a man were unable to provide these items for himself, the town was to provide them for him, the cost being taken in stoppages from his wages for militia service.  Because the responsibility of providing equipment fell to the individual militiaman, there was certain to be a variety of items in actual use. 

The most common item encountered in petitions for items lost during the battle at Bunker Hill were knapsacks.3  Those known to have been used by the militia do not necessarily appear to have been large enough to "hole a bushel".  Most extant examples from this time appear to have been a single bag of course linen or hemp canvas, carried by double shoulder straps of the same material.  Some versions (Fig.1) were closed by a flap that extended about a third of the length of the bag, while others had a flap that covered the whole bag.  The flap was held closed by means of three buttons and buttonholes, the former being leather covered wood, horn, or pewter.  The outer surface of the bag and flap were painted with red ochre or red.  It would appear that occasionally company and regimental designation would be painted on the outer flap, but this was by no means a universal practice.  A second style of knapsack were like those carried during the French and Indian War, with a double bag carried by a single strap, a style that with minor modifications would come to be known as the "new invented knapsack-haversack" (Fig.2)

The haversack was a square unpainted linen canvas bag, closed with a flap and buttons, and suspended by a single shoulder strap.  (Fig. 5)  In the military establishment, they were considered as part of camp equipage, like tents, and were issued on an as needed basis for carrying rations of beef, bread, and other foodstuffs while on campaign.  While haversacks were issued later in the war, I have been unable to find any reference of their use by the militia on April 19th.  There appears to have been a variant of the haversack used by peddlers and farmers that was of a more rectangular shape, but more research is needed to document their use by the militia.

Figure 5.  Haversack.  George Woodbridge illustration from George Neumann, Collector's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, p. 170. 


  1. Undated Ms. Shown to the author by Peter Oakley in 1995.
  2. Braintree, MA Records, January 23, 1775.
  3. Sundry Petitions to the General Court, 1775-1778, Massachusetts Archives, vols. 180-183.
  4. Pattern and information furnished in 1995 by Steven Eames, based on his doctorial thesis research on Massachusetts provincial troops during the colonial wars.
  5. Gary S. Zaboly, "The Use of Tumplines in the French and Indian Wars," Military Collector Historian &, vol. XLVI, No.3 (Summer 1994), pp. 109-113.

Snapsacks were the second most frequently mentioned type of conveyance found in reimbursement petitions.  This holdover from earlier in the century consisted of a tubular bag with drawstring closure suspended on a single strap. (Fig.3)  Snapsacks could be made from linen canvas, stout wool. Leather or cowhide.4  They do not appear to have been painted.

Figure 3.  Snapsack


While tumplines have not been found in accounts of the equipment of militiamen of 1775, they appear to a been extensively used by provincial soldiers in the "French War".5  References can also be found of their use in subsequent military campaigns, suggesting the possibility of use by some militiamen, especially those that had to march in from a distance that would require carrying blankets.5  The tumpline, also know as a "squaw-line", "matump", and "topline" was commonly used with a blanket pack or roll.  In its military application, it consisted of a woven linen or leather belt around which was fastened a blanket roll or pack into which foodstuffs and clothing could have been folded. (Fig. 4)  The tumpline appears to have been carried by soldiers in one of two ways: worn over the chest and both shoulders, or slung over one shoulder, and hanging diagonally across the back.

Figure 4.  Tumpline.  George Woodbridge illustration from George Neumann, Collector's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, p. 170.


Directions for Snapsacks

Instructions as interpreted by June White.

Choose a stout linen, hemp or cotton.

For the bag, cut one piece 36"x 24".
For the strap, cut one-piece 6"x26 or 28". (See note below)
To stitch the strap, fold fabric wrong side out.
Stitch strap with 5/8" seam down the long length and across one short length.
Turn to right side out. Flatten out and stitch close to the seam and then on the
opposite side. Next stitch down the middle. This stiffens which will help it lie flat.

Note: You may want to make the strap longer, depending on your size. The strap width may also be varied.

Sewing the Bag

Stitch one short end folding down 1/2" on the wrong side (fig.1)
Then fold down 2" to make what is a large casing and stitch. (fig.2)
Fold sack in half, wrong sides together and stitch down long edge 1/2"
(This is the start of a felled seam) Then turn inside out and stitch
again 1/2". 

This will encase the raw edge. Next turn back so the wrong side is on the outside.
Place strap inside the bag and stitch down 6" and curve towards fold as indicated by the solid line in fig. 3.
Cut off excess fabric along seam.
Turn the bag back to right side and making sure the strap is not twisted, then stitch down on inside of opening next to side seam.
Make 18 holes (about 1 and 1/4" apart) around the opening-casing edge.
Use the largest hole of the leather punch. Put 2 holes in area where strap is sewn on.
Thread leather thong through holes. Allow about 9" of thong at each end. Knot so it can't be pulled through.
When the bag closes it will be like an accordion.

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