History of American Pioneers
American pioneers were European American and African American settlers who migrated westward from the Thirteen Colonies and later United States to settle in and develop areas of North America that had previously been inhabited or utilized by Native Americans.
The pioneer concept and ethos greatly predate the migration to the Western United States, with which they are commonly associated, and many places now considered “East” were settled by pioneers from even further east. For example, Daniel Boone, a key figure in American history, settled in Kentucky, when that “Dark and Bloody Ground” was still undeveloped.
timeline of Pioneers
Various figures in American folklore and literature typify the pioneer. James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer (1841) became the most successful of his early series, the Leatherstocking Tales, about pioneer life in the Province of New York. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, published a century later in 1932–1943 but set in the 1870s and 1880s, typified later depictions of pioneer families. Daniel Boone (1734–1820) and Davy Crockett (1786–1836) became two real-life icons of pioneer history.
Popular culture and folklore of Pioneers
The figure of the pioneer has played a large role in American culture, literature and folklore. The pioneer is not the only iconic figure which figures in the settlement of the West. Much cultural note is given to other figures of a more transient nature, such as cowboys, trappers, prospectors, miners etc. However, the pioneer alone represents those who went into unexplored territory in search of a new life, looking to establish permanent settlement.
Various figures in American folklore and literature typify the pioneer. The Deerslayer was the most successful of an early series, the Leatherstocking Tales, about pioneer life in New York. Little House on the Prairie, a century later, typified a later series of novels describing a pioneer family. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett are two real-life icons of pioneer history.
Fashion of Pioneers
The general dress styles popular in the rest of the country carried over into the wardrobes of pioneer women, namely fitted bodices and very full skirts. However, notable alterations were made to accommodate the realities of frontier living. Skirts were hemmed three inches shorter for day-to-day dresses, making it easier to move from task to task. It was possible that they would have also had weights sewn into the hem to prevent improper exposure on a windy day.
While the bodice remained tight, sleeves were loosened and worn down to the wrist, accompanied by a high collar to protect against the sun.
Of course, laundering pioneer clothing was a big job, and one that women would have to take on, regardless of how used they had previously been to doing it themselves. I came across an interesting reference to “wash dresses” in the book How the West Was Worn by Chris Enss that reads: “Caring for clothing, regardless of whether the item was homemade or store-bought, required work and time. In 1867 a two-piece dress of white cotton with a printed background became popular due to its easy care and was sold in stores, then duplicated by seamstresses throughout the West. The garment was known as the “wash dress” because it could be laundered easily. Women from all socioeconomic backgrounds wore “wash dresses.” While I haven’t yet uncovered further sources for the “wash dress,” it does make sense that fashion would have quickly adapted to meet the needs of the families living “out West.”
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