Monday, August 4, 2014

The Royal Regulations of 1772, pt. 3 – Fabrics and Colors


Continuing with our look at the soldado de cuera’s uniform, let’s remember that the Royal Regulations of 1772 authorized, una chupa corta de tripe, ó paño azul, con una pequeña vuelta y collarin encarnado, calzon de tripe azul . . .[1]

Vaguely enough, paño means almost any kind of woolen cloth, but we can assume that the authors had in mind something that was suitable for uniforms.  A number of different woolen cloths were available to the presidios, imported from Mexico and Europe.  One that is often mentioned in connection with presidial uniforms is paño de Querétaro.[2] I have not found an 18th century description of this fabric, but an English traveler in the 1820s wrote during a visit to the northern Mexican city of Santiago de Querétaro that,

[A] low broad cloth is made here, with which all the troops are clothed, and the poor people make their mangas.* The quality is about equal to that of the three to four shillings narrow Yorkshire . . . it is about a yard and one-third wide . .  .[3]


This suggests that paño de Querétaro resembled kersey, a fabric woven in Yorkshire that was similar to broadcloth but was narrower, lighter and had a rougher surface, according to the noted textile historian, Florence Montgomery.[4]

But paño, woolen cloth, was only mentioned second in the 1772 regulations.  The first, and I believe preferred, uniform fabric was tripe [pronounced “tree-pay”], which was a kind of wool velvet.  


 Others have translated tripe differently, often as “shag,” which in the 18th century meant “a heavy worsted fabric with a long nap, related to duffel, coating and blanket,” according Florence Montgomery.  But Spanish dictionaries of the 1700s define tripe as similar to velvet but made of wool.  It was certainly the same fabric as French trippe, a “velvet stuff of woolen pile and warp of goat's hair,” again according to Montgomery.[5]  Supply records for the Santa Barbara Presidio in California include a 1797 order for “3 p[ie]zas de Tripe de Francia buena calidad” (3 pieces of good quality French trippe).[6]


“Velvet” is a weave, not a fiber.  Velvets are woven with a “pile” or loops in the weft threads that are usually cut off to produce a soft, plush surface.  Before modern synthetics, silk was the most popular fiber for velvets, but cotton and wool were also used and, of course, were much cheaper.[7]


Wool velvets are hard wearing fabrics and tripe or trippe, with its goat hair warp, must have been particularly tough.  Notice that the regulations list only tripe for the breeches.  There are countless references to the use of tripe in the Spanish Southwest and California, both by name and by such terms as “plush” and “velvet.” For example, tripe was included in the official price list for essential goods in the 1729 Regulation for all Presidios of the of the Internal Provinces of this Jurisdiction.  And the Jesuit father, Ignaz Pfefferkorn, gives an idea of its importance when he describes the clothing worn by soldiers and civilians in Sonora (including part of Arizona) in circa 1765. “Their breeches are of red or blue plush.”[8]


Indigo was the likely dye used for the blue fabric of the soldados de cuera’s uniforms, whether tripe or cloth.  But it is impossible to tell exactly what shade was worn since, as far as I know, no presidial uniforms survive, not even fragments.[9]  And even if one did, we could not be certain how typical it was since each presidio purchased its own uniforms or the fabrics to make them.[10]  But pictures from circa 1760 – 1780, and often later, show that the blue cloth used for uniforms in this period, both in Spain and her New World colonies, usually ranged from a light medium shade to no darker than a new pair of jeans. 


The collar and cuffs of the uniform are described as encarnado, which is literally “meat colored” – its root is the Spanish word carne.[11]  I believe that the name was meant to evoke the bright blood red of freshly butchered meat.  For clarity, I translate it as “scarlet,” even though escarlata is the Spanish word for that color.  But it is probable that encarnado was used in the regulation to indicate that the cuff and collar fabric should be dyed with the best scarlet pigment then availabe – cochineal.


This dye is made from the bodies of the cochineal insect, which were found originally in Central and South America.  In their dried form, which is how they were processed, they were called grana because they resembled grain.  In the late-1600s a Dutch chemist is said to have accidentally dripped a solution of tin into a dish of cochineal pigment and the chemical reaction created a bright scarlet dye that resisted fading.  Cochineal was used in various tints and mixed with other dyestuffs and chemicals to create a range of colors, from rose pink to deep violet.  But alone, with tin as the “mordant” (a substance that sets the dye on the fabric and affects its color), cochineal, grana, creates a vibrant, true scarlet.[12] 


Eighteenth century ordinances of the dyer’s guild in Mexico City mention such shades as morado de grana (mulberry cochineal), envinado de grana (wine-colored cochineal), and also tinto en grana ó encarnardo.[13]


Because this last phrase does not refer to anything else, such as mulberries or wine, I believe that it was meant to express the pure cochineal scarlet at full strength with its tin mordant.  This is supported by the fact that when, in 1779, the Santa Barbara Presidio in California ordered replacement uniforms from Mexico for its soldados de cuera, it specified that the chupas de tripe should have buelta y collarin de pano de segunda tinte de grana or “cuff[s] and collar of second [quality] wool cloth, dyed with cochineal.”[14]


My next post will return to the cut of the chupa corta as well as such details as lapels, buttons and linings.

*Similar to ponchos. 

A. On the Trail.  Illustration by David W. Rickman for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, (detail).
B. Swatch of Kersey from a Yorkshire pattern book, c. 1770.  From Florence Montgomery, Textiles in America, plate D-102A.
C. Swatches of moquette, c. 1760.  This fabric was nearly identical to trippe except that it was woven on a linen warp rather than goat hair.  From Florence Montgomery, Textiles in America, plate D-52.
D. Diagram of simple velvet weave.  Original source unknown.
E. Velvet breeches (probably silk), European or American, second half of the 18th century.  Original source unknown.
F. Casta painting, c. 1760, showing Spanish soldier in a blue uniform faced yellow.  M. C. García Saiz, Las Castas Mexicanas: Un Género Pictórico Americano. S.l.: Olivetti, 1989.
G. Private’s uniform, Fijo de Luisana Regiment, 1785 (Uniforme 54, Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla), courtesy of René Chartrand.
H. Painting of Mexican gathering cochineal beetles and the the live beetles, c. 1770.  National
Archives, Mexico.
I. Dried cochineal insects (grana) and a ball of dyed woolen yarn.
J.  Man’s coat, American c. 1770, likely dyed with cochineal, Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. No. 1953-59.
K. Casta painting, c. 1770-1780, showing Spanish gentleman dressed in a red coat for hunting.  M. C. García Saiz, Las Castas Mexicanas: Un Género Pictórico Americano. S.l.: Olivetti, 1989.


[1] 1. El vestuario de los soldados de presidio ha de ser uniforme en todos, y constará de una chupa corta de tripe, ó paño azul, con una pequeña vuelta y collarin encarnado  [1. The clothing of the presidial soldiers will be uniform for all, and consist of a short, sleeved waistcoat of blue wool velvet or cloth, with a small scarlet cuff and collar, breeches of blue wool velvet . . .]. See Brinckerhoff and Faulk, 1965, 18-21.
[2] The Academia Usual dictionary of 1780 defines paño as, “Woolen cloth of various classes employed for clothing and other uses.  According to quality, type or construction, they are given various names,” [La tela de lana de varias estofas que sirve para vestirse y otros usos.  Segun su calidad, suertes, ó fábrica toman varios nombres]; for a list of the wide varieties of cloth purchased by just one presidio over several decades, see the index to Georgio Perissinotto, et al, Documenting Everyday Life in Early Spanish California: The Santa Barbara Presido Memoria y Facturas, 1779-1810.  Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, 1998, 395;
[3] Edward B. Penny, A Sketch of the Customs and Society of Mexico in a Series of Familiar Letters; and a Journal of Travels in the Interior during the Years 1824, 1825, 1826.  London: Longman and Co., 1828, 124-125.
[4] Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America 1650-1870.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984, 178, 272-273.
[5] The Academia Usual of 1780 defines tripe as “Cloth similar to velvet, and distinguished from it by being a woolen fabric.” [Tela parecida al terciopelo, y se distingue de él en ser texido de lana]; for definitions of shag and trippe, see Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America 1650-1870, 345, 368.
[6]Georgio Perissinotto, et al, Documenting Everyday Life in Early Spanish California: The Santa Barbara Presido Memoria y Facturas, 1779-1810.  Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, 1998, 282. 
[7] In simplest terms, the “warp” threads run vertically, or up and down, the entire length of the fabric.  The “weft” threads run horizontally, or side to side, for the width of the fabric.  The warp threads are attached to the loom and the weft threads are woven onto them.  For a more technical and detailed description of warp and weft and of velvets, see Irene Emery, The Primary Structures of Fabrics; an Illustrated Classification. Washington, D.C. The Textile Museum, 1980, 74, 175; see also Florence M. Montgomery, Textiles in America, 370.
[8] Thomas H. Naylor and Charles W. Polzer, Pedro de Rivera and the Military Regulations for Northern New Spain, 1724-1729; A Documentary History of his Frontier Inspection and the Reglamento de 1729. Tucson, The University of Arizona Press, 1988, 285, 333; Father Pfefferkorn, who was German, wrote, “Ihre Hosen sind von blaue oder rotem Plüsch.” See, Beschreibung der Landschaft Sonora samt andern merkwürdigen Nachrichten von den inneren Theilen Neu-Spaniens und Reise aus Amerika bis in Deutschland, 2 vols. Kőln am Rhein, 1794, 421.
[9] Indigo was not the only blue dye available in this era, but it was extremely popular.  First imported into Europe from India by the Portuguese in 1520, by the 18th century, Spain, France and England all grew huge amounts of indigo in their overseas colonies.  See, Susan Kay-Williams, The Story of Colour in Textiles; Imperial Purple to Denim Blue. London: Bloomsbury, 2013, 84 and François Delamare and Bernard Guineau, Colour Making and Using Dyes and Pigments. London, Thames & Hudson, 2000, 92. 
[10] See, Max L. Moorhead, "The Private Contract System of Presidio Supply in Northern New Spain". The Hispanic American Historical Review. 41, no. 1, 1961, 31-54.
[11] According to the 1780 edition of the Academia Usual, encarnado means “Dyed the color of meat” [Teñido de color de carne.]
[12]  Gösta Sandberg, The Red Dyes: Cochineal, Madder and Murex Purple; A World Tour of Textile Techniques. Asheville, North Carolina: Lark Books, 1997, 45-47, 52, 54-55, 176-177.   
[13] Dorothy Boyd and Trish Spillman, “Natural and Synthetic Dyes,” in Spanish Textile Traditions of New Mexico and Colorado, edited by Nora Fisher, pp. 207-211. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico, 1979, 209; François Delamare and Bernard Guineau, Colour Making and Using Dyes and Pigments, 74.
[14] Georgio Perissinotto, et al, Documenting Everyday Life in Early Spanish California, 48-49.  The authors translate tinte en grana as “scarlet-dyed”


  1. I've noticed that original documents call the breeches calzon(es), but is there a differences in the knee breeches worn by mounted troops than by infantry. I would see why the main choice of cloth would be tripe.

  2. Perhaps I misunderstood your question, Gregg. Are you asking if the cavalry wore a different kind of breeches than the infantry? Not that I know of for this time period. As for the use of tripe by the soldados de cuera's breeches, sometimes you find records of a unit wearing both chupa corta and breeches of tripe. Other units wore chupas cortas of cloth and breeches of tripe. And at other times still, you find units wearing entirely cloth, and no tripe. This is why I urge reenactors to find out for the sake of authenticity the specific details of their particular presidio's uniforms for particular eras, including fabrics, types and numbers of buttons, lapels or no lapels, etc.

  3. I was looking at a document 1777 I believe that states the chupas to be double breasted and with the use of gold threads, make cross muskets on the collars.

    But here's the thing, where are you going to get tripe? Woolen tripe, woven exactly as it would have been? So the next best thing is broad cloth and kersey.

  4. A lot of European and American army uniforms for enlisted uniforms were lined in shalloon, serge, this being for coats and short coats. Not cotton or linen. Well linen for sleeve lining.

  5. Hello Greg. I don't know of any evidence to support a double-breasts chupa or collar ornaments for soldiers. If there is, it could change how I see these things. Can you post your source, preferably including the Spanish language original? As for linings, that's something I will discuss in my next post in this series. Thanks for your interest.

  6. David: go to the bexar archives, search: uniforms. There is a letter, translated, also the Spanish letter, July 1777, Joseph Rubio, written from Chihauhau. It's an order to be distributed among the commanders of all presidios located between San Elezeario and Bahia dele spiritual Santo.

    I don't know how correct the translation is.


  7. Also David there's a inventory of clothing 1780, for the presidio at La Bahia from Eugenio Fernandez( Rubric) mentioning fabric and lining!

  8. Gregg, I had a look at that document of Rubio (or tried to, the copy was horrible). What a masterpiece of mistranslation! I couldn't make out everything from the original, but the document simply authorizes a uniform coat (casaca) with scarlet cuffs, collar and lapels. Technically, I suppose these coats were double-breasted, but then, so was General George Washington's. This is why you need to know your period and material culture when translating. And the little muskets? I believe that is "musketeer" lace. I've seen the term somewhere before in period documents and it seems to indicate a known pattern of lace, not little guns.

  9. It good to know what is supposed to be translated scholarly material is so poorly translated. Yes I noticed the word

  10. Sorry for the interruption but you pause whil writing and you can't finish it. Anywho, I saw the word casaca used, interesting, and I didn't know how much was mistranslated? But why it's my understanding that a chupa corta is just a shortened version of a casaca. So the skirt just covers the buttocks. And with the images you had supplied of the proposed or what the San Carlos militiaman wearing. That is what I based my chupa on.

  11. The history of garments is fluid. The word "chupa" originally referred to a doublet and the casaca started out as a long robe, or cassock. But, by the 1770s, their cut was related. At least one cavalry unit in Mexico wore a chupa, the longer form, with its tails folded back like a casaca. There's no evidence that soldados de cuera did this, at least not after 1772.

    1. No, no, I'm wondering since the one document in question, disregarding the bad translation, the casaca that is mentioned, could have been used in place of chupa corta. Let me dig up something you wrote some years ago.

  12. The document, even the bad translation, makes it pretty clear that they wanted the soldados to wear _exactly_ what is specified in the 1772 regulations. The only addition is that the buttons were to be yellow (brass). Button color was not specified in the original regulation. It then says that all _officers_ would wear the casaca with scarlet cuffs, lapels, collar, etc. Again, the 1772 regulation did not specify a uniform for officers. This one, however, seems almost identical to the one authorized for other presidios at this time, so it must have been a decision made pretty high up.

  13. I cannot find them, after the 1772 regs, they came out with more regs, do you remember what year?

  14. Also what I was looking for was where the original Spanish list of clothing supply from the Presidio SA de Bexar, 1779. I have the translation, you supplied in yahoo groups soldado years ago.

  15. I believe the original is in the Spanish archives. I have a copy courtesy of another scholar and hope to publish an article on it someday.

  16. I was looking over the original clothing inventory 1780 for the troops at La Bahia, there are some words for clothing articles I'm not familiar with. Example: chulos

  17. Like you, I noticed that the 1780 inspection of La Bahia Presidio lists "Chulos" among the garments worn by the soldiers.]

    This is the first time I've encountered that word in a military document and it really makes no sense. Chulo has a number of meanings, both in Spain and Mexico, but none of them have to do with clothing. But the only other outer garments listed in that inventory are breeches (calzones) and capes (cap as). In the absence of other examples or evidence, we have to assume that "chulo" here means "chupa," This is especially so since in earlier comments we discussed a letter from just three years earlier in which it was made clear that this and other presidios were to follow the 1772 Regulations' orders about uniforms exactly.

    It's interesting to see that in 1780, the "chulos, chupines [waistcoats?] y capas" were all made of cloth, but "tripe" was specified for the breeches.

  18. Started my research on Rubi's presidio inspections, just scratched the surface, found a lot of secondary sources quotes and foot notes to the AGI sources, that's next.
    I do not know how much of the translated sources are incorrect on details. Catholic Archives in Austin Next.