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Tommy Tutone, the Two-tone tuque

In a blog that I follow, fellow researcher and reenactor, Nathan Kobuck, gave the following quote from John Henry who was on Arnold’s campaign into Canada:

“having a fine white blanket coat, and turning my cap or ‘bonnet rouge’ inside out, the inside being white, made me as it were, invisible in the snow.”

In his blog (an excellent blog on historical market hunters and other various bits of 18th century history and reenacting) he questions if this isn’t a lined “Canada Cap.” In my opinion, this is a double tuque with half of the knit tuque knit in red and the other half in white (actually natural wool… undyed and unbleached). This type of knitting is commonly seen and is a frugal way to save on dye, since the one half of the tuque is unseen when tucked into the other half and worn. A knit double cap like the tuque was common in Scandinavia and often used dyed yarn only on the outside. This is mentioned by Sheila McGregor in her book Traditional Scandinavian Knitting. Anyway, the questions to us are 1.) was this seen on tuques in North America, and 2.) was John Henry’s cap a tuque.

First, I really believe that John Henry’s cap was a tuque. The fact that he is on campaign in Canada and wearing a blanket coat (capot) already establishes that he was wearing some canadien clothing. Also, he calls his cap a “bonnet rouge.” This was a common term used for tuques in the period and that he even uses a French term for it, only further makes me believe it was therefore a French garment… or at least a canadien one.

So was this two-tone tuque present in North America? There are a few images that certainly seem to show something other than a standard, one color tuque. The first of these shows what definitely could be the inner white half appearing at the brow of a tuque. This could be due to the hat being pulled-out enough to show the white half, or it could be from the hat being rolled up at the brim.

Below is a set of images with me wearing the two-toned tuque in a variety of ways. On the top left, it is more or less a normal tuque. The upper-right is the John Henry snow camo… inside out. The bottom left, pulled up so some of the “liner” is shown. The final image is showing the bottom rolled slightly, exposing more of the liner.

Another couple images show a tuque with a white stripe. I can not figure out how to recreate this look with the two-tone tuque, but I wonder if this wasn’t possibly the artist misunderstanding and incorrectly painting what we see above with the two-tone tuque. This is not impossible and the lack of striped tuques elsewhere (especially with a single white stripe) makes these images odd.

Finally, upon further investigation, we can see mentions of tuques that fit the possibility of being two-toned. The Montreal Merchant Record Project (MMRP) undertaken by Minnesota Historical Society with Marie Gérin-LaJoie examined many records of merchants out of Montreal that were supplying the fur trade. Tuques and bonnets are seen throughout the French and British period in the MMRP, but some of the British era entries are interesting.

From an unidentified account book (1767-70) from the MMRP we see:
1 ds scarlet woollen caps 9.0.0
2 “ striped ditto 4.0.0/ds

My thought is that the “striped” woolen caps mentioned above are the two-toned tuque we are talking about here. The cheaper price could be due to the use of less dye or dyed wool in its construction.

In a 1771 inventory record of Merchant, Pierre Guy we see “a tuque of fulled and napped woollen cloth, white and red.

Another entry from Pierre Guy in Oct. 31, 1774 has:
Un bonet drapé rouge et blanc (one fulled cap, red and white)
Une tuque rayé double (one striped [rayé] tuque double)
Un bonet double rayé tricoté (one double cap, striped, knit [tricoté])

Rayé is literally striped (my translation) and could be one stripe, multiple stripes, or even half-and-half/two-toned. It is possible that the striped [rayé] tuques are the two-tone tuques, especially with virtually no striped tuques being shown in the image record of Canada or elsewhere in documents. Red and blue seem to be the norm, although in images, we can not see what is inside that cap.

Another interesting Pierre Guy entry from Nov. 14, 1775:
1 cap “drapé” [fulled] red and blue inside.

This sounds like a red double with a blue “liner.” Two-toned!

And finally… what appears to be, without a doubt, our two-toned tuque:

1773 – “un bonet de lene double un coté rouge” (one double cap of wool, one side red – my translation)

Anyway, here we have documented some odd variations to the typical, mono-chromatic tuque that is common among reenactors.

One Response to “Tommy Tutone, the Two-tone tuque”

  1. Billy Maxwell says:

    Scarlet hints at chocienel. That alone would spike the price of the cap.

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