Pomerania Cloth: A Fabric Mystery Solved

Caroline Herritt / 2013 Summer E-tern / Goucher College

As I was transcribing an account from September 27, 1766, I ran across an unfamiliar fabric term. A man named John Gist had bought 1 ½ yards of “Pomerania” for his daughter. After consulting Molly and determining that neither of us knew what type of fabric Pomerania was, I decided to do some research. According to 18th-century wool merchant John Smith, Pomerania (historically between Germany and Poland) had large quantities of “Corn, Cattle, Wool &c,” and that the Dutch imported “vast Quantities of coarse wool”.[1]  England in the 18th century had become a major wool importer as most English wools had become too coarse for the woolen clothing industry, due to the crossbreeding of sheep for mutton.[2] Sheep bred for wool are bred specifically to have longer staple fleeces, which will result in yarn with fewer short ends sticking out of it, and will produce a smoother, less itchy fabric. Presumably, the British imported a finer wool from Pomerania through the Dutch.

John Gist’s account.

The term “Pomerania cloth” also shows up in other accounts. Cloth or broad cloth, in the 18th century, referred to a woolen textile of a more expensive material that required considerable processing in its production. Eighteenth-century broadcloth was similar in appearance to the thin wool fabric in modern billiard table covers. Today, the term broadcloth refers to a thin cotton fabric.[3] Eighteenth-century broadcloth was used for livery suits for both white and enslaved male servants in a household. Also, the finer grades of broadcloth were used as expensive suits for gentry men, and winter cloaks for men and women.[4] Considering that John Gist was buying Pomerania cloth in September for his daughter, she may have wanted to make a nice woolen winter cloak for herself or a family member. So, now I know what Pomerania is and what it was used for!

[1] John Smith, Chronicon Rusticum-commerciale: Or, Memoirs of Wool, (London: T. Osborne, 1747), 93.

[2] Pat Hudson, The Genesis of Industrial Capital: A Study of West Riding Wool Textile Industry, c. 1750-1850, (London: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 109.

[3] Linda Baumgarten, What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, (Yale: Yale University Press, 2002), 114.

[4] Kym S. Rice and Martha B. Katz- Hyman, World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of Material Life in the United States, (New York: Greenwood, 2010), 539.

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2 Responses to Pomerania Cloth: A Fabric Mystery Solved

  1. Larraine Leonard says:

    Found this to be a very rewarding piece of information on woolen fabric. I had not heard or it before but I am enlightened by it. I am very fond of wool & woolen clothes myself being English I do appreciate it.

  2. Natalie says:

    This is quite interesting and you really took sometime to solve the mystery behind. Upper class woman in England seems to like fashion a lot for their clothes and fabric choices way back then are beautiful.

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