Runaway Thoughts

I decided to write down my reading of a runaway this morning. I decided I wanted to re check a runaway where I knew a wrapper was mentioned. I think every time I read this ad I get more confused on things. It confuses even things I thought I kind of had sorted out. This ad is one of my favorites to revisit. It still makes me feel lost every time I read it.

“Pennsylvania Gazette.
Philadelphia, April 2, 1772. “

“RUN away on the 18th of October, 1771, at night, from the subscriber, living at the Sign of the Bible-in-Heart, in Strawberry alley, an indented servant woman, named ELEANOR ARMSTRONG,”

Hmmm okay 1771, pre war, The Battle of Alamance has just occured. AKA “War of Regulation” Harmon Husbands stirring up trouble before he makes a big mess here in Western PA with the whiskey rebellion. Avoided hanging both times… hehe, and he is the one who mentions lead in Sinking Valley starting Ft Roberdeau. OMG back on track… runaway ad. She is in Philly, she has never even met Mr. Husbands.

Sign of the Bible-in-Heart. Okay google that. Hmmm…he is a publisher. The shop is across from the Bull’s Head Tavern from 1770-72. Wonder what happened to him then? Will check that out later. Rabbit holes… He sells books from the shop as well as making them. Oooh look.

“William Evitt was born in Pennsylvania and served apprenticeship with Andrew Steuart In 1770 he printed “at the Bible in Heart Strawberry Alley” with press and types which had been Steuart’s which he purchased. He issued proposals for publishing weekly Saturday evening, a newspaper, to be entitled The Evening Post. This paper never made its appearance; but one of the same title was afterwards published by Benjamin Towne.”

” I can find no other particulars of Evitt which will be creditable to the trade. He was for a time a journeyman and afterwards became a soldier in the American army, and died in the service of his country .”


By April 1773 he is not picking up his mail from the Post office. Wonder where he went until he joined the army. Rabbit hole, another time.

So middle class fellow who supported the American cause. Has a servant girl, probably doing housework, laundry etc. Maybe even helping in the shop, who knows. Okay Ms. Eleanor the runaway, lets find out more about you.

“about 5 feet 4 inches high, pretty lusty, brown complexion, large featured, dark sooty coloured hair, about 26 years of age, has a large mouth, and an excellent sett of teeth; she takes snuff immoderately at the right side of her nose, “

So healthy, strong, vigorous woman of an average height. Now and then lusty means plump… pretty lusty could be that…. or a little busty. Complexion implies that she is not a peaches and cream, but a tan. Her hair is a dark brownish, and she is under 30. He notices her mouth and teeth. AND he knows she takes the snuff on the right side. Wonder if this fellow has a little crush on Eleanor, or just is very careful with his property because of the investment involved. Wow, he is middling sort, wonder how much she cost him… and that investment just walked off.

“says she was born near the city of Armagh, in Ireland, and came to this city in the Newry Packet, Captain Robinson, in June last; “

So she was here 4 months, runs away in October, it’s April. Wow, 6 months? Sorry to break it to you William, but things are not looking good. This is your first runaway ad? Really? Wow.

“had on, and took with her, when she went away, “

Oooh now the clothing. I know this ad way too well. Wonder if anything makes more sense now.

” a long chits wrapper , of a yellow ground, with large red and brown sunflowers the pattern, the sleeves pieced near the cuff, with red and brown spotted calicoe, and broke under the arms; “

So what people often call a banyan should be called a wrapper on a woman, and this is one of those, basically a long bedgown? They are supposed to be lounge wear and evening wear. What the heck is she doing running off in her PJs. And if she did it in the middle of the night, how did he know what order her clothing were put on? This is not a case of took with her, this is a case of he sees the order she is wearing it in.

Pretty yellow cotton with big red and brown sunflowers? Wonder what this means. I wonder what large is and what the sunflower looks like… or could look like.

Look piecing… red and brown spotted piecing on the wrapper. Broke under the arms? Does that mean there is tearing, or an opening?

“over said wrapper , a short gown , with some red and white stripes and sprigs through it, a good deal worn, a new camblet skirt, of a deep blue, and one old ditto, of a light blue colour”

And over said wrapper (banyan) is a short gown. This is … a mess of an argument if brought up to a room of a dozen women who are from diverse regions of the East Coast. SO short gown is not written as shortgown. In this case, big enough to go over the wrapper, so not a super fitted garment, or it is slightly large in the arm, and loose enough to be comfortable over it. With him calling petticoats skirts. Maybe he uses short gown interchangeably with other things. Like bed gowns… or maybe it is a loose fitting shortened gown… or Short gown. Maybe like the ones I saw in Chester County PA? Okay no matter what it is… sprigs, so red and white striped calico with some flowers on it. Never going to be able to reproduce this run away ad, but wow it would be fun showing a bunch of variations it COULD be. I don’t play the lottery but… I would waste some money on things like that if I won the lottery… lol. Sad, but true.

Okay petticoats… this we understand . Two blue petticoats, one old, one new, old one light blue, maybe faded with time… camblet… could be a few things. Drapes well and takes a pleat readily. UGH but he is calling the garment skirts. Is a skirt a petticoat or something specific? Is this a trap, kind of like when asking a large group of reenactors from north, mid atlantic and south “what is a short gown”?

“a good small check apron, of a bad colour”

Okay so bad color… the color did not take well, faded? It is all mucky and not true? Dye was splotched? We all know that “A good horse cannot be of a bad color”. But also a “lazy and hurried” dyer gets an unfast dye. So probably that.

“a green Barcelona handkerchief, much faded”

YAY we know this one! But that one is not “of a bad color”. So “bad color” should not mean just faded. But who knows, this man did not put an ad in the paper for 6 months.

” one large blue and white check ditto, marked in one corner E.E.”

A large check handkerchief, with a laundry mark. Her initials would be E.A. His initials would be W.E. So perhaps second hand, or hand me down?

 “a clean cap, with a black sattin ribbon, tied round her head, and brought under her chin”

Okay so her cap has a nice ribbon on it, despite the fact she is a servant. And she does not know how to wear it in a sexy reenactor way. Epic fail on the “how to look still look sexy in a cap” reenactor contest this week Eleanor.

Of course I gave it a try at the next event I went to after doing this blog entry.

“a blue cloth cloak, with a cap to it, tied at the neck with a narrow worsted tape;”

Okay, so we know this one as well. Cap to it. so a hood. Cloth, so it is broadcloth. Worsted tape holds this one in place.

“an old changeable silk bonnet, lined with blue silk, and tied with a white ribbon”

Oooh… no real description on the bonnet other than color. Wonder what type of changable. HE IS SO descriptive on everything else with colors but can’t list the changeable color combo? White ribbon, blue lining. She likes her variety of colors.

“3 coarse shifts, one of which is a homespun, with a pair of fine sleeves, one ozenbrigs ditto, and one coarse tow ditto, with broken ruffles on the same”

Okay, so one has a coarse material with nice sleeves. But now my brain starts hurting. What is the specific difference between Ozenbrig and tow? Half the people use them interchangeably. On top of that homespun, which everyone says it is something different as well. AND look her tow has broken ruffles of the same. SO what the heck, a TOW ruffle? and it is broken, what does that mean?

Osnaburg- a coarser fabric than the tow? Of the three this is the icky work shift… no ruffle and no nice sleeves. The homespun… not even going to try to gamble on that one. Tow with a ruffle… well maybe this is just unbleached linen called tow?

“a pair of blue yarn stockings, a pair of coarse white ditto a pair of mens shoes, half soaled, with one brass buckle, and one steel ditto, pierced in the rim; “

Okay so a blue set of stockings, and a white set. Yarn, so wool. Men’s shoes… half soaled… great she can’t even be understandable on the feet, going to have to ask someone about that as well. Mix match buckles. YAY next time I lose one, I can document looking the fool.

“she wore on the middle finger of her right hand a brass ring”

I read this runaway ad pretty regularly wondering if any more of it makes more sense to me. When I get to the ring I am always thinking… “Okay lady, I am showing you my fingered brass ring right now. I HATE run away ads!”

“is much given to liquor, and when in liquor, is apt to laugh greatly, speaks with the Irish tone. “

Okay… giggler. And has a lilt to her voice.

“As she takes delight in no other work than spinning, it is thought she has hired herself some where in the country for that purpose; and, as she hath been gone so long, it is probable she has changed her dress; she will be apt to alter her name to Fulton; she was seen in Burlington a few weeks ago, in company with another woman.”

Ah so the story reveals itself. He has heard of her and is trying to find her now because he knows a little of what she is up to. He spent so much time talking about her clothing… and now tells us it has all changed. Okay so will look for a lusty 20 something brunette who giggles when she drinks. I have sat at camp with a few of those girls more than once, always unpredictable. However they all put their caps on in a cool way, not a ribbon tied around their chin. That just would look funny. Of course it is not just the younger women. Older women like me avoid any cap with something that goes under their chin, even though at my age it is commonly documented. So voluntarily putting a ribbon under the chin. Guess it is a new modern fashion faux pas I may try out next year.

On the name why Fulton? And what is up with this not knowing the new clothing description after being seen? Some guy at the bar mention seeing her and not mention what the new clothing was? Burlington… New Jersey? did it have some spinning and weaving going on?

” All masters of vessels and others, are forbid to harbour or carry her off, as they may depend upon being proceeded against, as the law directs. Whoever takes up and secures said servant, so that her master may have her again, shall receive the above reward, with reasonable charges, paid by WILLIAM EVITT.”

Standard ending of a runaway ad.

The Pennsylvania Gazette,
02 Apr 1772, Thu,  Page 4

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