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"Hickory shirts (etc)" Topic

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1,211 hits since 29 Mar 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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42flanker29 Mar 2017 7:40 a.m. PST

Greetings all.

In an American context, admittedly mostly in the mid-C19th but I thought I would cast my net wider, I have come across references to shirts of 'hickory' cloth or pattern, which I take to be a reference to a check design woven into the cloth.

Can anybody tell me how the term 'hickory' came to have this meaning? Does it have anything to do with the tree?

Many thanks

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 8:24 a.m. PST

Boy, I'm always learning something here on TMP!

There's a discussion on this reenactor site:


From this,and a casual browse elsewhere, looks like they were made from "hickory cloth", heavier and thicker than regular cloth,something like denim,and worn by loggers and others engaged in heavy labor. Seems often to have been striped,like ticking.

Likely got the name from association with the durability of hickory wood.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

A heavy twilled cotton, frequently narrow white and blue stripes.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 11:33 a.m. PST

Is it an alternative name for "mattress ticking"? For such was also striped blue and white, fairly heavy and used for shirts (and also the LA Tigers pants!).

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2017 11:42 a.m. PST

Worn by the Spanish through the Spanish American War.

42flanker29 Mar 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

Ah, thanks for that link. The blue and white I hadn't picked up- but I see that it included checked cloth too.

In the late 1850s [John Hood= CORRECTION] Capt. Edmund Kirby Smith of the 2nd U.S.Cavalry wore "a hickory or blue flannel shirt, cut down the front, studded with pockets and worn outside" when on patrol in Texas. I believe there were also similar references to field clothing worn by the infantry in Kansas 'pre-war.'

Trousers of ticken- a weight of cloth rather than a pattern, I believe, were worn by troops on both sides during the AWI, too. The Black Watch were still wearing "white strong ticken trousers" in Nova Scotia in 1784.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 4:40 a.m. PST

FWIW, Those "Ticken trousers" were adopted by the Highlanders and other British troops when they came to Maine, and to the Canadian maritimes. The reason was the presence of the "Black Fly" a critter that is attracted to humans and bites like all get out. Kilts & long hose couldn't protect the men's legs from them, nor could the thinner weight trousers and hose worn by the line battalions and artillery.

Even today, if you are planning on wearing shorts instead of pants, you are well advised to use a large application of repellant on all exposed surfaces if you are going to spend anytime in places away from the coastline.

For "Hickory shirts", see also "Seersucker cloth".


vtsaogames30 Mar 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

Those damn black flies. And the green-headed ones too.

42flanker30 Mar 2017 1:10 p.m. PST

Interesting. In the 1780s they also took to wearing 'pepper and salt' woolen trousers during winter in the Maritimes, along with the rest of British troops in North America.

Is ticken heavier weight than canvas, or Russia drill? That is what the Grenadiers, inc. Peebles' company of the 42nd, were wearing as summer trousers from 1777 onwards in New York and Pennsylvania. Situation a little hazy regarding the battalion coys. They took to wearing breeches and blue leggings in the winter.

spontoon02 Apr 2017 12:19 p.m. PST

Never heard of Hickory shirts! Whoever invented them must be barking mad!

What about "linsey-woolsey"?

42flanker02 Apr 2017 3:21 p.m. PST

and "honest kersey noes".

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Apr 2017 2:38 a.m. PST

Those tiny little Black Flies are the most awful little creature on God's Earth. They can drive one to madness with their swarming and biting. But the real pain comes much later. after they are gone and the itching of the skin sets in. Worse than having poison ivy.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2017 5:35 a.m. PST


The original story was that the "ticken" cloth was nothing more than tent canvas, damaged or worn tents being taken apart at the seams and then the material used to piece together trousers for the men. Sort of a stop-gap measure until proper made trousers could be procured.

I got the story from some of the BAR and Canadian guys who participated in the Penobscott Expedition back during the bicentennial.

42flanker06 Apr 2017 6:24 a.m. PST

Kindred, I think you may have been spun a tale. The canvas or ticken trousers were part of, or at least a substitute for, the Highlander's regular issue clothing for which they would have paid through deductions of pay. They wouldn't have been very happy with rotting tent fabric. Repairs on campaign, however, were a different matter.

spontoon11 Apr 2017 12:15 p.m. PST

Got to agree with you 42 Flanker!

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