My Ancestor Richard Taylor, the Tailor! 52 Ancestors, Week 20: Textile.

Colonial Tailor. Living history museum in Colonial Williamsburg.
Photograph by Rob Weisman

What came to my mind immediately when I read this week’s prompt was several of my ancestors with occupations directly related to wool, including my quite successful Trowbridge and Cogswell ancestors that were identified with the woolen trade and manufacturing. But after thinking about it, I decided to keep it simple this week and write about my ancestor Richard Taylor, who was a tailor!

We are lucky enough to know his occupation because he was called Richard Taylor “the tailor” due to his occupation and also to differentiate him from another man of the same name, Richard Taylor “of the Rock”, who was also living in Yarmouth in the Plymouth Colony in British Colonial America.

Not much is known about his life prior to coming to America, other than he was born in England. He married Mary Wheldon, daughter of Gabriel Wheldon. The other Richard of Yarmouth, Richard Taylor “of the Rock” married her sister Ruth Wheldon.

To learn more about Mary Wheldon, please read my other blog post 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 8: Courting. My Ancestor Mary Wheldon Taylor. Her Life and Death.

Meaning and history of the name Taylor. Taylor is an English surname. It is derived from Old French tailleur meaning tailor, ultimately from Latin taliare meaning to cut. (1) We can deduce that my Richard Taylor came from a long line of tailors, given the meaning of his surname.

So, what would my ancestor Richard Taylor “the Tailor” actually do working as a tailor in British Colonial America? The tailors of colonial times made custom clothing of all types for both men and women. Almost everyone needed the services of a tailor. Most tailors were men, but there are some instances of women being tailors, and while tailors made clothing for women including riding habits; stays; hoops; and cloaks, most of their money was made by making items for men including greatcoats (a large overcoat); cloaks; robes; breeches; and sherryvalleys which were worn on the legs over breeches to protect their clothing. Tailors generally did not carry or sell cloth or ready-made clothing. Their customers would buy the cloth elsewhere and bring it to the tailor for the clothing to be made. (2 & 3)

So, what were sherryvallies exactly? They were thick, loose riding-trousers, fastened on the outside of each leg. They could be trousers or overalls and made of heavy linen, cotton or even leather, they buttoned on the outside of each leg. They were worn over breeches and stockings to protect these clothes from dust and mud encountered when horseback riding. It also protected the clothing from the smell of leather and horse. Similar to an overcoat, it would be removed once the rider arrived at their destination. Sherryvallies were worn by both the well-to-do and the poor. (4 & 5) They remind me of chaps worn by cowboys and ranchers.

A tailor in Colonial America would have made clothes for both the rich and the poor. The difference in the clothing would have been the quality of the fabric.

All tailors worked by hand.  To be successful, a tailor in British Colonial America had to be good with their hands, have good math skills, and be familiar with European fashion trends. They had to be detail oriented. They also worked closely with people and needed good customer service skills, including friendliness and being trustworthy. (2)

References:

  1. Meaning of Taylor Surname. behindthename.com
  2. Colonial Jobs: Tailor.
  3. Colonial America Jobs, Trades, and Occupations
  4. Sherryvallies: Definition. Webster Dictionary and Wiktionary.
  5. Keeping Georgian Gentleman Neat: Sherryvalleys. Two Nerdy History Girls

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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If you use any information from my blog posts as a reference or source, please give credit and provide a link back to my work that you are referencing. Unless otherwise noted, my work is © Anna A. Kasper 2011-2022. All rights reserved. Thank you.

About Anna Kasper, ACDP

I am an avid Genealogist. I am currently a student at Phillips Theological Seminary (one of the few Catholics!). I am an ACDP - Associate of the Congregation of Divine Providence (Sisters of Divine Providence of Texas). If you are unfamiliar with what a Religious Associate (also called an Affiliate, Consociate, Oblate, Companion) is exactly, visit my about me page for more information. In community college, I majored in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies when at university.
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1 Response to My Ancestor Richard Taylor, the Tailor! 52 Ancestors, Week 20: Textile.

  1. Alex Daw says:

    Yay! I learned something from your blog. Thank you. I had never heard of sherryvallies before. Amazing. And very sensible to boot.

    Liked by 1 person

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