J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, June 08, 2009


Today being the 200th anniversary of the death of Thomas Paine, it feels appropriate to pass on the news that historical seamstress Hallie Larkin has started a blog on eighteenth-century stays—the foundation undergarment that women felt they were next to naked without.

This blog has collected newspaper advertisements, satirical prints, and other sources on this ubiquitous part of life in Revolutionary America, as well as pointers to some modern studies of stays and corsets. The illustration here, for example, is a 1778 French print from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

What’s the Paine connection? His father was a staymaker in Britain, and before he went into political writing full-time Paine also worked in that profession.

TOMORROW: Stays in an early American children’s book.

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