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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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Crogan’s Revolution—Time for a Shave

Crogan’s Vengeance (discussed here) and Crogan’s March are the first two volumes of what graphic novelist Chris Schweizer calls his “Crogan Adventures”—a planned series of yarns about the men in one fictional family, spanning the last four centuries and several familiar genres of fiction.

Good Comics for Kids interviewed Schweizer about the next volume on his to-do list:

The third book will be the first time I depart from the years stated on the family tree. For the American Revolution book, on the family tree it shows [the brothers] in 1776, but I plan on making the book take place in 1779 or early 1780.
The endpapers for Crogan’s Vengeance show the brothers already eyeing each other suspiciously in 1776. Which makes me hope it’s not too late to post a public warning to the artist:
Don’t give eighteenth-century British-American men beards!

As you see, the other Crogans in this picture have facial hair, in two cases quite thick beards. I didn’t mind the bushiness of many characters in Crogan’s Vengeance because that’s set at the very start of the eighteenth century, and on pirate ships, beyond the norms of civilization. But by the late 1700s, British-American men shaved their chins. If they were physically unable to shave for a while, then they got rid of their beards as soon as they could.

That applies to pioneers on the western frontier (who also probably didn’t dress like the 1950s image of the 1830s, in coonskin cap and buckskin). That applies to smugglers and gun runners, especially if they were trying to pass as respectable businessmen within the British Empire.

Schweizer draws in a fun, “cartoony” style. In that approach, it’s only natural to seize on different sorts of facial hair to make one man immediately look different from another, as Scott Chantler did in Northwest Passage. And we have a tendency to amalgamate the fashions of different periods into a single past, as in these “educational” comics.

But looking at portraits, prints, and drawings from the late 1700s makes clear that British-American men didn’t wear beards. Some Hessian and French soldiers probably wore mustaches, but all redcoats and “Minutemen” (we can hope that’s shorthand for Continental Army or some state militia) should be clean-shaven.

[UPDATE at the end of the week: Good news! Schweizer was already on the case. Looking forward to volume three of the Crogan Adventures!]


Pvt.Willy said...

Actually an interesting and useful posting.The pirate,who probably was a scraggly ,bearded sea-rat has none.
Hopefully modern day "minuteman-types",etc.will profit from this.

RFuller said...

Ya wanna see beards? Check out the Boston Globe's article on "Redcoat terror" at Quincy Market....


J. L. Bell said...

The fictional pirate "Catfoot" Crogan is pictured above at the beginning of his career, with a wispy Cavalier/undergraduate mustache and goatee. A comic on Schweizer website shows the same man in middle age, with an impressive beard.

J. L. Bell said...

I tweeted that Globe article with a comment on the facial hair, but it doesn't hurt to mention it again.

Jan said...

Indeed; I recently looked at the Freedom Trail website when looking for things to recommend to a Boston visitor, and I was dismayed by how many of the male players pictured wear facial hair.

What's interesting (to me) is that beards are not exactly popular today; they're not shunned, but they're hardly as celebrated as they have been in the past. So it's the more counterculture people who are trying to depict "typical" persons from the 18th century. And falling on, well, their face in doing so.

Chris Schweizer said...

Mr. Bell,

Seeing as it's something I expect other folks may also find concern with, I posted a response (of sorts) to your post on my own blog. I appreciate your taking the time to read the books, and hope that you will rest assured that no characters in the upcoming book have facial hair - not even the Hessians.


All the best,


J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Mr. Schweizer! I’m looking forward to the results of your labor.

(As you see, the question of beards on men in eighteenth-century dress has been quite a concern among Boston-area reenactors this month.)