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The Plantation Community
Lesson Twelve



George Mason wants a new suit in the latest style. No one at Gunston Hall does this kind of work. So, he travels about 20 miles north to the town of Alexandria, Virginia to place an order with Mr. Carlin, the tailor.

Tailors in the 1700s did the same things that tailors do today. They made and altered clothes. They supplied accessories, like buttons, for clothing. In the 18th century, tailors produced garments for boys and men most of the time. The only female clothes they made were suits for horseback riding.

Shopkeepers back then kept two account books. In one book, Mr. Carlin listed his business day by day. The other book was organized by customer. Each customer was listed on his own set of pages. Why did Mr. Carlin need both account books?

   Drawing of House and Yard

Read these entries from Mr. Carlin's customer account book. Each line is numbered for easy reference. The numbers did not appear in the original book. If you're stumped by some of the 18th-century words and spelling, look at the modern version of the text.


1770 Colonel Mason

1. To 5 Eights of fine shaloon to Son George Cape

2. To making Son George a pr Lether Bretches

3. To makeing Servt wastcoat & Bretches

4. To Buttons to Son George Lether Bretches

5. To makeing Son George 2 pr Bretches


January    Recvd Creditt with Colonel Mason for the above


0-- 1

0-- 7


0-- 0


Wm Carlin


1770 Colonel Mason

Five eighths of a yard of fine shalloon for a cape for son George

Making a pair of leather breeches for son George

Making a servant's waistcoat and breeches

Buttons to the leather breeches for son George

Making two pairs of breeches for son George


January    Received Credit from Colonel Mason for the above


1 shilling

7 shillings

11 shillings


10 shillings

William Carlin

Answer the questions on each entry.

1. George Mason is listed as a debtor in this entry. What does "debtor" mean? Why is the word used here?

2. Pounds, shillings, and pence are forms of English money. The values are given in the chart.

Pound -- 20 shillings or 240 pence

Shilling -- 1/20 pound or 12 pence

Pence -- 1/240 pound or 1/12 shilling

Which form of money is worth the most?

Which form of money is worth the least?

Mr. Mason was charged in English currency. Why?

3. Shalloon (line 1) is an expensive wool fabric used for lining clothes. How much shalloon did Mr. Mason purchase? ______________________

How much did it cost? _____________________

4. Mr. Mason purchased breeches for a servant and for his sixteen-year-old son, George (lines 2, 3, and 5). Breeches are pants that were cut off just below the knee. A boy began wearing breeches between the age of three and seven. This was a sign that he was a "little man." Mark the breeches on the illustration with a "b."

5. Breeches were made from all kinds of fabric. Silk breeches were worn on fancy occasions. Wool, linen, and cotton breeches were for everyday use. Leather breeches (line 2) had special uses, because they were so durable. Mr. Mason's son George wore leather breeches for a specific activity. What was this activity?

How many pairs of breeches did Mr. Mason buy?

6. In all, how much money did Mr. Mason spend on breeches for his son George?

_______ shillings

7. Mr. Mason purchased a waistcoat for his house servant (line 3). A waistcoat was a type of vest worn by boys and men under their coats. Mark the waistcoat on the illustration with a "w."

8. Most of the workers' clothes at Gunston Hall were made on the plantation. Why did Mr. Mason go to the tailor to order a waistcoat and breeches for his house servant?

9. Mr. Carlin did not charge for one item in this entry. What was it?

10. What was the total cost of all the items listed?

_______ pound(s) _______ shilling(s)

11. What did Mr. Mason do on January 14, 1771?

Entry 2:

This entry shows orders for suits of mourning. Mr Mason purchased these clothes after the death of his first wife, Ann Eilbeck Mason. When a loved one died in the 18th century, family members wore black, plain clothes for a period of time to express their grief.


1773    Colo. George Mason

April 2

1. To makeing yr suit of mourning

2. To makeing yr Son George a suit

3. To makeing yr Son Wm & Thompson to Each a suit

4. To makeing Son John a suit Crape

5. To makeing Man James a suit








1773    Colonel George Mason

April 2

Making your suit of mourning

Making a suit for your son George

Making one suit each for your sons William and Thomson

Making a crape suit for your son John

Making your man James a suit


1 pound, 7 shillings,
6 pence

1 pound, 5 shillings

1 pound, 18 shillings

12 shillings, 6 pence

1 pound, 2 shillings,
6 pence

1. A suit in the 1700s (listed in lines 1-5) consisted of breeches, a waistcoat, and a jacket. How many suits did Mr. Mason buy on April 2, 1773? ________________________________________

2. The dates of birth for Mr. Mason's sons are given in the chart. How old were they when Mr. Mason placed his order for mourning suits? Complete the chart.

Son Birth Date Age
George April 30, 1753  
William October 22, 1757  
Thomson March 4, 1759  
John April 4, 1766  

3. The mourning suits for William and Thomson were probably the same price. How much did each suit cost?

_______ shillings

4. List the mourning suits from most expensive to least expensive.

1. ________________________

2. ________________________

3. ________________________

4. ________________________

5. John's suit was made of crape, a type of wool. What is the difference in cost between John's suit and the suit belonging to his father, George?

_______ shillings

6. Mr. Mason purchased a mourning suit for James, a slave who was his personal servant. Why would James wear a mourning suit?

7. Give the total cost of the suits ordered on this day.

_____ pounds _____ shillings _____ pence

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