Buckskin

In Georgian times, buckskin was the last word in men's clothing. Calvary men and fashionable English gentleman wore fine buckskin breeches and gauntlets. The breeches would be put on when wet, as they dried the leather shrunk to a skin-tight fit that was a large part of the men's reputation for a dashing appearance. Gloves and book bindings, and many other articles were also made of the soft and durable leather. Common laborers valued the breeches for the long lasting wear they provided. Americans on the frontier began to wear the durable clothing made from tanned deer skins.

Buckskin breeches were an excellent choice for a man who spent hours in the saddle each day. The soft but sturdy garment was cut in such a way that there were no seams against the inner thighs, which made them a comfortable choice. After the end of the American Revolution, young Englishmen began wearing the riding costume as day wear even in London. In spite of a scandalized older generation, riding costumes were soon worn on all but the most formal occasions.

Native American hunters soon learned that the Europeans would exchange deer hides for European-manufactured goods. Axe heads, knives, awls, fish hooks, cloth of various types and colors, woolen blankets, linen shirts, kettles, jewelry, glass beads, muskets, ammunition and powder were some of the major items traded for deer hides. The trading posts also introduced many types of alcohol (especially brandy and rum) for trade. The New World provided a seemingly endless supply of deer.

The deerskin trade centered on the export hub of Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, deerskin trade was the basis of Charleston's early economy. Trade alliances with the Cherokee and Creek insured a steady supply of deer hides. Between 1699 and 1715, an average of 54,000 deerskins were exported annually to Europe through Charleston. Between 1739 and 1761, the height of the deerskin trade era, an estimated 500,000 to 1,250,000 deer were slaughtered. During the same period, Charleston records show an export of 5,239,350 pounds of deerskins.

Charleston, though the main exporter of deerskins, was not the only city to export deer hides. Between 1755 and 1772, more than 2.5 million pounds of deerskins (taken from approximately one million deer) were exported from the port of Savannah, Georgia. Virginia also participated in the trade. In addition, the Creek Indians sold some of their deerskins to the French and Spanish, and the Shawnee traded deerskins with colonies to the north. So large was the scale of slaughter and export that in time deer became very rare in the southeast.



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