Friday, March 2, 2018

Vikings in New York and Delaware

"I would also like a chest with Faroese [ Island ] Stockings because these are the best goods to wet people's appetite for the [rest of the] ship's cargo." - 1648

While Viking era settlements are common in Europe, they have also been located in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and more recently Newfoundland. Though, one has not been found in New York or Delaware, yet. However, their decedents, textiles and even garments start arriving in Manhattan and are shipped up to Fort Orange in the 1630s. Seems like a "stretch", I know, to use the term Viking but...

While the raiding of other peoples comes to an end in the 12th century, their culture and material goods continue on up to the 17th century. Unfortunately for the 18th century, access to these good diminish greatly after the New Netherland era. As it appears, the early settlers were not the only ones placing a value on these garments, Native Americans found them practical too. This gives the 17th Century reenactor something different to explore and add to their kit. 

Below: Satellite image showing a rough path from Norway to the tiny Faroe islands near Scotland. Then the small island of Iceland (green) and the snow covered island of Greenland (white) before making it all the way to Newfoundland, about 2,650 miles. Another 800 miles and they would have made it to Manhattan. 

Nordic Settlers:

orwegen settlers were being recruited for the Rennsealear Colony during the 17th Century. Here are a few examples of those who came over and settled in New Netherland, specifically Rensselaer. 

1631, By de Eendracht, Sailed from the Texel shortly after July 7, 1631

Laurens Laurensz the Norman, from Copenhagen, engaged for three years to erect a sawmill

Barent Thonisz from "Heijligesont" [ Hellesund, on the south coast of Norway], engaged for three years to build a sawmill.

1637, By the Rensselaerswyck, Sailed from the Texel, October 8, 1636

Albert Anderiesz, from "Frederikstad" with wife "Annettje" Barents [in the southeast of Norway] erects a mill and is a tobacco planter, and rents two mills on Normans Kill. They leave 8 children.

"Arent" Andriesz, Noorman, tobacco planter brother to Albert Andries above.

Carsten Carstens, Noorman, Farm laborer, sawyer, stave splitter, mill hand and roof thatcher and later later a produce gardener. 

The pre-1664 population: 5% of the population was from Norway, another 3% from Sweden and 1% from Denmark. From my understanding this does not include New Sweden.  While we all know many Nordic persons settled New Sweden, we can see that while low in number had a presence from Delaware and Pennsylvania to Manhattan to Albany, New York. 

People from Nordic nations continue to arrive in small numbers but consistently throughout the 17th Century under both Dutch and later English Sovereignty. This continues into the 18th Century with people such as Jacob, son of Jacob Wickenberg of Coreby, Sweden, a sailor in 1732; Peter Johanson, from Bergen, Norway; and Lauren "Roloffson" from Copenhagen, Denmark. 
However, it wasn't just people being imported from the Nordic Nations or their colonies. A side note: Nordic includes the Scandie nations of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark plus Finland. 

A Textile Called "Vaðmál", Vadmal or Wadmal:

When we think of the Vikings, the era from 793 - 1050AD is that standard range. However, the colonies established by these same Vikings, continue on in a semi-isolated Islands. The Faroe Island, Iceland and Greenland have the same people producing the same textiles and garments they have been since their early settlement, with historians extending the Viking era into the 14th century for these regions. It gets better, simply because they hung on to their Viking style garments and textiles right into the 17th century, when their stockings, Norse Kersey and even the infamous "vaðmál" (wadmal) show up in New Netherland. 

In 1638, kersey from Norway was being imported.

Honor be to God, this day 28, April 1638, in Amsterdam Loaded in the ship called Het Weapon van "Noorweegen" for the colony of Rensselaerwyck, these following goods...
1 an East India chest in which Norwegian kersey, canvases, linen and divers other goods for the needs of the human body.

(Please forgive terms such as "Vaðmál" being in quotes, auto-attack has not been cooperative.) 

The kersey that shows up in Rensselaerwyck, arrives on a ship from Norway, with Norwegian passengers and Norwegian goods. It does make a pit stop in the Netherlands prior to landing in New Netherland but it is clearly an early account of a coarse thread 2/2 twill weave textile that was likely "fulled" and originated in Norway. The reason I suggest it was likely "fulled" is because the Dutch recorder noted it as a Kersey which are fulled, however, I have not found a source for kersey being made in Norway. Was this the textile called "vaðmál" which also happens to be a coarse thread 2/2 twill weave that is sometimes fulled? To get a sense of what the Norse kersey was, considering there is little evidence of "kersey" being woven in Norway we can look to another sources. In the sources below the original would have read "vadmal" in Swedish records. 

1911: The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664, By Amends Johnson, 
Joen Skraddare was undoubtedly a tailor, as his nick-name indicates,... Brown or gray wadmal and duffel, linen and frieze were the most common cloth, in fact almost the only kind shipped here for the need of the settlers and from this their garments were made. The retail cost of these materials from 1643 until 1654: 1. Frieze, four florins a yard. 2. Duffel, four florins a yard. 3. Linen cloth, one florin a yard. 4. Wadmal, twelve stivers a yard. 

Norse textiles continue to be imported after the earlier shipments. In 1647, The Swan was loaded with items from Holland in Stockholm, which included "several hundred yards of wadmal" and stockings, then set sail from Sweden. During this same time, a New Sweden soldier's purchase oder gives the following, "4 yards of wadmal a 13 stivers 0:2:8". (B. Monatg., 1642-1656, Jonsson's account) 

1655: Report of Governor Johan "Risingh" June 14, 1655 page 161.

Moreover, all the cargoes needed here,...can also be made up from supplies of the Compay at home in Sweden; and since linen, fine and coarse can be bought for a cheap price, and wadmal and hards also,... for there would be a splendid gain to be secured from these goods from every country, especially here in America,...

The Viking era was roughly between 793 - 1050AD and centered around Norway; with the Faroe islands being settled by 800 AD, Iceland in 874 and Greenland in 980s. For places such as Greenland and Iceland their "Viking age" continues to the 14th Century. Catholic churches begin appearing about 1015AD in Norway. During this time a fabric called "vaðmál", which was a 2/2 twill produced on a warp weight loom, was one of the most common wool textiles available for warmth. A 2/2 twill weaves include kersey (a "fulled" textile) and serge (a twill-woolen blended textile), which can also appear in patterns such as birdseye or herringbone. Additionally, Vaðmál could be "fulled" but archeological finds suggest that this was not as common as non-treated. The coarse version is called "gjaldavoo" at 9-10 warps per cm and the finest called "smavoo" at 13-14 warp threads per cm. It may have been a precursor to fulled Kersey being made in England.

"Vaðmál" (vadmål, wadmal) was produced to specific standards by the 12th century due to it being used as a currency in places such as Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, etc. It was set to a specification of 98.4cm wide or two ells, which also meets England's import requirements. Shipments of this textile continue throughout the middle ages. 
In 1596, a ship in an English port, having returned from Iceland, had 640 yards of "vaðmál", 240 "vaðmál" socks, 720 "vaðmál" mittens and 18 "vaðmál" cassocks. This is in contrast to Greenland who's "vaðmál" evolved to become warmer using a warp dominated (higher count) weave over time. Greenland exported more stockings and mittens than cloth. The fabric was not limited to 98.4 cm wide. A 12th-13th century loom was discovered in Greenland to have enough notches on its long beam to produce a 147.6 cm wide fabric.  

Interestingly, when twills are found in American archeological sites the thread used in the textile can be used to determine the region of origin and what type of twill it is. Thread is spun either clockwise or counterclockwise, sometimes the warp and welt yards are spun in the same direction sometimes the opposite. The combination is specific to both region and can change over time. 

"Vaðmál" was very popular during the Viking era and continues to be exported from Iceland into the 17th century, but by the later middle ages it is considered and usually purchased by poorer persons. See the following study on "vaðmál". The above info is from Weaving Wealth Cloth and Trade in Viking Age and Medieval Iceland. However, it seems that over time, while "Vaðmál" remains a coarser quality, higher thread count versions emerge. 

Additional information on archeological digs and textiles can be found in Tools and Textile Production in the North Atlantic.
"Hafnarvoamal could comprise several different qualities, such as merkurvoamal..., used in better clothes, carpets, bed covers and the like. ... while merkurvaomal, the commonest type of hafnarvaomal, cost two and a half times more." 

For New Sweden and New Netherland era reenactors and historic sites, consider including 2/2 twill woven woolens in a low thread count as capes, blankets, doublets and even leggings. This is a fun topic, how a textile made popular by the Vikings was still being produced in their former colonies well into the 17th century AND were the fabrics that got many of the first settlers through those early American winters. "Vaðmál" and our friend Laken were the workhorses of winter and rainy weather textiles.

You can find great pictures of how this textile is woven on Arachne's blog. Vix a weaver of historic textiles and took on the challenge of weaving wadmal.

Mittens and shoes made from fabric that is cut and sewn together, likely our twilled fabric. Link.

Nordic Stockings: 

Imported Icelandic and Faroe [Island] stockings are also found in the colony. The knitting industry was introduced to these islands through the early Viking settlements. 
Faroe stockings have a shoe like bottom (flat bottom), and are twice the thickness of a typically knitted stocking. In 1648 Govert (Governor) Loockermans sends a letter requesting that his wife sends stockings for him to sell in New Netherland. "I would also like chest with Faroese Stockings because these are the best goods to wet people's appetite for the [rest of the] ship's cargo." In 1651, Damen, a brewer, New Amsterdam, has "13 pairs of Faroe Stockings" in his inventory and were likely for sale. 

In these settlements, knitting was an industry primary performed by women. In 1624, Iceland exported 72,000 pairs of stockings and 12,000 pairs of mittens according to the book "Traditional Scandinavian Knitting" by Sheila McGregor. The book includes images and grids for knit patterns for the Faroe Islands and Iceland. See link to the book in the right margin of this site. 

In November of 1653 in the Council Mintutes orders were given to appraise incoming immigrants material goods. To ensure consistency, the most common items were assign valuations of which the first there items are as follows:

A pair of men's shoes, size 8 to 12 at 3.5 florin, a pair of Icelandic Stockings at 38 stivers, a firkin of soap at 20 guilders, etc...

This was followed by fixed pricing  in November of 1657, due to a high volume of sea-wan, and lower volume of beaver which are being used as currency. The prices were set for lower quality items. 
A quart of poor vinegar at 24 stivers, Oil at 3 to 4 guilders, Etc...Two quarts of home brewed beer 12 stivers, A pair of coarse Faroese stockings at 4 guilders etc...

Probate inventories turn up Norse Stockings too:

The 1665 Imbroch inventory from Wiltwick (Kingston) has both "filled (gevulde) stockings and iceland stockings"

The 1665 Reversion Inventory from Fort Orange (at center of Beverwijk Albany) has: "2 pair new Icelandic stockings, 2 pair old ditto"

So, we can see that there was a presence of both textiles and stockings from Nordic nations in the colony. The Nordic Kerseys are mentioned a few times, more so along the Hudson River, with wadmal mostly showing up in New Sweden, and Nordic Stockings due to their water resistance and warmth are found everywhere. They are also found in sailor's inventories. These islands also exported mittens and other items, while knit mittens turn up in inventories they are not mentioned to be Faroe or Icelandic. However, knitting needles are rarely found in inventories, leaving imported mittens as the main option. 

There is one other item, that though not explicitly said to be Nordic, I am guessing it was them that figured out how to produce such an item listed in a bill of landing: "46 pair of watertight leather shoes, averaging 23-1/2 stiv. a pair". They happen to be sent to Rensselaer, which is where the Nordic kerseys are being sent and Norse Stockings are found, so there may be a relationship. The Vikings had a waterproof leather or oilskin they used. Lastly, it seems that Norsemen and New Netherlanders were not the only ones that found these stockings useful. 

On the 10th of July 1657 several Native Americans deed Staten Island to "Lubbertus" van "Dincklaecken". The island was traded for dozens of different items among which included 

10 boxes of shirts; 10 ells of red checked cloth; 30 pounds of powder; 30 pairs of "Faroese" stockings;....etc.

Reenactors who portray soldiers and sailors can easily tap into any of the items mentioned above. As can be seen, the farmers and settlers on the Hudson and up in Albany had access to the same goods as those down in New Sweden. When looking at New Sweden, it seems that their suits made of leather and possibly duffle were complimented by Nordic kerseys, wadmal, and Icelandic and Faroese stockings. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and was as surprised as I was to learn that while it took a few extra generations, squarely Viking stockings and textiles made their way to the colony. 

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