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A Handkerchief And Other “Knit” Stuff

About 15 artifact accession numbers correspond to untreated textiles recovered from the Monitor. They were all taken out of the climate-controlled wet storage about 2 months ago to begin treatments.

For documentation, I started looking at the textile fibers under a microscope and was happily surprised to find out that many of these pieces are silk (or silk mixed with cotton)!!

Silk fiber magnified 100x Cotton fiber magnified 400x

Looking at these fragments closely, everything indicates that most silk pieces are remains of a handkerchief:

– they were recovered near the pelvic area of one of the sets of human remains in the turret (i.e. not far from trouser pockets);

– most of the parts are folded repeatedly like a hand fan (or a handkerchief) would be folded;

– and one piece contains a tight knot, which still remains intact today.

We called our Civil War garment adviser, Chris Daley, Historic Clothing Supervisor at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, for confirmation.

In terms of treatment, I thought the wool coat was challenging but this is a whole new level of fragility. It is paper-thin, heavily stained by metallic salts, and some parts are mineralized…

Here is a picture of the main part of the handkerchief during treatment (for a scale of reference, the width of the tray is 12 inches).

In addition, small pieces of linen were found among these objects rending our material database broader. Here is a shot of the fibers magnified 200 times:

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!

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