The Peaked Military/Oliver Twist Cap


Figure 1.--The boy's peaked military cap is most associated with boy's wearing skeleton suits in the early 19th century. The famous boyhood cjaracters of Charles Dickens, like David Copperfield here, are usually pictured in them. Sharp eyed readers may recognize the future Harry Potter here.

A kind of peaked military cap was worn with skeleton suits and tunics, among other outfits from about the 1820s-50s. I'm not sure of the proper name for this cap, but peaked military cap is a reasonable description. I have also seen them called Oliver Twist caps. Younger boys might wear tassles with them. The caps appeared in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th Century were worn in the American Army during the Mexican War (1846-48). Oddly this rather modern looking style had gone out of fashion by the outbreak of the Civil War. The cap was widely worn by boys after the turn of the 19th century and in the early Victorian England, but I am less sure about the Continent. It may have well been the predecesor of the peaked school cap and indeed in turn the American baseball cap.

Origins

Clearly as for so many mens' and boys' fashions, the inspiration for this cap was similarly styled military caps that appeared during the Napoleonic Wars. The cap mau have appeared late in the 18th century. English units in American Revolutionary War (1776-83), like Tarelton's Raiders, wore them. They became particularly popular during the Napoleronic Wars of the early 19th century. I do not know enough about military uniforms to be able to identify the precise country and time of origin.

Terminology

I'm not sure of the proper name for this cap, but peaked military cap is a reasonable description. I have also seen them called Oliver Twist caps.

Chronologies

These peaked caps began to appears in the 1810s and by the 1820s were being commnly worn by boys. We note paintings and illustrations for these caps in the early 19th century. A example is an Ameican boy in Washington D.C. for President Jackson's inaguration in 1829. Note the tassel on his cap. And once photography devlops we begin to see more images. We note an unidentified American boy in the 1840s. Another example is Edward Edwards in the mid-1940s. These caps continued to be worn through the 1850s.

Age

These caps were worn after a boy was breeched. Thus boys would normally begin wearing them at 5 or 6 years of age. We note Edward Edwards wearing a peaked cap at age 10 years in the mid-1840s. They would normally be worn by boys up to 12 or 13 years of age or until the boy began wearing adult-looking suits.

Tassles

I do not know enough about these caps yet ti be able to describe stylistic differences. Some were worn with tassles. We are not sure how common the tassles were. We note We note an unidentified American boy in the 1840s.

Clothing

The peaked military style was during the 1810s and 20s commonly worn with tunicscand skeleton suits. When skeleton suits began to decline in popularity during the 1840s, these caps continued to be worn with suits of carying design.

Material

I am not sure what materials were used for these caps.

Influence

The stylistic similarities suggest that this style was the inspiration for many other boys' caps. It may have well been the predecesor of the peaked school cap and indeed in turn the American baseball cap. It probably also evolved into the pill-box cap as well as the golf cap.

National Trends

The cap was widely worn by boys after the turn of the 19th century and in the early Victorian England. We also note them in America. A good example is an unidentified American boy, we beliee in the 1840s. I am less sure about the Continent. We think they wee widely worn, but do not yet have much informtion.







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Created: December 17, 1999
Last updated: 12:20 AM 1/19/2007