This blue silk uniform coat has gold colored silk facings and large brass buttons. The high fold-down collar is indicative of 1790-1810 styling. We believe this coat was probably the diplomatic uniform coat worn by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825) while he served as Minister or Ambassador to France under George Washington. He served from September 1796 to February 1797 and was part of what was known as the XYZ Affair – a failed attempt to establish diplomatic relations between the two governments.
Being part of a wealthy and aristocratic family, Pinckney could afford a luxurious coat like this. He was the son of planter and Chief Justice of South Carolina, Charles Pinckney and Eliza Lucas, famous for her success in making indigo a lucrative Lowcountry cash crop. Born in Charleston in 1746, he was educated in England and France before practicing law in Charleston in 1770. He fought in the Revolutionary War and represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
After his term as Ambassador to France, Pinckney was the vice-presidential candidate with John Adams in the 1800 election. They were defeated by the Thomas Jefferson/Aaron Burr ticket. In 1804, Pinckney ran for president, losing to Jefferson and again in 1808, when he was beaten by James Madison. Charles died in August 1825, leaving a long and influential legacy in South Carolina.
This impressive coat was given to the Museum in 1953 by Mrs. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, whose husband was a descendant of our Charles Cotesworth Pinckney’s brother, Thomas. It was in very fragile condition and underwent conservation at the Textile Conservation Workshop in South Salem, NY in 1989-90. There it received humidification to relax the fibers and creases, consolidation of lost areas by inserting dyed fabric underneath, and covering of shattered areas with dyed Stabiltex (primarily the collar and facings). This historically important and still fragile item can only be displayed for short periods of time on a slanted board for support. It is currently in our Uniformly Dressed exhibition (February 16 – August 11, 2013).
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday