Last week we welcomed Henry Cooke back to the galleries, this time in the guise of an 18th century tailor, to work on sewing parts of the replica of John Hancock's red velvet inaugural coat. John Hancock wore this coat when he was inaugurated as the first governor of Massachusetts, here in the Old State House in 1780.
Henry arrived with many of major components already cut from the beautiful c. 1890's red velvet that he sourced for this project. It is an excellent match for the original and was likely made using a very similar loom. To cut these pieces, he relied on the paper patterns that he traced from the original coat back in September.
For this project, Henry is doing all of the stitching by hand, as it would have been done in 1780. Not only that, but he is using period-appropriate tools to do the stitching!
Like a true 18th century tailor, Henry sat cross-legged on a wooden "tailor's bench" while he worked.
Over the course of two days, it was amazing to see the pieces of velvet come together and begin to resemble the original coat.
Our museum staff were all very excited to the see the progress that Henry made on the coat, but we were even more excited to witness the conversations that Henry had with our visitors on a wide range of subjects related to John Hancock, 18th century tailoring, and textile preservation, among many other topics.
Henry brought lots of scraps of the velvet for visitors to touch and a lucky few even got to try the sleeve on for size.
Our very greatest thanks to Henry for bringing his work into our public gallery and allowing us a glimpse at his process. The staff learned just as much as the visitors and we can't wait to see the finished coat!