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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  Cas City Historical Society (Moderators: St. George, Silver Creek Slim)  |  Topic: Size of bandanas 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Size of bandanas  (Read 8564 times)
Skeeter Lewis
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« on: March 19, 2012, 11:57:43 am »


We think of bandanas as being about 33- 36 inches square but when I look at period photos, they look a little smaller. It seems to be later, maybe the late nineties, that they get to that full size.I'm no expert. What do pards think?
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RickB
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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2012, 12:34:29 pm »

Is that a bandana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me.
  Grin  Cool Grin
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« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2012, 04:52:00 pm »

Astute observation and I'd agree that most images seen from our era suggest a smaller treatment than the "wild rag"  seen today. Ward, in his excellent book, describes "bandanas" as neck scarves, handkerchiefs, and even mufflers but does not use the word bandana. Lindmer and Mount treat the subject briefly and though described under the title "bandana" fail to provide any historical use of the word and again you see the term handkerchief. The point is that may be all they were and suggests a smaller size than the 30 iinch rag we see today. Looking at the images in Cowboy by John Egen which shows images from 1903 you see a standard handkerchief size and a larger version on cowboys actually in the field. All writers describe the functionality of such a garment.

By the turn of the century  women were riding in rodeo's and wild west shows were popular, both set a standard for cowboys. Images from them often show large neck scarfs. There are those that suggest that women set the example for ten gallon hats (Tom Mix style) that were then copied by men, and they may have had a significant influence on neck wear also.

But your point is well taken and from the images available common appearance says that if we portray an early drover we should probably be wearing a "handkerchief" or only slightly larger sized neck scarf. Probably should avoid the use of the term bandana and certainly wild rag. At least that is true of the central and northern plains cowboy. I know little of the border and Californio culture.
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« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2012, 06:38:29 pm »

While reading about Buffalo Bill and his 'Wild West' I came across something that makes sense, kinda. It seems that Bill really wanted his Cowboys to stand out, he put'm in over sized hats and such so that the crowds could better see their attire. The more popular the 'Wild West' got the more people, including real Cowboys, expected Cowboys to dress like Bill's Cowboy. While some Cowboys had always worn the bigger hats and such, now more and more did wanting to look like the Wild West Hero that Bill was pushing.
In Law Enforcement I saw the same thing on occasion. You'd be surprised at the number of Detective/Investigators started dressing like Don Johnson while 'Miami Vice' was on or even how many Cops bought .44s when Dirty Harry was popular. Sometimes reality is greatly affected by fantasy.
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Skeeter Lewis
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2012, 03:33:07 am »

Thanks for the interesting responses. I have a 36-incher and that has a dude cowboy look from the early twentieth century. Maybe 25 inches square (or so)would be more old time.
And where did the term 'wild rag' come from? I don't think it was around even thirty years ago....
'Bandana' apparently is from the Hindi word 'badhnu' which is a way of dyeing. India had a flourishing cotton industry in the nineteenth century, exporting to the west.
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Major 2
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« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2012, 05:03:02 am »

Kerchief comes from a French word meaning head cover it has roots to the 16th Century.
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Skeeter Lewis
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2012, 07:33:45 am »

Thanks, Major.
I've just finished (since my last post) sewing a bandana that is just under 26" square. When knotted it seems much more like the size in old time photos. It certainly couldn't be any bigger than 26.
Mind you, I'm a skinny guy with a 15.5" neck.....
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Don Nix
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2012, 01:03:50 pm »

Been wearin' "wild rags "for well over thirty years. They were wild rags then and beyond, also neckerchiefs and scarfs. some were 38' and up especially the silk variety. It takes a big one to wear properly in the winter especially if you have an 18" neck like me.
The old Boy Scout neckerchiefs are a carry over from the cowboys and served many purposes.
I wear them almost daily in the winter because silk is a good insulator, in the summer its cotton to soak up the sweat or to wet down  and cool off . But for playing cowboy I guess you can call 'em what you want and wear what you want,it doesnt matter.
 Just remember that silk is for Show and cotton is for blow.
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Ima Sure Shot
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2012, 04:28:42 pm »

I have seen several photos of women of the time in headscarves.   Most think they all wore fancy hats.  I have often thought the "wild rags" of today were the size of the silk headscarves of my youth.  There is a photo somewhere of the current queen of England not to long ago wearing a headscarf.  Lots of photos of ladies from the "Old Country" at Ellis Island with head scarves.  My point being, I always thought the men might have used mothers or sisters or wifes headscarfs to keep out the dust, keep in the heat and so forth.  A small hankerchief won't go under your chin and tie very well if it is over your head. and in winter a headscarf will tie on a cowboy hat. Celeste
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Ima Sure Shot
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 05:16:32 pm »

I have a copy of an 1897 Sear and Roebuck Catalogue on page 225 there are hadkerchiefs ofne is listed as," Men's Handkerchiefs. Genuine Martha Washington Turkey Red Handkerchiefs these are the Old Reliable, Fast Colored Standard Quality Goods."  It then goes on to state they come in

 18x17 inches;per doz..... $0.43
 21x20 inches; per doz.....    .55
 24x23 inches; per doz.....    .65
 28x26 inches; per doz.....    .90

So I guess it depends on how rich a cowboy was when he ordered as to what size.  As to linen and silk most of those just say,"Full" size or some such.

On page 226 there is a close out sale each an odd lott of mens mufflers at $0.23 no size given and then there is ,"Pure Silk Mufflers" for ladies or gentlemen, handsome broacaded patterns, of pure silk, in a variety of designs; size 28x28.
Each............................................................... $0.80

hope this helps.Celeste
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Skeeter Lewis
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2012, 06:34:54 pm »

Good info, Ima. Thanks for posting.
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Ima Sure Shot
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2012, 07:43:27 pm »

You are welcome.  Excuse my typing.  My computer keys are sticking . Celeste
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GunClick Rick
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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2012, 01:36:43 am »

I reckon most cowboys got silk scarves from thier gals and the gals wore big ones in case of wind to cover thier hats and tie them down,also to cover the hair doo in case of rain,just like today the gals had better stuff than the fellers and they would have more than one so when her cowboy went on the long traildrive she would at least give him one with the smell of parfume,and when he gave it back it smelled of sweat,creek water,cow mynuer,coffe or whatever else there was on the trail
 But i imagine it had to be of a good size cuase in the wind the cowboy without a string would use the scarf to tie his hat down.Scout would have to have a big one to wave standing far off to signal injuns,water or camp here..Now if he found a saloon,he would just stick it in the ground,turn and go ahade on----------------------------------> Grin DIAMOND BACK
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Thomas (Tom) Horn aka James Hicks
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« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2012, 12:23:05 am »

Do not know what the neck scarf/bandanna/handkerchief size was in the 1880s or what would be considered PC.  Here is a picture of a cowboy in Wyoming area ca1880s... his bandanna/neck scarf or whatever you want to call it, does not look like a small scarf, looks fairly large too me based on the way he is wearing it.


* Cowboy1a.jpg (41.02 KB, 600x423 - viewed 406 times.)
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« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2012, 12:39:17 am »

35x35 Smiley
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Harley Starr
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« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2012, 02:34:31 pm »

35x35 Smiley

Also my preference.
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Skeeter Lewis
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2012, 05:02:26 am »

Harley, James and Clicker - you're absolutely right - large bandanas were often seen in the west. But smaller ones were often seen in the early days as well, compared with a uniformly larger size later.


* Bandana 3.jpg (51.99 KB, 369x640 - viewed 306 times.)
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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2012, 09:14:43 am »

Skeeter et al,

I think that it is a relative thing ... that the bandana should be able to cover the cowboy's face to protect against windstorms ... I personally have a 17 1/2 to 18" neck and need the largest bandana around to reach around my neck .... I mean I can and have worn the small size bandanna,  but it would have never fit around my face ...

Just my $0.02 ....
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« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2012, 10:11:51 am »

Sorta depends on how big of a nose ya got, and how much of a bull neck, doesn't it?  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 10:31:36 am »

Trailrider,

To my way of thinking ... I have had the cheap cotton (read small) bandanas ... and on an 18 " neck, there was just barely enough left over for a square knot; and no room for a slide ... now on the bigger ones, I can either tie it or use a slide with it ...
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My moniker is my great grandfather's name. He served with the 2nd Florida Mounted Regiment in the Civil War. Afterward, he came home, packed his wife into a wagon, and was one of the first NorteAmericanos on the Frio River southwest of San Antonio ..... Kinda where present day Dilley is ...

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." John Wayne
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« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2012, 11:21:33 am »

I wear both silk and cotton, silk most of the time, the cotton when I work around a fire.  The 35X35 ones are not hard to find, they are as close as your local fabric shop.  I will not work around a fire with a silk one nor will I let anyone who helps me wear one.  I always have extra cotton and give them out to folks who help me.  That bandanna helps keep radiant heat burns off my neck. 

Of course the silk ones done up in what is know as a cowboy turtleneck are fantastic to help keep you warm in the winter:



I sell hundreds of them every year for this use.  I don't know any working cowboys who don't own them and use them, perfect gift for someone.

Cotton ones, just buy a yard and a quarter of calico you like, square it up and sew the edges, the extra is to make sure you can get full size on the bias.  The scraps go in my calico scrap box and get used for quilts and patching my work shirts.  I even do them for friends, and I just keep the scrap for my labor. Wink

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« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2012, 08:20:43 pm »

Harley, James and Clicker - you're absolutely right - large bandanas were often seen in the west. But smaller ones were often seen in the early days as well, compared with a uniformly larger size later.


That's cuzz them fellers didn't have no gal~Fellers with big rags usually had thier gals silk one on and sniff and cuddle it whilst sleepin under gods own lights Grin Kiss Cheesy
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« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2012, 08:22:34 pm »

I wear both silk and cotton, silk most of the time, the cotton when I work around a fire.  The 35X35 ones are not hard to find, they are as close as your local fabric shop.  I will not work around a fire with a silk one nor will I let anyone who helps me wear one.  I always have extra cotton and give them out to folks who help me.  That bandanna helps keep radiant heat burns off my neck. 

Of course the silk ones done up in what is know as a cowboy turtleneck are fantastic to help keep you warm in the winter:



I sell hundreds of them every year for this use.  I don't know any working cowboys who don't own them and use them, perfect gift for someone.

Cotton ones, just buy a yard and a quarter of calico you like, square it up and sew the edges, the extra is to make sure you can get full size on the bias.  The scraps go in my calico scrap box and get used for quilts and patching my work shirts.  I even do them for friends, and I just keep the scrap for my labor. Wink



I'll have to check the website i need to get a few..
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« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2012, 12:51:08 am »

Neck/head scarves are not a latter 19th Century cow hand only item. FYI - the term bandanna/bandana shows up in several of the early 19th Century Rocky Mountain trade lists at least as far back as 1831 i.e. in Jed Smith's list of goods for the Santa Fe trade they are noted as bandanna handkerchiefs along with handkerchief and and it's abbreviations - the latter are listed in both silk and cotton while bandanas are listed as cotton or otherwise not described other than bandana. In another trade list (Robert Campbell's of 1832) they are noted as Bandana Hdkf and Bandana Handkerchief. Some descriptions note them as being (east) Indian silk or cotton and colors such as blue are also noted.
Other early 19th Century period sources note handkerchiefs/bandanas being used as both neck scarves and head scarves during the early 1800's - one of the most famous being Edward Robinson, a mountain man from Kentucky, who was scalped as a younger man during the Ky Indian Wars of the late 1700's and thereafter wore a bandana/handkerchief to cover his healed scalp. One tough dude, he died in an attack by Bannack or Snake Indians in 1814 at age 66 or 67, while trapping in eastern Idaho.
Bandanas/Handkerchiefs as head wear are also well documented amongst the Spanish/Mexicans of the SW and the Californios from the 1700's through the 1800's - often being worn under a broad brimmed hat/sombrero.
Silk handkerchiefs/scarves are also well documented for the 18th Century - being used as both neck wear and head wear (either pirate style with the knot at the back or Aunt Jemima style with the knot on the forehead).....

The trade lists referred to above can be found here - http://user.xmission.com/~drudy/mtman/bizrecs.html

Like Don Nix I've worn/wear either silk or cotton (sometimes linen which is even better than cotton in the summer for wicking away sweat) dependent on the weather as do most of the working cow hands I know and have known - they are especially popular amongst the buckaroos of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau region which I'm most familiar with and I've heard them referred to as wild rags by the old timers at least as far back as the mid-1960's when I first started riding as a working cow hand in the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez/Paso Robles California areas.
Also like Wadd I've got a large 18" neck and and head (size 8 hat) and need a minimum 30-32" square to fit, so while smaller may have been PC for some IMO basically it depends on your size - just like breech clouts  Wink .
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« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2012, 10:47:35 am »

In the pic in my profile, as a Californio I am wearing a silk bandana under the hat, tied 'pirate style' with a square knot under the back (occipital area) of the head ...but it only really shows on the back view ...

I am told that it was much easier (and cheaper) for the Californios to was a bandana than to clean a hat ... and with the heat and dust of Central California, it makes a lot of sense ...
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My moniker is my great grandfather's name. He served with the 2nd Florida Mounted Regiment in the Civil War. Afterward, he came home, packed his wife into a wagon, and was one of the first NorteAmericanos on the Frio River southwest of San Antonio ..... Kinda where present day Dilley is ...

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." John Wayne
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