John Smith’s Bill: Then & Now


For rain and bad weather Sears has rubber-coated rainwear, coat and pants, for $41.98. Both Bauer’s Ridgeline parka of cotton/ polyester poplin and goose down, with insulated hood, in navy, for $195, and Bean’s Thinsulate Gore-Tex Maine Warden’s parka and hood in navy, for $179.75, provided protection against wind and water. I reasoned that a parka would provide better all-round protection from the elements, particularly since Englishmen found Virginia’s climate much colder than they expected, and the cheaper Bean model seemed a better choice. [$180]

1 suit of frieze. 10s.

This coarse woolen fabric was valued for its warmth. A tweed jacket and wool pants seemed closest to what Smith had in mind. Thompson’s Harris tweed jacket in gray herringbone for $165 was the best value, and I matched the coat with Bean’s wool worsted flannel trousers in dark gray for $58. [$223]

1 suit of cloth. 15s.

Instead of another dress-up suit, I opted for Sears Denim Toughskins (polyester, nylon, and cotton) bib overalls, with double knees, in hickory stripe for $30.99, and a cotton denim “chore coat” in blue for $27.96. [$59]

3 pair of Irish stockings. 4s.

Since I had to outfit for both work and social occasions, I selected from the catalogue two pairs of navy Sears Workforce stockings, made of acrylic and nylon, for $5.99, and one pair of acrylicand-nylon Sears Best quality hose in navy for $1.68. [$8]

4 pair of shoes. 8s. 8d.

Here I decided upon a pair of Bean’s brown Maine Hunting Shoes, twelve inches high, for $66; a pair of eight-inch-high reddish brown Sears DieHard Leather shoes for $71.94; a pair of Sears black plain-toe oxfords at $31.94; and a pair of Sears black blunt-toe boots for $49.94. [$220]

1 pair of garters. 10d.

Stores in my part of the country no longer stock garters, so I decided this was a good place to save money. [$0]

1 dozen of points. 3d.

“A tagged lace or cord, of twisted yarn, silk, or leather, for attaching the hose to the doublet, lacing a bodice, and fastening various parts where buttons are now used.” In this instance a leather belt seemed a wiser choice, so I decided on one from Sears: a reversible (black and brown) split cowhide belt with polished gilt brass buckle for $12. [$12]

1 pair of canvas sheets. 8s.

Two polyethylene tarpaulins from Sears (15 feet 8 inches by 19 feet 6 inches) cost $44.99 apiece. [$90]

7 ells of canvas to make a bed and bolster, to be filled in Virginia, serving for two men. 8s.

When I used an obsolete English unit of measurement equivalent to 45 inches, 7 ells of canvas came to 315 inches, or about 9 yards. The salesman at the Pittsburg Awning Company urged me to consider more modern materials not subject to the dry rot to which canvas is prone. A family-size tent of cotton and polyester (sleeps six adults) priced at $210.64 in the Sears catalogue sounded like a much better buy. I decided to spend a little extra and get two Space Blankets from Bean’s (56 by 84 inches) for $9.75 each. [$230]

5 ells of coarse canvas to make a bed at sea for two men. 5s.

Could Smith have had a hammock in mind? Bean’s features an Outdoorsman sleeping bag with Quallofil insulation for $109 and a Kennebec insulated sleeping bag rated to zero degrees at $129. I concluded Smith would have paid the difference to get greater protection from the elements. [$129]

1 coarse rug at sea for two men. 6s.

The Scots still use the term rug , but we prefer the word blanket . The Hudson’s Bay Point blanket in Bean’s catalogue looked the most appealing, and I settled on the largest (108 by 100 inches), which cost $210, as suitable for two men. [$210]

Total cost of apparel £4 6s. Od. [$l,521]

Victual for a whole year for a man, and so after the rate for more.