There has been a lot of discussion about the impact that the Corps of Discovery had on our country politically, scientifically, and geographically, just to name a few.
Let us, for a few moments, look at the more mundane aspects of the Expedition.
Clothing and Accouterments
Meals and Cooking
Modes of Transportation
Care and Shipment of Specimens
July 3rd, 1805. The men not other[wise] directed are dressing Skins to make themselves mockinsins, as they have about wore them all out in the plains. One pair of good mockinsons will not last more than about 2 days.
- John Ordway
Moccasins were a very important part of the gear for the Corps of Discovery. With over thirty members in the Expedition, each averaging a pair of moccasins every two days....that's a lot of moccasins over two years! The fact that the above entry was made is proof that is was a very important part of camp life. It may not have been very glorious, but it was very necessary. Approximately 1-2 hours for each member of the Expedition every evening were given to the maintenance and making of moccasins.
Moccasins were made from the skin of a deer or elk that had been tanned using its own brain (thus much softer and more supple than alum or bark tanned hides) and then placed over an extremely smoky fire for several hours. The resultant leather was called buckskin and would not be hard and crusty when it dried out.
What follows are the instructions for a standard pair of center-seam moccasins commonly worn by frontiersmen of the time period. The purpose of this task is to give the students a better understanding of what the men of the Expedition had to do on a daily basis in addition to walking, paddling, poling, hunting, etc. Students are graded on participation.
2 pieces of buckskin approximately 12" square
Waxed linen thread or sinew
Fold buckskin in half.
Place right foot on the buckskin, inside of foot along the folded edge.
Trace around toes with 1/4" seam allowance.
Measure around arch of foot with a piece of string. Fold string in half and lay it under your foot on the buckskin, starting from the folded edge. Place the string even with the back of the arch of your foot and mark the buckskin at the end of the string.
Draw a straight line from the line at your little toe to the mark.
Draw a straight line from the above mark the rest of the way back, parallel with the folded side of the buckskin.
Cut the buckskin along the line.
Cut out a 1/4" wide piece of buckskin from the remaining leather for use as a welt in the seam.
Sew in the welt, starting at the toes. Sew to the mark you made for your arch.
Turn moccasin "right-side out." (You've been working on it "inside out.")
Try the moccasin on; make sure it fits snugly.
Mark around the back of your heel.
Pinch buckskin together at the back of your ankle and mark where top edges of buckskin meet.
Turn moccasin "inside out."
Make sure heel mark is in the center of your buckskin.
Draw a line from the ankle mark down to the bottom of the buckskin. (Line should be approximately 1" beyond the heal mark.) Cut along the line.
Cut out a 1/4" piece of buckskin for use as a welt in the seam.
Sew from the top down to within approximately two inches from the bottom.
Squash the sewn seam down the the center of the remaining buckskin to form a "T."
Mark the corners and cut the buckskin back along these marks to the heal mark.
Tuck the flap inside for use as the welt.
Finish sewing the back seam down to the cuts.
Squash the seam down and sew the "T" shut.
Turn the moccasin right side out and try it on.
Sew an additional flap 2-3" wide around the ankle.
Repeat for other foot.
Your new moccasins are done!
The only thing left to do now is to waterproof your new moccasins. Moccasin grease is made from 2 parts tallow (beef or venison), 1 part beeswax, and 1 part neetsfoot oil (originally made by boiling the hooves of a deer, cow, horse, etc. and skimming the oil off the top; the rest was used for making glue.) Combine the above ingredients. Heat them until they can be blended smooth. Pour into tins and let cool. Put 4-5 coats on your moccasins initially, then another coat every evening.