March 3, 2015

Sarah Hurdle Created the Pants for a Whole Lot of Mormons

I apologize for my lapse in writing.  I've put other things first.  Sounds kind of lame but that's all I can say.  

I belong to Daughters of the Utah Pioneers here in Georgia.  When I was preparing for our next meeting in a few days, I ran across an article about that suit of clothes in the photo here.  It actually was about lots of clothes that are on display at the DUP museum in Salt Lake City.  But this one caught my attention.

The pants on the model were made in 1840 by a 12 year old girl!  You probably don't sew, but I do.  I started sewing when I was around 8 or 9 years old by watching my Mom.  I remember sewing Barbie clothes for myself and my sisters dolls.  My younger sister Stacey still played with baby dolls, and I made several outfits for her little dolls.  I learned to copy my favorite clothes by turning them inside out and tracing the seams onto newspaper.  Apparently I'm not the only one who figured out how to do this.

Twelve year old Sarah Hurdle sewed these pants in 1840 for her big brother to wear.  Years later, he crossed the plains in those pants.  The workmanship was so remarkable and the style so good that they were copied by the women in Utah.  (Or they were the only pair of pants to survive the trip in any shape to copy?)  According to a DUP scholar, almost every pair of pants worn in Utah after 1840 was made from the pattern taken from Sarah's pants!

Isn't it amazing that they lasted so long, and survived through such difficult circumstances.  Was it the homespun fabric Sarah used?  Or was the pattern such that the pants held together well?  I couldn't find any more information about Sarah or her brother to share with you.  But what I learned was so cool it was enough!

Was Sarah a Mormon Pioneer too?  Did she know that the pants she made became the 'standard' for pants that Mormon men in Utah wore?  If she wasn't a member and didn't emigrate to Utah, she probably never knew this.  Further--  Could it be that Levi Strauss took note of her pattern and integrated some of her ideas into his jeans?  And do any of her design elements survive to today?  In other words, does Sarah still influence our pants-wear generations later?

Next time I'm in Salt Lake, I will visit Sarah's pants in the DUP exhibit.  I want to take a closer look and see what was so special about these pants that they were so widely copied.  Maybe I can ask the DUP historians there for more information on Sarah.

This cool story shows me that we can have a positive influence on the world even when we have no idea we are doing anything spectacular.  In fact, making these pants may have been downright ordinary for Sarah, just like our daily lives today. How glad I am for journals!  If you're not keeping one yourself, please reconsider.  Your descendants will be so grateful.

Read about Sarah's pants here: Wadley, Carma.  "Pioneer Clothing:  Dressed for the West."  Deseret News. 30 Jan 2004.

Photo courtesy of Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News