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Frock and Pants worn by John Thomas Jefferson

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These clothes were worn by John Thomas Jefferson aboard USS Constitution in 1867. Jefferson had enlisted in the U.S. Navy that same year, when he was 12 years old. At that time, the ship was serving as a floating classroom at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Both the frock and trousers are stained and torn because Jefferson was wearing them when the boilers of the Albemarle, a steam launch to which he was frequently detached, exploded. On October 19, 1867, as the Albemarle was returning to the Constitution to take officers aboard, its boilers exploded, throwing Jefferson overboard. He survived and kept these clothes as a remarkable reminder of the dramatic accident.

The trousers are made of off-white, coarse linen, and have some embellishment that was likely added by Jefferson himself. There are thirteen white buttons at the front surrounded by embroidery. The embroidered pattern beneath the buttons takes the form of a naturalistic foliage vine. There is also a blue flap at the back of the pants.

The frock is made of off-white linen, and embroidered with additional details. The cuffs of the frock are blue and scalloped at the edges. Contrasting white stitching decorates the cuffs, and wavy white cotton gimp outlines the edge of the cuffs. The chest of the garment is embroidered with a curving blue thread, while the inner portion of the open neck, and both the inner and outer portions of the collar, are also blue. Two white embroidered stars complete the decoration on the collar of the garment.

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Pants: [H] 34.375 in. [W] 19.25 in. (at cuffs); 10.5 in. (at waist).

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Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

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