John Lord’s Dress Shirt
This dress shirt belonged to John Lord, who served as a gunner on USS Constitution during the ship’s Mediterranean cruise between 1824 and 1828. The shirt was likely made for Lord around 1828 or 1829, just before his death from illness in 1829.
The fine fabric and ruffled bosom indicate that this was a dress shirt, likely worn with his best uniform on formal occasions. The shirt is marked “J. LORD,” and there are loose threads on the back of the monogram where the thread was carried from one letter to the next. The condition of these threads suggest the shirt was barely worn and never washed, or washed only a few times and without much agitation.
A gunner was a warrant officer who, along with the carpenter, boatswain, and sailmaker, filled the ranks of the “forward officers.” According to social mores of the period, a man who worked with his hands could not be considered a “gentleman.” The status of the warrant officers was in flux during the early 19th century. In 1813 they received an official uniform that finally elevated them, sartorially speaking, above the rest of the crew. They still could not wear side arms like a commissioned officer, but their outward appearance was more genteel than it had been previously. Lord’s shirt fits squarely into this trend. It is easy to imagine him wearing it beneath his blue coat with its gilt buttons and his white vest, looking the part of the consummate professional.