The English term matchcoat derives from an Algonquian root word relating to clothing or dress in general. During the seventeenth centurymatchcoat came to refer to European-made units of woolen cloth,generally about two meters (a “fathom”) long, that were traded to natives who wore them as loosely wrapped cloaks. Some English-speaking scholars have erroneously emphasized the word match, inferring that“matchcoats” were garments that were pieced together from small units, or matched in a way that resembled techniques used by natives to make cloaks from pelts. The common “blanket” worn by the stereotypical“Indian” of that period also was called a matchcoat. Native-made garments, often described in the early literature, were rapidly replaced by these pieces of trade cloth. The term matchcoat was being applied to“made up” or off-the-rack tailored sleeved coats by the 1680s. The use of increasingly elaborate trade-cloth coats reveals progressive adoption of European garments among all of the native peoples of the Northeast.

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