The Origin of the Mob Cap

I stand corrected – I think.

In Le Chevalier, I had a character wearing a “mob cap” in one of my early drafts. During later edits, I thanked my lucky stars that I noticed the use of the term and had time to edit it to “cap.”

You see, I was under the impression that the term “mob cap” came about during the French
This might be a bit fancy to be called a mob
cap, per se but it's close. I think the difference
between a "mob cap" and a "cap" are the earflaps.
See the Colonial Williamsburg glossary for a better example!
source: Wikimedia Commons
Revolution (1789 – 1799). My novels take place during the American Revolution (1775 – 1781 – more or less.) Therefore, while that delightfully ugly little piece of headgear might be worn by one of my characters, it wouldn’t be referred to as such.

Then I saw an entry for “mob cap” in the Colonial Williamsburg glossary, so I asked them about the origination of the term.

They very graciously did a little digging and found an early reference to mob cap in Clarissa, a novel written in 1748. (I never read it, but it sounds like the precursor to the 1980’s “bodice rippers” except without the happily ever after.)

Clarissa takes place in England, not America. However, since roughly half the colonists were of English decent, it makes sense that a term used there might be used here.

Portrait of Miss Constable
*George Romney, 1787

*Not the same George Romney
who sired Mitt Romney!
I also looked up mobcap on  (One word in this source, but two words in the Colonial Williamsburg Glossary.) The origin was listed as 1785 – 1795 – not exactly coinciding with the French Revolution, but close enough to support my original assumption as to the origin.

Frances from Colonial Williamsburg found an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary that referred to informal or dishabille clothing being referred to with the term “mob” as early as the 17th century.

My many thanks to Frances and the team at Colonial Williamsburg for indulging me, and I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure they know more about 18th century Colonial American clothing than I ever will. That said, maybe I’ll just have all my characters wearing straw hats. Much cuter!

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