Patriotic Shirts Aren’t A New Thing

by Matt DeLaere, Marketing

An artist’s rendering of a Culpeper Minuteman. [Image from]
Baseball teams didn’t begin wearing numbers on their uniforms regularly until 1929, and names weren’t added until 1960, so you might think that the history of text and numbers on clothing is a fairly short one.  But the Culpeper Minutemen, formed in 1775, and victors of the first Revolutionary War battle in Virginia, would have found a Hotronix® heat press and some Pre-Cut Letters quite useful.

The official uniform of the Culpeper Minutemen included green linen hunting shirts with the words, “Liberty or Death” sewn on the front, in white lettering. Culpeper was on the frontier, giving the “shirt men” (as the British called them, for obvious reasons) the reputation of being tough and experienced at battle with local natives. Given the non-standard uniforms worn, and their inscription, along with their frontiersman reputation, the Culpeper battalion was viewed by the British as a fierce force.

The battalion lived up to their reputation by helping in the defense of the city of Hampton, managing to repel British landing forces and protecting boats in the James River. Weeks later, they repelled the British at Great Bridge, near Norfolk, the first Revolutionary War battle in Virginia, causing the better-trained and equipped British forces to abandon the makeshift fort they were manning.

The battalion was discharged in the spring of 1776, with many of the men then enlisting in the Continental Army. One of the Culpeper Minutemen, John Marshall, went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

So, almost 240 years ago, during the birth of the United States, a group of men showed their patriotism and helped build their reputation using simple letters stitched onto their shirts.  And the rest, as they say, is history.


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