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* Camp Wares


Cooking on the Missouri River



Shown below is information on a military "mess kit" once owned and used by General George Washington. A set-up like this was not uncommon to European Officers, but unusual to the American Forces. A small 44 page booklet titled "General Washington's Military Equipment" [Mount Vernon, 1963], p.20 says: "His [GW's] military equipage grew gradually as the war dragged on. In April 1776 Benjamin Harbeson of Philadelphia provided a "mess kit" consisting of the following:

  • 1 Nest of Camp Kettles

  • 3 large Tin Canisters

  • 1 doz. Oval tin dishes

  • 2 doz. & 9 Tin plates

He [GW] added more plates and canisters the following month. Perhaps part of this order is in the chest of camp utensils preserved at the Smithsonian Institution (Fig.11)"

Mess kit. Chest of wood covered with leather, lined with green wool. Interior divided into fourteen compartments and containing a tray with nine compartments. Equipped with the following:

  • 4 tin pots with detachable wooden handles

  • 6 tin plates, 3 tin platters

  • 2 knives and 4 forks with black handles

  • 1 gridiron with collapsible legs

  • 2 tinder boxes

  • 8 glass bottles with cork stoppers

  • 2 glass bottles for pepper

  • 2 salt with pewter tops

On page 104 of the coffee table book "The National Museum of American History, A Smithsonian Museum" there is a photograph of a field mess chest attributed to George Washington, possibly the same kitchen mess referred to. It contains tin plates, platters, utensils, and a tankard. There is a similar "mess kit" at the Valley Forge Historical Society at the National Park in Pennsylvania, planned for display in early 2000. The "mess kit" in question is tin of a high quality that has turned dark with age, not pewtered [tin-lead alloy] as has been suggested by others.


The few items described below is to give you a small taste of what was being sent from the East to the new frontier, by our citizens and citizens from other lands. Edibles were big business as were all the other needed supplies.

This information is from many issues of the Museum of the Fur Trade micro-film at St. Louis museums and several other Fur Trade sources, and are found many references from 1803, 1822, 1825,1826, 1832, 1834, 1835, 1837 and 1839 as to a number of the items available.

The first listings are just a small sampling of "Supply Invoices" from 1822, 1825, 1835.

The second items you will find are a sampling of remarks of from few historic persons of that era, and their thoughts about some edibles.

The third is a sampling of some information on field seeds, vegetables, herbs and apples, together with a little history on the more popular ones.

Looking over this information, and considering the amount of trade that was going on out of St.Louis, it is a pretty slim inventory for a variety of edibles when you consider what was actually available during those years.


1822: From a Trade List of John McKnight / Partner of General Thomas James:

• 5 lbs Glauber Salts 1 dz peppermint

• 1 Box wafers 12 lbs sugar

• 1 (?) Hyson tea 1 (?) Bohea tea

• 1 (?) China Black tea

• Entered Oct 21st & 29th 1822

Purchased of the American Fur Co. St. Louis / Samuel Abbott Agent


1825: Inventory of Goods available at the 1825 Rendezvous on Henry's Fork of the Green River, from Wm. Ashley's diary:

• 2 bags coffee 1 hams goods

• 2 Tobacco 2 packs sugar

• 2.5 kegs tea

• Tobacco 150lbs.

• 3 Bags coffee 200 lbs.

• 130 lbs Bale & Bag Sugar


1835: Invoice of merchandise shipped on the Steam Boat Diana, C.A. Halstead Master, bound for the Upper Missouri River and Consigned to Messr Laidlaw and Lamont for the account and risk of the Upper Missouri Outfit, 1835.

U.M.O. Pierre

  • 4 boxes Y.H. tea 5 loaves ( ? ) sugar
  • 2 boxes shaving soap 4 boxes com soap
  • 1 barrel rice 4 bales oakum
  • 2 barrels water crackers 2 barrels each navy pilot bread
  • 1/2 barrels molasses Keg 50 15 gls 1 hlf barrel mackreal
  • ? bottle pepper sauce 2 boxes raisins
  •  2 boxes cod fish 1 Lexington mustard
  • 2 lb refined borax 1/2 dz. lime juice
  • 2 oz nut megs 2 oz cloves
  • 1/2 dz. ground ginger 1 gal blue grass seed (for a Factor)
  • 7 kegs 6 twist to pound tobacco
  • 2 kegs 2 twist to pound tobacco
  • 1 keg 1 twist to pound tobacco
  • 5 kegs 8 twist to pound tobacco
  • 7 boxes brown Havana sugar
  • 5 sacks Grod Al Salt
  • 1 box cavandish tobacco 10 barrel pork
  • 6 bags coffee 1 barrel bacon hams
  • 40 barrels flour

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We all need to look at what we use and try to get a grip on our equipage. Shown below are a few ideas to consider.

  • List your goals.

  • Honestly ask yourself if that item is really needed.

  • Sell or trade items not used in the last two years, for ones you think you will use. Most dealers / traders love used equipage, as well as a good source for any needed (used) items.

  • Keep only usable items in good condition that fit your persona.

  • Record all items your keeping, place a mark by the item each time it is used, do this for a period of time, then reconsider if its a low used item whether it stays or goes.

  • Weight each item and then consider its value, can it do more than one function. Always try to have items that have for than one function in camp equipment if possible.

  • I have a spoon with a loop on the end of the handle that serves as a tool for removing hot bails of pot off a fire or as a handle for my fishing line, a usable tool.

  • I like two blanket bedrolls, I'm not a Baker or Curry that freeze all night. One blanket is a 5 1/2 pt. , C.J. Wilde and the other a 3pt. Witney with a neckhole to use around camp if a capote is to warm, again several uses.

The main idea is to keep the amount of equipage down to a minimum, less bulk and weight, not to mention the investment.

Here's a neat "fire pan" when FIRE WARNINGS are in effect.

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A Canoer's Dream

Better water, tailwinds, sandy beaches, no bugs, more water and the list goes on.

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Until next time, we leave as friends and followers of those that went before us.

Buck Conner 

"One who trades”

"Uno quién negocia"

“Unqui commerce”