I have recently set out to reproduce a new buckle specifically for a stock which was primarily worn by men in the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, women also wore stocks with riding habits that would also use a buckle to close it. As usual, I am writing about a new product, some history involving it, and what it is for. The creation of the reproduction is fun, the research is interesting, but wearing it is the best.
When creating my reproduction, I normally use an original that I or a close friend owns. This stock buckle is no exception as I own the original, and was able to send it to the manufacturer so that I would have an exact match. This reproduction is exactly like my original in everyway but for the metal used to make it. Mine is a plated copper so it will not corrode, it is very strong for use to hold double layers of cotton or linen fabrics closed, and is lightweight. It will not pull down the stock from behind nor will you have to make your stock so tight because of a heavy buckle.
When looking at this specific style with four tabs and three prongs, I found it dated by several museums (Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and Victoria and Albert Museum have two similar in their on-line collections) in the date range of 1775 to 1795.
I have read that the size of the buckle for
a stock changed over time. Mid-18th
century shows a smaller collar and as the decades go by, they get bigger and
thus the stock gets bigger as well. Fashions
in the time change pretty much every year, but I can see dramatic changes every
decade. So the smaller the buckle, may
indicate an earlier piece.
When doing research on my original buckle, I found an amazing work on-line titled, “Cowper’s Stock Buckle, A Material World” by Nicola Durbridge dated 2012 for The Cowper and Newton Museum Olney. It goes into great detail on Cowper’s life, and the items that were owned by him in their collection. There is one mistake in the paper that I wanted to call attention to – the picture of “shoe buckles with leather strap” are knee buckles and I’m sure was an oversight. But, I digress. I hope to have a future matching knee buckle to this stock buckle so there is that.
What is a stock? I cannot really describe a stock better than Durbridge. She says, “The main section of a stock - the part on show - was finely pleated, or gently gathered into a longish sausage-shape; it was often backed with a plainer and heavier material. The ends of a stock did not quite meet round a wearer’s neck - that is where the buckle came in. One end would be fitted with small loops or button-holes attached to a stronger material. These would loop onto the ‘buttons’ of a stock buckle. The fabric at the other end of a stock would be sewn into a point and cinched into place with the prongs of the stock buckle. Thus the fabric went round the neck and the stock buckle held everything together at the back.” I would say that the buckle does not have to be sewn to the stock itself.
To continue, “A stock was a relatively formal item of neck wear that became fashionable in the 18th century. It was a more constructed and fancier version of either the neckcloth or neck handkerchief. Throughout the century it was usual for men to wear one of these three kinds of neck attire when in public - so whether labouring or at some fashionable gathering – [something was worn]. The distinctions between these pieces of cloth are small but for the fashion conscious and socially aware they were significant.”
The John Ash Dictionary, Volume I and II, dated 1771 does not include the definition of a “stock buckle.” There is a stock, and there is a buckle.
However, within advertisements in the colonies, you see “shoe, knee, and stock buckles” or “paste, knee, shoe, and neck buckles.” There were buckles to close a sash around the waist, for bracelets around the wrist (possibly velvet, ribbon, or sewn fabric), or a necklace (again used with velvet, ribbon, or sewn fabric).
“The firm of Wallace, Davidson & and Johnson supplied not only their own customers, but other merchants and tradesmen of Annapolis and surrounding towns [with goods from England]. William Whetcroft, a jeweler located on West Street in Annapolis, ordered on 14 November 1772 several styles of buckles as follows –
2 pr set shoe
2 pr set shoe buckles 24/
2 pr set shoe buckles 20/
2 pr set shoe buckles 18/
2 pr set shoe buckles 16/
12 cases for shoe buckes
6 pr large oval knee buckles with small stones @ 10/
6 pr large oval knee buckles with small stones @ 8/
6 sets stock buckles with 4 studs 10/
6 sets stock buckles with 4 studs 8/…”
Maryland State Archives, Chancery Court (Chancery Papers, Exhibits) Wallace,
Davidson Johnson, Order Books, 1771/4/25-1775/11/16. MSA S 528-27/28 as shown
on The Life of an Anglo American at https://withwallacedavidsonjohnson.blogspot.com/2012/03/supplying-local-jeweler-in-late.html)
Within Durbridge’s document, it describes Cowper’s stock buckle as, “…Inset within this rectangular frame is a plain brass bar; there is a small brass bracket over this simple bar ornamenting and bridging its length. The bar swivels and has two important elements swinging from its centre: they are there to fix the stock (a kind of neck-tie) in place. From one side there swings another bar set with three small ‘buttons’ or tabs; these protrude beyond the silver framework and function to hold one end of a stock in place: they attach to holes - cut and sewn like button-holes - found at one end of a stock. From the other side of the central brass bar protrude three fork-like prongs. These are used to pierce the other end of a stock – where the fabric is usually gathered and sewn into a tight point. The prongs and the button-like tabs together hold a stock in place, wound neatly round the wearer’s neck.”
My stock buckle is fairly similar but the rectangular frame is more of an elongated oval shape with detail that looks like little “x” around the outside which, in the time, made it look like it had faceted stones, or imitated cut steel. My reproduction is made of gold or silver plate over a copper base and will be offered in an antiqued or plain version. There are four tabs, studs, or “buttons” and three prongs – the center has the simple bar and the ornamented one holds the tabs or “buttons.” It measures 2 inches tall by 1-1/8th inch wide. The prongs measure 5/16th inch so there is plenty to hold the fabric, and they are strong and sharp to pierce a fine linen or cotton. The main purpose for the buckle is to hold the stock closed in the back, so piercing the fabric is not necessarily needed.
Gold and Antiqued Gold Reproduction Stock Buckles
Antiqued Silver Reproduction Stock Buckle
Gunmetal Reproduction Stock Buckle
Antiqued Silver and Gold Reproduction Stock Buckles
I have not come across a portrait, print,
or marble bust of a stock buckle worn on someone in the time period, but will
keep looking! If you see one, please
email me! You can purchase them at by clicking on the next two words - stock buckle.