These large squares (sometimes cut into triangular “half-handkerchiefs”) were commonly used as neckwear (ties around the neck as a cravat by men, tucked into the neckline by women), and sometimes used as head wraps by African-American women. Despite this usage they were often called “handkerchiefs” (sometimes “neck handkerchiefs”)at the time. Plain white linen and cotton kerchiefs, as we now call them, were also widely worn. These four handkerchiefs are in the common color combinations of blue and white and brown and white.
Clockwise, from top: Blue and white plaid linen kerchief with white embroidered monogram, early 1800s, owned by Abbie C. Mason, 62.118, gift of Ira B. Meyers; brown plaid linen kerchief, c. 1790, Vermont, 4492, gift of Helen O. Stearns; checked blue and white linen kerchief, late 1700s owned by Anna Avery, 1519, gift of Hannah A. Babcock; brown plaid linen kerchief with embroidered monogram in blue thread, 1800, 80.53, DAR Museum.