Iron spur

Spur, iron, ca. 1620-1650

Horse Furniture: Stirrups and Spurs

Contributed by independent scholar Stephen Henry, who sheds light on an under-documented subject in his upcoming book, 300 Years of Bits, Spurs, Stirrups and related items from Jamestown to World War II.

In order to understand the everyday world of 17th-century Virginia, researchers conduct comparative studies to explore meaningful associations about commonplace objects. I have examined spurs, stirrups, bits, and leather ornaments--horse furniture--from the Flowerdew Hundred Collection and other collections throughout the Chesapeake region, and I have documented the most common types and styles of spurs prevalent in British Colonial America. 

Brass spur

Spur, copper alloy, ca. 1600-1650

Colonists of the 17th century regarded spurs as symbols of wealth and status. As such, spurs were often worn for purely ornamental display, whether or not the wearer owned a horse. They were also worn for military use. Parallel examples of spur types also serve to indicate patterns of consumerism across the region.  

Markham, Gervase. Markham's master-piece revived. 1695

Title page illustration from Gervase Markham's Markham's master-piece revived(detail), 1695 
Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, Special Collections (SF955 .M374 1695 no.1)