Underpants? Yes, these truly were an undergarment. Owned, and probably created, by Samuel Thomas, a resident of Cushing township during the first half of the twentieth century, these “underpants” were specially made for wearing beneath pants or overalls. Samuel Thomas also had Henry Bermel of Randall, Minnesota, make him a special pair of shoes. These shoes, together with the underpants, weigh an astonishing 18 pounds. That’s like carrying around a sack of potatoes all day. Yikes!
Samuel Thomas was born in Canada in 1850. By 1879 he had moved to the United States. The Minnesota State Census of 1910 lists him as a farmer pursuing general farming in Morrison County. He owned sixty acres approximately 2½ miles southeast of Cushing between State Road No. 4 (now Highway 10) and the Little Elk River. Samuel Thomas was divorced at the time of the census and was living alone.
Constructed of multiple layers of denim, lots of cotton string, some twine and leather straps, a few burlap patches, and an interesting assortment of metal rings, Samuel Thomas’ underpants were made to last. The ¼ inch steel rings are found mainly at the waistband and ankles. They range in diameter from 1½ inches to almost 4 inches. The nickname, “Buckles and Snaps,” probably emerged as a result of the excessive reinforcements he incorporated into his clothing and other possessions. For example, in order to hold his overalls up he had “security” added in the form of cow ties. According to Carl Nelson, in an article written for The Long Prairie Leader in 1928, “Buckles and Snaps” also reinforced his farm equipment. Apparently, he had a wagon that was so big his oxen could not pull it and he ended up having to cut it in half.
Samuel Thomas, who was also known as “The Randall Hermit” and “Gigantic Man,” was definitely a walking billboard of personality. In keeping with the phrase, “the clothes make the man”, “Buckles and Snaps'” threads of identity are clear – make it big, make it strong and make it last.
By Ann Marie Johnson
Copyright 2002, Morrison County Historical Society