Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Let Us Be Merry, Put Sorrow Away! Our 1770s Christmas Party Occurred On This Day

Well,  better later than not at all,  right?
Last year,  our 18th century Christmas party,  hosted by Citizens of the American Colonies and the 1st Pennsylvania,  was held the week following the Holiday itself - still in the month of December.
This year it took place nearly in mid-January - January 11th.
Ah,  but that's okay,  for it keeps the season going even longer than normal,  which is fine by me.  So,  despite the rain,  the snow,  and the ice that fell on this day  (which turned out to be not nearly as bad as the media predicted),  the reenactor turn out was pretty fair.
Our party,  like numerous other events,  was held at the old 1872 schoolhouse in Eastpointe,  near where I live.  Though the building itself is not necessarily historically accurate for the 18th century,  it does work quite well in its feel.  To find an 18th century building in our area for such a gathering would not work,  for there are only around a half-dozen originals from before 1800 located in southern Michigan,  and all but one are inside the hallowed walls of historic Greenfield Village.  And,  though there is another 19th century building that has a great 18th century feel to it,  the price to rent it is far out of our range,  so the 1872 schoolhouse is pretty much it  for us.
And,  to be honest,  it works quite well,  for the look and feel is a lot closer than one would think  (click HERE),  and definitely better than using a high school gymnasium or a wedding hall,  right?
So,  as the old song goes,  "Let us be merry,  put sorrow away!"
Off we go to celebrate an 18th century Christmas - - -
Those that braved the icy weather.
For days the weathermen predicted ice and snowmageddon,  scaring everyone in thinking the end of the world was at hand.  Oh yes,  folks filled the stores,  buying milk,  bread,  cheese,  beer,  chips,  ice cream,  and other survival needs.  And, please---for heaven's sake! stay off the roads!
sigh
Turns out there was a bit of ice...in spots...hours after the party had ended.  A few of those who did not come out due to the fear of the weather forecasts were upset for believing all of the hype.  I mean,  you would think we were living in Michigan in January!
Wait--------
lol
I suppose it's better to err on safety,  though,  eh?
But there sure was a lot of money to be made due to these predictions and included a spike in listenership to the news stations.
I'm such a pessimist!
However,  the party went on as planned,  and we certainly had a good time,  all things considered.
Pearl provided wonderful 18th century 
Christmas music,  same as last year,  and also 
included a few of the more popular tunes 
of the day as well.

Charlotte joined Pearl,  providing vocals
to the fiddle playing.

I love the period tunes that were known in the 18th and 19th centuries,  and have collected many,  if not most,  on the various CDs available by musical historians.  Wonderful old songs such as Buttermilk Hill  (aka Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier),  Shady Grove,  Barbara Allen,  White Cockade,  Come Haste to the Wedding,  Soldier Will You Marry Me,  Johnny Todd,  Road to Boston,  and so many others.  But probably my most favorite of period songs is Over the Hills and Far Away.  I was thrilled to hear that Pearl had learned it and then,  mostly upon my request,  played it numerous times at our party:
It was nice having Charlotte sing along.
When my wife and I  (and two of our four kids)  were in Colonial Williamsburg a few years back,  we had lunch/dinner at Chowning's Tavern,  and while we were enjoying our 18th century feast,  the entertainer began to perform - you guessed it - Over the Hills and Far Away,  which,  I would say,  was more than a coincidence,  for to have my most favorite of all the period songs played and sung at the moment we were there was,  what I may consider,  a little extra gift...maybe even from God  (we know He likes to throw us these little gifts now and then).
What a fine present that was!  AND I had my camera ready:
Both versions are lovely indeed.
Pearl also played Deck the Hall,  The Boar's Head Carol,  Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella,  Joy To The World,  The First Noel,  and The Gloucestershire Wassail,  among other period carols.
No...no Santa or Rudolph or Frosty.

A bit more sedate than last year's gathering,  it was a fine time to 
spend with friends and reminisce about previous reenactments as 
well as to plan for future days in the past.

'Twas also a fine time to keep fingers
busy with crafts.

My son Robbie continued sewing his new hunting shirt  
under the watchful eye of Tony Gerring.

David Pierce and Ken Roberts,  two 
well-known and respected members of the 
reenacting community.

"Two if by sea..."
Here are replicas of the two lanterns  'shewn'  in the steeple of 

Christ Church in Boston on the night of April 18,  1775.
The one on the left belongs to Ken Roberts and the one on the 
right belongs to me.  
These replications were made back during the Bicentennial in the 
1970s,  copied from the lone original now belonging to the 
Concord Historical Society,  and they do look very much like the 
one lantern that still survives.
I think it's pretty cool to see them both lit together!

This had to be the most period-correct colonial meal I've ever eaten:
fricandillas,  chicken,  and pasties with wassail to wash it all down.

Was I at the Daggett House?

A moment to sit back and enjoy the
friends and the music.
And the wassail.  I love wassail.

A gathering of friends to celebrate the Yuletide season...

And before we knew it,  daytime was
turning into nighttime,  and that was
the signal for us to take our leave.
So,  yes,  let us be merry and put sorrow away,  for our party,  though not nearly as well attended as we had hoped - the,  ahem,   ice-storm  made certain of that - was still a fine time indeed with those who were able to make it.  And I certainly appreciate all that did.
All is well and good because I accomplished what I set out to do - have an enjoyable time with my reenacting friends.
Yes,  I will have another next Christmas season!


So now Christmas is done,  the New Year's begun,  and even 12th Night is past.  And yet,  I still have that spirit within me.  Therefore I thought I would end the Christmas season here on Passion for the Past on a decorative note with a strong historic feel,  which has moved me in such a personal way.  So before we leave our own little celebration of the Christmastide in the Colonies,  I would like to show you a few photographs from the home  (and website)  of Mary Spencer,  who lives in a house built around 1780 in New Hampshire - one of the actual  colonies!
Mary's home from 1780

Now,  we know that,  though a goodly number of our colonial ancestors - and not just Catholics,  Lutherans,  or Episcopalians - did celebrate the Christmas holiday,  decorating their homes during that time for Christmas was quite another story.  There were a few who did in very small touches,  from what I've read,  but most didn't.
However,  if I was the owner of a historic home,  I imagine I would decorate in the same vein as Mary Spencer does,  for it is as tastefully done as I've ever seen,  especially in a period home.
A first bit of information on her Yuletide decorating.
Here we now see a boar's head feast in Mary's home - -
The boar's head in hand bear I
bedecked with bays and rosemary...


I had a boar's head party one time a few years back,  though the 
surroundings were nothing quite like this.  However,  we did 
make a good go of it and didn't do too bad for a first time:

My son brings the boar's head out on a silver platter

The boar's head as I understand 
is the bravest dish in all the land
and thus bedecked with a gay garland...

And now let's return back to the beautiful Christmastide as is presented in Mary's home:
I love the feel of candles on the tree when 
white electric lights are the only color placed upon it.

This.
Right here.
Now that's what I'm talking.
If I were in this room,  I would never leave.

I grew up with a fireplace in my home - two in fact - but it's 
unfortunate that my current home  (of nearly 29 years!)  does not 
have one,  and the cost would be too astronomical to put one in.  So what I have is fake.  But what you see here is my dream.

More telling from Mary.

A table setting befitting of  the 17th or 18th century.
For those of the time who  *may*  have decorated,  I would 

imagine the simplicity of what we see here would have 
been the more common simplistic style. 

Again,  the hearth.
Colonial Williamsburg lives in New Hampshire!

For this shot I love the butter churn.  Though probably 
insignificant for most in this image,  to me it completes it.

More wonderful descriptions from Mary...

Even the back porch woodpile has a nice touch.

Simplicity at its best.
Perfect.
Thank you,  Mary,  for allowing me to share some of the tasteful beauty of your own Christmastide with my readers.  One day I hope I can make it out to New Hampshire and finally see your wonderful old cape in person.
..............................................

And now,  this will sadly be the last posting based solely on the Christmastide for the season.  As you may know,  I am in period clothing quite often throughout the main reenacting months  (which you shall see just how often in my next posting).  To be honest,  however,  I am probably in my historic garb more during the Yuletide than any other time of year:  twelve days found me wearing either 1770s or 1860s fashions in the five weeks between December 7 through January 11.  Now the slow season begins but,  thankfully,  will last for only a few months.  Note I did not say it stopped;  it just slows down to about one or sometimes two events a month until May.

For my next post I will have what has become my annual pictorial of the 2019 reenacting season,  filled with 80-something photos looking back at the countless times I wore my period clothes during last year.
Look for it in about a week.

That being said,  until next time,  see you in time.


To read more about Mary Spencer's adventures at her early cape house,  please click HERE
To read about Christmas in the Colonies,  please click HERE
To read more about my own Boar's Head party,  please click HERE





























~   ~   ~

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The 21st Michigan Annual Period-Dress 1860s Christmas Party

Okay,  this is not a period party in the strictest sense but,  rather,  a party where the strong underlying theme is 1860s:  our clothing,  the food we ate,  and our entertainment were all Civil War-era based.
It was a wonderful gathering of reenacting friends  - and good friends at that - who enjoy doing such things in a fun and period atmosphere.
That's what it's all about,  Charlie Brown.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  

The first  "period"  Christmas party the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit held was in 2005.
Now,  the unit members held Christmas parties before 2005,  but they were at a local sports bar,  modern dress,  pizza & beer,  and nothing unusual or showing of  anyone being reenactors.
Just your average pizza,  beer,  and pop party.
I am proud to say that I came up with the idea of having a period-dress party to be held in an actual 19th century schoolhouse located near where I live.
The initial idea came to me the year before when I had a sort of pseudo period-dress party at my own house,  and it went along pretty good...for a first attempt.  This party gave me the inkling to try it on a larger scale.  So when I first proposed to have a 21st Michigan membership Christmas party,  I received questionable looks;  a few members more or less scoffed at the idea.  But they begrudgingly gave in to my pleas and approved it,  but  "only for this one time."
I grabbed that opportunity with both hands!
And here we are,  all these many years later,  still dressing period to celebrate the holiday with the 21st Michigan Christmas party.
The greater number of  our membership truly enjoy dressing up in their 1860s finery in this manner.  And though most of the food is prepared using modern cooking techniques,  it still is traditional in nature.
And,  oh! so good!
Since pictures are worth a thousand words,  or so I've been told,  I have a several volume novel for you to check out...a sort of photo journal of how it all went this year.
I hope you like it:
That's it - - that's the old Halfway Schoolhouse,  built in 1872 and 
housed school children until 1921.  Now it houses the East 
Detroit Historical Society...and 1860s Christmas parties.
(photo taken by Jennifer Long)

Here is our annual group picture of the attendees.
There were a number of our members who,  unfortunately,  were 

not able to come to this year's gathering.  But there were others 
who had not been able to join us for a while  (as well as some 
first-timers)  who were able to be there.

And we had music!

Pearl and Violet performed some wonderful Christmas Carols 
such as  "Joy To The World,"  "Deck the Hall,"  "God Rest Ye 
Merry,  Gentlemen,"  and  "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella."

And we had food - - period food,  though cooked by modern methods.

Everyone brings their own tableware to this party.

After grace was spoken,  the feasting commenced.

We had ham,  stuffing,  apples & onions,  mac & 
cheese,  pork & apple pie,  chicken,  fried corn,  bubble 
& squeak,  mashed parsnips,  bread...

...we also had beets and pickles,  sweet potato pie,  pumpkin pie,  a trifle,  
a berry pie,  mountain cake,  ice cream,  ginger cake,  cookies...
Quite a feast!

And we also had dancing!

While Pearl played the fiddle,  many members lined up to do 
the Virginia Reel.

I wish my video had turned out - I was moving too much!

Whispers about which boy might ask them to dance.

We also danced the Spanish Waltz.

Jillian and I danced to this one.

I must be honest - I am not much of a waltzer.
But I do enjoy this particular dance.

I also enjoy the monkey,  the frug,  the twist,  the watusi,  
the jerk,  and many other  '60s dances...wait--------wrong  '60s!

I always invite a few members back to my home following the party for a bit of an afterglow.
Now,  you may recognize this table-top feather tree from 
Christmas at the Fort of a few years ago.  And since everyone 
here but Ian the Clown-Nose Clown participates in that event,  
they sort of recreated our parlor scene right in my own home!
Even our servant,  Carrie!
It is unfortunate that I cannot invite everyone over to my house,  but as you can see in the following picture,  we have our large Christmas Tree still up and it takes up quite a bit of space,  allowing for only a few to come by.
I've been doing this afterglow since the very first period-dress 
Christmas party held way back in  '05. 

My patriotic wife - and her tea.

Many of our conversations centered on previous fun at 
reenactments,  retelling stories of our immersion events.
I'm not exactly sure why,  but this year's party seemed to be a bit lighter and more relaxed than we've had of recent years.  I hope this is a positive sign for the reenactments coming up,  for I always look forward to a grand year in the past.
One thing I have been very proud of is that we,  the members of the 21st Michigan,  have such a large group and yet we all get along relatively wonderfully.  We've had some people who joined us in years past and seemed bent on creating drama.  Thus,  we ignored them and they soon left.  I want nothing to do with that.  No,  we are not perfect and,  like nearly every other unit,  have our problems here and there.  But unless we have someone with loose lips who likes to sink ships,  we keep it amongst our group and work it out as adults,  not gossipy fools.
We also do not judge others.  Instead we help them along and guide them,  allowing them to improve and find their way rather than telling them what to do.
Now,  I have one more period party to go,  and you will see that posting next week right here,  for it will be a report on my colonial Christmas party occurring this weekend.

So,  until next time,  see you in time.



























~   ~   ~



Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Journey Through Yuletide Past at Greenfield Village: Holiday Nights 2019

"Who,  and what are you?"  Scrooge demanded.
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"Long Past?"  inquired Scrooge:  observant of its dwarfish stature.
"No.  Your past."

This describes me on December 27.
Earlier in the day I had a  "my past"  moment with a mini-reunion of a few Deerfield Elementary School classmates.  We were able to actually go inside our old school and walk around,  reminiscing about those days 50 years ago,  even going into our old classrooms.
That was  "my "  past.
Then that evening I had a  "long past "  moment when I dressed in my colonial clothing and,  with family & friends,  went to Holiday Nights at historic Greenfield Village.
The spirits of Christmas Past were with me that day!
 There were seven of us who joined together this 27th of 
December - my son and I dressed colonial,  our friend Rae mostly 
dressed colonial,  and the rest in modern attire.
Are you ready to go back...?

.........................................

"It was a long night,  if it were only a night,  because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together."
~A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens~


Holiday Nights is one of the most spectacular Christmas events - not only in Michigan,  but in the nation.  It is a celebration of over 200 years of historical Christmas and New Year's observations,  from America's colonial period through World War II.
I have been attending Christmas at Greenfield Village since...um...wow---1983!  Before they even had a Holiday Nights or anything like it.  It was simply an evening of dining at the Eagle Tavern with a lantern walk back to the front gate.
Now here we are,  all these years later,  with the many changes  (including the creation of Holiday Nights itself)  and I still enjoy it every bit as much as I ever have.
More,  in fact.
So!  Won't you join me and my group as we travel through Christmas past?  We shall begin at some of the earliest structures at the Village - those from the 18th century - and work our way up to a more modern time.
You can feel the present slipping away as you enter the 
realm of the past.
Long past?
Yes.  But your past, too...

Upon entering the gates of Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights,  we move quickly to the far end of the Village,  where the colonial structures stand.  There are virtually no other visitors back there yet,  which makes for a fine time to get some scene pictures,  such as what we did at our first stop:  the home of John Giddings,  where a New Year's affair is about to commence.
I was warmly greeted on this New Year's Eve 1760 by 
one of the Giddings daughters. 
Visitations was customary to greet the New Year. 
You see,  in colonial America  (and in cultures throughout the world),  the combining dates of December 31st  (New Year's Eve),  & the first of January  (New Year’s Day)  were considered a major holiday,  rivaling,  and even,  in many instances,  over-taking Christmas.
The family everyday parlor,  also known as the sitting room,  which was far more comfortable than the formal parlor,  was welcoming and more frequently used.  This room was usually the second best room of the house,  and its furnishings were less formal and usually included a rocking chair,  regular chairs,  a table,  a sewing table,  a writing desk,  and a warm fire.
 Family and friends would gather to enjoy each other's company,  
eat food,  maybe dance,  and play games.

Look at all of the candles burning!
Farm folks and those not of an upper class would not be so 
wasteful as to burn more than one candle at the same time 
while also having a fire in the hearth as you see occurring 
inside the wealthier Giddings House,  a family that could 
afford such extravagance.

And here is a three minute video that my wife accidental took while taking pictures.
I'm not sure why I kept it,  only that it is three minutes of fun for me:
Don't blink,  right?

My son,  Rob.
This could be 1775,  for that is the year his
1st Pennsylvania regimental clothing represents.

Into the kitchen we go,  a room where usually the servants and the mistress of the house would be the only ones to see.
The far corner of the Giddings kitchen.
Aside from Holiday Nights,  there is no other opportunity to be 

inside the historic homes of Greenfield Village in the nighttime,  
and,  even better,  lit with candles.

Chocolate was quite the treat for the New Year's celebrations in some households as well.  Chocolate remained exclusively a drink until the mid-19th century when advertisements for solid eating chocolate first appeared.
Here,  inside the Giddings' kitchen,  we see a chocolateer working his craft and explaining the importance and fondness of this treat to the colonists.
 The well-to-do Giddings family hired a chocolateer to entertain 
guests and enjoy the outcome of the process.
When speaking to the chocolate maker I learned that the raw cocoa seed is not edible;  that it must be fermented,  roasted,  and winnowed to remove the shells.  The beans are then heated slightly and ground into a paste that hardens into cakes.  When cocoa was needed,  the cakes were scraped,  and the chocolate was mixed and heated with milk  (or water)  and sugar to become a beverage.
Just look at that chocolate!
Roy gave us a step-by-step  "tutorial"  in the ways of 

18th century chocolate making.

Chocolate was initially a treat for the wealthy,  but soon was 
available to the every man.  Benjamin Franklin sold locally 
produced chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop.  In 1739,  he 
was selling bibles and other books,  pencils,  ink,  writing paper, 
and  "very good chocolate."

The white mound you see in the foreground
is a sugar cone with the sugar nips laying next
to it to help make the chocolate a little sweeter.  
By 1773,  the demand for chocolate in the colonies resulted in the importation of over 320 tons of cocoa beans.  Drinking chocolate was affordable to all classes of people and was available in most coffee houses,  where colonists would gather to talk about politics and the news of the day.

The farming Daggett family was our next stop!
Me entering this beautiful 18th century break-back house.  
It was built roughly around the same time as the 
Giddings House - 1750 - and is presented as being in the 1760s.

The glowing fire in the hearth of the great hall gave beauty and 
warmth,  especially with the silhouette of the great wheel,  used 
for spinning,  in the foreground. 
 And we finally get to see the loom being used by a period-dressed presenter!  This was one of my favorite presentations of the evening.
This replicated 18th century loom has been inside the Daggett 
House since November,  and now it has been set up and was 
being used during this special Holiday Nights event.
 Weaving had evolved from a full-time men's occupation - my 5th great grandfather was a weaver at this same period in time - to part-time women's work.  Not all women wove nor did all women spin on spinning wheels.  Instead,  community networks of women bought and traded fibers,  labor,  skills,  and finished goods to acquire cloth for their families'  clothing.  Neighbor women might also teach girls to weave,  sometimes borrowing and loaning equipment
It was fascinating to watch Jen at work in the low light of the 
great hall.  Yes,  it was a time-travel moment for me.

The women in many - but not all - of the households of the 18th 
century produced textiles,  especially during the years before 
daughters married. 
They could grow and harvest flax.  The family's sheep gave wool.  And if they had spinning wheels,  all of the women in the household would learn to spin and prepare yarn and thread for weaving.
And if there was a loom in the house,  the girls might also learn to 
weave.   Weaving gave them a useful skill and also contributed to 
the household income. 
By expanding textile production,  Anna Daggett could provide household help for herself and an occupation for her girls,  Tabitha and Asineth.  She was not the sort of woman to turn her daughters into household drudges,  even if she could afford to.  Tabitha and Asineth needed skills to sustain their future families as well as ways to contribute to their own support in the present.  Spinning,  and especially weaving was the perfect solution.  It could be accomplished at home.  It could be coordinated with other chores.  It produced many of the items ---bedsheets,  ticking,  blankets,  towels,  and coverlets--- the girls would need in their future homes.
A flax wheel sits directly behind the loom.

In the Daggett kitchen:
Artificial light in the 18th century was truly a luxury.  Generally,  candles were lit only during the nighttime hours,  and sparingly so,  due to the lengthy candle-making process.  It must be remembered that candlemaking was not the fun hobby then as it is in our modern times;  it was a backbreaking,  smelly,  greasy task.  The making of the winter's stock of candles was the special autumnal household duty,  and a hard one,  too,  for the large kettles were tiresome and heavy to handle,  and the work was well under way at a very early hour,  with the temperatures being just cold enough for quick hardening.
Now,  Anna Daggett would not be so frivolous as to burn three 
candles while tending the hearth,  especially all in one room.  In 
fact,  she might not even have one candle burning with such a 
glow coming from the fireplace.  
The candle making process followed shortly after fall hunting,  where the collected waste fat from the butchered animals was used to make tallow for dipping.  These precious fats were hoarded carefully,  protected in covered crocks.  The animal fat was cut into pieces and rendered  (melted);  it was boiled,  caked,  pressed,  sieved,  and purified several times.  Wicks were made from cotton,  hemp,  or,  less often,  from milkweed.  If they lived near a general store,  or maybe if a peddler happened by,  thick string could be bought to use as wicks.
Jane and I in the Daggett kitchen.
At the far end of the kitchen or in an adjoining and cooler room,  sometimes in the lean-to,  two long poles were laid from chair to chair or stool to stool.  Across these poles were laid candle rods,  which were about a foot and a half long,  and to each rod was attached about six to eight carefully straightened candle-wicks.  With the fat/tallow or wax in the pot melted,  the wicking from the rods would be dipped into the pot and then returned to its place across the two poles.  This process would occur repeatedly as each rod was dipped into the tub of tallow or wax,  and with each dip the candles became larger and larger until the desired length and width was had.
Ahhh...there's a fourth candle burning in the Daggett kitchen.
Of course,  you realize this is done for the many modern visitors 

stepping through and needing to see not only where they were 
going,  but to be able to see the presenters as well as some of the 
activities.
For these reasons,  burning all of the candles in this manner,  
though not common practice at the time,  is definitely accepted!
It could take 30 to 40 minutes for the candle to be satisfyingly thick enough,  and an average family could go through 500 to 700 candles in a year's time.  That number would be high for a farming family such as the Daggetts or low to a wealthy merchant family such as the Giddings.
The Daggett House is my absolute favorite inside Greenfield Village,  and many of my studies on colonial everyday life centers around Samuel,  Anna,  and their children.
Such a fine Daggett visit!

For this next picture we are entering the year 1800 and find ourselves at the McGuffey Cabin.
This ancient cabin's exterior~
(photo courtesy of Craig Hutchison)
According to sources at the Benson Ford Research Center,  there is a strong probability that this cabin was built by William’s maternal grandparents,  William and Jane Holmes,  in 1789.
Alexander McGuffey  (aged 30)  and his wife,  Anna Holmes  (aged 21),  began their married life in this log home.  While living there they had their first three children:  Jane  (1799),  William  (1800),  and Henry  (1802).
Yes,  fashions were changing by this time in American history.  
However,  many older folks continued to dress in the styles they 
wore many years earlier.  It is known that Paul Revere and others 
of his ilk preferred to wear their  "small clothes"  (knee breeches,  
cocked hat,  buckled shoes).  Revere wore  'em until he died in 1818,  
so my fashion sense is good here as I sit and visit with the 
more up-to-date young lady from 1800. 

Greenfield Village also has the Martha-Mary Chapel.
This non-denominational church design was based on a colonial church from Bradford,  Massachusetts.  The bricks and the doors came from the building in which Henry Ford and Clara Bryant were married in 1888 - the Bryant family home in old Greenfield Township  (from which the Village name was taken). 
The bell inside the steeple,  according to the 1933 guide book,  
was cast by the son of Paul Revere.
The name  "Martha-Mary"  came from the first names of his mother and mother-in-law.
Sticking by his original New England village plan,  Ford made sure that the steeple of the church was the highest point in Greenfield Village.  This is as it was in most towns across America.  Once a very religious nation,  towns and villages were built around the place of worship,  and the buildings of the towns were never taller than the church steeple,  therefore,  no matter where a townsfolk was at,  they could always find the church because of the height of its steeple.
Looking strikingly beautiful in the background
at night,  this could almost be a scene out of
New England instead of Michigan.

Let's now visit,  for a brief time,  the home of founding father and the most famous of  American lexicographers,  Noah Webster.
The Websters were celebrating the coming of the New Year
in their new home.

And they had quite a spread of delicious food a-waiting their guests.

My son Robbie inside the Webster home,
ready to join in the festivities.


Also beautifully lit is the Eagle Tavern,  built in 1831 and presented as 1850.
Are these the shadows of things that have been or may be?
I purchased a new camera,  for my other one is ten years old,  has taken well over 100,000 pictures,  and is beginning to falter.  So my new one is more compact in size,  takes better,  clearer photos - especially at lower light - and has more than double the megapixels of the old one.
Yes,  it is a,  more or less,  point & shoot.
That being said,  I will be retaking many previous poses for better quality,  such as the one you see below.
One of the things I learned while researching the old taverns 
(while writing THIS posting)  is that clothing fashions might have 
changed over time,  but the basic look and layout of most taverns changed little from the mid-18th century through much of the 19th century.
That's why this picture works.

Rae Bucher is a friend who joined us on this Christmas past excursion.  She also does Civil War era and Regency.
Tonight she was colonial with a modern sense of warmth!
My friend Rae and I.

Moving ahead,  we find ourselves in front of the Logan County Courthouse.
Wanting a building that was associated with our 16th President Abraham Lincoln to add to his Greenfield Village,  Henry Ford found a forgotten and dilapidated structure that was,  in 1929,  being used as a private residence.
The stark light and dark contrast is beautiful at the front door 
of the courthouse.
Research showed that Abraham Lincoln once practiced law in this walnut clapboard building,  which was built in 1840,  when he was a young attorney.  Mr.  Lincoln was a circuit-riding lawyer and would travel upon his horse to the tiny country towns within a certain perimeter - Lincoln and the other handful of circuit riding lawyer companions with him covered the Eighth Judicial Circuit,  which covered around 11,000 square miles - and they would follow Judge David Davis to the courthouses of the towns.
Inside the 1840 Logan County Courthouse.

Now let's jump up a few years,  to the year 1860,  to the plantation house belonging to the Carroll family.
Henry and Elizabeth Carroll and their family built their house in the mid-1830's,  where it sat upon 700 acres of land.  They enjoyed a prosperous life,  including hosting extravagant parties.
They had five children.
The Susquehanna Plantation
(photo courtesy of Bob Jacobs)
Their 75 slaves,  however,  did not enjoy the same good life;  they slept in 13 small,  wood shacks with dirt floors and were made to work brutal hours in the fields,  especially during harvest time.
The Carroll family was one of the wealthiest in St.  Mary's County - the slaves alone,  according to the 1860 census,  were valued at $49,000.  Among the slaves were skilled craftsmen,  including blacksmiths,  carpenters,  coopers,  shoemakers,  and seamstresses.
And the house servants.
Madelyn Porter,  who won a Kresge Artist Award for her work 
telling stories,  portrayed one of the Carroll slaves - one who 
worked in the kitchen.
Folks,  this woman's presentation was simply amazing.  
She explained that the Carrols were preparing for a wedding,  and it was up to her to make sure the food and desserts were perfect.  Even though she was a slave,  she still had her pride and made certain that everything was up to the high standards expected because of her talent more than of fear.
The way she spoke as she told her stories as a slave at the Carroll 
Home just drew me/us into her world,  making me feel as if I were there,  back in Christmas 1860.
Here are just a few of the comments I received after posting her picture on Facebook:
"She was spell binding!"
"Gave me chills."
"She gave a really stunning performance."
"She is amazing!!"
"She was awesome!!!"
"She was fabulous, all but made me cry!"
"She was definitely my favorite!"
I concur with each of these comments.
Don't believe us?
Well,  someone took a video of her presentation:
Whew!  It still gives me chills to watch.

The Carroll wedding table is all set to go.

Walking to the Burbank House:
Though built in 1800,  it is not really utilized as such.  
Instead it is used for special activities,  as you see here:
(Photo by Kestrel Bird)
There was a cool presentation going on inside the Burbank House that one doesn't see too often.
A couple of ladies,  who happen to be friends 
of mine  (and Civil War reenactors),  
were painting catalogue drawings.
"We were portraying water colorists who were hired by fashion publications like Godey’s Lady’s Book to paint the fashion plates that go into their magazines.  Godey’s hired 150 women for this job.  We were showing December of 1860,  painting the fashion plates that would go into the 1861 publications." - Amanda Fross
Amanda works her art.
And the outcome?
Why,  look below at an original from the 19th century:
Here is an original fashion book plate.
Maybe their painted pictures will show up in one!

Of course,  the Civil War began in 1861 - -
Here are a couple of Civil War soldiers
in their winter quarters,  enjoying the warmth
of a December bonfire.


From the Civil War we'll move into the future a bit to 1876.
See the house there on the left?  Why,  that is the birthplace of 
Henry Ford,  the founder of Ford Motor Company,  the maker of 
the Model T,  and the founder of Greenfield Village.

Here is Ian in his new role as Ford's Lawn Jockey.

A centennial Christmas celebration was held inside
the Ford Home,  commemorating the 100th birthday
of the United States of America.

(Picture courtesy of  Erin Connors‎)

The young lady here was very animated in her explanations 
about the food spread out on the table.

And,  still,  cookies were being baked in the cast iron stove 
in the kitchen.

From here we will turn another century:
Welcome to 1903,  the year that Orville and Wilbur Wright created the first heavier-than-air motorized aeroplane.  And it was built inside the building adjacent to the brightly lit one.
That's the Wright Cycle Shop you see behind the street lamp.  
This is the original building that the Wright Brothers had their 
bicycle shop in,  and it was in the back that the two brothers 
made the parts for their first aeroplane.
The building in its entirety was moved to Dearborn 
from Dayton,  Ohio in the 1930s with 
Orville Wright's approval,  help,  and guidance.

Now we are going into 1915.  But we are also in Canada,  visiting at the homestead that once belonged to the grandparents of Thomas Edison.
Okay,  so we're really not in Canada,  but that's where this home was originally built.
As soon as you step into the Edison cottage,
you are greeted by this wonderfully festive
Christmas decor.  Yes,  that is an actual
feather tree in the middle of the table.

Goose was the meal of the day,  and just as the
sight of Christmas grabs you when you walk in,
so does the scent of this bird cooking in the
cast iron stove in the kitchen.

From Canada we will make our way to Merry Old England where we find a World War II Hospitality Station over at the Cotswold House.
Though the British were not too hospitable to this colonial!
(Just kidding - - these are some great guys!)
It's 1944 and many of our  U.S.  troops were stationed in England,  including the Cotswold region.  They were treated to the young pretty American girls brought over from the States who gave them a little piece of home for the holidays.
The young ladies from the Red Cross were
specially trained in what to say,  how to act,  and
how to help the men through their loneliness
in all ways but,  shall we say,  intimacy.
They would help them write letters,  read,  sing,  or just plain have conversations.
And the Christmas tree would be decorated as
festively as the one in their own living rooms

back home.

Holiday Nights is always such an enjoyable evening,  but the time had come for us to take our leave from this journey through Christmas past.
And we waved our goodbyes,  only to look toward Christmas future.
I felt the usual twinge of sadness as we departed;  it will not be until April 17 before I will be able to come back to Greenfield Village for it is now closed until that date.

Now before we end out this week's posting - the first post of the  '20s - I thought I would show you a little of  Christmas 2019 at my own home,  which is firmly rooted in the past,  though with a bit of contemporary thrown in.
Which past?
Take your pick - from the 18th century through the 21st.
It's a sort of mish-mosh.
Our Christmas Eve dinner table,  all set for the feast
We're like the wealthy Giddings:  we have multiple candles lit!
Not bad for not being wealthy,  eh?

(If you recall,  we do dip all of our own candles)
We celebrate Christmas Eve at our house rather than Christmas Day to ease up on the visitations of our married  (or engaged to be married)  children.
It makes it easier all around and it is every bit as festive.
Our fireplace mantel with the sugar cone & sugar nips,  
old St. Nicholas,  and the anti-Stamp Act teapot.

And my family setting down for our Christmas feast.
My grandkids are now sitting at a different table - the kids table,  

so they did not make it into this picture  (unfortunately).

This has been the most up and down Christmas season I have ever had,  with that horrible virus/flu bug knocking down sections of my family and my Christmas tree falling over and a weekend cancelation for Simply Dickens performing at the Holly Dickens Festival.  However,  from mid-December onward,  it just got better and better.  So many highs over-shadowed those few lows,  you know?  What helps is that our holiday celebration is not based in and around the commercialism of buy buy buy,  but rather,  of family and do do do---do something fun;  experience the season rather than the malls.
And for a historian,  Holiday Nights is one of the best ways to experience the season,  in all its many glories.
Speaking of many glories - - - -
You may think,  now that it is New Year's,  that the Christmastide is over.
Not so fast!
There is still the 21st Michigan Civil War-era Christmas party and the Citizens of the American Colonies Revolutionary War-era Christmas party to attend.  And if you so desire,  you will read about each right here at Passion for the Past in the next two blog postings.

So,  until next time,  see you in time.


To read more about a colonial Christmas,  please click HERE

To read more about a colonial New Year's,  please click HERE

To read more about how we experienced a full immersion Victorian Christmas,  please click HERE

























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