Monday, May 15, 2017

Odds and Sods: A Collection of Thoughts and Curios from the Mind of a Living Historian

For this week's posting I have thrown together bits and pieces of individual posts that were intended to become full-fledged articles for this blog but realized they weren't really going to go much beyond a paragraph or two. So I decided to put them together as a sort of odds & sods collection of my thoughts, quotes I like, and even opinions on history and its environment...oh! and living history, too.
As far as my opinions go - - remember: they are just that - my opinions. Yours may differ.
And that's okay.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy it - - -

~ Diggin' up bones...and adding flesh ~
"To my mind, 'Historians' dig up the bones, 'Buffs' put flesh and clothing on those bones, and the 'Public' have the privilege of simply admiring and learning from the results.
Or a better analogy is the relationship between farmers, cooks, and diners, all of whom, ultimately, need each other." 
- G. Lovely 

~     ~     ~

“History is Bunk!” a famous quote from Henry Ford
In part, due to his strong pacifism and anti-war sentiment during America’s involvement in World War One, a number of newspaper articles called him an anarchist, among other things, and quoted him as saying, "History is more or less bunk..." which has been repeated often ever since, signifying that Ford didn’t like, or was ignorant of, history.
What most folks who hear this today don't understand is that this "bunk " comment was stated for reasons other than what the press said (wow---doesn’t that sound familiar, even here in the 21st century); what Ford meant and explained many times in his later years was that written history reflected little of people's day-to-day existence. Ford said, “History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with...wars, major political controversies, territorial extensions and the like. When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches. I thought a history which excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk, and I think so yet."
My great Aunt Babe - ca 1922~
She was one of Pete McCurty's
Bonton Girls, an entertainment
troop of youths in the Jazz Age.
I happen to agree with Ford's sentiment here; a history which excludes harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk. How can history be taught without acknowledging the average person? And I would like to add: how can history be taught without placing the people of the past in their own time, in their long ago environment, with their morals and values - not ours... and try to understand what they felt, seen, and knew as truth?
This is what I try to do during the high school history class I parapro in, though on a smaller scale. In fact, very recently, we were reading and talking about the 1920s and the changes that occurred during that decade. To get the kids somewhat engulfed into the period, I clicked onto You Tube and found original 1920s music (Helen Kane "Button Up Your Over Coat" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" by the California Ramblers) and told them this was the young hip music of the time that they probably would have been listening to had they been living back then.
My great Aunt Bea - ca 1922
She was also a Bonton Girl

We then looked at fashions of the day, watched film clips of dancers doing the Charlston, and saw a Charlie Chaplin comedy short from (I think) 1928 called "The Lion's Cage."
These kids never saw or heard any of this before, and the best part is one student mentioned to me afterward that he really liked the silent movie and planned to go home and find more to watch on You Tube!
How cool! 
I believe that's along the lines of what Henry Ford meant when he said that history, the way it is usually taught, is bunk.
Ha! Not if I can help it (and it also helps to have cool head teachers who allow me to add these everyday life bits to her teaching process).
Oh, and here's one more quote about Ford:
"A lot of guys have had a lot of fun joking about Henry Ford because he admitted one time that he didn't know history. He don't know it, but history will know him. He has made more history than his critics ever read."
Will Rogers

~     ~     ~

Present vs Past vs Present vs Past vs Present...
There is a lot of talk these days about those who lived in times past in comparison to how we, the enlightened ones, live today. We ravage and besmirch people who's values and morals are unlike our own because they - can you believe it? - are from a different century. These folks from another time are trashed for being a part of their long ago society; they are condemned for thinking as their time and environment directed instead of how we think today.
I mean, they should've known better!
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?
And, yet, there are many - too many - in our modern times who think this way.
To be honest, it really needs to stop.
Move on...learn from the past and never stop trying to make a better future rather than condemn those who lived back in their own time.
As I recently read HERE:
"One of the traits of modern society, and indeed no doubt of many generations in the past, is one of hubris -- that we are so much more advanced and vastly superior than the "unenlightened" people of prior generations. The cries of "this is 2017" echo the self-same complaints I heard decades ago and those I heard when I was young. "We are born into a brave new age," we're told, "free of the chains of the past, brimming with freedom and opportunities that those poor people of the past never enjoyed." Like a broken record, it is the mantra of every new generation. 
To back up their belief comes in that old crutch, confirmation bias. If we're so superior and the past was so bad, then we must tell all that which supports that notion and suppress all that which might challenge our viewpoint. Indeed, our post-modern viewpoint cannot be challenged, because that would mean that we are not in fact special compared to the humans who went before. And, if real information to support our claims of modern superiority cannot be found, things can be made up. If a total myth is repeated enough, especially if by celebrities and teachers, then it becomes an accepted myth. Experience has shown that people cling to accepted myths like a drowning man to a life-preserver, even when the rescue line of simple truth is proffered.
Those who want to make an authentic positive difference on modern society would do well to abandon the idea that our modern society is inherently better than all that went before it. That is liberating and opens the mind to great possibilities to which it was previously closed through insular, small-minded hubris. "

Yep - - ! We've made strides in so many ways, but stayed the same in most others.
Maybe we've even gone down some in other ways as well.
But please understand - people from the past were every bit as smart as people today. They are just from a different era.  
And for Pete's sake, stop believing all of those "historical" Facebook memes!

~     ~     ~

When I read a book on history, something I find myself doing more and more is to look at the bibliographies at the back, for this is where the authors found their information. I would rather go straight to the source, if at all possible, rather than get it second hand. Especially if the source is a diary. I have found many old original diaries were released in book form during the colonial revival of the earlier part of the 20th century, and a number of them are still available as reprints.
Well, where did you think I get a lot of my quotes from, the internet??

 ~     ~     ~

My original copy from about 1970
I have mentioned a couple of times in previous posts about how the book "The Cabin Faced West" by Jean Fritz affected me and played a pivotal role in my love of history.
I purchased my copy at a school book fair many years ago when I was only around nine or ten years old. As a young boy, I didn't care that it was a story based around a girl who was about the same age as I, for it was also about history that showed daily life, and there weren't very many like it available at that time. But it was the one book, more than any other I have read, that was life-changing for me, and it directed my future course into my passion for American History. I still have my original copy of that book and read its yellowed and brittle pages every couple of years.
Here is a quick review of the story: 
it is 1784, and young Ann Hamilton is living in rural western Pennsylvania with her parents and siblings. She is lonely from being in the isolated wilderness and longs for her old friends and cousin back east in Gettysburg; she does not enjoy living on what was then the frontier. Throughout the story we see her doing her daily chores, we learn how young people entertained themselves, and even how they did schooling when there was no school building to attend. One particular part that intrigued me when I first read it was when her cooking fire went out and she had to go and "borrow" fire (a real experience of the time that I knew nothing about from my school books).
One of my favorite illustrations from the book
of Ann Hamilton and Arthur Scott
But when a great storm blows up and nearly ruins their crop - their means to survive - and when an unexpected stranger, who we find out is General George Washington, rides up the hill and stays for supper, well, you'll just have to read the book to find out what happens.
Yes, this is a book meant for the younger set (good for pre-teens to young teens), but I still enjoy it to this day. The author has an engulfing way of bringing the past to life with actual historic detail.
One of the best parts is, at the end of the book the author notes in a postscript that "There really was an Ann Hamilton, she was my great-great-grandmother."
And George Washington really visited and dined with the Hamiltons, as noted in his diary of September 18, 1784:
18th. Set out with Doctr. Craik for my Land on Millers run (a branch of Shurtees [Chartier’s] Creek). Crossed the Monongahela at Deboirs Ferry—16 Miles from Simpsons—bated at one Hamiltons about 4 Miles from it, in Washington County, and lodged at a Colo. Cannons on the Waters of Shurtees Creek—a kind hospitable Man; & sensible.

In a Scholastic Books interview, Jean Fritz was asked: Can you tell me more about your great-great-grandmother, Ann Hamilton?
“I can't tell you very much. I know Washington did stop and have dinner with the Hamiltons. I know she did marry David Scott. I know as an old lady, she visited her daughter in Ohio and got sick, died, and was buried there. I was once in the town where she died. I looked up the church, went to the cemetery, and there she was. All the family members in the book The Cabin Faced West are real.”

In the book The Cabin Faced West, did Daniel ever get married?
“I wish I knew! He went off to Kentucky. My family was embroiled in the Whiskey Rebellion
(of 1794). And both of those brothers were very active in it. David stayed in western Pennsylvania and became master of the Hamilton house. Daniel went to Kentucky and disappeared, as far as I know.”

Now, I just found out something very cool: Jean Fritz, the author of "The Cabin Faced West," is still alive and is nearly 102 years old!
Maybe I will try to contact her and let her know what an impact her book had on my life...

~     ~     ~

My wife and son at Little Round Top
in Gettysburg during sunset.
“Battlefields are looking glasses into the worlds of our ancestors. Standing on their earth, under their skies, is to be at one with them and to viscerally understand humanity's connections across time.
The generation that won American independence lives in the ideas we honor, the architecture we preserve and the battlefields we yet can save.”

~     ~     ~

"Some kid a hundred years from now is going to get interested in the Civil War and want to see these places. He's going to go down there and be standing in a parking lot. 
I'm fighting for that kid." 
- Brian Pohanka, 1990

          ~     ~     ~

Recreating a scene from colonial times.
Yeah...we were there...
A few years back I jumped over a 90 year wide river - yes, I said 90 year wide - from the 1860s to the 1770s. One of the things that was said to me at my first colonial event when I mentioned I also do Civil War was, "You guys in Civil War want to be there. You like to feel as if you've actually time-traveled.
We who do Rev War prefer to teach."
Well, this person was half right. Yes, it's true that we who reenact the Civil War do strive to be there, but we mostly do it in a teachable manner. I can't imagine reenacting any other way. I do want to experience what our forefathers did, at least, to a small extent. That's why I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity of utilizing a historical house, when possible, and attempt to immerse myself through 1st person.
I have also found, by the way, that there are a number of Rev War reenactors who also want to be there. And that's pretty cool.

~     ~     ~

"The Revolution and the beliefs and ideals that came out of it are what hold us together and make us a united people. There is no American ethnicity, so the Revolutionary beliefs in liberty and equality and constitutionalism are the adhesives that make us a nation." 
- Gordon S. Wood

~     ~     ~

Why does my Patriotism
bother some folks so much?
Not that it matters to me...
Patriotism seems to be at an impasse in our day and age; we have come to a point to where if you wave the flag and love your country, you will be pigeon-holed into a political category.
And I don't understand this thought. I mean, the American flag does not belong to any one political party, no matter what anyone says or thinks. It belongs to all Americans. Yes, it belongs to you who protests the President. Yes, and it belongs to you who voted for the President.
And it also belongs to the citizens who didn't vote at all.
And if you won't fly it because you are afraid that you will be thought of as belonging to a certain political party, then shame on you.
I have flown my American flags since moving out of my parent's home way back in the 1980s. My dad flew one while Ford was in office. Then Carter. I carried on the tradition when I moved out during the Reagan years, and then continuing on with Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama, and now Trump.
Believe me when I say that there are plenty of things I disagree with on each president mentioned here.
But, still, I fly my flag.
I am not ashamed of being a patriotic American, for my patriotism doesn't stem from whoever is president.
And I do love my country - past and present.
Oh, I don't always agree - and many things happened in our history that I abhor.
But it doesn't take away the fact that I love this, the United States of America.
Yes I do.
And if that bothers you, that's your problem.
Thanks...I just needed to get that off my chest.

~     ~     ~

I was recently told that Paul Revere was a failure during his midnight ride.
"A failure?" I asked. "How?"
"Because," came the reply, "he failed to make it to Concord to warn the citizens that the Regulars were coming to steal their ammunition."
I responded, "Do you realize that he helped develop the entire plan? And do you understand that warning the people of Concord wasn't necessarily his main goal?"
Hancock-Clarke House - 
Where John Hancock and Samuel Adams
were staying the night of April 18, 1775.
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
I went on to explain that "on the night of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, who was the last major patriot leader left in Boston (and a personal friend of Paul Revere’s), informed Revere that he had just received intelligence from his own spy network that the troops, while on the road to Concord to capture or destroy military stores that had been gathered there, planned to stop in Lexington and arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, the patriot leaders who were staying in a house owned by one of Hancock’s relatives. So Dr. Warren “begged” Revere to stop in Lexington and warn Adams and Hancock to get out of the way of the British troops."
Well, as it turned out, this intelligence was inaccurate, though that wasn't known at the time.
As historian David Hackett Fischer wrote:
"Paul Revere's primary mission was not to alarm the countryside. His specific purpose was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were thought to be the object of the expedition. Concord and its military stores were also mentioned to Revere, but only in a secondary way." 
So there you have it.
As far as Revere not making it to Concord, he was stopped and captured by a British scouting regiment: "In an instant I saw four of them, who rode up to me with their pistols in their bands, said ''G---d d---n you, stop. If you go an inch further, you are a dead man.'' Immediately Mr. Prescot came up. We attempted to get through them, but they kept before us, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out."
Yep - I woulda stopped, too.
So he was no failure - he did exactly as he set out to do.
And this, by the way, is why we, as historians, must continue our research in all aspects, and not just take what some people (or Facebook memes) say as truth or fact.

~     ~     ~

My wife the spinner...
To be a part of living history is a privilege that I cherish; I would like to think that those of us in this reenacting community are making a good attempt to do honor to those of the past in all of its many forms. We are continuously learning - researching - so we can do our best to bring the words we read to life.
And that can be a very difficult thing to do.
But we're trying.
Many visitors don't think twice about living historians and museum presenters who keep alive the crafts, chores, and occupations of long ago. My wife is a good example of this; as a reenactor not only does she crochet and knit (and sew), but she will take a mound of raw wool, covered with grass, twigs, burrs, animal poop, and bugs, then skirt it, wash it, pick it clean, card it, spin it, wash it again, dye it, rinse it...and now it's ready to be knitted or crochet into a hat, socks, scarf, mittens, or any number of useful items.
We can't forget about those who work in the museums or the living historians who will bring their presentations up a few notches - the men who plow behind a team of horses and perform other farmhand chores, the women who do open-hearth or woodstove cooking after preparing the food "the old-fashioned way." Then there are those men and women who keep other period crafts alive such as tinsmithing, running an old-time printing press, make pottery bowls, plates, and cups, coopering, basket makers, leather workers, seamstresses and tailors, hat makers, and even those who drive steam engine locomotives, horse and carriages, and Model T automobiles.
How about something as simple as dressing authentically and accurately so when a modern visitor sees you they are automatically drawn back in time just at the sight.
Add to that: having the knowledge of the past and presenting it verbally in an interesting manner is quite the talent as well.
There is so much more to historical presentation than most folks realize!
Yeah...I'm loving it!

~     ~     ~

Now is a good time for some light-hearted musical fun:
It's hard to believe that every one of the following truly classic albums were all released in that magical hippie 'summer of love' year of 1967.
50 years ago!!
And, yes, I own a copy of each groovy album:
George & Patty Harrison
in San Francisco during the
Summer of Love - 1967

Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced
Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow
The Doors - Debut
Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
Traffic - Mr. Fantasy
Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
Cream - Disraeli Gears
Doors - Strange Days
Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Jimi Hendrix - Axis: Bold As Love
Country Joe & the Fish - Electric Music for the Mind and Body
Big Brother and the Holding Company - Debut
Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant

Hahaha! I am expecting to see "Ken! I can't believe you didn't include ----"
But these are my personal favorites. 
I didn't include an album because "I'm supposed to" - you know, the albums that Rolling Stone Magazine says is a must own even though most people only know one or two songs from it (if any)? 
No, each album I listed here I can consistently listen to repeatedly.
Either way, what an amazing array of music from a single year.
I wonder...what will be considered classic from today's music groups?
Do they even make albums?

~     ~     ~, remember a while back when I was sorting through my lanterns and candle holders and I realized I had enough different and antiquated ones to do a full blog post?
If not, click HERE
Well, as I was going through my dresser drawers, I realized I had a pretty large collection of "historic" t-shirts depicting the Revolutionary War era.
Never have I ever received so many inquiries and (mostly positive) comments from strangers than when I wear one of these t-shirts, and that excites me because I consider it a teaching moment for American History.
So, for a lark, I took a picture of each - - - here they are:
Here is, perhaps, my favorite.
As you can see, it is depicting the 
midnight ride of Paul Revere.
Artsy-types like this one.

A sort of "Class of '76" shirt.
Believe it or not, I do get people asking me
if I graduated high school in 1976 when they
see me in this shirt.
Hmmm...I suppose it makes sense...but, nope, 
I did not graduate in that bicentennial year.
I graduated 200 years after the birth of
Francis Scott Key. Betsy Ross flag shirt.
Did she or didn't she?
She was a flag-maker...hmmm...
But there is no proof either way, so quit arguing!

Though I am of English and German
heritage, I am also Sicilian.
This shirt is perfect for someone like
me, for it pretty much says it all.

What a cool shirt! One never sees the
minute men get their just due.
Well, here is a small way I can honor them.

I love wearing this shirt!
Do you want to know why?
Because many ask me what it signifies!

"What do the coffins with the initials 
and the date of March 5, 1770 mean?"
Well, here it comes...a teaching moment:

I tell them about the Bloody Massacre at Boston
and that the initials are of those who were killed 
during the raucous there - 
Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, 
Crispus Attucks, and Patrick Carr.

My wrap-around George Washington crossing
the Delaware shirt.
It was very expensive but I thought it was cool.
It's like I'm wearing a painting.

A collection of historical flags that thumb
their "noses" to the British.
Defiance indeed!

My souvenir t-shirt from Colonial Williamsburg.
I. Love. Colonial. Williamsburg.
'nuff said...

A friend got me this Declaration of Independence
shirt when they visited Colonial Williamsburg
a few years before I was able to go.

The ever-popular Gadsden Flag shirt that
I've had for nearly ten years.
I've been accused of quite a few things when 
I have it on, as if wearing history makes 
me belong to one party or another.
Ha! Little do they know.
And, like I said earlier, how sad.

Another defiance shirt!
Yes, I am sure that could be Paul Revere there,
riding his borrowed horse.
But since I already have a Paul Revere shirt, I tell
people it's William Dawes. And that begins
another history lesson from historical Ken!

Yes, I am proud and unapologetically
American. And I do believe in our
2nd Amendment rights, as people have
for well over 200 years.

Here is the back of the same shirt. 
Yes, I believe this, too.

Well, there you go!
A trip through the head of Historical Ken.
It's been one of the more honest and unique postings I've written, but I suppose I have the right to my own thoughts, opinions, and oddities, eh?

Until next time, see you in time.

~     ~     ~

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Celebrating Patriots' Day 2017

Who are these two guys standing in front of the Pennsylvania State House?
Read on to find out...

How the heck...
...are you dressed?
We, as living historians, are an unusual lot.
We most certainly are!
Most of us are adults...older adults...
and we like to dress up in old-timey clothes and pretend that we live in the past. 
And we think little of spending quite a bit of money for this pretending.
Foolishness is what it is. 
And I'm the biggest of them all.
                   Fool, that is.
I mean, it's one thing to reenact at a historic event, but me? 
I'm the kind of guy who will "dress period" about any chance I get - - 
Going beyond what most reenactors do.
Don't ask me why, for I can't explain it.
It's just there.
It's in me.
I am part of an unusual lot indeed.
Foolishness, yes...but I love it.
Today's post is proof. 
Hope you enjoy it.

~        ~        ~

I don't believe there is another month that has as many major American historical events occur as the month of April. Now, I'm not speaking of births or deaths, but of the happenings that most history books will, at the very least, mention.
Here...check it out:
~April 3 - 1860 - The Pony Express began it's run, going from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California
~April 6 - 1917 - U.S. entered WWI
~April 9 - 1865 - The Civil War ended
~April 12 - 1861 - The Civil War began at Fort Sumter
~April 14 - 1865 - President Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater
~April 15 - 1865 - President Lincoln died 7:22 a.m.
~April 15 - 1912 - The Titanic sank after striking an iceburg in the Atlantic, killing over 1500 passengers. The survivors were brought to New York
~April 18 - 1775 - Late night ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes (and, after midnight, Samuel Prescott)
~April 19 - 1775 - The Revolutionary War began in earnest with the Battle of Lexington & Concord
~April 27 - 1865 - Steamboat Sultana exploded, killing nearly 2000 passengers, most being recently freed Union prisoners of war
~April 30 - 1789 - George Washington became our 1st President
I realize there were a number of other historical occurrences in April, but I only wanted to list the most well-known.
Quite a few, eh?
Now I would like you to go and ask your kids or your spouse or other family member or friends if they know of these important historical events.
Give them the TEST and see how they do!

Dr. Franklin
Well, since this month of April is so historical, I usually do my own remembrance to commemorate Patriot's Day - April 19th - the date that signifies the beginning of the American Revolution, which is, to me, every bit as important as Pearl Harbor Day, President's Day, or any of the other holidays of acknowledgement for our nation.
And what I can't figure out is...why isn't this date a National Holiday?
Yes, there are the citizens who live in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin who celebrate Patriots' Day; to many in those states I am sure it is a welcome day off work or school. But at least there is some acknowledgement for this day in which the brave patriots who were there at the beginning - at the conception of the United States of America - are honored. And they are honored more than with burgers, fries, and furniture store sales: in the area around Lexington and Concord, re-enactments of the battles in 1775 and the events leading up to them are held. A particular highlight is the opportunity to ring the bell that warned the local troops that Regulars (British soldiers) were approaching. Lectures, concerts and road races are also organized.
I so wish my home state of Michigan and the rest of our country acknowledged Patriot's Day as well. If reenacting taught me nothing else, it helped me to realize and understand the significance of certain dates and events in our history. Even the most popular holidays, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, have deepened their meaning to me, especially as I study them more intently.
Well, for the past few years, Patriot's Day has become one of those days which, for this guy, is up there with the best of our national commemorations. And you know that, whether others in my area remember it or not, I remember, and will continue to do so.
And do you know how I observe it, right?
Yessir (or ma'am)! I visit Greenfield Village, Michigan's own 300 acre celebration of the past, and I try to go as close to April 19th as I can.
This year it happened to be Saturday, April 22nd.
Do I even have to mention that I was in period clothing?
Colonial clothing, to be more precise.
Even better, my dear wife came along with me. And we also had a special guest visitor with us!
But before we get to all the pictures and the commentary on how our day went, there is a quick little background story I would like to tell you:
Henry Ford's replicated Independence Hall 
located in Dearborn, Michigan
When Henry Ford built his Greenfield Village open-air museum in 1929, he also built an indoor museum to go alongside of it. And he wanted this very American museum to be something grand - very special - he wanted it to stand out like no other. And to accomplish this he had a replica of the facade of Independence Hall in Philadelphia built as the museum's entrance
What could be more of a symbol of America than Independence Hall?
Ford hired architect Robert O. Derrick to have this version built exactly in the same architectural style as the current one in Philadelphia, and he spared no expense in doing so, including the same mistakes of the original, such as the windows in the tower being slightly off center by a couple inches.
In fact, Ford went so far as to also have the front foyer, which is located under the clock tower, replicated as well.
Oh! To have such money...
And that's where our story begins - on a beautiful late April day when my wife and I, dressed in our 1770s clothing, traveled to this wondrous place of history. And seeing the majestic clock tower of the replicated Independence Hall rising over the trees, I knew, dressed as I was, that I needed to stop there first (we must remember, however, that the steeple of Independence Hall, originally known in the 1770s as the Pennsylvania State House, did not look then as it does today. It was redesigned in 1828 to appear as we now see it, with more ornamentation and the clock).

As I passed through the doors into the foyer, you will not guess who I found there... 
Why...Dr. Benjamin Franklin! It is an honor, good sir, to meet you!

I suppose if I would want to meet anyone while in the Pennsylvania State House, it would be Ben Franklin, a true Patriot and, perhaps, the United States' finest citizen.

As Dr. Franklin explained, it was here where the 2nd Continental Congress met, and it was also where the Declaration of Independence (of which Franklin helped to write) and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted.
Oh, it certainly was an honor indeed to hear these stories from "the man" himself!
(Remember - this is a replicated building we are in - not the original. 
But with Dr. Franklin here, it truly felt as if we were in the original!)

As we stepped out of the Pennsylvania State House 
(Independence Hall), I invited Dr. Franklin to join 
my wife and I while we visited Greenfield Village.
He was interested to know what made this 
Village such an amazing place.

I explained that it was 300 years of (mostly) American history, that he would see how the United Sates grew after his time. I also mentioned that there was a special area dedicated to the founding generation, and seeing this section of the Village would almost be like "going home" for him, for he shall be immersed in his own 
time - a time that he would find quite familiar.

Since this world of the 21st century was so strange to his eyes and ears, 
Dr. Franklin said he would be delighted to join us on our excursion.
Well, then, shall we go?

You know, of course, that I had my trusty camera with me, hidden inside my satchel, and I was able to get some pretty decent photos documenting our every move. As you are seeing here, every picture really does tell a story.
So it was off to the far end of Greenfield Village - the colonial area - to begin our visit. This is where the wonderful original mid-18th century structures, whose architecture style would be familiar to Dr. Franklin, are situated.
From left you see me, my wife, and Benjamin Franklin standing in front of the Daggett break-back (saltbox) style house built around 1750.

In fact as we moved up to the front door, one of the young ladies opened it and exclaimed, "Imagine! We have Benjamin Franklin visiting us right here at the Daggett house!"
This being April, it was still rather chilly outdoors, so we were welcomed to sit 
and warm ourselves at the hearth.
Besides farming, Samuel Daggett was also a housewright and built this particular house on a spot known as Shoddy Hill Road, atop 80 acres of land.
His wife, Anna, ran the home and cared for the family. She prepared and preserved food; spun yarn; made clothing, towels and sheets; gave the children their earliest lessons in reading and writing; and fed the animals including chickens and pigs.
The three Daggett children were prominent in helping out in household duties: Asenath and Tabitha would have learned the skills of "housewifery" from their mother. They would have prepared yarn by carding and spinning; made clothing, soap and candles; tended the garden; and prepared food. 
But on this day, all was forgotten because a very special visitor came a-calling.
Dr. Franklin regaled our hostesses with stories of his time in France. 
As the ladies here have never been any farther from their home than the town of Coventry, hearing tales from afar kept them enthralled - so much, in fact, 
that they had nearly forgotten about doing their chores!

We were invited to stay for dinner, but politely declined, 
for we had other places to visit. My thanks to the fine ladies of the 
Daggett Farm for being such wonderful hostesses.

Our next stop was at this beautiful house built in the mid-1700s, the Giddings home.
It was around 1751 that merchant John Giddings built this house, shortly before he married Mehetable Gilman in the fall of that same year. The structure is wonderful example of an upscale New England colonial home.
By the way, Patty and I purchased this house while visiting the 18th century. 
Oh, all of you are always welcome to visit, but it's best to come during the 
fall harvest weekends and during Holiday Nights, for that's when the rooms 
in our home will actually be open for guests.

Our next door neighbors are the Websters: Noah and his wife, Rebecca.
Dr. Franklin paid the Websters a visit, for he had heard of the 
American Dictionary Noah had put together and was impressed with his Americanization of the English language.
Where else but Greenfield Village can someone like Benjamin Franklin visit the 1822 Noah Webster House?

Greenfield Village also has the wonderful mid-19th century Eagle Tavern, a favorite place for my wife and I to eat. The atmosphere is very period and the food is not only delicious, but is served seasonally and historically accurate. Eating there while wearing clothing of times past only adds to the flavor of the experience.
One of the things I learned while researching the old taverns as I was writing THIS post and THIS post is that clothing fashions might have changed, but the basic look and lay out of most taverns changed little from the mid-18th century through much of the 19th century.
Here is a photograph of the Eagle Tavern as it looked in the late 19th century, 
years before Henry Ford's Model T and certainly decades before 
Greenfield Village was even a thought.

Taverns were the pulse of 18th century urban life, and their importance to the local community cannot be overstated; they were the main source of information for the locals. These "publick houses" (or 'ordinaries,' as they were also known) have played an important part in social, political, and even military life.
By the way, the word we know as "pub" is short for the colonial term publick house
Now you know.

The tavern owner was a very prominent man in town, and was thoroughly informed on all public and most private matters. He was certainly the best-known man around, that's for certain, and he made it a point to get to know all of his patrons.
There is a humorous story of the inquisitiveness of the tavern keepers that I should 
like to relate here:
“I have heard Dr. Franklin relate with great pleasantry that in travelling when he was young, the first step he took for his tranquility and to obtain immediate attention at the inns was to anticipate inquiry by saying, 'My name is Benjamin Franklin. I was born in Boston. I am a printer by profession, am travelling to Philadelphia, shall have to return at such a time, and have no news. Now, what can you give me for dinner?'"

By the 1760s and 1770s, the ordinaries were the rendezvous for those who believed 
in the Patriot cause and listened to the stirring words of American rebels, 
who mixed dark treason to King George with every bowl of punch they drank
The story of our War for Independence could not be dissociated from the old taverns, 
for they are a part of our national history, and those which still stand are among our 
most interesting historical relics.
Though I have written two postings about taverns in our nation's history, I have to agree with author Christopher Hitchens when he suggested that a "monograph should be written on the role of the tavern in the American Revolution."
Yes, they are that important.
I also like what another author, Adrian Covert, wrote: "The best part about surviving that for them history hasn't stopped. These aren't museums, these are (historic) conversations about politics, food, culture, and life."
We know that Greenfield Village's 1831 Eagle Tavern is not a true Revolutionary War building (even if its style is very similar), but it still has an amazing history to it. And, yes, I believe Dr. Franklin and I really did help to give the old building a more 18th century feel rather than of the 19th century, at least while we were in the bar area.

Patty and I continued our stroll through the Village with Benjamin Franklin, and we came upon a post office. Well, when you have someone like Benjamin Franklin with you, there was no choice but to go inside.
This Phoenixville (Connecticut) structure from 1825 is a 
beautiful example of a Post Office from the early 19th century.

As we walked inside, the presenter greeted us with a large smile and said, "And here is the first Postmaster!" Yes, it was an honor for Dr. Franklin to be remembered in this manner, for it was in 1775 when the Continental Congress appointed him Postmaster General. Franklin had previously served in that position under the Crown.
The "key" 
Thee key

And we also had to go to the printing office...
Benjamin Franklin: "(My) bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father (as a chandler), but still had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year. In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother.
Though a brother, he considered himself as my master, and me as his apprentice, and, accordingly, expected the same services from me as he would from another, while I thought he demean'd me too much in some he requir'd of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence."
Dr. Franklin was not so familiar with the newfangled press. 
It was quite different from the presses of his time
as an apprentice to his brother.

Hmmm...the printer didn't do too bad of a job with Dr. Franklin's likeness.

The colonial farmer of the 18th century relied on his large family for labor. He raised cotton, hemp, and flax, cobbled his own shoes, and constructed his own furniture.
And once springtime came around, planting preparations would begin, and the farmer would continue the ritual of hauling the manure pile that he’s been keeping all winter - load after wheelbarrow load (or piled onto a horse-drawn cart) - out to the planting field, to be spread as far and wide as possible.
Then came the process of plowing, which is an unbroken link to the past. The plow, one of the oldest of farming tools, breaks up and turns over the soil to make it smoother for planting. Arms, as used to plowing as they were, would still ache nightly, and ache even worse come the next day when the farmer, once again, found himself behind the two plow horses in the cool of the morning, digging the mould-board tool into the ground to turn up the soil that had laid dormant and frozen all the long winter.
Now it's time to harrow the plowed field. Harrowing is the process of breaking up the clumps of soil to further spread and even out the dirt for planting.
Only after all of this would it be time for planting.
"I am not looking forward to manuring, plowing, and harrowing. The labour is so strenuous."
"What do you plan to plant?"

"I think I will put the squash there, beans there, and lettuce way over there..."
"Why don't you plant watermelon? I hear its taste is like sweetened snow."
"Watermelon? Hmmm...maybe I will..." 
I know my wife would certainly enjoy it!
("Sweetened snow," by the way, was how Anne Warder described her first taste of watermelon in 1786. I think I agree with her description)

Well, all good things must come to an end, and the time had come for Patty and I to depart from our friend.
Before we left, I wanted one more "quick sketch" of my lovely wife and I.
We had a tremendously good time - one that won't soon be forgotten.
Throughout the day, as we journeyed among the historical buildings of Greenfield Village, many folks, both adults and children, stopped Dr. Franklin just to say "hi," and maybe ask a couple of questions or even get a photo taken with him. But what really moved me was when people - adults, mind you - would shake his hand and thank him for all the good he had done for our country.
Wow---there is plenty of patriotism around. Such a wonderful feeling.
But now, I suppose, I can let the cat out of the bag: that wasn't the real Benjamin Franklin I was with. It was actually Bob Stark who portrayed the historical figure.
Yes, it was a portrayal, but because the resemblance between the two men is uncanny, it was hard not to think of them as one and the same. And then to see the smiles on the faces when people saw him...I have to be honest with you, it was very cool and truly very moving to see this.
And believe it or not, a few of the folks even called me Paul Revere! Now - seriously - how would they have guessed that I present as Paul Revere? I mean, yes, I do portray the man, so it was an unexpected honor, but it's not as if I look like him. But it added to everyone's experience, of which I am heartily glad, and there were even a few rather nice conversations I had with a number of visitors who also had questions for me. Some even remembered the date of my ride, April 18, 1775, which occurred only a few nights before.
Very moving and cool indeed.
Maybe we're not so foolish after all.

So, until next time, see you in time.

If you like this post, here are a few links you might enjoy as well:
Colonial Ken's 1st Patriots' Day celebration
Colonial Ken's 2nd Patriots' Day celebration
Colonial Ken's 3rd Patriots' Day celebration
Have you ever thought of what it would be like to travel during the 18th century? Colonial Taverns and Travel
The real story of Paul Revere's ride
The Battle of Lexington & Concord: A personal view
To learn more about the Daggett House, please click HERE
To learn more about the Giddings House, please click HERE
And HERE is a general overview of life in colonial times

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Glen Morningstar & Paul Revere
On the Friday evening before Greenfield Village, I volunteered my time as Paul Revere to help out the Plymouth (Michigan) Fife & Drum Corps, which is "an all youth corps from Plymouth and surrounding communities dedicated to preserving the ancient arts of color guard, fifing, and drumming through live performances." This was their first gala fundraising event, and for attendees/donors it included a fine meal, personal visits from Dr. Benjamin Franklin & yours truly, Paul Revere Esq., along with contra-dancing including dance instruction provided by the best band in the business, the Old Michigan Ruffwater Stringband, headed up by Glen Morningstar.
Dr. Franklin and I went around to the different tables, speaking to the attendees, who were none to shy about asking questions (which is a good thing, right?). A number of people asked if I was okay after my big ride a few nights before. Of course, I thanked them for their concern and assured them that even though I was caught by the Regulars, I was quite alright.
My number one question of the evening was, believe it or not, what was the name of the horse I rode on the evening of April 18, 1775.
I'll be honest, in the couple of years I have been presenting as Paul Revere I have never been asked that question before, so my answer to them was "I do not know. With the events of that evening, I was not too concerned about remembering the name of the horse I was riding."
However, when I went home that night, I looked it up. The closest answer I could find was "Brown Beauty," and even that is not 100% for certain.
Paul Revere simply says that he rode "a very good horse."
Sorry folks, that's the best I can do! 
Anyhow, the evening was a great success, and one of my personal highlights was hearing the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corp perform a few tunes.
Guests enjoy the music of the Plymouth (Michigan) Fife & Drum Corps
I let the hostess know that I would be happy to help again for next year's event, for I did enjoy speaking with the many donors as well as hearing the fife & drum corp perform.
I got the Plymouth (Michigan) Fife & Drum Corps to pose for me.
This group is awesome!

Benjamin Franklin (aka Bob Stark) bid out his 
services in a silent auction to help out the cause.
If you feel the desire (and are able) to help these young musical preservationists out, please click HERE to go to their Facebook page, just in case you want t see more of what they are about.

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