~For seasoned reenactors/living historians or for folks who are just getting their feet wet in this hobby, I am certain there is a little something for everyone in this week's post.
Though I may be newer to colonial/RevWar era living history (three years as of this writing), I am not at all new to reenacting. That being said, even the veteran can learn something new, eh? I am hoping what is written here can be a sort of refresher for the lifers or a beginner's guide for the newbies to this world of the 1770s, and will help all who are interested in getting their kit together and expand on bringing the past to life ~
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|I am very glad to visit with you, Niece, as we|
a-wait for your father's return.
May I inquire as to how the general populace
in which you live survives in these trying times?
My goal now is to continue the same style of reenacting, but only in an earlier era in time - back to the 1770s - which is even more challenging.
But that's what I am hoping to do.
You may have read my posting I wrote recently about forming my own reenacting group called Citizens of the American Colonies. If you have not, please take a moment to do so by clicking the orange link, for it does explain "where my head is at" (to use a 1960s term) in the way I do living history.
Basically, what it comes down to is that I want to do it right. Just like in Civil War reenacting, what I want for my colonial reenacting experience is to feel like I am there, in the 1770s, and I want those around me to be there right along side of me, whether visitor or reenactor.
And this brings me to one the most important lessons I've learned in my many years of historical presenting: to have any type of immersion experience - to make it truly work - one must present themselves as a person from the past, not only in front of the visitors, but to themselves and other living historians as well. In other words, in order to be there, I have to believe I am there.
And that can be tough. But I plan to give it a try, though I'll probably start off slowly initially, especially as I get more into my Paul Revere presentation.
Of course, the first place to begin any time travel excursion is with the clothing.
Anyone can listen to a modern-dressed docent "talk history" and explain "how things were done back then." That can be well and good and all, but...put that very same docent in period clothing - accurate period clothing - and then watch how intently visitors will pay attention, because now the presenter looks the part; they fit the historic scene, whether they are presenting in a historic house, in a tent at a reenactment, or even in a high school gymnasium in front of school kids. And as far as the historical information the presenter is conveying, by dressing period it almost seems to have come alive.
Since there is a fair amount of information on 18th century women's clothing readily available, I thought I would spend a bit of this week's posting to show you the colonial-era men's clothing I personally have acquired that I hope will be useful as a guide for other males looking to try out the Revolutionary War period as a civilian. I do not portray a wealthy man but, instead, a man of middling class, as Paul Revere was. In this way I can still wear some very cool clothing and yet still be able to "be myself," for I am one of middling class here in the 21st century as well. I am just not comfortable as an upper class person.
By the way, much (but not all) of the following information presented here came directly from the Colonial Williamsburg site (link at the bottom of this post).
|My undershirt may or may not|
be period-correct, but either way,
I plan to wear it underneath my
outer garments to protect them.
I am not going to show you my colonial underpants, by the way, because, well, other than possibly wearing an undershirt, men generally did not wear any underpants, for, it is said, they simply did not exist yet. Or, at least, there is little documentation on them.
A middling man's outer shirt would usually be made of linen or cotton and would serve as a nightshirt as well. He might only own two or three shirts, and would wear the same one night and day, often for weeks or more at a time without laundering, especially in winter.
So, pictured below are two examples of a middling man's outer shirts:Now, since we're told colonial men did not wear underpants, just what did they do? Well, before a man put on his breeches he tucked his long shirt up around his legs somewhat like a diaper. I'm not going to do that, mainly due to the reason cited above: the cost to purchase is expensive, and the time to make is too time-consuming to allow a possible soilization of my garment (though, to be honest, if I had an opportunity to do a 1st person-full-immersion complete-with-period-correct-surroundings-inside-a-colonial-home event, I probably would try it just to keep it 'real').
Next item of clothing I put on are my stockings. These stockings are very long in comparison to our modern socks; they go up above the knee nearly to the thigh. I then tie (or buckle) on garters and fold the top of the stockings over to keep them from slipping down and bunching up around the ankles.
|I actually have two pair of breeches and another being |
made as I type this.
Hey---one can never have too many breeches!
Now I put on my breeches. From the late 1600s through the early part of the 1800s, most men wore breeches as their lower body garment. By the 1760s, the cut of breeches were tighter than they previously were, and revealed more of the shape of the leg. Worn by all levels of society, breeches were made in a great variety of silks, cottons, linens, wools, knits, and leathers.
What you see here are my linen breeches.Some men did wear the longer trousers, but these were mainly tradesmen, laborers, sailors, and slaves.
Next comes a cravat. The 18th-century man almost always wore some sort of neck cloth, whether fashionably dressed or at labor. The cravat was one of many forms of neckwear. It was a narrow length of white linen that could be adorned on its ends with lace, fringe, or knots. It was worn wrapped about the throat and loosely tied in front.
|These are the two cravats I have: the one on the left is silk, and the one on the right is cotton.|
Here we have the waistcoat (known today as a vest).
|My linen waistcoat|
|My wool waistcoat|
|My linen coat.|
Note the larger pewter
adornment buttons on
the front and on the cuffs
of the sleeves.
|This is my light wool coat.|
It, too, has pewter buttons,
but not nearly in the same
manner of embellishment
as my linen coat.
After my coat, I then put on my shoes.
|My straight-last buckled shoes.|
Yeah...they're a little dirty, but I wear them often.
|My plain black hat on the left, and my son's |
more fancy white-striped hat on the right
Where to purchase such high quality garments if one doesn't sew? One such place is the Quartermaster General.
~ ~ ~Give me a head with hair - - - -
Smith fought |
in the Battle of Long Island
on August 29, 1778.
On October 20, 1854,
he had a daguerreotype
taken to give to a
granddaughter.He died on January 3, 1855
Now, to help explain men's hair styles of the later 18th century, I found an excellent post at THIS site that I am reprinting, in part, here:
|My unpowdered hair in a "Figure 71 F" queue|
From the eighties one finds the hair occasionally dressed in a studied, négligé style, in what was termed a "disheveled crop" (Fig. 71 B). A curl or puff was sometimes carried over the top of the head from ear to ear, a fashion that came in during the eighties. The back hair was done in a pigtail queue (Fig. 71 D); or a small puff was placed at each side of the head over the ear, the hair brushed back from the forehead. and with the back hair likewise made into a queue (Fig. 71 c). This could be varied by dressing the hair in a puff over the top of the head, and in place of puffs at the side of the head the hair would be frizzed over the ears (Fig. 71 A). One of the plainest methods of dressing the hair was to brush it smoothly back from the brow without its being puffed, curled, or frizzed (Fig. 71 F). If the hair was thick, it might be brushed full over from off the forehead (Fig. 71 E). While the pigtail queue was the more usual way of fastening the back hair, at times it was brought into a simple tie.And for further information on men's hair fashions (coming from THIS page):
PIGTAILS. - Pigtails were either one (Fig. 53 AC) or two (Fig. 53 B) in number. They were tightly wrapped in a spiral manner with black silk ribbons. They were tied at the nape of the neck with a ribbon bow. The hair hung free at the end, coming from out the spiral wrappings. They were particularly popular during the reign of George II.
Gradually, about 1770, many men ceased to shave their heads, and wigs, with the exception of those retained by professional men, went out of fashion. Men wore again their own hair, though it was dressed in much the same manner as the wigs - with puffs and rolls, with queues, pigtails, and bags. The hair, however, was still usually powdered. Powder, which had been worn for over one hundred years, finally went out of fashion during the seventeen nineties.
~ ~ ~"You are judged by the words you use" ~~~~~~~
|Imagine the conversations...|
(Photograph taken at the
Wetherburn Tavern at Colonial Williamsburg by Fred Blystone )
To study language of times past can be somewhat difficult. Since there are no actual recordings of the human voice before the end of the 19th century, we may never know for certain how the English language and conversations may have truly sounded, though with a little detective work, we can make very good educated guesses. Reading books, diaries, letters, journals, and even news print (such as broadsides) can certainly steer us in the right direction; since so many colonials spelled their words phonetically, their writings can be a guide for us in our own pursuit of how they spoke.
One good example of "phonetics as language" comes from the well-researched book about Paul Revere by Mark David Fischer. In it Fischer writes how Revere spoke with a "harsh, nasal, New England twang" and that we can "hear him (by) the eccentric way he spelled his words." For example, Paul Revere wrote the word 'get' as 'git' every time, and, though his mother's maiden name was 'Hitchborn,' it was written as 'Hitchbon.' We also sometimes find 'charter' as 'chattaer,' which was probably pronounced with no 'r' at all. 'Boston' was 'Bast'n,' 'marsh' became 'mash,' 'want' was 'weren't,' 'hull' for 'whole,' 'foller' for 'follow,' 'sarve' for 'serve,' and 'acummin' for 'coming.'
There is another wonderful book available, this one actually specializing in colonial speak, entitled "Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language" by Cathleene Hellier, a Colonial Williamsburg historian who works in the training and research department for the historic museum, and is published through the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. This could be the most extensive assemblage of colonial verbiage collected as a teaching tool available. Yes, it does center around the Virginia dialect, so the accent will be different as compared to New England, but I am willing to bet word usage can very well be accepted throughout the colonies. In between the front and back cover you'll find "a series of lessons designed to help character interpreters to better understand how English was spoken in the eighteenth century and, consequently, to help them to sound more like the persons they portray."
What I have in this week's post is only a quick overview of a few of the lessons, mostly taken directly from this textbook, and will hopefully be another way to lead you down the right path in your journey to the past:
~Meetings and greetings~
A slight bow at the waist with slightly extended arms is the proper way for two colonial men to greet each other, followed by the verbal greeting of your choice:
|"How do you do?" was a popular greeting, as was "How does all at home?"
and "How does your father, old fellow?" |
I love this last one!
Many folks also addressed one another according to relationship:
father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, daughter, son, nephew, uncle, etc. ("My dear Nephew! It is very good to see you on this day. How does your father?")
|"How do you do, Miss Jordan, I am right heartily glad to see you."|
"Good day to you, Sir."
Other ways to help build upon your conversation that will certainly liven up any reenactment for visitors and/or other living historians to hear or even take part in include - -
"to have been brought to bed of a son/daughter" (meaning to have given birth of a son or daughter - excellent especially if you know of someone who recently had a baby)
"to have catched cold" (during cold and flu season, this can be a great description during a conversation)
"to be much mended" (feeling better - - yep "I was very ill but I am now much mended.")
"a very fine weather day" (this can be used quite often...daily, in fact)
"the wind chopped about" (changed direction - I like this one)
"go to housekeeping," (This phrase comes from the book "A Midwife's Tale" by Lauren Ulrich, which was when a newlywed couple moved in together after marriage)
|"Honour me, Madam, with one dance."|
"You do me honour, Sir, but I believe I will not dance at all."
~Expressions to use~
(Some of which are still used today with the same meanings)
|"The proof of the pudding|
is in the eating."
* to not get a wink of sleep
* to stand a chance
* to be true blue
* to be in the dark
* let the cat out of the bag
* to be in the dumps
* to be at the end of one's tether
* to be sent upon a fool's errand
* to not care a farthing (or a fig) about_______
* to take the bull by the horns
* necessity is the mother of invention
* it never rains but it pours
* when in Rome, do as the Romans do
* to put on airs
* make hay while the sun shines
To continue to make your speech sound more 18th century, occasionally use the form was instead of were, or use is instead of are. Say "You are not the man you was formerly," instead of "you are not the man you were formerly." Also, shorten 'or else' to just "else" and use "only" for a substitute for 'but': "I am glad I did not travel to Lexington this evening else I would be caught in the excitement." "My dear wife had planned to travel with me only she felt unwell."
Another good example is "My servant is run away," instead of saying "My servant has run away."
Rather than say "He had nearly died," say, instead, "He had near died."
What was considered "genteel profanity" in the 18th century is unlike a prayer today:
God Knows, God forbid, Lord!, God bless me (used mainly by women: "God bless me! I hardly knew you!"), Thank God - -
|"Alas, poor Anna, Lord bless me, she sang out of tune at times, though, thank God, not always!"|
Adding "a-" to a verbal form used as an adjective, such as Paul Revere did for 'coming' ("a-cummin'") will also help to liven up yout 18th century language usage:
are just a few examples of this.
And as far as contractions, most that we use today were in general conversational use in the 18th century:
But here are a few popular contractions from the 1700s that have lost favor in our modern society:
'Tain't (it is not)
sha'n't (shall not)
mayn't (may not)
ha'n't (have/had/has not)
~Partings and farewells~
The common "Your servant," "I am your obedient servant," and "I am your most humble servant," are all certainly very acceptable to use when parting company.
"I wish you a good day," or "Good day to you, sir" are also very good parting comments.
For two of us to part company, the farewell should go something like this:
Me: Good day to you sir." (or madam, etc.)
You: "The like to you, sir." (or madam, etc.)
It takes practice and is an initial slow-go to pull it all together, but imagine what it would be like to visit a reenactment and listen in on the colonials conversing:
For 1770s language, I barely scratched the surface. And I can't say enough about this amazing work book. There are also sections on verbs and verb forms, conjunctions, lower class speech, African-American speech, Specialized Speech (including sections for love and courtship and being in polite company), speech for the elderly and lower class... and even two audio CDs to listen to if you choose not to read the book (or can listen to while on your drive to Colonial Williamsburg!).
For someone such as I who enjoys practicing 1st person and immersion, it can get no better than this. I have high hopes to make it all work. But, again, slow and steady, not fast and furious.
The reenacting season is about to begin - - stay tuned to see how it all works out.
Until next time, see you in time.
~Most of the information on colonial clothing came directly from this site produced by Colonial Williamsburg.
~To purchase the book "Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language" for your own self, for there is much more to learn than what I have here, please click HERE
~Many thanks to Bob Stark and Kim Walters for their input as well.
Here are links to a few of my other postings that you may find interesting:
In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies
Colonial Ken & Friends - 4th of July 2014: Celebrating Independence Day in a Colonial Way
For the first time, a few of us celebrated our Nation's birth as if it were 1776.
Colonial Kensington 2015
One of the best colonial reenactments in the area! And...I met Ben Franklin!
Travel and Taverns
To help you understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in colonial times.
Cooking on the Hearth
Pretty extensive (for a blog) about colonial cooking. Loads of photos and a few videos, too.
A history of Christmas in America's colonial past.