Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Notes on Men's Clothing of the 1860's

I've received several e-mails asking me about men's clothing. Earlier this year I wrote a double posting that included an opinion piece on why I reenact followed by information about men's period clothing. It's the clothing article that has been over-looked and, due to the numerous e-mails asking about the correct clothing a man should wear I thought I would just copy and paste it here in a separate post.
Here it is:

 Clothing...Men's clothing - - - - 
So much has been written about women's clothing for Civil War civilian reenacting, but there is very little written about men's period clothing by comparison. I thought I would rectify that situation by concentrating this week's post on not only the subject of men's 1860's civilian clothing but on accessories that will help bring the past to life. I checked numerous period clothing sites to get the prices, but the main vendor I concentrated on was The Corner Clothiers of Gettysburg, for this is where I have gotten numerous items, and I have been extremely pleased with their work. Yes, they are a high-end shop, and sometimes it takes a while to get your order, but I feel they are about the best out there (a list with links of where I feel are some of the best places to get period clothing and accessories is at the end of this post).
I have also had clothing made especially for me from some of the finest seamstresses around, including my wife.
Anyhow, so you're a guy who'd like to do Civil War reenacting but you don't want to be in the military. I understand because nearly 10 years ago that was me, much to the chagrin of the men in the unit I belonged to. Men are in the military - women are civilians: never the twain shall meet.
Heh heh...yeah...whatever...

Gentlemen of the 1860's wait for the train to come in. Three very distinct and accurate styles from the Civil War era.
But because there were so few men in the civilian groups back then I pretty much had to do most of the research myself. The internet was a great help for it connected me with people in the know - clothing historians. They guided me down the right path and were very happy at my exuberance in my civilian portrayal. They warned me, however, that it could get rather expensive to do it correctly.
I didn't care. My mindset was (and still is) if I am not 100% correct, how can I be there...you know, in the past?
Well, it's been nearly a decade that I have been an 1860's civilian. Heck - I guess I should be heading into the 1870's then right? Nope! The best part about time-traveling is I can repeat any era I want over and over...
I've noticed of late there are a few more men showing up on the homefront than there were when I began. And since I am one of the few civilian males who is also a civilian coordinator for a military group, many have come to me with questions about clothing and presentation.

Let's try something here for a moment: go on and head over to your local costume shop, for I'd like to make a very important point here.
I'll wait.....
Are you there yet? Good!
Okay, now go past the children's stuff and find the adult costumes. In fact, go to the high-end adult "Victorian" or "Historical" costumes.
What you find probably tops off right around $50 or $60 for the complete outfit - not including shoes, right? Well, that's roughly what costumes of  this type cost around my area. 
What are these costumes made of? Polyester or some sort of cotton/chemical blend, I'm sure. They are either velcro or they tie up in the back and are great for a Hallowe'en party or a masquerade party. To wear something like this at a reenactment or living history event, however, would be sacrilege.
And yet there are those who insist on calling what we wear at a historical event costumes. Well, I make sure to let these uninformed people know that we do not wear costumes, and I will correct them every time!
Okay, let's leave this costume shop and get back into *reality*.
(For more on costumes vs period clothing click HERE)

Let's begin with the nitty gritty: the COST (hear that echo echo echo?):

Sack or Frock Coat: $250 to $350
Shirt: $70 to $120
Pants: $80 to $180
Waistcoat (vest): $80 to $150
Undershirt: $40
Drawers: $50
Braces (suspenders): $30 to $70
Cravat: $25 to $50
Socks: $10 to $30
Shoes: $80 to $150
Hat: Anywhere from $50 well into the $100's depending on your taste and style 
Gloves: Anywhere from $10 to $30

If you add up just the low end pricing you're looking at close to $800.
(By the way, this list is for pre-made items. To save money - a large amount of money - sewing your own clothing is the smart thing to do).

You will notice sometimes extreme differences in prices on nearly everything you may buy. Why? Well, it all depends on who you purchase your things from. For instance, getting your clothing from the Corner Clothiers will cost you a bit more than most other dealers. But you are guaranteed that what you get is accurate to a fault, for they base their garments on originals. As I have said in previous postings, do your research. Remember: most vendors/sutlers are there for one reason - to make money. Some are very honest and will tell you the truth about the quality and authenticity/accuracy of their product while many others just want to make that almighty dollar and will tell you anything just to get it off the rack. Smokey Robinson's mama told him right when she said, "You better shop around!"
Here is a guide to proper dress for the mid-19th century male civilian, age 8 and up. Most of the information herein was taken from two sources – the Citizen’s Companion magazine and from an outline by clothing historian, Bill Christen, as well as from my own research.

Undergarments 

Drawers: my wife made these from a photo of an original
My wife also copied this undershirt from a photograph of an original

Often consisted of shirt and drawers. Wearing of two shirts common as the undershirt keeps the other shirt clean and free from body odor. Made of stout muslin, flannel, and flannel and knit fabrics sewn together. Knit types resemble long underwear of today without the elastic, but includes button closures. The US Army did issue knit underwear in the middle of the war (documented only in photographs). Flannel drawers resemble modern pajama bottoms in shape, but with buttons at the waistband, a tie adjustment in the back and occasionally ties or drawstrings at the bottom of the legs. Three button, Y-front drawers also existed. White and off-white. 

NO Union Suits! They are from the 1870s!

 

 Socks

Made most commonly of cotton and wool, sometimes silk for formal wear. Often had 1 inch or less of ribbing at the top. Hand and machine knitted. Came in white, black, and many drab colors (often drab, rarely bright). Seamed on the back or side, sometimes with reinforced heel. Up to knee length.

Shirts

Most shirts cut full in late 18th or early 19th century style; placket (or pleated) front, drop shoulders, with or without collars (button-on cloth or paper collars available). Collars were fold over about one inch wide. Ordinary shirts made from heavier cotton, wool, or wool flannel, (not modern muslin) in white, drab solids (wool only), woven plaids, stripes, checks and prints (not modern calico). Dress shirts made from fine linen and, increasingly, from cotton. "Good" shirts often had pleats and even decorative needlework. Buttoned-on-to-shirt stand-up collar.

Trousers

Worn at the natural waist (belly-button height, on a line with the elbows) not on the hips as today. Waist bands fairly narrow (1 to 1 1/2 inches) following the waist shape, rising higher in the back than modern trousers. Eyelets and ties, buckles or straps at the back seam for adjustment. Fly buttons inside plackets. Legs straight, or slightly narrow at the bottom; somewhat baggy from the hips down. Pleated fronts found on some examples. Should fit well enough at the waist to go without suspenders, while baggy in the seat. Creases seen in about ten percent of period images. 1860's length should allow the back of the pant legs to be at the top of the shoe or boot heel with the front creased over the arch of the foot. Lined or unlined. By late war years some civilian pants had stripes running down the outside seam. Side seam or flap pockets in front. A watch pocket in the waistband or just below it in formal wear. Materials varied according to the intended use. This applies to coats and jackets as well. Black super-fine wool broadcloth for trousers worn with frock coats, full dress or tail coats. Other materials were light to medium weight wool in plaids, checks, and solids of natural colors in various weaves. "Shoddy," reprocessed wool produced during the war, produced mainly in dark colors, sometimes flecked with light colored threads. Natural and light colored cottons and linens in plaids, checks and (natural color) solids used for hot weather clothing. Corduroy used for casual and sporting clothes. Jean or Negro cloth (mixture of coarse cotton or linen warp and wool weft or "fill") a common material for work clothing.
NO BELT LOOPS or REAR POCKETS

Suspenders (Braces)

All men wore suspenders. Worn with trousers that are well fitted for show, and a necessity for loose fitting ones. A popular type was basically two straps of leather, cloth or knitted material with button holes at one end and either button holes or straps and buckles for adjustment. Leather suspenders, sometimes with designs stitched into them and cloth types with embroidered designs often done in Berlin wool work (a type of needlework popular in the 1860's similar to modern needlepoint). Elastic used occasionally, but only on about the last three inches of the back of the suspenders.

Vests or Waistcoat

Were commonly worn. Made from silk and common worsted wool, often matching coats and trousers. Silk worn with almost any better coat. Most vests lined with white polished cotton. Backs from brown, black or white polished cotton. Commonly made in subtle colors and patterns. By the 1860s vests started losing the color and flamboyance of the early part of the century. Most had a shawl collar and lapels and three pockets. Adjusted near the waist in the back with straps and buckle or, less often, a series of eyelets for lacing. Cut straight across on the bottom. Low cut vests worn with evening wear. If the cloth was patterned, it was subtly done, such as white embroidery on a white background. High cut vests worn with everyday attire. Single breasted vests could be worn with either single or double breasted coats, but a double breasted vest could only be worn with a double breasted coat.

Neckwear

Cravats and ties not as long or colorful as before the 1860s. They retained a standard width of about 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Narrower tie widths appeared about this time. Wide cravats worn with high collars, narrower ones with turned down collars (more prevalent in the 1860s). The double Windsor knot known today appeared in the 1860's. Ties were tied in every way but the modern bow tie. Pre tied cravats were available, fastening with a tie, buckle, button or spring steel coil. The preferred tie material were luxurious like silk, satin or anything of a silky feel. Colors included black, white, or contrasting or complimentary to the outfit. White ties were worn with white formal evening vests. Black ties, while not worn with white formal vests, were worn with informal white summer vests. Men, like women of the Victorian era, minimized the amount of skin shown and would generally keep their shirt buttoned unless at strenuous labor.

Footwear


The "Georgia" men's civilian shoe by Robert Land. These are exact reproductions of 1860's originals from the collection of clothing historian Bill Christen.
Boots and shoes are the basis upon which all attire is built. The predominant feature of men's footwear was square chisel toes and smallish heels. Most common material for working footwear was waxed calfskin that presented a rough outer surface and a smooth inner. Goat skin, in red or green, was used to trim better boots of waxed calf and kid (a fine, soft, supple leather). Men's shoes were commonly unlined. Rough outer leather was smoothed by waxing and polishing. Most boots had one piece fronts, but the two piece Wellington were still being made. An alternative shoe or boot was the "Spring-sided Congress gaiter", or elastic sided shoe (introduced in the 1840s). Other types of boots existed, but were not exceedingly common such as canvas sporting shoes. The lowly Oxford shoe, pretty much as it is today, appeared in the 1850's. Brogans, with their larger heels, were used by working people and were standard issue in the military. Patent leather available and often used for men's dancing pumps for formal balls. (Available today from Italy). As a fashion fad of the 1860's, low boots were more popular than brogans for civilians. Factory produced shoes came in rights and lefts. Shoes made by hand were often straight or "no-handed". Unless the wearer changed from one foot to the other regularly, they naturally became rights or lefts. Some tradesmen such as millers wore wooden soled shoes similar to brogans. Toes appeared square from above and chisel shaped from the side. Shoes that laced had cloth laces with metal caps and metal eyelets.
Here is an excellent site for period shoes, especially civilians.
robertlandhistoricshoes.com

Jewelry

Watches were a popular accessory that gave the appearance of financial well-being. Watch guards or chains were made of gold, gold substitute, silver, nickel silver, polished or cut steel and braided hair. Chains attached to the vest with an "S" hook or 'T' bar. Wide range of types and designs of chain were in production: single, double or triple strands with moveable slides that were decorated in various ways. Sometimes the slides had a ring to attach a fob or for the ever present watch key. (Stem wind watches did not become common until the 1870's). Other jewelry included rings, stickpins, shirt studs and cufflinks or buttons. Sometimes a memorial or photographic brooch or mourning band when appropriate or patriotic ribbon was worn.

Coats

Varied from sack coats to tail, or claw hammer styles. Most common materials: wool of various weights, cotton and linen. Silk coats were known to exist. Superfine wool broadcloth used for finer clothing was produced with a finish that literally glowed (it will shine in nineteenth century photographs). Better wool broadcloth was so finely woven and finished that the edges could be left raw. Best clothing was black. Wool of tweed, check or plaid patterns were used for sack suits, everyday paletots and sports and hunting attire. Linings were made from ordinary cheap cotton, wool plaid, silk and silk silesia. Frock coats generally had one or two breast pockets on the inside, two pockets in the tails and occasionally pockets on the outside. Sack coats mainly had the outside pockets with or without flaps. Full dress or tail coats usually worn only in the evening for formal occasions. Linings and tailored look are defining clues in dating mid-century frock coats. Sleeves were cut quite full, especially in the elbow, and commonly worn much longer than today.

Headwear

Like a waistcoat (vest), hats and caps were a feature of daily life, offering protection from the elements and occupational hazards, a badge of social distinction and a covering for unwashed hair since frequent hair washing was not the norm. All sorts of hats and caps were popular, including all shapes of wool felt hats, beaver or silk plush hats and several styles of straw hats, watch and mechanic's caps with a flat top and visor of the same fabric, tarred paper, or leather, derby or bowler to a limited extent and stovepipe hats were crowding out top hats in all but formal wear. By 1860 beaver hats were made of a combination of beaver, rabbit and wool fur. Collapsible top hats were not available until the 1870's. Fully constructed hats had a lining and/or a hat band, ribbon on the outside and most often a bound or sewn edge. Many of us are wearing unfinished hats. Proper etiquette of hat wearing and hat removal was very important.

Hair

Men’s hair should be parted at the side – usually a single part but, at times, a double part – one on each side. A part down the middle was considered effeminate. Hair oil, such as macassar oil, was used frequently, but is not necessary for your impression.

Outerwear

Overcoats are a necessity in cold or wet weather. Wills and inventories of the time indicate that a good civilian greatcoat of the standard caped style was something of value to be handed down from one generation to the next. Modern overcoats can sometimes be easily modified to look correct for the period, especially Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor (both in business before the war). Shawls were universal to all classes and both men and women up to the end of the 1860s. Capes were really just formal shawls for men. Rainwear includes coats of oilcloth and waterproofed wool. For extremely cold weather, Buffalo and other fur coats for those who could afford them.

Accessories

Gloves and mittens were a necessity and dress gloves were a part of the etiquette of the day. Gloves for occupational use might be leather or wool, while fine white kid (goatskin) was used for formal wear (white cotton is used for a substitute today). White gloves of knit cotton were known as "Berlin". No respectable gentleman went out of doors without a hat and gloves (two pairs often necessary for this, darker for ordinary or sporting use, and white for offering a hand to a lady for the appearance of cleanliness.) "Yellow" or ecru color gloves were considered quite dashing. Umbrellas of stout and commodious design were in common use. Generally have straight or bent wooden handles. (Umbrellas were also used by women for rain protection, as parasols were for sun protection only.) Walking sticks and canes were either an affectation or a necessity, depending on age, social status or the need for a protective weapon. Canes were generally constructed of hickory or ash (very flexible and resilient woods), or dense, heavy woods such as ebony and lignum vitae. Canes were even made from plant stalks such as sugar cane. Cane heads or pommels could be of silver, gold, antler, horn, bone or ivory. Handkerchiefs were a necessity. They were normally large (18" x18" or so) and generally of cotton. Some bordered, paisley, or multicolored (three or more colors, not bi-color bandannas of today.) 

Beyond the clothing: for living history is more than just clothing, believe it or not. There are the accessories that one should have to flesh out their mid-19th century persona.

Though women carried Carpetbags, they were also carried by a great many men before and during the Civil War era; some say a majority of men rarely left home without one, especially when going to town. These can range anywhere from $80 for a satchel-type bag up to $230 for the real McCoy reproduction (see pic on left and below). Many modern men in reenacting have a difficult time carrying what they see as a woman's purse. I thought that way as well. But I got used to carrying my bag during reenactments and now it is just as natural as carrying my wallet in the modern day. You will not be seen as an effeminate male while carrying one at an event, but rather a period correct man carrying on as if it were the early 1860's.
There are various other accessories that you may or may not want/need depending on the status of your 19th century life: a timepiece with fob, a walking stick, and maybe an overcoat.
And then, depending on what your impression is, you will need to get items that can make your persona come to life. For instance, my impression is of an early 1860's postmaster. For that I have a 16 pigeon-hole letter holder that I had a carpenter friend build for me, which was based off of an original located in an early 19th century post office located in Greenfield Village. I also have a desk to set the holder on. The desk, which was given to me by a friend, is not a period piece, but it works and looks just fine. And the letter holder cost me a total of around $20.
Not bad, eh?
Here is my post office set up
There are accessories beyond this, however; candles with holders and/or oil lamp (roughly $20), writing utensils - including pen and ink sets, blotter, and sealing wax - can cost $40 for a set, and a portable desk (the 19th century version of a laptop) looks good, too, and can cost anywhere between $60 and a couple hundred dollars. Then there is the period reproduction paper. I bought a disc that allows me to print whatever period-style paper and envelopes I need. This disc cost $50.

Okay, now we get into a place to stay...our homes...er, tents. Depending on the type of tent you prefer, the prices can range from as little as a couple hundred dollars for an "A" frame to pushing from $400 or $800 for a wall tent, and another couple hundred for a decent fly.
Shop around for deals, of course, but also look for the most reputable dealer. Panther Primitives is a high quality seller of tents, as is Fall Creek.
As you can see, this hobby can get rather expensive. But please remember that most of us do not purchase everything all at once; it takes years to acquire all you need for a decent presentation. And even then one rarely stops looking for "something new" to add.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

You saw a list of articles of clothing with pricing earlier in this post. The low end pricing comes from a variety of sources, most of which may not always carry totally accurate pieces but will have some accurate and some farby. But for total authenticity, I recommend places like Corner Clothiers, though they aren't taking special orders anymore and are only selling what they have in stock. Robert Land is the best for shoes, and Tim Bender and Dirty Billy are great for hats, and even The Dressmaker's Shop is excellent for fabric (if you plan to sew your own clothing), as well as for socks, cravats, gloves, and especially items for the lady.
Accessories are a bit more difficult to search out, but when you find the right place you won't be sorry. Now, if you want a period-correct carpetbag (like the one in the photo toward the top of this post), check out The Carpetbagger for the most authentic I have seen yet. Yes, it will cost you but it all depends on how far you want to take this *hobby*. Aldridge Clothiers is good for men's accessories, but for clothing is generally for the ladies and children. Blockade Runner also has some very good reproduction accessories such as pen & ink sets and the like.
Just make sure you do your research before purchasing items outside of your knowledge; don't do one of these "I think it's period correct" or "it looks like it could work." Make sure it is correct. That's all I ask.





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A Fine New History Magazine

There is a new magazine on the market for those of us who reenact the Civil War era. It's called The Civil War Citizens & Soldiers Digest and it's tailor made for folks like you and me. What makes this magazine so unique is that at least for now it's available for free on line (click the above link) for reading/printing off your computer or you can purchase a glossy printed copy through the website.
This is what the editors have to say about it:

The Citizens & Soldiers Digest is a publication dedicated to providing quality, well-researched articles of interest to all Civil War enthusiasts.   As a Watchdog publication, our goal is to provide articles of exemplary content, giving the reader a reliable piece of information which can be used and shared.
Combining both military and civilian articles,
The Citizens & Soldiers Digest is a one-stop resource for all things Civil War.  Weaponry, material culture, social issues, medicine, home-life, camp-life, and much more!    We will work diligently to ensure that each  edition is an interesting combination of articles, providing "something for everyone".
The Digest
is edited by three friends, historians, and reenactors; Bill Christen, Craig Barry and Connie Payne, with a wide-reaching support system.  You can read a little more about our editors here on our website.

Lest you think they are paying (or bribing!) me for this posting, they are not. I just feel that as a social historian of the mid-19th century it's my duty to get the word out whenever I see anything of historical interest to my readers. 
Especially one of this quality.
So, go on and check out the very first issue of Civil War Citizens & Soldiers Digest - I think you'll like it.


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Sunday, July 29, 2012

224-year-old Rhode Island General Store Closing

This post is a rarity for me, for I am going to reprint an entire news article as I found it from www.boston.com. I found this to be very sad...

 This Friday, July 27, 2012 photo shows the exterior of Gray's in Adamsville village in Little Compton, R.I. After more than 200 years, the nation's oldest general store is about to close. Gray's store in the Adamsville village in Little Compton opened in 1788 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It's set to close on Sunday. Owner Jonah Waite inherited the store after his father died last month, but the 21-year-old senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut is more intent on becoming a sports journalist. He says the store's finances aren't sustainable, and he's considering selling the property where he grew up.(AP Photo/The Providence Journal, Mary Murphy)


                     
              This Friday, July 27, 2012 photo shows the exterior of Gray's in Adamsville village in Little Compton, R.I. After more than 200 years, the nation's oldest general store is about to close.  Gray's store in the Adamsville village in Little Compton opened in 1788 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It's set to close on Sunday. Owner Jonah Waite inherited the store after his father died last month, but the 21-year-old senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut is more intent on becoming a sports journalist. He says the store's finances aren't sustainable, and he's considering selling the property where he grew up.(AP Photo/The Providence Journal, Mary Murphy)

AP  / July 28, 2012

LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (AP) — Gray’s Store in Adamsville village brought in customers for years with its old-fashioned marble soda fountain, cigar and tobacco cases, and Rhode Island johnny cakes.
The 224-year-old business may be the oldest operating general store in America, although others have staked similar claims. The Rhode Island store near the Massachusetts line opened in 1788. Now owners say this year is its last.
Gray’s is set to close Sunday afternoon.
Owner Jonah Waite inherited the shop after his father died of cancer last month. He said Saturday it was a hard decision to close the store and leave behind all the history, but the shop’s finances aren’t sustainable and a supermarket down the street has siphoned away business.
Waite, 21, who will be a senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut in the fall, also is consumed with pursuing a career in sports journalism.
‘‘Obviously, I understand the historical aspect of it, and I would really love to keep it the way it is, but it doesn’t seem to me that that’s the most feasible option,’’ Waite said. ‘‘With the economy ... the place has lost its attraction, lost its luster.’’
Waite said he’s not sure yet if he will keep the property or try to sell it.
The shop features general store standards like penny candy and a small selection of groceries, as well as antiques and collectible knickknacks. It’s been in Waite’s family for seven generations, since 1879, and comprises the front part of the family’s home.
He said his father, Grayton Waite, who was 59 when he died June 11, enjoyed selling cigars and candy. His great grandfather owned the store in the early 1900s and ran a gristmill to make his own corn meal that he sold in the store.
In 2007, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and then-Gov. Donald Carcieri issued proclamations naming Gray’s as the oldest continuously run general store in the country.
More customers than usual have been gathering at Gray’s in recent days to say farewell and share memories, Waite said.
Bob Wordell, a mechanic down the street, remembers gathering at the store in the summer with his friends when he was a child years ago.
‘‘We'd eat freeze pops on the front steps,’’ Wordell told The Providence Journal. ‘‘I think they cost a nickel.’’
Waite said it’s been hard dealing with the store and coping with his father’s death at such a young age. But he believes his father would support what he’s doing. He said his father intended to sell the property after he got sick to pay medical bills and retire.
‘‘He’s trusting that I'll do the right thing and what’s best for me,’’ Waite said.

I don't know...I think it's rather selfish of the 21 year old to not follow his father's wishes after only a month from his father's death. He really didn't even try to sell it (at least the article doesn't state that he did). He doesn't understand the importance of history and of keeping the past alive. Yes, he wants to do his thing, and that's understandable, but, my gosh, at least allow someone else an opportunity - maybe they can think outside the box and make this general store one that people would flock to see. Heck, just by dressing and speaking in a colonial manner would keep a flow going.
Ahhh, but who am I...just one who feels that history should be preserved...

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Charlton Park: A Peak Into the Past

This has been one busy summer for me; so far I have had the opportunity to travel back in time 11 times since April (add two more to that if you go back to January), and each and every event has been top notch.
The latest reenactment I have attended - Charlton Park in Hastings, Michigan (July 21, 22) - was as good as it gets. This event always tops my yearly list of favorites. In fact, the only thing that would have made it better would've been having my wife in attendance; unfortunately, she stayed home to nurse our young daughter, who had fallen ill with a head cold.
Well, as I have been doing in recent postings, I will present a photographic record of our excursion back to 1862 where, by the way, one of the best battles I have seen yet was enacted. It wasn't any particular battle, mind you, but just a taste of what it may have been like to have the Yankees invading a southern town while the Confederate men were prepared to defend that town. Every-so-often I enjoy portraying one from the "other side" so to speak - in this case, a southerner - and it's also a rarity that I present photographs of battles in my postings, but believe me when I say the battles presented at Charlton Park are well worth showing.
And, yes, it's even fun to be a southerner at times as well! (Yes, I do love and respect the south and the wonderful folks that live there).
I hope you enjoy them.

Here are a few of us civilians.
For a short time I became the proprietor of the Bristol Inn, built by William Bristol in 1848. This was a stagecoach stop until 1869 when the railroad put the stage out of business. The stage, traveling between Battle Creek and Grand Rapids, would stop at the Bristol Inn to rest and water the horses and allow the passengers to eat a meal.

In the early afternoon a few of us enjoyed a luncheon picnic on the village green.

This pretty young lady friend of my son joined us for the picnic

With my wife and young children out of town, a few friends came over to my house and joined me for supper

Just a few doors down the neighbors entertained us townfolk with some fine music

Not everyone could attend the barn dance so this was a nice alternative
Some of the ladies of the local Aid Society sewed a quilt to send off to the local boys off fighting the war

Here, members of the Aid Society show some of the prepared items to send to the fighting boys
For the battle, we portrayed southerners, and we watched with keen interest as the Yankees invaded our town
Our gallant southern men were waiting and gave the Yankees quite a rousing welcome!
The fury arose quickly
The smoke from musket and cannon covered the town in sight and smell
The Yankees kept on charging and showed no sign of letting up...

...and neither did our southern boys
The devastation was everywhere throughout our town
But our gallant southern men drove the Yankee savages back to their northern territory. Our town was safe for the time being
Blue, gray, and the awful color of red were everywhere. The wounded moaned and cried for help
Some of our southern women could not tolerate the awful sounds they were hearing and, once the bullets stopped flying, ran to help whoever they could
Our once peaceful town was now a scene of mayhem
To think we just had a picnic on this green recently
The angels of mercy were truly sent from heaven to help these boys
Chaos and confusion...which wounded soldier shall I go to help first?
These angels of mercy, after spending hours and hours attending to the wounded and dying, needed to get some rest
This House of God was turned into a hospital for the men on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line
And there you have it - our time at the Charlton Park event. I think you can see why this is one of my very favorites of all. 
By the way, the Aid Society ladies pictured above are all a part of one of Michigan's finest civilian groups, the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society. There are a few of us men who are also part of this wonderful organization which promotes historical accuracy and authenticity.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the pictures presented here. See you next time...

If you would like to read about previous excursions to Charlton Park, please click the links below:

Charlton Park 2011
Charlton Park 2010





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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughts About Modern Digital Cameras at a Reenactment + Photographs From the Historic Fort Wayne Event

One of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie Ann from World Turned Upside Down, posted another thoughtful piece on reenacting called Photography and Reenactments.
This one hit home for me because, as you know, I love - absolutely love - taking pictures at reenactments. Not only does it document the event, but it is great fun to share photos with others via blogger, Facebook, or flicker.
As Stephanie Ann wrote: "I fully understand the "If they didn't have it, don't use it" mentality. I agree to it on almost all accounts."
As do I.
On almost all accounts.
For me, taking photographs at reenactments is kind of like an extension of the event itself, and many of my living history friends feel the same way. Some have told me they don't feel like the event is complete until they see my photos posted, especially on Facebook.
It makes me feel good knowing that so many feel that way about my pictures. But I do understand concerns about seeing such a device as a modern digital camera while at a reenactment, especially with patrons around. Even more important, at an immersion event. I so try to be inconspicuous with my camera for the most part, and will try not to pull it out in front of visitors unless there is an angle I am attempting to capture.
However, there are times when it almost doesn't matter. Almost. For instance, at a battle reenactment. First off, most of us in the civilian contingencies are usually sitting amidst hundreds (or more) of very modern patrons in their lawn chairs. It's kind of hard to chastise a period-dressed reenactor for taking a few photographs in this situation, wouldn't you say? But like I said, as long as the camera is quickly hidden and not left it in plain view where the public can see it. I still believe that as living historians that we should do our best to stay in time-travel mode as long as we are in our period attire no matter where we are.
"But," you may say, "there are the times when one is surrounded by all things historically accurate; out comes the camera and there goes all sense of authenticity."
Hmmmm....
Yeah, at times, it does...and that's where one needs to understand that, though this may be a really 'cool' event, such as during an immersion event, the camera may have to be put at bay.
Or does it?
I have many opportunities to reenact inside period homes, and unless we are doing a full immersion experience, I will set up photographic scenarios as a sort of souvenir to that particular 'moment in time.' And once a 21st century visitor enters the home, the camera is stuffed away in my always nearby carpetbag and no one is the wiser. In fact, I have had quite a few non-reenacting friends  mention that they never even seen me take pictures at events.
Yet, I will admit that I have pulled out my camera at times when maybe I shouldn't have, like when striving for full immersion. I suppose it's just me getting over zealous and excited about the situation at hand. As a historian, that happens quite often.
I suppose it's up to all participating.
Interestingly for me is the way my reenacting/living historian friends feel about modern photography at events; by far the greater majority are extremely happy that I am out there recording for posterity our "time-travel" experiences. I haven't met any who adamantly stated that they disliked it, though one or two have asked if I could abstain during certain times. I've tried to tone it down a bit when I feel it can take away from an experience...but, boy! it sure is difficult sometimes!
I have seen other reenactors carrying (or wearing) their cameras around their necks via a long strap. This I am vehemently against; to not even make an attempt to hide your farbiness  goes against all of what we are trying to do. If this is the case then why cover your cooler?
As I said, unless it's a posed picture, I do my best to sneak my camera out of the carpetbag, snap the photo, then slip it back in.
No muss - no fuss.
I'm sure that, for the most part it's a personal issue. As I alluded to a few moments ago, if I am at a full immersion event I will try and refrain from taking pictures accept at an appointed time. One of my good friends and I had discussed this earlier this year.
But as long as I can sneak my camera in and out of its hiding spot without it being seen, I see no problem in documenting our travels to the past.

That being said, I hope you enjoy the pictures included here of our latest event that took place at Historic Fort Wayne in downtown Detroit.

Here are the men of the Union standing in front of the barracks at Historic Fort Wayne. The fort was built in 1842 and has housed American soldiers from the Civil War through Vietnam
For the 2012 reenactment, the battle was the Battle of Malvern Hill, also known as the Battle of Poindexter's Farm, which took place on July 1, 1862, in Virginia.
 I don't have many photos of the battle reenactment due to the way the battle was presented - the above picture is all I could snap - but I do have plenty of the civilians!

Here is Michigan's own Senator Jacob Howard, portrayed by Dave Tennies. As a Senator, Howard is credited with working closely with President Abraham Lincoln in drafting and passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery.
The dressmaker's shop was a busy place indeed!
As Postmaster of Detroit, I certainly had a fine home with many visitors. I also showed my alliance to the Federal army.
As stated in the above article about photography, here are some posed pictures that evoke a time long past, including me in the above setting working on important papers. (No visitors were around when these photos were taken - they turned out pretty well, don't you think?)
Mrs. Paladino reaches for (but doesn't actually touch) ladies toiletries
The house that I called my own at the Fort Wayne reenactment actually originally belonged to the Commander, but we modified it slightly to have it become my home circa 1862. The following photographs were all taken in "my" front parlor:
Miss Mrozek
Mrs. Schroeder and her two youngest
Miss Konrad and Mrs. Cutcher
Mrs. St. John

Mrs. Paladino

Miss Malynowskyj

We are in full swing of our reenacting season. There are at least four more major events (not counting the Nationals, which we cannot do at this time) and a couple of smaller events planned over the next three months, so check back for more photos.
For those of you who do living history I am interested in your thoughts on the whole modern cameras at reenactments situation.







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Friday, July 6, 2012

The Glorious Fourth

America. A country I love and cherish. A We the People country. Yes, even during the political turmoil of our modern day, I am a patriotic person and believe in my country.
It's my opinion that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world and I am proud to be a born and bred native!
And what better time to be an American than on the 4th of July - Independence Day!
That being said, a few of us celebrated the birth of this great nation the way we've done for a number of years: by going to Greenfield Village while wearing period clothing. Visiting a historic open-air museum while wearing clothing to fit the period just makes the past come more alive.
There were only seven of us from the civilians of the 21st Michigan reenacting unit I belong to that participated in our own little non-event event, but did we have a wonderful and patriotic time!

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well then, this posting should fill a book, for there are many photos here taken on our time-travel excursion - each one with a caption to tell the story of our transport into the past.
I hope you enjoy it.

After much research and studying, a few of us discovered the worm hole to transfer us through time...a portal to the past...

And before we knew it - Zap! we found ourselves back in 1862, riding in a railroad car pulled by a steam locomotive.
It was a pleasurable ride...though there was some uncertainty about what lay ahead...er...behind...
It was fascinating to see the engine blow off steam

It wasn't too long before we exited at the train depot. We had a day to enjoy town before heading to the farm, so we strolled around to see the sights
There were plenty of picturesque areas for us to take photographs
The ladies enjoyed a spin on the carousel near the village green
Girls! Be nice!

Relaxing....and fun!

Lucky for us the train station was not too far from a tavern where we spent the night. Unfortunately, their rules had my son, Miles, and I sleeping in separate rooms from my wife and daughter. There were three other men sharing the room with us. We're definitely not used to that! Since there were no bathrooms (remember, we were now in 1862), our rooms were provided with a washstand, pitcher of water, a drinking cup, a towel, a chamber pot, and a looking glass. It cost us seventy five cents a person to stay overnight and to have a day's worth of meals.

When the dinner bell was rung, there was a general rush to the dining room, as if the patrons had not tasted food for several days. Very little conversation took place, each individual seemed to hurry on as fast as possible, and the moment one finished he or she rose and went away with others waiting to take their spot. There was no change of plates, knives, or forks, everything being eaten off the same plate, excepting pudding, which was taken in saucers. The foods that the tavern keeper offered came from local farms and grew wild in the countryside. There were three kinds of meat, side dishes of vegetables and salad - red cabbage was a favorite for salad for my wife because of its decorative appearance - and there were pickles and crackers and cheese.

It was a very popular place, this tavern, and supported the finest ‘orchestry’ music in that part of the country, especially the guitar player, who was a pattern of the old Beau Brummell of ancient times. He played the guitar that charmed all his hearers, and the lady singer sounded like an angel from heaven with songs such as "Some Folks Do" and "Shady Grove." This certainly helped to make that old tavern popular. The evening passed by quickly.

While we sat in the sitting room the following day waiting for our ride to pick us up, the proprietor, a rather opinionated man, informed us of the latest news, though he toned it down a bit with ladies present.
We didn't have to wait too long before our host family, the Firestones, arrived to pick us up on their cart. It was a pleasant but bumpy ride out of town and onto the country roads.

Just a few hours later we found ourselves on the lane heading toward the farm...

And what a beautiful and festive farm house, all decorated for the 4th of July holiday!

On our way to the house we passed some of the Firestone men harvesting the summer grain

And inside, the ladies of the house were preparing the afternoon dinner meal. It was the 4th of July and the excitement was mounting.
Patty helped by going to the cellar to get some jam

All of this cooking became quite messy!

Larissa made some festive homemade twirly things as part of the 4th of July celebration
My wife, Patty, also spent time crocheting gifts for the Firestone ladies

As it was a very hot day, standing near the barn proved to be a cool spot to take a break from crocheting
Once everything seemed to be going smoothly, a game of croquet was a fun way to pass time waiting for the dinner bell.

However, we decided not to eat with the family, since there were so many of us and the Firestone provisions were to last as long as possible. Instead, we chose to have a picnic 'neath a weeping willow tree near a covered bridge. We had brought cold cuts, egg salad, and lemonade.

It was picture perfect! There was a raspberry bush nearby and the kids picked a bowlful. My wife certainly enjoyed the fruit!

Back at the Firestones, my daughter took to farm life quickly...
...as did my son.

The real treat took place in the late afternoon when the Firestones surprised us by pulling out their ice cream maker!

They had borrowed ice from a neighbor who happened to have an ice shed on their property to help make it ice cream. Miles was fascinated, only seeing this type of dessert coming from the store or Dairy Queen in our future time.

Is it ready yet? There sure was a lot of cranking going on to make it!

Yes! It was finally ready! Who needs DQ? This stuff was excellent!

Everyone enjoyed the cool taste of homemade ice cream on such a balmy day!

And then another surprise...a patriotic cake to help celebrate the 4th of July! Mmm mmm good!

The cake makers and bakers (with a little help from other family members)

Larissa and my daughter made something that when thrown out a window it should float down to the ground gently.

The attic window was certainly high enough. Whoa! That's a long way down!

Becky could not get her window open and tried to see what Larissa was doing

Whoops! Off the little festivity went, though it didn't float gently down as we had hoped.

Becky's didn't do much better!

The two ladies gave it their best! It was still fun!

As the afternoon wore on and the heat of the day was at its peak, sitting on the porch was the order of the day.

There is nothing like relaxing on a farm porch with family and friends

A tintype photographer happened by and offered to take our image. We obliged!
In fact, he took two images of us! In this one, Mrs. Firestone and two of her sons posed with us.

After the Firestones went into the house, I snuck my digital tintype and had one taken as well. He was quite confused at how the thing worked but didn't do too bad.
They showed Patty and I, along with our two youngest, the room in which we were going to bed for the night...

...and it wasn't long before the sun began to set - no daylight savings time in 1862 you know - and all went to bed. We were not used to going to bed so early. But life on the farm in 1862 is not like our life in the 21st century. With no TV, radio, computers, or even a bright light to read by, we, too, went to bed.


But before we knew it, the sun had risen. It was a new day on the farm. Unfortunately, we had to leave. The Firestones offered us a ride in their cart back to town, but we soundly turned them down. Where we needed to go they could not take us...
...and they would not understand...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Back in 2012, we enjoyed the neighborhood fireworks celebrating the modern July 4th.




Here's another modern way that many celebrate the 4th...
...in case you think we only do things in a historical way...on the Saturday before the Glorious Fourth we had a great time with family at Cedar Beach in Lake Huron!

Just so you all know the kind of sturdy stock we are made of, it was 101 degrees in the Detroit area on the 4th of July - the day we visited Eagle Tavern and Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village. We felt not unlike our ancestors must've felt on such a day back in 1862.
We persevered. And there was very little whining.
Happy 4th of July (a little late).

(PS - No, we did not stay over night at the Eagle Tavern. No, we did not actually get a ride on the Firestone cart. No, we did not get to eat anything the presenters at Firestone Farm made. And no, we did not sleep at Firestone Farm. 
We did, however, eat at the Eagle Tavern!
Oh, and notice the more gray-toned photograph taken of the Firestone farm with the caption "in fact he took two images of us" This is an original photo of the Firestones taken back in the 1870's. But if you look closely, you will see that we are also in the picture.
Yep, proof that we were there and time-travel is possible!















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