Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Future Time Travel Excursion to the Colonies

So, here I am, on my colonial kick once again, but this just may be the year I will finally get some colonial-era clothing, circa 1770.
No, no, no, I'm not leaving the Civil War period - I love the mid-19th century - but there's always been something about the Founding Fathers generation that has intrigued me. Also, there is not too much of a call for Rev War/Colonial reenacting around these parts (Detroit area) except for a few events here and there.
But how cool to have a set of clothing of that era so I can take part in a timeline or any of the smaller events that do take place every-so-often such as when Historic Fort Wayne has their RevWar/ Colonial Days in the summer.
And I can also throw the clothing on and go to Greenfield Village on the 4th of July if I choose to do so. How fun would that be?
(That's a picture of the 1760 Daggett House with period dress presenters at Greenfield Village on the left. Click the picture to enlarge).
You see, even though I am an avid Civil War era living historian, I also have a love for our colonial past, and that passion comes around every-so-often and hits me like a Mack truck, saying, "Come back to me!".
And it always seems to hit me hardest in the cold months of January.
Part of the reason, I believe, is because during this gray, cold, harsh time of year we enjoy watching the movies we received for Christmas or maybe bought with a gift card. And many of these movies, as you may well guess, are historical in nature. A couple of years ago we watched a historical drama DVD mini-series suggested by my good friend Mary (from the blog 'An Historical Lady') called "The Awakening Land" about the founding of a frontier Ohio town. Though it's not really colonial - the story line takes place during the first decade of the 19th century - it's close enough to have a residual overflow of the 18th century. The clothing leaves a bit to be desired but the story was very good.
Last year we watched the John Adams HBO mini-series. This is probably my favorite movie of all time, for it depicts in great detail the most active period in our county's beginnings, from the Boston Massacre to the founding of this great Nation. And they do a terrific job in the overall colonial feel (Read HERE for my review on "John Adams").

A historic scene with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin from the HBO mini-series "John Adams"

This year it was a mini-series from 1984 called George Washington. Here was something that took me totally by surprise - it is an amazing series that I found to be very accurate. In 12 hours it covered Washington's life from being a young man through his 'adventures' in the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War, his role as the 1st president of the United States and his controversies in that position (the Jay Treaty, for example) and then back to private citizen. I have to say it did an excellent job depicting the colonial/Rev War era, both in war and at home.
I've also been watching the 'in between' non-mini-series colonial movies over the past six months or so: "April Morning," "The Crossing," "A More Perfect Union," and even "Last of the Mohicans" - all very well done.

This "April Morning" scene is showing the famous April 19, 1775 "Shot heard 'round the world" event, signalling the start of the American Revolution.

For Christmas I not only received the wonderful George Washington set mentioned above but also a book entitled "My Dearest Friend - Letters of Abigail and John Adams."
To read their writings of the current events of their time as it happened is fascinating to say the least. Here is where one can read first-hand accounts of the Boston Tea Party, Washington's reception, the small pox outbreak, the Revolutionary War, as well as of their everyday lives. I especially loved reading their reactions to the Declaration of Independence:
From John Adams to Abigail Adams: July 3, 1776
"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost US to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

I have to say this book has opened my eyes to the world of our colonial fore-fathers as much as any other and I feel it can help greatly when I do venture out in the style of 1770. 
That being said, my next step is to get some period colonial-era clothing, something along the lines of what I see Paul Revere wearing in this famous painting of him from 1770 (see photo of the painting below).
I cannot afford to go all out like some folks think I should. I can only afford the basics: breeches, socks, waistcoat, shirt, and tricorn hat. Maybe shoes (if not, my mid-19th century civilian shoes will have to work until I can get me some), and maybe a coat, though coats are outrageously expensive.
So for this year I hope to be dressed similar to my friend Paul. And if anyone says anything about it, they can take it up with him.

John Singleton Copley - Portrait of Paul Revere. c. 1768–70
As noted, this painting was done by John Singleton Copley (1738 - 1815), an American artist who painted portraits of people who lived in colonial New England. The thing about Copley’s works is how he showed, in particular, the middle-class subjects of his time. His paintings were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals' lives, as does this one of Paul Revere and his tea pot. 

As for dressing my wife - and even the youngest of our four kids - in appropriate colonial clothing, well, that will be a little while before she - and they - will be able to join me, for it's going to take some doing to get them 1770's clothing. We have all intentions to do so, but one step at a time.
My two oldest sons, by the way, are very excited about doing military in the RevWar, especially now knowing they are a direct descendent  of one who fought in it. Yes, my wife has joined the Daughters of the American Revolution and my sons are in the process of becoming members of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Yeah, I certainly am proud!
Abigail Adams and the Adams' children (from the HBO mini-series "John Adams")

I've never hidden my love for the colonial era, and at the bottom of this article are links to some of the postings I've written over the past few years pertaining to that so-important time in our nation's history. I would love to see reenactments of this period make a come back, and I feel now is a great time for this to happen, for, due to the political climate of our modern times, many people are delving back in hopes of finding the truth of our Nation's beginnings and what our Founding Fathers wanted for this new country.
And that's a good thing because there are many revisionists out there who claim to speak authoritatively of what these original American Patriots had hoped to accomplish for this country's future in a lame attempt to excuse the modern political turmoil.
But for those of us who study the politics of the time know that we also must study the social character of the people of the time as well, and it's then and there that we can find the answers - the true answers - to the questions of our nation's history.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And here are a few links to other postings that can accent today's read:
In the Good Old Colony Days
Faces of History: Original Photographs of Revolutionary War Vets
With Liberty and Justice For All: The Fight for Independence at the Henry Ford Museum
Reenacting Early American History

Oh! And by the way, did you know I have a Table of Contents links page? Yep, I do, and with a click of the mouse it can take you to many of the postings in Passion for the Past. Just click the link!



Living In The Past said...

A Very well written article. I second your love for this historical period. My personal favorite, fueled by my love for DAGGETT! Thanks Ken :)

Virginia said...

You might want to put on your reading list "Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin". I'm in the process of reading this and it seems to be a very well researched book about the writings/life of Benjamin Franklin's sister.

An Historical Lady said...

Hi Ken,
Thanks for another great post, as always, and the mention! As for 'The Awakening Land', it starts in 1790, with the Wheeler family moving to Ohio territory, and then the series chronicles their lives there for 30 years. The clothing--- for the kind of people they were---is actually for the most part, quite authentic, and was extensively researched by Conrad Richter, the author of the original trilogy of books on which the series is based. (He won the pulitzer, and I highly recommend the books, 'The Trees', 'The Fields', and 'The Town', in that order. The series was also filmed at some of the Lincoln sites in Illinois.
Can't wait to see photos of you in 18thc.duds!

Historical Ken said...

Carol - You like Daggett?? (LOL)
Virginia - I will definitely look that up. Thanks.
Mary - I get conflicting reports on the clothing...I didn't think they looked too bad myself.
Thanks for the info!