Monday, June 9, 2014

Two Centuries / One Weekend

Yes, you read the title right. I reenacted in two different centuries over one weekend: Saturday I was in the year 1864 and Sunday I was in the 1770's.
And what a 'time' I had!
While in 1864 I was at a small town located nearly an hour west of Detroit called Dexter. This is a quiet little event that seems to be growing - this was our third year participating. What I like about Dexter is that we can have a more relaxed conversation with the visitors about history. And since the patrons must pay to enter the grounds, these folks are genuinely interested in history and have sparked some well thought out conversations. They really listen to and enjoy what we have to say, and we enjoy their enthusiasm.
As usual, I had my camera ready, so I will let the pictures tell more of the stories here.
Yes, with captions, too!
Greeting us as we walked to the campsite was this wonderful group of musicians playing fine old tunes of the mid-19th century on period correct instruments. They could be heard throughout the area. I am sorry to say I did not get the name of this string orchestra.

Here is a photograph of me with my wife and daughter. One of the biggest pleasures a living historian could have is to time-travel with their family. By the way, I was told by numerous people that I looked like a plantation owner. 

This is my beautiful daughter. Yes, I may be a bit biased, but she truly is beautiful, inside and out.

Life is grand in Michigan in early June. Though it was Saturday, it felt like Sunday. So we relaxed - family and friend - and enjoyed the weather and company.

A few of us from the 21st Michigan posed for a tintype taken by our very own wet plate photographer Mr. Robert Beech.
Having a tin type taken is one of the best ways to have an authentic "souvenir" of your time at a Civil War event.

This is the negative before the collodion was added.

But look what happens when the collodion is poured upon the negative... begins turning into a photograph!

And there you have it, though it still needs to dry for an hour or so. Mr. Beech certainly does a fine job at his craft.
Here is the finished image. I think we look pretty 1860's, don't you? The tin type itself is actually a little clearer than this photograph shows, but since I have no scanner I have to take a picture of whatever photograph I want to digitize. It can be rather trying to take a photo of a tin type without getting some back reflection.

These two ladies from the 26th Michigan take their doctoring practices seriously. They come all the way from near Traverse City to take part in the Dexter event. (For you who are not familiar with Michigan, that's around a four hour drive.) They had an authentically scary collection of doctoring tools. I'm glad I didn't need to visit them on business!

Meet the man who worked closely with President Lincoln in the drafting and passing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, Michigan Senator Jacob Howard (aka Dave Tennies). Mr. Tennies does an amazing job as Senator Howard, who served from 1862 to 1871.

Senator Howard speaks with President Lincoln about the issue of the 13th Amendment. Say...just what is that thing he's holding in his hand??

My wife, Patty, and our daughter work on spinning and crocheting during a Ladies Aid Society gathering.

Patty claims she doesn't like to speak in front of people, but I have plenty of pictures proving otherwise. Here she is at Dexter allowing a patron to card wool by using carding paddles.

The next day my time machine whirled me 80 years further back in time, to the 1770's. This is the second year for the Colonial Days event at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit. Last year I attended as a patron and it was then and there that I decided the next time I would attend as a participant.
So here I am, at my first actual colonial reenactment; I finally bought clothing of the era in March and, due to conflicting schedules, had to wait this long before I was able to wear them.
Well...that's not totally true...I did wear them back on April 18 and visited Greenfield Village, which was very cool indeed! But this was the first actual colonial reenactment opportunity for me.
Did I enjoy myself? Oh you bet I did!
The clothing I have is British rather than French, though French seemed to be where most of my colonial friends interests lie. But I am of English descent and therefore am paying tribute to my colonial ancestors.
Historic Fort Wayne was built in the 1840's, so it was not around in the 18th century, but it works well as the backdrop for Colonial Days. I would love to see this event grow; a suggestion I had made to the powers-that-be is to associate it more with the 4th of July holiday coming up in a few weeks to garner the Independence Day interest.
Speaking of Independence Day, my interest of late in our nation's founding continues to skyrocket, and the occurrences during the time of our founding fathers along with their lives and times really has taken a hold of me.
As I have mentioned in previous posting, I have no interest in leaving the Civil War era; I am only interested in expanding my living history opportunities to other areas of great interest to me.
And the colonial period is such a time.
So, without further ado, here are some photos of my first actual colonial reenactment.
Hope you like 'em:

Here I am, front and center, with my country's flag flying behind me. Yes, living in colonial America, I am still a British citizen (we are in 1770 and the Revolution has a few years to go before occurring). Since part of my heritage is English, I have chosen to reflect that in my colonial ventures.

Don't be fooled - these fine ladies are not angry. They are only waiting for the rain to stop and the sun to shine, which it did later in the day.

Jeri Grover and her husband portray weavers and have authentic replica looms to do their craft upon. Like Civil War reenacting, farbiness is a no no and their presentation is top-notch. Many thanks must go the Grovers for their kindness in allowing me the use of their campsite for my very first event. Yes, Jeri and Ross portray French colonists, and I, as a British colonist, am indebted to their kindness.

Friends also weave, helping to show colonial history.

Mrs. Paladino looks over the finished product from the weaving.

To help cheer us from the blustery rain, a fife and drum trio performed the music of the period.

With the rain coming down, Mrs. Paladino snatched an opportunity to find a moment's respite inside the local gathering spot for gentlemen and gentlewomen.

The only way to not be a stranger in a new venture is to walk around and meet the locals, which I did. In my travels I befriended another colonial couple, the Church's, who, like the Grover's, have been involved in this hobby for quite a long time.

Mr. and Mrs. Church had a fine set up in their campsite.

Kids are kids no matter what era, whether it's the 1770's, 1860's, or the 21st century. This young lady enjoyed splashing in the puddles in her bare feet. Who doesn't?

What? Did you expect because I'm new to the 1770's reenacting world that I would sit idly back like a wall flower?? Ha! If so, then you don't know me very well! Whenever there is an opportunity to take period photos, I do my best to make it happen.

Yes, I grabbed friends old and new for a photo opp. But posing isn't enough if you're just...posing... we decided on some sort of a historic alignment between Patriots and a former loyalist. You see, initially I was a loyalist like so many others. But, although I am of British heritage, I, too, disagree with the King and his many acts, and we had a great discussion about what should be done.

After much discussion and debating I was convinced the King was wrong and willingly aligned myself with the other Patriots, especially upon hearing of the growing discontent of many of the other citizens of the colonies. 

Now the stage was set! What will the future bring...the Good Lord only knows.

Okay, so the captions under these last few pictures are corny. What the heck, right?
I enjoyed being in the 1770's. The other reenactors seemed very friendly and willing to have newcomers join them.
I was invited to participate in more colonial/Rev War events, and I plan to do so as time permits. As a proud patriot, I am very excited to be able to portray a citizen from the birth of our nation.
Yes, I am.
And so it goes...



An Historical Lady said...

Ken, you look FANTASTIC in your 1770s garb! Yea!!!!!
From your 18thc. 'Brit' time travelers as well!


Historical Ken said...

Thank you so much Mary.
Coming from you, that really means a lot to me.