Monday, August 11, 2014

Colonial Kensington: Spending Time in the 1770's

~I am using a colonial font for the posting today - hopefully it comes out okay
But first, a little lesson on colonial writing, specifically the use of the oft-confusing long S ( s ) - (courtesy of e-How):
Hey! Dad thinkS he
KnowS about the 'long s. '
Heh heh
Oh wait – he doeS!
American colonial handwriting and printing looks strange to us. Why did they use all those f's instead of s's?
If you want to imitate colonial handwriting from the 18th century, or make a colonial handbill or sign, then using those funny f's correctly is the most obvious thing that will make your handwriting or printing look like it's from the 18th Century.
The letter that looks like an "f" actually is called a "long s." In colonial printing fonts, you can tell it from a printed "f" because the little cross-bar is only on the left-hand side, or isn't there at all. In colonial handwriting, the "long s" is written like an "f," except the bottom loop is written clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.
The "long s" wasn't used randomly. Here are the rules for when to use it, so your handwriting or printing will look like authentic colonial handwriting.
Use the "long s" at the beginning and middle of words, but use the regular "s" for the last letter of a word.
If there are two s's together, use the "long s" for the first one and the regular "s" for the second one. Use the regular "s" before and after the letter "f" (the real letter "f"!) Use the regular "S" whenever the "S" is uppercase.

Here is an original example of the colonial style of writing.
I have made the attempt to follow this rule by way of the Webster Roman font.
I hope it looks okay to my readers.

~~ ~ ~ ~

I love having accesS to a time machine. There iS nothing I can think of to compare to being able to travel from the 2010'S back to whatever era in time I choose and then return back home to the 21st century again.
And thiS year I’ve done my first eighteenth century travelS, in the guise of colonial-era reenactmentS - one “official” and two of my own accord: 
~I dresSed colonial twice at Greenfield Village – once on April 18th to commemorate the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and the other time on the 4th of July to celebrate Independence Day. Both timeS I had a few friendS, old and new, join me.
However, these two Greenfield Village visitS were not actual eventS but, rather, one of those “Hey! Let’S get dresSed up in period clothing and head to the Village!”
~Another time I wore 1770S clothing waS at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit for their Colonial DayS event. Fort Wayne  iS a small but growing reenactment, and I’m glad that I waS able to play a part thiS year.
I plan to again next year.
My latest time-travel excursion took place thiS past weekend at the 14th annual Colonial Kensington event in Millford, Michigan. AS iS described on their web site: "Colonial Kensington iS the 14th annual historic encampment and reenactment that presentS the Colonial yearS of the mid-1600'S to 1796. The beautiful park setting along the Huron River offerS participantS unspoiled lake and river frontage for their encampment with mature forestS, hillS, streamS and fieldS featuring a network of scenic trailS.
Each year featureS hundredS of historically dresSed reenactorS, craft and tradeS personS, aS well aS historic MerchantS where you may purchase hand crafted itemS made like they were in the 18th century.
Colonial Kensington and Kensington Metro Park offer a natural and authentic setting for those interested in seeing the history of the 18th Century. Our site offer
S unlimited space for all time periodS and impresSionS; British, French, Civilian and Native CampS.
So, even though I did the otherS, I suppose that Kensington can be considered our real "tidingS from the 18th century coming out,"  and it'S the first time that nearly my entire family waS with me. 
To top it off, thiS would also be the largest colonial event yet for me personally aS a participant..
But to do any reenactment correctly, and to get the most out of it, one must have the correct mindset. For uS, aS Civil War reenactorS for over a decade, thiS wasn’t too difficult, and once we became acclimated to the colonial period we found ourselveS comfortably fitting in.
It helpS to have met wonderful people – the Church family - who we became fast friendS with quite easily when they joined uS in our Independence Day celebration earlier thiS year.
It iS with great excitement that my family and I are taking the plunge into another era in time, one 90 yearS earlier than what we’ve been used to.
Now, are you ready to do some time-traveling?
Well, then, let’S do it! Turn on the switch, Mr. WellS, and send uS back to America’S colonieS circa 1776: 
And in a blink of an eye, we'll find ourselveS in a field, long ago and far away...
Proof that people were shorter back then! Well,, they weren't.
Well, maybe about an inch or so. But the myth that the average height of a colonist wa
S much shorter than the people of today iS just that - a myth. I am only 5'7"tall, but I look like a giant here! By the way, the young lady on the left iS our friend, Lauren, who happened to join uS on thiS day.

We've never been here to Colonial Kensington before, much lesS participated in an event here.
I can honestly say, we loved it!
Just aS with Civil War era reenacting, I portray an average citizen on the homefront and not a soldier, though my 23 year old son iS very interested in taking part in the battleS. Nor do I portray someone famouS - at least not at a reenactment (I take part in a "Night at the Museum" birthday party for young children at a local museum every-so-often, and I may portray a famouS person from history here).
I may be just your average townSfolk, but thiS man certainly iS not! YeS, I waS able to meet Dr. Franklin, and what an amazing man he waS! He enthralled uS all with hiS many personal taleS of hiS experimentS, including the one with electricity, aS well aS hiS thoughtS on the politicS of the day. PluS he waS a genuinely nice man who taught me a few ruleS of colonial etiquette that I waS not familiar with. Did you know that men did not shake handS upon greeting each other in the 18th century? I certainly did not; they instead did a quick bow/curtsey with the removal of the hat. Now I know.

AS regular readerS of thiS blog already know, I spend much of my time researching the everyday society of pre-electric era America. Did I say much of my time? Ha! Pretty much all of my spare time iS spent on historical research! And, though most of it centerS on the mid-19th century, it may surprise you to know that I have done extensive studieS of the colonial period in general and have concentrated on that twenty year period of the mid-1760'S through the 1780'S, focusing on the 1770'S at great length.
(You have seen my colonial postingS, haven’t you? If not, please see the linkS at the bottom of thiS post)

One of the itemS that I know little about iS the clothing of the Rev War era, but I'm learning.  
Women’S clothing changeS, sometimeS pretty dramatically, decade by decade going back centurieS, where, through the yearS, men’S clothing tendS to have the same basic style with minor changeS here and there (the width of the lapel, the cut of the waistcoat, height of the waist for the pantS,  etc). Really, from the 1820S onward the shirt, pantS, vest, and jacket/coat have been the mainstay with, in all honesty, little dramatic difference. Look at the “well-dresSed” man of today, and what iS he wearing? PantS, shirt, vest, and jacket.
Only the hatS have showed seemingly any kind of a change, and, aside from the bowler and top hat, even they haven’t gone through any dramatic changeS either.

I’m not saying I don’t like 19th century clothing, I’m just pointing out how little clothing for men haS actually changed in the last 175 yearS or so in comparison with the yearS shortly before.

Now go back before the 1800S and you will see a very different style of clothing for men, from hat to shoeS.

And that’S one of the cool thingS that I like about the 1770S men’S fashionS – the clothing iS noticeably different and one can immediately tell what era the wearer iS representing.
(Please do not write me and complain about what I wrote here concerning the clothing of 19th century men. I made a general blanket statement - I realize there are exceptionS, but please look at the style of what I am wearing in thiS photo - anyone who can see would be able to tell the difference from clothing here to 90 - or even 50 - yearS later. I do like Civil War era clothing. All I am noting iS the extreme differenceS from 1770S to 1860S aS compared to 1860S to the 21st century suit.)

With that being said, I would like to give a light and airy overview of the clothing of the late-era colonistS.
By the way, I do plan to write a posting on colonial clothing sometime in the future, but don’t hold your breath too longit may be a while. 

The clothing that people wore in the past haS the ability to fascinate and involve uS aS few objectS of their material culture do. For some, it iS a wish to experience the beautiful fabricS, elaborate decoration, and tactile qualitieS ;experienceS no longer found in most of our own clothing. For otherS, it iS a desire to understand people from the past a little better; if we know such detailS aS how they dresSed themselveS in the morning, what it felt like to be laced into stayS, or what it waS like to wear coarse linen and woolen while working in a Virginia tobacco field, we might better understand the routine, human aspectS of their daily liveS, which are so seldom revealed in the written recordS they left.
Which is why many of uS practice living history - so we can make an attempt to, in a small way, experience what our ancestorS did so long ago.
The clothing you see in thiS (posting) are replicaS worn by those who lived in the eighteenth century who had much in common with uS. Not only did people then respond to fashion, they also varied their garmentS based on the activity and the formality of the occasion. The eighteenth-century wordS "dresS" and "undresS" had meaningS quite different from the way we use the wordS today, though the basic conceptS are still viable. "DresS" clothing meant formal clothing with a different set of conventionS and accesSorieS from "undresS" or informal clothing. In 1775, for example, a woman could still don a pair of exaggerated side hoopS, or "pannierS," to support her wide skirt for a dresS occasion, while her undresS clothing ;although it would appear quite formal to our eyeS;had a more modest skirt size that may not have needed hoopS at all. Similarly, the clotheS in which a wealthy planter conducted hiS daily businesS differed significantly from what he wore to a ball at the Governor'S Palace. The garmentS worn by a blacksmith or dairymaid for daily work were different from their best outfitS, reserved for SundayS at church and infrequent special occasionS. 
The tricorn hat appeared throughout the last half of the eighteenth century. Not everyone wore a tricorn, however. The working clasS often wore soft capS, and many men wore felt hatS with cut-down brimS. 
Since I am portraying a middle clasS man, I chose to wear a tricorn. 
The conceptS of comfort and modesty have alwayS been relative and subject to the influence of fashion and the needS of the occasion. Like uS, eighteenth-century people needed clothing for warmth and comfort, but they quickly abandoned those needS if fashion or the occasion dictated.
During much of the eighteenth century, women'S skirtS were long and the sleeveS covered the elbowS; yet a woman would readily push up her sleeveS and hike up her petticoatS while doing laundry or working in the dairy, and, when fashion dictated it, women would shorten their skirtS to the ankleS, aS many did in the 1780S.
Someone who had worn stayS (the 18th century version of a corset) from girlhood might scarcely have questioned their comfort or lack of it. (And who iS to say that stayS were any more uncomfortable than pointed-toe, high-heeled twentieth-century shoeS?)
Climate also had a significant effect on clothing. In the sultry climate of Virginia many, even the upper classeS, chose washable linen or cotton clothing for informal wear. A traveler in the early 1730S described the summer clothing of VirginianS: "In Summertime even the gentry goe Many in White Holland [linen] Wast Coat and drawerS and a thin Cap on their headS and Thread stockingS [knitted linen]. The LadyeS Strait laced in thin Silk or Linnen. In Winter [they dresS] mostly aS in England and affect London DresS and wayeS."
During the hot summer monthS, men often wore unlined coatS and thin waistcoatS of cotton or linen fabricS. Advising hiS brother about what to wear when he attended the College of William and Mary, Stephen Hawtrey wrote, "Your Cloathing in summer must be aS thin and light aS posSible for the heat is beyond your conception . . .your Cloth suit unlined may do for the Month of May, but after that time you must wear the thinnest StuffS that can be made without lining. some people . . . wear brown holland [linen] CoatS with lining –some Crape –You must carry with you a Stock of Linnen WaistcoatS made very large and loose, that they may'nt stick to your hide when you perspire."
AS I said, I hope to do a posting on the clothing of thiS period aS I learn more, especially for men. Just give me some time to learn more about it.
~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
According to author Alice Morse Earle in her wonderful book, Home Life in Colonial DayS, The wool industry easily furnished home occupation to an entire family. Often by the bright firelight in the early evening every member of the household might be seen at work on the variouS stageS of wool manufacture or some of itS necesSary adjunctS, and varied and cheerful industrial soundS fill the room.
Carding wool: every member of the family played an important role to keep the household running like a well-oiled wheel.
The grandmother, at light and easy work, iS carding the wool into fleecy rollS. The mother, stepping aS lightly aS one of her girlS, spinS the rollS into woolen yarn on the great wheel. The oldest daughter sitS at the clock-reel, whose continuouS buzz and occasional click mingleS with the humming rise and fall of the wool-wheel, and the irritating scratch, scratch, scratch of the cardS. A little girl at the small wheel iS filling quillS with woolen yarn for the loom, not a skilled work. The father iS setting fresh teeth in a wool card, while the boyS are whittling hand-reelS and loom spoolS.
My wife findS carding and spinning a relaxing part of her day.
Quite often we are asked why would we want to "live" in such a rough period in history, what with the lack of medical knowledge, the hardshipS of everyday life, and for women, the lack of rightS.
Just to reiterate for those who may not understand reenactorS and living historianS: first of all, we're not actually "living" in the past - we are pretending to live in the past in order to experience life aS it waS once lived (do I really need to write thiS? Obviously I do, for I continuously get asked that question). You see, we're all teacherS - well, not a teacher in a school necesSarily (though some are), but, rather, we love being able to teach history in such a way that it goeS beyond school textbookS. To show history - to make the past come to life before the visitor'S eyeS - iS an art and a talent that we have (yeah, we can brag!), and,  I cannot think of a better way to spend my time. Especially since my family doeS it with me!
Second, we live such a soft life these dayS in comparison to our 18th and 19th century ancestorS that living history giveS uS the opportunity to have a hint of what it waS like for them and appreciate what they did just to survive.
Third, it’S kind of nice to get away from modern society here and there (if you have to ask why, then you’ll never understand). 
Finally, wearing period clothing iS just plain cool!
Oh, and the colonial ladieS look lovely, do they not?
Preparing food in the colonial period waS not simply a matter of making the ingredientS palatable. It also required a staggering range of skillS: chopping kindling, keeping a fire burning indefinitely, plucking featherS from fowl, butchering animalS large and small, cosSeting bread yeast, brewing beer, making cheese, adjusting the “burnerS” of coalS on the hearth and gauging the temperature of the hearth oven.
There were related skillS, too, such aS milking, making soap and candleS, grinding corn, fermenting vinegar, pulverizing sugar, drying damp flour, and recycling stale bread, among many other thingS.

Getting the fire going: cooking over a campfire with period utensilS iS not unlike cooking over a hearth.
It doesn't take a geniuS to realize that the most important room in any home iS not the bathroom (indoor bathroomS, by the way, are a fairly recent commodity), nor iS it the bedroom. And it'S certainly not the family room.
S the kitchen.
From dayS of old through our modern timeS, the kitchen iS the one room where all the action takeS place. It'S where everyone seemS to gather. It also haS the  most pleasant odorS! 
MrS. Church cooked up a wonderfully delectable stew for all at her camp. YeS, it waS every bit aS good aS the picture lookS!--there iS no doubt of her period cooking talentS!

Most of my family: my son and daughter flank my wife.
We have our Civil War faceS on – I believe it’S acceptable to actually smile in colonial photographS! What if I sepia-toned it? Would that make it look more authentic? (Just kidding here guyS!)
All fun aside, I am so thankful to have my family memberS travel with me on these living history excursionS. I am blesSed.

AS one who studieS daily life of timeS long ago, I am alwayS on the lookout for bookS and other reliable sourceS of information that will open the curtain a little wider on the window into the past.
One such book I have in my collection iS called "WencheS, WiveS, and Servant GirlS," which iS a "selection of advertisementS for female runawayS in American newspaperS 1770 - 1783," and it "presentS a striking picture of the (women) who formed a substantial but largely forgotten segment of the population in Colonial America. Textual snapshotS of thousandS of individualS who would otherwise be lost to history, people whose nameS might not otherwise be recorded..."
Here iS an example:
 Pennsylvania Gazette, 27 April 1774

"Twenty shillingS Reward. Run away, on the 30th of last March, from the subscriber in Fourth street, near the Post office, an apprentice girl, named Anne Carrowle, came from London with Captain William Keais, in the year 1769, she haS a fresh complexion, brown hair, near sighted, left handed, round shouldered, and about 16 yearS of age; had on, when she went away, a green silk bonnet, an India red and black and white calicoe long gown, a blue halfthickS,  and striped lincey petticoat, a white apron, and new leather shoeS;
she haS been seen strolling on the Lancaster and Gulf roadS, on pretense of going to service at Esquire Moore, and the Bull Tavern, and then at Carlisle.
Whoever takeS up the above runaway, and secureS her, so aS her master may get her again, shall have the above reward; and all personS are cautioned not to conceal or entertain her."
Samuel WilliamS
How can you not form the image of thiS girl in your head aS you read thiS description? It iS aS close aS a photograph (which, of course, waS not around during colonial timeS) aS we can get aside from the rare paintingS of the common or lower clasSeS.

One of the small but interesting facetS that I've learned in reading thiS book iS finding out how many people were afflicted with the pox (see the photo of original period writing near the top of thiS post).
See? That'S what'S so cool about social history / everyday life research - learning these minute detailS that just bring those from the past to life, which can only help uS with our impresSion, no matter which era.
Of course, I can't help but compare the two periodS I reenact, though not in a "we do thingS thiS way in Civil War" attitude, but, rather, comparing through the eyeS of history - the timeS themselveS.
I believe to reenact each period correctly, one needS to know the whyS and whereforeS of the era depicted, whether soldier or civilian. And it'S amazing to understand just what a difference 90 yearS can make in etiquette, clothing, and mannerismS
And war. 
Ha! I just realized that thiS lookS like a “kill the piper!” picture, but the smoke from the black powder hid the rest of the soldierS.

Could thiS be The Swamp Fox, the actual historical person of whom Mel Gibson based hiS Benjamin Martin character on in the movie “The Patriot?”

These guyS did a fantastic job showing the battle tacticS of the Revolutionary War period in American history.

Just aS in Civil War reenacting, sometimeS the military can be rather sparse. But no matter – it waS still very cool to watch and compare the tactical differenceS in the 90 yearS between the 1770’S and the 1860’S.

I love the smell of black powder in the morning
And I loved watching the Rev War take place right in front of me. Very cool indeed!

The Patriot’S won thiS battle.

Making sure he’S dead.

One of the more enjoyable aspectS of reenacting any era iS the great music one can encounter. During an event, music can set the mode and give an air of almost time-travel. But thiS doesn’t just happen to reenactorS. How many timeS have you heard a song that maybe you have not heard in decadeS, but upon hearing the first noteS your mind automatically will bring you right back to the time in your life you first heard it?
I don’t mean the “thiS happenS to me all the time,” but the very rare instanceS when you sit back and go “wow---!“ and feel that moment so intently that you can actually visualize the light in the room at the time, the people who were there with you (and even hear their voiceS), and get that tingly sensation where the hair on your armS or the back of your neck stand up.
Yeah, that feeling!
ThiS happened to me – around (I hate to say it but) 40 yearS ago when I found an old 45 rpm record amongst a stack in a box in the basement. The title intrigued me, though it brought no familiarity to my mind. 
Until I put it on the record player. 
AS soon aS I heard the lead vocal come in I immediately waS mentally transported back to when I waS around two or three yearS old, to the time the song waS popular on the radio and, obviously, in my home with my older brotherS and sisterS (for it waS their record).
The song waS “Sally Go ‘Round the RoseS” by the JaynetteS.
And you know, I still get transported back to that time long ago when I waS two or three whenever I hear it.

Fife and drum music iS the soundtrack to the Revolutionary War, and we were able to listen to it right there in our camp.
The same can happen upon hearing music of any era, where it can just take you directly back to a time of your youth ...or maybe even back to a time from before you were bornsuch aS at a reenactment, for aS I wrote a while back, nostalgia iS portable, meaning it iS posSible to feel a sentimental attachment to a time period one did not personally live through.
And that’S what hearing the fife and drum doeS for me. My mind goeS back, back, back to a time and place long ago...
Here are a couple of clipS so you can enjoy hearing and seeing what we did:

Being that thiS day at Kensington, which, by the way, iS located near Millford, Michigan, waS our first major colonial/Rev War event aS participantS, I don't think it could have gone any better than it did.
For all the thingS we did there - witnesSing the battle, meeting and listening to Dr. Ben Franklin, being surrounded by so many otherS dresSed in colonial-era clothing, and enjoying the company of our friendS, it just could not have gone any better.
We loved it!

And it iS to the following people that I give thankS:
I would like to give my sincere thankS to Mike and Ruth Church and their family for their guidance in thiS new adventure for uS. They have opened their proverbial (and actual) home to uS and "taken uS under their colonial wing." It helpS that we all have so much in common - music, movieS, humor...oh yeah, a really fine family indeed!

And..a big .thank you to Campeau Co, Y Militia for allowing my family and I a trial period in your unit. I hope we're a great fit for you, and you for uS!

Then there is MisS Lauren Roosien (pictured left), who helped to get the RevWar era reenacting fire burning for me while she waS a presenter at the Daggett Farmhouse at Greenfield Village. 
My many thankS to you aS well, Lauren!
And for the shoeS,, too!
No, I am not leaving Civil War, for I enjoy that immensely. Colonial reenacting is something new (old?) and different, you know? I'm in relatively new territory here. For me, reenacting the Civil War iS aS natural aS “reenacting” the 21st century. But, even though I have researched the later colonial era for decadeS, living it iS a whole 'nother bag of raw wool.
It'S an awesome historical challenge, one that I willingly and happily accept!

I remember aS a youth trying to find information on everyday living during the later colonial period. I likened it to pulling out my own healthy teeth with a pair of plierS! Oh, they had tonS of bookS on the Founding FatherS and politicianS (which waS actually cool since these men began thiS great country of ourS' and were generally of a higher caliber than politicianS today), but so little on daily life activitieS

My own little colonial scene in my home.

I am so grateful for the information available today through the many bookS and the RELIABLE (and double-checked) on-line sourceS to guide uS in our time-travel ventureS. Here are a few in my library that helped me with thiS post:

Home Life in Colonial Day byAlice Morse Earle
WencheS, WiveS, and Servant GirlS," by Don N. Hagist
Colonial Food by Ann Chandonnet 
TidingS fromthe 18th Century by Beth Gilgum 
And the on-line source of Colonial Williamsburg for some of what I have about clothing.

And here iS a link to another posting I wrote about the period:
In the Good Old Colony DayS
Celebrating the 4th of July in a Colonial Way
Colonial Ken VisitS Greenfield Village
Two Centuries/One Weekend


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