Saturday, February 13, 2016

Night at the (Plymouth) Museum: Winter 2016

"Yes, oh bearded one. I am your ancestor."
Many of us who do historical reenacting have been history nerds our entire lives. I know I have. I can remember being an elementary school-aged kid and pretending the basement of the house I grew up in was a log cabin out on the frontier. I mean, our basement, like those in most older homes, was dark and dingy and cool, and even had a real fireplace, just as a log cabin would. I pretended, mostly by myself (for many of my friends were not quite like me) to go hunting (my back yard was the forest) and trail blazing (in the narrow space between our garage and the neighbor's fence), and then come back home to the cabin with a "deer" that I shot with my musket. The deer tasted just like a modern baloney sandwich. Go figure.
So here I am, these many years later, all grown up with kids of my own and even grandbabies, and I'm still pretending that I'm living in the past! And I am an even bigger history nerd.
This certainly isn't my parent's adulthood, that's for sure.
As a youth, however, there really wasn't much out there as far as going to reenactments in Michigan. Oh, there were some around, like up in Mackinaw, but they were few and far between; reenactors were a small fringe group back then ("back then" being the 1960s and 70s) and not as 'plentiful' as we see today. As far as going to Greenfield Village, they didn't have very many period dress docents there back then either - most of the houses had buttons to push which would activate a recording of a monotone narration about the home.
Yeah...there was not much living in history in these parts...
Oh the times they are a-changing...
Of course, times have changed quite a bit in the living history world, and reenactments are everywhere now-a-days, it seems.
Can you imagine how so very awesome it would have been for me as a history-nerd kid to have a party such as the kind thrown by the Plymouth Historical Museum (of Michigan) called "A Night at the Museum"? This is where "children can experience a birthday party they will never forget. Plymouth Historical Museum staff, inspired by the movies of the same name, created this magical evening, where children discover that the characters within the Museum come alive after hours.
The Museum is filled with reenactors silently waiting for the kids to bring them to life with the tablet. Kids could discover a Roman soldier dressed in full battle gear or Civil War soldiers preparing for war, or women wearing big hoop skirts and fancy dresses. 
Anyone can be discovered at the Museum, and children will enjoy the living history. Each character chats with the kids about a slice of history so children might learn a thing or two while they are having fun at the party."
Wouldn't that be the coolest thing ever? Instead of super hero comics, they can meet some real heroes - men and women from the past, most who did something extraordinary to warrant their remembrance!
And they'll actually learn something to boot!
A Night at the Museum parties are always great fun to do, especially during this bitter cold time of year, when there are so few opportunities to wear period clothing.
So it was on the first Saturday in February that a few of us took part in one of these parties. I did take a few of my own pictures but there was a much better photographer there who really took some nice ones. I was given permission to use whichever pictures I wanted for this posting.
I hope you enjoy them:
The birthday boy leads the way as the kids follow him up the stairs into the museum.
He looks very excited while his friend behind him seems a bit apprehensive...
Of course, lucky me, I was the first person he saw - Paul Revere - and, therefore, "awakened from my slumber."
As I have said, there are not that many opportunities for me to go colonial at bonafide reenactments as I'd like, so I have to grab any chance I can to wear my 18th century clothing.
I'll be honest, I enjoy wearing colonial fashions much more than Civil War era styles. They are just so much cooler-looking - I feel like the ultimate patriot when I wear them!
So here I am, once again, as Paul Revere speaking to a group of 6 to 12 year olds. They were fascinated, attentive, and, yes (as you can see by the looks on the faces), very excited to meet such a man of historical importance in our nation's history. I really do love the fact that these kids all knew the name of Paul Revere and had at least some idea of what he was famous for.
As Paul Revere, I gave the young ones a lite overview of my life, including my beginnings as a silversmith, of my 16 children & my two wives (one had died and I remarried), of my anger toward the Stamp Act (& other taxes I was not fond of), and of my adventures with the Sons of Liberty, including the Boston Tea Party.
And I so enjoyed telling them the true story of the events that occurred during my famous ride on the night of April 18, 1775.
By the way, my ponytail tied with ribbon was known as a queue and was a very popular fashion for men in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Next up we have a real Pirate of the Caribbean, Mrs. Anne (McCormac / Cormac) Bonny, famous female pirate who was born in Ireland around 1700 and was brought over to Charles Town, South Carolina by her father.
Anne married a man named James Bonny, much to the dismay of her father (who disowned her), and the two moved to the Bahamas where Annie fell in with a number of pirates living there. She eventually fell in love with one of these pirates, divorced husband James, and ran off to sea to live with her new man, someone named Rackham, and eventually gathered up a crew of efficient sea men to pirate the Caribbean Sea. Bonny took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates.
They were eventually caught, tried, and sentenced to death for their deeds.
Bonny's last words to the imprisoned Rackham were: "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog."
After being sentenced, Bonny and another female pirate in their crew, Mary Read both “pleaded their bellies”: asking for mercy because they were pregnant. In accordance with English Common Law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. It is said that Mary Read died in prison.
There is no historical record of Annie Bonny's release or of her execution, however. This has fed speculation that her father ransomed her, that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity. More likely, Anne's father bought her freedom from the Jamaican Governor and married her off to a Virginian, Joseph Buerliegh (different spellings) and she had eight children and lived into her 80's. There are some records that seem to tie this all together, but nothing is conclusive. (This information is from Wikipedia)
Here we have Debbie Jones portraying, Anne Bonnie, enticing the children to join her in her pirating exploits. A few of the kids wanted to join up, but most decided it wouldn't be such a good idea.

Following Anne Bonny in the tour around the Plymouth Museum was another Annie - Annie Oakley.
Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Mosey on August 13, 1860) was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Her "amazing talent" first came to light when the then 15-year-old won a shooting match with traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler (whom she later married). The couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show a few years later. Oakley became a renowned international star, performing before royalty and heads of state.
Oakley never failed to delight her audiences, and her feats of marksmanship were truly incredible. At 30 paces she could split a playing card held edge-on, she hit dimes tossed into the air, she shot cigarettes from her husband's lips, and, a playing card being thrown into the air, she riddled it before it touched the ground.
R. A. Koestler-Grack reports that, on March 19, 1884, she was being watched by Chief Sitting Bull when:
“Oakley playfully skipped on stage, lifted her rifle, and aimed the barrel at a burning candle. In one shot, she snuffed out the flame with a whizzing bullet. Sitting Bull watched her knock corks off of bottles and slice through a cigar Butler held in his teeth.”
Oakley also was variously known as "Miss Annie Oakley", "Little Sure Shot", "Little Miss Sure Shot", "Watanya Cicilla", "Phoebe Anne Oakley", "Mrs. Annie Oakley", "Mrs. Annie Butler", and "Mrs. Frank Butler". Her death certificate, in 1926, gives her name as "Annie Oakley Butler".

Let's visit an "every woman of the south" of the mid-19th century.
Or, more accurately, a southern belle.
I know - we're up here in the cold white north (Michigan) and we have folks who portray southren ladies and men. Please understand, some here have their hearts deep in the south, and love to bring a little of their southern pride to reenactments. Erin Jones is one of those people.
And she does it well.
Miss Jones, as the Southern belle (derived from the French word belle, 'beautiful') represents a young woman of the American Deep South’s upper socioeconomic class.
The image of the Southern belle developed in the South during the Antebellum Period, based on the young, unmarried woman in the plantation-owning upper class of Southern society.

Just down the way we find Amelia Jenks Bloomer (May 27, 1818 – December 30, 1894), who was an American women’s rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women's clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy.
In 1849 Mrs. Bloomer began a newspaper known as The Lily to promote temperance. But, over time, the paper came to have a broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, particularly when under the influence of activist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Bloomer felt that because women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform.

Ameilia Bloomer also promoted a change in dress standards for women that would be less restrictive in regular activities. In the 1850s she came up with what became known as the Bloomer dress that, unfortunately for Mrs. Bloomer, was subject to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, citing the crinoline as sufficient reform enough for her to return to a more traditional style of women's dress.

Johhny has gone for a soldier - - - -
Civil War soldiers are always a hit with the kids, and we had a few of 'em at the party!
Interactive always makes for a fine presentation. And, as you can see, the men who fought to preserve the Union got the children involved by signing them up for a brief stint in the military. They marched and drilled around the museum, and by the time they were done, the kids were ready and willing to fight!

The preacher spoke of his role in the military, and of how he was a father-figure to many of the men who had never left home before.

The drums were an important part of the battlefield communications system, with various drum rolls used to signal different commands from officers to troops.

And there you have it.
Tell me this wouldn't have been a cool party to have had when you were a kid! I know it would have been a 'best ever' for me. I mean, to see historical figures from the past up close and speak directly to me would have been the ultimate history experience. Even at my age today, meeting living historians who portray Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin is a thrill.
Yeah...there was nothing like this around when I was a kid, but if there was...oh man! It would most certainly been the greatest party ever. Better than Disney World for sure!
The ghosts of the past stand with the children of the present/ historians of the future for a digital tintype/painting.
I'd like to thank Marty Kerstens for taking pretty great pictures, and Liz Kerstens & the Plymouth Historical Museum for allowing me to use them.
Also a shout out to Liz and the Museum for putting on such wonderful events like these to keep kids interested in history.
If you live in the metro-Detroit area and are interested in having such a party for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or for a friend's child, please contact the Plymouth Historical Museum HERE for further information.

Until next time, see you in time.


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