Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Citizens of the American Colonies

"Estimates vary slightly, but in the 1750's, there was an estimated English population of 1.2 million people. At its height, only about 20 to 30 thousand, or roughly about 2.5% of the population, were directly involved in the military. What about the other 97 percent?
They were the Farmers, Shopkeepers, Tavern keepers, Midwives and other civilians that continued to go about their daily lives, in spite of the European power struggles going on around them."  
 The above quote is from the Colonial Living History Alliance~

If you haven't heard, I am forming a new reenacting/living history group called Citizens of the American Colonies.
Here in Michigan there are not nearly as many Colonial/Revolutionary War units to join as there are in the New England region of these United States. There were many at one time in the 1970s and '80s, but after the Bicentennial celebrations died down (and not necessarily by choice or popularity, by the way), the many have become a few in our area, as did the number of reenactments that recreated our country's birth.
Historically, metro-Detroit, founded in 1701, has its roots in the French, therefore many of the reenacting groups around here are based in that culture. Yet, even though I am a born-and-bred Michiganian, my passion for American history is rooted in the east coast English - the original thirteen colonies - and, therefore, I prefer presenting in that manner.
I've been a Civil War reenactor for over a dozen years, but up until recently, I'd not done the RevWar era, though I have thought about reenacting the period for quite a while now. Then in 2014, I said, "What the heck!" and purchased my first set of 1770s clothing. You see, many who reenact one era in time tend to also do other eras as well. Unfortunately, quite a few are moving forward to WWII. And to an extent, I can see why: the guys tend to like the big guns, the jeeps, planes, tanks, and the 'faster pace' in comparison to Civil War, while the ladies love the style of clothing, the music & swing dancing, and even some of the big guns as well as the 'liberation' comforts that the 1940s had over the 1860s. Plus the opportunity to get authentic items from the mid-20th century is pretty easy - many have WWII collectibles from their own parents and grandparents. And that's the problem; many of the same things existed in the 1940s that we still have today: radio, records, movies, style of cooking, electricity (and all that goes with it), photography, things made of plastic, White Castle Restaurants, automobiles (and all that goes with them including gas stations, traffic jams, buses). Also, airplanes, refrigeration, bicycles, motorcycles, electric fans, even some clothing styles...I could go on and on. Heck, I live in one of those WWII houses, built in 1944, and with mid-20th century Americana collectibles easily accessible, I could quickly, cheaply, and accurately convert my home to look as it did 70+ years ago. 
Although I dearly love the early 1940's era - the movies, the music, and the patriotism - I have absolutely no interest in recreating that time. 
I have no interest in 'reenacting my parents.' 
No sir, I just can't do something so "modern."
When is a door not really a door? 
When it crosses over into another dimension in time!
Now the colonial period, on the other hand, interests me greatly, and has done so since my tiny-tot days. I consider the 18th century to be far more exiting and enticing than nearly any other time in our great American history.
Imagine recreating the era of the founding of our nation!
Imagine walking in the proverbial shoes of the Founding Generation!
You can just imagine, then, how I felt when I bought my first set of period-proper clothing, I absolutely could not wait to time-travel to the 1770s!
So, on the 18th of April, 2014, which just happens to be a very important date in American history (as you shall see), my opportunity finally came, and I dressed - for the very first time ever - as an 18th century colonial and visited the most historical place in my area to "try it all out": Greenfield Village. Two friends of mine joined me in this excursion, one of which, also a Civil War reenactor, came out for the very first time as a colonial as well. It was a very interesting but exciting adventure for me. At first I felt, well, kind of odd to be out in public in such strange and out-of-the-ordinary clothing.
Can you believe that?
It's true!
But soon what I was wearing felt as natural as my Civil War clothes, and the three of us enjoyed ourselves immensely as we roamed about the historic open-air museum. We spent quite a bit of time at the 1760s Daggett House, the early 18th century Plympton House, and at the 1760s Giddings House, speaking with the presenters as well as posing for a ton of pictures.
For my first time ever in public as a colonial, my friends Carolyn & Lynn joined me in front of the facade of the Henry Ford Museum, which was built as an exact replica of Independence Hall (you can see the clock tower in the background in this sketch).
One of my favorite occurrences of this day, however, happened shortly before closing time, when a little boy, probably around the age of 9 or ten, asked me why I was dressed in the manner that I was. Since it just so happened to be April 18, I explained to him the significance of this date, and how "239 years ago tonight, Paul Revere would make his famous ride, warning the countryside that the regulars were out, and they were coming their way!"
The young man was thrilled to hear this and immediately ran to his mother, shouting, "Mom! Do you know what happened 239 years ago tonight?!?" and proceeded to recite, verbatim, what I told him.
Only a few minutes later I saw this same young man pretending his mother's umbrella was a musket and he was 'shooting' the regulars, shouting "The British are coming!"
I corrected him to yell "the regulars are coming," which he did, and then explained that the next day, April 19, would be the 239th anniversary of the beginning of the war for our nation's Independence - the American Revolution.
He loved it.
How exciting for him to hear of our nation's history in this manner.
How exciting for me to teach him something that one hardly even hears about anymore.
Yes, this capped an awesome day for me.
A "painting" depicting a visit to the 1760s Daggett farm house during my first day ever dressed as an American colonist.
About two months later I met a few folks who were long-time RevWar reenactors - very nice people, I might add - who guided me and my family in our colonial venture, and even loaned my wife and daughter some clothing, allowing for us to take it a little further.
On July 4th of that year, we celebrated this most American of holidays by meeting up with these fine new friends and, once again, visiting Greenfield Village while in the clothing style of our Founding Fathers. What a way to celebrate our Nation's birthday! We recreated scenes from the 1770s in houses that were actually around at the time, and I really felt a strong national patriotic pride. Perhaps the very best part of this day - and of nearly any 4th of July I've had the pleasure to dress period on - was when I asked the ladies, including my wife (in the blue dress), to reenact Betsy Ross and friends sewing the first national flag. Not only did I bring my cloth replica of the flag for effect, but this recreation took place in an actual 18th century house!
Though there are the naysayers (some who are considered to be historians) who feel Betsy Ross did not make the first flag, when one digs deep into the story, evidence tends to swing her way. In June 1776, Betsy was a widow struggling to run her own upholstery business. Upholsterers in colonial America not only worked on furniture but did all manner of sewing work, which for some included making flags. Her own daughter stated, "That she was previously well acquainted with Washington, and that he had often been in her house in friendly visits, as well as on business. That she had embroidered ruffles for his shirt bosoms and cuffs, and that it was partly owing to his friendship for her that she was chosen to make the flag."
As we continued to stroll about the Village, we had many kind comments directed to us, with numerous people genuinely very happy and even excited to see us there dressed the way we were on this July 4th holiday. In fact, a foreign family stopped us and asked if they could take our picture. They loved my tricorn hat, and the elder man said to me (in very broken English), "You look like American history!" When another family (from India, I believe) posed with us I put my tricorn on a young boy's head, and he grinned ear to ear, as did his parents. They loved it! And that right there really made it all worthwhile for me. And we helped make their day as well, I'm sure. And to have folks from other countries be so excited - even more excited than native-born Americans, I might add - has to tell you something as well.
And so it went along the same lines the following year, with me visiting Greenfield Village as well as participating in actual colonial reenactments. It was at these reenactments that I began to experience the differences between Civil War and Rev War reenacting. Nothing too major, just slightly differing ways of presenting.
My style was definitely different. In fact, after I mentioned to a colonial that I also did Civil War, it was brought to my attention that "you guys like to present as if you are actually living in the 1860s, don't you?" I replied in the affirmative.

As with Civil War reenacting, I also found that acquiring items/accessories to enhance my 1770s appearance, though requiring a bit more searching and researching, is not quite as difficult as I originally thought it might be. Nor it is as expensive as one would think.
In the top photo here are a few of the items I found at pretty fair prices that work well with the colonial era. The bottom 'night time' picture shows another candle holder, playing cards, wooden games (including checks & 'shut the box'), and other accessories.
I also have a few other pretty cool items such as good quality replica money (not shown here).
I found that each time I went out while dressed in 1770s clothing I always seem to garner interest from a few of my Civil War living history friends - the ones who won't do WWII. Well, the more I spoke to them about the few reenactments I had done, and the more I expressed how patriotic I felt while presenting the 18th century, the more excited they seemed to get.
I have been the civilian coordinator of the 21st Michigan Civil War unit since 2006, and I am used to marching to the beat of my own drum. Lucky for me, most of our members march right along side me and together we do our best to make the past come alive in the only way we know: a strong combination of 1st and 3rd person. This is the way we reenact - to me, it's the best way. But sometimes this can make some reenactors uncomfortable, so rather than become an outsider in an already established colonial unit, I decided to form my own.  
I contacted a number of my Civil War reenactor friends who initially showed an interest when I first began to wear colonial clothing, and I mentioned to them my plans to form such a group. I also spoke with a few historic presenters who I thought might be interested, for they can usually be found working inside the 18th century Daggett Farm House or the Giddings House - two transplanted colonial homes now located inside Greenfield Village - and they, too, showed an interest. It is in this way that I garnered the initial membership of Citizens of the American Colonies.
Spring is nigh, but cool nights prevail. 
A fire in the hearth is still necessary to keep warm.
Here is a "painting" of my friend Jordan and I at the 1760s Giddings House at historic Greenfield Village. Jordan is a presenter there and agreed to do a few poses with me.
Thank you Jordan!

Dr. Franklin and myself
Held unintentionally on the anniversary date of the Boston Massacre (March 5th), the inaugural meeting of Citizens of the American Colonies took place at my home in our undeniably 19th century-style parlor. Though it was an invitation only meeting, I do plan to invite more to join as word gets out and interest in reenacting this era (hopefully) grows.
I surprised everyone with a "special guest" - Benjamin Franklin. I met Dr. Franklin (Bob Stark) a couple years ago at Colonial Kensington, and we became friends right off the bat. From the beginning he has taught me proper etiquette suitable to a middling man of the 1770s - in a very relaxed and non-persnickety manner.
Five total out of the eleven that attended my meeting had experienced colonial reenacting before, and for those of us who had, we were able to share our knowledge and experiences;
Bob/Benjamin Franklin has been doing it for over a dozen years and was able to give insight to the ways, whys, and wherefores of the colonial reenactors, and then listened intently as the rest of us shared our Civil War reenacting style and experiences.
21st Michigan Civil War member, Larissa, also a long-time Greenfield Village master presenter, contributed her expertise on the everyday life of a woman at home - their daily activities including spinning, weaving, cooking and doctoring.
21st member Carolyn added to Larissa's delivery with her commentary on keeping our mindset a hundred years earlier than we're used to in Civil War.
Both ladies also spoke on neighborliness and community spirit of colonial times and in the way they shared and worked with each other.
Kristen, another from the 21st Michigan, spoke about women's clothing and jewelry and of all the research she has done on both.
I talked about men's clothing while adding my own research information to the other discussions.
Founding members of the first meeting of Citizens of the American Colonies listen intently as Benjamin Franklin speaks.

One of the more interesting topics we hit upon was linguistics and grammar. It was decided right off that we would not attempt to incorporate any sort of accent that may have been heard at the time; we all agreed that forced accents by those who cannot do it truly sounds oh-so-bad. But there is a wonderful book available called Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language by Cathleene Hellier. Ms. Hellier has done an amazing job researching letters, diaries, journals, broadsheets, books, and other sources to compose a workbook to teach the colonial presenter the manner of speech - word usage - and how to sound as if you were living in the good old colony days. This book was initially for the 1st person presenters who work at Colonial Williamsburg, but, from what I heard, many visitors to the open-air museum have asked about obtaining such a workbook - enough for Williamsburg to print and sell copies in their store, which is how I got mine. I was also told that Williamsburg presenters go through an extensive two-year course on learning to speak "eighteenth century English." 
Now that is very cool to hear.

Another attempt to give my home that period flavor~~~
Near the conclusion of the meeting I told the members about a few of the wonderful local reenactments coming up. The way the events are aligned for both colonial and Civil War, only one or two are on the same weekend, so there will be little (if any) interference between the two eras.
Here are a few that I have attended, all of which are comparable in quality to Civil War encampments (click the links to read more about the event):
Kensington Reenactment 2014 - Spending Time in the 1770's
My first large colonial/Rev War reenactment - what fun we had!

Kensington 2015
One of the best colonial reenactments in the area!

Fort Wayne 2015
It was a rain out, but I still got a few cool pictures before it hit.

Ste. Clair Voyageurs at Metro Beach: Life on the Frontier
My first time participating as a reenactor here. In fact, my first time attending. It was awesome!

I even told them of my own Greenfield Village excursions that I wrote of earlier:
Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village
My first outing dressed in colonial clothing - and on the 139th anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War to boot!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village on Patriots Day
April 19 - Paul Revere and the beginning of the Revolutionary War must never be forgotten. I will do my part.

Colonial Ken & Friends - 4th of July 2014: Celebrating Independence Day in a Colonial Way
For the first time, a few of us celebrated our Nation's birth as if it were 1776.

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village for the 4th of July 2015
A repeat of 2014, but different. And every bit as patriotic! As an extra bonus: Bastille Day!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village for the Fall Harvest 
I'm at it again, only this time I was able to enjoy the season of fall during the 1770s while in my period clothing. I even got to make beer!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village on Black Friday
My annual anti-Black Friday excursion to Greenfield Village. In colonial clothes!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village for New Year's 2015/16
I again wore my colonial clothing for Holiday Nights, only I concentrated on the new Year's aspect of the Holiday season. Oh what fun!

What do I hope to accomplish with this "Citizens of the American Colonies" group? First off, as any other colonial group out there: to bring the past to life as accurately and authentically as we possibly can. Since we are a 'civilian only' group, all focus will be on everyday 18th century homelife, crafts, clothing, and way of life. There will also be opportunities to present as famous (or not so famous) persons in history, such as what I hope to do as Paul Revere, as well as tell stories of how the War affected those on the home front. And if members want to present as a local Detroiter or as a Bostonian, they can. It is open to all American colonists from the 1760s through the 1780s.
We are, by no means, placing ourselves above (or below, for that matter) any other group. I have only found that the style of reenacting I prefer doesn't necessarily fit with some of the others out there, so rather go from unit to unit, looking for "my place" or create a disturbance in other units, I found it easier to start my own. Keeping the peace, you might say.
I just hope it all pans out. There is not too large a call for colonials in this area of the country, but it is my fervent hope that this will change as we get closer to the sestercentennial (250th) anniversary.  

So, with that, I would like to leave you with a number of books that I have found to be invaluable in accenting my research. There are also a few videos and links that may help as well.

~ ~ A selection of source material to guide your way ~ ~
Here are a few of the books mentioned 
here that I have in my collection.
I use these and others quite extensively
in my research.
Want to know what makes me feel good? Knowing that I use most of the same sources for my blog postings and living history presentations that internationally known and respected historical museums such as Greenfield Village and Colonial Williamsburg use.
Below is a pretty extensive listing of books that I have in my personal collection and use quite often in my research to not only help me in writing the information in this Passion for the Past blog, but to guide me in my reenacting as well.
I consider these the best books available to guide one in recreating the colonial past.
What you see here is not even close to all the books I have in my personal library, but what I chose to include I did for a number of reasons, with the first and foremost being the information about everyday life. The other is readability. I don't know about you, but I have found too many authors of "scholarly" history books tend to write as if they're giving a college lecture. Blecchhh.
Finally, I tried, for the most part, to list books that don't have some sort of an agenda: when researching, the last thing I want to do is read of someone's PC/revisionist-opinionated version of history presented as fact. So I attempted to stay away from that as much as I could.
By the way, the greater majority of the reviews beneath each book was copied and pasted directly from Amazon, in most cases. There are a couple that are mine.
So, for your reading and research pleasure, I give you a listing  - with links! - of some of my very favorite books: 
Our Own Sung Fireside 1760 to 1860 by Jane C. Nylander
Perhaps my favorite of all my "go to" books, the author herein explains in great detail (by way of primary sources) everyday life during the years cited, but stays heavily in the late 18th and early 19th century. The author uses first person illustrations by way of historic documents such as journals, diaries, letters, and estate papers to describe life as lived in the average home of the period.
One of the best out there, if not the best.

As Various As Their Land – Stephanie Wolf
The outstanding characteristic of 18th-century life in America was the diversity of individual experiences, observes Wolf, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Quoting from letters, diaries and other records detailing the daily lives of both men and women, Wolf traces changes in areas of life from child rearing to technology. The beginnings of consumerism and the emergence of new communities are also documented.
Tidings From the 18th Century - Beth Gilgun
Beth Gilgun brings the mid to late 1700s to life with her entertaining and informative "letters" to a friend on the frontier. Great for reenactors, teachers, historic interpreters, and theatrical costumers. As an accomplished seamstress and goodwife, Gilgun shares with her "friend" information on clothing for men, women and children, as well as other topics of daily life in Colonial America. Included are clear, concise instructions for constructing reproduction 18th century garments, from choosing fabric to finishing. Her chatty letters include news about current events and the latest goods available on the East Coast.

Wenches, Wives, and Servant Girls - Don Hagist
In an age when people could be owned by others, newspaper advertisements provided detailed descriptions of those who absconded. These verbal images are often the only surviving information on countless thousands of common, working class people. The advertisements presented here describe females (and a few males) who were advertised in America during the era of the Revolutionary War, presenting a striking picture of the wenches, wives, and servant girls who formed a substantial but largely forgotten segment of the population in colonial America.
What Clothes Reveal - Linda Baumgarten
Drawing on contemporary written descriptions and on actual costumes of the period, this book analyzes what Americans in the 18th century considered fashionable and attractive and how they used clothing to assert status or to identify occupations.
Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language - Cathleene Hellier
Most of us have no problem reading novels, plays, diaries, or newspapers from the eighteenth century. But speaking eighteenth-century English can be trickier. This series of lessons has been designed to help historical interpreters and re-enactors better understand the language of the period and sound more like the persons they portray. Lessons contain grammar, vocabulary, and conversational etiquette for all levels of society. 

The American Family in the Colonial Period – Arthur W. Calhoun
First published in the early 20th century, this book contributed significantly to an understanding of the forces at work in the evolution of family institutions in the United States. The text describes the American family as a product primarily of European folkways, economic transition to modern capitalism, and its distinctive environment — a virgin continent. Exhaustive in its use of primary and secondary sources, The American Family in the Colonial Period will be invaluable to students of early American history and of interest to all who enjoy reading about America's past and its early settlers.
Home Life in Colonial Days – Alice Morse Earle
Though first published over a hundred years ago, "Home Life in Colonial Days" is filled with usefulness and vitality. In her wonderfully readable narrative, Alice Morse Earle provides a fascinating description of everyday life --- the chores, the tools, the dwelling places, the foods, the sights and sounds --- that Colonial Americans knew. Though not a history of Colonial America, "Home Life in Colonial Days" contains many interesting tidbits about our country's earliest days. It also provides an excellent description of everyday life in America, with special emphasis on New England and Virginia during the 1600-1800's. As such, "Home Life in Colonial Days" would be useful not just to historians and antique collectors, but to writers, museum curators, and anyone who wants to understand Colonial America.

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy - Hannah Glasse 
This book, a facsimile from 1776, is a must-have for collectors of antiquarian cookbooks.
To appreciate what Hannah Glasse's work did for cooking, it's necessary to understand what place it had in the market of the 18th century -- it was the book for English-speaking cooks, even in Revolutionary times as popular in the Colonies as it was back home in England. It's a bit more in scope than a typical modern cookbook as well, including things like beer/wine/mead recipes and preserves that are usually in separate books today, and even an occasional home remedy. The recipes cover much classic British Isles cooking, including Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding, meat pies, Scotch Broth, and a good number of seafood recipes.
The recipes in question don't lend themselves much to modern kitchens, unless you've got a fireplace with pothooks and a beehive oven in the chimney. But it's still enough to make you imagine, and to realize that while the techniques have changed, food hasn't changed much in two hundred years and change. 

Now, to understand the above cookbook, might I strongly suggest A Book of Cookery by a Lady?
Authoress Kimberly Walters spent countless hours honing her skills of period cooking by actually practicing the art of open-hearth cooking first hand, and has also learned, over time, how to apply not only modern measurements and decipher 250 year old directions/instructions, but to also use modern ingredients to allow today's cook access to items a bit more easily accessible in our modern day to replace those that may not be available any longer (or pretty hard to get). 
And that is what makes "A Book of Cookery" worth your hard-earned money.
To add to this Ms. Walters includes quite a bit of historical information, also taken from original cookbooks, to allow the reader a better understanding of the process of kitchen and even home life of the colonial period. 
Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the chapter on what was seasonally available by month for such foodstuffs as meat, fish, poultry, fowl, and vegetables.

A must have for 18th century cooks!
Colonial: Design in the New World – David Larkin
Colonial Design explores the development of domestic design in early America by showing examples of authentic colonial architecture, interiors, and furniture. More than 200 color photos taken throughout the original 13 colonies capture the look and feel of colonial life.

Colonial Living – Edwin Tunis
Colonial Living is Edwin Tunis's a vigorous re-creation of 17th- and 18th-century America―of the everyday living of those sturdy men and women who carved a way of life out of the wilderness. In lively text and accurate drawings we see the dugouts and wigwams of New England's first settlers and the houses they learned to build against the cruel winters; the snug Dutch and Flemish farmhouses of New Amsterdam; the homes of the early planters in the South which would one day be kitchens for the houses they dreamed of building when tobacco had made them rich.
Long research and love for his subject gave Tunis an intimate knowledge of the details of daily living in colonial times. He shares all with his reader―the building of houses, with their trunnels, girts, and hand-hewn beams, the spinning of yarn and its weaving and dyeing, the making of candles and soap, and the intricate business of cooking on the open hearth with lug poles, cranes, bake kettles, and spits. He describes the early crops, and pictures the implements and animals used to produce them; in detailed pictures we see again the tools and products of the craftsmen―the blacksmith, the cooper, the miller, the joiner, and the silversmith.
Edwin Tunis has brought the significant past to life with consummate skill. Rich in enjoyment, rich in information, with more than 200 drawings, his book is a warm, lively, and authentic panorama of a lost way of life.

Everyday Life in Early America – David Freeman Hawke
In this clearly written volume, Hawke provides enlightening and colorful descriptions of early Colonial Americans and debunks many widely held assumptions about 17th century settlers. He argues that most pioneers were not young and that their families weren't much larger than present-day households. In addition, he states that adults lived longer than has been believed and that most early settlers were artisans and craftsmen with little knowledge of farming, although the wilderness soon forced them to adapt. Hawke includes entertaining discussions of what the first white Americans ate (for example, raccoon was served in New York). He also discusses how colonial Americans were punished for crimes and how they treated enslaved blacks and indentured servants.
Everyday Artifacts in America - Anthony Tafel
Over 280 crisp color photos reveal artifacts of early American everyday life that were useful for surveying land, building log homes, farming the land, traveling, blacksmithing, and cabinetmaking. From light paper ephemera such as land surveys and playing cards to heavy garden stones and Conestoga wagon components, they are pictured and explained. This book is ideal for all those with a passion for history or a curiosity about objects used in America in the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Stage-Coach and Tavern Days - Alice Morse Earle
Covering travel, food, sleeping, and all other angles of tavern life during colonial times, Earle utilizes the primary sources available to her when written over a hundred years ago. 
Paul Revere’s Ride – David Hackett Fischer
The 18th century comes to life!
Paul Revere's midnight ride looms as an almost mythical event in American history--yet it has been largely ignored by scholars and left to patriotic writers and debunkers. Now one of the foremost American historians offers the first serious look at the events of the night of April 18, 1775--what led up to it, what really happened, and what followed--uncovering a truth far more remarkable than the myths of tradition.
An absolute "you are there" favorite.
Founding Fathers – K. M. Kostyal
Kostyal tells the story of the great American heroes who created the Declaration of Independence, fought the American Revolution, shaped the US Constitution--and changed the world. The era's dramatic events, from the riotous streets in Boston to the unlikely victory at Saratoga, are punctuated with lavishly illustrated biographies of the key founders--Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison--who shaped the very idea of America. An introduction and ten expertly-rendered National Geographic maps round out this ideal gift for history buff and student alike. Filled with beautiful illustrations, maps, and inspired accounts from the men and women who made America, Founding Fathers brings the birth of the new nation to light. 

Reporting the Revolutionary War - Todd Andrlik
For the colonists of the new world, the years of the American Revolution were a time of upheaval and rebellion. History boils it down to a few key events and has embodied it with a handful of legendary personalities. But the reality of the time was that everyday people witnessed thousands of little moments blaze into an epic conflict-for more than twenty years. Now, for the first time, experience the sparks of revolution the way the colonists did—in their very own town newspapers and broadsheets. Reporting the Revolutionary War is a stunning collection of primary sources, sprinkled with modern analysis from 37 historians. Featuring Patriot and Loyalist eyewitness accounts from newspapers printed on both sides of the Atlantic, readers will experience the revolution as it happened with the same immediacy and uncertainty of the colonists.

United States Experience by Gerry and Janet Souter
Probably my favorite of them all, this set includes replica documents of such historic items as The Quartering Act of 1774 where British Officers were allowed to quarter their troops inside private homes, an oath of allegiance for the Continental soldier to sign, a few pages from the 1775 diary of Joseph Plumb Martin, a full copy of the Declaration of Independence, colonial paper money, notes from James Madison on the content of the Bill of Rights, and a copy of the Louisiana Purchase, among so many other historic replicas of our American History.

Revolutionary Mothers – Carol Berkin
Historian Carol Berkin offers a lively account of women's various roles in the long, bloody conflict of the Rev War. Early forms of resistance included boycotting British cloth and tea as women used "their purchasing power as a political weapon." As the conflict became a war in city streets and the neighboring countryside, houses became war zones; ordinary women often served as spies, saboteurs and couriers. Camp followers (often soldiers' wives) provided logistical support (cooking, washing, sewing, nursing, finding supplies) and occasionally even fought; prostitutes kept up soldiers' sexual (and social) morale. Generals' wives, "admired while the ordinary camp followers were often scorned," accompanied their husbands in different style; they boosted morale with dinner parties and dancing. Berkin reaches out to chart the experiences of Loyalist women, Native American women, and African-American women. First-person accounts lend immediacy and freshness to a lucidly written, well-researched account that is neither a romantic version of "a quaint and harmless war" nor "an effort to stand traditional history on its head."
Revolutionary Medicine – Jeanne Abrams
Before the advent of modern antibiotics, one’s life could be abruptly shattered by contagion and death, and debility from infectious diseases and epidemics was commonplace for early Americans, regardless of social status. Concerns over health affected the founding fathers and their families as it did slaves, merchants, immigrants, and everyone else in North America. As both victims of illness and national leaders, the Founders occupied a unique position regarding the development of public health in America. Revolutionary Medicine refocuses the study of the lives of George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and James and Dolley Madison away from the usual lens of politics to the unique perspective of sickness, health, and medicine in their era.
Journal of the American Revolution 2014 - various authors
In a remarkably presented collection of remastered articles and never-before-published essays, this collectors print edition of the popular webzine, Journal of the American Revolution (allthingsliberty.com), attempts to answer several lingering questions about the most important era in American history: What was the true start of the American Revolution? Who came up with no taxation without representation ? What role did dogs play in the war? How did the Sons of Liberty influence the rebellion? How did news about America s independence go viral in 1776? How did Washington s army actually cross the Delaware River? At what moment did Washington become a politician as well as a general? How did Washington's mastery of intelligence lead to one of the most daring attacks of the war? What is the treatment for a scalped head or arrow wound? Was the most hated Loyalist in America really a Patriot spy? And what about those British soldiers?
Spanning 248 full-color pages, all 50+ articles are accompanied by high definition images portraits, maps, photos, and more including some in print for the first time ever. Todd Andrlik, Hugh T. Harrington, Don N. Hagist and several historians and experts guide readers through various topics with passionate, creative and smart historical study. Journal of the American Revolution delivers impressive substance, depth and breadth as it strives to become the leading source of information about the American Revolution and Founding period.

The Journal of the American Revolution has provided educational, peer-reviewed articles by more than 75 historians and experts on the journal's popular website, allthingsliberty.com. The site attracts more than 65,000 readers per month and its historical perspectives have been featured by Time, Smithsonian, Slate and other national media. The online periodical's roster of writers includes a balance of emerging talent and seasoned scholars, such as J. L. Bell, Benjamin L. Carp, Thomas Fleming, Benjamin H. Irvin, Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Jim Piecuch and Ray Raphael. The Journal of the American Revolution, Annual Volume 2015, marks the beginning of a partnership between Westholme and the journal to provide an annual print edition of the journal's best historical research and writing. These annual volumes are designed for institutions, scholars, and enthusiasts alike to provide a convenient overview of the latest research and scholarship in American Revolution studies. The fifty articles in the 2015 edition include: "Five Myths of Tarring and Feathering," by J. L. Bell; "Raid Across the Ice: The British Operation to Capture Washington," by Benjamin Huggins; "Paul Revere's Other Riders," by Ray Raphael; "A Patriot-Loyalist: Playing Both Sides," by Todd Braisted; "William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery," by Mary V. Thompson; "The Great West Point Chain," by Hugh T. Harrington. 

~The following are must have diaries, journals, letters, and other intimate sources:

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
This book is a model of social history at its best. An exegesis of Ballard's diary, it recounts the life and times of this obscure Maine housewife and midwife. Using passages from the diary as a starting point for each chapter division, Ulrich, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, demonstrates how the seemingly trivial details of Ballard's daily life reflect and relate to prominent themes in the history of the early republic: the role of women in the economic life of the community, the nature of marriage and sexual relations, the scope of medical knowledge and practice. Speculating on why Ballard kept the diary as well as why her family saved it, Ulrich highlights the document's usefulness for historians.
By the way, I cannot recommend the companion video highly enough. This brings the era to life like little else I have ever seen: A Midwife's Tale docu-drama
Diary of Mary Cooper: 1768-1773 - 
Each form of historical evidence contributes to the whole of our knowledge of a past culture. The private diary, intended only for the writer's eyes, reveals personal thoughts and feelings in a way that other historical records may not. And it is in this way that we can see a time through the eyes of one who was there like no other scholarly history book can show.
This is a window to the past. 

The Journal of Madame Knight 1704
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.
Diary of Anna Green Winslow 1771 - 
A rare view of colonial life from a bright and sensitive 12 year old girl from Nova Scotia, who was sent to Boston in 1770 by her parents to be educated in Boston schools. The diary was not published until 1894 when it was issued with notes and an introduction by Alice Morse Earle.
My Dearest Friend: The Letters of John and Abigail Adams -  
In 1762, John Adams penned a flirtatious note to "Miss Adorable," the 17-year-old Abigail Smith. In 1801, Abigail wrote to wish her husband John a safe journey as he headed home to Quincy after serving as president of the nation he helped create. The letters that span these nearly forty years form the most significant correspondence--and reveal one of the most intriguing and inspiring partnerships--in American history.
As a pivotal player in the American Revolution and the early republic, John had a front-row seat at critical moments in the creation of the United States, from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to negotiating peace with Great Britain to serving as the first vice president and second president under the U.S. Constitution. Separated more often than they were together during this founding era, John and Abigail shared their lives through letters that each addressed to "My Dearest Friend," debating ideas and commenting on current events while attending to the concerns of raising their children (including a future president).
Full of keen observations and articulate commentary on world events, these letters are also remarkably intimate. This new collection--including some letters never before published--invites readers to experience the founding of a nation and the partnership of two strong individuals, in their own words. This is history at its most authentic and most engaging.
And to see John and Abigail come to life, check out this spectacular mini-series John Adams. This is my all-time favorite movie.

Blog Links:
Everyday Life post from Colonial Williamsburg: HERE

Victorian Needle: My friend (and fellow 21st Mi reenactor) Kristen owns this blog and has formed her own period jewelry company based upon it. As the title states, she does mostly Victorian era (mainly Civil War), but, of late, has been making 18th and early 19th century pieces. The thing about Kristen is she researches nearly everything she sells and can cite her sources. In fact, when she sets up shop at a reenactment or a sutler show, she has a book showing the originals she bases her jewelry on.
Shown below are a few of her pieces suitable for the later colonial period:

and she also showed the wonderful job she did in making her own clothing, including a stay:

Colonial links from Passion for the Past: 
Clothing for the Colonial Man
A very basic guide to begin your colonial reenacting adventures

Colonial Christmas
A history of Christmas in America's colonial past.

Colonial Cooking: On the Hearth
A post dedicated solely to colonial-era kitchen and cooking - lots of pictures!

In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies

Paul Revere: Listen My Children and You Shall Hear...
The true story of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride

Reenacting Early American History
Pre-Civil War era reenacting

Revolutionary War History - Preventing Tyranny at Salem in 1775 
How the townsfolk pulled together and beat the British - true pre-RevWar story!

Thanksgiving in Colonial Times
Just how did our colonial ancestors mark this holiday? Read on, my friends!

Travel and Taverns
To help you understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in colonial times.
With Liberty and Justice For All: The Fight for Independence at the Henry Ford Museum
Telling the story of America's Fight for Independence by way of the amazing collection of artifacts in the Henry Ford Museum.

You Say You Want a Revolution
The 240th and 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War is at hand. How will it be handled?

Well, I certainly hope you enjoyed this post. If you are in the metro-Detroit area and are interested in joining a colonial reenacting/living history group, please feel free to contact me.
Until next time, see you in time...



Miss K said...

I LOVE THIS! And not just because I'm in it :) We're going to have so much fun!

Utah Josh said...

It looks like you have started what will be a successful group. I look forward to reading more about these exploits. I've been trying to find people interested in the Transcontinental Railroad period (1866-69) but with much less success, apparently because people prefer war and patriotism to railroading! :D

The Marchioness said...

I have to say, after a year or so of lurking, that I really enjoy your blog!

Cincinnatus said...

Great post. I enjoyed the alterations to the photos.

Site editor said...

Interesting post! I enjoy the blog.

If you get East, I know you'd enjoy meeting some of the guys in the Colonial Living History Asociation - Ted And Rae Jeanne in particular are wonderful people. I do F&I era military myself: frontierguard.blogspot.com - but as you said, at any given point in time, 97% of people or more were civilians.

All the best!