Saturday, March 26, 2016

Oh! The Things You Can Get and the People You Meet at a Living History Show!

It takes place annually on the 3rd weekend in March...
I look forward to it all year.
I begin to make plans to attend right after Christmas.
I can hardly sleep the night before the "big day."
Just what in the world could it be that has gotten me so excited?
Why, the Kalamazoo Living History Show, of course, where over 270 of the finest artisans and vendors of pre-1890 living history clothing, supplies, and related crafts from throughout the United States and Canada come together to sell their wares to around 10,000 living historians and reenactors. Most of the items you will find at this exposition centers from around the French & Indian War (1754 - 1763) era through the War of 1812 then up to the Civil War period. Since I am good with what I need for reenacting the 1860s - having reenacted Civil War for over a dozen years - my priority tends to be more mid-to-late 18th century. And there is plenty of everything for those of us who are interested in that era.
One must remember that there aren't many places we can go to that specializes in the much-harder-to-find colonial accessories to the extent the Kalamazoo Living History Show does.
Which is why over 10,000 people attend every year.
The smallest of the three halls filled with vendors. The other two halls are twice as large.

So let's begin, then, with the group of friends I had the pleasure to take the three hour journey to get there:
Don't let the pleasant, relaxed look fool you. Shenanigans reigned with many laughs occurring on the ride out and back. 
But each person you see here is a true history nerd.

Now off we go, to the Kalamazoo Living History Show where the hundreds of vendors were awaiting us - - -  I, unfortunately, didn't get names for each vendor posted here - - - sorry 'bout that!
~Victorian Needle~
This is my friend and 21st Michigan member Kristen's shop. Not only does she sell period-accurate jewelry for Civil War and colonial, but has her research information on hand to source her items.
Hey! Is that Larissa helping her?? sure is!
(HERE is Kristen's blog)

Yep----there were enough guns to outfit a militia!
Muskets. Plenty of muskets. Some flint-lock, some percussion cap.

You may also need powder horns for your muskets. So you run down to your local Powder Horns R Us store! Not even Walmart carries these. But the Kalamazoo Living History Show has plenty!

Period tin lanterns, candle holders, wall sconces, cups, plates, bowls, buckets, and other items to enhance anyone's presentation. The tinsmith here makes everything he sells. Yes, I have a few of his works in my house.

And now you need some beeswax candles to put in your new tin candle holder!

Although there were specialists as you've just seen, there were also those who sold a variety of items. Here I see lanterns, flasks, powder horns, books...

~The Dressmaker's Shop~
(Click HERE)
Owners Kim & Jim Lynch
For the Civil War civilian enthusiast, we have one of the finest sellers in Michigan of sewing supplies and accurate period-correct fabric to make your own period 1860s clothing.

You want shoes? Specifically, colonial shoes? Look no further! Buckles extra.

~B & B Tart & Past Reflections~
 Here you have a fine collection of period clothing for men and especially women as well as fabric to make your own. I know the proprietors and they are, as with the others I've noted, very well known and greatly respected for their knowledge in Civil War era clothing.
Click here for Past Reflections

~The Quartermaster Shop~
 Another well-respected vendor of Civil War era clothing (military and civilian) is the Quartermaster Shop. Dave Walker only shops at top-notch sutlers to get his 1860s wardrobe, and, well, here he is!
(And HERE's their web site)

Here we have Richard Heinicke the Blacksmith. For all your open-fire cooking needs.
And its quality stuff, too. His product is good for both RevWar and Civil War.
(Click HERE)

~Jas. Townsend & Son~
I saw this guy and said, "Hey! You're the man in all those videos!"
He certainly is! Jas. Townsend has some of the best accessories anyone could want to add to their colonial presentations.
Another Jas. Townsend employee.
Click Here to visit their site.

I think what I enjoy most about shows like this is the fact that I am surrounded by people with the same mindset. And we can teach and learn from each other. There is so much knowledge on military and social history here that one only needs to stop and listen to hear the wealth of information folks share with one another.
It also helps if you do a bit of research yourself before coming so you will have an idea of not only what you are looking for, but if it is truly period correct for the time you are portraying.
I do not have the name of this person's sutlery, but he carried, among other particulars, a great selection of pewter...
...and this wasn't even everything he had! But it was very period-correct, for I checked photos of originals to compare.
...finding that they were pretty close to those I've seen from the 18th century, I purchased a number of items, and here they sit on the top shelf of my early 19th century corner cabinet. (The pewter plate on the middle shelf I purchased a while back from Jas. Townsend)
And that's another thing I enjoy about this show: even if you don't purchase anything (though that could be pretty difficult to do with all of the great traditional items available), it is still fun to walk around and speak to the vendors and other reenactors. Lucky for me, however, I had put aside a little money I earned at Christmas time specifically for this occasion, which was how I could afford the pewter.

~Jewels Victoriana~
And here we have another jewelry vendor - one who has done work for Mrs. Lincoln herself! Well...kind of - - - ! 
She, too, sells top-notch period-correct items.
(HERE's her Facebook page)

The variety of vendors at the show was remarkable, selling virtually anything and everything a living historian would need to begin their time-travels to the non-electric period.

And the people you meet
There were artisans honing their skills and willingly able to answer the many questions people threw their way.
Truly a "living history show:"
Here we have a colonial woman working her loom.

Tanning hides - a necessity knowledge out on the frontier. Either that or have items to trade!

The tinsmith (you saw his product earlier in the post) repairing my Old North Church lantern.

Great period fiddle music - and you can purchase this man's CD's to enjoy the sounds of the past in your home or car.

The following photos are pretty much random shots I took as I roamed about the three halls filled with vendors. You see, though vendors are required to dress period, of which I am in full agreement with this rule, many paying customers who attend the living history show like to dress in clothing of the period they represent as well. I usually choose to go modern for no other reason than, well, just because...
But for those who enjoy dressing, most seem to do a phenomenal job.
Just look...
A British Soldier and his wife

I thought this colonial family looked great. I remember when my own daughter was almost this young and we dressed her in Civil War clothing.

My friend Lauren (on the right) and a few of her friends did an exquisite job in their presentation.

Remember the couple who owned The Dressmaker's Shop way up at the top of this post? Well, this is their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in their Regency finest.

Another finely dressed colonial gentleman. I am not sure if this is a military uniform or civilian, but either way, it looks darn good.

I can see this couple living in the fine house known as the Giddings House (in Greenfield Village)...
...a beautiful house built in the mid-18th century

And, finally, we have a more modestly dressed young lady of the same period.

You know, we are quite lucky here in Michigan to have not only the many occasions to actively participate in our living history hobby, but to have such fine opportunities to purchase quality items to help us in our time-travel travels. Between reenacting the colonial period and the Civil War era - as well as perform with my period vocal group Simply Dickens - I will be in period clothing nearly half of the weekends in 2016! That's a lot of time spent in the past, wouldn't you say?
Ah, but, that's the way I am - that's why I'm known as Historical Ken.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Until next time, see you in time.



Bama Planter said...

This was a wonderful post. I would go crazy at such an event! I am liking the Colonial era more and more as I read your blog. I see the appeal it has. Now that I am retired from teaching high school (38 years) I want to do things like this again. Marshel in Alabama

Historical Ken said...

Marshel -
Thanks for the great comment. I am very glad that my postings are kindling the flame of colonial history for you. It's always my hope to garner the interest when I write, and I appreciate you letting me know that yours is growing.