Friday, September 8, 2017

Visiting the 18th Century with the Lac Ste. Clair Voyageurs 2017

This is my wife, Patty, sitting 'neath our fly, surrounded by historic items of everyday life of the 18th century. 
All is serene.... 
Aside from a few exceptions, I can't think of a better way to spend my weekends than to dress in period clothing and find myself in the past with my friends and family.
As you will see in the upcoming photographs, the Voyageurs and those who reenact with them certainly know how to bring the past to life in ways not seen very often.
Plus, this group has loads of fun!
Eyeing my next door neighbor from under my tent fly; throughout the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageur encampment, you will see some pretty amazing set ups.
That's my tent and fly on the right.
I enjoy reenacting the 18th century, for I get to bring different items to display and use than what I bring when I'm doing the 1860s:
The style of lighting apparatus, the butter churn, and the walking (or great) wheel are a few of the items I bring to my 18th century camp.
Yes, during the mid-19th century, spinning was done and so was churning,  
and even candle making, but I bring mostly a different collection of objects 
for Civil War reenacting.
A little bit of collecting, a little bit of showing, a little bit of reenactors, that's what we do best.
The time and effort it took these two gentlemen to either make or acquire their period clothing...
Though I cannot speak for the gentleman on the right, I do know the one on the left researched and hand-sewed his redcoat.
That's talent.
My lovely wife and I.
She doesn't reenact as much as she used to (or as much as I'd like her to), 
so I very much enjoy it when she does dress and come out with me.
By the way, I'm wearing my new knee breaches for the first time at this event. Pretty nice, eh? Dyed with cochineal beetles to get that brilliant red color.
Okay, so this pair was not dyed in that manner, but back in the day, they most likely would have been.
I purchased them from Smoke and Fire, which is a well-respected period merchant/sutler by most who reenact the pre-electric era.
Larissa has some repairs done to her dress by BeaAnn, a seamstress extraordinaire. It was very kind of her to not only help out Larissa in her time of need, but also to help another friend of mine, who is brand new to the 18th century, by helping her understand the ins and outs of sewing or purchasing an 18th century dress.
By the way, notice how the tent edge outlines Larissa's head - I swear I did not plan that!

Mary Brandenburg, along with her husband, runs a sutlery where one can purchase a variety of sewing items such as needles and thread, ribbons, buttons, neck stocks, natural dyes, handmade rope, beeswax candles, and other notions.

This young lady represents a Yankee peddler - a traveling merchant - who would travel to towns, farms, and homes, carrying goods to sell, whether on their back, cart, horse, or by wagonload.
They may also bring news and gossip and maybe even mail to waiting villagers.

We living historians not only keep the fashions of the past alive, but we also tend to keep the home arts of the past alive as well, such as spinning on a wheel, just as our ancestors had to do.
A may be wrong here, but I believe this style of spinning wheel is known 
as a castle wheel, popular in the Netherlands.

The great (or walking or wool spinning) wheels are some of the earliest forms of this simple machine, and are equivalent to a hand spindle on its side rotated by the wheel.
 The fiber is spun by turning the wheel with the right hand and drafting the fibers with the left hand. The spike is used both to twist the fibers and to accumulate the spun yarn.

A very high quality yarn can be prepared in this way from a roving, and the great wheel was still used for making warp yarns after the foot powered wheels had been superseded by mechanized spinning.

Vicki Johnson is a basket maker, another craft popular in that long-ago time and kept alive, once again, by living historians.

Since candles were the main source of light at night (aside from the moon), chandlers were always needed.
I love this display of candle-dipping progression...
And how many of you have ever made candles by dipping?

And here we have a woman who is a sort of 'jane-of-all-trades,' for she performs a variety of crafts and period duties at reenactments.

The chandler and the weaver
Picture courtesy of Vicki Johnson

Fur trader
Picture courtesy of Vicki Johnson
 It looks like the fur trader and a frontiersman are looking to do some bartering.
Picture courtesy of Richard Reaume

And along our path we come upon a woman who is making traditional handbags.

Next up we have a "field doctor." He shows many of the herbal medicines given for many of the ailments. However, he also has some of the scariest tools of any trade, much less the medical field.

Old tales of the frontier are brought to life in the same way as they were 200+ years ago - - through story telling.

Here is something you don't find at many 18th century reenactments - -
I'm not sure if this is a permanent structure or not, but there is a small fort built right in the middle of the reenacting camps.

Inside we find many of the implements needed before the frontiersman left for their journey.

What good are guns without powder horns?

Axes and hatchets are needed to mark and fell trees as well as cutting through the thick brush.

Unless you are like John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and wear one on your head, a pot such as what you see here might be worth taking along if you have the room. But it may be a bit too heavy to wear.

On the top shelf we see bottles from mid-18th century, while desk boxes from the late 18th & and early 19th centuries, made to hold important documents, are on the shelf below.

Taking the water route? There's a canoe.
Traveling in winter? There are snowshoes. And a sled.

From the inside looking out...

Just outside the fort is where we can find a few more of the craftsmen working with wood, making paddles and canoes.
Carving a paddle - I love to watch the skilled workers using period tools.
Making something with your hands is a rewarding experience; it is actually a very personal thing, and I have known tinsmiths, gunsmiths, woodworkers, and leather workers, and they never cease to amaze me with their skill.
Photo courtesy of Richard Reaume

The music of Mcspillin~~~
Another historical art is reproducing music of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Searching and researching the music of any period in the distant past can be a task all in itself (believe me, I know what that's like with my own vocal group, Simply Dickens). 

Mcspillin has a large repertoire of these old folk songs from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as the old Irish tunes that get people clapping and singing along.
The music tells a story much in the same way as modern folk tunes do.

Having the inside of a canoe as a soundboard and bales of hay for audience seating gives the performance a more rustic feel.
I would love to hire this band for a party!

Every year a select group of reenactors gets the opportunity to go for a ride out into Lake St. Clair in the canoe. I've done this once and, though shaky (we're in water!), it's a pretty good time.
For this year, the members of Mcspillin got to go out into the canoe with a 
few of the other reenactors.
Saying goodbye to the travellers - - 
(not sure why, but I've always like pictures and painting "from behind." They have a different feel to them - a sort of "seeing what they're seeing"...)

The paddle salute:
it's always great to be a part of something that has occurred in 
this area of Lake St. Clair for centuries.

Off they go to Fort Michilimackinac
(not really - they just went for a little paddle sround the general area).
Opportunities such as venturing out in a period canoe while dressed in 18th century clothing is quite an experience. And I know there are many - far too many - young ones who have never tried something like paddling a boat, which can give them a slight idea of what it was like for our ancestors to travel on a water route.

Historic presenting:
Living historian, Jeff, gave a wonderful presentation on the everyday items that people may have used in their homes, specifically in old Detroit. He not only spends his time researching each piece, but physically searches for them, either replicated 
or antiquated, to show as part of his speech.

And for our own presentations, Larissa and I do the same:
We are preparing to haul our collection of artifacts over to the presentation pavilion where we will give a talk on colonial farm life. This was our first time doing this particular presentation, though it is based heavily on the one we do for Victorian farm life.

Our talk of farm life in Colonial times went very well, and included not only the tools and tales of working out in the fields, but also the tools and tales of what went on inside the house as well.
Illustrating our presentation with a few common things that farm families of the time would probably have had in their possessions can add a great deal to our delivery. It kinda makes it real.

Dave had a fine showing of items that would be used on the 
frontier of Michigan country.
Dave also fires the field piece numerous times throughout the day, 
as well as has axe throwing contests among the other reenactors.
Most everyone will prepare a meal of some sort. Since it is later in August, it will usually consist of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, summer apples, corn, cucumbers, and even the sweetened snow taste of watermelon.

And there are times when friends just want to be together and discuss - what else? - history!
The best part is that we learn from each other. There is no bickering such as what is found on places like Facebook. Just a whole lot of sharing of knowledge & ideas and friends being friends - a history nerd gathering of the tribes.
Are you a Republican? 
Are you a Democrat? 
How about a Libertarian?
No, none of that! 
We are not here to discuss current events - 
we are not here to talk about things that might separate us...
...for we are friends and history nerds to the nth degree.
And that's the way we'll remain.

 Sometimes, just relaxing and eating 'neath a tree with the lake in the background is all one needs to find themselves engulfed in another era.

This is my fourth year 'in the colonies,' and with each new season it becomes more fun and I become more comfortable spending my time there. I am also meeting so many people; I very much appreciate the overwhelming welcoming I have received from most in this time period of the hobby.
Of course, it helps greatly that I've been studying history - intently studying mostly earlier American history - for over 40 years, and it was only a matter of time when I would have one foot in the 18th century, the other in the 19th century. The rest of me is in the present, researching the past to ensure stronger footings.
Preparing to head back to the future in our cart.
But does it have a flux capacitor?
Bringing research to life through living history in the way the Voyageurs do (and the way the civilians of the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting group I belong to do) is the main focus I have for my 18th century Citizens of the American Colonies group. Reenacting is so much more than fashion and the myths that Hollywood tells us. The continuous research of daily life - the real  research - truly does hint at so much more. Then, and only then, can we do the fashions justice.
Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

1 comment:

Giorgio said...

I've just found your interesting blog through Amy's website. Great blog! I've enjoyed the pictures posted on 8th September about 18th century. Beautiful period clothing! It's easy to see the accuracy of your rechearch related to old items, such as axes, corns powders, and bottles. Congrats!