Thursday, September 10, 2020

Late Summer Historical Fun

This has been one very different summer.  With no reenactments to be had,  it was a bit more difficult to immerse myself in the past.  I had to find new ways to do old things.  For instance,  if you recall,  there was a project I worked on locating Michigan's oldest structures,  all pre-statehood  (1837).  Naturally I had to photograph and write about each one I found - I posted my findings HERE.  And it was a fun adventure,  photographing the state's oldest buildings, but I also visited my favorite local open-air museum,  Greenfield Village,  which finally was able to open up its gates to the public on July 2nd.  A few of us very excitedly visited the Village while wearing our 18th century clothing to celebrate our country's birth on the 4th of July.  Tales of our adventurous Independence Day visit are posted HERE.
I have visited Greenfield a few times since.  The pictures you are about to see were taken from late July through early September.  Just being surrounded by all of that history----makes my heart leap:
The 1780 birthplace of William Holmes McGuffey.
I've gone to sites listing the oldest log cabins in the U.S.  

But this,  for some odd reason,  isn't on any of those lists.  A 
number of the oldest were also moved to other locations,  so that 
can't be the reason.  Considering the age of this one,  it is easily in 
the top ten.

Brought over from Chedworth,  Gloucestershire,  England we
have the Cotswold Cottage,  built around 1620.  It is the oldest
structure that has been placed inside Greenfield Village.

We are looking directly at the side of the forge.  The dovecote is 
center right with the barn far right.  And in the far-back center we 
see the living quarters - the cottage itself.  It is one of the most 
picturesque areas of Greenfield Village.

I was sitting on a bench in front of the ancient Farris Windmill 
near the Daggett House when I looked up and saw the image I 
have posted here.  Now I've seen this early 18th century 
Plympton House from this angle probably a thousand times or 
more,  but this one particular time it reached out to me in a 
different way.  
So I photographed what I saw using,  for the first time,  
my zoom lens.

Here is the full side view of the Plympton House taken with the
regular lens.  Built in the early 1700s,  this is the oldest American
structure inside Greenfield Village.
A little beyond we see the Susquehanna Plantation from
the mid-1830s. 

The 1750s home of John and Mehetable Goddings.
It is situated only a short walk from the Daggett House inside 
Greenfield Village.  At one time they would have period-dress 
presenters at each location,  and they would send visitors 
between the two to show rural life  (Daggett)  versus city life  
(Giddings) for comparison in clothing and lifestyle.
That was a wonderful history lesson.

For the time being,  due to the covid-chaos,  visitors are not allowed inside the historic houses that have period-dress presenters,  though many of the windows are open for photographic purposes.
Do you recall the couple of pictures I posted above of the red 
Plympton house?  Well,  I was sitting in the exact same spot when 
I looked to my right and saw this  *almost foreboding*  scene. 
Oh!  To have a house like Daggett...
So let's spend a little time at my favorite house,  shall we?
I have to chuckle a little,  for the Village presenters enjoy commenting on how I zip right past everything,  and I will hear them yell  "see you after Daggett,  Ken!"  as I scurry over the Ackley Covered Bridge to get to this old saltbox/break-back/lean-to first thing upon entering the Village gates.
Though they do not practice 1st person,  the presenters at the 
Daggett House,  like the presenters at Firestone Farm  (and a 
couple other structures)  do much of the work and chores that 
would have been done back in the day,  showing a history lesson.

With inside cooking-on-the-hearth not being done this year,  as 
would normally have taken place,  we are able to enjoy a 
compromise by witnessing an expansion of historical crafts 
and talents beyond what we've been used to seeing.

Jan was working on an interesting colonial-era project:
She was weaving tape by using a paddle loom.  Tape was an 
important part of a colonial wardrobe.  It was used to fasten and 
hold clothing in place.  For example,  tape could have been used 
to tie petticoats around the waist,  fasten the front opening of a 
short gown,  and even to secure an apron.  Paddle looms,  as you 
see in the picture below,  are ideal for making tape. 
No...not scotch tape! lol
Paddle looms are mobile and can be taken and used most 
anywhere.  They are notched to fit between the knees.  The warp 
threads in the weave can be tied to any stationary object so one 
can easily weave inside or outside.

Chuck has been honing his skills on the shave horse,  
utilizing the different wood-working tools of the day.

Wonder what necessity he is planning to make...?

And soon enough we see him making what I believe is a new 
ladle to help with the cooking.  He is using a draw knife to give 
the ladle its shape.

Emily is using the walking wheel outside in the soft breeze of a 
warm summer's day rather than inside the great hall.

Many modern folks don't always think of working in the garden as being all that special or even necessarily historical.  In fact,  there are some who might think talking about plants would be as exciting as a trip to the box factory.  However,  when you visit the gardens of the Daggett House  (or Firestone Farm),  the last thing you will be is bored,  for the presenters will tell you not only of its importance to the family for survival,  but you will also be very impressed by their knowledge of each plant and their many uses;  the wonderful workers really know their horticulture and are very impressive to listen to.  I have gained a strong interest in heirloom plants and gardening,  and,  aside from my own farmer grandfather,  I place the  "blame"  strictly on the many years I've been coming to Greenfield Village  (nearly 50!). 
Moving behind the house to the kitchen garden,  we find Gigi
not afraid of getting a little dirt on her hands.

The presenters love giving garden tours,  which are not
only interesting,  but helps us to appreciate how our colonial 

ancestors survived.

As a social historian and living historian,  I,  myself,  am always on the lookout to accent and improve my own  "past"  experiences,  presentations,  and impressions,  and I always tend to notice the many seemingly insignificant items in the background inside the home.
And then I ask about it,  hoping to see it in action.
From there I will search high and low to purchase a replicated version for myself!
I call it Daggett-izing  (click HERE to learn more about how I've been Daggettinzing my home).
A good  (and most recent)  example of this is my flax break.
It took me a few years to locate the kind I wanted at a reasonable price,  but for me patience truly was a virtue for it was well worth the wait.  When I posted about my latest cool acquisition on my Facebook page,  I wrote:  I know it's probably the least impressive thing most of you have seen,  but to me it is golden.
Yep---Ken is happy...even in this unbearing heat.
My flax break...finally!
Now all I need is some retted flax...which was also
pretty difficult to find.
Well,  on August 31,  I wrote on my page:
My flax finally arrived today!
I am as happy as you were when you got your smartphone or Apple watch------------
Yep---I am a happy man!
I am planning to prepare some flax for spinning soon.

Breaking and spinning flax
I already have a hackle/hetchel and am making a scutcher.
If you are interested in the textile arts of the 18th century,  please click HERE.

Now let's talk candles...specifically,  their usage on period drama TV shows.
We need to get one thing straight:  unless you were very wealthy and had money literally to burn,  someone living in the 18th century would not have multiple candles lit at the same time,  along with a lit fireplace...especially in the daytime.  Look at the scene in the picture many candles do you see lit?
I count I believe there is another lit behind Jamie's head.
No way!
Candles and candles and more candles - - all lit at the same time,  
often during daylight hours,  just did not happen in the 18th and 
even 19th century.  
Why oh why to period TV shows constantly do this?
Have you ever dipped candles or even used candle molds?  Have you ever boiled down  (rendered)  animal fat for candles?
Whether one uses tallow or beeswax,  making candles is quite a chore.  And purchasing them from the local chandler is not cheap----who has enough money to purchase and burn over a dozen candles a day?
For more about candles and living in 18th century darkness,  please click HERE.

If you remember back to this past Memorial Day,  my friend Joey and his wife Amanda held a sort of private mini-reenactment on his property to help offset the cancelation of the reenactments normally taking place over that weekend.  (click HERE to read about that).
Well,  he did it again for an end of summer send off:  Labor Day Monday at Joey's.
Firing up the brazer.
That's Joey on the left,  our host.
 Actually,  it was more of a simple gathering of  reenacting friends who felt the need to throw on our 18th century clothing and get out of the house!
I see Ken,  Jennifer,  and Richard the blacksmith.
We spent most of our time talking and catching up.
And eating food.
I like food.

Joey set up his tent in case of rain.
Joey's wife Amanda,  our hostess,  along with young EJ.

EJ's mom,  Jennifer.

Ken Roberts.
Though Ken reenacts the RevWar era,  I believe his
favorite time period just might be the War of 1812.

Two Kens.
We outnumbered them all!
Any chance I get - any excuse will do - to get me in period clothing,  and I'm there.  Especially in this,  the year of the non-reenactment.  Whether I visit an open-air museum such as Greenfield Village,  Mill Race Village,  or the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post,  hang out at Joey's,  or dip candles in my own backyard,  I will grab any opportunity to dress period.
If Our Good Lord is willing,  I have high hopes to attend and participate in a couple more upcoming autumn events - 18th & 19th centuries - mostly private  (no public allowed).
One can only hope...

And to end this week's posting - - - - -
Two years ago,  in September 2018,  a decently large group of 18th century reenactors grabbed an opportunity to travel out onto Lake Michigan in a ---get this---tall ship!  The Friends Good Will,  a replica of an 1810 square-topsail sloop,  sails out of South Haven, Michigan.
Friends Good Will
Friends Good Will is a working American reproduction of the historical Friends Good Will  (1811–1813),  a merchant square-rigged topsail sloop that was overtaken by the events of the War of 1812.  The British captured her in a ruse of war shortly after they captured Fort Mackinac,  and renamed her HMS Little Belt.  In British service she was armed with a 9-pounder pivot gun and two 6-pounder guns.  The Americans recaptured her during the Battle of Lake Erie.  She then served in the US Navy before the British destroyed her at the end of December 1813.
Heading out into Lake Michigan.
The current vessel was built in 2004,  at Scarano Boat Building,  Inc.  in Albany,  New York,  and was sailed by volunteers through Lakes Ontario,  Erie,  Huron,  and Michigan to the Michigan Maritime Museum,  in South Haven,  Michigan where she brings the area's history to life through educational tours,  day sails,  and school field trips.
Tony Gerring set this event up.
Nearly the entire passenger list was made up of 
period dress reenactors.

When you think about it,  this is a reenactment beyond what 
most have done,  and I am so sorry I had to miss it.

My son Robbie with Benjamin Franklin  (aka Bob Stark)

My son Robbie with his then friend, Heather.
She will soon be his bride...yes,  in real life!

Can you just imagine being on a ship as this and only seeing 
period dress people aboard?
For the very few modern-dress folk who were also out for the 

ride  only four or five),  it must have been a time-travel experience.

Such a ride none will forget.
I had a ticket for this experience but, unfortunately, I woke up that morning feeling pretty sick.  I have hopes to one day make it.
By the way,  there were various reenactors who took these photos,  including my son Robbie as well as Tony Gerring and Sue Hansen.
The information about Friends Good Will came from Wikipedia.

So that's it for this week.  There are a few interesting historical events coming up over the horizon,  as I mentioned earlier.  Autumn definitely looks brighter than the summer,  that's for sure.

Until next time,  see you in time.

~ Please click the links below for more of my blog posts about the later half of the 18th century:

If you are interested in the textile arts of the 18th century,  please click HERE.

Travel and Taverns
The long air-conditioned  (or heated)  car ride.  Motels without a pool!  Can we stop at McDonalds? I'm hungry!
Ahhhh....modern travelers never had it so good.
I've always had a fascination of travel back in the day,  and I decided to find out as much as I could about them.
I wasn't disappointed - - - I dug through my books,  went to a historic research library,  'surfed the net'  (does anyone say that anymore?),  and asked docents who work at historic taverns questions,  looking for the tiniest bits of information to help me to understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in the colonial times.
This post is the culmination of all of that research.
Our country's founding relied greatly on the tavern.

Cooking on the Hearth
No stoves or fast food restaurants.  Everything made from scratch.
What was it like for our colonial ancestors to prepare,  cook,  and eat their meals,  and what kinds of food were available to them?  How did they keep their foodstuffs from spoiling and rotting?
If you have questions such as this,  I believe you will enjoy this post.

In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies.  And I do mean  "pictorial,"  for there are over 80 photos included,  covering nearly every aspect of colonial life.
I try to touch on most major topics of the period with links to read more detailed accounts.
This just may be my very favorite of all my postings.  If it isn't,  it's in the top 2!

Living By Candle Light: The Light at its Brightest
Could you survive living in the era before electric lights or even before the 19th century style oil lamps?
Do you know how many candles you would need for a year?
Do you know what it was like to make candles right from scratch,  or what it was like to visit your local chandler?
That's what this posting is about!

Buried Treasure:  Stories of the Founding Generation
Interesting true tales of  everyday folk of the later 18th century,  including an interview with a soldier who was actually at Concord on April 19,  1775,  the powder horn of James Pike,  the true death-defying,  battle-scarred story of Samuel Whittemore,  runaway slaves & servants,  smallpox inoculations,  and Nabby Adams experience having breast cancer.
Quite a history lesson here!

A Year on a Colonial Farm
See what it was really like,  month to month,   for farm folks like Samuel Daggett and others as you spend all four seasons on an 18th century farm.

~   ~   ~

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