Monday, June 24, 2013

On a Summer's Day in 1863 at Waterloo Farms

The summertime Civil War Days event at Waterloo Farm is always in my top three events for the season due to the 1st person type of reenacting that we practice. Because there are historic structures there, including the original mid-19th century farmhouse, a log cabin, and various outbuildings (and lots of land), it's a great place to bring history, almost literally, to life. In previous summer engagements here I had participated in various bring-the-past-alive scenarios such as home remedies, mourning, and showing everyday family life.
My wife, who normally accompanies me, decided to stay home this year and only my 22 year old son came along so he could do his military thing with the other boys in blue.
This year at the farm, however, was a bit quieter, more laid back, than it normally is. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for I had a pretty decent time with my time-travel friends, and I had my ever-present and ever-hidden - quick pull out and put back - camera on hand to record the historical activities.
I was pretty much the only male civilian there - no surprise, huh? - so I hung out with the beautiful civilian ladies for much of the day. The conversations, though heavy on women's speak, did come around to a middle ground discussion here and there enough to keep me involved.
So, anyhow, I would like to share with you all one summer's day in 1863 at Waterloo Farm in pictures, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is:

Normally we will stay in the main farm house, but on this hot muggy day we chose to be in the log cabin. I apologize that I have no photos of the outside of the cabin. I thought I did...ooops!

Each of the ladies here had something to work on to keep busy. Me? I chose to enjoy the day as if it were a Sunday…

Samantha was in the opposite corner so she wasn't in the previous shot. What was neat about our visit was that there were members  of five different units here, all sitting together as friends. I like that.

Mrs. Root, who normally portrays a woman of means, decided to spend her weekend as Mrs. Kerstens domestic servant Molly. Yes, Mrs. Kerstens gave Mrs. Root the name Molly because it was an easier and more appropriate name for her than her given name of Sandra.

Miss Mansfield, stuck on this hot and muggy day inside her cabin, dreamed of going out to enjoy the summer breeze but had too much work to do inside.

Poor Kristen. She longs to see her beloved husband again, but it never shall be.

She spends much of her time in her lonely room, mourning.

And here in the 21st century, her spirit still roams the hallways, stairways, and rooms of the farm house, searching for the man who left her at far too young an age.

Here are the civilians of the Waterloo event, a wonderful group of people who, for the most part, I've known for years.

I also took a few photos of my son Rob as he spoke to visitors inquiring about military life. Note the way he is dressed - yep, he is out of sack coat, sleeves rolled up, braces (suspenders) clearly in sight, etc. He reminded me of something I read recently in my favorite primary source book about the 1863 Gettysburg exchange, "Firestorm at Gettysburg," which gives the account of the great battle through the eyes and ears of the citizens of that borough. 

In fact, for you in the military heading out to 150th Gettysburg reenactment next week, I found this first-hand comment by citizen SAMUEL BUSHMAN pretty interesting:
“(The Union troops) went through the streets in the double-quick step, which is next thing to a run. Some of them had marched thirty two miles. It was very hot weather, and they’d thrown away much of their clothing. Often, they had very little on but their pants, and went right into the engagement hatless, shirtless, and shoeless."

Farmer NATHANIEL LIGHTNER, who lived in the southwest part of town, also noted that the boys in blue were "pouring along the roads and through the fields, coming out of every street and alley and open spaces of the town, all rushing pell-mell forward, without any apparent order, with fixed bayonets, eager-eyed, stripped, perspiring and panting in the hot sun." want to be accurate? I would say these statements are a bit contrary to the reenactments, the movie, and even the paintings.

Waterloo is always a good time, whether we are attempting a sort of immersion experience or just sitting back and enjoying being in the midst of like-minded friends, as was the case this year.
Either way, we're still surrounded by history in sight, touch, and, in many cases, sound and smell.
And it doesn't get better than that!

If you are interested in reading about my past excursions at Waterloo, please check out the following postings:

Waterloo 2011
Waterloo 2010
Waterloo 2009


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Old Car Festival

As a young boy I used to love seeing photographs of the old cars: the automobiles from my parents and grandparents day. I would comb the library for books about these classic horseless carriages (yes, they really did call them that!), and, since copy machines were pretty much few and far between, I would hand-trace them onto paper, for that would be the only way for me to have a "photo" of them. Books on the old time cars were hard to find at that time; the book stores in our area didn't carry any, and as I mentioned in a posting a few years back, history books - well, good history books - were not stocked. So tracing was the only (and cheapest) way.
And I made probably hundreds of these sketches (not a one remains) and would even sometimes attempt to draw a scene around the cars such as including brick streets or dirt roads.
That was all I had.
Of course, my favorite was the Model T followed by the original 1903 Model A, and I would dream of riding in them.
I love it when the owners of the classic autos get so into their hobby that they will even dress the part!

Now here is one of the benefits of getting older: I get to go to car shows and festivals and see these amazing machines up close, and even get to...yes!...ride in an actual Model T!!
"Ken," you say, "but you've said you have always been into pre-automobile history! What gives?"
Yes, yes I have; the 18th and 19th centuries have always been my favorite eras in history. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy other eras, too! And hearing stories of my mother riding in rumble seats have always intrigued me.
For decades, Greenfield Village has had an event they call the Old Car Festival, where for one weekend in September folks from all over the country bring their classic autos from as early as the 1890's all the way up to the more modern 1932 era and converge on the open-air museum, and visitors (like me!) can drool over these beautifully restored ancient vehicles.
So, guess who has gone to this festival for the last few years, and guess who has taken loads of photos - - - now I don't have to trace and sketch 'em!
And I'd like to share some of my favorites of the earliest cars with you here...hope you like it!

This first photo is of what can very well be considered the first automobile ever, the French-made Fardier from, believe it or not, 1770 (yes, 1770!): Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot 's steam powered Fardier (wheeled cart) was the first self-propelled vehicle in the world, making him the world's first automotive engineer. He had to design and build the first steam engine in which steam, at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure, drove a piston in a cylinder.

The hottest seller on the 1770 car lot
He also invented a rotary valve activated by the piston to let the steam in and out of the machine’s two cylinders. The vehicle was demonstrated in France in 1770, pulling a five ton artillery cannon.

Imagine this boiler hooked onto your Ford Fusion!
The original Fardier de Cugnot has been in the collection of the Le Conservatoire de Arts et Metiers, Paris, France since 1801. This Fardier is a completely functional, faithful reproduction that was created from the ground-up by The Tampa Bay Auto Museum and brought to Greenfield Village in 2011.
"My two favorite cars? The 1965 Mustang and the 1770 Fardier. That's how I get the chicks!"

Let's jump up 95 years from 1770 to 1865 and cross the ocean to America. Chances are unless you are a real aficionado you've never heard of this steam carriage, the Roper.
To see a small steam carriage running under its own power - without horses! - was so startling that people paid to see it driven around a track.

The 1865 Roper...
Smoke-belching steam locomotives were a familiar sight to Americans in the 1860's, but this? Can you just imagine...
Yes, this Roper is the oldest surviving American automobile.
...from 1865 - located inside the Henry Ford Museum.

In 1896, thirty one years after the amazing Roper, Henry Ford built his first car, the Quadricycle. 
Here is an exact replica of the workshop where Ford built his Quadricycle.
On June 4, 1896 in a tiny workshop behind his home on 58 Bagley Street, Ford put the finishing touches on his pure ethanol-powered motor car. 
 After more than two years of experimentation, Ford had completed his first experimental automobile. He dubbed his creation the "Quadricycle," so named because it ran on four bicycle tires, and/or because of the means through which the engine drove the back wheels.
Henry Ford's Quadricycle
The two cylinder engine could produce 4 horsepower and was driven by a chain. The transmission had only two gears (first for 10 mph, 2nd for 20 mph) but Ford could not shift into second gear due to lack of torque and did not have a reverse gear. The tiller-steered machine had wire wheels and a 3 US gallon fuel tank under the seat.
The Quadricycle is located inside the Henry Ford Museum
Ford test drove it on June 4, 1896, achieving a top speed of 20 mph. Ford would later go on to found the Ford Motor Company and become one of the world's richest men. Today the original Quadricycle resides at the Henry Ford Museum.

I apologize because I have no information on this next car, and there was nothing setting near it- no note card to even tell me what it is or even an owner to speak with! But given the fact that this automobile was made in 1901/02 I thought it was very worthwhile to take its picture.
The Mystery Car

So, onto the next ancient auto, the 1902 Toledo. Upon researching this car, I found it to be a steam car. Really? I thought steam cars went out with the Civil War!
Well, anyhow, what I found on the internet about this auto was that one of many bicycle manufacturers to abandon two wheels for four in the early 1900's was the American Bicycle Company in Toledo, Ohio. Initially building lightweight steam cars such as this simple Dos-a-dos (with the rear seats precariously placed atop the rear-mounted boiler and facing backwards) with full elliptical buggy springs located by perch rods and tiller steering, the company soon shifted to gasoline power.

The 1902 "Toledo"

1903 was the first year for Cadillac. William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen founded the Cadillac Automobile Company, and their cars featured engines built by Henry Leland. Rejected by Ransom Olds, the engine was called 'The Little Hercules,' and was a one-cylinder, 10-hosrepower unit. The car is equipped with a two-speed planetary transmission. 
Henry Leland started the Cadillac Automobile Company in 1902 after resigning as one of the initial investors of Henry Ford's new Ford Motor Company. By late 1902, Henry Leland had built his own automobile which he would aptly name after the French explorer who discovered the city of Detroit - Le Mothe Cadillac.
Sales of the new Cadillac were quite successful and Leland would continue producing the single cylinder models until 1908 when Cadillac became part of the new General Motors Co. Leland would stay with GM for only a few years. In 1920 Leland started a new automobile company called Lincoln. Ironically, Leland's Lincoln Company would be bought by Henry Ford in 1922.

1903 Cadillac
Okay, let's continue in a Merry Oldsmobile...

1903 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout
 This beautiful piece is actually credited as being the first massed-produced automobile, being built on an assembly line. Yes, it's true - Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line, though he is credited with perfecting it a few years later.
The Runabout from 1903
 Runabouts were small, inexpensive, open cars. Most runabouts had just a single row of seats, providing seating for two passengers. It sold for $650.
I love the headlamp on this Olds, don't you?
 Next up we have the Cadillac Service Truck from 1904.
I've searched for any information about it but came up with absolutely nothing. Still, it's a great piece to look at, isn't it?
1904 Cadillac Service Truck
 You fans of 1970's and early 80's classic rock should find this next car interesting: the 1905 REO (think: REO Speedwagon).
The Olds Motor Works, founded by Ransom E. Olds (R.E.O.), had been producing the popular curved-dash Oldsmobile for several years when, in 1904, Mr. Olds picked up and left to form the Reo Motor Car Company of Lansing, Michigan.
The REO: say you love it or say goodnight!
This car was known for quality, durability, workmanship, power, and innovation.
The REO front end from 1905
Next up is another Caddie, this time the 1906 Model K.
This car had a 98.2 cubic-inch horizontal, one-cylinder engine that produced ten horsepower. Dunlop tires came standard, as did the twelve-spoke artillery-style wooden wheels.
Imagine crossing the street and seeing this coming at you!

This '06 Cadillac, often called 'Tulip' because of the shape of the seat, had a two-speed planetary transmission and dual differential-mounted brakes. .
1906 Model K Cadillac
And yet another Cadillac is on our list, this time the Touring Car from 1908. From an advertisement at the time: Absolutely the best value in the automobile world. We ask you to compare it with any car selling under $2500, and we will leave it to your judgment...A car with character, beautiful lines, and an engine without a rival. Touring Car - $1400. F.O.B. Detroit, including 3 oil lamps and horn. Brigham & Fenn Motor Car Co., Distributors.

1908 Cadillac Touring Car

Here we have the 1909 Ford Model T, which is an icon of American innovation. Introduced in October 1908, the Model T was an immediate success and would soon transform the automobile industry, the nation and the world. The innovative design of the Model T set it apart from other cars of the day. A flexible and lightweight chassis allowed it to adapt well to rough American roads. A simple and efficient engine provided enough power to take a family on a Sunday drive in the country or run farm equipment. The Model T was easy to operate and repair. And it was affordable. Priced between $825 and $1000, the Model T fell within the price range of many Americans. Henry Ford's intent was to produce a car "for the great multitude." His inexpensive, efficient and reliable Model T put car ownership within the reach of many people - and planted the desire for ownership in the mind of nearly everyone. It put the world on wheels.
1909 Ford Model T
And that's where I think I'll end this week's posting, for we know what happened next...street lights, pavement, vacations, motels, billboards, traffic jams, stop lights, gas stations...
Yes, here we are, on a Model T ride inside Greenfield Village. What a feeling this was!
The interesting thing about this photo is that while we were enjoying our leisurely ride in the classic auto, we had come to a crossroads, much like around a hundred years ago; on the left is another Model T, and just ahead is a horse and carriage.
I found this situation pretty historically accurate!

I don't know if there is a larger collection of pre-1930s cars assembled anywhere else in the world. This is simply one of the most amazing sights I've seen, and I highly recommend, if you live in the general area, checking it out.
And if you live quite a distance away, I hope you enjoy the photos.

Until next time, see you in time.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Visit To the Photographer (or, Having Our Likeness Taken)

I love it when Civil war era reenactments will have a tintype photographer ready and willing to take the likeness of a period-dressed participant. To watch these artists work their magic in creating photographic images from the tin plates and a few chemicals with water simply amazes me. You would think that in our day and age of digital technology something as antiquated as this process of making pictures wouldn't hold any modern fellow's attention in the least, but it certainly does for me. But then, I'm not necessarily a modern fellow, am I? At least not to the full extent of what a modern fellow is.
Maybe it's because it takes a human to create this image instead of a computer. Yeah, yeah, I know - humans create computer programs to give us the means to have our digital cameras and photo processing right at our fingertips. With the program I own - Paint Shop Pro - I can do most anything to my digital pictures with the click of a mouse, including making them look like ancient tintypes, create ghost photos, brighten or darken images, take people or unwanted items out of the pictures (or add to them), repair old scratchy pictures, create sketches...the list could go on and on.
But observing a tintype master at work is an amazing thing. I suppose it's not unlike watching a carpenter build a beautiful quality cabinet in comparison to a put-together-puzzle-like press board piece-of-crap shelf from the local convenience store - not that I think of Paint Shop Pro as a piece of crap. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here. 19th century photography is a craft that, as I stated above, simply amazes me.
So, won't you join me on my digital photographic journey showing picture-taking in its infancy?

These are just a few of the chemicals I saw being used in the preparation process of having an image taken of my daughter and I. There were also chemicals used to develop the tintype after we spent time sitting in front of the camera.

Here is the "dark room" used in preparing the tin plate. Don't ask me what the photographer does in here. He was pretty busy with not only photographing his subjects, but speaking to the modern visitors. Though I heard him explain a little about the process to them, I didn't want to butt into his presentation. I also didn't think to have paper and  pencil to write down what he was saying.

This is what the inside of his "dark room" looks like.

Timing is everything. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand...

This is the camera. I was told it's an original from 1864. Kind of intimidating isn't it? Can you imagine having your image taken for the first time back in the 1860's, never before seeing anything like this? Yikes!

This is how my daughter and I posed for our tintype.

The photographer's assistant made sure we were centered properly.

Out came the photographer from his dark room preparation to put the plate into the camera.

It took a bit of time for preparing to take our picture. For one thing, since we were outside, the sun light could wreak havoc on the whole process.

Okay - here we go! Time for our image to be immortalized.

This is how it looked to us, and...
...this is how it looks to the photographer. Well, in a way - - this wasn't us here. The photographer allowed me to photograph what it looks like under the covering while he took a young lady's image. Not only is the image in the camera upside down, but it's reversed!!

This is the young lady who's image you see in the above picture.
Anyhow - with our image taken, the photographer's assistant begins the development process. Besides the chemicals, water is also included in all of this.

It seems that pouring water onto the just taken image is the key to the development.

And then she swished the water around, making sure that the tin negative continued to be mixed.
Hey! Look what's happening...!!

How cool is that?? Much, much cooler than having a computer program take care of it, eh?

And voila! Here is the fully developed tintype of my daughter and I, taken on June 8, 2013. Is it perfect? Well, to be honest, yes it is! It's exactly what I wanted (it looks stretched because I took a picture of it with my, ahem, digital camera in order to show you all how it turned out. I took the picture on an angle to prevent glare..)

So, there you have it! A trip to see the circuit-riding photographer. No matter how often I watch the process of 1860's photography, it never ceases to amaze me.

Thanks must go to Kristen - the girl in the blue dress - for she took a number of photos you see here with my camera. Awesome job!!

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