Where are we goin' this time?
Is this the 1860s, or 1779?
So take me away, I don't mind,
but you better promise me
I'll be back in time…
Gotta get back in time!
(Slightly modified lyrics from Huey Lewis’
“Back in Time” from the film “Back to the Future”)
I was asked recently, "If you could do whatever you wanted to do for a living, what would you choose?"
The answer was a no-brainer: "I would be a historical interpreter/living historian."
Heh - - I hear you now, "Ken! You already do
Yeah...I know...but I want to do it for a living
...you know, as my wage-earning job
I really do!
|Living History Colonial:|
Meet Ben Franklin, Sybil
Ludington, and Paul Revere
|Living History Victorian:|
Meet a farm couple of the
Yes, every once in a while I will do presentations for pay. The three of us in the two photos above are part of a group called "Our Own Snug Fireside," in which we do specialized historical presentations, and we do get paid. If I could do this for a living, however, even once or twice a week, I would be one happy time-traveler.
But since I'm not sure if this will ever happen on a consistent basis, I still consider myself
blessed that I can do what I do as much as I have; besides the aforementioned presentations, I did 26
- - in other words, in 2016, I was in period clothing, whether colonial or
1860s, at 26 different reenactments plus the four presentations.
And, by the way, this is not including the five days I spent in Colonial
Williamsburg (yes, I was "dressed" all five days!).
Not too bad, eh?
Now, please don't take this as I'm bragging. I'm not. I'm only pointing out that even though I am not a historical presenter at a museum, I am still wearing period clothing quite often.
And I'm lovin' it!
|Off to find the past...|
As there are many more Civil War reenactments and 19th century locations than colonial/RevWar, I grab any chance I can to wear my 1770s clothing. To be honest, I enjoy my colonial clothing much better - - I think they are so much cooler looking.
And people really tend to respond in a such a positive and patriotic way to me.
Unfortunately, we have very few colonial structures in Michigan, especially in the metro-Detroit area, and those we do have were transplanted here from the east coast of these United States to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, plus the restored forts and outbuildings of the period up in the Mackinac/Mackinaw region of our state, but that's about it for early American history around here.
I made sure, then, to take advantage of placing myself, along with my wife (and sometimes my daughter) in scenarios depicting the 1770s while in the historical city of Colonial Williamsburg when we went there on vacation in June 2016. I would give the camera to my daughter, who is proficient in her photography skills, and tell her to shoot away as I played out my plans in depicting one from the 18th century.
In other words, there's a lot of me
placing myself "in the moment."
One of the cool things I enjoyed while in Colonial Williamsburg is
how nearly everyone who works there are already in the moment
. Whether they are
on the streets, in the stores, a tradesperson, or presenters inside
historic homes, visitors always get the impression that they are amidst
America's founding generation.
It's my hope that is also what you
will see in the pictures in this posting.
But I also hope you will see fun
; I did have a blast in each image in one way or another, and I do hope it shows.
(By the way, the quoted sentences in italics
are 18th century terminology that I copied from the book Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language
. The link to this book is at the bottom of this post)
Are you ready, now, for some of my favorite time-travel in the moment
pictures of 2016?
Okay, then, let's begin this journey in Colonial Williamsburg...:
|I can't believe it - - we're on Duke of Gloucester Street in |
Yes we are, and here is my wife and I taking a morning stroll
along this very famous colonial passageway. This was probably
around 8 or 8:30 in the morning and the only people there were
workers preparing for their day. It was a perfect time to wander
and wonder while in period clothing.
not many men who can get their wives (and family members) |
to share in
their hobbies, and I am certainly one lucky guy that
Patty joins me
fairly often in mine. I can't tell you how many
women I know who, upon
seeing what I do in my spare time, tell
me they would never do such a
thing and dress in this manner.
It's not for everyone, I suppose.
Am I blessed?
"In truth I desire no better entertainment than her company."
The carriage ride we took was so relaxing and enjoyable.
|And, look----it's my (then) 15 year old daughter!|
What a treat to have her join her mother and I in this
our carriage ride, we took a group photo, which included |
driver. This man took us all over the Revolutionary
City and gave us a
nice overview of Williamsburg's history.
The young man in the carriage sitting next to my daughter who is
dressed kind of different? Why, that's my son, Miles, who has not
yet acquired colonial era clothing.
|When you go to a place like Colonial Williamsburg (or |
Greenfield Village) and have your lunch or dinner in one of the
historic establishments as a tavern, your meal becomes something
a little more special. My family and I dined at
Chowning's Tavern on our first full day in town. The food,
although very good on its own, was greatly accented by the
surrounding atmosphere and the entertainment.
"I've ordered a pretty good dinner, I can tell you, beef steaks and
onions, and I don't know what's better!"
It's not everyone that can claim to have eaten in an 18th century
tavern, but I can say, "I did!"
And it's worth every penny for the experience.
|The first time my wife and I visited the Thomas Everard House, |
the volunteers who give the tours were all hanging around
outside, not making for a good photograph. However, a day later
we came back early in the morning and no one had arrived to
open it up to the public yet, so we grabbed the opportunity to get
a few shots of us attempting to look like we "belonged."
It took me only a matter of literal minutes to meet and make new friends upon arriving in Colonial Williamsburg. And one of the very first was the lovely Miss Amy, who I kept up with throughout my stay there.
At one point, she and I found ourselves in a fine historical conversation. As we had our discussion, a woman happened to be passing by, so I asked her if she wouldn't mind taking a few photos
of Amy and I in this manner.
Ha! Lucky me! The woman was a
professional photographer and, as you shall see in the following three pictures, she went beyond what I had hoped for.
Maybe she'll see this and know how
appreciative I am.
| We were engaged in a very lively conversation, which |
happened to center on Paul Revere, someone of whom Amy is
not too fond, but a man I portray in the living history world.
We also spoke of the whys & wherefores of his/my involvement
in the Patriot Cause, including being in The Sons of Liberty.
After a small debate, my response was:
"I shall always think myself obliged, nay honoured by
your good opinion, and you are entitled to my best
wishes for your good health and happiness, but I have
no thoughts at all of changing my situation."
|Amy is a wealth of knowledge, and she will happily discuss |
and debate the many
different events and aspects
of the American Revolution.
The Stamp Act, by the way, is one of her very favorite
subjects, and on this we found ourselves
mostly in agreement.
|"Do you follow your opinion, and let me follow mine. Though you do me much honour, I beg you would take no further trouble about me."|
|This was kind of a fun shot. As I was moving along Nicholson |
Street I spotted this young lady directing visitors to the brick
yard. My wife happened to be with me and I gave her my camera
and told her to "shoot away" as I spoke to her.
"I take the liberty to request that you will have the goodness
to honour me with but a few moments' conversation."
She happily obliged.
The background is picturesque, don't you think?
|I love the way all of these historic buildings are laid out just as |
they were 250 years ago. Colonial Williamsburg is such a true gem.
"Madam, I return you my hearty thanks for the favours you have
confessed upon me, and I beg leave also to thank you for shewing
such regard to the merits of my friend. I am much obliged to you."
|"Madam, I am a silversmith, and I'd be very proud to serve you." |
As I moved about town, I ran into neighbors and friends. Well,
not really, but this little scene sort of gives that impression, doesn't it?
Ha! This is the way I am in my 21st century life: I take evening
walks around the block where I live in my Michigan suburb, and
I, many times, will stop and speak to neighbors - - some of whom
I do not even know! But, heck! they were sitting on their
porch...so why not make new friends?
Anyhow, this picture is in my top 10 favorites. I just like the feel...
|"Sir, some time past you was complaisant enough to let me have a gallon of your rum." |
I enjoyed visiting each souvenir shop in Williamsburg, and there
are quite a few. Each seemed to have different items for sale, so
none of the stores were quite the same, and the Greenhow Store,
above, was no different.
Most souvenir shops tend to have workers who are little beyond
sales clerks. They are there for the job. But those who worked in
the stores at Williamsburg were not only dressed in period
clothing, but they also (mostly) knew their history as well and
striking up a conversation was easy and welcoming. The
gentleman who ran the Greenhow Store and I must've spoken for
nearly 15 minutes before I had to leave. We could have gone on
for much longer!
|My daughter just doesn't seem to have learned to mind her tongue!|
Now look where it's gotten her!
Think she learned her lesson?
(This is one of my very favorite pictures!)
|It only rained for about a half day while we were in |
Williamsburg. The weather forecast originally said most of the
week was going to be filled with showers so I suppose we got
Wait---what am I doing walking past the George Wythe House? I
should, instead, go inside and tour it. After all, Mr. Wythe was
one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
|The presenters will sometimes allow visitors to pose for a photo |
in a sort of recreation of a scene, as I did here inside the George
To those of you who work in a historic house, this may seem
trivial. But for those of us who rarely get an opportunity to do
something like this, it is a real treat, and we, as guests, certainly
|There's almost an ethereal feel to this photo as I come from above |
stairs while inside the George Wythe House.
|So, as I moved along Duke of Gloucester Street, I came across |
this young lady whose name is Devon. I mentioned earlier that I
am not afraid to strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone
I come across, and I found those who work at Colonial
Williamsburg are not just workers there to earn a paycheck, but
actual fans of history and enjoy speaking about the subject and
sharing their knowledge. They are also willing to learn from
others as well.
|One day, being a very warm day, two Gentlemen met on Duke of |
Gloucester Street. After the usual compliments passed, as "How do
you do?" &c and "How does all at Home?" & c., the one
Gentleman asked the other "If he could answer him one question?"
The latter replied "He would if he could." Then, friend (said the
former) pray can you tell me "Why the weather can be like the late
act of Parliament imposing duties in America, for the purpose of
raining a revenue?"
"Oh!" replied the latter (after a short pause), that I can easily
answer; why, because it is Unconstitutional."
(based on a notice from the Virginia Gazette - January 1768)
|Lindsey is a Historic Sites Interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, |
and she & I had been friends on Facebook for six months
before I traveled down there, and it was an honor to be able to
meet her in person. A few days beforehand, I "warned" her that I
was coming to CW, and she graciously gave me her schedule,
which included interpreting at the Peyton Randolph House,
who happened to be the 1st President of the Continental Congress.
My gosh! She was a wonderful interpreter and gave a very
upbeat and informative tour!
Thank you Lindsey, for helping to make the amazing memories
my family and I did.
And for teaching me how to stand like a proper colonial gentleman.
|Walking on Palace Green Street, I lagged behind a bit and caught |
this shot of my wife as we neared the Bruton Parish Church.
|Just walking along Nicholson Street, watching |
the world of the 18th century come to life...
|I enjoyed some real RevWar era hot chocolate at Charlton's |
Coffeehouse - a replica of the very same
whose rooms were
once frequented by George Washington and Thomas
Yeah...this was (to use a very 20th century term) very cool!
|"I shall be greatly obliged to you, Sir, if you will be so good as to |
inform me of the truth of these matters and advise me how I had
Charlton's was not only a social gathering place, but, due to its
proximity to the Capitol, was also important to Williamsburg's
and business activities as well. In fact, the front porch of
Charlton's was the scene of a protest against the Stamp Act in 1765.
By the way, I cannot tell you what we were discussing here, for it
was intelligence to be passed on to General Washington.
|Horses and carriages were plentiful there, and they added greatly to the 18th century atmosphere.|
The driver of this team was resting in the shade during this warm
summer day and very kindly snapped this shot. I wish I could
have gotten one while the two of us were up in the carriage.
Oh well...something to shoot for next visit.
(Wait---did I say "next visit"?)
|A tale of a three-century love-affair.|
This was our last morning in Colonial Williamsburg...
~ ~ ~
Now we're going to head from historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia to historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, where we can find almost the only colonial-era houses in the lower peninsula; one must drive to the tip of the mitt to actually locate any other 18th century structures...up in Mackinaw City and then on Mackinac Island.
So, let's see just how we can get "in the moment" inside this magnificent 80 acre open-air museum that Henry Ford put together:
|This picture caught something that happened 'out of the blue:' a |
few of us in my "Citizens of the American Colonies" living
history group were at Greenfield Village celebrating the 4th of
July. We had stopped to pose for a couple of photos at the mid-
18th century home of John Giddings. A few visitors happened up
and began to give us some very nice compliments on our clothing
and asked us questions not only about what we were wearing and
why, but about the "Betsy Ross Flag" I had. What a great
opportunity to speak a little about the founding of our great
nation, and they were certainly very appreciative of us taking the
time to answer their questions and help to make their
Independence Day celebration a little more special.
|Although nowhere near as extensive as Colonial Williamsburg|
in presenting 18th century history, the homes from the 1700s
in the Greenfield Village collection are well maintained, though
I must admit it would be nice to see more of their structures
from that period include period-dress presenters on a regular
basis other than just the Daggett House.
By the way, it was very kind of Mrs. Ross to show me the
flag she had made for General Washington.
|At least on the Fall Harvest Weekends or during the December |
Holiday Nights events, visitors can see period-dress presenters
bring the Giddings home to life.
In the 18th century, dances were frequently held in these classic
structures, and what I tried to replicate here is me thanking the
young lady for what could have been the ending of a minuet, a
cotillion, or, even, perhaps, a country dance.
"I hope that you will do me the honour of another dance, Madam."
|By the 1760s and 1770s, taverns were the
rendezvous for |
those who believed in the Patriot cause and listened to the
words of American rebels, who mixed dark treason to King
every bowl of punch they drank.
The story of our War for Independence could not
from the old "publick houses," for they are a part of
national history, and those which still stand are among our
interesting Revolutionary relics.
|The tavern I am in here is not from the Revolutionary War-era. It |
is, instead, the Eagle Tavern, built around 1831 in Clinton,
Michigan. Aside from a few mostly minor structural deviances,
there is little difference from this one to the ordinaries of a
|Shelley Martinez, a fellow fan of Greenfield Village, took this |
picture of me in April of 2016.
There is a certain ambience about it - maybe it's the lighting - that
I very much feel captures the essence of the past.
|~Visiting the 1750s Daggett Farmhouse ~ |
Here I am being greeted by Mr. Daggett himself!
Well, not really, but it certainly does give one that impression
What I would love to be able to do one day is have the
be inside a home such as Daggett or Giddings for more than
few minutes and have a period-type conversation.
In a way, I kind of did - - - -
|When these photos were taken, it happened to be a cold and rainy |
day, therefore there were very few visitors inside the Village. I
pretty much had the place to myself. Well, naturally I quickly found
my way to the far end where the Daggett House sits and enjoyed
spending time conversing about colonial chocolate, that ever-
popular treat of the later 1700s.
The thing about these couple of pictures is...they work! If there ever
was an "in the moment" moment, this was it, for since the three of
us know each other and are friends, it was a very casual
conversation - not a posed picture.
"In the moment" indeed!
Ghosts of the past...
|This next photograph is not necessarily as it seems. What I did |
was merge two different pictures into one to depict a cohesive image.
It's still "in the moment" because the only "trickery" I did was to
mirror the image and add the house.
The Daggett House is probably my favorite building in Greenfield Village.
|As the fall weather moves in, beer making becomes a priority, for |
that will help to sustain the Daggetts throughout the cold weather months.
and ale was a major dietary staple in the colonies. Everyone
It was the common item which spanned generations;
from cradle to grave everyone
drank beer. Infants were fed beer
and it was especially recommended for nursing
laborers, merchants, lawyers, and craftsman all drank beer.
a common thread in all their lives and this beverage would even
important role in the formation of government.
It was not uncommon for drinking to begin even before breakfast
continued with every meal throughout the day.
Now, don't leave here thinking that our founding generation was
in a consistent state of drunkenness; although
there were those
who drank to get drunk (just like in the 21st
century), most in the
colonial times drank beer because it was healthier than
water. They usually did not drink to get inebriated.
|My wife is an accomplished spinner and truly does go from |
"sheep to shawl" (so to speak) and will crochet or knit scarves,
mittens, hats, sontags, afghans, or whatever her heart desires after
picking through, skirting, cleaning, carding, spinning, and even
naturally dyeing the wool.
Yes, she does it all.
Here she is inside the Daggett house standing at the great wheel
(or walking wheel), though she didn't really spin here - that job is
for the presenters.
|I always arrive at Greenfield Village early to be first in line, then |
when they open the gates, I hustle it to the far end. It's there
where I usually find, at least for a short while, a visitor-free
Village. Because of this, Gigi was able to sit down with me for a
No, I am not a Greenfield Village employee, so when the
presenters are doing their job for visitors, I fade into the
background. Nor will I pretend to work there or add to what the
presenters are saying. I dress in period clothing while visiting
Greenfield Village for two reasons: first because I feel more like
a part of the homes I am in. It's kind of hard to explain, and I
don't expect many or most of you to understand that. I don't fully
understand it myself.
Second: I feel a part of history in those surroundings, and
Third: because there are always wonderful photo opportunities.
|Speaking of wonderful photo opportunities: night time inside the |
1750s Daggett house while in period clothing lends itself to
understanding the solitude that only a home lit by lanterns can bring.
|Yes, I would say that being inside an actual colonial home when |
the sun goes down is definitely akin to one of those
"in the moment" moments.
|Looking the part in photographs takes an "in the moment" |
moment to come off well, and I have done my best to create - - or
recreate, rather - - life as it was during the times of the founding generation.
(Wonderful photo taken by Mary Marshall)
Reading "The Cabin Faced West" over and over as a youth and being a teenager during the bicentennial celebrations of 1976 helped to fan the historical flame in me that has continued to grow all these years later.
And now to seemingly place myself along side of my historical heroes and everyday people of colonial times...well, I am not worthy, but I do try to do them honor.
As you may or may not know, in 2016 I formed a new living history group, Citizens of the American Colonies. I am hoping for this to be a progressive reenacting group - one that will attract those with the same mindset as I and will also be known for bringing the era from 1765 to 1790 to life
by way of accurate period clothing, accessories, 1st & 3rd person
presentations, and through realistic scenarios.
Of course, continuous research of the time-period is a must - the times and environment of those who
we emulate is something members should study…and study some more.
As head of this Citizens of the American Colonies reenacting organization, I
have written the following rules for potential members. They are based along the lines of the rules of the Civil War unit I belong to.
|Won't you come and join my group, Citizens of the American |
Colonies? It promises to be quite fun!
Here are the rules/guidelines:
Accurate clothing is a must. I ask that you research what you wear and the
environment in which you would wear it (for instance, don’t dress in fine silks
and claim to be a farmer or a blacksmith). If you are new to the hobby, some
exceptions will be made as you are guided into the past.
Eye Glasses: please, if at all possible, refrain from wearing modern glass
frames. If you are new to the hobby, modern frames are acceptable initially (especially if they are wire-framed).
But I ask that you plan to purchase period replica frames for your
prescriptions, which can be purchased on line at reasonable prices. Yes, there
are places that will work with you on fitting prescription lenses into period
frames. Our Civil War reenactors do it all the time.
There is also the option of contact lenses.
Unless it’s a wedding ring or a health warning bracelet or necklace, I ask
that all modern jewelry be removed: watches, fit bits, nose rings, etc., or
anything made of plastic are not acceptable for a colonial impression in this
While at a reenactment, please do your best to be “in the moment.” This means
please do not speak of current politics, news events, movies, TV shows, music,
etc. This is where research can really come in handy. Study the time period in
which you are portraying and learn of your role – manners, etiquette, clothing,
etc. (I’m not talking necessarily of 1st person, I just mean for us to be careful of
our modern speak, especially when public is within earshot).
Not only can this be great fun, but it will enhance your presentation beyond
anything you’ve experienced before. Again, in Civil War reenacting, we do this
frequently and enjoy it immensely. It works extremely well.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course there are: speaking about the period from a modern perspective is quite acceptable. That's a teaching moment.
My point here is when the public is in view and within ear shot, nothing can ruin their
experience more than hearing (and seeing) all kinds of modernisms while at a reenactment.
And respect your fellow living historians who also may not want any modernisms to ruin their moment.
Hide your modern items: There is little worse in the reenacting world than seeing an impeccably
dressed reenactor carrying a can of Coke, or having a 2 liter plastic bottle in
plain view of the public’s eye, or a cell phone laying on a table. If you want
water, go in your tent, pour it from your plastic water bottle into your period
mug or glass, then head back out. Please do not pour your modern drink into
your period cup while in the public’s eye.
Also, when preparing food, please prepare it inside your tent so the modern
plastic bread wrappers, etc., cannot be seen.
Cameras and phones: This can be tricky, but we can make it work - -
- - for
taking photographs: yes, we all like to take pictures, but try to utilize what
I call the ‘stealth’ form of picture taking - - keep your phone or camera in
your satchel or in some hidden location, pull it out to take a quick pic, then
hide it again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me, “I
never even seen you take a picture – when did you bring your camera out?”
Of course, there are times for the “posed” pictures. But please keep those at a
minimum, and try – please try – to only do this (or even bring your camera out)
when the public is not around. In other words, be “stealth.”
Phones - - There is no reason whatsoever, unless there is an emergency, for anyone
to be sitting out in the public’s eye playing with or speaking on their phone.
None. There are too many spots one can go to (inside a tent is best) if one
feels the need to be on their phone.
Obviously, emergencies are always an exception to the rule.
Now, there are some who may think my guidelines are a bit too strong or stringent. Yes, I am admittedly pretty tough when it comes to historical accuracy…maybe even a bit anal (I’ll
admit it), but I take great pride in my presentations and I would hope members
here would do the same and that we continue to always strive to be as authentic
in every way we possibly can.
|Okay! Time for me to return to my work. Thanks for visiting.|
Until next time, see you in time...
To purchase Eighteenth Century English as a Second Language
by Cathleene Hellier, click HERE
and then call the number given.
To read an overview (with many more pictures!) about everyday colonial life, click HERE
To read about colonial clothing for men, please click HERE
To read more about my living history group, Citizens of the American Colonies, please click HERE
To read a much more extensive essay on my trip to Colonial Williamsburg, with a TON more pictures, please click HERE
for the links