Thursday, March 28, 2019

Kitchens Through Time: Putting Our Ancestors in Their Place in Time

Family history,  to me,  is so very important.  I've been working on mine,  off and on,  for over twenty years and have been able to acquire some wonderful information on the bloodline that runs through my veins. 
The thing is,  genealogy is so much more than names and dates...and as cool as those DNA tests are,  it's also more than that.
So today's post is part history and part family history:  a blending of the two.  And one way to show how you can place your ancestors in their time.
Remember:  our family history is American history.
I hope you enjoy it.

~   ~   ~

The front facade of the Henry
Ford Museum has some 
familiarity to it, now doesn't it?
There are so many things to see at the Henry Ford Museum,  which is adjacent to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  There are trains, planes, and automobiles.  There is an actual 1940s diner,  stage coaches,  and the chair that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.  There is an original copy of  The Stamp Act,  Thomas Paine's Common Sense,  and Paul Revere's rendition of the Boston Massacre.  There are also Paul Revere teapots,  spoons,  and casters.  Let's not forget about George Washington's camping equipment and the Rosa Parks Bus.  Farming tools and machinery from the 1700s through the 20th century, and furniture dating back to the 1600s.  Representations in the fiber arts,  ancient muskets and rifles,  and a 19th century shoe shop.
It has so many historical objects inside that I believe it can easily rival the Smithsonian.  According to the web site:  "Henry Ford  (the man)  had collected a slice of the American past unmatched in size and scope."
I don't know exactly how many items are displayed inside the museum,  but I know it's in the tens of thousands.  And we're not even including the 300 acres of historic Greenfield Village right next door!
But of all the items on display inside the Henry Ford Museum,  there are two sections I always enjoy visiting and never leave before seeing:
thew first one is the  "With Liberty and Justice For All"  exhibit  (which I wrote about pretty extensively HERE),  and the second one is the  "Kitchens Through Time"  collection,  of which is what today's post is based around.  "Kitchens Through Time"  is an exhibit of,  well, four kitchens - one from the later part of the 1700s,  one from the 1840s,  one from the 1890s,  and one from the 1930s - all back to back where the corners meet to form a circle,  allowing the viewer to easily see the noticeable changes over a 200+ year period at a few step glance.
Now,  I've searched far and wide to find information about this set up - the  'history'  behind the history - to no avail.  All that I have found is that it is a display to show that kitchens have changed little in the basic design in over two hundred years.  That's it.  I can't tell you any more about this exhibit at this time.
So I decided to sort of make these vestiges of kitchens past come alive in my own personal way - - - by utilizing a few stories of my ancestors.  Particularly,  to some extent,  my female ancestors.  After all,  it is  Women's history month.  And I love the fact that my ancestors have been on this land since 1710,  so I can easily cover each era.  With little blurbs  'neath each kitchen photograph,  I've tried to give a snippet of four of my ancestor's lives - sort of like filling in that dash carved in between the birth and death years on a tombstone.
Let us begin in the 1700s,  right around the earlier days of our nation's birth:
Here is a depiction of a late 1700s kitchen...  
...which may be similar to what my 5th great grandmother,  Mary  (Evans)  Heacock (b. 1759),  wife of Jonathan  (b. 1755)  - both of Bucks County,  Pennsylvania - may have had.
Yes, they were Quakers.
"In the kitchen a glowing bed of red-hot coals,  banked the night before,  still burned on the hearth, streaks of sunlight gleamed through the eastern windows.  Soft reflections shone from the pewter porringers hanging on the dresser;  a sunbeam flecked with bright light the brass candlesticks set on the mantel over the hearth.
Drawing the bowls up to the table,  Jane placed her father Jonathan's chair at one end and her mother Mary's at the other.  Jane and her younger siblings,  Susannah  (who would become my 4th great grandmother one day),  Edward,  and Nathan,  took their porringers and wooden bowls from the dresser and stood in their places at the table.  From the steaming kettle on the hearth,  their mother Mary dished up the corn meal mush,  or hasty pudding,  and added a large thin johnny cake,  which was browned in the skillet.  The children and their mother folded their hands and bowed their heads  as their father leaned over the high back of his chair and asked for blessings on home and family..."
Not much is known of Mary,  but I know she and Jonathon were married in 1784 in Richland,  Pennsylvania.  There is talk that during the Revolutionary War my 5th great grandfather was a Loyalist and trained with the British.  Quakers were generally Loyalists,  due mainly to their strong beliefs of peace and pacifism  (imagine...me, a Patriot, descended from Loyalists!).  Because of this military training,  Jonathan was removed from the Society of Friends.  And because she was his wife,  Mary was also removed from the monthly meetings as well.  It took them over a year to become accepted back into the Society of Friends again.
Jonathan,  from what I had read,  always dreamed of having  "an ideal farm,"  and set out to find it,  and it was in 1788/89,  that he and Mary,  along with numerous other family members,  took advantage of the opportunity of removing themselves to Canada.  Arriving at the Niagara,  Jonathan's brother,  John,  saw the swift current of the river and,  according to lore,  asked,  "Does thee think it prudent to venture over,  with the beasts and the baggage and the little ones?"
My 5th great grandfather is said to have replied,  "We are in the hollow of God's hand.  If He willeth it,  we shall find safe crossing."
John,  at that point,  turned westward with his family,  eventually settling in Ohio.
Jonathan,  however,  turned northward and followed the river to a point not too far from Niagara Falls and,  using an improvised windlass  (a simple hoist worked by a crank used for lifting and lowering),  he and his party lowered the heavy oxcarts and guided the beasts and the rest of his party down the steep incline,  which can still be seen to this day,  though it is now known as Lewiston Hill.
Jonathan and Mary settled on land and farmed for 15 years until 1804 when,  quite by accident  (we are told),  that Jonathan saw a farm that he felt was precisely the one of his dreams.  He purchased the 400 acres it sat upon and contently farmed until his death in 1812.
It is unfortunate that I have no information when Mary passed away.
I find it interesting from a personal note that I now portray a farmer in my colonial presentations.
Farm living is the life for me...the ideal farm?
To learn more about everyday life on a colonial farm, please click HERE


Let's move forward a few decades:
Here is a depiction of an 1840s kitchen...
...which may be similar to what my 3rd great grandmother,  Mary  (Shrigley)  Robertshaw  (b. abt 1812)  and her husband William  (b. abt 1810),  may have had.  Mary is the granddaughter of Mary & Jonathan Heacock from the previous photo of the 1700s kitchen.
During this period William and Mary were living in Upper Canada.
The two were married in 1841,  right around the time this style of the kitchen we see in this picture was common.  Mary had been previously married to a man named Henry Gillet  (back in 1833),  who,  we have heard,  had passed away not too long after.
I have very little information on my 3rd great grandfather,  William.  He seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.  But in a rare twist of historical genealogical fate,  I actually have more information on his wife.  My 3rd great grandma was a midwife.   Or,  as son,  Nelson,  put it:  "She was the closest thing to a doctor that the wilds of Canada had,"  for it's been said she learned her medicinal trade from  "the local Indians,"  and treated many of the locals for a variety of ailments.  Mary was also present at hundreds of births in her town of East Gwillimbury,  as well as being present at a number of her own grandchildren's births,  and has been listed as such in the local registries.
I have no death record of Mary nor her husband William,  and the last I find her in any document is on the September 1881 birth record of one of her grandsons.
Just two years later,  in 1883,  the entire Robertshaw clan - siblings,  spouses,  and children included - moved to the United States and settled in and around Port Huron,  Michigan.
Mary was not part of this move, and I am assuming she had died shortly before.
I am still searching for her and her husband.  Maybe one day...
The 1841 marriage record of my 3rd great grandparents

Now we,  again,  jump up to another decade,  this time to the 1890s in Port Huron,  Michigan.
Here is a depiction of an 1890s Kitchen...
...which may be similar to what my 2nd great grandmother,  Linnie  (Raby)  Robertshaw  (b. 1858 in England),  wife of Nelson  (b. 1852 in Upper Canada),  may have had.  My 2nd great grandfather,  Nelson,  was the son of Mary & William, mentioned in the 1840s kitchen picture.
During this time,  Linnie & Nelson lived in Port Huron,  Michigan.
Linnie Raby sailed over to Canada from England when she was in her mid-teens and married Nelson Robertshaw at the tender age of 17 on April 28 in 1875.  Her new husband was a lumberman and had spent most of his life in the lumber camps in upper Canada.  He was only eight years old when he began working at these camps as a  'stripper' - that is,  he would strip off the extra branches of the felled trees with an ax.  Nelson used to tell his grandson that he had his first taste of whiskey at the age of nine while working at the lumber camps in the winter months to help keep him warm.  After they were married,  Linnie joined him at these camps and spent her days mending and washing the men's clothing.  I suspect she ended her stay there after they began having children.
At the time of the 1894 Michigan State census - right around the time of this kitchen picture - my 2nd great grandparents had been married for 19 years with a brood of six offspring;  they would eventually have nine total by the turn of the 20th century.  It was in the various 1890s directories that Nelson begun to list himself as a carpenter and had built homes in and around the Port Huron area.  While Linnie remained home to care for their kids,  Nelson would be gone for weeks on end,  for many of his jobs took him miles from his family,  and walking the distance back and forth daily was simply not reasonable to do.
My great great grandparents eventually moved to Detroit where they lived out the rest of their lives living with their eldest daughter and her husband and kids.
Both passed away in the 1930s.
This is the actual house my 2nd great grandparents were living in with their six kids at the time of the 1894 Michigan census.  I took this picture in the 1990s so I cannot tell you if it had changed much in a hundred years time. 
But you can see it was not the typical  "Victorian"  house we are so familiar with when we think of houses of this period.

Now we move out of the 19th century and into the 20th century;  to a time when my own mother was alive,  though still in her pre-teens.  As we have followed my maternal line this entire time,  we shall continue to do so here and meet the granddaughter of Nelson and Linnie from the 1890s picture:  my mother's mother,  Pearl.
Here is a depiction of a 1930s kitchen...
...which may be similar to what my grandmother,  Pearl  (b. 1907 in Detroit, Michigan),  may have had.
My mother, front left, and
her three sisters in 1936.
Like most young girls,  Pearl,  at a very young age,  was taught to clean and care for her younger siblings.  When her two sisters,  Bea and Babe,  were singing and dancing on the local Detroit area stages as part of Pete McCurty's Bon Ton Girls in the early 1920s,  Pearl went on the circuit with them to sew their costumes and care for them as needed.  They would perform at movie theaters,  often being the entertainment in between double features during this silent movie era,  and my grandmother would sometimes fill in as a sub as needed,  for she knew the differing parts to the show.
In 1925,  Pearl married Bert,  a man who was quite the handyman and could do a little of everything.  I was told he was a very smart man and that there was nothing he couldn't do.  Unfortunately,  he worked mostly odd jobs,  and to help make extra pennies during this time of the Great Depression,  my grandmother would put her girls to bed then head out and sell apples on the street.
My mother told us how on one particular 1930s Christmas she and her sisters received a doll and carriage for their gift:  two got the doll and the other two got the carriage,  In this way all four would be forced to play together.
I can just imagine youngsters today receiving such a gift,  eh?
The family usually rented houses and,  until shortly before she passed away,  my mother could still recite each address she lived at.
In a rare occurrence for the time,  Bert and Pearl ended up divorced and,  by 1938,  she had remarried,  this time to a man named Ray,  and the two had two kids to add to Pearl's four.
By the time the 1950s had rolled around,  no one again had heard from Bert,  so I had never had the pleasure of meeting my biological maternal grandfather  (though my father's father more than made up for that!).

And there you have it.  Four kitchens - four family history stories.  It is a unique way of bringing the objects in a museum to life,  don't you think?  But when it comes to history,  this sort of thought is the norm for me,  for the items we see as we walk through the hallowed halls of history were once a part of someone's everyday life,  just as our own kitchens are to us today.
Hmmm........I wonder if a kitchen like mine  (or should I say my wife's)  will one day be shown in the same manner 150+ years from now?
Well then,  let's move ahead from the 1930s to the early 21st century.
No,  this is not in the Henry Ford Museum.  It belongs to my wife.  But if they pay us enough,  we'll sell it to them  (lol).
Here is an actual (not a depiction) of an early 21st Century Kitchen...
...which my wife designed.  We had a very small kitchen originally - so small we could not fit a table in it to eat upon.  But back in 1999 we renovated our home by adding a back room and enlarging our kitchen.  Neither picture here shows our refrigerator,  but it's there,  on this side of the booth and in the same color as our stove,  which you can see in the bottom pic.
And on the left in front of the door our diner booth can be seen.
Early 21st century kitchen~
So, just as I wrote a little on my ancestors,  I will tell you a little about us:
250 years of history right in this photo:
The Plympton House - 18th century
The far background - 21st century
Patty - 21st century
Ken - 18th century
Oh what fun we do have together!
Patty and I have been married since the mid-1980s and have four kids  (now all adults),  a daughter-in-law,  and three grandchildren.  My wife is an elementary school secretary,  and has been for years,  and I am a high school classroom paraprofessional working with special needs kids.  We love music,  usually of the older variety,  and I've been lucky to meet many of my musical heroes while I was still working in record stores a couple of decades ago,  which I plan to write about in a future posting.
We both love to reenact  (duh!),  though Patty will agree I love it more,  and most of our time-travel excursions are documented right here on Passion for the Past.  Patty also spins on a spinning wheel,  then will dye the wool and either crochet or knit it into something useful.  That's her passion.  We also consider ourselves traditionalists,  which can be pretty difficult in a non-traditional society.
Our offspring?
Why,  we love them most of all.
Oh!  And we have a dog named Paul Anka.
Since we are both still alive,  and hopefully will be for decades to come,  I will not go any further about our lives.

So now we have traveled through about 250 years worth of kitchens,  all the while visiting my ancestors in doing so.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I believe my ancestors did.
Until next time,  see you in time.


If you are interested in learning about running a Colonial kitchen, please click HERE
If you are interested in learning about running a Victorian kitchen, please click HERE
If you are interested in learning about eating historically at an 1850s tavern, click HERE
If you are interested in learning about the varieties of historic food, click HERE
To learn more about everyday life in colonial times, please click HERE



















~   ~   ~

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Invested in the Environment of the Time: Behind the Scenes in the World of Living History

Invested in the Environment of the Time
Invested in the Environment of the Time
Invested in the Environment of the Time
Invest: to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve something.
Environment: conditions & influences - social & cultural forces that shape the life of a person or a population.
Time: a particular period considered as distinct from other periods. 

~   ~   ~

I'm doing my best to replicate the 1770s.
How much are you willing to invest in your hobby of living history?  I mean, it is not cheap to recreate the world of the past.  I know that to get a decent set of "new" clothing - a coat, waistcoat, shirt, breeches, socks, cravats/neckstocks, buckle shoes, and cocked hat - can cost from as little as $800 to upward of $1500 or more in some cases.
And if you really want to be as accurate as you can, each garment should be hand-sewn.  Of course, you would have to find someone willing to take on such a task, which will certainly increase the total price.  Or do it yourself, if you know how to sew.
(Unfortunately, there are some who feel it's hand sown or nothing - - - don't even come out if it's not. Elitists like this put a damper on the hobby for everyone else who cannot afford such costs)~
Most of what I own is sewn by way of a sewing machine, either from a shop or by my wife.  I simply cannot afford period clothing any other way.  However, I have a knit cap and mittens that my wife made for me from scratch, beginning with raw wool.  She cleaned and carded and spun and dyed (using natural dyes) then knitted them for me.  And my wide-brimmed farm hat is also hand-made (by a man named George Franks III).
Even though the rest of my garments aren't hand-sewn,  I am doing my best to be as accurate as I can.  I like to think that if I suddenly found myself zapped into the past, no one would give me a second glance...until I opened my mouth (lol).
But to bring the past to life - to have that travel through time experience - one also needs to research the period being recreated.  There is nothing worse than seeing a well-dressed reenactor who has little to no knowledge of the era they are depicting.  Oh, they might repeat a line or two from a Facebook 'history' meme (spare me) or from a Hollywood movie (and we know the accuracy of those), but in actuality, they know very little.
Yeah...that just kills it, in my opinion.
So adding to your home research library is a must (I feel it's better to own than borrow so you can mark and highlight all you please).  Books on the occurrences of the day, whether it is of a war or migration or politics or every day living, or any other subject of interest can become a well-rounded course of a historical diet.
And there are also the accessories which accent presentations.  I have to admit, I am big on accessorizing.  When my presentation partner and I speak to groups, such as schools, historical societies, reenactments, or, as we did recently, with the Sons of the American Revolution, we come prepared.  We don't do power-point presentations and speak in mono-toned voices of what each picture shown on the screen is, but, instead, bring replicated or actual artifacts along with us to make our lecture come alive, and gives our audience the chance to see and touch history.  In fact, I had one gentleman tell me, "I just saw all this stuff in a museum!"
Now that was a compliment.
Such a fine patriotic group!
Recently, Larissa and I were asked to present about life on a colonial farm to members of the local Detroit Chapter of the SAR: Sons of the American Revolution, the largest male lineage organization in the U.S.  The SAR work with other organizations in furthering the understanding of the American Revolution - teaching and celebrating our early American history.  What's more, included with the SAR is the National Ladies Auxiliary Sons of the American Revolution, which has been of major assistance to the National Society.  Not to be confused with the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), the Ladies Auxilary of SAR is open to women related by marriage or bloodline to members in good standing or members deceased while in good standing, and they have raised thousands of dollars to help the Society in carrying out its mission of inspiring patriotism and informing others of the contributions of our revolutionary ancestors.

For us to present to the Sons of the American Revolution was such an honor! I mean, to be in a room filled with men who were descended from Revolutionary War soldiers is really quite a historical thrill.  And they were a fine audience indeed, for they showed a keen interest in learning how many of their ancestors lived before and after their tenure in the Continental Army.
Larissa and I with some of the accessories we bring to our historic presentations. We will get to what's on the table momentarily, but what is more difficult to see are some of the farm tools behind me:
I see two hand-made wooden farm implements behind me: a hay fork and a rake. In front of me there is a yoke with two buckets, and in front of Larissa we see a butter churn.
(Photo courtesy of Chris White)
What you are not seeing in these pictures is the scythe, a sickle, and a flail, which we also bring along for our presentations.  If we can, sometimes we will have two spinning wheels as well: a Saxony wheel and a great (or walking) wheel.

To get a closer view of our table items:
I spy with my little eye...pure beeswax and candles at various stages of dipping, a candle mold, a brass candle holder, an actual 18th c candle snuffer, a Betty lamp, a lanthorn, a butter paddle, a wrapped sugar cone and sugar nipper, sheep shearer, hog scraper, a block of tea, carding paddles, niddy noddy, wool on various stages from raw to spun & dyed, a tin kitchen, and, up front to the right, a "No Stamp Act" tea pot to show where our loyalties lie.
Larissa explains the process of cooking by way of a 'tin kitchen'.
(photo courtesy of Chris White)
And one more "accessory" that I purchased just this past January:
Every farmer needs his gun.
Yes, I finally purchased a replicated musket that would have been used for hunting. And...if I feel the need (and get permission, of course), I can always be a minuteman during some reenactment battles.

(I did not bring my gun to the presentation, for I was not sure if it would be allowed) 
As you can see, accessories can add greatly to any presentation, whether in front of a seated audience or at a living history event.  In other words, we should do our ultimate best to help recreate the world of the past utilizing the senses of sight, sound, touch, and, yes, even smell & taste.  It's my hope that those who come see us at a reenactment will feel as if they stepped through a portal through time, for we hopefully are, as the title of this post states, invested in the environment of the time.
And it's quite an investment indeed.
This is the sort of fortitude that works very well with the Civil War Civilian reenacting group I belong to, and I have high hopes that the same will occur with my colonial-era group, "Citizens of the American Colonies," as well.
Ah, there I am, speaking at the Citizens of the American Colonies living historians meeting about upcoming events for 2019, as well as encouraging everyone to raise the living history bar to higher levels.
Yes, we are in a Victorian setting, but, well, that's the way this large room we call our gathering room (or parlor) is decorated.
It's exciting to have such a group as Citizens of the American Colonies.  Most of my members came from (and still participate in) Civil War reenacting; they are folks who are interested in expanding their historical horizons, and while many are sprinting into the future to do WWII, others are finding heading further into the past around the time of our country's birth to be more enticing.
To join my group I only require that members do their best to not only have period clothing, but to research...research...and research some more, and then put that research to work.  Also, members must attend and fully participate in at least one event/reenactment under our moniker.
That's it.
No dues.  I do not believe in paying to play. And, so far, it's been working quite well.  You see, I'm not interested in someone giving me money to show they have a "vested interest" in reenacting.  Purchasing an 18th century wardrobe is, to me, enough to show me one's good intentions.  And then participating with us at a historic event, such as Colonial Kensington, Historic Fort Wayne, Mill Race Village for the 4th of July, or any of the other reenactments in our area, also shows the interest in being a member.  Of course, taking part in more than one event is a plus.
But knowing you have taken part in an event under my group's name is enough for me, and that's how I include members on the roster.
And it works:
Excited members of Citizens of the American Colonies (and a couple of friends) at Mill Race Village on the 4th of July, 2018.
I do realize that it can take quite a while to work up to a satisfactory level of living history as to bring the past to the present in a believable manner.  It's not cheap by any means, and takes time; many in the Citizens group are at various levels but continue to improve. It does give members something to strive for, and it encourages everyone to keep reaching for new levels.
So every March I have a "Citizens" meeting at my house, and it's here where we not only plan for upcoming events, but teach and learn on improving our impression, whether one portrays a historic figure of the period, such as I do at times as Paul Revere, or shows other aspects of living in the past - again, me as a farmer or Charlotte as a 'boot blacker.'  And it's here where longtime reenactors can share from personal past experiences as well as give hints of what has worked for them and what hasn't.
We never stop learning.
The following are a few pictures from my Citizens of the American Colonies meeting from March 2nd:
Jackie and Charlotte really began to participate last year and I was very glad at their wanting to do even more this year. 

Ken, on the left, has been reenacting the RevWar era since around 1970.
That's 1970 - that's one year shy of 50 years!
To his left we have one, and maybe two more potential members.

My son and his girlfriend were also in attendance.
We spoke a bit on accessorizing our campsites and I pulled out a few items I had:
Tom checked out a new flag purchase
I recently made: the Grand Union Flag.

Evan's mother took this picture of me putting the yoke with the milk buckets on his shoulders. Yes, as a colonial child, this could have easily been one of his daily jobs.
Remember: youth is the future of the past.

My favorite lanthorn, utilizing a cow's horn
as the translucent by boiling it in water and
peeling off thin layers to allow light to
pass through.
The lanthorn is such an unusual style of lantern as it becomes a wonderful conversation starter.
It's one of my favorite pieces.

My Citizens of the American Colonies meeting was decently attended, though there were a few who could not make it, unfortunately.  And a number were dressed in their colonial finest.
Time for one more picture:
a group shot of all Citizens of the American Colonies attendees, 

whether dressed period or modern.
One of the topics we spoke on at the meeting was where and how to purchase clothing and accessories to get into the reenacting hobby, or to add to one's collection.  This is an excellent segue into one of my favorite weekends of the year, The Kalamazoo Living History Show, which takes place the third weekend in March and is sort of a super-mall for reenactors.  It is where nearly 300 of the finest artisans and vendors of pre-1890 living history clothing, supplies & accessories, and other related items & crafts come together from throughout the United States and Canada to sell their wares.  Funny thing...I hear now and again that many reenactors are leaving the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War to head forward in time to the 1940s and World War II. I have been told that people just aren't interested in bringing the distant past to life, that it takes too much time, work, and research to do so.  Well, judging by the upwards of 10,000 living historians who made the trek through all kinds of weather to the Kalamazoo Living History Expo, I would say the reports of the death of reenacting pre-20th century America are greatly exaggerated.
Now...just imagine:
three wedding reception-size halls, each filled with row after row after row of vendors, all selling their historical wares; most of what is found 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.  There aren't many places in the Great Midwest where we can go to that specializes in the much-harder-to-find colonial accessories to the extent the Kalamazoo Living History Show does.
The living historian/reenactor can pretty much find nearly anything he or she may need to complete their kit, whether soldier or civilian.  Even long-time "time-travelers" attend, sometimes for no other reason than to visit with friends in the hobby.  One of the best parts for me is seeing so many friends!  I couldn't walk more than a few feet without running into someone I knew!
And nearly every vendor dresses to the time of their wares, such as the ladies of the Carrot Patch Farm:
Not only do these ladies do spinning demonstrations, but they sell what they make, including socks, hats, scarves, and mittens.
The farm that is now called The Carrot Patch Farm, was owned by Frank and Hattie Peterson, who purchased it in 1914.  Susan Hanson, a great granddaughter of the Petersons, still lives and works on the farm, newly designated as one of Michigan’s centennial farms.
“When I look across the fields, I know I’m seeing the same thing as my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents saw,” said Susan. “The land, the crops, the animals we raise, all give us this amazing sense of history and family.”
You know that tradition runs high here, and those traditions, as you can see, are carrying on to the generations of today and, I am almost certain, to generations to come.

The 1st Pennsylvania had a table there, explaining the history of the original unit as well as the reenactors who now portray them, including Tony, on the left, and my son, Rob.

Now here's something you don't see every day:
Wigmakers were on hand, working their craft as people watched. They make the wigs in a traditional manner, not unlike those of the 18th century, as you can see in this next photograph:
To see such a traditional 18th century craft being done
here in the 21st century allows one to witness the life
of a tradesperson that is not often seen.
Gentry and businessmen wore wigs.  Many wigmaker establishments were generally located within or near taverns and provided a lucrative business.  Tradesmen, merchants, clergy, military, ship captains and landed gentry patronized the wigmaker.  Wigs were not only fashionable, but served as a way to convey one’s status within the community.
Look at the quality!
I did have a traditional period wig at one time, but I just didn't feel comfortable wearing it, so I sold it to a friend.

I could not take pictures of every vendor, but of those I did capture I put my favorites here, such as William Booth - Draper.
A draper is a dealer in cloth, clothing, and dry goods. And as you can
see in the two photos posted here, they are true to their name.
Wm. Booth - Linen and Woolen Draper, Haberdasher &c.
All your needs, should you want to make your own 18th century clothing.

So...what if, as a female reenactor, you wanted to dress the higher class; maybe you are a woman of means, married to a shipping merchant like John Giddings, or maybe his daughter. You see, Mr. Giddings built and lives in this fine house:
The home once belonging to John Giddings, built in 1750~
A walk on a fine spring day in 1775.
This just might be the vendor for you - - -
I feel bad that I did not get the name of this business, but they are a top vendor of women's colonial clothing. The style is of a more middle to upper class fashion, and they had a fine selection of accessories to add to the look.

As I mentioned, it seems one could hardly walk more than a few feet without running into someone they know, such as...
My friend, Karen, who is also a member of 
Citizens of the American Colonies.

I see this woman here every year and I always enjoy watching her work at her loom.
My 5th great grandfather, William Raby, was a weaver,
and I was told that he would go village to village to weave
for the townsfolk who lived there.
This was in England in the 1760s and 1770s.
I had another set of English ancestors who were also from England but came over to the colonies much earlier - in 1710 - and, since they were Quakers, they settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Of course there were black powder rifles and muskets available.
From carved pieces of wood...
...to the finished product.
It was interesting to watch the process of making a gun. I know of a few gunmakers who do an admirable job at their craft.
And speaking of crafts, there was a tanner at the expo as well:
The Kalamazoo Living History Show is more than just a place to
purchase items for reenacting, as you can see.
But, unfortunately, I have little 'hands-on' talent like the folks seen here.  Oh, I can present and share my knowledge of history, but these artisans are true craftsmen who bring history to life in such a way that I simply have not been taught.
I suppose we all have our specialties, eh?
'Twas good to see Jas Townsend & Son at the expo.
Townsend sells quite a few accessories, especially for
the colonial-era reenactor. They also have clothing of a
variety of periods, as well as hats and stockings.
Lately they have been known for there wonderful videos
on cooking and other topics of the period.
Yeah...that's me with Mr. Townsend.
Now, a surprise awaited me that I was unaware of:  the living historians who portray Irish indentured servant Maggie Delaney and her "owner," Parson John, were also at the Kalamazoo expo.  I only very recently discovered the duo quite by accident as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed.  I belong to a number of history pages, of course, and a You Tube video, filmed and produced by Townsends & Son, popped up on one of the of a woman depicting the hardships of indentured servitude.  In the video, she speaks for nearly an hour in a thick Irish brogue, giving the viewer her story, sometimes being a bit whimsical and other times bringing us to tears of sadness.  As is written on their internet site called Parson John Living History Inc.:
As a teacher interested in helping people understand more about the American Colonies, Carol (who portrays Maggie) began looking for a character from history that is rarely portrayed at events.  With the help of fellow historians Gerry Barker and Colleen Gilbert, Carol began researching the “lower sort” and decided to concentrate her research on, and develop a character demonstration of an Irish indentured servant.  Through “Maggie,” Carol is able to teach the plight of many European immigrants to this country.  Ragged and dirty with nasty looking teeth, Maggie wears an iron collar, the sign of a runaway, and is complete with indenture papers and a story of traveling from Ireland to America. Maggie may be seen at events carrying a load on her yoke, selling produce or doing laundry – all in the way these duties would have been done by a lowly servant during the 17th and 18th centuries.
It was such an honor for me to meet the two 'stars' of the
You Tube video of the Maggie Delaney and the Parson
story. In fact, even though it is available to watch on the
internet, I still purchased their DVD...to show my

support for living history.
Plus it comes with a CD of traditional Irish music.

Maggie and the Parson were selling their wares as well,
including modesty scarves, shawls, and bed covers.

For my own colonial clothing, I have three pairs of breeches, two shirts, three waistcoats, three cocked hats, two pairs of shoes, multiple pairs of stockings, but only two coats.
I needed another.
Well...I don't necessarily need another coat, but I really wanted another one.  As I mentioned the costs of clothing previously, I cannot afford to spend a large amount of money.  And I 'commissioned' my wife to hand-sew for me a new shirt, so she is busy enough.  Luckily there is Samson Historical, a vendor whose prices are very reasonable...and the product is of good quality.
Me trying on my new coat.
Looks pretty good, doesn't it?
 Things do not necessarily have to be expensive to be of good quality.
And Samson's is helping to but that myth.
Abbie Samson, here, is co-owner of the store,
along with her husband, Casey, and between the
two of them, they have built up quite a fine
collection of clothing, dry goods and notions,
as well as leather goods and colonial era accessories.
If you scroll back toward the top of this post to the group picture at my Citizens meeting, you will see this next young lady, Jenny, dressed in her modern clothing.  And though her son is dressed period, she is not.
Until this day in Kalamazoo.
She went to Samson's and purchased for herself a short gown and pleated petticoat.
Just a few more accessories and Jenny will be as ready
as her son, Evan.
I am looking forward to having them both join us at
our upcoming historical events this year! 
To her credit, Abbie Samson has documentation for everything they sell that would be considered period, and in her travels throughout the internet she has disproved a number of reenacting clothing myths that too many took as fact.
Remember: never say never, and never say always.
Well done, Samson Historical.

Well...look who I spotted in the crowd!
Yes, my good friend, Dr. Franklin was also saving every
penny he earned by shopping frugally.
The Kalamazoo Living History Show is as good as it gets. I look forward to it all year long and save my pennies to purchase some of my many wants.
And the friends...oh, the friends you see there.
Invested in the Environment of the Time.
It is an investment, no matter what era you find yourself in, and if you are willing to devote the time and effort to do it right, the dividend can be of a fine reward indeed.

Until next time, see you in time.

Below are other postings you might enjoy:
Nighttime: Living With Candles in Colonial Times - The Light at its Brightest ~
A study on all things nighttime in the 18th century.

In the Good Old Colony Days~
An overview loaded with pictures and short video clips on life in colonial times.

Travel and Taverns
A look at traveling by stage and staying at a Publick House during the time of the founding generation.

A Year on an 18th Century Farm
Living by the seasons; it took a family to run a farm in the 1760s.

Cooking on the Hearth - A Colonial Kitchen
The woman of the colonial house certainly had enough to do to keep her family well, and her job in the kitchen was the center of it all.

It's the Little Things: Shadow Portraits, Bourdaloues, Revolutionary Mothers, and Other Interesting Historical Odds & Ends
Interesting little bits of facts and information that can be used during presentations.

Declaring Independence
A bit of history behind the Declaration of Independence

Books: Researching the 18th Century
A selection of books I personally own that I have found to be of great help in my research































~   ~   ~

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Celebrating Washington's Birthday (and other February fun)

I don't know about you, but I can only take
so much of writing in my journal on these 
dreary winter days. I need to do something!
Let's face it - as reenactors living north of the Mason-Dixon Line, February can be a pretty dull month. I mean, it's freezing cold, gray, snowy, and, well, not very suitable weather for a reenactment.
Unless...unless you know the right people.
I've mentioned numerous times before that we, as living historians, need to stick together and find those with the same like-minded ideas and passions to help make the bleak mid-winter a bit more exciting and fun. This past February here in the metro-Detroit area we've done a couple of things to help stave off the winter blues, and what I did for this week's posting is mesh the two together, including celebrating George Washington's birthday. But before we get to that, please allow me to introduce you to my friend, Tony, who has been a Revolutionary War reenactor for a good many years, starting out with his parents in that great year of history 1976, and continuing off and on through our current time, and now with his own children.
Tony is still in that same military unit as he was back in '76, the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, though most members from those early days are no longer reenacting. But he is carrying it on here in the 21st century, recruiting new men and preparing for the sestercentennial of the American Revolution. He was kind enough to give me a bit of history of this unit he so passionately portrays:

"In the summer of 1775, not long after the battles of Lexington & Concord and Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress called for the raising the riflemen to go to the aid of Boston. They were trying to figure out the cheapest way to clothe such an army, and hunting shirts and trousers were put forward as a cheap solution. This was the dress of the true frontiersmen from Pennsylvania and Virginia, though it is clear that this was a uniform that was contracted out to be made and issued to the men, not their native clothing. Col. William Thompson, the first colonel of the Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion, appointed Reading, Pennsylvania to be supply depot. The Industrial Revolution had not yet occurred, so the clothing was made, sewn by hand, under contract by suppliers in Reading and possibly other locations. In subsequent years, the army continued to let out contracts for clothes, though tailors who had enlisted as soldiers were brought together to make additional clothes. The men from all the companies of riflemen were instructed to march there where they would receive their uniforms, knapsacks and blankets.
Photograph courtesy of Kerry Dennis
Many of the men who enlisted in the 1st Penn in the summer of 1775 were actually recent Irish or Scotch immigrants who had little to no experience with rifles. Their clothing would have been the typical clothing of the era, not unlike that worn by New Englanders. However, the hunting shirts and trousers were specifically made to give the riflemen that "frontier" look, which was so foreign to New Englanders. It really was a sort of "costume" in that it was not the normal clothing most of the men would have been wearing at the time. Congress specifically called for the men to be armed with rifles, which were much more accurate than the smooth bore muskets and fowling pieces of the New England militias. These firearms were accurate out to 300 or 400 yards in skilled hands and could be quite deadly.
The clothing that was issued to the men in the summer of '75 was likely worn out by that autumn or winter, for the men initially marched from Pennsylvania to Boston for about 4 weeks wearing their uniforms, and then served in and around Cambridge until March of 1776, when they marched from there to New York to begin the 1776 campaigns.
They were known as the Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion in the summer of 1775. When Washington reorganized the army, the battalion became known as the 1st Continental Regiment throughout 1776. Washington reorganized the army again in late 1776, and, starting in January 1777, the regiment  became known as the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, and that is the name it fought through for the rest of the war."
I did a bit of research on my own  and found that:
Along with the American long rifle, the American hunting shirt became famous in the American Revolution. It was generally made of homespun linen and cut in a long overshirt or wraparound style. It had rows of fringe around the edges and fit loosely so the wearer could move easily. Favored by General Washington, it was frequently worn by both Continentals and the militia. In 1776 Washington described it: "No dress can be cheaper nor more convenient, as the wearer may be cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather by putting on [additional clothes]. . . . "
Tony put together a hunting shirt sewing day, where members of his regiment could get together and hand-sew authentic replications of the originals worn by the 1st Penn back during the Revolutionary War.
In 1775 when the North Carolina Congress raised a battalion of ten companies of minutemen, or militia, it called for these men to be uniformed in hunting shirts. General Washington stated that a man wearing a hunting shirt created "no small terror to the enemy who think every such person is a complete marksman." Aside from hunting shirts, the militia usually wore homespun wool coats in a variety of colors and patterns and waistcoats, breeches, and stockings.
(Outfitting An American Revolutionary Soldier)
Tony went around from table to table to answer questions and help or guide anyone in need.
This sewing day for soldiers took place inside the original mess hall in the 1840 Historic Fort Wayne barracks in Detroit.
Before the sewing began, Tony explained the
history of his hunting shirt.
After hearing a bit of the history, the members of his 1st Penn Regiment got to work in making their own hand-sewn shirts.
Each member received a "kit" that included everything needed.
Some of the members wore their period clothing during sewing day while others chose to come in modern wear.
My son was lucky, for his girlfriend, an accomplished seamstress, came along to help him out.

As I am not portraying military, I didn't make one for myself, though I do plan to possible go out here and there as a Minute Man every-so-often. So after hanging around inside for a while I decided to go out for a while and enjoy a rare, sunny (albeit very cold) February day.
For the first time ever, I purchased for myself a musket!
It is a Gentleman's Fusil Musket - yes, here I am with it.
As noted by Access Heritage, the company I purchased it from: "Having a 'fusil' or smaller and lighter calibre musket was both more comfortable and was an excellent muzzleloader for hunting or target shooting.  A number of London gun makers catered to this market including Thomas Ketland.  Ketland started making flintlocks in 1760 and his business grew.  By the 1790s, Ketland expanded in order to take advantage of the export market.  Not only did British and American officers and civilian gentlemen demand his guns but also the North America's Native chiefs."
This is the company picture of the gun I purchased.
I plan to use it once in a while during early battles, but mainly I wanted it for presentation purposes, especially the hunting aspect, for I do portray a farmer. Tony helped me in choosing the piece that would work for me, of which I appreciate.
Gentlemen hunter resting after a day of fowling, 1783.
Hey! He has my gun!
"Gentleman hunter resting after a day of fowling, 1783."
"This smooth-bore flintlock muzzleloader has a 36-inch tapered barrel with a .62 calibre bore.   The overall length is 52 1/2 inches.  The barrel has engraved on it "LONDON" like most pieces manufactured by Kentland gunmakers in the 18th century." 
The young man in the following two photos willingly and happily posed for a few shots:
Though a little too young to be fighting in the War, he is definitely of age to go hunting.

Then again, if he sees a Redcoat, he may just take aim!
During a break in the sewing, a few of the guys also came outside and I took a few moments to snap pictures of some of them. I'm not going to lie---it was pretty cold out. We were at the tail-end of the so-called "Polar Vortex" where we had very bitter temperatures dipping down to near 20 below (actual temps!) and highs hovering around zero (one day we had a high of minus 4).
If these two looked cold...they actually were!

My son and his girlfriend.
Our woolen cloaks definitely kept us warm, To be honest, I felt that my cloak actually kept me warmer than my modern coat, though my legs below the knees certainly felt the sting of the air.
It's February in Michigan. It's cold. But at least we did have sun!
But the fun wasn't over yet - - -

Our next February excursion was to celebrate the birth of the Father of our Country, George Washington. Here are the photos taken at this celebration:
A toast!
Washington's Birthday has a history as old as our country. It was celebrated publicly for the first time in the late 18th century, while George Washington was still president.

"Washington's Birthday" became an official holiday in 1885, when President Chester Arthur signed a bill stating so. Meanwhile, there was President Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 12, which never became a federal holiday but was celebrated as a legal holiday in many states outside the old Confederacy.
Today, we celebrate Washington’s Birthday on the third Monday of February each year—the result of the 1968 law mandating that a number of federal holidays occur on Mondays.
George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington's birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, 1732.
A year and 11 days??
But, how can that be?
New Year's Day had been celebrated on March 25 under the Julian calendar in Great Britain and its colonies, but with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, New Year's Day was now observed on January 1. When New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25th, March 24 of one year was followed by March 25 of the following year. When the Gregorian calendar reform changed New Year's Day from March 25 to January 1, the year of George Washington's birth, because it took place in February, changed from 1731 to 1732. In the Julian Calendar his birth date is Feb 11, 1731 and in the Gregorian Calendar it is Feb 22, 1732. Double dating was used in Great Britain and its colonies including America to clarify dates occurring between January 1st and March 24th on the years between 1582, the date of the original introduction of the Gregorian calendar, and 1752, when Great Britain adopted the calendar.
George was the oldest son of Augustine and Mary (Ball). His birthplace is located in Westmoreland County, Virginia, at Popes Creek Plantation (also known as Wakefield), with the plantation house, which was probably a simple one, built by his father, Augustine Washington, in the 1720s. Augustine, with his wife (and George's mother, Mary Ball) controlled a plantation of 1300 acres with several outbuildings and twenty to twenty-five slaves from this home.
The family moved away from Popes Creek when George was only three.
It is unfortunate that the house was destroyed by fire about sixty years later, in 1779. Later, Washington's step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, placed a stone marker on the site in 1815 or 1816 commemorating his grandfather's birthplace, explaining, 
"Here On the 11th of February, 1732, Washington Was Born.
Washington's nephew, William Augustine, was the owner of Pope's Creek when it burned down.

Yet despite the holiday often being referred to as “Presidents’ Day” in practice, the official federal holiday is actually “Washington’s Birthday.” When George Washington himself was alive, people honored the occasion with balls and banquets. The celebration continued after his death as a way to remember what America’s first president did for the Nation.
For our celebration we had period music played beautifully on the hammered dulcimer. 
And here is the dulcimer player with his wife and child.

Checkers and peanuts - - - - 

Plenty of talk, mostly about reenactments past & future and historical accuracy of period clothing, muskets, and other items used, abounded. Having a period party doesn't mean one must necessarily stay in 1st person to keep it authentic, just keeping away from modern politics, non-period movies/music, and other contemporary topics. 

Even though the celebration took place in an 1872 school house, the atmosphere still had that period wooden feel that most modern buildings don't (obviously) have.

Most of us brought along our own light.
In fact, here are a couple of my lanterns,
including my favorite on the right.

Together with the members of the 1st Pennsylvania dressed in their 1770s finest, along with most of the rest of us also dressed in an 18th century manner - and throw in the lanterns that helped to complete the ambiance - this 19th century structure certainly did indeed work well as an 18th century backdrop.
By the way, this was not my first time participating in such a birthday celebration; ten years ago I was part of a commemoration for the 200th anniversary of President Lincoln's birthday.
I suppose this was a sort of unofficially the first event of the 2019 season. It was good to be around like-minded folk who enjoy bringing the past to life.
Once again, many thanks to Tony for putting all of this together. It was a really fine time.
Until next time, see you in time.


Sources for this posting:
Infoplease
The White House
Julian to Gregorian Calendar
Outfitting An American Revolutionary Soldier

And if you would like to know more about George Washington's death Click HERE
Interested in hearing about the beginning of the Revolutionary War from those that were there? Click HERE
Interested in everyday life in colonial times, click HERE






















~   ~   ~