This coronavirus/COVID-19 thing has really wreaked havoc on our entire globe.
That's an understatement.
And those of us in the museum and living history world have certainly felt the sting.
As I wrote on the Friends of Greenfield Village Facebook page
on April 3:
"We all are sadly aware of what is going on in our world at this time.
It is frightening to say the least.
At this time we don't know when Greenfield Village will reopen for the season - it won't be until at least June at the earliest. This means that, with great sadness, Civil War Remembrance is cancelled for this year. And as you may know, The Henry Ford complex will be closed until at least through May 31st.
As a long-time participant in Civil War Remembrance and a long-time member of The Henry Ford, I, too, am very sad.
It is sad, but not nearly as sad as thinking about those who are greatly suffering and dying due to this horrible virus. That's the saddest part of all.
God willing, this will end soon and we can then move on...we can then visit Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. We can go to or participate in other reenactments. We can eat at the Eagle Tavern, visit our favorite presenters at the Daggett House, Firestone Farm, the Birthplace of Henry Ford, the Model T dock, and all of the other wonderful buildings and areas that we love so much.
Unfortunately, there will be far too many who will not be joining us.
Well, that just about sums it all up for me. But we are still allowed to be saddened that we cannot enjoy many of the activities that make us happy, right?
Yes, we certainly can! And, no, it is not
You see, for me, reenacting-
living history is my solace; my
essential. When things are going off the deep end, spending time in the past is my way of making a connection with that certain something that keeps me calm...sane...in an insane world.
Some call it time-travel.
And, it largely is, to some extent. In a way.
Or more like mind-travel.
Or a combination of the two.
This perception is exactly what came to mind while watching season four episode three of Outlander
(a time-travel television series) where I saw one of the coolest 'traveling-through-time'
scenes since the computerized then & now
imaging in the Titanic movie.
|From Outlander: The first picture shows the year 1970 with a |
late '60s Ford Mustang traveling on a road through a mountain
pass in North Carolina (though I do not believe they had that
kind of "deer crossing" sign in 1970).
|The second shows a bit of time overlap, with two time periods |
blending a bit...
|...and the third photo shows the same pathway, as it was in 1768.|
I thought it was a very cool depiction of a sort of passing through time ...and I took the above shots of the scene directly off my TV! I wish my time-travel vehicle was a late 60s model Mustang rather than an early 2000s model Econoline Van...lol.
It was sometime in mid-to-late March when someone - I am not sure who - started a "Quarantined Reenactor Photo Challenge" on Facebook, asking reenactors to post a daily photo of themselves dressed in period clothing without an explanation
for ten days. Well, the photo part sounded very cool, but the without an explanation
part just didn't make sense to me. Why post a picture without telling a little about it? Funny thing is that most of those who participated ended up having to explain their pictures anyhow in the comments!
So, I changed mine up a bit.
I, instead, wrote:
"Quarantined reenactor photo challenge:
Day 1 of 10.
We, as reenactors and living historians, are cut off from our hobby, so a few of us are keeping up the passion with reenactment images.
It's easy! Every day you should post an image of yourself in your period clothing with a small explanation/description.
I ask my other friends in the hobby to do the same on their own page to brighten up the news feed and get away from the doom & gloom for at least a short time.
And if you do, please include your picture in my comments as well.
I'm so bored!
I miss being in my
(and it's here that I wrote an explanation for whichever of my pictures was posted that day. You will find each explanation listed 'neath the pictures below as was written when originally posted on my Facebook page).
Now, my living history friends, how about you?"
Eventually, as the quarantine continued into the month of April and it got closer to the tenth photo, I decided not to end it - - I wanted to continue, for it was really enjoyable to do, considering actual reenactments were not allowed. So, I made it my plan to continue until the quarantine was lifted and reenacting can, once again, begin.
As of now, we're still not sure just when that will be...
I always try to have my 'stealth' camera with me to document my time-travel expeditions, and in doing so I have acquired thousands of reenacting photos along the way. So as I began to delve into all of my countless pictures, I found the threads of present and past, warp and weft, weaving together until, before I knew it, I was immersed in the past - 1770s and 1860s - and was able to utilize, pretty equally, both eras in this quarantined reenactor photo challenge. And I certainly had a lot of fun doing it, considering.
So as our quarantine here in Michigan continues on, I shall continue my posts.
Okay then, let's get to the results for the first set of photos, beginning in late March and going through April 30th:
|March 27 - Picture #1|
Here is a picture of me during a historic presentation
at Warren Woods Tower High School. The flag I am
holding is the Liberty and Union Taunton Flag
|March 28 - Picture #2|
Here is a sort of two-for-one picture of me during the Port Sanilac
Civil War event a few years back. In the first picture we see
Robert Beech, famed tin-typist, capturing my likeness while on
The second picture is the captured image.
|March 29 - Picture #3|
Here I am at Mill Race Village at our very 1st Patriot's Day
event, commemorating the Battles of Lexington & Concord
of April 19, 1775. It was also the first time I had ever partaken
in a battle scenario.
|March 30 - Picture #4|
Here I am with my wife as we represent life in the early 1860s.
This was taken last fall in Armada at our Harvest Home event -
showing what folks of the mid-19th century did during the season
of autumn. In this particular picture we were caught participating
in the traditional thresherman's dinner.
|March 31 - Picture #5|
Back to the 18th century I go to visit my favorite structure in
Greenfield Village, the Daggett House, as well as my friend
(and wonderful presenter) Gigi.
|April 1 - Picture #6|
In 2014 I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to plow
behind a team of horses, something I've never done before but
had wanted to experience for years. With Mr. Opp leading the
horses, I did a couple of furrows, which was all my legs could
handle (this modern city boy is not in the same physical shape as
a 19th farmer, that's for sure!). Many thanks to the good folk
at Firestone Farm inside Greenfield Village, I now can say I
plowed behind a team of horses.
In period clothing.
|April 2 - Picture #7|
In this picture, taken April 22, 2019, I am standing in the
doorway of the house that Abel Prescott - brother of Samuel
Prescott who rode with Paul Revere in the early morning hours of
April 19, 1775 - pounded upon to awaken the sleeping Thomas
Plympton and have him sound the alarm for the town of Sudbury,
Massachusetts that the Regulars were on the march to Concord.
Yeah...this was pretty cool.
|April 3 - Picture #8|
This awesome picture was taken Christmas 2018 by Larissa while
we were recreating Christmas 1863 during the Christmas at the
Fort event (Fort Wayne in Detroit).
Yeah...it's where Christmas past really does come to life.
|April 4 - Picture #9|
For today's picture we have Benjamin Franklin, Sybil
Ludington, and Paul Revere. The three of us give historical
presentations at schools (as you see here), libraries, historical
societies, reenactments, and anywhere else we are asked to be.
And each of us has a patriot story to tell.
|April 5 - Picture #10|
Today's picture was taken at the Civil War reenactment at
Charlton Park on the porch of the 1858 Sixberry House. This is
the event where a few of us fall into an immersion/1st person
experience and recreate an 1860s family. One of our annual
traditions here is making ice cream by way of a period-correct
hand-crank ice cream maker. With me in this photo is Jillian,
who often portrays my daughter when we do immersion.
Normally this would have been the end of it because, well, we have ten pictures.
But I am not your average everyday person, so I decided to continue on posting pictures, and I wrote:
"Day 11 until this is all over."
|April 6 - Picture #11|
Today's picture was taken at the the Daggett House
in Greenfield Village (my favorite house, by the way).
I am helping to make beer in the same manner as was
done in the 1760s. In this photo I am stirring the mash,
which allowed the brewer to extract the sugars
from the barley.
As I stirred the mash, I noticed it smelled just like
the modern 'Malto-Meal.'
Anyhow, this was a wonderful experience for me and I
so very much appreciate those who allowed me to take part.
The next day I slightly changed my introduction up again when I wrote:
"Day 12 until this is all over and I can get back to the hobby I love."
|April 7 - Picture #12|
While waiting for the train to come in at Smiths Creek Depot,
you see a good example of the male clothing fashions of civilian
men during the Civil War.
This was taken at Greenfield Village during
Civil War Remembrance a few years back.
|April 8 - Picture #13 |
Today's photo is the kind I enjoy the most. Rebecca and I, both
dressed in the 1760s period, met each other on the street in
Greenfield Village and stopped to chat. And, yes, our talks
always center on history. Anyhow, a visitor to the Village
snapped this picture of us without us knowing, and, to me, it
looks like he traveled back in time to capture this moment.
|April 9 - Picture #14|
While doing living history, I enjoy experiencing activities from
the past that I may have few opportunities to do in the present.
So while woodcutting today seems to be done mostly with a
chainsaw, Ian and I, while at Crossroads Village a few years
back, grabbed this chance to do it with a two-man saw.
Yes, in 1860s period clothing.
|April 10 - Picture #15|
When there is a "pandemic" occurring, the best thing to do is to
see your doctor, which I did. And my doctor's knowledge is the
best in our time. Of course, bloodletting is, perhaps, the most
famous of 18th century medical practices. Bloodletting, which
was the practice of bleeding the ill patient to get his or her
"humors" back in balance, had a long and somewhat respected
history and was used to treat everything from fever and madness
to anemia and debility.
An early theory for bloodletting was that there were four main
bodily humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. An
imbalance in these humors was postulated as the need for
bloodletting, purging, vomiting, etc. Virtually every known
medical condition at one time or another was treated by these
|April 11 - Picture #16|
As a living historian, one gets to meet many wonderful people
from the past. And one of the greatest is Abraham Lincoln,
as portrayed by Fred Priebe.
When Mr. Priebe dons his period clothing,
he becomes our 16th President.
Yes, he does.
His knowledge of the man is beyond compare (you should see
his Lincoln library!), and he takes this role seriously, as he
should, for it is a serious role to take. When you are with this
man at reenactments, you feel as if you truly are with
Abraham Lincoln himself.
That takes a special person.
Because of the importance he places upon his role,
Mr. Priebe is that person.
Thank you, sir, for taking what we do seriously, for you add
greatly in bringing the past to life like no other.
|April 12 - Picture #17|
It's been four years this summer since we've been to Colonial
Williamsburg, and we were hoping to return this year.
I don't believe that's going to happen, so we'll shoot for 2021.
Anyhow, while we were there, we dressed in our period
clothing (Patty & Rosalia for part of the time, me the entire
time, and Miles really had no interest in doing that -lol- but he
loved Williamsburg), and we took a carriage ride, which was
only one of the many, many highlights of this amazing place.
Our driver was pretty awesome, too!
Can't wait to get back there!
|April 13 - Picture #18|
Often, I, along with friends, will visit Greenfield Village while
wearing our period clothing. In the picture you see here are a few
of us spending time with the presenters of Firestone Farm,
celebrating Independence Day.
It was 103 degrees out, yet, we braved the heat and had a
splendid afternoon in the 19th century.
Can't wait to get back to Greenfield Village when it reopens!
|April 14 - Picture #19|
Whenever Patty & I would return home from Greenfield
Village, we both would feel down, for we wanted to live in one
of those wonderful old houses. So, in 1999 we put an addition
onto our own house and made it into a sort of "Greenfield Village
room." It was strongly rooted in the mid-Victorian era.
Well, last year I made a change to give a portion of the room a
more colonial flavor. And that's where today's picture was taken -
in my own little Daggett corner.
Even with this, we still can't wait to get back to
Greenfield Village when it reopens!
On April 15, I slightly changed my text once again to read in this manner:
"Quarantined reenactor photo challenge:
Day 20 until this is all over and I can get back to the hobby I love.
We, as reenactors and living historians, are cut off from our hobby, so a few of us are keeping up the passion with reenactment images.
It's easy! Every day you should post an image of yourself in your period clothing with a small explanation/description:
(here is where I write the description of the picture of the day
Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to do the same on their own page to brighten up the news feed and get away from the doom & gloom for at least a short time.
And if you do, please include your picture in my comments as well."
|April 15 - Picture #20|
My friend Larissa and I have formed a partnership called Our
Own Snug Fireside, and we do historic presentations, including
The Patriots (where we, with special guest Bob Stark, present as
Ben Franklin, Sybil Ludington, and Paul Revere), as well as our
Colonial and/or Victorian Farm Life presentation where she and I
tell of our everyday lives as we go through year on a farm from
either the 1860s or the 1760s.
The picture you see here is from our 1860s Victorian farm
presentation that we give every year up near Sleeping Bear Dunes.
|April 16 - Picture #21|
In the 18th century, queues were considered both hyper-masculine and the epitome of ‘establishment.’ “Queue” was the commonly used word for the style of wearing the hair tied back, braided or not, with a black ribbon, until the 20th century when it became a “Pony's tail.”
The queue was the style worn by soldiers and it also became a fashion for the citizen male as well.
Now, a great many men wore a powdered wig, as we see so often in paintings. However, the mass of the people - about 80% of the population - did not wear wigs (which cost a great deal of money); they wore their own hair, usually unpowdered.
And, in the 18th century, I am a part of that 80%.
Okay, so my braided queue is a bit shorter than my friend.
Just give me some time...it'll get there!
|April 17 - Picture #22|
For today's image I am showing the likeness of my daughter and I
taken three years ago at the Port Sanilac reenactment. Growing
up in the hobby, Rosalia not only can sew her own dresses and
make her own bonnett, but she knows the basics of spinning
wool into yarn, dyeing wool using the dyes made from nature,
and even dips her own candles, among other period activities of
the 19th (and 18th) century. She can also do the lady's hairstyles
of the 1860s as well.
|April 18 - Picture #23|
There's no question on my love for history and, locally, for
Greenfield Village, and I have been dressing in period clothing to
visit the open-air museum for twenty years.
Fortunately, sometimes friends and family will join me in this
excursion, like as you see in this picture taken on a beautiful fall
day in November of 2018 of me, my son Robbie, and future
daughter-in-law Heather dressed in our 1770s clothing.
For April 19, I did another two-fer. The photos are labeled 24a and 24b:
|April 19 - Picture #24a|
April 19, 1775 - the date the Battle of Lexington & Concord, signifying the beginning of the Revolutionary War, occurred.
In the wee hours previous of that morning, around 4:00 am, Abel Prescott, brother of Samuel Prescott (who rode earlier with Paul Revere), went to the home of Thomas Plympton, the leading Whig in Sudbury, Massachusetts, to give him the news of the British Regular Army marching on Concord. Soon after, the town's alarm bell began to ring and warning guns were fired to summon militia companies throughout. Within thirty-five minutes the entire town of Sudbury had been awakened.
April 19 - and Picture #24b
April 19, 2019 - 244 years to the date - I myself, while in period clothing, went to the same house and to the same door - the door - that Abel Prescott did all those years earlier, for the house now sits inside Greenfield Village.
Yes, it gave me goosebumps.
Unfortunately, this year I cannot repeat the action.
|April 20 - Picture #25|
This picture of Beckie and I was taken during Greenfield Village's Holiday Nights event a few years ago. We were there performing old world Christmas songs as part of the period vocal group Simply Dickens. We certainly had a fine and fun time singing the old carols not heard very often here in the 21st century to thousands of visitors looking for old-time Christmas cheer.
Yeah...as you can see, we did dress period accurate to the 1860s.
For the April 21 - Picture #26, there is a little sort of "prequel" story to tell:
On the morning of Saturday, April 21, 2018, as I drove to Greenfield Village while wearing my colonial clothing, the temperature gauge on my van went deep into the red, meaning my motor was about to overheat. I was on I-94 near the I-75 exit (exit 216) right in the heart of Downtown Detroit. Traffic was creeping along at a snail's pace, for there was an accident in the left lane, and the right lane was closed for construction, leaving only the center lane to accommodate thousands of autos in this major metropolis. Luckily, I was able to drive my van over to the side - the people let me through from the center lane. I got out and opened the hood - I had enough coolant, but it seemed to me that I was having trouble with my thermostat.
Anyhow, seeing that traffic on 94 was at a crawl, and so many driving past saw me dressed as, shall we say, Paul Revere, many honked and waved, and at one point, a truck driver yelled out, "Is everything alright?"
I yelled back, "My horses got loose and took off from my carriage and now I'm stuck!"
He laughed pretty hard, gave a thumbs up, waved, and crept along on his way.
|April 21 - Picture #26|
When the tow-truck driver arrived and saw me, he just smiled
and said, "I love my job!" and gave me this big ol' hug and then
said, "You made my day!"
After getting my van to the repair shop near where I live, the tow
truck driver took a picture of me, and then he had us take a selfie
together...with him wearing my tricorn hat.
He commented about how he couldn't wait to show the other
drivers at the garage. And, lucky for me, I was able to get a
copy of the two pictures he took.
The moral of my story? When lemons are sent your way,
lemonade isn't far away.
It gave me another story to tell.
And, in the comments when I originally posted this story in April of 2018, my friend Larissa wrote: Do you know how many people drove by, called someone and said, “You’ll never believe what I just saw on the side of the road!”
|April 22 - Picture #27|
Waiting for the train to come in...at last year's Civil War
Remembrance at Greenfield Village. As you see, my time-
traveling friends and I were sitting at Smiths Creek Depot, which
was built in 1858-59. It was during a trip back in 1863 that an
angry conductor threw young Thomas Edison off the train at this
depot when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while
conducting a chemical experiment using a jar of phosphorus. The
chemicals and his printing press were also tossed off as well.
And here we were...possible witnesses to that occurrence.
We'll never tell...
|April 23 - Picture #28|
So...while I was in Colonial Williamsburg a few years back I
visited the R. Charlton Coffeehouse. Though I am not a coffee
drinker, I did partake in the finest of real colonial hot chocolate,
which was considered an adult drink at the time.
During the period the coffeehouse was open (throughout most of
the 1760s), many important political figures frequented its
rooms, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and
Lieutenant-Governor Francis Fauquier, as well as many
merchants and gentry.
As such, this establishment permitted no women, and its
sequestered rooms provided a place to conduct confidential
business, or to host exclusive gatherings.
I was happy to be a part, as you can see in this photograph.
|April 24 - Picture #29|
As you may or may not know, I, many times, portray a farmer
of the 18th and 19th centuries, and sometimes I can actually sort
of live out the history in a period house, such as the one at
historic Waterloo Farm.
Here you will see Kristen, who often portrays my daughter,
helping me to repair a fence. You see, in my reenacting world, I
only have two daughters and, thus, have raised my eldest almost
as a son, therefore putting her to work helping me in the fields.
|April 25 - Picture #30|
In this picture you see me as a colonial printer, though the press I
am using is from the 19th century and not from the 18th century.
However, printing presses changed little until after the Civil
War, so this one is very acceptable for the photo.
The manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, once
approved on July 4, 1776, was taken to printer John Dunlap,
the "official printer to the Continental Congress," that very
afternoon to typeset and print the first copies. He printed that day
and well into the evening, working feverishly throughout the
night, printing approximately 200 broadsides so they could be
posted, read aloud, and distributed to the new thirteen states and
elsewhere by couriers on July 5th to alert the citizenry of this
momentous event in time. As John Adams later wrote, "We were
all in haste."
Copies were also dispatched by members of Congress to various
assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety as well as to
the commanders of the Continental Army. In fact, it was one of
these Dunlap broadsides that was delivered to George
Washington in New York to be read aloud to the troops.
|April 26 - Picture #31|
This picture was taken last year during our 1860s Fall Harvest
presentation in Armada. One of the 21st Michigan members
brought along her lap dulcimer (or mountain dulcimer or
Appalachian dulcimer) and I immediately started playing it. I
know the basics of this old-time early American musical
instrument (which may have been brought over from the Scots-
Irish in the early 19th century), so playing an old-timey tune
comes pretty natural.
It has a wonderful "wooden" sound to it that can, by sound
alone, bring one back nearly 200 years into the past.
|April 27 - Picture #32|
You see here a few of us inside the Navarre-Anderson Trading
Post, which was built in Monroe (Frenchtown) Michigan in
1789 - one of only four 18th century buildings still standing in
our state (the other three are up on Mackinac Island)!
For this scenario we are depicting the building as a tavern, and
"my wife" and I are the owners, serving the military men
stationed in our area. Colonial taverns were generally run by
keepers of a middling class who had a steadier income than a
farmer or other laborer might have had, and food, drink, and
overnight accommodations were offered for a price.
Food at a rural colonial tavern was generally fair, though there
were times, especially during the harvest, when food choices
were greater and more readily available. Tavern patrons ate at a
common table, slept in common bedchambers, and socialized in
common rooms. There was little privacy.
The tavern owner and his wife were very prominent people in the area, and were thoroughly informed on all public and most private matters. They enjoyed the confidence of all who gathered around their table and fireside. The husband could also have held some sort of public office, many times as postmaster, for in an area without an authorized post office, these ordinaries were the repositories for incoming and outgoing letters and packages.
|April 28 - Picture #33|
At times during our living history events I get the distinct
opportunity to take part in what I'm sure would be considered a
very unusual scenario in modern society: 19th century
mourning. Specifically, Civil War era mourning. As you may or
may not know, death happened quite frequently for younger
people in the "pre-electrical times" - it was much more
commonplace at a younger age than today; the infant mortality
rate was extremely high - so high, in fact, that many mothers did
not give their newborns names until they passed their first
birthday (my own gg grandmother did this). Also, death during
childbirth was the number one cause of a woman's death, and
then there were the "everyday" causes: consumption (TB),
influenza, cancer, pneumonia, etc., and even something as
seemingly insignificant as a minor cut, if it became infected,
could cause death.
So, that being said, every-so-often a few of us will put together a
mourning scenario to show how this ritual was practiced 150+
years ago, such as what you see here when we did the
presentation at Charlton Park a number of years back.
Yes, this is an actual tintype of us taken with a period camera.
By the way, when we present mourning, we do it with the
utmost respect, just so you know.
|April 29 - Picture #34|
In case you did not know or hadn't heard, I purchased a musket
last year---an exact replica of a 1760 Gentleman's Fusil Musket.
Having a 'fusil' (or smaller and lighter calibre musket) was both
more comfortable and was an excellent muzzleloader for hunting
or target shooting.
This picture from last year's Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs
reenactment was taken *just* a split-hair second before I pulled
the trigger, firing the gun for the very first time, so no smoke
was captured. But that's okay. I got to fire my musket, and that
was pretty cool.
I look forward to firing it again this year when the reenactments
will (hopefully) begin again.
|April 30 - Picture #35|
Five stylish gentlemen from the 1860s.
Or, if you prefer, "the linen brigade."
What you see us wearing is summer clothing to help us keep
cooler in the warmer weather. Lighter fabric (linen and cotton),
lighter color, and even straw hats were much preferred over
woolen material when the temperatures reached above 75 degrees.
As soon as you start to think of the past as happening (as opposed to it having happened), a new way of conceiving history becomes possible. And this is what I try to do more and more when I don my period clothing and attend an event, even if it is simply visiting a local open-air museum. I like to think that I am a part of history rather than just someone wearing funny clothes. And I also try not to just reenact the past, but to experience
the past as well. What I've tried to show here are the many different experiences I've had in my living history world, and it is my hope that what you've seen in the photographs shown today are more than just pictures of someone wearing old-time clothing; I would like to think the viewer feels as if they are peering into the past.
Now, since this quarantine continues on into the merry month of May, so will my daily photos. And that means you will likely see another pictorial collection like this in about a month.
Like I said, until the reenactments return.
And I have plenty of pictures...
Until next time, see you in time.
~ ~ ~
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