So here we go with another month of pictures from Ken's participation in his favorite hobby.
Yes, it is a hobby, but not just a hobby.
It is a passion.
It's my solace.
It's a part of my everyday life.
It's what keeps me sane in an insane world.
It is what I look forward to doing every chance I get.
It gives me an opportunity to teach history in a uniquely immersive way...
Now, you continue to collect stamps, you work on that cool 1941 Ford Coupe, you over there---keep purchasing those antiques, and you...continue with the sports that you love so much.
We all have our passions.
This one is mine.
Now, as I have been writing on Facebook for almost a full year:
To change up the news feed and help get away from all of the harsh and getting harsher doom & gloom of our modern time, here is my daily Living History Photo for a new month and a new year----
January 1: Day 281----and I plan to continue until whenever I decide to stop.
More fun at Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights!
Heather and Beckie and I, during a break from performing with Simply Dickens, visited Larissa while she worked at the 1876 Ford Farmhouse.
It was quite an honor for us to be a part of Holiday Nights, which we did for something like five or six years. Over the course of a single Christmas season, thousands of visitors got to hear our old world carols - the kind not normally played on WNIC radio. And it was a wonderful perk when we could zip into a house or two to see Christmas past...and see a presenter friend as well.
My wife likes to chide me because of my historical lighting collection. Whenever she sees me looking at candle holders or lanterns at an antique store, a flea market, or at a sutler, she tells me, "We don't need any more of those!"
Of course we...er...I do!
You see, I am a collector, and one of the items I collect are candle holders/lanterns. But not any old holders...only those specific to my taste - usually those that will work for 18th century.
Understand, I didn't start out purposely to accumulate this sort of a collection. It just sort of inadvertently happened. It wasn't until I was attempting to clean out my stuff one day, including things stored away in the basement and garage, that I realized, "Hey! I got quite a cool collection of 18th century candle holders and lanterns!"
I am most certain that my love for the natural flame lighting is a direct result of when, right after Labor Day, my mother used to light candles and my father would light fires in our fireplace - both were a wonderful sign that autumn was here. And now I carry on that same tradition, but in a more historic way, for each of my lighting apparatus are very different - not of the modern Bed, Bath & Beyond style in any way.
When I am out in the evening, dressed in clothing of the 1760s/1770s, my lantern is a must as an accessory, as you see here with me standing next to the 1750 Daggett House.
By the way, a full moon helps to light the way as well...
A couple of 1860s Victorians doing 1960s dances!
This picture of Jillian and I was taken last year at the 21st Michigan Civil War
Yes, yes, we contra-dance - - but she and I were just having fun here!
Today's photo is the second of two pictures taken of me and my friend (and Citizens of the American Colonies member) Rebecca while we chatted on the street at Greenfield Village (I posted the first picture back in May of 2020). Rebecca and I, both dressed in the period of the 1760s / early 1770s, happened to meet each other at the end of the day while walking toward the exit gate, and, of course, being friends, we stopped to chat for a few moments; as a Village employee, her shift at the 18th century Daggett House had ended for the day, so it was a good opportunity to get caught up for an exchange of historical knowledge - yes, our talks generally center on history.
Unbeknownst to either of us, a visitor at the Village snapped away as we spoke, capturing a unique peek in time. These are the kinds of pictures I enjoy the most, for, to me, it looks like the photographer traveled back 250 years to capture this totally unposed 18th century moment.
The 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting group has been throwing a period dress Christmas party at Eastpointe's 1872 school house for 15 years, though this year it will not happen (and I know I don't have to explain why).
We have live fiddle music, contra-dancing, period-correct food, and play parlor games. We also take a few group pictures of all who attend. As you can see, the 21st is a rather large group!
When we take our "family" picture, we always take a serious pose and then a crazy one, though our own President Lincoln remains rather stoic through it all (lol).
Here you see one of each picture.
Traditionally, the first Monday after Epiphany (or 12th Night – the 6th of January) was called Plow Monday because it was the day when men returned to their plows - or their daily work - following the Christmas Holiday. It was customary in the 18th century for farm laborers to draw a plow through the village, soliciting money for a "plow light," which was kept burning in the parish church all year.
Sometimes falling on the same day as Plow Monday was Distaff Day (January 7). This was when women were expected to return to their spinning following the Christmas tide. A distaff is the staff that women used for holding the flax or wool in spinning. Hence, the term "distaff" refers to women's work or the maternal side of the family.
I've always liked mirror pictures like this. They have an ethereal feel to them.
And this picture of 1860s me in a mirror was taken (I believe) at the
Bancroft House Museum in Romeo, Michigan back in 2012.
I've been wanting something made from an 18th century loom, whether the loom is authentic or a replication, for quite some time. As I've mentioned previously, my 5th great grandfather was a weaver in the 1760s, and with me reenacting his era I figured I can not only honor my ancestor, but have something to help accent my living history experiences and presentations as well. So, with the help of a number of people - going back over a year to November 2019 - and having a LOT of patience, I finally received a runner - two, in fact - that were "made with a historical timber-frame loom similar to those used in Colonial America."
The runners are large enough to be a sort of covering to accent my colonial vignette
in my home.
In the first picture you can see me standing next to an 18th century loom that is used for demonstration purposes inside Greenfield Village's weaving shop, and the second photo was taken in early December at my house showing my recently purchased treasure.
Men of the 21st Michigan Civil War unit.
This was taken nearly ten years ago at the 21st Michigan Christmas party.
From the left:
I was portraying a postmaster during this period, next to me was Dave Tennies, who portrayed Senator Jacob Howard from Michigan, Mike Gillett is next and portrayed the unit chaplain, and, of course, on the right we have President Woodrow Wilson---er...I mean President Lincoln (sorry Fred!).
The awesome picture that never happened.
Yes, I am riding on a horse while wearing my 1770s clothing. But no, it did not take place at Greenfield Village – unfortunately, I have never ridden a horse inside Greenfield Village, much less in the wintertime next to my favorite house. I was horseback riding at my friend Jason’s farm a few autumns ago, and there was a nip in the air so I was able to wear my cloak as well. Later, I was able to utilize my photo-manipulating skills by combining two pictures I had taken into one to create a pretty cool (literally) 18th century winter scene.
Living through an 18th-century winter was certainly much more difficult than braving modern winters. However, with the right preparation of supplies, transport, and heating sources, residents of the 18th century – our ancestors - made the best of a bad situation and survived.
Wintertime in the 1700s brought in discomfort and dread to most in the 13 colonies/early Republic - especially to those out on the frontier. To begin with, during those few weeks from mid-December until early January there are only nine or so hours of daylight, leaving the remaining 15 hours in darkness. And the winter months are generally the cloudiest: in some areas, only 30 to 40 percent of the winter months have actual sunshine.
Looks like I hit a good sunny day here!
Remember, too, that during the later 18th century and early 19th century we were coming out of the “little ice age,” so the temperatures were generally colder then than today. A heavy woolen cloak, thick stockings, knit cap under my hat, mitts, and, of course, wool waistcoat and coat over my heavy linen shirt would help to keep
a man warm.
I have high hopes to be able to experience a colonial winter's day for myself...
Now here's an fun oldie!
This dates back to my second year involved in the reenacting hobby with the civilian contingent of the 21st Michigan Civil War Reenacting unit.
Many of us in this photo - not all, mind you - were relatively new to the hobby and
were still working on improving our 1860s personas.
This picture was taken at Eastpointe's Erin-Halfway Days Festival, a historic
time-line in Kennedy Park that occurred annually from 2004 to 2007.
'Twas a long, long time ago...in more ways than one.
Strange things can occur when one dons period clothing, especially as they enter into a historical setting.
For example, as I passed through the doors of the replicated Pennsylvania State House (known as Independence Hall since 1824, which became its official name during the Centennial year of 1876) and into the front foyer that is The Henry Ford Museum, you will not guess who I found there...
Yes, the birthday boy himself, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who was born on this date, January 17, in the year 1706!
Throughout my time-travel journeys via living history, I have been privileged to meet many famous Americans I’d before only read about in history books, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, Senator Jacob Howard, Frederick Douglas, Ulysses S. Grant, and even Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Quite an astounding array of American history, don't you think?
Going back 12 years for this picture of Patty and I at Crossroads Village. We are inside the 19th century gristmill they have there.
Crossroads had stopped having Civil War reenactments around 2006, but - you know me! - Patty and I continued visiting the open-air museum at least once a year while in our 1860s clothing.
I hope to go back this coming summer, providing they will re-open. And, as we had in the past, maybe have a few of our 1860s friends join us.
By the way, this was the longest I ever let my facial hair grow. Ugghh! Hated it! Clean shaven Ken is what you'll see now!
One evening in late December 2017, I, once again, visited historic Greenfield Village while wearing my clothing from the 1770s. I had my linen shirt, a woolen waistcoat, woolen coat, linen knee-breeches, wool stockings, wool homespun, home dyed, homemade knitted mittens, leather buckle shoes, and cocked hat. I also wore my woolen cloak, which works very well, I must say. The temperature on this night was in the single digits and the wind blew harshly, but my upper chest area was warm, thankfully, due to my cloak, though below my knees was quite cold. Upon entering the historic Daggett home, I, similar to the McGuffey Cabin hearth, warmed myself near the great hall hearth, which, once again, truly did give me an understanding of how our ancestors must have felt on such a bitter cold (albeit dry) night, for the heat emanating from the fire at that moment felt better than any modern furnace. My toes in those leather buckle shoes were biting - they ached like I never felt them ache before - and it took a while for the "thaw" to take place, but they, too, came back to life, though were still pain-filled.
Every March, the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit would hold a period dress civilian meeting, where we would plan presentations and scenarios for the upcoming reenacting season.
Why period dress?
First, to keep everyone in the mood and on track...in the spirit of the time we represented.
Second---to make sure our clothing still fit, giving us ample time, if necessary, to lose weight (or maybe even gain weight, being that may be the case) or perhaps, purchase or sew new clothing.
Three...because...we like to, and it was more fun and festive.
No matter the reason, it always felt good to get into our 1860s clothing, even while there was still snow on the ground.
In this picture we were at the home of 21st member Vickie St. John, who graciously played hostess a number of years ago to one of our meetings.
Here I am in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, in the home of George Wythe:
When the Revolutionary War began, George Wythe was a prominent lawyer and clerk of the House of Burgess, and was selected as a delegate to the 2nd Continental Congress. Wythe was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence – a document that, according to the Colonial Williamsburg guidebook, “owed its genesis to ideas that circulated through the rooms in this house.”
From February 2013, this was one of the first times Larissa and I teamed up together for a talk in front of an audience. It took place at the Loren Andrus Octagon House, also known as the Washington Octagon House, on Van Dyke just north of 26 Mile Road in Washington Township, (Mi). In front of nearly 80 people Candy Cary did her Laura Haviland presentation, and then Larissa and I spoke on 1860s etiquette and clothing. Afterward, the three of us went to the local McDonalds to eat – dressed in our period of course – and this is how it went down:
Cashier (after taking my order): "That'll be $6.49."
Me: "In our day this cost $.03."
The cashier said nothing...
Me (to Larissa & Candy): "I don't think she likes my humor."
Cashier (quietly, almost under her breath with a slight turn up of a smile):
"I liked it. It made my day."
It was pretty funny.
(No my memory isn't that good! I used to keep a journal and wrote out what had happened!)~
It is awfully early as I write this, but I have plans today:
I enjoy the opportunity of wearing my period clothing during the nighttime hours---even if it isn’t during an actual reenactment, such as a visit to Greenfield Village (as you see in this photo where I am standing next to the Plympton house built in the early 18th century). Nearly every picture posted of living historians tend to be summertime-in-the-daytime; we generally see only a few nighttime-during-wintertime pictures. So when opportunities arise for an evening in the past, I grab it with both hands.
In an age before widespread light pollution, the illuminations of the moon and the stars were far more useful; on a clear night, starlight alone cast shadows. People knew their neighborhoods intimately - every tree, every hedge, every post - and could move about without much trouble, even on the darkest of nights.
Carrying a lantern to light the way as one moved down the darkest of roads was not uncommon.
Note the Bortle Scale in the picture below, which can show us not only our sky's brightness in our modern day, but can help to give us an idea and an understanding of the nighttime skies of long ago (far right side).
With the Covid-19 still prevalent in all walks of life and media, most everything we love doing has been put on hold to at least some extent. However, I still felt the need to have a Christmas gathering of some sort this year so I invited a few of my closest Civil War-era reenacting friends over for a small gathering in early January - those who I've seen and been around to some extent over the last few months. For some, it had been a year or more since they put on their 1860s clothing.
Anyhow, it was great to see them - - so glad we could do it.
Next year, it shall be larger.
If you look close enough, you can see me standing near the door of the Daggett
break-back/lean-to/saltbox house in the middle of a snowstorm. Considering what
we have coming tonight and tomorrow, I thought it to be an appropriate picture.
It's also appropriate because a couple days ago a few of us living historians
spent a day - a full day - in 1771 at a log cabin. And it was mighty cold. It gave us
a slight idea of the way the colonials in the northern colonies had to deal with winter
in those days of no forced-air furnaces, no air-tight doors & windows,
and no hot showers.
Coping with cold may not be much of a challenge for many people today, but for
most American colonists, winter could be anything from inconvenient to
challenging to deadly.
I am currently working on a blog post with loads more pictures than
previously posted about our January day in 1771.
By the way, it was not at the Daggett house you see in this photo that our experience
took place, though two who took part have worked for years here. Rather, we spent
our time in and around a frontier cabin.
On our very first date Patty and I went to the movies then afterward out to eat (Big Boy's!). A first date is when you get the opportunity to know a little about each other and see if it will lead to a second. So, here we were, in the restaurant, and out comes her crocheting. I asked her about it and she explained to me about the yarn and all the things she made. I asked her if she spun on a spinning wheel. She replied that she did not and really had no interest in doing it. I asked her if she had ever been to Greenfield Village and she replied she had not. But she did tell me she would love to live in an old farm house one day "like the one on The Waltons," and my thought was...well...she likes older and traditional things. That's a good sign. Next summer I'll take her to Greenfield Village---if we're still dating.
We continued dating...
Jump up a few decades into the future and what does my wife do? She reenacts the 18th & 19th centuries and has visited Greenfield Village perhaps nearly a thousand times. And, her interest piqued by the presenters there, she now not only spins wool into yarn on a spinning wheel, but she also will do all the preparation, including dyeing it by way of natural dyes.
Just like at Greenfield Village.
Next, for January 27, we have a four-part living history picture of the day!
This is a four-picture post, for there's a story to tell - - -
This past weekend, January 23, a few of us put together a "winter's day in 1771 on the Pennsylvania frontier." Let me tell you, we learned quite a bit in just the one day and found the decades of historical research we've all done come to life.
But for today's picture of the day I wanted to concentrate on something that none of us had experienced: flax, from plant to thread.
As the male in the household, it would be my job to prepare the flax for spinning, and in the first picture I am doing the first step of the process, which is breaking the "raw" flax with the flax break (raw flax can be seen in the lower center of the pic).
For quite a few years I was a member of the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society, a civilian Civil War living history group. It was with the MSAS that I honed my 1st person/living history skills, for they would do many presentations, including mourning, medical, and caring for the wounded military, among other historical scenarios.
In this photo taken by Mike Gillett, we are posing on the Waterloo Farm porch. This was the back cover of a 2008 issue of what was once a very popular Civil War civilian reenacting magazine called Citizens Companion, which I believe is now, sadly, defunct.
By the way, a few of us are hoping to venture back to Waterloo Farm this summer to reenact the 1860s once again - bring the old house to life as a mid-19th century farm family. It's been years since we did that!
I am often asked why a grown man will dress up and pretend that he's living in the past. My first response is, "Well, you should ask him." Then I'll follow that with, "Who's pretending?"
Let's put it another way:
when you go to a place such as Greenfield Village and you see period-dress presenters farming in the fields, cooking at the hearth or wood-burning stove, working at the shave horse, or perhaps spinning on a spinning wheel, the work looks much better and seems more authentic when they are wearing period clothing, doesn't it? I mean, to see a modern-dressed person do a period craft tends to take away from the authenticity of the craft or job, no matter how qualified the person is.
That's the mindset of most (notice I said "most" and not "all").
Along those same lines I can say the wearing of period clothing works the same way, whether one is doing it for the public or for personal reasons, such as the private events a few of us do where there is no public around - those events are done strictly for us and our own pleasure and challenges; it truly is a challenge to see if we can be good enough in our researched historical knowledge to "be there,"
if you catch my drift.
No Hollywood history.
It's a challenge a few of us accept and, in many cases, can it be quite
During one of our period-dress Civil War civilian meetings I thought it would be
fun to go out into the snow and get a pictures of everyone in their
1860s winter-wear: cloaks and jackets.
Yes, it was pretty neat to get such a shot, but I believe Larissa, who did not have
a cloak or a jacket, felt otherwise.
You may or may not have noticed but my photo of the day also happens to be my
current Facebook profile picture.
I enjoy these nighttime living history images because they are so rare to see. Most visitors who come to our events are gone by the time the evening rolls around, and, unfortunately, many reenactors will get into modern clothing or just become their modern selves when the sun goes down, whether in period clothing or not. So nighttime pictures can sometimes be a bit of a rarity.
In the photo of me I tried to sort of replicate the feel and action of the 2nd picture, which was lighting one candle with the flame from another. The photo I am in was taken at my house while the picture of the young lady was taken at
Colonial Williamsburg by Fred Blystone.
Lighting a candle in the 1760s and 1770s was not as easy as simply pulling out a box of matches, for such an item had not been invented yet (lighters are from 1823 and matches from 1826 - 50+ years into the future). In the 1770s and before, one either had to use a glowing ember from the fireplace, or maybe use the flame from another candle that, perhaps, was burning low, or by way of flint, steal, and tinder to make your own flame (much more difficult).
So, just as the Williamsburg girl is doing in the picture below, I, too, am using a lit candle to light another.
Another important part of history rarely, if ever, taught.
Yes...daily life is just as important as wars and politics in our past.
So, there you have my daily Living History Photo Challenge for the merry month of January.
How long do I plan to continue this?
Probably until the end of March - two more months. From what I'm hearing things are beginning to look up here in Michigan and, God willing, our living history events will be back.
Or so I am told.
To be honest, I don't know what to believe anymore.
Either way, I will be continuing this "challenge" mainly because I have received so many kind comments from people, some of which tell me they look forward to it everyday.
Kinda cool, eh?
Perhaps one of the kindest comments I've ever received comes from long time reenactor and period clothing historian, Susie Lewis, following my January 29 pictures:
You definitely look like you belong there Ken.
Oh there’s never been a doubt at all about that!
You’re that guy that everyone strives to be like.
You got this times 10!
I call them like I see them! You ask me I’m going to tell you. I know exactly what it takes to get there! To look like you belong. It’s not an easy task.
There’s so much to know, from behind the scenes that most people don’t take into account. But that's exactly what makes the difference... That’s not something that can be done without years of research in every direction.
Its also not just the garments that you wear, that sells your placement in a historical setting.
It’s what’s inside as well. That can only be achieved by the love of history, hitting the books and examining originals.
Every word of praise you’ve ever gotten has been sufficiently earned Ken, own it and don’t sell yourself short. I’m envious of you myself!
I am touched and truly honored.
And, no, I do not consider myself on the level she has placed me on. Like most others, I am striving...reaching...hoping to get there.
So, as I end each of these:
Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to please post a reenacting/living history picture with a small explanation on your own page and even in the comments here.
Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to please post a reenacting/living history picture with a small explanation on your own page and even in the comments here.
Until next time, see you in time.
~ ~ ~