Thursday, March 25, 2021

History Books of the 18th Century: Recent Acquisitions for my Library

It's been a while since I've done a book posting,  and my ever-growing library of history books is just that---ever-growing.  So I thought I'd do an update.  
Of course,  in my collection I have the popular  "textbook"-style  history found in most school books,  along with the deeper history.  I have a number of biographies.  I have the light-hearted kids history books,  too.  I also have the books that tell the stories behind the major events,  such as what lead up to the Boston Tea Party  ("1774 - The Long Year")  as well as the occurrences behind what became known as the Boston Massacre,  and these books bring the world of that time vividly to life through deep primary source research,  detailed descriptions to give more of an awareness of the world of  the 18th century and its people,  and their engaging styles of writing that lures the reader in.
That's history come to life.
Should you decide to purchase any of the books I have listed,  I certainly hope you get as much pleasure from them as I have---but be prepared to find yourself lost  (or found?)  back in time.

.....................................


The following is a true story,  for it actually happened to me.  However,  the exact quotes are long forgotten,  for I don't have a photographic memory,  but it was pretty close to what you will read here.   
Picture us going back to the past - my  past - back to 1974 or '75  and I am in eighth or ninth grade history class with Mr. Pzora at Oakwood Jr. High School. 
"Does anyone have any questions about the causes of the Revolutionary War?"
My hand goes up.
"Yes,  Ken..."
"What did they eat for breakfast?"
"Hit the hall."
*sigh*
Out into the hall I go to contemplate my insubordinate  comment.
A bit later,  Mr.  P comes out to speak to me.
"Ken,  it's not like you to be such a smart-aleck."
"I wasn't being a smart-aleck,"  I replied.  "I really want to know what they had for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner."
Mr. P looked at me contemplative.
I went on,  "I also want to know what they did at night after the sun went down with no TV or even electricity.  I know they wouldn't have gone to bed at 5 in the evening when it got dark in the wintertime and slept until 7 the next morning when the sun rose.  What did they do?"
Mr. Pzora stared for a moment,  and then replied,  "You really want to know,  don't you?"
I nodded.
"Well then,"  he said,  "I'll make you a deal:  you learn what I am teaching in class and I will try to find the answers for you.  Deal?"
I nodded and said,  "okay."
And back into the room we went.
I began collecting books on
American history a lo-o-ng time ago...
He never did find the answers to my questions,  though knowing Mr. Pzora,  I know he tried.  But that type of historical information was not readily available back in the 1970s.
And me?  Well,  I passed his class,  though I didn't do very well.  I never did very well in any of my history classes,  for it was all about war and politics and names and dates.  Not that those things are not important---it's just that was not where my historical interest lay  (though I must admit,  I have more of an appreciation of the names and dates now).
Let's jump ahead nearly 50 years,  and the everyday life history I so desired to read and learn about when I was young is much more readily at hand,  and the information has been captured in the pages of the books I have listed here in today's posting...and also in the links for other book postings I've done. 
So I thought I would present some of my favorite finds of late - books that can bring the past to life that were written,  in some cases,  by those who were there.
These are the kinds of books that have helped me to bring the past to life through the living history hobby.
For me,  living history begins here.


"In Small Things Forgotten"  by James Deetz
History is recorded in many ways.  According to author James Deetz,  the past can be seen most fully  by studying the small things so often forgotten.  Objects such as doorways,  gravestones,  musical  instruments,  and even shards of pottery fill in the cracks between large historical events and depict the intricacies of daily life.  In his completely revised and expanded edition of  In Small Things Forgotten,  Deetz has added new  sections that more fully acknowledge the presence  of women and African Americans in Colonial  America.


The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge,  exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press.  
Rich in titles on English life and social history,  this collection spans the world as it was known to eighteenth-century historians and explorers.  Titles include a wealth of travel accounts and diaries,  histories of nations from throughout the world,  and maps and charts of a world that was still being discovered.  Students of the War of American Independence will find fascinating accounts from the British side of conflict.

"Domestic Beings"  by June Sprigg
An illustrated collection of experiences from the everyday lives of eighteenth-century American women selected from the diaries of an invalid,  spinster,  schoolgirl,  farmer's wife,  farmer's daughter,  a midwife,  and a president's wife.


"Founding Foodies"  by Dave DeWitt
Beyond their legacy as revolutionaries and politicians,  the Founding Fathers of America were first and foremost a group of farmers.  Like many of today's foodies,  the Founding Fathers were ardent supporters of sustainable farming and ranching,  exotic imported foods,  brewing,  distilling,  and wine appreciation.  Washington,  Jefferson,  and Franklin penned original recipes,  encouraged local production of beer and wine,  and shared their delight in food with friends and fellow politicians.  
In The Founding Foodies,  food writer Dave DeWitt entertainingly describes how some of America's most famous colonial leaders not only established America's political destiny,  but also revolutionized the very foods we eat.


"The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker"  edited by Elaine Forman Crane
The journal of Philadelphia Quaker Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker  (1735-1807)  is perhaps the single most significant personal record of eighteenth-century life in America from a woman's perspective.  Drinker wrote in her diary nearly continuously between 1758 and 1807,  from two years before her marriage to the night before her last illness.  The extraordinary span and sustained quality of the journal make it a rewarding document for a multitude of historical purposes.  One of the most prolific early American diarists—her journal runs to thirty-six manuscript volumes—Elizabeth Drinker saw English colonies evolve into the American nation while Drinker herself changed from a young unmarried woman into a wife,  mother,  and grandmother.  Her journal entries touch on every contemporary subject political,  personal,  and familial.
Focusing on different stages of Drinker's personal development within the domestic context,  this abridged edition highlights four critical phases of her life cycle:  youth and courtship,  wife and mother,  middle age in years of crisis,  and grandmother and family elder.  There is little that escaped Elizabeth Drinker's quill, and her diary is a delight not only for the information it contains but also for the way in which she conveys her world across the centuries.

Some of my latest acquisitions

"With the gathering of relics to make suitable exhibits at the centennial celebration of our national independence,  there came a general awakening of interest in all things pertaining to the history of our Revolutionary War and of the few years preceding it.  The smallest traces of our national beginnings should be sought for...every old record,  every homely detail,  every scrap of old furniture,  every bit of home handicraft,  above all,  every familiar old letter or diary or expense-book,  should be treasured..."
And that's how this book,  first published in the year 1900,  begins.  Gather it does,  for minute details of everyday life not found elsewhere of the later 18th century is here.


"The Diary of Hannah Callendar Sansom"  edited by Susan E.  Klepp and Karin Wulf
Hannah Callender Sansom  (1737–1801)  witnessed the effects of the tumultuous eighteenth century:  political struggles,  war and peace,  and economic development.  She experienced the pull of traditional emphases on duty,  subjection,  and hierarchy and the emergence of radical new ideas promoting free choice,  liberty,  and independence.  As a young woman,  she enjoyed sociable rounds of visits and conviviality.  She also had considerable freedom to travel and to develop her interests in the arts, literature, and religion. Regarding these changes from her position as a well-educated member of the colonial Quaker elite and as a resident of Philadelphia,  the principal city in North America,  this assertive,  outspoken woman described her life and her society in a diary kept intermittently from the time she was twenty-one years old in 1758 through the birth of her first grandchild in 1788.


This compendium is a veritable treasure trove of information,  divided into 19 chapters that cover such topics as  "Diet and Health,"  "Religion,"  "The Cities,"  "Science and Technology,"  "Crime and Violence,"  and "Popular Life and Recreation."  There are general details of Colonial life as well as obscure and difficult-to-find facts that students need and teachers always want.  Copious tables,  maps,  and charts cover everything from small-town population statistics to the heights of Colonial soldiers.  Readers will find lists of the pre-1763 Indian treaties,  perpetual calendars,  the price of wheat,  rice exports,  lists of Governors and Chief Justices,  distribution of craft workers,  wage rates,  occupations of New York taxpayers,  and a chronology from 2,000,000 B.C.  to A.D.  1763.  The text is also sprinkled with black-and-white reproductions of period art and photographs of the Colonial areas as they appear today.  Young adults will enjoy leafing through all of the fascinating facts and curious bits of information,  but the well-organized,  complete,  and accessible text will also provide an invaluable resource for research and term papers.


Cited in virtually every colonial-era site study of North America,  "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America"  holds a place of honor among historical archaeologists.  It is a classic,  highly sought-after handbook for the professional archaeologist,  museum curator,  antiques dealer,  collector,  or social historian.  Though first published more than thirty years ago,  Ivor Noel Hume's guide continues to be the most useful and accurate reference on the identification of artifacts recovered from Anglo-American colonial sites.
This edition contains a new preface,  updated references,  and corrections based on recent scholarship,  in addition to the original 102 photographs and line drawings.  With a list of forty-three categories,  including buttons,  cutlery,  stoneware,  and firearms,  collectors and curators of early American artifacts will find this book insightful,  informative,  and indispensable.
An acclaimed archaeologist and historian,  Noël Hume understands the interests of both professionals and enthusiasts.  He manages to combine out-of-the-ordinary information with a lively presentation.  His extensive knowledge and experience make this richly detailed text communicate something beyond the facts—the reality of other times,  places,  and cultures.


"Reminiscences of A Nonagenarium"  by Sarah Anna Emery
Sarah Anna Emery recorded her thoughts and remembrances of not only occurrences in her own life but of conversations she had heard from her parents,  aunts & uncles,  and even grandparents,  in her diary.  As she noted of what she had written was  "chiefly derived from the recollections of my mother;  but recitals by my father,  grandparents,  and other deceased relatives..."  In 1879 she published this remarkable collection of tales from her long life in book-form entitled Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian.   For me,  it is the details of  18th century life that I love most.  


The story of the Boston Massacre—when on a late winter evening in 1770,  British soldiers shot five local men to death—is familiar to generations.  But from the very beginning,  many accounts have obscured a fascinating truth:  the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political. 
Author Serena Zabin draws on original sources and lively stories to follow British troops as they are dispatched from Ireland to Boston in 1768 to subdue the increasingly rebellious colonists.  And she reveals a forgotten world hidden in plain sight:  the many regimental wives and children who accompanied these armies.  We see these families jostling with Bostonians for living space,  finding common cause in the search for a lost child,  trading barbs and and sharing baptisms.  Becoming,  in other words,  neighbors.  When soldiers shot unarmed citizens in the street,  it was these intensely human,  now broken bonds that fueled what quickly became a bitterly fought American Revolution.


Celebrate the creation of the United States,  which is brought to vivid life through the work of acclaimed artist Mort Künstler.  In 2011,  Künstler ignited a media firestorm when he painted a version of Washington crossing the Delaware that many believe is a more factual representation of the momentous scene than Emanuel Leutze's iconic work,  Washington Crossing the Delaware—the most popular painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Spurred by that fierce debate,  which was covered everywhere from the New York Times to ABC News,  this beautiful volume presents Künstler's artistic vision of America's birth.  The New Nation also features text by premier Washington scholar Edward G.  Lengel along with quotations from Washington's contemporaries,  as well as a foreword by David Hackett Fischer,  the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  "Washington's Crossing."  The result is a powerful portrait of the formation of a country as it unfolded,  from Jamestown to the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812.


"Here are more than 250 full-color photographs of exteriors and interiors,  page after page of beautiful. glowing color,  showing the finest historic homes in the nation."
This book is from 1949,  but the photographs are rich in color and the details about each house is well-written.  The book itself is also in a large format.
A feast for the eyes.


"The Age of Homespun"  by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
They began their existence as everyday objects,  but in the hands of award-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,  fourteen domestic items from preindustrial America–ranging from a linen tablecloth to an unfinished sock–relinquish their stories and offer profound insights into our history.
In an age when even meals are rarely made from scratch,  homespun easily acquires the glow of nostalgia.  The objects Ulrich investigates unravel those simplified illusions,  revealing important clues to the culture and people who made them.  Ulrich uses an Indian basket to explore the uneasy coexistence of native and colonial Americans.  A piece of silk embroidery reveals racial and class distinctions,  and two old spinning wheels illuminate the connections between colonial cloth-making and war.  Pulling these divergent threads together,  Ulrich demonstrates how early Americans made,  used,  sold,  and saved textiles in order to assert their identities,  shape relationships,  and create history.


"1774 - The Long Year of  Revolution"  by Mary Beth Norton
"(Author Mary Beth Norton) does not fundamentally challenge the traditional trajectory of events in that decisive year.  What she does do is enrich the narrative,  filling in the story with a staggering amount of detail based on prodigious research in an enormous number of archives. . . . She wants to re-create as much as possible the past reality of this momentous year in all of its particularity.  Only then,  she suggests,  will we come to appreciate the complexity of what happened and to understand all of the conflicts,  divisions,  and confusion that lay behind events,  like the Tea Party,  that historians highlight and simplify. . . . She seems to have read every newspaper in the period,  and she delights in describing the give and take of debates between patriots and loyalists that took place in the press." --Gordon S. Wood


Other postings I wrote about history books:








Back in the day one had to dig deep and sometimes read between the lines to find the much sought after information about 18th century living.  But here in the 21st century,  there are books--plenty of books--of this type available.  It's just a matter of keeping your eyes peeled.  We subscribe to three history magazines:  "American Spirit"  (my wife is a DAR - Daughter of the American Revolution - member,  and,  thus,  we get their magazine),  "Early American Life,"  and  "Re-Living History,"  and each will have book reviews.  Other times I may be scanning through various web sites such as  Jas Townsend and will find books of this flavor available.  I also look for the bibliographies cited in the books I own to find where the author got some of their information.  And still, the members of various Facebook pages such as 18th Century History may also throw in some of their finds.
So there are numerous ways today in which to find history books of this sort.
And,  I have to say,  now that I help to teach high school history classes,  I do pass along the interesting information I find to the students.  And by doing so,  maybe---just maybe---I might garner a stronger interest in the subject from them.
Stronger than what I had when in school.

Until next time,  see you in time.


























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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

If It's March, It Must Be Maple Sugaring Season

I have in front of me a bottle of  "Log Cabin Original Syrup."  Here are the ingredients:
corn syrup,  liquid sugar  (natural sugar,  water),  salt,  natural and artificial flavors  (lactic acid),  cellulose gum,  preservatives  (sorbic acid,  sodium benzoate),  sodium hexametaphosphate,  caramel color,  phosphoric acid.
Now here is what's in the bottle of  Spring Tree Maple Syrup  that is also in front of me  
(as is listed on the bottle):
100% pure maple syrup.
That's it.
Now,  what would  you rather put into your body?
Methinks that the Log Cabin syrup is somehow not quite as original as they say...
Okay,  I'm off my soap box now.

.............................

"The Sugar-Tree yields a kind of Sap or Juice which by boiling is made into Sugar.  This Juice is drawn out,  by wounding the Trunk of the Tree,  and placing a Receiver under the Wound.  It is said that the Indians make one Pound of Sugar out of eight Pounds of the Liquor.  It is bright and moist with a full large Grain,  the Sweetness of it being like that of good Muscovada."
Governor Berkeley of Virginia,  1706
For me,  it's been a long time coming,  but I finally,  for the first time ever, 
got to witness the undertaking of  maple sugaring.  .


I know a number of my friends do this annually on their own land,  which is very cool,  but this city boy doesn't have that sort of opportunity,  so when I heard through another friend about the process occurring not too far away,  I made sure to make plans to see it all for myself.
And so I did.  
To top it off,  they were doing it historically.
There is the Navarre-Anderson trading post from 1789 - the oldest wooden structure
built in the lower peninsula of Michigan.  And that little building next to it is the cook house,  built in 1810.
It is the most complete example of French-Canadian piece-sur-piece   (piece by piece) construction in the Old Northwest.  Now owned by the Monroe County Historical Museum,  it is restored and established to represent a French pioneer homestead along the old River Raisin in Monroe,  Michigan. 
If you look close you can see a few folk gathered around to the right of the
cook house.  That's where the fire for boiling the sap is located.
And here we are,  in Michigan's piece of the Old Northwest.  Very cool.
In those days the maple trees were tapped as soon as the sap began to run in the trunk and showed at the end of the twigs.  It is said that it was the Native Americans of the northeast who began the practice of maple sugaring in North America.  Though some claim their tribal ancestors to be the discoverers of tapping for sap,  no one knows for certain which tribe it actually was.  But they spread their sugaring knowledge to other tribes and also taught the European settlers how to make it as well,  who increased the productivity when they arrived with iron pots for boiling.  
By the second half of the 18th century,  the tradition of maple sugaring heralded the arrival of spring.  And it truly was quite the event,  for it seemed that entire communities would gather in camps for the occasion;  filled with delight,  whole families got involved in the process.  It was a part of the celebration of the season of rebirth.  When there was a good run of sap,  it was usually necessary to stay in the camp overnight,  and many times the campers would stay several nights.  As a good run meant milder weather,  a night or two was not a bitter experience.  
The trading post sits in the background while the maple trees are being tapped for sap.
The right time of year for maple sugaring is usually from late February or early March through early April when the sap is flowing,  for the nights are still cold enough to freeze sharply and the days warm enough to thaw freely.  The thermometer should not rise above the forties by day,  nor sink below the twenties at night.  It is this magic see-sawing between winter and spring that decides the sugaring season.
Oftentimes visitors would come out to the camps,  turning the chore into a frolic.  Girls would join the boys and men to taste the new sugar,  to drop it into the snow to make candy,  and to have an evening of fun.

Boiling sap into a sugar and syrup was a long and slow process,  and all hands were needed to help.  The younger boys joined the adult males as they spent several nights in the sugar camp set up in the woods.  They collected sap buckets and helped to find,  chop,  and carry the tremendous amount of wood needed to maintain the fires under the huge sugar pots as they boiled off the water from the sap.  
A freshly tapped tree with the beginnings of sap spilling out.
To collect the sap,  holes are bored in the maple tree,  followed by the
hammering in of a wooden or metal tube called a spile  (or trough).  Under the
spile a bucket,  made by the local cooper or tinsmith,  is placed to catch the
clear watery sap.  Each day the buckets of sap are emptied into a
large barrel,  which is hauled back to the boiling area.

JJ hauling the sap buckets to the boiling area.

There,  numerous iron kettles would hang over fires.  In the first kettle,  the watery tasteless sap is vigorously boiled over a roaring fire.  This is then ladled into the second kettle where it is gently boiled to thicken more.  Constant stirring keeps it from burning.  Over the course of the various kettles,  the water will gradually evaporate,  leaving behind a thicker,  sweeter dark syrup they called molasses,  which was used as a cane sugar.  When makers wanted a granulated product,  the molasses was boiled until the sugar crystalized,  and at that point it was turned out of the kettle into a larger wooden trough for clashing,  being pounded with a wooden beater to break up the clumps of crystals.  
There happens to be six iron pots boiling here,  though
the last one is simply boiling plain old water.
The large wood trough is center left.
The maple-tasting sugar was yellow and could then be used for the home or for a cash crop.  Now used more for syrup,  historically the goal of maple sugaring was to make sugar.
This thick,  sweet syrup can then be poured into crocks to be used on porridge or cakes.  Or,  it can be ladled into the third and then maybe even a fourth kettle.  If this is done,  the liquid will then,  over a smaller fire,  be carefully stirred until it turns into sugar.  The sugar will be packed into wooden boxes and tubs to be used in the coming year.
The sap is still a-cooking.
Though sugaring was laborious,  everyone would try to make it a more cheerful time,  for the whole family looked forward to this chore,  making it more play than work.  Plus it was a sign that spring was nigh.
Of course,  one of the best parts of producing maple syrup was testing the outcome!
"Large countries within our Union are covered with Sugar maple as heavily as can be conceived,  and that this tree yields a sugar equal to the best from the cane,  yields it in great quantity,  with no other labor than what the women and girls can bestow . . . What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labor of children..."
--Thomas Jefferson 1791--
(Ah,  Mr.  Jefferson.  There were more than children and women needed...)
The fashions for those in the photos here are of the 1817 variety.
Battles from the War of 1812 took place in Monroe,  Michigan,  so during historic events,  the Regency period is their chosen time.  
Benjamin Rush,  physician and close friend of Thomas Jefferson,  in an attempt to convince the future president that maple sugar was not only equal to cane in quality,  but indeed that for the moral and economic good of the new nation,  felt it was imperative that Americans promote its manufacture to supplant the West India sugar trade.  In a remarkably short period of time,  maple sugar was transformed in the minds of the many American opinion leaders from a minor local crop produced mainly by subsistence farmers into a highly fashionable--perhaps deliciously profitable—new national industry.  During the early 1790s this phenomenon,  sometimes labeled  “the maple sugar bubble,”  inflamed the minds and hearts of such influential figures as Henry Drinker,  a well regarded Quaker merchant;  William Cooper,  founder of Cooperstown;  and of course,  Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush.  The writings of these men,  reflected and informed by articles written by supporters of the trade across New England,  all made the same point:  maple sugar could and should become a permanent replacement for cane sugar in America.
Note the boiling sap.
On March 28,  1775,  after working around the clock for two days,  Abner Sanger recorded in his journal:  "A very good sap day.  Fair,  clear,  and pleasant.  I helped  (my brother)  gather and boil sap all day and I think all night,  too."

Passing the sap from kettle to kettle.  It thickens with each passing.
When Austin Bryant began his efforts to improve his profitability of the family farm in the early 1800s,  he made additional sap troughs,  borrowed extra kettles,  boiled large quantities of sap,  and set out new maple trees.  
After all of the hard work was done,  sharing the fresh sweet was a welcome treat;  "The family went to Mr.  Briggs to eat sugar."
Edward Carpenter admitted that he  "ate maple sugar till it did not taste good."  And yet he still went back for more the next day,  even bringing back some syrup  "& sugared it off & made 8 little cakes to carry home with me."

We think of the  "Little House"  series of books as being strictly for children.  But to me,  they should be read by anyone with even a passing interest in history,  for the information from Laura Ingalls Wilder's own memory on everyday life is invaluable.  So much better than the TV show of the same name.
It's from Little House In The Big Woods where we find maple sugaring  (yes,  I know it's 1880s,  but the manner in which they maple sugared was the same as a hundred years before):
"All winter,"  Pa said,  "Grandpa has been making wooden buckets and little troughs  (spile).  He made them of cedar and white ash,  for those woods won't give a bad taste to the maple syrup.  He made dozens  (of the little troughs)  and he made ten new wooden buckets.  He had them all ready when the first warm weather came and the sap began to move in the trees.
Then he went into the maple woods and with the bit he bored a hole in each maple tree,  and he hammered the round end of the little trough into the hole,  and he set a cedar bucket on the ground under the flat end.  When the maple sap came to the hole in the tree,  it ran out of the tree,  down the little trough and into the bucket.
"Every day Grandpa puts on his boots and his warm coat and his fur cap and he goes out into the snowy woods and gathers the sap.  With a barrel on a sled,  he drives from tree to tree and empties the sap from the buckets into the barrel.  Then he hauls it to a big iron kettle that hangs by a chain from a cross-timber between two trees.  He empties the sap into the iron kettle.  There is a big bonfire under the kettle,  and the sap boils,  and Grandpa watches it carefully.  The fire must be hot enough to keep the sap boiling,  but not hot enough to make it boil over.  Every few minutes the sap must be skimmed.  Grandpa skims it with a big,  long-handled,  wooden ladle that he made of basswood.  When the sap gets too hot,  Grandpa lifts ladlefuls of it high in the air and pours it back slowly.  This cools the sap a little and keeps it from boiling too fast.
"When the sap has boiled down just enough,  he fills the buckets with the syrup.  After that,  he boils the sap until it grains when he cools it in a saucer.  The instant the sap is graining,  Grandpa jumps to the fire and takes it all out from beneath the kettle.  Then as fast as he can,  he ladles the thick syrup into the milk pans that are standing ready.  In the pans the syrup turns to cakes of hard,  brown maple sugar.
When there's a long run of sap,  it means that Grandpa can make enough maple sugar to last all the year,  for common every day.  When he takes his furs to town,  he will not need to trade for much store sugar."
All the...children scooped up clean snow with their plates.  Then they went back into the crowded kitchen.  Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with the big wooden spoon shoe poured hot syrup on each plate of snow.  It cooled into soft candy,  and as fast as it cooled they ate it.  They could eat all they wanted,  for maple syrup never hurt anybody.  There was plenty of syrup in the kettle,  and plenty of snow outdoors.  As soon as they ate one plateful,  they filled their plates with snow again,  and grandma poured more syrup on it."

Opportunities to witness history always seem to abound,  and I wasn't kidding when I wrote that after hearing through another friend about the process of maple sugaring occurring at Navarre-Anderson Trading Post,  I made sure to make plans to see it all for myself.  In fact it was only a matter of days and a quick change of plans.  I wasn't going to miss the chance.
I appreciate JJ and the good folks at the Monroe County Historical Museum for putting this event on.  In fact,  one of the best parts was seeing families showing up to see history not normally seen.
That made me feel great.
My wife & I and our friend stayed for a couple hours,  just taking it all in and listening to the presentation.  While we were there,  we saw multiple families come through,  most coming out of curiosities sake and finding themselves immersed in the past.  Presenter JJ would have one of the kids pound in the spile and even try out the yoke & buckets.  These kids will remember this.
American history is much more than war and politics.
Maple-sugaring shows this.
Just in case you are interested in maple sugaring, 
here is a how-to sheet to help you along.
Until next time,  see you in time.


Sources and some commentary came from the following:
Home Life in Colonial Days by Alice Morse Earle
Our Own Snug Fireside by Jane.  C.  Nylander

If you find yourself wondering what it's like to spend a year on a colonial farm,  click HERE 
If you would like to have a larger understanding of springtime during colonial times,  click HERE
If you would like to read about the oldest buildings in Michigan that I personally visited,  click HERE






















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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Things Are Looking Up Dept. - Citizens of the American Colonies Membership Meeting...and a School Presentation on Colonial Life


So far,  March has been a fine month.  Besides the fact that it has come in like a lamb,  with temperatures mostly in the 50s and 60s,  I've had two opportunities to get into my period clothing.
Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come.
Every year around this time I have a period dress meeting held at my house for the Citizens of the American Colonies living history group.  It's a great excuse to get into our reenacting clothing - to make sure everything still fits!   Mine barely does,  I must admit;  time to try to lose my ever-growing belly. 
It's also a fine time for friends who haven't seen each other very much over the past year to visit,  as well as catch up on the latest news in the reenacting world. 
I took a few snapshots during our meeting:
Gee...which house is Ken's? 
Perhaps the one with the historic flags a-waving in the breeze?
Nawww....yes!

Nearly everyone dressed in their 18th century clothing.
You see a mixing of people from the 1700s who time-traveled a hundred years
into the future...and found themselves in a Victorian setting.
My back room is actually sort of split in two to show the two different time periods I reenact:  later 18th century and mid-19th century.
Another mixing of two time periods:
Ben Franklin sitting in the Lincoln Rocker - an actual chair from
 the 1850s made in a similar style to the one Abraham Lincoln
was sitting in when he was assassinated in 1865.

Jackie Schubert and Bob Stark~
After we had our meeting,  we ate a delicious lunch consisting of various treats
and my wife's homemade chicken soup.

A few years back,  young EJ posed with the yoke & buckets,  so we decided to do another.
Unfortunately,  I cannot seem to find the older picture...

EJ's mom,  Jennifer.

Tom prints and puts together period books,  so I asked him if he
would be so kind as to use the linen thread I helped to make at 
the cabin this past January to string my pamphlets,  and he did.
(Click HERE to read of our wintertime colonial excursion on the frontier)
And here is how they look.
Now,  my linen thread is not perfect - I need to work on it.
It'll come in time...but I'm still proud,  especially for a first time.

Here are the members of Citizens of the American Colonies who showed up to
the 2021 meeting.
We are ready and excited about the upcoming reenacting season!
Masks?
I let everyone know that if they wanted to wear a mask,  they certainly were welcome to.  It was their choice.  No shaming either way.

Also in March,  my presentation partner Larissa and I did,  for the first time in over a year,  a historic colonial farm presentation for kids kindergarten through 6th grade at a Montessori school: 
Here are about half of the children we presented to.
And Jesus.  He was there with us as well.
(Actually,  I believe He was - it went so well!)

It felt so good and was so close to normalcy for us AND the kids who,  by the way,  were excellent and very respectful.  
Part of our presentation consists of telling the kids about our 18th century clothing, 
as you see Larissa doing here.

We spoke to the young scholars about what their everyday lives may had been like if they were children in 1771 rather than living here in the 21st century.  The numerous artifacts that were brought along to show included eating utensils,  a trencher,  candles and accessories,  raw wool,  an axe,  quill & ink,  yoke & buckets,  and a few other such items that they may not have seen before.  We also spoke of the chores they would have done and also gave them an opportunity to ask questions as well.
Afterward we were able to have the children get a closer look at the
artifacts and accessories we brought along.
Since our last school presentation,  nearly two years ago,  I have acquired a few more interesting period items that  "made their debut"  here.  For instance,  this was the first time the trencher,  horn spoon,  & horn drinking vessel were brought along.  We found the children,  and even a few of the teachers,  had quite an interest in these historic pieces,  and were the subject of numerous questions.
And a comment from one of the teachers sent afterward:
"We loved the presentation!  The students remembered so much of the information and were discussing it all morning.  I am sending the photos I took.  We will definitely reach out for another presentation next year.  Thank you!  Jennifer"
One of the interesting notes that Larissa pointed out was the building we were in - the main church - was a Congregationalist Church.  She reminded me that the Daggett Family from the late 18th century,  who are the driving spirits behind our colonial farm presentation,  were Congregationalists!
I  thought that was pretty cool.
Who were the Daggetts?
Seriously??
Okay - to learn more about this amazing farm family of the 1760s and 1770s,  click HERE and HERE.

I absolutely love doing historic presenting.  If I could make my living doing this,  I most certainly would.  I really like the fact that my friend Larissa & I do make a great presenting team.  We know how to play off each other...even when one of us changes things up a bit.

Until next time,  see you in time.























~   ~   ~

Monday, March 1, 2021

Living History Photo Challenge for the Month of February 2021

Here we are again...another month of my reenacting pictures from the past to  "brighten up our day"  in an attempt to get our minds off all of the  "doom & gloom"  of our modern times.  But every era has had its own  "harsh and getting harsher"  periods.  
So why do I do what I do?  Why do I get dressed up in old-time clothing only to live out doom and gloom  and a harsh life  from another period in time?
That's a good question.
I don't remember when I didn't have an infatuation for America's history;  the seed was planted very early on in my life.  However,  I can  tell you of when the  "big bang"  of my personal passion for the past occurred...that moment when my heart,  mind,  and,  to some extent,  soul opened up to our great nation's bygone days and took hold of me on a different level and never let go;  it was when I purchased a book about life in colonial times called  "The Cabin Faced West,"   a story that very much affected me as a youth and played a pivotal role in my love of  history.  I bought my copy at a school book fair many years ago when I was only around nine - we're talking 1970 here.  I loved it because it showed daily life during the 1780s,  and there weren't very many like it available at that time;  most history books and lessons were based on names and dates.  Important,  yes,  but I wanted to know how  people lived in the past in comparison to the present - their daily experiences.
I wanted to read what my life would have been like had I lived back then.
And The Cabin Faced West was the book.
I still enjoy it to this day.
So now I get to experience the past as well.  But I still didn't answer the doom & gloom question I wrote above,  and I don't suppose I can.  I just really enjoy experiencing the many aspects of the past.  
At least I know how it turns out  (lol).
Well then!  Let's visit another month of pictures from my past reenacting the past...
As I have posted on my daily Facebook  (and in March,  my MeWe)  page:
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 another month - February 01:  Day 312----and I plan to continue until whenever I decide to stop.
February 1
*sigh*
A sad day for us reenactors,  for we just found out that Greenfield Village has decided,  for the 2nd year in a row,  not to have Civil War Remembrance over 
Memorial Day Weekend.
So,  for my living history photo of the day,  I am posting a group shot of the 21st Michigan group from the last one that occurred in 2019.  We are standing in front of the 1858 Smiths Creek Depot for this shot.
Again, *sigh* - - - - - 


February 2 - Ground Hog Day
Well...it's Groundhog Day---or Candlemass if you happen to be in the colonies during the 18th century.  
Candlemas celebrates three occasions according to Christian belief:  the presentation of the child Jesus;  Jesus’  first entry into the temple;  and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s purification  (mainly in Catholic churches).
Candlemas,  by the way,  occurs at a period between the December solstice and the March equinox,  so many people traditionally marked that time of the year as winter’s  “halfway point”  while waiting for the spring.  And since many Christians consider Jesus as the  “light of the world,”  it is fitting that candles are blessed on this day and that a candle-lit procession precedes the religious service,  or mass.
By at least the seventeenth century a popular superstition had arisen that,  if the sky was clear on Candlemas and the Sun was shining,  there would be more winter to come.  This was before any rodent was brilliant enough to predict when 
spring would arrive.  
As for the groundhog:  in around the eighteenth century,  the idea arose in German-speaking lands that if a badger comes out of his hole on Candlemas and lies out in the sun,  there will be four more weeks of winter,  but,  if the badger comes out of his hole and finds it is too cloudy to sunbathe,  he will go back in his hole and winter will be over soon.  A variant of this was brought over to the English colonies by the Pennsylvania Dutch around the eighteenth century.  Here,  the badger was replaced with a groundhog,  the number of weeks winter would last was extended to six rather than four,  and the determining factor of how long winter would last became whether or not the groundhog saw his shadow rather than if the badger decided to sunbathe.  It was in 1887 when a newspaper editor in Punxsutawney,  Pennsylvania,  declared a random groundhog who later became known as  “Punxsutawney Phil”  the United States’ official forecasting groundhog as an advertising scheme  (that continues to this day). 
So why the picture of the three of us colonials with our muskets about to go hunting?
Groundhogs are not only edible,  they're tender and delicious if properly cleaned and prepared.  They live on a completely vegetarian diet,  and carry no life threatening diseases for humans.  Groundhogs are similar to rabbit in taste, and most recipes for groundhog have you prepare them in the same manner.
Meat on the table during these last six weeks of winter!


February 3
I believe this picture of Patty and I,  with our good friends Dave & Jean Cook on the porch of the mid-19th century Susquehanna Plantation House,  just may be from 2005 or 2006 during Greenfield Village's Civil War Remembrance.  The Cooks played a large role in our earlier reenacting days,  guiding us in the right direction and showing us the ins and outs of this wonderful hobby.
To this day it is always a pleasure when they will still join us at events,  
though it's not nearly as often as we'd like.


February 4
On a late fall/early winter's day in 2019 a few of us got together and enjoyed spending time making plans for the following reenacting season.  Alas,  the covid fear struck and nearly all reenactments for 2020 were cancelled.  One actual public event took place and multiple private events occurred,  so last year was not a total loss.
I have to say I do enjoy these smaller gatherings quite a bit,  for it can sometimes have a stronger  "you are there"  feeling and atmosphere,  such as what you see in this photo of us in our 1770s clothing taken at Mill Race Village.  
Though we've had a couple of cancelations for 2021,  other events are still planning to happen,  such as Patriot's Day at Mill Race Village on April 17  (Revolutionary War),  and spring day in 1771 at the frontier cabin at Waterloo in early May,  and a timeline event Memorial Weekend in Port Sanilac,  showing military & civilians from the Revolutionary War through at least WWII and possibly Korean War.
Gotta feeling  '21 is gonna be a good year---at least better than  '20!


February 5
Going back to our early days in the Civil War reenacting hobby for this picture.  As you can see,  we weren't too bad.  Tommy & Robbie,  as military,  were spot on.  Yes,  they were at a young age,  but Tommy was old enough to shoulder a musket,  and Robbie was on the march as the fifer  (we're so used to seeing many of the  "older guys"  in reenacting that we tend to forget that so many of the boys in blue who were fighting in the 1860s were actually boys and not older  "men").  In fact,  the average age of the Union soldier was around 25 years old---the  average  age,  so there were plenty younger and some older.
Patty and I had worked on getting our accurate period civilian clothing together - in our first year in the hobby we were pretty horrible,  so we spent the winter months working on our authenticity,  and we were pretty good here.  And Miles & Rosalia were pretty good as well,  though Miles did not like wearing his vest  (lol).
Were we all ever that young?


February 6
Experiencing the wintertime in 1771.
This was one of the most interesting of any reenactment I've ever done,  for the four of us learned quite a bit about an 18th century winter's day on the frontier.  Perhaps the biggest learning experience is that,  just like the journals written at that time explicitly mention,  one really never truly warmed up in cold weather months if they are in a cold-weather colony such as western Pennsylvania,  hence wearing our cloaks while inside...even near the fire.  Our day was spent not unlike our ancestors from that time:  cooking,  processing flax,  and spinning,  among other things.  Oh,  there were other chores and jobs that would have been done on any given day,  we just chose to do what I listed here.  And it was an eye-opening experience.
We would do it again in a heartbeat.
Who knows...we just might...for as living historians,  it is what we are all about.


February 7
During Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village I found a banjo that was sitting upon a chair there inside the kitchen of the Susquehanna Plantation. Making sure it was not an heirloom/antique, I picked it up and began to strum a little tune. All of a sudden, in walks a man named George with his fiddle, and the two of us entertained Larissa as she made dinner. It was a fun spur-of-the-moment moment. Such a great time we have every year at Civil War Remembrance. Sadly, it will not return until 2022.


February 8
Here am I at Charlton's Coffee Shop in Colonial Williamsburg,  being served some of the best hot chocolate I ever had.  In the early 1760s Richard Charlton was a local wigmaker and barber,  and included Thomas Jefferson,  Patrick Henry,  and George Wythe among his clients.  It was around this time that he also became proprietor of a newly converted coffeehouse near the Capitol.
When chocolate arrived in English North America,  it was available as chocolate nuts,  as shells,  and in processed  “chocolate cakes,”  lumps of grated powder and sugar ready to be stirred into boiling water,  mixed with whatever ingredients one preferred,  and frothed with the little hand mill.  In pre-Revolutionary Williamsburg,  unsweetened chocolate went for about two shillings sixpence per pound,  slightly more than a free unskilled laborer or sailor earned in a day.  Obviously,  few of those men drank chocolate at that price.
Ben Franklin,  in 1785,  wrote in a letter to John Adams:  “The superiority of chocolate,  both for health and nourishment,  will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
During the ten years the coffeehouse was open,  many important political figures frequented its rooms,  including George Washington,  Thomas Jefferson,  and Lieutenant-Governor Francis Fauquier,  as well as many merchants and gentry.  
Richard Charlton’s Coffeehouse is also significant because of the role that it played in the town’s history.  Beyond its list of famous patrons,  the Coffeehouse served as an important center of social,  political,  and business activity within the town,  due in part to its proximity to the Capitol - nearly directly next door.
The thick chocolate being poured into my cup.


February 9
I'm not sure what it is about them,  but I really like mirror shots.  If there is a mirror in the room,  I will often make the attempt to somehow utilize it in a photograph,  such as what I had set up here in the Bancroft-Stranahan Home,  which was built in 
1868 in Romeo.
And if I am feeling really artsy,  then I will do a bit of manipulation,  such as what you see here:  modern reenactor looking at himself in the past.
Oh!  The fun that can be had with cameras and photo software!


February 10
At the frontier log cabin - winter 1771.
You would be surprised at how well my cloak works in the wintertime temperatures.  It could be in the single digits and I am toasty.  Wool,  being the natural fiber it is,  holds in the heat well,  and keeps the cold out.  My woolen stockings also do a fine job keeping my legs warm as well,  even while wearing knee breeches.  Now,  on the other hand,  my feet are another story.  The leather shoes do not do well in the wintertime and my toes will ache pretty good after spending some time outdoors in freezing temps.  Even indoors,  to some extent,  can also be rough on the feet,  due to the fireplaces in most dwellings not giving off the heat as one would think  (more on that in an upcoming picture),  therefore I will spend time at the hearth in front of the fireplace.
Recreating and experiencing the past----maybe to most of you I'm pretty off center,  but,  well,  that's quite alright by me,  for this hobby of mine has been a long-time coming;  I used to dream and pretend to live in the past when I was young.  Now my dreams have somewhat come true.


February 11
Don't look for me---I'm not in this shot.  I'm the man behind the camera.
This picture was taken on the Village Green of the Charlton Park Civil War event a number of years back.  Charlton Park, located in Hastings,  Michigan,  is a sort of mini-Greenfield Village and includes strictly Michigan structures,  most from the 19th century and a couple from the early 20th century.  The Civil War battles on the green here are about as awesome as it gets - and afterward one feels as if they are in a battle town directly following a campaign with the citizens of town - men,  women,  youngsters,  doctors - all running out to help the wounded.  Many times the church,  which sits behind me from where I stand,  will become a makeshift hospital,  just as was done in the actual towns during the Civil War.  As you can see,  pretty much all reenactors tend to get involved here.
I certainly hope this event is back on for 2021.  Fingers crossed.
When this picture was posted on Facebook,  my friend Angela commented:  "I begin by reading,  "To change up the news feed and help get away from all of the harsh and getting harsher doom & gloom of our modern time..."
And then by eye travels down to a field strewn with bodies XD."
She certainly got me on that one!


February 12
My wife likes to chide me because of my historical lighting collection.  Whenever she sees me looking at candle holders,  lanterns,  or oil lamps at an antique store,  a flea market,  or at a sutler,  she tells me,  "We don't need any more of those!"
"But I like them,"  I reply.
"We have enough,"  she'll tell me.
"Yeah...like you have enough yarn,  dear?"
I always get my crocheting-knitting-spinning wife with that one.
Every time. 
Understand,  I didn't start out purposely to accumulate a period light collection.  It just sort of inadvertently happened.  But I usually don't spend a lot of money on most items I buy - I like to wait for deals,  and almost always get them pretty darn cheap.  And sometimes...well...the lantern in these first two photos depicting the 1770s was found after a reenactment in the garbage with the panes of glass broken.  It took me all of about a half hour to have glass cut to size and slide them in.  It's a $40 lantern folks---found in the garbage!  The glass cost me about six bucks total.
In the third picture you can see my collection of replicated 18th century lanterns and candle holders  (I have oil lamps as well,  but their style is suited to the 19th century)~  
The light at its brightest.  


February 13
On such a bitter cold day as today,  with the temps in the teens and the snow falling,  
it's good to know that the Port Sanilac Civil War Days reenactment,  taking place the 
first full weekend in August,  will be happening this year after taking a covid break 
last year.
For this picture,  it was after the reenactment was over for Saturday that a few of us 
took to the beach to enjoy beautiful Lake Huron in the summer sun.
Imagine what the non-reenacting public thought when the saw us!
Oh what fun!


February 14
On this Valentine's Day I thought I would post a picture of Patty and I taken at the Bluewater Festival in Port Huron on July 10,  1983.  We'd been dating less than a year at this time and were nearly two years away from marriage.  Many of our dates consisted of going to Greenfield Village,  Crossroads Village,  Frankenmuth,  and small-town America in Michigan's thumb region,  seeking out that old-time feeling that only small towns can emanate.  We'd hit the antique shops and ogle at the items that we hoped to own one day - some how I believe we knew we'd own such items when we had our own place.  And whenever they had one of those booths where we could take an  "old-time"  photo  (while wearing those velcro  "period"  clothes),  such as you see here,  we most certainly would. 
I wonder how many young people dating today have dates like this?
Aside from aging  (just a little),  we're still the same.
And I can't imagine growing old with anyone else.


February 15
There was no running water from a faucet or hose in 1771,  so it's off to the stream,  which is hopefully not too far distant,  to gather water for cooking,  washing,  cleaning,  bathing,  or,  if boiled first,  drinking  (no,  they didn't understand germ theory,  but many knew that for some reason by boiling water before drinking it would be okay).  It didn't matter whether it was during the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter,  water was still a necessity.  Though the idea of utilizing a hose and a mechanism to pump water was already somewhat invented  (the Greeks used ox intestines millennia before),  it would not be until the later 1800s before it would be perfected and used here in America at the average house of the time,  so buckets tied to a shoulder yoke was the easiest and most convenient means of transporting water.
Even in the icy cold of winter.


February 16
Last year,  due to covid,  all of the historic presentations Larissa and I were scheduled to do were cancelled.  I greatly miss doing these,  especially for the school kids.  It is great fun to explain to the kids what their everyday lives would have been like had they been born in centuries past and raised on a farm,  including what their daily chores may have been...and living life with no computer games.  
In this picture you see us as Victorian farmers,  though we also portray Colonial farmers as well,  whichever is preferred. 
Besides schools,  we have presented at historical societies,  the Sons of the American Revolution meetings,  libraries,  fairs,  reenactments,  and wherever else we are asked. 
What you see me with here is a flail for threshing grain,  just one of the many artifacts we bring along to help bring the past to life.


February 17
There is something a bit different for today's picture...something almost a bit ethereal.
I'm always talking about  "if these walls could talk,  imagine what they would say"  when I am inside a home from the past...especially long past,  such as the Daggett House you see in today's photo,  which was built around 1750.  Because I read up on even minute details of the daily lives of our ancestors - especially those from the 18th and 19th centuries - when I enter a historic home I will see it with new eyes...with an engulfing awareness,  and will look at something like this historic 18th century building with a more discerning and intimate mindset;  to see beyond the walls and presenters and feel the spirits - not ghosts,  mind you - of those who once lived within the walls during the time of the good old colony days.
So...do you see a spirit within the walls entering the home?  Perhaps it is Samuel Daggett himself...
Ahhh...if only walls could talk indeed!


February 18
It's been a while since the 21st Michigan Civil War reenactors has had a period-dress civilian meeting.  It's been even before covid struck last year.  You see,  as the civilian coordinator,  I've called meetings of this type every spring - usually in March.  Why period dress?  For a few reasons,  with first and foremost being it was a great excuse to get into our historic clothing because,  well,  that's what we like to do.  Our hobby,  for many,  tends to end in the late summer and does not start up again until usually late May.  So why not grab the opportunity midway through?
But also,  the wearing of our period clothing helps everyone to stay focused on our hobby,  on history,  and on future plans of scenarios and ideas to bring back the past during the upcoming season.
And it works quite well,  for,  as this picture from a number of years ago attests,  we've always had a decently large turn-out of membership.  And our plans for activities at reenactments always turn out extremely well. 
I am debating on whether or not to call a meeting for this year.  If we do have one,  it probably will not be until at least mid-April.
We'll see...


February 19
I feel bad for forgetting who took this picture of me at the Eagle Tavern - it was someone from the Friends of Greenfield Village Facebook page  (I apologize for not being able to give credit!),  but I've always liked the period look and feel of it - you would never know it was taken at a tavern that was built in 1831,  around 50 years after the clothing I am wearing went out of fashion.  The basic inside layout and style architectural differences in most taverns I've seen from the 18th century to taverns built in the first part of the 19th century are very minute.  Oh yes,  there were some changes,  of course,  but I've been in or have seen enough pictures of taverns from both periods,  from Colonial Williamsburg to New England through the mid-west,  to see that the differences were minor...subtle...from one time to the other.


February 20
Me & my son Miles as we may had been in the 1860s.
Miles prefers to stay away from the guns and military side of reenacting.  
He'd rather hang around with his buddies and do other things,  which is just fine.
These first two pictures above show pretty well how our clothing can depict father and son farmers of the mid-to-late 19th century.  In the first shot we are sitting on the porch of the Firestone Farm.  The second photo shows the two of us with the Firestone field behind us.
  
And for the third picture I was able to get a few of our other reenacting youths to 
add a bit of flavor to the scene.
Farm living is the life for me---or was---lol
It's a great feeling to be able to have family & friends help 
bring the past back with you. 


February 21
The site for the Vermillion Creek Revolutionary War reenactment,  which takes place in October,  is in the far-back area of the Peacock Family Farm,  located in rural mid-Michigan.  There they had a cabin set up as a trading post,  which was pretty darn awesome.  The immersion feel was there,  for my friend Jackie and I had to walk a ways down a dirt road past an Indian encampment to get to it.
Yeah...it was very cool.


February 22
Another thing I greatly miss doing during covid crap are school presentations,  such as this event we did about the Civil War at a middle school a decade ago in Bloomfield Hills.  The kids are almost always very excited to see us decked out in our period garb,  they get the chance to see soldiers fire off their muskets,  and hear the stories of the home front from the civilians.  And for the lot of us it is usually an all-day affair - even luckier if it is a beautiful spring day and we're all outside.
I look forward to the day when we're invited back to schools once again.


February 23
Here you see my wife and I in our 1760s/1770s clothing at the 
Lac Ste.  Claire Voyageur event at Metro-Beach in Harrison Township.
I remember the first time Patty ever dressed in period clothing.  Boy!  Was she nervous!  It wasn't wearing the old-time clothing that made her apprehensive initially:  it was being the center of attention;  she'd prefer to blend in.  Plus it was her first time doing such a thing.  However,  once she stepped out of the van and went over to where the public was,  she soon found herself becoming very comfortable...acclimated,  and it didn't take her very long before she began to speak to the interested folks who asked about her clothing,  asked about her  "past life,"  and asked if she was  "hot in all those clothes."  That was nearly two decades ago.  Since then she has learned to spin on a spinning wheel,  cook great period meals over a fire,  and learned more about everyday life of the 18th & 19th centuries than even she realizes.  Though she does not reenact nearly as often as what she used to,  due mainly to having a dog that requires a lot of her attention,  she still comes out with me when she can and very much enjoys spinning on her wheel and teaching the interested public about life in the old days.
I am a lucky and bless'd man indeed.


February 24
For nearly a decade I was a part of the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society  (MSAS),  which was based on the various Aid Societies that were around during the Civil War.  The function of the societies was similar in both the north and south regions:  first and foremost was to gather supplies and get them to the soldiers—food,  tents,  clothing,  blankets, and bandages.   These items were made or purchased using funds from donations.  The societies also supported soldiers’  families on the home front,  donating food and necessities to poorer families.  Donations were raised by social events such as concerts,  tableaux,  dinners,  and dances.
In the top picture a group of us were accepting,  keeping track of,  and distributing the donations received while at the 1858 Smiths Creek Depot,  which,  during the War,  was located in Smiths Creek,  Michigan,  west of Port Huron.
In this bottom photo you see an actual picture of an Aid Society 
from 1865 in,  I believe,  Philadelphia.
It was with the MSAS that I really learned to hone my 
1st person and immersion skills.


February 25
Here you see myself with my friends Rae Bucher and Karen Stanard,  once again,  
over at the Daggett House.  The first photo was taken one evening in late 
December 2017,  and,  yes,  it was bitter cold out - single digit temps.  But the cloak I 
had on kept me very warm indeed.
If I had money to have a house built,  this is the kind I would have.  From the first time I saw it in 1983, it's been a favorite - even more so now - and each and every time I visit Greenfield Village,  I always stop in to see if Samuel Daggett is around.
Now known as a saltbox  (but called a break-back or sometimes a lean-to back in the day)  it originated in New England,  first seen in early-to-mid 1600s,  and is a prime example of truly American architecture.  According to folklore,  the saltbox style home came to be because of Queen Anne’s taxation on houses greater than one story.  Since the rear of the roof descended to the height of a single-story building,  the structure was exempt from the tax.  Most historians agree,  however,  that the saltbox shape most-likely evolved because adding a lean-to onto the rear of the house was the most economical way to expand the home for growing families.
Due to these distinctive high pitched asymmetrical roofs,  and flat,  unadorned exteriors,  along with the sturdy central chimney,  which is a simple but effective focal point,  these homes,  with their simplicity and strength of design,  can convey years of American colonial history in a single glance,  for they show how people lived in the nation's earliest days.
I want one.


February 26
July 7,  1863 - Gettysburg,  Pennsylvania:
Four days after the fierce three-day Battle at Gettysburg had ended,  teenaged Tillie Pierce,  who unwittingly found herself situated in the middle of the fighting,  returned home - the very same house you see in the second picture - where  "everything seemed to be in confusion,  and my home did not look exactly as it did when I left.  I soon found my mother...  At first glance  (she)  did not recognize me,  so dilapidated was my general appearance.  The clothes I had  (on)  by this time become covered with mud...I was soon told that my  (clean)  clothes were still down in the cellar on the wood pile,  just where I had put them  (when she left just before the battle commenced),  and that I should go at once and make myself presentable.  (There were)  no less than five Union soldiers in the house.  They were all sick and disabled;  two of them were captains,  and were very badly wounded.  Mother nursed and dressed their wounds during all the time of the battle..."
And we got to stay the night and eat breakfast in this very same house.
What most people do not think of when they read about battles such as this is what occurs in the towns nearby - the fear and excitement the citizens lived through as well.
Staying in the Tillie Pierce House had truly been a highlight of our Gettysburg vacation.  Yes,  we wore our 1860s clothing pretty much our entire time there. 
As one who loves history,  places like Gettysburg and Colonial Williamsburg are MY Disney World,  MY Caribbean cruise,  and MY tropical Hawaiian paradise.


February 27
Just a couple of guys hanging out with Dr.  Benjamin Franklin.  
I suppose if I would want to actually meet anyone in our wonderful American history,  it would be Ben Franklin,  a true Patriot and,  perhaps,  the United States'  finest citizen.  
Upon researching and learning about this man I have come to realize that,  like many others of the Founding generation,  so much of what is told about him is a myth.  You see,  it is very  "in"  right now to come down on our Founders,  and most today tend to believe the lie over the truth,  or the myth over the fact.  Or even concentrate on the wrong without adding the right.  Too many would rather believe a facebook meme or a one-sided history teacher rather than search out the actual truth.  Our Founders were human,  and given that,  were not perfect.  And,  yes,  they were of their time.  And their time was not our time (someone actually said to me in a serious tone that if they were so smart,  why didn't they invent the computer!  Haha!  They actually did---check out the Jacquard  loom).
And of the many from this generation who I admire - and,  mind you,  my greatest heroes are from this time - Ben Franklin is in my top 3.  Truly an amazing man. 
Bob Stark,  who portrays Dr.  Franklin,  does a remarkable job at it.


February 28
Early in the 19th century, a stage line was operated between Detroit and Tecumseh on what was originally an Indian trail.  With the coming of the early settlers from the east,  due to the opening of the Erie Canal,  it also became the settler's route as well.  As traveling increased and roads were made possible for stagecoach travel,  taverns were built along this route.  The first stage stop that comes our way on our journey west upon leaving Detroit was originally known as Parks Tavern when it was built in Clinton,  Michigan,  around 1831.  Parks Tavern was renamed the Eagle Tavern in 1849 and that name remained until the Civil War.  The Eagle Tavern was one of the first of the taverns built on this road,  which eventually extended to Niles,  Michigan in 1832,  and then,  by 1833,  the road made it to Chicago,  when it became known as the Chicago Turnpike,  and finally the Chicago Road/US 12.
This tavern now sits inside Greenfield Village.
So here we are during the early 1860s,  and a few of us travellers are a-waiting our stage to arrive to pick us up for our trip westward.  Well…actually,  what we have here are the 2010 civilian members of the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit,  and we are taking a group shot during Greenfield Village’s Civil War Remembrance event.
Kinda fooled you,  didn't we?
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.


Well,  looks like there will be one more month of my Living History Photo Challenge.  I'm really hoping that reenactments - bonafide public-invited reenactments - will be coming back into our lives this year.  But here in early March it's hard to predict what kind of year 2021 will be for those of us who take part in this hobby.  There are a few events already cancelled:  the Kalamazoo Living History Show  (which I kind of expected)  and Greenfield Village's Civil War Remembrance  (which,  to be honest,  quite surprised me).  
However,  as of this writing there are numerous reenactments on the calendar for the lower Michigan area:

Patriot's Day at Mill Race Village in Northville on April 18
A colonial spring planting event in May  (this is a private event)
A timeline event in Port Sanilac on May 29
A Voyageur event at Port Sanilac on June 12 & 13
Blacksmiths,  Soldiers,  and Log Cabin Weekend at Waterloo Farm Museum on June 26
A 4th of July event  (taking place on the 5th of July)  at Mill Race Village in Northville
Civil War Days at Port Sanilac on August 7 & 8
Colonial Kensington at Kensington Metro-Park on August 14 & 15
An 1860's Gathering of Knowledge in western Michigan - possibly September
Vermillion Creek Revolutionary War Muster on October 1 - 3
I am still awaiting to hear confirmation on Charlton Park in July,  Port Oneida Fair in August,  and about Jackson's Civil War Muster toward the end of August.  
And there's been no confirmation on any Civil War or Rev War events at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne as of yet.  Fingers crossed.
Then there are the smaller non-events that I put together.

God willing,  2021 could shape up to be a much better year for living history than last year by far.  
Normalcy.  That's what we need.
You see,  I am on a journey and let it take me where it will.
So...let's meet back in another month and see what our upcoming days of future past may hold.

Until next time,  see you in time.

To see my other photo-challenges as they have occurred month by month from April through December 2020,  please click 
HERE for January
HERE for December
HERE for November
HERE for October
HERE for September
HERE for August
HERE for July
HERE for June
HERE for May
HERE for April and Late March 2020




















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