"The past is a foreign place, and a person's portrayal of the past depends upon thousands of choices about the physical, behavioral, and cultural details of the period and place being presented. Being authentic or truthful about the past involves much more than getting the clothing and the architectural details right..."
"We are tellers of stories, we history folks. Our decorative and utilitarian objects are not merely things, but clues to tales of our past as a country. We don't just purchase a lantern; we investigate how it was used and the significance of the pattern of the piercing of the tin.
All of the looking back is also a looking forward as friends and families grow closer just as they would have in early America. Make the right historical environment and let the situations and camaraderie unfold."
The two above quotes are from Tess Rosch - Publisher Early American Life Magazine and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich from her book, "A Midwife's Tale."
It takes place annually on the 3rd weekend in March...
I look forward to it all year.
I begin to make plans to attend right after Christmas.
I can hardly sleep the night before the "big day" for it is nearly like Christmas Eve to me.
Just what in the world could it be that has gotten me so excited?
|Off to Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo...
Why, the Kalamazoo Living History Show, of course, where nearly 300 of the finest artisans and vendors of pre-1890 living history/reenacting clothing, supplies, and related crafts and accessories come together from throughout the United States and Canada to sell their wares to around 10,000 living historians and reenactors. Most of the items you will find at this exposition centers from around the French & Indian War (1754 - 1763) era into the period of the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812 then up to the Civil War period. Since I am good with what I need for reenacting the 1860s, for the most part - having reenacted Civil War for very close to 20 years - my priority tends to be more mid-to-late 18th century. And there is plenty of everything for those of us who are interested in that era.
Unfortunately, due to Covid, it's been since 2019 that this has taken place, so we've all been chomping at the bit to go back. One must remember that there aren't many places we can go to that specializes in the much-harder-to-find 18th century items needed to the extent the Kalamazoo Living History Show has.
Which is why over 10,000 people attend every year.
And why we were so excited this year after the covid hiatus.
Of course I dressed period, as did my son (though the others I rode with did not) and we enjoyed fine conversation during the nearly three hour ride from the metro-Detroit area to Kalamazoo.
And, yes, I had my camera in tow:
|The first thing I did was scurry over to where Samson's Historical was located and purchased a new Slate Linen 18th Century Civilian Coat, an "elegant gray linen coat (that) is lined with natural-colored linen." It's a bit wrinkly here but I will steam it when I get home.
I really like the style.
|I have been dealing with Samson's for years now, and I love how they've expanded their store from leather goods to nearly anything anyone could want to recreate the 18th century, from clothing to a myriad of accessories.
|Just a couple of rows beyond Samson's I ran into the owner of Townsends, another fine dealer in all things 18th century, and even early 19th century. In this photo of Mr. Townsend and I we also see Carol Jarboe portraying Maggie Delaney, the Irish indentured servant. She has a terrific DVD available: HERE
|Townsend was also set up in full force with clothing and accessories to help recreate times past. I have three pairs of colonial shoes - all straight last and all bought from Townsend.
|I met this woman who was dressed as an 1812 lady in mourning.
It was the 1st time I've seen Regency mourning.
It is a subject I do find interesting.
As mentioned, there were hundreds of dealers/vendors./sutlers selling their pre-1890s wares, from military to citizen to mountain man. Also there were plenty of books, patterns for clothing, wood lap desks, and powder horns available for purchase:
|This was just one vendor of powder horns.
If I was a seller of such an item I would name my shop "Horns o' Plenty"~
There were also gun makers working their craft right there in front of interested on-lookers:
|Shaping the gun stock.
|And the implements needed for those who wanted to try this at home.
|Three halls filled - and the people came...
|I enjoy those who work their crafts there.
It adds so much.
|There was something for everyone...
|This is always one of my favorite stops - one can
never have enough tinware.
|My son was checking out the variety of coffee beans.
He likes to grind his own coffee in the morning.
|Another stop was Susan Hansen's Carrot Patch Farm.
Susan is a spinner as well and what you see for sale here is what she herself had spun
from wool from her own sheep.
|Here I am next to Susan and her friend.
Susan's cousin married my son Robbie.
Yeah...we're sorta like family now.
It seemed like I couldn't walk more than 10 feet without meeting someone I knew. Since I reenact two eras - and have been in the reenacting world for nearly 20 years - I know many people in this hobby. It's like the old comment, "These are my people."
They most certainly are!
|Some of the best are right here!
Unfortunately, they don't know how to "dress" lol
Well...except for that guy on the left...
|In this photo there are those who reenact Revolutionary War and/or Civil War
and/or WWII (even though there were no 1940s vendors here, for this show was
The past is a foreign place indeed, and the Kalamazoo Living History Show helps us to become more a part of it. I am often asked where I get my period clothing and accessories to help bring the past to life, for most people can tell what we wear does not come from a costume shop and our implements are not from an arts & crafts store. They can usually see that the quality is much higher. And more accurate.
I like to hope (and I've been told) that I do a pretty fair job in my presentation.
I really do try, but I know that there is always room for improvement, and to get a decent set of "new" clothing from the ground up - a coat, waistcoat, shirt, breeches, socks, cravats/neckstocks, buckle shoes, and cocked hat - can cost from as little as $500 to upward of $1500 or more in some cases, though a higher price does not always mean higher in accuracy. And if you really want to be as accurate as you can, each garment should be hand-sewn. Of course, you would have to find someone willing to take on such a task, which will certainly increase the total price. Or do it yourself, if you know how to sew.
Then there is that little thing called "time" to allow to sew it all...
Either way, a good many in this hobby seem to do their best to be as accurate as possible. I like to think that if I suddenly found myself zapped into the past, no one would give me a second glance...unless I opened my mouth to speak (lol).
Much of it boils down to how much is one willing or is able to invest in their hobby of living history. I mean, it is not cheap to recreate the world of the past.
But the Kalamazoo Living History Show gives the reenactor of all levels the opportunity to, at the very least, get a good start, and, at most, to add to their kit to bring the past to life in such a way as to have (or present) that travel through time experience.
Yeah...the Kalamazoo Living History Show is as good as it gets.
Living history indeed!
Until next time, see you in time.
~ ~ ~