Friday, March 24, 2023

Celebrating New Year's in March?

 'Twas not too long before the American Revolution that the coming and celebration of  the New Year was observed in the month of March rather than in January.
Yes,  March.
March 24th - New Year's Eve - Seeing the old year out, 
and welcoming the new year in.
You see,  according to the ancient Julian Calendar,  New Year's Eve was on the evening of March 24,  and therefore,  New Year's Day was March 25th.  This practice lasted for a great many of the time until the year 1752. 
Now,  pay attention,  for it gets a little complicated here:  
I can only imagine the confusion
this caused.
according to numerous sources  (linked at the bottom of this post),  it was way back in 45 B.C.,  that Julius Caesar ordered a calendar consisting of twelve months based on a solar year.  This calendar employed a cycle of three years of 365 days,  followed by a year of 366 days  (leap year).  When first implemented,  the  "Julian Calendar"  also moved the beginning of the year from March 1st to January 1st.  However,  following the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century,  the beginning of the new year was gradually realigned to coincide with Christian festivals.  By the seventh century AD,  Christmas Day marked the beginning of the new year in many countries.
But it was in the ninth century that parts of southern Europe began observing the first day of the new year on March 25 to coincide with Annunciation Day,  or Lady Day,  when Christians celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.  This was the church holiday that occurred nine months prior to Christmas celebrating the Angel Gabriel's revelation to the Virgin Mary that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  A fine example of this new year date comes from Adam Winthrop,  when,  on March 25,  1620,  he wrote in his diary,  "The new year beginneth."
And because the year began in March,  records referring to the  first month  pertain to March;  to the second month pertain to April,  etc.,  so that  "the 19th of the 12th month"  would be February 19.  In fact,  in Latin,  September means seventh month,  October means eighth month,  November means ninth month,  and December means tenth month.  Use of numbers for months,  rather than names,  was especially prevalent in Quaker records.
So,  why the change from March to January?
During the Middle Ages,  it became apparent that the Julian leap year formula had overcompensated for the actual length of a solar year,  having added an extra day every 128 years.  However, no adjustments were made to compensate.  By 1582,  seasonal equinoxes were falling 10 days  "too early,"  and some church holidays,  such as Easter,  did not always fall in the proper seasons.  So in that year of 1582,  Pope Gregory XIII authorized  the  "Gregorian"  or  "New Style"  Calendar.  As part of the change,  ten days were dropped from the month of October,  and the formula for determining leap years was revised so that only years divisible by 400  (e.g.,  1600,  2000)  at the end of a century would be leap years.  January 1st was then established as the first day of the new year.  
However,  though most Roman Catholic countries adopted this,  Protestant countries,  including England and its colonies,  did not recognize the authority of the Pope and continued to use the Julian Calendar.
But March is so much warmer!
So between 1582 and 1752,  not only were two calendars in use in Europe  (and in European colonies),  but two different starts of the year were in use.  Although the  "Legal"  and more traditional year began on March 25,  the use of the Gregorian calendar by other European countries led to January 1st becoming more commonly celebrated as  "New Year's Day"  and given as the first day of the year in almanacs.
It wasn't until 1750 that an act of Parliament in England changed the calendar dates to align with the Gregorian Calendar,  meaning that they now also began their legal new year on January 1st.
Henceforth,  New Year's celebrations will take place on the evening of December 31st and lasting into the following day. 
Is my birthday on
February 11?
February 22?
Heck!  I'll take  'em both!
I hope you're good at math - - for as a result and to become aligned,  people born before 1752 had to add 11 days to their birth dates.  For example,  the day following February 1st in that year was not February 2nd.  It was February 11th.  Also,  those individuals born between January 1st and March 24th before 1752 had to add a year to be in sync with the new calendar,  for reason being the change of  New Year's Day going from March 25th to January 1st.   This confusing double dating process was used in Great Britain and its colonies,  including America.
Whew!  Did you get all that?
Read it again...slowly...out loud.  It actually does make sense,
Now,  imagine if,  like George Washington,  your birth occurred during this time;  for 47 of his 67 years,  Washington celebrated two birthdays.  The first was the date on which he was born in 1732 - February 11th.  
The second took place on his Gregorian birthday,  on February 22nd.  
Although at first many colonial communities refused to go along with this,  George Washington apparently took the change in stride and,  from 1752 on,  accepted February 22nd as his birthday.  On the other hand,  he didn’t completely ignore his old February 11th birthday.  For instance,  in 1799 he attended a gala birthday party in his honor in Alexandria,  Virginia,  on February 11th,  writing in his diary that night that he  “went up to Alexandria for the celebration of my birthday.”
Eleven days later,  on February 22nd,  1799,  he celebrated his second birthday of that year which turned out to be the last of his life.  He died ten months later,  on the evening of December 14,  1799.

The sun rises on a new spring.
The sun rises on a new year.
Either way,  Springtime truly is the season of rebirth.
(A Tom Kemper photograph)
Many farmers continued to think of March as the beginning of the new year after the change,  and they did so clear into the 19th century...and some even into the 20th century.  And why wouldn't they,  for February's last days remained as they had always kept it,  and accounts and diaries were closed and inventories were made.  There was talk of spring and the new farm year.  All farm calendars and diaries,  almanacs and agricultural manuals continued to appropriately  (for them)  begin with March.  Sap was was the season of  preparations for planting,  for a turning out of the winter dirt,  a time for leaving the winter darkness and cold behind to look toward sunny warmth and renewal...a time for preparing for the rest of the year...rebirth. 
"The new year is at our door,"  says a diary entry of the period,  "spring is with us in March when we are yet sitting by the fireside..."
The majority of the populace in 18th century America knew the need to accomplish a successful growing season was of utmost importance,   It would set the pace for the rest of the year.
I can see why March 25 - so close to the vernal equinox - was considered New Year's Day.

Until next time,  see you in time.


Sources came from THIS site and THIS site.

To learn of 18th century New Year's celebrations,  please click HERE
To learn of 18th century spring traditions,  please click HERE
To learn of early Easter celebrations,  please click HERE
To spend a year on a colonial farm,  please click HERE

~   ~   ~

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Welcome Spring! Historical Musings for the Time of the Season

A spring sunrise over the 1750 Daggett House,  a colonial living history meeting to prepare for the upcoming reenacting year,  an old miniature stage coach,  a visit to the Henry Ford Museum turns into a very quick Greenfield Village presentation,  a few  "new"  Bicentennial collectibles,  and...I am in print!
There---that's your table of contents for today's post.  I do hope you enjoy it - I tried to keep it  (mostly)  upbeat and light-hearted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If it's March in Michigan,  it means it's Maple Syruping season!
And we covered that HERE.
Spring blooms at Greenfield Village
But it's also the time for spring!  So let's celebrate!!
By the way,  did you know there are two springs...sort of?
First off,  we know that the astronomical seasons are:
Spring Equinox:  March 20  (and it will be that date until the 22nd century)
Summer Solstice:  Around June 21
Autumnal Equinox:  Around September 22
Winter Solstice:  Around December 21
But did you know that we have meteorological seasons,  which allow meteorologists and climatologists to break the seasons up into four groups of three months based on the annual temperature cycle,  as well as the calendar?  The meteorological seasons do not change or vary by year.  Those seasons are:
Spring:  March 1 to May 31
Summer:  June 1 to August 31
Autumn:  September 1 to November 30
Winter:  December 1 to February 28  (or February 29 during a leap year)
To be honest,  this is  (mostly)  the way I think of our seasons,  though I have to admit I do get excited on the vernal equinox  (the  "official"  first day of spring).
Just thought some might be interested in this bit of a fun-fact~

My friend,  Tom,  who works at Greenfield Village,  took some amazing 1st day of spring sunrise pictures that just happened to include my favorite house  (hmmm?).
"But Ken,"  you say,  "I thought you were a winter person!"
I the winter. 
In spring I am a spring person,  summer a  (mostly)  summer person  (except for those extreme hot & muggy/humid days),  and,  especially in autumn I am an autumn person.  Well...I'm sort of an autumn person all year I suppose...
But today I am a spring person and celebrate the season of rebirth!
So I mentioned to Tom how much I'd love to have a few sunrise Daggett photos on spring.
He didn't disappoint!
And I have a little story to help to bring it all alive:
The sun rises on spring…
Was all this going on while Tom took the pictures?
Asenath Daggett awoke,  startled.  Had she overslept and not heeded her father's call?  She jumped out of bed on to the strip of rag carpet laid on the cold floor.  The sun was just rising and a cool,  northwest breeze was blowing on this early spring morning.  The well-sweep creaked in the breeze,  and a whiff of the smoke of the kitchen fire,  pouring out of the chimney,  blew up the stairway.
In the kitchen,  a glowing bed of red-hot coals burned on the hearth,  streaks of sunlight glanced through the windows,  bouncing off the light snow that had fallen overnight and touched the course cloth on the dinner table.  Soft reflections shone from the porringers hanging on the dresser;  a sunbeam flecked with bright light the brass candlesticks which were set on the mantel over the hearth.
All winter the family – her father Samuel,  mother Anna,  sister Talitha,  and brother Isaiah - had gathered in the kitchen and,  in its warm coziness,  Asenath had spun on the spinning wheel,  darned mittens,  and knitted stockings.  Being in the kitchen was a reminder of that cozy time.  But with an air of spring about,  the great hall was opened up once again.
Springtime truly is the season of rebirth,  and thoughts for the majority of the populace in 18th century America was the need to accomplish a successful growing season,  for in those long ago days,  Spring was considered a time for preparing for the rest of the year;  a time for a new beginning.  A time for leaving the winter darkness and cold behind to look toward sunny warmth and renewal...rebirth.  It would set the pace for the rest of the year.
So,  being that it is now March - very early in the spring  (the 1st day as I write this) - and we can still see the last remnants of the winter snows melting,  this would be the time of year when the colonial farmer might’ve been repairing his farm tools to work his fields for plowing and planting.  And for finding ways to make extra money -
Just imagine if the walls in this 1750 home of the Daggett family could talk…think of the daily life - the everyday activities that occurred here...the conversations spoken,  perhaps very similar to what was written above---then again,  perhaps these wall do  talk…we only have to listen.  
So hear now Samuel Daggett’s own words as you read from his ledger placed beneath the following few photos:
March 3,  1757 -  Jacob Sherwine, debtor,  for ceeping of seven cattel 5 weeks and three days: 1 three year old 4 two year olds 2 one year old
more to one booshil  (bushel)  of ots  (oats):  allso for my oxen one day to plow
more to my oxen to plow one day and more to my oxen to plow two days
more to my oxen to dray*  apels  (apples)  half a day
*A dray is a low,  strong cart without fixed sides,  for carrying heavy loads.

March 1,  1758 - John Sherwine,  debtor to flaxseed half a booshil

March 11,  1760 - Capt Obediah Newcomb debtor for mending of 8 chairs and a wheel.

March 13,  1760 - Joseph Crooker debtor for eleven booshil
of heyseed at seven pence cash pr. booshil.
Thank you to Tom Kemper for taking these magnificent 1st day of Spring sunrise photographs!


Springtime is the time of year when those of us who don period clothing and reenact a time long ago begin to prepare for the upcoming season of  historical reenactments.  And we do this in a myriad of ways.
Hmmm...which house is Ken's...?
I try to have an annual March meeting with members of Citizens of the American Colonies living history group.  It was back in 2015 when I began this organization,  and,  so far these eight years since,  it's been a pretty good success.  However,  to look at us you may think,  "Wow,  Ken,  there aren't very many members."
But that's okay.  It's quality I want,  not necessarily quantity.  That's most important to me.  And though we may not be picture-perfect,  each of us are working toward that goal,  though we'll never be perfect...not unless we actually lived at that time,  and even then some stitch-counters might still question us - lol - true!   A friend of mine was doing a military timeline a few years ago,  and he wore his government-issued US uniform from when he was drafted in 1968/69 to go to Vietnam.  Some young punk kid,  who claimed to be a historian with a college degree,  argued with him that his uniform wasn't correct:  the colors/dyelot was off,  the buttons were wrong...and so on.  My friend explained it was what he was issued when he was drafted and what he wore while serving his country.  "It couldn't be!"  the kid replied.  They went back and forth for a bit until finally my friend pretty much told the punk to  "bugger off"  and walked away.
Yep!  I don't care if you have a college education or not.
This can be infuriating.
Having discussions are wonderful,  and everyone can learn from them.  But we have seemed to lose the art of listening...and  retention.  
As for the punk kid,  well,  there was a time when one respected their elders,  listened to their stories,  and learned.
Ha!  Not so much anymore,  it seems.  
So...back to our Citizens of the American Colonies meeting: 
The good folk that came to the meeting.
Improving our look in accuracy is part of what I spoke on at our 2023 meeting:  upping our game.  "Good enough"  only works for a short while.  When I see some of these wonderful units back east and how well they look,  why,  that only makes me want to push myself harder,  and hopefully that attitude will spread.  Member Jackie consistently posts photos from an organization known as The Boston Garrison,  and I'm glad she does,  for they are a wonderful living history group out of Boston known for their top-notch quality - a group to emulate.  Now,  I've never reenacted with them before so I can only go by looks alone,  so I would imagine with all they put into their outward appearance that they also are well-versed in the era they are representing - roughly the same time-period as Citizens of the American Colonies.  And,  yes,  it sure does help that they are from the east coast!  I hope to one day meet up with them - there is a good possibility I may to get to Massachusetts within the next year or two for a history tour,  and you can bet I'll have my period clothing!  So who knows?
In my own home I'm surrounded by the past...
And,  yes,  I absolutely believe that surrounding yourself with period-correct accessories and learning about the times,  the people,  and the lifestyles of the era is every bit as important as having perfect clothing,  for both you and the spectator.  Think about what you are wearing as compared to how you are portraying yourself.  Are you wearing fancy clothing?  Then don't claim to be a working farmer or farmer's wife  (for an example).  Oftentimes we see perfectly dressed folk with only that - the clothes on their back and little to see and little else to bring the visitor back in time.  And,  too often,  little knowledge about the time being represented.

The Lexington General Store~
It was on the wall to the right where the stage coach
sat for so long.
Years ago…like around 40 of them - when Patty and I were still just dating,  we used to visit,  quite often,  the General Store in Lexington,  Michigan.  What's cool about Lexington is that it was renamed Lexington around 1845,  reportedly in honor of Lexington,  Massachusetts.  According to material I found on line,  the general store was built in 1849 and was initially a drug store that also carried paints,  oils,  cigars and fancy groceries.  Not long after it became a boot shop,  and then other various businesses.  I'm not exactly sure when it became  "The General Store,"  but I was told it was sometime in the mid-20th century.  I cannot document this,  however.  
When Patty and I frequented the store in the early 1980s there were two v-e-r-y nice elderly ladies that ran the place,  and we would talk with them all the time.  Back behind the counter was this old  (even then it was old)  wooden stage coach.  Being ever the history buff,   I would ask if it was for sale,  and they always replied that it wasn’t.  It kind of became a game – every time we’d go to the General Store,  I would ask,  “so, ready to sell that stage coach yet?”  And they always smiled and said,  “no,  but if we do,  we’ll sell it to you!”
One day…probably sometime in the late 1980s,  Patty and I went in to the store, and I didn’t even get a chance to ask my question when one of the ladies quickly moved up to me and asked,  “Are you still interested in that stage coach?”
I asked if she was kidding.  She assured me she wasn’t,  that they were selling their business and that they felt I deserved the stage coach.
I asked about the cost,  and she told me.  The price quoted was reasonable,  but I actually probably would have paid nearly any price,  that’s how badly I wanted it.  I gave her the cash,  she gave me the stage coach,  and now it sits proudly in my living room,  to this day,  all these years later.
Because of this story plus my old General Store memories,  it is,  to me,  priceless.  And I will be forever thankful to those two wonderful ladies for thinking of me. 
There's a story to be told about this old Stage Coach...
I'm not sure the original purpose of this old coach - was it a toy?  Hmmm...seems a bit too fragile for that.  No matter,  for I am very pleased that it's been a treasure for me,  and I hope my kids will care for it like I do when I'm gone and not just sell it at a garage sale or something.


Just about a week before publishing this post,  we had a school field trip with the high schoolers I help to teach,  and went to the Henry Ford Museum.  This smaller version of the Smithsonian is adjacent to Greenfield Village,  the open-air museum,  which is closed until mid-April.  As we drove down Village Road from Southfield Freeway,  we could see the tops of  numerous building inside the Village walls.  A number of the historic structures behind the brick wall could be seen fairly well since we were sitting high in the bus.  
Yep - - the wall block much!
(thanks,  Loretta Tester,  for the photo use!)
All of a sudden I realized that many of these kids had never been to Greenfield Village before - and neither did a couple of the adults - so I got excited,  put on my pretend presenter cap,  and,  though I've never worked for the Village,  I know how to present and I know virtually every building that sits inside those brick walls.
And as we drove past I began pointing and making quick comments  (for the bus was doing the 30 mph speed limit).  The pictures here,  by the way,  were taken from over-the-wall,  but at another time.  My handy dandy camera was not ready for me to take pictures while I was speed-talking.
Here's what I said:
...this dark gray house is my favorite,  the Daggett House from around 1750, 
 next to that is the Farris Windmill from 1633...  

...and then we have the red Plympton House from the early 1700s,  and back there
in the distance is the stone Cotswold Cottage & Forge from about 1620... 

...and here is the Susquehanna Plantation built in the 1830s... 

...and there is the Giddings House in the way back from about 1750, 
and there is the Noah Webster House from 1822 next to it on the left - he wrote
his first dictionary in that house... 

...and then we have the Ackley Covered Bridge from about 1831... is one of the 1st houses lit with electricity by Edison himself, 
the Sarah Jordan Boarding House,  and there's Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory...
  (catch my breath)   
...and next is the brick building where the Wright Brothers built the 1st true airplane -
no,  not that one in the distance---that's the Heinz House---the one directly left...
...and that white house is where Henry Ford was born in 1863..."
Whew!  All that in about a minute  (or less)!
Obviously there wasn't time for more than what I said but it got everyone excited for when we come visit Greenfield Village this May!  Can't wait!!


Notice the red,  white,  and blue!
This can gave a history of Detroit's Faygo.
For my 4th of July post in 2022,  I wrote about America's Bicentennial that took place in 1976 and how we as a country all celebrated that momentous occasion.  In the post I included something like close to 90 pictures,  many items from my own collection that I saved for all those many years,  and lots that I found throughout the internet.  Well,  since that time I re-caught the Bicentennial bug and began to recollect many of the cool things I used to have but got rid of over the years.  Then there are the items I remember from all those years ago but never thought to hold on to.  And then there were those things that were just a bit too much money for this 15 year old boy so,  though I may have wanted them,  they were simply too far out of my reach.  And finally,  I saw things on line that I never saw or knew about back in 1976 that are just so cool---perhaps they were from out of state---and now,  well,  I have a few.
So,  I thought I would share some of what I recently acquired with you.
Let's begin with something I remember and had in my teenaged hands,  but tossed away.
In fact,  they were made right here in Detroit:
Faygo celebrates the Bicentennial!
A quick history:  In 1907,  Ben and Perry Feigenson started bottling lager beer,  mineral water and soda water.  Recent Russian immigrants to Detroit,  the brothers were trained as bakers.  While packaging their soda water,  they began playing around with the idea of creating soft drinks based on their frosting flavors.  
The brothers formed the Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works,  and in 1920 changed the name to Feigenson Brothers Company.  In a clever marketing move,  “Faygo”  was adopted as the brand name in 1921 since Feigenson didn't fit on the labels very well..  They moved their growing bottle works to Gratiot Avenue in 1935, where Faygo pop is still created today.
And Faygo joined in on the Bicentennial celebrations as well by printing the founders on the label that included a sketched likeness and short biography.
Patrick Henry -
"Give me liberty or give me death!" -
was on Rock & Rye.

Daniel Boone - explorer of the
American wilderness -
was on the Orange Soda.

John Paul Jones - naval hero -
was on Grape Soda.

Now here's where things get a little interesting,  especially considering this was 1976:
Crispus Attucks,
the African-American who was
shot at the Boston Massacre,
was on  Cola!

Lydia Darragh,  a female spy, 
was on 

There you have my Faygo Bicentennial can collection.
Others who were saluted by Faygo in this manner back in the 1970s were: 
Pocahontas - Jamestown ---- saved Captain John Smith's life
Nathan Hale - one of Washington's spies
Molly Pitcher - saluted Mary McCauley,  who fought at Battle of Monmuth
Peter Salem  - black minuteman who fought at Bumker  (Breed's)  Hill
Francis Marion - "the old swamp fox"
Johnny Appleseed - planted apple seeds
Haym Solomon - liberty-advocating spy
Casimir Pulaski - fought at Brandywine and other battles
George Rogers Clark - organized a northwest militia
T. Kosciuszko - traveled from Poland to fight for American Independence
Israel Putnam - popular soldier known as  "Old Put"
I think what I like is that they did not have just  "the hits" - the most famous of  "founding"  names - but included many of the  "bubbling unders"  as well - some of who are not as well known but still gave much to the cause - which I think is very cool,  especially given the time these were printed.
Other  "cool"ectables I found include picture-postcards that were collected but never sent:
There are more in the collection,  but I liked these the best.
I bought this in collection form off eBay.  I paid more than I would've liked but,  well,  at least I have them.
It seemed like every single company that produced anything got into the Patriotic spirit!
Oh man!  I would've loved  to've had these notebooks for school!
Yep---they're all from 1976!
And I did purchase them...too late to use for class 
(not that I would - they're just too cool)

Also part of the 200th celebration:
I remember begging my parents to take me to Greenfield Village to witness the Bicentennial celebrations going on there.  After reading of the activities advertised in the papers,  it was something I desperately wanted - no...absolutely needed - to see!
Unfortunately,  it was not to be.
However,  very recently I did find a copy of their trifold they handed out to the visitors who were able to go:
Because I so desperately wanted to go but couldn't, 
this trifold listing of events is the next best thing, 
for I can now see what I missed  (lol).
If I could turn back the hands of time...

And below here is a portion of  what's inside the folds:
Between the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village,  it was a buffet of
only the finest for the history buff and Bicentennial celebrator.
Sing with me again:  "If I could turn back the hands of time..." 
(thanks to Tyrone Davis for such a great song!)
I continue to seek out Bicentennial items,  but not just any old thing with the Bicentennial emblem---there are certain  collectibles that I am interested in,  just not  everything.  Even I  don't always know what I  necessarily want until I happen to see it,  and it'll reach out and grab me.  You see,  I don't collect to resell,  I collect because I like and want the item.
That's it in a nutshell.

And,  finally,  here is something I am pretty proud of:
Recently I received this very large magazine in the mail...
I'm not familiar with this magazine,  but as I began to skim through it,  my mouth dropped,  for it was filled with beautiful color photographs - hundreds of them! - of,  as the title states.  historic homes...mostly from the colonial period!
Here is a sample page of  what's inside~
Well,  I wondered how and why did I receive such a gloriously thick dream book?
Then I remembered:
not too long ago,  the publisher emailed me to ask if they could use a portion of something I wrote about spring and the New Year  (from THIS post),  and I approved and asked it I could get a copy of the magazine once published.
Well,  this is it!
My article,  of which I am so proud to have in print~

And there is my name!
And near the back of the magazine is the information for Passion for the Past!
I enjoy the fact that in a small way I can be associated with American history.
Check it out for yourself  HERE


You may have noticed that I said nothing about going to the Kalamazoo Living History Show,  something I very rarely miss.  Well,  unfortunately,  for the few of us who planned to ride together we had the perfect storm occur right on that very weekend:  I got a super nasty cold which just about knocked me out,  two others in our ride-a-long group had personal situations that prevented them from going as well,  and then there was a nasty snow squall that was so bad it caused a 50 car pile up and about another 100 near misses,  shutting down one of the freeways for neatly seven hours.
I suppose that it just wasn't in the cards for this year.
I certainly hope the rest of the year's events don't have similar situations.
Thank you for stopping by.  Forward into the past we go!

Until next time,  see you in time.

To check out my posting about the Bicentennial,  click HERE
To read about springtime visits to Greenfield Village,  click HERE
To read a more in depth article about the Daggett House,  click HERE

~      ~      ~

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The 18th Century Printing Trade...and Just What The Heck Is That Long "S" About Anyhow?

The printed paper is on its way out.  Technology is ruling newspapers,  which is pretty much considered outdated and very  "old school."  But...this isn't the first time technology has reared its ugly head! 
Reading the writing of the past can sometimes be confusing and rather difficult.  In fact,  there are many today who cannot even read the handwriting  (as we used to call it - it's known as  "cursive"  today)  from as recent as the 1960s and  '70s,  much less from 200+ years ago.
But there was a time when the printed newspaper and broadsides were very popular,  though I'm not sure if they were ever truly respectable  (lol).
Still,  they were widely read.
Going back even further,  like to the early 19th century and before,  one of the most confusing letters in the alphabet is the Long S - you know,  the letter that looks like a small  f   but is actually an  s?
It is confusing for many who like to read the old 18th century type,  but once one can understanding its place,  it will all begin to somewhat make sense - it did for me and became much more,  shall we say,  readable.
Hopefully today's posting can help you as well.


Before Johannes Gutenberg introduced Europe to the movable-type printing press in the 15th century,  block  (or elementary)  presses were employed.  For instance,  books were created using a block printing method,  where characters and images were carved into a wooden block and then pressed on paper.  Block printing proved to be time consuming and expensive because each page was individual.
The 18th century printing process itself was not much different than it was in the era of Gutenberg,  as printers used the old hand-press device,  though with movable type.  Rather than manually carving an individual block to print a single page,  movable type printing allowed for the quick assembly of a page of text utilizing individual letters.  Furthermore,  these more compact type fonts could be reused and stored.
Basically,  the press worked with two main components:  a screw and a movable bar.  The different blocks of type,  which contained the text,  were put inside frames  (called coffins),  and those coffins are placed on wood or stone beds and then moved in and out by hand with the lever of the press.  Gradually,  improvements have been made in the process,  though nothing too tremendous,  which speaks to the quality of the original design.  Hardly any significant changes were made until 1798 when the Earl of Stanhope made a frame out of cast-iron instead of wood,  which had been used in centuries previous.  In the wake of these small improvements,  however,  the printing process itself  still remained quite simple and basic:  make the type from the submitted text,  cut the paper and put it under the press,  do the actual pressing,  and then you have printed text.
Okay...yes...this is me at an ancient printing press.  I am not sure 
just how ancient,  but considering that it is a printing press inside 
historic Greenfield Village pretty much says it's old.
And it is not too different from the 18th century presses seen elsewhere
in this posting.
And,  then again,  the printing process from the 18th through much of the 19th century showed no great dramatic change.  It seems it wasn't until the very late 19th century before we saw any sort of dramatic changes to the printing press itself,  when the automatic typesetting machine was developed.
Original prints from 1770
(click to enlarge)
We do need to understand that the folks who lived in the later colonial period were more informed than many in our modern age give them credit for.  Similar to the taverns from that time,  the printing office was a center of local and imperial communications,   though it was the broadsides and newspapers which provided a way to exchange information and events between the thirteen colonies rather than by word of mouth from the traveler,  keeping people informed of major events,  influenced public opinion,  and,  yes,  playing a significant part in the decision to declare independence from Great Britain.  According to Todd Andrlik in his wonderful book,  Reporting the Revolutionary War"We live in a time of instant and on-demand news.  Journalists and bloggers work frantically around the clock,  competing to break news stories before anyone else.  Cable news channels and websites stream updated headlines nonstop across their screens.  Using Twitter and Facebook,  millions of citizen reporters scramble to share the latest news affecting their lives,  practically in real time.  Despite the debated endangerment of printed papers,  it is difficult to imagine a time when media were more important.  However,  250 years ago,  newspapers were the fundamental form of mass media and were more important than in any other time in America's history."
So,  I researched to have an idea of how a colonial printer's shop,  such as the ones owned by famed printers of the Declaration of Independence,  John Dunlap in Philadelphia or Benjamin Edes & John Gill in Boston,  worked to prepare to print.   
The letters used for printing are first hand-carved in steel,  then punched in brass and sanded to achieve the same depth on every character.  Then,  they are cast in lead,  and the finished characters are stored in precisely organized cases;  the terms  "upper case"  and  "lower case"  originated from these wooden cases.  Quickly and correctly picking letters out of the cases became second nature by necessity – it would take far too long to closely examine each letter to make sure you had chosen an  "e",  not a  "c". 
Now,  the following,  taken from the Colonial Williamsburg pamphlet  "The Apprentice,"  explains in an easy and concise manner what it was actually like to prepare and print:
The compositor  (one who sets the type for printing)  took one letter  (or character)  at a time from the cases in which the type was stored to create the words & sentences on a composing stick.  When a paragraph was completed,  he transferred it to a wooden tray called a galley.  The type would then be slid onto a flat,  marble stone and secured the type in an iron frame called a chase.  The prepared type would then be carefully carried to the printing press.  If he accidentally dropped the chase,  many hours of work would be lost.
One of the printers being used to recreate authentic replications of 
Gill's Boston edition of the Declaration of Independence.
(Picture courtesy of the Printing Office of Edes and Gill)
A worker called the beater would then rub two leather-covered balls with ink made of linseed oil,  pine resin,  and soot.  The puller would then give a good, strong smooth yank on the bar of the press to force the paper onto the inked type below. 
Working together,  the beater and the puller could print 
200 sheets in an hour.
(Picture courtesy of the Printing Office of Edes and Gill)
It was painstakingly setting the type that took the longest for the printer.
I can only imagine what the colonial printer would think of our printing process today.

Gary Gregory is the Executive Director,  Print Master,  and founder of the recreated Edes & Gill printing shop in Boston,  as well as the company known as The History List.  There is only one original copy of the John Gill 1776 version of the Declaration of Independence that still exists and was located in the collection of the Bostonian Society by Gary.  He then had all 9.000 characters of type meticulously cast in lead to match the original document.
This true recreation was then printed by hand at the historic Printing Office of Edes and Gill on July 3rd  2012,  on the ancient Wooden Common Press using 100%  cotton linen,  very-fine crane laid paper,  marking the first time since July 1776  that anyone had printed the Boston Broadside of the Declaration of Independence. 
Opening its doors to the public in 2011,  the new version of the Printing Office of Edes & Gill is considered Boston’s only printer still doing the job in the old colonial ways,  and is located in the historic Clough House,  built in 1712,  and is part of the Old North Church Historic Site in Boston.
Gary trained with master printers at Colonial Williamsburg before bringing his craft to Massachusetts,  first at the Museum of Printing in North Andover,  and now at the Printing Office of Edes & Gill.  He is meticulous in his work and highly knowledgeable from a combination of years of research and hands-on experience.  Printing reproductions of historical documents comes down to the miniscule details,  sometimes quite literally;  picking the correct font size,  for example,  or deftly spreading a very small amount of ink over a large surface of type
The type is set for the Boston edition
of the Declaration of Independence.
Meticulously historical in every way.
The video is Gary printing the Constitution - I cannot find the video of him printing the Declaration on You Tube.  But the process is the same:

I was so impressed that copies of the Declaration were being 
printed individually on a period printing press, 
that I naturally purchased a copy for myself.
(Above picture courtesy of the Printing Office of Edes and Gill)
It now hangs framed in my parlor...
I am very proud to own such a copy.
Printers,  in many cases,  had to make their own paper - not an easy process - and though the paper production took several months,  the result was a quality that can last for hundreds of  years.
18th century paper-making process in a nutshell~
The following information on making paper came directly from THIS page/blog:
The first stage in the papermaking process was to select the material from which the paper was going to be made.  In the eighteenth century,  this would typically have been cotton and linen rags.
Having selected the material,  the next step is to break it down,  making it into a pulp.  When papermaking was first introduced in Europe in the twelfth century,  rags were wetted,  pressed into balls,  and then left to ferment.  After this,  the rags were macerated  (softened)  in large water-powered stamping mills.  In the eighteenth century,  a beating engine  (or a Hollander),  was used to tear up the material,  creating a wet pulp by circulating rags around a large tub with a cylinder fitted with cutting bars.
Actual 18th century paper.
Having been broken down, the liquid pulp mixture is then transferred to a container.  In the eighteenth century,  someone known as the  ‘vatman’  would have stood over this container and dipped a mould into the solution at a near-perpendicular angle.  
Turning the mold face upwards in the solution before lifting it out horizontally,  the vatman would have pulled out the mold to find an even covering of macerated fibers assembled across its surface.  It is these fibers that would later form the finished sheet of paper.
The molds used in papermaking determine several features of the finished sheets of paper,  including shape,  texture,  and appearance. 
After the mold was pulled from the vat,  the eighteenth-century vatman would pass it on to a coucher who would remove the sheet from the mold,  before pressing it between felts to remove the water.
At this point in the eighteenth-century process,  sheets were  ‘sized’—dipped into a gelatinous substance made from animal hides that made the sheet stronger and water resistant.
After having size applied,  sheets in an eighteenth-century papermill would have undergone a number of finishing stages.  These included polishing and surfacing,  processes that gave the paper a more uniform appearance.
It is after these final finishing and drying processes that sheets of paper are ready to be packaged up and sent to the stationer’s.
No,  Caslon is not a new font whatsoever!
Many printers by mid-century used a popular typeface  (font)  called Caslon.  William Caslon I was an English gunsmith and designer of typefaces.  Around 1720 he created an extended set of serif typefaces known as Caslon.  Benjamin Franklin,  who,  as you may know,  was a printer himself,  liked the Caslon fonts so much that he hardly ever used any other typeface.  Ironically,  most of the type used by Philadelphia printer,  John Dunlap,  to compose the Declaration of Independence on the night of July 4,  1776  was likely from the Caslon type foundry – a British company,  and later  “letter-founder to the King.”  In fact,  the 1785 Caslon specimen book was even dedicated to King George III – the same King that the American colonists were declaring independence from!
But there was one letter in this font  (and the others of the time)  that confuses many modern folk of today:  the  "long S"  - you know...the  's'  that looks like an  'f'?
See the long S?
Let's be honest - unless one is used to reading 250 year old documents,  American colonial handwriting and printing can look strange to many.  But if you want to understand or imitate colonial handwriting,  then using those long S's correctly is the most obvious thing to understand.  In colonial printing  'fonts,'  one can easily tell the  "s"  from a printed  "f"  by the little cross-bar being only on the left-hand side,  or may not be there at all.  In colonial handwriting  (or cursive),  the  "long s"  is written like an  "f,"  except the bottom loop is written clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. 
By the way,  the  "long s"  wasn't used randomly.  
Here are the rules for when to use it or help to understand how it's used in colonial handwriting:
Use the  "long s"  at the beginning and middle of words,  but use the regular  "s"  for the last letter of a word.
If there are two s's together,  use the  "long s"  for the first one and the regular  "s"  for the second one.  Use the regular  "s"  before and after the letter  "f"  (the real letter "f"!)
Use the regular  "S"  whenever the  "S"  is uppercase,  like at the beginning of a sentence.
Here is an original example of the colonial style of writing:
It's really not too difficult.  It just takes a little getting used to.

Here are a few more examples of the Long  S:
An italicized  'long s'  used in the word  "Congress" in the United States
Bill of Rights from 1789.

A close-up.

Old style Caslon

The front page of the pamphlet  "Common Sense"  
by Thomas Paine,  first printed in January 1776 
and helped to propel the colonists to fight 
for Independence.
This is original from 1776 - not a replica.
Can you find the long s?

After a day's work is done,  and nighttime falls,  this could be the time to write in a journal or account book,   or maybe read the latest occurrences in a broadside.  However,  with the only light coming from a single candle,  it could be difficult
to read.  Especially with those dang long S's!
It was in late 18th century London when John Bell,  the founder of a newspaper called The Morning Post,  switched from the long s  to the more-familiar-to-us short one.  
Printers in the United States stopped using the long s between 1795 and 1810:  for example,  acts of Congress were published with the long s throughout 1803,  switching to the short s in 1804.  In the US,  a late use of the long s was in Low's Encyclopedia,  which was published between 1805 and 1811.
The change may have been spurred by the fact that the long s looks somewhat too much like an 'f'  (in both its Roman and italic forms),  whereas the short s did not have the disadvantage of looking like another letter  (aside from its capital form),  making it easier to read,  especially for people with vision problems.
Or reading by candlelight.
Strictly by candle light.
My friends,  understanding how life worked in long ago past,  including the way the long S was used helps in visiting a museum.  
What life was like.
As I wrote in this blog with the title,  "It's the Little Things:  Shadow Portraits,  Bourdaloues,  Revolutionary Mothers,  and Other Interesting Historical Odds & Ends,"  and this one called  "Heating Stoves and Wall Pockets: Items That Made A House A Home",  it truly is  the small mostly unnoticeable things that brings the past to life in a very effective manner,  for it is the everyday things in our own lives and homes that will bring future memories with smiles.  Such as how we get our news,  how we write our news,  and how we spread the news.
Then we will remember things we know  today. 
Speaking of news,  I have a bit here:
~On March 8,  2023,  around 9:00 pm,  I had my 2,000,000 visitor to Passion for the Past!
I never in my wildest dreams would ever have thought I'd have that many visits.
I am humbled.
Thank you.~

....        ....       ....

Until next time,  see you in time.

Information for this page came from THIS site,  THIS site,  and THIS site.
Another source came from HERE

Other posts that might interest you:
The printing of the Declaration of Independence,  click HERE
Museum in a book books,  click HERE
History books,  click HERE
Time Life History books,  click HERE
Music from the past,  click HERE
And two movies that got it right HERE and HERE

 ~   ~   ~