Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's the Little Things: Shadow Portraits, Bourdaloues, Revolutionary Mothers, and Other Interesting Historical Odds & Ends

Today's post may be slightly unusual for me, for I am incorporating numerous different subjects all in one. But the underlying theme here is based on a single thread: everyday life. And if you know me at all you also know that my passion for the past - my love of history and reenacting - is centered on that motif. 
Hmmm...maybe today's posting isn't so unusual for me after all.

~   ~   ~

Let's see...from the top:
George Washington, Martha
Washington, and...wait..who is
that last person?
I've said this time and again, and I cannot emphasize it enough: it really is the little things that make the past come to life -- and sometimes such things are rarely spoken about or hardly ever seen.
Take the shadow portrait for instance.
The what??
Shadow portraits! You know...like what you see in the photo on the left here.
Yeah, I know...many people today call these silhouetted profiles silhouettes, though that term was seldom used until the early decades of the 19th century, and the name has stuck here into the 21st century. But back in the 1700s they were actually known as shadow portraits or shades.
Cutting these portraits, generally in profile, from black cards became popular in the mid-18th century. They represented a cheap but effective alternative to the portrait miniature, and skilled specialist artists could cut a high-quality bust portrait, by far the most common style, in a matter of minutes, working purely by eye. Other artists, especially from the later part of the 1700s, drew an outline on paper, then painted it in, which could be equally as quick and the quality just as well done.
So, anyhow, it was back in the early summer of 2016 when I found myself, with my family, enjoying nearly a week in Colonial Williamsburg, and I did my best to take in every nuance of that wonderfully historical place. It was on our first day there, upon entering the John Greenhow store, when I first saw that they had a shadow portrait artist - one who used paint rather than scissors and black paper. Throughout the next few days the idea of having one done was in the back of my mind, making it's way to the forefront every time I passed the shop. It was on our final morning there, just hours before leaving to return to our home state of Michigan, that I decided to do it.
The John Greenhow Store in Colonial Williamsburg~
Viewed from the street, this building, which combines store and house, appears to be in three segments. From left to right we see the small addition which was originally a counting room or office but is now part of the store, in the middle section we have the store entrance (that's me standing in the doorway), and then the front door to the house where Greenhow lived on the right.
It is in the rear of the left section where the shadow portrait studio is located.

"Yes, Mr. Greenhow. I am interested in having my shadow portrait made. 
Might your artist be available?"
In all honesty, this was probably one of the highlights of our trip there for me. I still cannot believe that I hem'd & haw'd for a few days on whether or not to have my portrait done. I am certainly glad I made the decision to do so.
And here is where the magic is done. It is set up very much like I would imagine an 18th century studio might look. 
The height of the popularity of shadow portraits/shades/silhouettes ranged from the 1770s to the 1860s, and with me wearing my period 1770s clothing, I figured this would be the perfect souvenir of my time in Colonial Williamsburg.
Zach, the artist you see in the picture below, practices the more refined style of painted shadow portraiture. Painted shades were relatively inexpensive because they only used a single color. Zach uses ink and watercolor for his shades.
Here we see Zach preparing to create another authentic shadow portrait: mine.  
For me, the sitting actually added to my living history experience. 

The affordability made shadow portraits appealing 
to the middling sort in society, as well as to those with 
aspirations of climbing a bit higher on the social ladder.

The sitting usually takes 40 minutes or so. Zach captures the outline of the profile in perhaps ten minutes, then spends the rest of the time filling in the color and detail. He uses ink and watercolors, and the paper is from the print shop in Williamsburg.
Yes, this is my portrait he is working on here.
He works out the details of the portrait through conversation. Initially I was going to wear my tricorn hat, but I was told that was not the norm. Of course, I wanted mine to be as authentic as it could.
For Zach, portraiture isn’t meant to be photographic. For him, the magic of portraiture lies in the attempt to capture the essence of a person—their personality, how they relate to the world—more than a rote likeness.
Here is my shadow portrait. 
I am happy to say there is more than a remote likeness. 
By the way, yes, I keep my hair long, and you see it here
tied back in the ever-popular and fashionable "queue." 

Aside from all of the photographs I took while in Williamsburg, 
this is, perhaps, my favorite souvenir of my time there.

With my likeness in my satchel, I went back out into the world of the 18th century.

~   ~   ~

This next subject may seem a bit unusual for me, a male, to write about. Yes, I must admit, as much as I have studied early American history, I have never seen or heard of the bourdaloue. Until the AMC TV series "Turn: Washington's Spies," that is.
The bourdaloue?
The maid stands with the bourdaloue
(though it looks like the gentleman on

the left is also holding one).



Now, most of us are aware of the chamber pot - that little porcelain bowl tucked underneath our beds so we don't have to venture out of doors in the middle of the night to the necessary to do our, um, duty, right? Well, the bourdaloue, which was a boat shaped vessel with a raised lip at one end and handle at the other (a bit like a gravy boat), was a chamber pot designed specifically for women. With the assistance of a lady's maid, who would be expected to carry this for her mistress, the bourdaloue could be "slipped beneath skirts and petticoats, employed while standing, only to be discretely carried away and emptied after use." If the woman didn’t have a maid then she had to deal with it herself. Apparently it was designed to be used standing up.
Mrs. Arnold - the former Peggy Shippen
Hmmm....
Other versions were more functional and fashioned of tin or leather, and intended to make long church services or long journeys by carriages bearable. Even when skirts shrank in size towards the end of 18th century, the bourdaloue was deemed too practical an item to abandon, and they remained in use throughout the Victorian era.
"Ken!" you exclaim. "Seriously? You are writing on a subject such as this??"
Yep. As soon as I seen it on Turn, it grabbed my attention; it fascinated me on a number of levels.
"But...but you are a man! You have no right to do so!"
Yeah...whatever...
My friend Steve said it best: 
The three pictures depicting usage of the
bourdaloue were taken from AMC's
Turn: Washington's Spies
(Thanks to Marlene DiVia for these shots!)

“I think all of us who study the most minute details of history have seen Francois Boucher's (18thc) painting a time or two of a bourdaloue in use. The ensuing amused shock and astonishment as to why he would choose such a subject is always a wonderment. But it is a most common of all human issues, and it gives us a remarkable insight into the reality of life in the 18th century. The subject lady, judging by her elaborate dress design, is obviously of a higher class. That we may go about in our period finery today without such necessity due to no other option is a bit of a disconnect to actual life during the period. Although I have heard many ladies in more elaborate costuming insist that a bourdaloue would be far easier than the ubiquitous portajohn!
Though I would bet most female reenactors may not use such a utensil in this manner, which is understandable, gaining further knowledge on such past practices allows us a deeper, greater understanding and appreciation of not only the way people from the 18th century lived, but of the environment in which they were living as well.

~   ~   ~

Since we are on the subject of women in the colonial era, I found a few interesting informational bits offering a slightly different perspective on women during the Revolutionary War. For those who have patriot ancestors, I believe this may be compelling (as short as it may be).
The following was taken from the book Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin:

"The loneliness and anxiety felt by women whose husbands, sons, and lovers had enlisted was captured in a popular song:
Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, cry my fill?
And every tear would turn a mill,
Since Johnny has gone for a soldier.

With her man off fighting in the War, the woman 
of the house took over all the daily chores to 
keep the home a-running, including chopping wood.
While men faced the enemy, women faced the challenge of managing on their own. With small children to tend, with prices quickly spiraling upward, with shortages of everyday necessities such as pins and medicines, and above all with the loss of the family members who normally tilled the fields, ran the shops, or worked the docks, women did their best to ensure that there would be something to come home to when the soldiers came home.
Women everywhere improvised when household materials ran out. In rural South Carolina, women used thorns for pins. In other regions, they made tea from herbs and flowers. Lacking salt, they preserved foods with a concoction made of walnut ash. Resourceful and inventive women shared their secrets: a Province, Rhode Island, woman found a way to improve the quality of homemade soap and published the recipe in the newspapers. 'Take eight quarts of common family soap,” she wrote, “and put to it about half a pint of common sea salt; boil this for a few minutes, then set it by and let it cool.' The result, she promised, would be almost as good as the British soap urban women had become accustomed to buying."
Life on the homefront - - - -

I also found interesting something else that Ms. Berkin wrote about, which seemingly goes against the grain of today's thinking about Abigail Adams, the wife of our second President. 
"Abigail Adams was not an early suffragist, demanding that John and Congress grant women the right to vote. She was a dutiful, if politically informed wife, asking privately if her husband could do something to reform the horrendous laws of coverture that deprived married women of their property rights."
Abigail Adams
Upon further research, I found others that had nearly the same conclusion, albeit giving Mrs. Adams a bit more credit, for though she may not have necessarily been a suffragette, she was looking out for the women of her time. The best of my findings comes from WGBH News:
"Abigail was very much her own woman and she was a bit fiery," said Sara Martin, the series editor of the Adams Family Correspondence at the Massachusetts Historical Society. That we know Abigail Adams, and her husband John, with such depth and intimacy, is thanks in large part to their extraordinary correspondence: more than 1,000 letters between them, that we still have today..." (due to their many years apart during the “revolutionary years).
Perhaps the most celebrated of them was penned by Abigail on March 31, 1776, from the Adams' farm in Quincy to John, knee-deep in the heady business of creating a new nation at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
"The heart of the war is going on in Boston and she’s in Quincy and she’s able to see the smoke and hear the cannon from her home and her husband is several hundred miles away," Martin said.
Abigail is not only managing the day-to-day of the family farm, but also caring for the couple’s four young children. She opens the letter with a powerful indictment of John’s slaveholding southern colleagues.
"I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breast," Abigail Adams wrote.
Then, amidst family updates, and talk of war damages, smallpox and mumps in the three-page letter, comes its most famous passage.
"I long to hear that you have declared an Independency and by the way in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."
She continues with a bit of spirited button-pushing that Martin says is classic Abigail Adams.
"If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound in any laws in which we have no voice or representation," Adams wrote.
From what I understand, Abigail was living in the house on the left during the time she penned the March 31, 1776 letter.
John’s response, two weeks later, engaged her in a bit of verbal jousting.
"As to your extraordinary code of laws I cannot but laugh," he wrote, adding a comment that Abigail's being saucy.
But he goes on to cleverly, if not endorse, at least validate her viewpoint.
"They actually agree more than they don’t, but it’s just the language that they’re using to communicate," Martin said.
It’s an extraordinary exchange, candid and progressive. And it’s easy today to see Abigail’s words as an early rallying cry for women’s rights under the law. But Martin views Abigail’s words more in the context of the times.
"It’s not a viewpoint that I think she would have seen herself," she said. "She might have embraced it. Oh, that we could have those conversations!"
That Martin doesn’t believe Adams was necessarily calling for suffrage, or equal representation under the law, doesn’t lesson the importance of her words. In this passage, and countless others it in her letters, we can plainly see — right from America’s start — a woman that was the equal of any man.
And in today's study of our colonial and Revolutionary War past, Abigail Adams is now considered as part of the hierarchy.
If she's not, then she should be. 

Cover from the book
 Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin
The following is another story I read about another woman of the Rev War period named Abigail Hinman, an American Patriot who is best remembered for her decision to remain at her New London home while her husband, Captain Elisha Hinman, was away at sea. On September 6, 1781, a combined force of 1700 British, Hessian, and Loyalist forces attacked the town and Fort Griswold (which was across the river). The British, commanded by American traitor Benedict Arnold, burned the city of New London. As recounted by Abigail to her children and grandchildren, she stood by her second story window watching the British when she identified Arnold and seized a musket to take aim. Upon firing she discovered that the gun was not loaded.
Imagine...just imagine...the outcome if she had been successful.
It's stories like this that I like to teach the children at the high school where I work, for not only does it help to put flesh and bones on the folks of the Revolutionary War period, but it also gives the girls a better reflection of the female past, for it was more than just men who survived the times.

~   ~   ~

Earlier in this posting you saw a painting of two early homes once belonging to John Adams. I also mentioned the show "Turn: Washington's Spies" during the bourdaloue segment of today's post. Now, if you don't already know, Turn is a show that I absolutely love, and for four years I watched it on AMC, purchased the DVDs (still a-waiting season 4!), and I have placed it at or near the top of my all-time favorite television shows.
No foolin'.
It is so well done in nearly every way: from the script to the storyline (not all historically accurate, but still great historical drama) to the clothing (for the most part) to the storyline to the amazing sets.
And the fact that it is based in American history - the Revolutionary War! - makes it that much better!
But aside from the story itself, the sets used in filming the show blew me away; for instance, Abraham and Mary Woodhall's saltbox house in Season One was perfect. 
The farm 'set' of Abraham and Mary Woodhall in "Turn."
And, just to show you how authentic this "set" is, below is a similar-style photo 

taken of an actual 1750s saltbox house relocated and situated inside historic 
Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan:
Pretty cool, eh?


The Woodhull saltbox house...
And below we see another shot of the Daggett saltbox from 1750.

It makes me wonder if the house on Turn is real or truly just a 'set'? 
And if it is a set, then they did a remarkable job.
By the way, Daggett is, perhaps, my favorite house inside Greenfield Village.

Mary Woodhull sitting near her hearth in "Turn," and below is a picture I took inside the Daggett House at the hearth.
The past comes to life in person and on TV.
'Tis a far cry from TV shows of old.

In another scene from "Turn," we see the inside of another colonial home, though this is not the one used for the Woodhulls.
However, it still bears a striking resemblance to the Great Hall in the 

Daggett House in the photo below, doesn't it?
In all seriousness, one has to admit just how authentic these sets are in the TV show when compared to the real deal. The set designers truly went above and beyond in historic authenticity.
Yes, it definitely is the little things that'll bring history to life...
(By the way, many thanks to Marlene DiVia for extracting the "Turn" photos from me from the show. I certainly do appreciate it!)

As a living historian, I find myself paying as much attention to the smaller, mostly background details that most others tend to overlook as much as the reenactors themselves; the style of candle holder here, a walking wheel there, type of chair, seeing kettles in the hearth or over a fire...that's what will attract me to a show or another living historian more than clothing (though we  should not go "cheap" on the period clothing either). I am aspiring to improve my impression with each new season, for it is my hope that when a visitor enters my camp or area, they feel as if they stepped out of the future and into the past.

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

Speaking of little things that tend to be over-looked - - two more items known to our ancestors but are rarely thought of today are heating stoves and wall pockets, both of which were very common in the 19th century. Click HERE if you are interested in reading more on them.

Most of the bourdaloue information came from HERE and HERE


















 ~   ~

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Year in the Past: Reenacting with Ken 2017

As I usually do this time of year, I've been sort of reminiscing by spending these frigid winter days going over photos and blog posts of all the time travel I have done during the last 12 months. Sort of like an auld lang syne. And as I scroll through I am quite surprised at how often I really am in my period clothing, but the photos don't lie. Well, I suppose I could manipulate them, but I didn't.
Not a one, in this case.
Happy New Year!
Plow Monday is the first Monday
following 12th Night (Jan. 6).
This is the date farmers prepared
their tools for the upcoming
planting season.
So, since it is still January as I write this, and since we've been in the middle of a deep freeze with plenty of snow to boot, I would like to begin by showing you, in the picture to the left, a few of the articles of clothing I have acquired over the past year, including (finally) colonial winter wear.
Um......period-correct colonial winter wear.
I purchased the woolen cloak early in 2017 from one of those Facebook trade sites, and I finally had the opportunity to wear it for the first time this past December, a month in which the second half engulfed us here in Michigan with bitter cold and snow, and that certainly gave me the chance to get some use out of it.
And on my hands I am proudly wearing knitted mittens my wife made for me that began as raw wool that she cleaned, carded, spun on her wheel, and dyed using a natural dye.
Then she knitted them.
How cool is that?
Not necessarily winter wear, but I also finally have a farmer's wide-brimmed hat, which was hand-made by George Franks III, a man who is pretty well-known and respected in the colonial and 19th century hat-making circles, and he has set up his own hat-making business (click HERE for his page). As was written on the note included with the shipment:
"I personally endeavor to recreate historical hats as authentically as possible by using period correct materials, documented patterns based on extensive research, hand-blocking on round forms, hand-sewn, and other techniques correct for the era of the hat."
Now I am a-waiting the opportunity to wear my new hat for the first time at a reenactment during this up-coming season!

So, onto this week's post: A Year in the Past With Ken...and we'll begin our journey back in time in January 2017:
January~
 Our annual 21st Michigan Civil War reenactors Christmas party.
One of the things I will never understand is having a modern-dress Christmas party with your living history friends. We've been having a period party since 2006 and it is probably the most well-attended gathering of our membership of the year. We eat food that was popular in the 1860s, play parlor games, and even dance a reel:


January~
The best part? It's held in a building built in 1872! 

If you know your calendar you will know that February comes next.
February~
 Historical presentation number 1 - - 
My friend Larissa and I formed a living history group we call "Our Own Snug Fireside" - yes, after the book title of the same name. And this year we accepted our first, um...what would you call him? Employee? Hmmm...Well no matter, because Bob Stark, who portrays Benjamin Franklin, truly is a wonderful addition to our presentation on the founding fathers and mothers.
Here we see Ben---er, Bob and I celebrating the New England Patriots winning at the 2017 Superbowl shortly before presenting to a group of middle school kids, as you see Larissa doing in the photo below:

February~
Speaking to school kids is a highlight for each of us.

In 2015 I formed my own colonial reenacting group, Citizens of the American Colonies, and since then the active membership has grown to almost a dozen, and the potentials are maybe a dozen more. I hold an annual period dress meeting, usually in March, and this is where we learn, teach and plan for the upcoming year.
March~
 Citizens of the American Colonies members meeting March 2017.
I have some pretty strong rules, for I want historical accuracy to be our number one goal, and therefore to be the best living historians that we can.

March~
And I believe we are off to a good start!

Still in March - - - -
On the other side of our state, in Kalamazoo, they have a living history show where reenactors, living historians, and collectors of (mostly) replicated history can get nearly anything they need to enhance their period impression or collection.
Yes, I usually dress for this as well.
March~
 Here I am with the owner of Jas Townsend. He is a very nice guy who's store has a wealth of items for anyone interested in the past.
March~
I spy Abbie Samson, from Samson Historical, making a cocked hat.
The store she runs with her husband is also top-notch.

And we're still not done with March!
What a busy month it was in 2017:
March~
 21st Michigan member, Kristen, put together her first Civil War Civilian Conference, held here in Michigan, and it went off wonderfully well. I am proud to say that Larissa, Jackie, and I did a workshop on 1st person and immersion, which was well-received by the paying guests who gave us numerous kind comments.
Kudos to you, Kristen, for putting such a conference together!

Now we're into April, and the middle of the month found me back in my colonial clothing for two different "events" the same weekend, with the first being a charity evening for the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps.
April~
 Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin~
Bob Stark, who portrays Dr. Franklin, was the hit of the evening, as well as he should for he looks very close to the founding father.

April~
A nice surprise for me was seeing that the entertainment was provided by none other than Glen Morningstar and his Ruffwater String Band! He is a quite popular caller to the Civil War community, and it was nice to see him as a colonial as well.

And then, on the next day:
I usually do my own tribute to commemorate Patriot's Day - April 19th - the date that signifies the beginning of the American Revolution, which is, to me, every bit as important as Pearl Harbor Day, President's Day, or any of the other holidays of acknowledgement for our nation.
And what I can't figure out is...why isn't this date a National Holiday?
Yes, there are the citizens who live in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin who celebrate Patriots' Day; to many in those states I am sure it might be simply a welcome day off work or school. But at least there is some acknowledgement for this day in which the brave patriots who were there at the beginning - at the conception of the United States of America - are honored. And they are honored more than with burgers, fries, and furniture store sales: in the area around Lexington and Concord, re-enactments of the battles in 1775 and the events leading up to them are held. A particular highlight is the opportunity to ring the bell that warned the local troops that the Regulars (British soldiers) were approaching. Lectures, concerts and road races are also organized.
I so wish my home state of Michigan and the rest of our country acknowledged Patriot's Day as well. If reenacting taught me nothing else, it helped me to realize and understand the significance of certain dates and events in our history. Even the most popular holidays, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, have deepened their meaning to me, especially as I study them more intently.
Well, for the past few years, Patriot's Day has become one of those days which, for this guy, is up there with the best of our national commemorations. And you know that, whether others in my area remember it or not, I remember, and will continue to do so.
April~
 Dr. Franklin and I spent a little time inside Independence Hall (or, rather, the Pennsylvania State House) before venturing out into Greenfield Village to visit others from the colonial period.
(This is a replicated version of the original Independence Hall, and is inside the front entrance to the Henry Ford Museum. Mr. Ford spared no expense in recreating this most famous of American buildings, and even included architectural mistakes found in the original)

And weren't the folks at the Daggett House surprised to see us coming up the way!
April~
 We had such a great and relaxed time with the presenters here as Dr. Franklin spoke a little of his accomplishments, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for treating us so kindly. Since we zipped first thing over to the far end of Greenfield Village where the colonial buildings are located, there were no visitors in that area at the time so we were able to get some nice pictures and enjoy some fine historical discussions.
Plus Dr. Franklin was able to learn about the Daggett Family and their home.
My wife, who does not reenact nearly as much as she used to, joined us on this day of visiting our friends inside Greenfield Village.
The "publick houses" known as taverns (or 'ordinaries,' as they were also known) have played an important part in social, political, and even military life, though we see them taking more of a back seat in their role in our Nation's history.
April~
 But Dr. Franklin and I certainly had a fine discussion inside the Eagle Tavern.
Even though it was built in 1831, it certainly can easily pass as a tavern from the 18th century.

The merry month of May brought "Our Own Snug Fireside" to a second historic presentation for 2017, this time at the Sterling Heights Public Library.
May~
 Sybil Ludington, Paul Revere, and Ben Franklin.
We certainly do enjoy speaking to the public, no matter the age of our audience.

May is also the month of one of the most anticipated Civil War reenactments: Civil War Remembrance, held at Greenfield Village over Memorial Day Weekend.
May~
Civil War Remembrance is one of our biggest and best reenactments out of the year. As you can see in this group photo, a great many of our unit's membership participate in this event, and it is truly an event in every sense of the word.
Here we are standing on the porch and front lawn of the 1880s Firestone Farm.

May~
 My bride of 32 years and I standing in front
of the Firestone Farm house.
Let's see...if this picture was taken in 1862, 

then we were married in the year 1830.
Bride indeed!

May~
 Still at Greenfield Village~
I happen to like this picture because my surroundings have a sort of southern feel to them. Yes, I know I portray a Yankee for most of our reenactments, but I am speaking of the feel here - - - plus I just love the Ackley Covered Bridge, which was built around 1832.

Another month, another chance to wear period clothing.
June~
I took part in portraying Paul Revere for school age kids for the Plymouth (Michigan) Museum's "Night at the Museum" event, where, after watching the movie of the same name below stairs in the large hall, the kids are brought upstairs and the museum "statues" come to life as they tour the historic exhibits.
This is such a good time for both the kids and us statues!

The Civil War event at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit also took place in June. Fort Wayne is an actual original fort built on the banks of the Detroit river back in the 1840s and holds many different historical events throughout the year, including medieval, WWII, Revolutionary War, and the Civil War.
June~
 Lynda and I have never had our photograph taken together before.
Until now!

June~
 See the little guy there on the left? That's my son, Robbie. Rob has become an excellent Civil War reenactor, as well as a Rev War reenactor, and he has gained the respect of all who know him due to his historical knowledge and his willingness to being history to life as accurate as he can.

Speaking of Revolutionary War, we have just jumped back about 90 years from the 1860s to the 1770s, though we are still at Fort Wayne.
Yep - another weekend in June!
June~
 Hey! There's Robbie again! And there are two Ken's in this picture!

June~
My wife and daughter took part in this reenactment at Fort Wayne, as did our friend, Sue. The weather was a little nippy for June, but we all still had a fine time.

Most of you know what a fan I am of Christmas.
What you may not know is that the 4th of July is right up there along side December 25th. You see, Christmas stretches out for me from Thanksgiving through January 6 - quite a long time to celebrate - but I have to put all of my Independence Day patriotism in only about a 15 hour period.
Since 2010 I have spent my July 4th's at Greenfield Village, all dressed up in period clothing and having a good old-fashioned rendezvous with the past, and beginning in 2014 I've been dressing as a member of the founding generation.
2017 was no different.
Well, at least for the first part of the day.
Welcome to my 4th of July celebrations:
4th of July~
 Here we are, members of Citizens of the American Colonies, 
mingling with the women of the Daggett household.
Ah! Yeah, I find I am sometimes the only male amongst the colonial populace at times. But that's okay, for these ladies truly are my friends and I enjoy their company immensely.

4th of July~
 Another stop that Susan, Rae, and I made while at Greenfield Village was the one-time home of John Giddings. The house, unfortunately, was mostly plexi-glassed off, even on the 4th of July. Maybe one day the Village people in the offices will open it up for this special Independence Day occasion, especially considering that Mr. Giddings played a role in the American Revolution. 
We remained at the Village until about 11:30 or so, then we headed out to historic Mill Race Village in Livonia, where another 4th of July celebration was taking place.
4th of July~
 A-waiting us at Mill Race were two more friends and Citizens of the American Colonies members, Lauren and Bob, and with my Betsy Ross flag in tow, we posed to show our patriotic pride - past and present.

4th of July~
 Mill Race also has a 19th century tavern, and we enjoyed a time to visit and speak of the newly written Declaration of Independence while inside.
You can't see it in this picture, but there were a half-dozen or more photographers out of my camera range, snapping dozens of pictures of us.

4th of July~
 Afterward, we walked along the road at Mill Race where we had more opportunities to speak with the public about our country's founding, and to tell them of our individual exploits as Ben Franklin & Paul Revere, and the ladies spoke about what it was like for the fairer sex during that time. The people responded so well!

The heat of mid-July can't keep living historians down!
It was off to Charlton Park in Hastings, Michigan where we have a Civil War-era family scenario...and a house built in the 1850s that we use to help make it all come to life!
July~
 My reenacting wife and daughter.
We all work so well together and make our 1860s lives very realistic to the visiting public. And sometimes even to ourselves.

July~
 We all act like family and friends, and our conversations, for the most part, center on period topics. Whoa to the reenactor who steps into our home, for they will be drawn into our world of the 1860s without choice!

July~
Being that it is usually a hot summer day in July, we always take time out in the late afternoon to make ice cream using our hand-cranked ice cream maker. We all take turns to churn, and the outcome is delicious!
Charlton Park is one of my very favorite of all events because it challenges us to attempt to be there...in the 1860s...and I love it!

The very next day I was in another time - - back to the 1770s once again - - - only now I was in Frankenmuth, Michigan!
July~
 Ooof! 
I hope we can get this carriage up to the 88 miles per hour necessary to catapult 
me further back in time!

July~
 The battle at the Frankenmuth event was pretty cool. They utilized a covered bridge on the premises.
This was another 1st time event for me. Yes, I plan to return.

It was on the last weekend of July that I participated in another first time (for me) event, this time I had to travel three hours to Fort Wayne, Indiana to, well, a fort called Fort Wayne!
July~
 New friends I met while in Indiana.
I was very please with everything about "Colonial America on the Frontier," 

and am hoping more of my 'citizens' members will give it a try.

July~
 One of the biggest honors I've had reenacting is when I was asked to read the first portion of the Declaration of Independence to the people below.
Truly an honor.

The next weekend, the first one in August, I was back in the 1860s, and Larissa and I were presenting 1860s farm life to the good folks in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan: Port Oneida (not too far from Lake Michigan).
August~
 We did three or four presentations here on this day and each went so very well. The crowds responded to us enthusiastically, and many stayed after our presentation to ask us further questions and to see our accessories.

And only a week following Port Oneida I was at the Port Sanilac Historical Open Air Museum in Michigan's "thumb" *(right off Lake Huron) for a 21st Michigan sponsored Civil War event.
What's nice about this reenactment is that we can pretty much decide what we want to do, and we have really come up with some fine living history presentations, such as a country fair, citizens of Gettysburg, and a shotgun wedding.
What did we do in 2017?
Well...
August~
 Our fashion shows are not of your typical fancy fashions, but are, instead, more along the lines of "clothing and occupation." In other words, wearing clothing that matches your station in life. Are you a farmer or farmer's wife?  Maybe you are a domestic servant. How about spending a day at the beach?
Your clothing will reflect that.
And rather than have one person be the host/hostess and do all of the speaking, each participant talks about their own clothes as well as about their lives in the 1860s

August~
 One of my favorite pictures of the entire year is this one of my daughter and I. Nothing shows a father's love for his daughter than to pose in front of a cannon.

August~
 At the bottom of this post will be links to a few of the reenactments I took part in, just in case you want to read further of my exploits in the past. You will most certainly want to check out our time at Port Sanilac, for we were all pretty stressed for varying reasons, and so we just kind of let loose and spent about an hour posing and joking as if we were high school students of the 1860s, though with 21st century sensibilities.
Yeah...we were crying, that's how hard we laughed.
Check out the link below, then scroll down. You won't be sorry.


We're still in August, and it's the following weekend, and I am at another reenactment, making it five weekends in a row of me bouncing between three time periods. Yes, three: 1770s, 1860s, and 2017.
I feel like I am a part of Quantum Leap!
August~
 While at Colonial Kensington, I made sure to visit a wonderful sutlery shop known as Samson's Historical, where one can pretty much purchase almost anything they would need to get started in 18th century reenacting.

August~
 Rae also showed up at Kensington wearing a newly made dress. She is an accomplished seamstress and has sewed some amazing historical articles of clothing.
I am very glad she is a part of Citizens of the American Colonies.

Well, after a two week break, it was back in the Time Tunnel and I came out in the 18th century surrounded by not only other colonials, but Voyageurs as well. This reenactment was a sort of "two-fer," meaning not only was I reenacting, but I was also presenting as well.
August~
 Larissa and I did a presentation on 18th century farming. This was our first time doing this particular presentation, and it went as good as we hoped, if not better, and was received very well by the guests.
As you can see, we bring quite a few accessories representing colonial life to accent our exhibition.
Next time I can wear my farm hat!

The Voyageurs really put on a top-notch display of period arts and crafts throughout the encampment. And being set up on the banks of Lake St. Clair allows us a view unsurpassed at most other events.
August~
 I am always happy when my wife joins me at a reenactment. She doesn't as often as she used to, so it's pretty special when she does.

August~
 Two clothing fashions of the same era here - east coast English (me), 
and more of a French style (the other two gentlemen).
Yes, quite a variety at the Voyageurs event.

And now the first month of fall - - -
September~
 With Labor Day, the start of school, and even apple picking all taking place in September, there wasn't much of an opportunity for me to be wearing period clothing, until the end of the month, that is.
There was only one reenactment I attended in September, the Greenmead Civil War event, and it is a fine reenactment that continues to grow every year, so I am glad when I can attend. Funny thing is, what I remember most of this event was that it took place on an extremely hot muggy day this late September, so I could still wear 
my summer linen suit. 

One week after Greenmead and you see me, once again, wearing the clothing of our nation's founders.
It's October, now, and autumn was in the air...
October~
 This picture just about says it all, don't you think?
Living history.
This was the second year for Muster at the Mill, which takes place in the middle of Michigan's lower penninsula at an apple orchard & mill known as Uncle John's Mill. Only the second year for this event, Muster at the Mill tripled in size for participants and visitors from 
the previous year. It's good to see our 
Revolutionary War/colonial reenactments grow in the way they have.

October~
 Before this weekend at Uncle John's, I had never participated in a "hawk" throw. It was great fun and.....I centered the tomahawk! Bully for me!

The day after Uncle John's Mill found me back at Greenfield Village, only this time it was for what just may be my favorite event they hold: Fall Harvest Weekends.
This is where one can see the fall harvest celebrations in numerous different time periods throughout the Village, including my favorite, at the Daggett House, where colonial beer was a-brewing.
October~
 Brewing Beer with the Daggetts!
Once again, I skeedaddle over to the colonial part of the Village before other guests make it that far so I can enjoy some colonial fun with my presenter friends. I honest-to-God appreciate the opportunities they allow to me, and I do make sure not to overstep my boundaries or over stay my visit. 

October~
 Helping with my farm look...

Before I purchased my colonial farm hat you saw at the beginning of this post... 

Over the past few years, in the month of October, we in the 21st Michigan Civil War group have put on a harvest festival at one of our fall reenactments. Well, this year the event did not take place, so the good and kind folks at Fort Wayne in Detroit allowed us to try it on their grounds, for we felt it would be such a shame to allow the opportunity to teach about this oh-so-important time of year to go the way side.
So, rather than sit back and do nothing, we put on our own fall harvest circa 1862.
October~
 Pretty cool, eh?
We had a row of tents, and each showed a different fall activity. There were heirloom apples, apple cider made by our hand-cranked cider press, period crafts, and, of course, plenty of cooking and a fine thresherman's dinner!

October~
We also played parlor games.


October~
 And another historical presentation on colonial farming and living, this time for high school kids.
I absolutely LOVE doing historical presentations, and if I could, I would earn a living doing it! But, alas, it only occurs a few times a year.

By November, most of the reenactments and events are over for the majority of folks up here in the cold northern states. Except for me and my own celebration of Black Friday.
Or, rather, my non-celebration of Black Friday.
I must say, there really is something special about being inside a house suitable in all ways to the period clothing one may be wearing.
Especially at the Daggett House, which was built about 1751 and is presented as being in the 1760s.
November~
 I wrote this when I originally posted this picture, and I mean this with my every being:

"I have to admit, it does give me a very special feeling knowing that I am in a home that was built before the time of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, before the Boston Massacre, before the Boston Tea Party, before the Intolerable, Townshend, and Stamp Acts, and even before the French & Indian War...and also to think that these houses of Daggett, Giddings, and Plympton, which now stand inside Greenfield Village, were around during the time of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, and of the time of the Declaration of Independence! And I have little doubt that discussions involving the above topics of the day had taken place inside these walls by those original owners."
Yeah...there's no feeling like it...

November~
I've not posted this picture before of historical presenter Gigi and myself, again taken on Black Friday. We are standing in front of the Cotswold Cottage, which was originally built in England in 1620.

November~
I love having my daughter come along with me on these "extra" period jaunts I take, for she is such a good photographer and knows exactly the type of scenes I look for.
It's the buildings in the background that gives this picture such a rural colonial look, in my opinion.

December...Christmas...and a time to celebrate in such a way that hasn't been done in 150, or even 250, years!
One of the most ironic things is that, though our reenacting season here in Michigan generally goes from May through October, I seem to find myself in period clothing most often in December! 
December~
Christmas at the Fort...at Fort Wayne in Detroit.
I cannot even begin to explain just how wonderful this event is. I mean, do you see the people in this photograph? Only two are actually related, but what we have done is create a reenacting family, much the same as you saw us do at Charlton Park in July, and we celebrate Christmas as if it actually were 1862.
I am so proud and happy to work with this group in the capacity that I do.

December~
We are inside a home from the 19th century...

The table top tree is decorated, cloves been pushed into oranges...
The sights and smells of Christmas past...yeah...

I simply love Christmas at the Fort.

Speaking of Christmas past, I attended Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village a few times, and nearly always dressed period for the occasion.
Below, here, you see me in my 1860s finest, visiting with friends.
December~
In this picture Heather, Beckie, Larissa and I are inside the birthplace of Henry Ford - yes, that Henry Ford.
One of the nice things about reenacting here in the cold north country is we can have the opportunity to put on our winter wear and experience the cold as our ancestors did, including inside the homes.
Crazy to some, but pretty awesome to living historians.

December~
My friend Beckie and I are part of the period vocal group, Simply Dickens, and we have been performing at Holiday Nights for something like five years now.
After our final set on this night, as we were leaving, a friend took this very cool picture of us, and I believe it turned out rather well, don't you?

And for my grand pictorial finale, here are a few photographs taken on the night of December 30 that I have not posted yet. It was the last evening for Holiday Nights, and, thus, the very last time in 2017 that I wore period clothing. Let me tell you, it was a bitter cold night. The temperatures were at a frigid 8 to 10 degrees and a biting wind was a-blowin.' Believe me when I say the three of us who were there dressed in 18th century fashions felt it. I did have my woolen cloak on, which kept my upper half/chest area pretty warm, but the cold seeped up through my leather buckle shoes, and my breeches, of course, didn't do much for below the knee.
And, though I had a scarf on, my ears were a mite red as well.
Ah...what we won't do for living history - - -
December~
Karen & Rae walking through the Ackley Covered Bridge.
Bridges such as this one were very commonplace at one time but are now more of a vestige of the past.

Our first stop on this December evening was the one-time home of John Giddings. If you recall from the 4th of July, we stopped here then as well.
December~
John Giddings, being a man of prominence, was an elected statesman for several years and a representative just before and during the early years of the American Revolution. He was, by the way, one of the most active and trusted supporters of the patriotic cause in the local legislature.
And here we three are, at his home. What an honor!
December~
The three of us were able to enter the home as well, since Holiday Nights is one of the very few times in the year the structure is opened up to the public.
We are in the back kitchen in this shot, enjoying the work of the chocolateers (men who made chocolate).
Rae, on the left in this picture above, is currently working toward her master’s degree in textile science. You see her here proudly wearing a reproduction of the 1790 Redingote in the collection at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and she made this for a class project. Her cloak and hood pattern is out of Costume Close-up by Linda Baumgarten

Karen, on the right, was wearing her 1760s riding habit, as well as a cloak of the same period. 
Both ladies are exquisite in the period clothing department and have taken great pains to ensure the accuracy and quality is as it should be.

December~
You knew we would find ourselves at the Daggett saltbox house. This structure has seen about 261 winters, initially in Connecticut and now in Michigan.
I really like this picture because it emits everything we felt that night: the cold, snow, and darkness...winter in the 18th century.

December~
I hear there is a warm fire in the hearth.
Let's go in and find out!

December~
Yes, at the moment this image was captured, I knew exactly how the founding generation felt, for that fire felt as good to me (and my ears, legs, and toes) as I'm sure one from the 1770s must have felt in the same situation.
As you can see, I was surrounded by darkness, except for the fireplace and lantern setting upon the table. And, if this truly were 1770, you can bet every opening or crevice that allowed the cold to come in would have been stuffed, blocked, or covered with rags or maybe even cotton. Plus those who lived here would have worn extra garments, including mittens, while inside, if necessary.
Kudos to my cloak!

December~
This time I am in the kitchen near the other fireplace, which also had a fire a-goin.' Now, again, if this truly were the 1760s or 1770s, the farming Daggetts would more than likely not have two fireplaces lit, nor more than one lantern burning. It would have been considered a waste. Instead, all the family would have gathered in one room and blocked off the other rooms with a blanket or heavy curtain of some sort to sustain the heat.
Yes, a flash was used to take this picture (pretty obvious, eh?)

December~
We are standing at the front of the Eagle Tavern, which, though built around 1831, has the look and feel of one from the 18th century. Unfortunately, we could not enter the pub for they had a private party taking place. A nice hot toddy would have gone a long way for us on such a night!

Rae & Karen left a bit early. It was mighty cold, so I didn't blame them. However, I could not leave because my son was participating in the Civil War soldiers at Christmas time scenario, so I was stuck for at least another hour.
I went into a few other houses and other buildings to continue in my attempts to warm up, but perhaps the best moment was the last 15 minutes of the night when I entered the old log cabin that was built in the 1780s. This was where William Holmes McGuffey was born in the year 1800.
December~
I did not take any pictures of the exterior of the McGuffey cabin that night. However, I was lucky enough to snap a daytime shot of it so you have an understanding of how it looks.
It looks all wonderful and cozy from the outside. Almost welcoming.
Well...it was. And so that's where I spent that last 15 minutes of my time at Greenfield Village on the evening of December 30th.
And as you can see by this picture, it was very cozy and welcoming. But not so warm. At least, not to this 21st century man. There was a recent conversation about warmth in the old days, and we agreed that in our modern day homes most of us are accustomed to a 65 or 70 degree home...and hot showers.
'Twas not the case so long ago, where 60 degrees or, in most cases, below was the norm, and since that was what our ancestors knew, that truly was their norm.
By the way, my toes did thaw...a little...

So there you have a year with Ken & friends in his world of living history. I hope you enjoyed the journey - I certainly enjoyed having you along for the ride!
I am often asked how do I have time for so many events, for it seems like I'm always reenacting. My answer is, I make time. For instance, I arrive at Holiday Nights at 6:00, which leaves most of the day to be with my wife or do things around the house (or be on the computer!).
There is also the fact that since I work for the school system, I am off for the summer, so my weekdays are filled with family time and chores (and computers!), but my weekends are free to reenact.
Like the guy who attends every sporting event throughout the year, I attend every reenactment I am able to.
It's my thing, you know?---and I do thank God for the opportunity.

Until next time, see you in time.

Before we leave, I have included a few links to some of the postings of what I've mentioned above in full:
Celebrating Patriot's Day
Civil War Remembrance
Celebrating the 4th of July
Civil War at Port Sanilac
Muster at the Mill
Charlton Park - 1st Person Reenacting
Black Friday
Christmas at the Fort
Colonial America on the Frontier
Presenting Colonial and Victorian

















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