Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spring Time Happenings 2018: Adventures in the Living History World

Most people in the reenacting world who live in the northern parts of these United States will take a break from our hobby, usually beginning in the fall months through the end of May. Ah, but that's not for me, for my so-called reenacting season doesn't necessarily end at all. Oh, there might be a break during the month of February, but by late March, I'm back in my period clothing once again, preparing for the proverbial new season.
I have been lucky enough to find plenty of reasons to throw on the period clothing and do something 'historical,' no matter what time of year and no matter what the excuse. So I thought I'd share some of my activities with you from March, April, and early May for this week's posting.
Yes, you will find plenty of pictures, stories - some which are fun and some which are a bit more serious - but all involving reenacting in some form or another.


Let's begin with an answer to the question so many visitors ask us:
"Where do you get all of your reenacting stuff?"
Many can tell that our clothing goes beyond the costume shop polyester product. They may still call what we wear a costume, but they can usually tell it is of a much higher quality. Let's face it...what we wear at reenactments are real clothing, it's as simple as that. And when they see some of our accessories that we use or display, it's almost like we are a painting from the past come to life.
And that's as it should be.
As most reenactors know, there are plenty of sutlers at events or on the internet where we can purchase supplies and clothing needed for our hobby.
But, the month of March is a much-looked-forward-to month here in the North Central region of the U.S., because this is when (and where) the Kalamazoo Living History Show takes place.
Now...just imagine:
three wedding-size halls, each filled with row after row after row of vendors, all selling their historical wares. The Kalamazoo Living History Show is a very anticipated weekend for thousands of us who make the strong attempt to bring the past back to life, even if only for a couple days at a time. For it's here that the living historian/reenactor can pretty much find nearly anything he or she may need to complete their kit, whether soldier or civilian. Even long-time "time-travelers" attend, sometimes for no other reason than to visit with friends in the hobby.
So...here are a few - only a few - photos from the Kalamazoo Living History Show to give you a glimpse of why so many of us save our pennies year 'round to attend:
First off, here are my traveling companions (minus one, who did not dress period, but he did take this picture!)

The Kalamazoo Living History Show features hundreds of vendors and covering three large wedding reception-size halls, row after row of all things for the living historian.
I always enjoy speaking with Mr. Kutch, the tinsmith. He is the one who took a bit of time to fix my pewter replica of the "Old North Church' lantern a couple years back.
Email Mr. Kutch if you are interested in any of his tinwares: dkl.tinker@gmail.com
Yes, there was more than one dealer selling tin at the show.

The K'zoo show is always a great excuse to put on your period clothing - - 
And I always run into a variety of friends who set up shop there, as does Ms. Hanson (on the right), a dealer in homespun wool she spins and dyes herself. 

As you can see, I'm not the only shopper to dress period; 
many others enjoy coming this way as well.

Next on our list....
Here is Abbie from Samson Originals. She and her husband now run the family business and have greatly expanded their line, recently adding menswear, such as waistcoats, coats, breeches,  tricorn hats, and socks.

Now, you may recognize this man by the wonderful collection of You Tube videos he hosts.
He is also one of the most well-known vendors of 18th and early 19th century goods: Jas. Townsend (now just called Townsends), and here I am with the owner. I've not purchased my clothing from them, so I cannot tell you either way how they are, but I have purchased my shoes from them, and they are long-lasting, comfortable, and historically accurate (yes, I've compared them to other places and they are just as well made).

Moving on...
I would love to have a handmade Windsor chair; maybe one day I will, and here is the guy who makes 'em, proprietor T. Thompson
I enjoy when a small historic display is set up. I spent nearly 20 years in retail and learned that displaying items that are for sale in pleasing manners will create sales at the register.
That's what this person did - - - - - - 
Imagine how great this would look on your table beneath the fly.
These are the sort of items that will bring the past to life for not only the visitor, 

but will add to the quality of the overall appearance of the reenactor as well.
(Above picture taken by Lynn Anderson)

So I tried my own similar historic display with a few things I own: 

Not too bad for being thrown together quickly.
Since acquiring some pretty authentic looking replications, I know will be able to give my table at reenactments a more period look.

That's the goal. And it's at the Kalamazoo Living History Show where I've purchased a number of the items (among other places on line). 


Fine dresses were available for the ladies.

My friend Richard the blacksmith - one of the best in the business.

Then there are the items that make the battles come to life:
Musketry & Powder Horns
These are but a few - very few - of the black powder muskets available for sale. I didn't say they were cheap, however.
Visitors and potential customers can watch as they are being made right there on the spot! 

Mrs. Root was also present with her husband, who happens to be a gun/musket maker as well, and also sells a variety of hatchets, knives, and powder horns (of which he also makes).

Of course, there are books galore!
Yes, plenty of books. One can never have too many books, 
especially if the subject is history!

Meeting up with more friends!
If you've ever seen the Civil War Civilian Closet on Facebook, then you may recognize the young lady in this photo. Yes, that is the one and only Jenna Theissen! And that's her husband, Jon, as well. I was so happy to finally meet them in person - - they need to jump over Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to visit more often!

That's my son Rob on the left with our friend Tony.
Tony sewed Rob's new frontier frock you see him wearing here.
Pretty cool, huh? Perfect for his portrayal in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment Revolutionary War unit.
Them Redcoats better look out!
So, that was my fun in March, and what fun it was! The pictures here are only the icing on the cake for the Kalamazoo Living History Show, and, as I said, I always look forward to attending every year and save my money accordingly, for I always seem to find something very cool.

Now on to April:
I'd like to tell you of a couple of anecdotes about my adventures wearing period clothing while in the modern world (one was printed here recently but it bears repeating, though this first one you have not heard yet):
Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps
(Picture courtesy of Lisa Buttigieg LiGreci)
Shortly before we took part in a charity to benefit the young people who perform in the Plymouth (Michigan) Fife & Drum Corps, my friend, Bob Stark, and I stopped in at the local Wendy's for a bite to eat. Of course, we were both dressed as our 18th century counterparts, Ben Franklin and Paul Revere. Well, if you know me at all, you know I love to have fun with the unsuspecting modern public who, without warning, witness seeing 18th century men in their midst. As we stepped through the door and the cashier looked up and saw us, I said loudly to her, "Quick! What year is this?"
She replied, "um...2018..."
Ben Franklin and I both exclaimed, "We made it" and high-fived each other.
We then moved to the counter to order our meals. I asked the young lady if she had fresh meat to serve. She replied in the affirmative. I then asked if she might be willing to put it in between two pieces of sliced bread after cooking it, and maybe add a variety of seasoning such as tomato sauce catchup, moustarde, and a pickled cucumber for extra flavor.
She said she could do that.
Then she asked me if I would like to donate a dollar to the kidney foundation. I agreed to do so and she gave me a paper cloverleaf to sign along with a marker (Sharpie). I asked her where the ink bottle was, and she looked at me dumbfounded. Dr. Franklin took the marker from me, pulled off the cap, and I said, "Pre-inked pens! Now that is interesting."
I turned to the cashier and said, "You folks in the 21st century think of everything!"
Then I signed the paper as Paul Revere.
*sigh*
I wish we would've taken pictures...

We then went to participate in the charity for the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps, where we sat near the hearth to add some ambiance as well as to visit for a while. Numerous doners came up to take our pictures.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and a gentleman, 
who's name, I am ashamed to say, escapes me.

Yes, I know I should have removed my hat, but a couple other photographers asked me to put it on when they were taking their own pictures, so I just left it on.

Do you want to know what crazy is?
I will tell you what crazy is.
Crazy is when you feel more comfortable - and people say you look more suitable...more rightful...kinda like I belong - while wearing 1770s clothing.
Isn't that a bit crazy?
But I must admit they are pretty cool clothes.

(Picture courtesy of Lisa Buttigieg LiGreci)

Every year I celebrate Patriot's Day by dressing period and heading out to Greenfield Village. This year was no different (and since I wrote an entire post about it HERE, I won't go into it again...too much), but I must tell you of my pre-adventure...
So on the morning of Saturday, April 21, as I drove to Greenfield Village while wearing my colonial clothing, the temperature gauge on my van went deep into the red, meaning my motor was about to overheat. I was on I-94 near the I-75 exit (exit 216) right in the heart of Downtown Detroit. Traffic was creeping along at a snail's pace, for there was an accident in the left lane, and the right lane was closed for construction, leaving only the center lane to accommodate thousands of autos in this major metropolis. Luckily, I was able to drive my van over to the side - the people let me through from the center lane. I got out and opened the hood - it seemed to me that my thermostat may need replacing.


Anyhow, seeing that traffic on 94 was at a crawl, and so many saw me dressed as, shall we say, Paul Revere, many honked and waved, and a truck driver yelled out, "Is everything alright?"
There I am, near the tow
truck. And there's my van.
The tow-truck driver took
the picture after we dropped
off the van.
Then the tow truck driver
wanted a picture with me,
so I put my tricorn hat on
him, and, as you can see,
he loved it!
I yelled back, "My horses got loose and took off from my carriage and now I'm stuck!"
He really laughed pretty hard, gave a thumbs up, waved, and crept along on his way.
When the tow-truck driver saw me, he just smiled and said, "I love my job!" and gave me this big ol' hug and then said, "You made my day!"
After getting my van to the repair shop near where I live, the tow truck driver took a picture of me, and then he had us take a selfie together...with him wearing my tricorn hat.
He commented about how he couldn't wait to show the other drivers at the garage.

And, lucky for me, I was able to get a copy of the two pictures he took.
The moral of my story? When lemons are sent your way, lemonade isn't far away.
So much for my trip to Greenfield Village on that Saturday, but at least I got to have a little fun, in spite of the situation.
But, fear not!
For I was able to celebrate Patriot's Day the very next day, Sunday April 22.
I was hoping the reflection in the water would
have been a little clearer, but it's still kind of
a cool picture.
I simply love the colonial period in our history, and when I put on the clothing of that time I can't help but feel like I belong 'back then." No, I can't explain the reasoning behind this, only that I feel, for a short time, like I am a part of that long ago founding generation, and the pride in me just swells.
I cannot get enough!
To me, I can think of nothing more traditional Americana than a white picket fence and a covered bridge.
And throw in a colonial guy to boot.

At the Susquehanna Plantation.
People just don't seem to sit on the front porch anymore.

But I do, even in my (sort of) modern suburban home.

If I had the money, I would build an exact replication of this saltbox house, originally built by Samuel Daggett in 1750. Here I am with Roy, working on the kitchen garden in the back, but you will see its front shortly. To me this house epitomizes the colonial home.
The rural colonial farmer of modest means, such as the Daggetts, relied heavily on family for labor, and what they grew depended on their location. But in general, aside from wheat and corn, as well as a variety of squash and vegetables from their kitchen gardens, farms typically would have orchards of apples and fields of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Now let's jump to May.
As you can see, the leaves are beginning to sprout on the trees only three weeks from my last visit.
This time I came in modern clothing to solely to shoot a few pictures, for it was a rainy day and that help to set a mood I was looking for.
And what better place to begin than the front (and side) of the Daggett House.
This is, perhaps, my favorite house inside Greenfield Village, followed by the Giddings Home, Firestone Farm, and the Eagle Tavern.
Imagine what Samuel Daggett and his wife, Anna, would think if they knew their name would be carried on and their modest home would be visited by millions inside an open-air museum.

The colonial kitchen had a "warm, glowing heart that spread light and welcome,
and made the poor room a home. 
(It) was the most cheerful, homelike, and
picturesque room in the house...
"
  Alice Morse Earle~
Without refrigeration, food supplies and routines changed with the seasons. Spring and early summer were the leanest times of the year, with supplies running short. Garden produce was much more plentiful in later summer & fall...
But these women of colonial days who spent their time preparing meals were nothing short of culinary geniuses: "I set my self to make some thing out of littel on."
And they certainly did!

It was a rainy day in May at the Village, but the weather can lend a special sort of ambiance to any scene, for the grayness and shadows lend an interesting feel that brighter days cannot depict.
Greenfield Village is truly an amazing place to visit, whether you favor, like me, the colonial period, or maybe the Victorian era, or even the earlier part of the 20th century. 300 years of (mostly) American history...all in one spot!
Yes, there is no other place quite like it.

For my final spring time-travel excursion for this posting, on May 12 I participated in my second "Night at the Museum" party of the year at the Plymouth Historical Museum. This is where pre-teen kids can spend their birthday with friends watching the "Night at the Museum" movie and then enter the Plymouth Museum proper to see 'mannequins' of (usually famous) historical figures magically come to life and speak to them about their lives.
Of course, I present myself as Paul Revere.
"Paul Revere" speaks with the youngsters about his famous ride that took place on the night of April 18, 1775.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum)

And here you see this night's participants posing for a group picture.
What a cool birthday party this would be!

(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum)
Now, you have probably noticed this posting has been fixed on the 18th century. Well, you know I also do 19th century as well: the Civil War era. And we had a pretty good reenactment the first weekend in May (click HERE), and we have a major reenactment coming up over Memorial Weekend (stay tuned!).
Yes, I do greatly enjoy my time in the 1860s, but the 1770s is really my favorite era, and it seems almost a forgotten period in our nation's history. Thank God for such successful TV shows/series such as HBO's John Adams and AMC's Turn: Washington's Spies that has helped to rekindle that passion for early American history for so many, including me.
I hope you enjoyed visiting some of my spring-fling time-travel excursions. As I said way back at the beginning, I personally have no reenacting 'season' - if I enjoy it, why would I not continue?

Until next time, see you in time.




















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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Celebrating Macomb County's 200th Anniversary

There is a lot to be said about local history: yours, mine, or anyone's. Take my hometown of Eastpointe. I've lived in this city for fifty years, aside from a few that found me in nearby Warren at the time of my marriage, and even though it's a great city to drive through to get somewhere else, it's still my hometown; it is the place where I have, for the most part, lived since Lyndon Johnson was still president, the Beatles were still a group, and man had yet to set foot on the moon.
That's kind of a long time, wouldn't you say?
And Eastpointe is in the County of Macomb.
Nothing too special there either. Except that this year of 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Macomb County becoming a county.
Now that's kind of cool!
And all the various local historical societies are celebrating this event. The historical imagination runs wild: in the year it became a county (1818), John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were still alive, James Madison was president, and the United States Congress adopted the American flag as having thirteen red and white stripes, and one star for each state (twenty at the time) with additional stars to be added as new states entered the union.
Even cooler, eh?
Named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812, Macomb County was the third county in the Michigan territory. 
Here are a few historical bullet points about this county in which I've lived most of my life:
~ The first Europeans arrived in the area during the 17th century. They included French fur trappers (our Voyageur friends) who recognized the richness of the marshes and sought new opportunities for trade.
~ Moravian missionaries established the first organized, non-native settlement in the county in 1782 as a refuge for Christianized Indians driven out of Ohio. 
~ In the late 1790s, Christian Clemens visited the area, and in March of 1800, purchased a distillery considered the first building on the site of the future Mount Clemens. The next year he purchased 500 acres for development. This site, known as High Banks, was platted as the Village of Mount Clemens in 1818, when it was proclaimed the Macomb County Seat.
~ In the early 1800s, and at least by 1840, settlers moved into the interior of the county, carving out farms from the hardwood forests. The roots of the county villages and townships were established by this time. In addition to the original French and English, later settlers included Germans, Belgians and others who came directly from Europe.
~ And in the 1870s, mineral baths brought international fame to Mount Clemens. Many believed the waters had healing powers. Although the stream still runs beneath the city, interest in the spas died out in the early 20th century. Recently, there has been a reemergence of interest in the mineral baths now being offered at St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens.

So the East Detroit Historical Society asked the members of the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit if we might be willing to help them celebrate by presenting living history at the old 1872 school house, knowing that we have the means to show everyday life of the mid-19th century inhabitants of this county of Macomb.
Why, of course we would!
Won't you join us?

Imagine stopping at the red light on the busy street (9 Mile Rd) directly in front of the school house and seeing this scene... 
The Halfway School House, built in 1872 and in use from that year to 1921, when a more modern brick structure was built and this old building was relegated to becoming a warehouse until it was saved and restored by the East Detroit Historical Society 
sixty five years later.

To date, about 800 Civil War soldiers who were from Macomb County have been identified - not bad for a very rural county of the 1860s (click HERE for more info).
The plan I put in use for our celebration of the history here was to have our Civil War military outside of the building, and the 'home arts' set up inside.
Unfortunately, with this being the beautiful spring weather day that it was (that's the excuse I'll give), all but two of our military chose not to take part, which was a real shame because we could have used the numbers.
But the two men here made a valiant and successful attempt to show the public a little about Civil War life for the soldiers who came from Macomb County.
And, part of the fun for the little ones, dressing them up like a soldier:

This young man (and his watchful mother) certainly enjoyed playing soldier!

We also had a young lady who played a role in the military join us - Miss Annie Etheridge.
Annie was from Michigan, but not from Macomb County (though she was born the next county over, so she may have traveled here at one time or another).
Annie, here holding the 21st Michigan battle flag, was not in the 21st but, rather, she was a part of the 3rd Michigan initially and then the 5th Michigan to the War's end. However, lucky for us, Jillian, as a reenactor, chooses to be a part of the 21st Michigan, and in her presentation let's the visitors know Annie's actual military history.


Annie Etheridge was one of only two women to receive the Kearney Cross for her bravery in service, and she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame 
in 2010.
(Other members of that exclusive club include Sara Emma Edmonds, Gilda Radner, Sojourner Truth, Aretha Franklin, Candice Miller, Diana Ross, and a whole slew of other women - some well-known, some not-so-well-known)


Vickie set up a smaller display of her United States Christian Commission. 
The U.S. Christian Commission was an organization that furnished supplies, medical services, and religious literature to Union troops during the Civil War. It combined religious support with social services and recreational activities. It supplied chaplains and social workers and collaborated with the U.S. Sanitary Commission in providing medical services.  


Andy the "eggman" spoke of his life on his chicken farm.
During our reenactments, he really does walk around the camps to sell eggs to reenactors.


I also brought a few of my farming tools such as the scythe you see me holding and the wood rake my son has, along with a few other implements like a flail and sickle.

On the inside - - - - - - 
- - - - we had mostly the 'home arts' - showing the life of most Macomb County women of the period.
Yes, I am very proud of our civilians and how everyday life is presented in varying ways, including a woman who was assigned as the primary lighthouse keeper when her husband left for military service.
Anastasia “Eliza” Truckey served as lighthouse keeper of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in Marquette, Michigan, while her husband was away for war. Nelson Truckey left Eliza and their four children for three years to fight with the 27th Michigan Infantry during the Civil War. During that time, Eliza kept the light burning without an assistant to help her.
Anastasia “Eliza” Truckey served as lighthouse keeper on the left, and Laura Smith Haviland, the Quaker abolitionist on the right.
Our friend in the middle? Why, that's Mrs. Cook, sometimes laundress and sometimes sketch artist.
Laura Smith Haviland was a pioneer social activist who devoted her life to others. In 1837 she co-founded, with her husband Charles, the Raisin Institute, which was one of the first schools in the United States to admit black students. Laura Haviland was very involved in an anti-slavery movement, serving as Superintendent and Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad in Michigan. 
After the Civil War, she became an officer in the Freedman’s Aid Society, assisting in the relocation and adjustment of former slaves in Kansas. 
Mrs. Haviland also worked for the temperance movement.

Home arts was represented as well...
That's my wife on the left, and 21st Michigan member Sue on the right, and both had their wheels a-goin.' There was also knitting, crocheting, and sewing.

Since Patty learned to spin nearly a decade ago, it has become her passion. I remember during our dating days when I would ask her if she was interested in spinning wool into yarn. "Why would I do that when I can go to the store and buy whatever I need."
She sings a different tune today.

And next to my wife we continue the home arts part of the tour - - - 

Larissa, who you see here, presents period farm life with me at historical societies, schools, libraries, reenactments, and anywhere else we are asked. And I have to laugh because the set up you see here is pretty much what we bring to those presentations - they are part of my personal collection of (mostly) replicas. She calls my home a "prop shop of history." 

By the mid-19th century, oil lamps had made inroads to home-lighting, though candles were still pretty prominent, especially in the more rural areas.
Here you see both - - - 

I see a chamber pot, candle mold with candles, an oil lamp (an antique from the 1880s), a butter paddle, a butter churn, and an ice cream maker.

Kristen had her antique jewelry display available for all to see, and the women found the older styles fascinating.

The interested family in the picture above with Kristen just happened by and saw this man:

And seeing our 16th President was enough to entice them to stop in for the history lesson of a lifetime.
Mr. Lincoln's formal education was limited, by the way, and for him it was a privilege to be able to attend such a school similar to the Halfway School House. 

President Abraham Lincoln never actually traveled to Macomb County (or even to Michigan, from what I understand), but he wanted to make sure he was part of our celebration here in 2018!
And he certainly was!

Of course, it helps to have the finest Abraham Lincoln interpreter in the country as part of our reenacting unit! And Mr. Priebe is second to...um...to only the actual President Lincoln!

"I wonder of the changes this county may see in
future times, Mrs. Fleishman."
"Things we cannot even dream of,
I am sure, Mrs. Assenmacher!"

My son, Robbie, enjoys playing period music on his fife.
He's pretty darn good at it, too!

Robbie and Jillian: good friends in a great hobby~
Rob kind of has the Jack White in Cold Mountain look going on here, don't you think?

For a variety of reasons, we didn't get nearly as many visitors as we would have liked to, but all of us living historians who participated certainly enjoyed our time together after the long, cold winter separation, for we are all good friends whether we dress in period or modern clothing.
It was a fine start to what promises to be a wonderful reenacting season.

Until next time, see you in time.













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