June 28, 2010

I Didn't Die: A Day at the Beach and the Shippensburg Reenactment

What a crazy week! On Wednesday, Andy and I decided to go to the beach for the day. It was very hot but the water was freezing. The beach wasn't very crowded. After a bit of swimming in the ocean and collecting seashells on the beach, we fell asleep under our umbrella. We don't know how long we slept but we jumped awake to find the water hitting our toes! Good thing it didn't get our books wet!

The next day we were told that our friends could not make it to the reenactment at Shippensburg that we were planning to go to. We were upset but decided against going as we wouldn't know anyone there.

I watered my garden and Andy fixed a fiddle on the deck. It was hot and sunny. I tried to help him put the sound post back into the fiddle. Suddenly day turned to night. We both looked up at the sky, gathered our things and ran inside. We expected rain but we were not prepared for the storm that followed within seconds.

Winds up to 75 miles an hour and pounding rain went on for about an hour. We heard trees snapping like twigs and some neighborhoods got hail. Many trees were stripped of their leaves. Wires were down on every street and electricity was out for three days. The street lights and stores were hit just as hard. We could not get out of out driveway, electrical wires were draped behind our driveway and a tree had fallen across the top of our street and another at the bottom of our street. We went out to find some ice but couldn't find any anywhere. We ended up getting Chinese takeout for the family and ate it together in the dark with my grandma. We had a radio run on batteries and flashlights hung in her dining room chandelier. It was a cozy dinner all together.

All of our food had to be thrown out. By Friday, the lack of air conditioning and food, plus the fact that it was very dangerous to drive, made us decide that we might as well have gone to the reenactment. So we did. We had to gather our gear from the completely dark basement using dim flashlights. The reenactment was a bit far from us and we had no mapquest directions because of the power outage. We checked to local libraries as well but both were closed. We did end up getting some old-fashioned "paragraph directions" from a Shippensburg establishment using my Kindle in the car on our way. (Yay! You know our generation, we haven't a map in the house.)

When we finally got to the event, the regiment we were supposed to meet up with wasn't there! We were offered to fall in with a Mississippi regiment and we had a great time. The event was definitely not as "period correct" as we are used to but it was still a very fun time! There were lots of ladies there and we went, in a horse-drawn carriage to a seminar on mourning customs. It was very fun to drive on the main roads of the town in such a period fashion.

The lectures were given by a lady named, Myra Reichart in a gorgeous, period bed and breakfast. She gave information on the Victorian Period which extends past the time period that I am used to but was very informative.

The battle took place right on the main street of the town and many locals came to watch.We even talked to one lady who came to the event with her husband from Alaska! I've never seen a whole town so interested in a reenactment.  Local establishments were very much into the reenactment and left out food for the reenactors to forage. One especially nice establishment was "Pizza 'n Stuff." The owner was very nice and gave the reenactors free beverages regardless if we bought anything or not. It was a very fun event with a lot to do for women and civilians-- I am not used to that! They had a waterice social and a ball. Next year is the 10th anniversary of the reenactment. We are planning to attend.

Look at all of this artillery damage! (Just kidding.):

What have you all been up to? I'm trying to catch up will all of the blog posts I missed reading. I hope you are all doing well and will think of going to the Shippensburg reenactment next year.

June 19, 2010

Civil War Era Hats, Bonnets and Hoods

This post is for Atlanta at The Story of a Seamstress' new site for beginning Civil War reenactors.

Head coverings were a must during the 1850s. Cloth caps were worn indoors in the morning and also to sleep in. Bonnets and hats were worn outside. Large sunbonnets were worn outdoors in the country. Wealthier women wore hats with veils. Pale skin was coveted during the period so even working women covered up to protect their skin. Some women did not cover their heads outside but it was the exception rather than the rule and an uncovered head was synonymous with a "fast lifestyle."

Prior to the war most women had between 4-12 bonnets per year, the average being closer to 4. During the blockade, many Southern women had to learn to do without and refashion their bonnets with anything they could. Bonnets were one of the first things women had to learn to do without. Makeshift bonnets and hats were made from palmetto leaves. Bonnets were worn in church and on short social calls, this heightened the demand. 

Even the rich could not get new bonnets in the South due to the blockade. Sarah Morgan, a Southern teenager when the war began, wrote in her diary that "Colonel Breaux paid my hair the most extravagant compliments. He said he could not say his prayers for looking at it in church, Sunday before last. Perhaps that is the reason St. Paul said a woman should not worship in church with her head uncovered! But as the Yankees stole my bonnet, I am reduced to wearing my black straw walking-hat with its curled brim, trimmed in black ribbon with golden sheaves of wheat. Two years ago this fall, father threw me a banknote at table, and I purchased this with it. Now it is my only headgear, except a sunbonnet." 

Period Examples of Head Coverings:
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Evening/Dressy Coverings 

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Head Coverings by Season:


Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnetsCivil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets 

Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Civil War Reenactor Hats bonnets
Hopefully these pictures will help beginning reenactors see which styles are appropriate. Bonnets and hats were normally purchased and few made their bonnets at home. Make sure your bonnet is made in a period correct style and out of period correct fabrics. Fine silks, velvets, lace and ribbons were used for hats and bonnets, a beginner mistake is to use cotton. Cotton was not used for bonnets; if you wish to make a summer bonnet, leave the bonnet uncovered and add the trim right on top of the straw braid.

June 16, 2010

Kindle 2 : A Review for the Researcher

 I was so excited to get a Kindle for my birthday. When I first heard about the kindle, I didn't think that I would ever like to read virtual books instead of real ones. But once I realized that I could read public domain books away from my computer for free, I was enthusiastic.

Pretty much all that has to be said about the Kindle 2 has already been said in other reviews. I know that the Kindle 2 is aimed at the normal book reader and that Amazon tried to push it on the student market but I was wondering if it would enhance the reading quality for me--a researcher.

I spend my time perusing a lot of old books, some in book form and some in ebook format online. With antique books, the kindle helps tremendously. I am afraid to take antique books out of the house but still like to read and share them with other people outside my home. In ebook format, I can share them without worrying about damaging them. I also like the new-found freedom I have to "take" a google book or other internet based ebook away from the computer and read it elsewhere. (I don't like the idea of having to print out public domain ebooks--it just wastes too much paper.) I spend so much time at the computer reading, I am more than happy to be able to take my work with me outside.

The Kindle has a few good tools for the researcher. The first is free public domain books. Yes we can read these for free on the internet, but it is great to be able to take them where you need them. The second is that you can make notes and highlight on the "pages" in the books. You can also take a screenshot of the page you are reading and import it onto your computer. I especially like these features because you can keep your notes with the book and not damage the book. Another great feature is the fact that the Kindle will remember what page you were last on in all of your books and there is a search function so you can search through books with keywords. that makes it really easy to cross reference books.

Another good thing about it is the privacy. Every once in a while I get a book that I feel funny reading in public--mostly the 3rd grade reading level historical fiction books I like to read to make sure I can make the information I teach kids at living history events relevant to things the kids already know. This also helps in stopping misconceptions that are taught through some of the more inaccurate historical fiction books out there. I am glad that if I'm reading Horatio Hornblower or the Sign of the Beaver at college on the Kindle, I don't have to worry about strange looks or odd questions. This also helps with Civil War book covers that some people may find offensive.    

I cannot emphasis how helpful the Kindle is; however, I do have some issues with it. My first concern is that there are no page numbers! Research-wise, how do you tell someone where a certain quote or fact comes from if the closest you can get is a chapter number?

I also think some of the PDFs displayed a tiny bit to small, if there was a zoom function that let you zoom from 100% to 125%, PDFs would display perfectly. If you flip the Kindle on its side, PDFs are readable but then you can only see half the page at a time. An upside is that PDF files still contain their original page numbers.

That's all I have to say about it. It was a really great present. I can't wait to start reading all of those classics I have been meaning to! I am currently reading The Last of the Mohicans, which I started as a paperback, and am finishing the last 1/4 on the Kindle.

June 12, 2010

The English Hornpipe; The College Hornpipe Sheet Music

Hornpipes were a type of dance that were traditionally danced by English sailors in the late 1700s, as a means of exercise aboard ships. The Sailor's Hornpipe (also known as The College Hornpipe, and Jack's the Lad,) is a popular tune that was originally published in 1798. (It is the tune that the Popeye the Sailor Man theme song is based on.) It is said that each move of the dance mimicked a chore sailors would have to perform on ship. It was normally danced on a ship without a partner, barefooted.

In the 1800s songs written in the same style became collectively known as "hornpipes." Hornpipes also became a "country dance" and new routines were created for group dances.  

By the 1890s, dancing the hornpipe became stereotypical of sailors, although publications at the time were more than willing to admit that they never met a sailor who actually could dance a hornpipe. (They also wrote of how vile sailors really were.) 

The dance moves are complicated. Can you imagine teaching this to a bunch of hardy seamen? "Double shuffle, heel, toe. Whirligig!"

Unfortunately I am trying to learn it myself! The traditional dance routines have been said to be lost. But I am going to try and research the individual dance moves listed in the instructions above and see if I can't put at least a little of it back together. I think it will be fun to try and get exercise like one of Nelson's crew. Dancing a hornpipe reminds me of the scene in the Horatio Hornblower series where the tyrannical Mr. Midshipman Simpson orders Horatio to dance just to demonstrate his power aboard the ship.

P.S. Blogger has changed a bit so I can't figure out how to get the formatting just right. Please bear with me. It's driving me nuts!    

June 7, 2010

Poker-work: Spare Ammunition Box

I have been working working on a wooden box for Andy to keep his extra rounds when we go reenacting--he currently keeps them in a cardboard cigar box with "live" written on it in black marker. It does scare me a bit to have so much gunpowder unsecured. I am really happy to have found a good way to keep the gunpowder safe.

 I have been wood burning some designs into the box. Since Andy is working on creating an Irish impression (I know everyone complains about the prominence of Irish impressions, but his is really good and well researched,) I decided to make the box commemorate the Irish Rebellion in 1798.

Since the Rebellion was about 63 years prior to the Civil War, I get to "antique" the box to make it look like it would be about 60 years old. I will be using a period finish made of pure beeswax, turpentine, and pigment for a rich color.

I still have to remove the existing hinges and clasp and replace them with period correct ones. The word "Cuimhnigh" is Irish for "Remember." I chose wood burning for the designs because the simple look of it fits with his poorer impression. Wood burning has been an art since ancient times. Pieces of wire, small pieces of metal or tiny pokers were used to burn designs into the wood. You have to heat them up in the fire and pick them up carefully with a rag and keep reheating them. I am thinking of taking this to a reenactment to finish. This is my first attempt at wood burning and it is admittedly a sad sight but fine for our purposes. There are some amazing poker work artist out there. Some great pieces can be seen here.     

June 4, 2010

Peculiar Directions for Resuscitation from 1861

Swimming is an old art dating back to prehistoric times. In ancient Rome, it was an insult to say that someone was unable to swim. In the Middle Ages, knights were also expected to be able to swim but by the 1700s, few people knew how to do so. The strict clothing laws of the time deterred people from learning to swim and it soon lost favor. Stories of sea monsters, such as the Ogua in Pennsylvania (a 20 ft river monster who dragged deer into the river,) were also said to be used to deter people from the water. Even many sailors in the 1700s, could not swim which caused a lot of unfortunate, unnecessary deaths. 

John Locke was an advocate for teaching children to swim because it was a common cause of death. Even though Benjamin Franklin taught himself to swim and is credited for inventing swimming fins at the age of 10, his brother drowned while still a child. John Quincy Adams' son drowned as well. In the early 1800s, bath houses in England were popular but were too shallow to need to swim.

By the 1850s, visiting beaches became more popular and although most people only wading in the water with heavy bathing costumes, just having an increased number of people near the water lead to accidents.

Godey's Lady's Book gave these peculiar directions for resuscitation in 1861:

I am not sure what pressing the back of the neck would do but sticking a bellows in someone's nostril is just something I think I would have trouble doing--especially for 8 hours as the medical practitioner mentioned in the article claims. I am glad that we can swim today without such cumbersome garments but I would like to see more modest swimming clothing come back into style. I'm not a fan of sunburn and think it is uncomfortable and awkward to walk around in a bathing suit without a cover-up.

June 1, 2010

My Tiny Little Garden

The weather has finally been nice a few days in a row. For a while it was steaming hot one day and we were wearing sweaters the next. I finally put some seeds in the garden. I know--it's very late. I don't grow things seriously, I just love growing things. I can't explain it. When Andy and I met, I had cucumbers in the garden that looked like a bunch of polliwiggles. (I guess it was a good conversation starter on our first date.) I am not a good gardener and I suffer from "Charlie-Brown-Tree Syndrome," which I inherited from my mother.

For those of you who do not know what that is, it is when you feel bad for a scrawny little half dead plant and feel that you need to tenderly nurse it back to health and restore its great potential. The syndrome kicks in when you are in the plant section of home improvement stores and you feel bad for that stick of a plant--you know, the one that was knocked on the ground, rendered dirtless, stepped on and denied water? Yes--we are the people who buy that plant (actually most stores are more than likely willing to give it to you.)

I still love to grow things regardless if they turn out pretty or at all. During the winter, I just get an itch to watch things grow. When summer comes along I just can't help but planting. I find it astounding the potential that exists in a tiny seed. A huge oak tree is  grown from a tiny acorn, it is amazing!

I decided to try square foot gardening this year. I have three matching 2'x4' boxes. The wood was originally going to be two 4'x4' boxes but then I had to move where I was going to put them. They still look nice even though I lost planting space. At some point I plan on getting more lumber and making a fourth box. (My parents asked me why I made squares in the garden. I told them it was so my mother would "farm" the plants when I was away. Is anyone else's mother addicted to that facebook farmville game?)

This is the first year in my lifetime that we have had wild bunnies come to our neighborhood. We also have two big groundhogs. I sometimes see the bunnies sitting next to the boxes even though there isn't plants in them yet-- they must have learned through experience that a wooden box means a bunch of good veggies. I don't mind I plan on only fencing two of the boxes and leaving the far one for the animals. If they get the rest of the plants, I won't mind too much.

I hope to be a more serious gardener in the future, possibly even growing all of my own produce, but that is years and years away. I admire people who get some kind of "crop" from their gardens. My only goal for this year is to grow enough Roma tomatoes to make some spaghetti sauce (gravy if you live in my house.)

*Note: The drawings are taken from the 1911 version of The Secret Garden, one of my favorite stories when I was little. 

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