Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Know Your Enemy

The sight of a recreated company of properly-dressed, shaved, 18th-century soldiers emerging from the woods their ancestors fought over never fails to thrill. These New Englanders covered 16 miles in two 80+ degree days in New Jersey. Historians among them regaled the others with the actual events of the 1778 Battle of Monmouth, a deluxe battlefield tour.

Camp followers marched with them: stays adding an extra layer of misery to the process. Monmouth County was a wasteland in the late 1770's. The long coastline allowed the British to come and go at will. Escaped slaves were armed by the Crown and returned to torment their former owners. Whigs gave up fighting openly and began secretly retaliating against anything vaguely Tory (including Quakers.)

The Pine Barrens hid a den of horse thieves, pirates, and smugglers. Old religious and county grudges returned. A group of civilian reenactors attempted to recreate this strife for the march, but were thwarted. The lesson is no plan survives first contact with the event site.

At first glance, volunteers/employees and historic interpreters have much in common. They share a love of history and feel strongly about surviving objects and buildings. Sadly, humans fear change and are hostile to outsiders. Negotiations sometimes fail. The volunteers are at the site every day. It feels like home to them. Interpreters can appear arrogant when told a metal bread cooking device can be operated with the feet (hence, toe stir) or a pair of fireplace tongs are for when cows choke (cud-puller.) It's hard to relate to someone who says: "just stand there and don't touch anything." Hours of kindness can sometimes gain trust. In the end "the plan" never trickles down to the people who spend every day on site. The event planners need to be flexible and understanding.

  On a more positive note, here is the buckram Federal neck stock with checked cotton whipped over it. The buckle can be found here, but needs to be removed from it's mount. Another piece of buckram is used for the tongue. The body is lined, and some originals have soft leather chin guards to keep the cloth from fraying.

Next up: a band with a faux bow to complete the project.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

GCM After Action Report

Well, it's comfortable. Genesee Country Village's early 19th century weekend made an excellent place to test the Summer tail coat. None of the interior seams are finished, the sleeves are not lined and the cuffs just tacked on.  It was way too hot to button anything.

After some initial confusion, our group of seven and a half settled in two different buildings. Rather than interpret a trade we formed a party of well-off folks at leisure, sketching our surroundings with period implements. Using a camera lucida is remarkably difficult, but that may be because it required a bench.

The old trousers and waistcoat made the outfit bearable, but changes are required. These were fine to start, but the yellow pants are not tall enough, and the linen waistcoat is too long. I find these chaps inspiring. Some checked trousers with stirrups perhaps?

The coat revealed some interesting issues. One arm appears to be 3/8" longer than the other. It may be an anatomical problem. Since the sleeves need to be a tad longer it was easy to roll one cuff down slightly more, and make up the difference on the back of the other.

The maddening droop of the overlapping front is fixable. Kitty pressed her face to one of the displays at Genesee (without even being asked) and found two small internal buttons on a period coat. These engage the top and bottom button holes of the right front to hold it up.  Time to whip over the cut lining edges, line the sleeves, and return to the blue neck stock. Last, trousers and a short waist coat.