Monday, September 30, 2013

My Own Personal Daggett Farm House and Farris Windmill

One of my most favorite houses inside the open-air museum of Greenfield Village is the Daggett Farnhouse.
What's a Daggett Farmhouse you ask?
Why, THIS is a Daggett Farmhouse:
It is a structure built around 1750 in the popular-at-the-time saltbox-style. It was painstakingly dismantled from its original location in Connecticut and relocated to the historic Greenfield Village open air museum in Dearborn, Michigan in 1977, opening to the public by the following year.
There are now presenters who work here while wearing 1760's period farm clothing. They cook and do chores from the colonial era to give a wonderful impression of what life was originally like in this home during that early time in our country's history.

Right next to the Daggett house is the Cape Cod Farris Windmill, built in 1633.

 This windmill, once the oldest windmill on Cape Cod, stood at the road to West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It now stands at the southeast end of Greenfield Village, next to the Daggett house, a gift to Henry Ford from his Ford dealership employees nationwide in 1936.

A friend of mine and his fiance were at a local collectables store recently and made sure they stopped by to tell me that they had seen a lighted ceramic Dept. 56 Daggett-style house for sale there. Of course, I went to the place myself to see it.
Yep - there it was! And it was beautiful. In fact, there were four of these houses sitting on the shelf, but they were considered used  (they're out of print from maker Dept. 56) and had no box or packaging of any kind.
Unfortunately, they were also rather pricey, so I had to pass on purchasing one.
I thought about how cool the lighted house looked every-so-often. I really wanted to get it, but money was tight.
However, after some time (and some money I acquired by selling a few books I didn't want), I decided to see what I could find on Ebay.
There it was! It was listed under the title "Home Sweet Home."
And guess what? With it, in the same box, was a windmill. A windmill that looked suspiciously like the Farris Windmill.
It wasn't being sold that way at the store - - - hmmm...something's amiss here...
No matter, the price for both - the house and the windmill - in the original packaging was less than half the price of just the house itself from that collectables store.
I bought it off Ebay. (That collectables store I went to was kind of a rip off, wouldn't you say? In more ways than one.)

It took only a few days til my package arrived - and here they are together:

I put some of my Colonial Williamsburg figurines around it to give it a more "3-dimensional" look - to sort of bring it too life.

And this is how the two structures look together as they sit inside Greenfield Village:

Compare the two photos - - - - pretty cool, huh?

These two Dept. 56 ceramics were introduced in 1988 and were discontinued in 1991.
The original Daggett House was reconstructed in Greenfield Village in 1977 and opened to the public in 1978, while the Farris Cape Cod Windmill was reconstructed in the Village in 1936.
They are v-e-r-y close in comparison, especially considering they came in the same box.
It's almost as you think...? Dept. 56's website says that the house is "Inspired by the East Hampton, NY historic landmark home of John Howard Payne, composer of 'Home Sweet Home'."
Is there a windmill near his house?
Let's look and see:

The home of John Howard Payne
Wow! Now this is really pretty awesome!

So now I have my own personal corner of Greenfield Village as well as the landmark historical home of the "Home Sweet Home" composer John Howard Payne on my shelf.
I think it's kinda neat.

To read more about related topics, please click the following links:
Daggett Farmhouse
Farris Windmill
Greenfield Village
Dept. 56 Colonial Williamsburg Collection


Friday, September 20, 2013

A Fall Harvest Link to the Past

Today's post is to guide you to one I wrote last year. It's about the autumn time of year in the 18th and the 19th centuries, and I added more information and a few of more photos.
It's one of my favorites of all that I've written, mainly because Fall is my favorite time of year.
That being said, if you love history and tradition (and if you don't, why, pray tell, are you reading this blog?), then you would be doing yourself a favor by clicking HERE to learn about the fall harvest season in the 18th and the 19th centuries. Even if you've read it before, you'll still enjoy the additions.
Here are some historical-oriented photos to entice you to CLICK THE LINK (hint hint):

Yes, this is a page from an actual coloring book! Hmmm...what color shall I use for the intestines...?


Monday, September 16, 2013

Historic Fort Wayne 2013

Detroit has a true historical gem, and so few seem to know (or care) about it. That shining diamond in the rough is Historic Fort Wayne - an actual fort built in the 1840’s.
Here, please allow me to give you a very brief history of it (from the Historic Fort WayneCoalition website):
In 1840, at the point on the Detroit River closest to British Canada, the United States Army began surveying local farms for the placement of new artillery post. A five point star fort was slated to have the most up to date cannon capable of firing on the Canadian shore as well as ships sailing the river.
This new fort was Detroit’s third, the first built by the Americans (in 1701, shortly after Cadillac landed, the French began building Fort Detroit, which was surrendered to the British in 1760 during the French and Indian War, and then the British built a new fort several years later and name it Fort Lernoult, which they occupied until 1796 when the United States took over Detroit and renamed the battlement Fort Shelby.
Following the War of 1812, Fort Shelby fell into disrepair while the threat of a territorial war still loomed with British Canada. As tensions increased along the Northern border defense that includes new forts from the east coast to the Minnesota Territory. The Detroit fort would be named for General Anthony Wayne whose defeat of the British at the Fallen Timbers in 1796 resulted in the United States occupation of the Northwest Territories.
Diplomacy intervened, however, in the mission of Fort Wayne. Before any cannon were even procured for the new fort, the United States signed a treaty with Britain that called for diplomatic solutions to their territorial disputes. The new Fort was re-commissioned as an infantry garrison, but did not see any troops until the outbreak of the Civil War, when the first Michigan soldiers reported for duty.
Because of new relationship with the Britain and later Canada, Fort Wayne never saw a shot fired in anger. The peaceful location became a primary induction center for Michigan troops entering battle in every U. S. conflicts from the Civil War to Viet Nam. Among other duties over the course of it’s 125 year use as an Army base, it served as an infantry training station, housed the Chaplin school for a few years, and was the primary procurement location for the vehicles and weapons manufactured in Detroit during both World Wars. Also during WW II the Fort housed prisoners of war from Italy.
Because of the fear of crime in Detroit – both justified and yet unfounded, if that makes sense – not many people frequent the fort during the reenactments. But the coalition really does forge ahead, and because of their perseverance and word of mouth, the numbers are growing.
The very first time my wife and I ever reenacted the Civil War era was at Fort Wayne. Oh! We were real embarrassingly bad in the way we were dressed, as you will note in the photo below), but we learned quickly where we needed to improve.

Our very first ever event and our very first actual ambrotype
Because it was our first event ever, Fort Wayne holds a special place for us, and therefore we make sure we participate at each Civil War reenactment it has. Of course, my most favorite event held here are the Christmas at the Fort presentations that we put on for tour groups, which really gives us the chance to bring the ghosts of Christmas past to life (click HERE and HERE to read about that).
Anyhow, on September 14 & 15 we did our annual Civil War Days at Fort Wayne and I have a few pictures from that event I’d like to share with you. I would also like to mention here that the civilians of the 21st Michigan - that's us! - were able to use a beautiful 1880's home as our own. It was decided that we would share the house in two hour blocks, using it in whatever manner each group saw fit. There were visits from friends, parlor games played, and photographic opportunities. It turned out to be a great time as you shall see:

I thought I'd begin this photographic time-travel excursion with a photo of my wife and I. When compared to the picture above you can see we've come a long way baby!

Mrs. Paladino had her image taken with her "daughter" and her housemaid.

Candace the housekeeper kept very busy, for Mrs. Paladino had guests arriving shortly.

Now, understand, the ladies here realized that the bloomer craze was from the early 1850's, but they certainly had fun recreating possible discussions of the style, even though they were dressed in later fashions.
There was an interesting visitor - Mrs. Amelia Bloomer. The ladies were not fond of Mrs. Bloomer's forward thinking ideas and let her know under no uncertain terms of their feelings.

Young Miss Andrea was aghast at the thought of wearing what looked like men's trousers under a skirt.

But Mrs. Bloomer continued her speaking, attempting to win the ladies over...and they listened respectfully.

As much as she tried, it just did not work to her advantage. Ah well, once the hoop became popular, the bloomer craze of the 1850's was gone like the wind.

An afternoon of parlor games ensued, and this was an opportunity to get our minds off the war and, as the future folks say, let loose. Here, Mrs. Gillett imitates, with great expression, the sound of a moo-ing cow.

On such a beautiful early fall day, sitting on the front porch was a fine way to spend an afternoon.

Here is a group photograph taken with an actual 19th century camera owned by 21st Michigan member Robert Beech. Yes, the sun was very bright on this day.

My wife loves to spin upon her wheel, and does show as often as she can. She almost always will draw a large crowd of not only modern dress visitors, but reenactors as well.

Mrs. St. John has many family and friends in the military, fighting to preserve our nation, and she takes time out of her busy chore-filled day each day to write to them. Notice how patriotic Mrs. St. John is in her clothing.

Mrs. St. John's husband, standing in the center, plays for the local baseball team, the Early Risers.

Because of the beautifully ornate decor' of this home, we find it to be a very suitable backdrop for posing.

And many from our group took advantage of the opportunity, including this mother and daughter and...

...Michigan's own Governor Blair and his wife.

A soldier returns home to find his wife in a position of servitude. He understands the need for her position and accepts their plight for the time he will be serving in the army.

A formal pose, for we have dressed for the photographer

Listening to period music on the violin was another wonderful way to spend part of our afternoon. Mrs. Pearl Jones is an accomplished musician and entertained us with such numbers as Amazing Grace...
...and Just Before the Battle Mother. There is little more hauntingly beautiful than to hear period music played in a period parlor on an instrument popular during the time. It truly is a haunting experience.

"Come look, Cousin. I fear we may see a battle soon!"
"Oh, yes! I see the men marching onto the field near the river! What shall we do?"
“Do you think we should be out here, cousin?”
“Why not? It is our home, is it not? I see no harm in watching our brave men fight to preserve our nation!”

A small group of renegade Rebels attacked another small group of Union military

A few Union men took a hit while the rest took aim, and then...

...fired back, killing the majority of the small Rebel force.

The few men left skeedaddled the heck out of there!!

As I said, it was a couple of small groups. They came together here for a portrait.
And here is my son up front, and a descendant of a knight stands behind him.

And there you have an idea of how our weekend was spent at Historic Fort Wayne. 
To me, the whole reason behind reenacting and living history is to show history in a unique bring it alive.
But also to have fun.
A couple of our members experienced a touch of immersion for the first time here on this weekend and they loved it. They want to do more. And that's one of the reasons why I had the time in this house split amongst a number of the membership - so others who normally do not use a home during reenactments could experience what it was like to spend time in a period home while dressed correctly. It's a feeling that cannot be explained vocally. 
Only felt.
And I hope you get the chance to experience this feeling.
Then you'll understand.
Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Michigan Renaissance Festival = The Michigan Fantasy Faire

Welcome to the Michigan Renaissance Festival!
Okay, let's hear it - - go on and get it out of your system now. You know, the comments about me writing a post on such a farby, non-historical event as a Renfest. Ha! Even I call it the Michigan Fantasy Fair, for that's what it is! In fact, the day I attended in this year of 2013 – September 7 – we saw Captain Jack Sparrow, Gandalf, fairies & elves, talking bushes and trees, a leprechaun, and numerous performances by various musicians and comedy acts.
Not very Renaissance-y, but it was fun!
But I'm not new to attending. You see, we’d visited a number of times over the years, but once Civil War reenacting came into the picture, we pretty much stopped going.
Let’s jump ahead a few years after becoming a living historian and we decided to go back to the Renfest and enjoy some fun history.
All I did the entire time was notice all of the historical inaccuracies and, generally, feeling very disappointed in this supposedly history-laced event. I mean, seriously, fairies? Capt. Jack Sparrow? Shrek? Gandalf? And Boobs galore (yes, as in women’s breasts)!
I could not believe I actually use to like this!
I was as frustrated as all get out. I mean, I was hoping to become an eyewitness to medieval and/or renaissance life, you know?
So I returned home all grumbly and angry that I had wasted all of that money on tickets for my family and I to get in.
Until…well…until I overheard my kids talking about how much fun they had:
“That jousting was pretty awesome!”
“Those washerwomen were really funny!”
“I love the Zucchini Brothers!”
“We should make ‘soup-in-a-bread-bowl' sometime!”
And on and on and on…
They had a great time.
Why didn’t I?
After thinking about it for a bit, it kinda struck me that, despite its name, the RenFest is simply not meant to be a historical time-travel excursion to 15th and 16th century Europe as I had originally thought. One simply can’t think of it in the same way that a Civil War or Rev War reenactment is to their respective eras in time.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the Renfest is meant to be exactly, but definitely not an authentic time-travel experience. Maybe more like a mixing bowl of Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Braveheart, A Knight’s Tale, Peter Pan, steampunk, gypsy, and a helping of Renaissance and Medieval Europe thrown in for good measure.
Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Once I came to this realization, I allowed myself to enjoy it the next time we went.
And, a few years later, we did return.
And I had a blast!
We laughed at the comedy acts, we enjoyed the variety of music, we stared at people dressed like who knows what, and we bowed when the Queen passed by.
I even tried on steampunk clothing! Ah, but no pictures, doggonit! I wish we did  - it was pretty funny!
Yes, I saw Shrek, Gandalf, Capt. Jack Sparrow, faries, and even, believe it or not, some pretty authentic Renaissance-era looking people!
Hey---where’d they come from??
Yep – I now enjoy visiting this Michigan Renaissance Fantasy Festival every year, many times with other reenactor friends.
We never cease to have fun!
Posted here are a (quite a) few of the many pictures that I’ve taken over the years at the festival. I think you’ll see some good times here:

Here we go, into the Shire of Holly Grove

I thought this was a very inventive sign, even though I don't believe in using credit cards.

Let's begin our Renaissance journey seeing the unusual sights:
We saw fire-breathers!
And pirates! AR-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r!!
Human statues
Here we found a Leprechaun. But there were no rainbows to be found.

Where else would ye find a talking bush (except on Mt. Sinai)? Lucky for this leafy fellow, he wasn't burning.
These festively decorated plants didn't talk. I tried to get them to say something but they wouldn't. They were either too shy or they wanted me to leaf them alone.
We also saw a lady walking with a basket of flowers upon her head. She talked, but the flowers, alas, did not.

And here we have a mermaid. I asked her if she saw "Splash" but she just looked at me funny and 'flipped' me off.

Now we'll head to the entertainment portion of the festival

Bagpipes and drums.

This group called Tartanic could easily be played on a hard rock radio station.

As good as Tartanic is, hard rock radio should play them.
But they won't.
And then there is the ever bawdy Bocca Musica! Yes, that's my eldest son there, left of center, in his pirate clothing.
Here's a closer-upper photo of my son. Yeah, on the left. That's Coco on the right.

Ahhh! One of my favorite comedy acts, the now defunct Zucchini Brother!
These guys were, simply put, fantastic! Extremely talented jugglers and hilarious comedians.
Fair thee well, Zucchini Brothers. Ed Sullivan would have been proud!

The Washing Well Wenches climbed a roof and went fishing...for beer. There was a cup tied to that string and they would slide it down, hoping that someone would fill it with beer and then they'd reel it back up. It usually worked well.

You want to laugh your butt off? Then see the Washing Well Wench Show.  I see them every time I go.
These men do not know what they're in for with these two, ahem, ladies!
Over-ridden with grief over a lost love, Dottie flings herself into the pool to, suppose, drown her sorrows.
Yes, I was over-taken at the sight of these, er, beautiful women. (Actually, I just needed my laundry!)

Here is something a guarantee I will never do - caber toss! Ouch!!

This group, Circa Paleo, does an amazing job performing a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir"
 Here, check it out:

Circa Paleo haven't been to the Michigan Renaissance Festival in a couple of years, but I'm hoping they return soon!
And, finally, a real live Renaissance musical group known as Musica Royale. They do honest, traditional Renaissance music, including "Early One Morning" (the theme from 1960's kids show, The Friendly Giant, on CBC TV)

A daily parade takes place. Many of the participants and vendors take up signs and march throughout the grounds of Hollygrove, hawking their wares and performances.

See the young lady holding the "Horns" sign? That's my daughter-in-law, who is married to my son who plays with Bocca Music (see photo somewhere above).

Yep –I have a very entertaining family!

Yes, there is also a jousting match, but my pictures have not turned out good enough to post. It is pretty cool, though.

I did, however, photograph a knight and his lady.

 Now, I saved the more authentically dressed RenFest folk for last (besides the knight and his lady above). I was pleased to see that there were people who really made a very good attempt to wear accurate clothing - at least as far as my untrained eye could tell. Huzzah to these good folk!

A milkmaid and her friend.

The Queen's court leads the parades for Her Highness
Bow down before the Queen knaves!

Our milk maid was very happy to see Her Majesty.

Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she didn't have a lot to say

Our final photo of our jaunt through the Michigan Renaissance Fantasy Festival shows me with my daughter-in-law.

Samm has multiple outfits she wears at RenFest, some more accurate than others. The unicorn horn on her head is not real. Neither is my Gettysburg shirt.

I hope that you enjoyed this "through the looking glass" sort of time-traveling. When you take the RenFest for what it is, you realize that it can be a pretty darn good time!