Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War’

Into the History
by Johnna McEntee

18th Century Cloaks – Part I

According to weather experts, a “Little Ice Age” was taking place from about the 16th-19th centuries, making winters even colder for our counterparts in the past. We’ve all seen the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas of 1776 with icy chunks bashing against his boat—the General looks stoic, but you can see that it’s cold. In the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze over so completely that people could walk back and forth from Staten Island to Manhattan. That’s cold.

Picture Caption: Washington Crossing the Delaware, Leutze, Emanuel (1851)

For those who have participated in winter camps, you know there is no escaping it – no matter how close you sit to the fire or how much you stoke the stove, some part of you is always, somehow, still frozen.

Enter the 18th century cloak: cold weather gear sturdy enough to brave even the most bitter New England winter.

In the 18th century, a “cloak” was the name for the outer-garment, which could be a shorter, hip-length garment or a longer, full-length version. A “cape” in the 18th century was the name for the modern-day collar, or a smaller, shorter piece of fabric over the longer layer that covered the shoulders (see General Washington’s cloak for an example of an attached cape in the painting above) . As cloaks became shorter and shorter and multiple layers of capes were added to the garment, the terms “cloak” and “cape” came to be synonymous.

-Part II of this short, three-part series, will look more into cloak color popularity.-


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Straying a bit from our regular education posts to let you know that we’ll be at the Sons of Liberty Trade Fair this weekend – January 21-22 at the Canter’s Cave 4-H camp in Jackson, OH.

For many of us in the midwest, this will be the first event/trade fair of the year.  For those of you in the South or who are able to travel, you may be currently enjoying the Alafia rendezvous in Florida.  That’s an event that we hope one day to attend! 
If you happen to be near the southwest Ohio area or don’t mind a little drive, we encourage you to stop by the Sons of Liberty Trade Fair.  It’s a smaller fair in the scope of some of the others that we attend, but it has wonderful vendors in a beautiful setting — it’s a great way to start the year! Pre-1840s items including heavily researched and very historically accurate tinware by our friends Kelly and Shay at Hot Dip Tin, guns and accoutrements, native american flutes by Ghost Owl Flutes, stunning glassware from Bushnell Bottles and much more – including our items from Hidden Dirk!  We’ll have some in-stock clothing, beauty items, toys, games, handcrafts and beautiful works of art from Wheeler Woodworking including bible boxes, jewelry and notions boxes.
This starts off our calendar as one of almost 15 events we’ll be attending this year, and we are so excited to get the trade fair season started…that means outdoor rendezvous season is just around the corner for us!  You can view the full list of events that we will be participating in during 2012 here.
We’ll do a brief follow-up on Monday along with our Museum Monday post.  Are you heading to Jackson this weekend? Leave us a comment and let us know, or stop by and visit with us at Canter’s Cave. We certainly hope to see you there!

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Today we finalize our look at Twelfth Night traditions from Johnna McEntee’s article through the “Into the History” series at Hidden Dirk Mercantile.

Into the History
by Johnna McEntee

Twelfth Night Traditions – Part IV

(continued from Part III) The mummers weren’t the only ones who would dance the night away during Twelfth Night. Formal balls were held at the estates of the gentry in every town for the occasion. Not only a night of celebration, but also a chance to “see and be seen” as part of society’s elite, gentlemen and ladies would dress in their finest and enjoy chamber music, civilized dancing (like minuets), and of course, elaborate food, drinks  and Twelfth Night cake.

Photo Caption: A lavish 18th Century Ball

Having such a large celebration for such a long period of time was the perfect reason to visit family from far away. These impromptu reunions and pre-planned parties were the perfect time to hold weddings – as George Washington and Martha Custis knew when they held their wedding on Twelfth Night (January 6) 1759. 

The Washington’s loved Twelfth Night celebrations, even more so than Christmas day – even though they were both incredibly devout Christians. We get a very clear view of their activities from December 25-January 6 in the writings of Washington’s journal and other papers. On Christmas, George and Martha would attend church, then for the rest of the day, George would sit at his desk and finalize any end-of-the-year business for his plantation. On Twelfth Night, the Washington’s were busy entertaining guests all day – from breakfast until when they started their own Twelfth Night party. 

But, all good things must come to an end. As Twelfth Night parties waned, then came the time for each home to extinguish their Yule log. With some ceremony, some charcoal from the log was stored away for use in the next year’s Yule fire. Just like with many Druid beliefs that certain plants in the home would protect it from lightning and evil spirits, it was thought that keeping the Yule log charcoal would also prevent lightning or fire from damaging the home.

The war years of the mid-1800s saw the gradual demise of the celebrations of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas started to play a bigger role in popular culture and New Year’s became the “end” of the holiday season. But a community celebration of dancing, drinking, street parades and the loosening of social norms is still alive and well on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras – the closest thing we will get to a true Twelfth Night celebration in our modern times.

Happy Twelfth Night, everyone! I hope this year is joyous and prosperous for you and your family!

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General George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis were married January 6, 1759 at Martha’s estate in New Kent, Virginia.   In celebration of their anniversary, we thought we’d take a quick look at what was worn by the happy couple for this Museum Monday focus.

Although the most well-known painting of the Washington’s wedding is the lithograph below by Lemecier available from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, it wasn’t painted until 1853 – well after the actual wedding date occurred, which was quite common during that time period.  This date difference most likely is the reason Martha Washington’s wedding gown  in the painting (as imagined by the artist almost 100 years after the event) is quite different from the replication gown housed at Mount Vernon.

Descriptions of the Washingtons’ wedding attire are thus:

“Martha was married in a yellow brocade dress that was trimmed with lace at the neck and sleeves. Some historians describe her wedding dress as a gold damask dress.

Underneath her gown she wore a white silk petticoat with silver threads. Her shoes were purple satin and trimmed in silver metallic lace and sequins. She wore pearls in her hair. George wore ‘a blue suit with a white satin waistcoast and blue buckles on his shoes.’ “
Source: Ruth Ashby, George & Martha Washington, page 17.
Mt. Vernon has the following gown on display as Martha Washington’s wedding attire:
Although the gown currently featured at Mt. Vernon is a replication, Mrs. Washington’s original shoes are actually still at Mt. Vernon.  The last time they were brought out for public display was a brief 42 days in 2009 and, due to their fragile condition, there is no expectation for them to be displayed again for quite some time.  However, shoe-aholics can still get a glimpse of the very stylish shoe Martha specially ordered for her wedding, as they have been painstakingly replicated as seen below.  These are the shoes currently shown with the replicated dress at Mt. Vernon.

Some may find it odd that the bride chose such “unusual” colors for her wedding ensemble.  The tradition of white bridal gowns actually didn’t start until 1840 when the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert made it the prefered color of brides who opted to follow in the footsteps of the Queen’s choice of gown color. Although brides may have worn white to their weddings prior to the mid 19th century, it wasn’t expected, nor the norm.  After 1840 however, the fashion trend stuck.

The purple and gold color combination she chose for her special day was worn often by Martha, as seen in this reconstruction portrait of what historians and anthropologists best believed she looked like in her 20s, when George and she first met.

Photo: The Washington Post, Courtesy of Michael Deas

Although not much in imagery through paintings or replications exist regarding Mr. Washington’s wedding suit, we can imagine it could be something similar to this:
George and Martha certainly had a savvy sense of style for their wedding.  But more importantly, they had a vast love for each other that held strong through 40 years, till President George Washington’s death in 1799.  Hidden Dirk Mercantile wishes a happy anniversary to the “First Couple” of our nation!

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Affordable 18th century historic reproductions for the discriminating interpreter. Our selection includes ladies, children and men’s clothing and exceptional items for the home or revolutionary war era camp, period film pieces and museum quality items.

Welcome to Hidden Dirk Mercantile

Education, historical preservation, practicality and affordability surrounds each and every one of Hidden Dirk’s products.  Our mission is to not only make the outfitting of your reenactment life fun, but affordable and educational as well.  A Hidden Dirk historian has carefully researched books, image plates, contemporary newspapers and other primary documents so that we can bring you the most historically accurate garments, leisure items and fine home goods. With Hidden Dirk, authenticity is paramount to our foundation and we aim to share with our patrons the back-stories on how these items came to exist, their cultural significance and the the role they played during the 18th century.

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