May 31, 2012

"Artithmetic Made familiar and easy..."

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been reading through Arithmetic Made familiar and easy to Young Gentlemen and Ladies. In general it covers basic math using the same rules that I was taught as a child.  A few things stand out as being different from what I learned, however.

First, the word "cypher" is used instead of "zero".[1]  This is easy enough to get used to, and, to my ears at least, sounds quaint and colonial.  The author also uses "units" instead of "ones" to describe the right-most digit in a number.

Next, when teaching addition, the author describes arranging numbers in the same way that I was taught, but the numbers are added from the bottom to the top instead of from top to bottom.[2]  After reading this, the phrase "add up the numbers" does make more sense now.

Subtraction was described just as I had learned it.  Multiplication was slightly different.  Where I was taught to draw a zero when moving to the next line of a multiplication, the author leaves a blank space, only drawing a cypher if the multiplicand contains one.[3]  One thing that hasn't changed is the recommendation to memorize a multiplication table.[4]

Division is the rule that looks the most different to my modern eye.  The process of dividing a number is the same, but the layout of the numbers is different.  The author uses parentheses to separate the divisor, dividend, and quotient.[5]

For example, 612 divided by 3 would look like this:  3 ) 612 ( 204

As someone who might portray a colonial shopkeeper, these slight differences in format are interesting, as they could add detail to a character as they keep their books, or teach others the basics of mathematics.

In addition to teaching basic arithmetic, Arithmetic Made familiar and easy contains a wealth of other period information.  The author uses examples of money, weights, measures, and time to illustrate the concepts that he is teaching.  In some cases, he has provided conversion tables, so that the student can see, for example, that 16 drams is equal to 1 ounce.[6]

As I read through the text, I started making notes of all the measures that were mentioned.  I think I'm going to put together a page of conversion charts that I can keep handy, and possibly build a small application that will convert items for me.  I think this will be useful as I read other period sources, at least until I become familiar enough with the various terms to not need the cheat-sheet.

My favorite example problem so far:

"A Man overtaking a Maid, who was driving a Flock of Geese, said to her, Goodmorrow, Sweetheart, whither are you going with your 99 Geese? Sir, said she, you mistake the Number; for if I had as many more, and half as many more, and one fourth part as many, then I should have but 99. The Question is, how many Geese she had?"[7]

[1] Arithmetic Made familiar and easy to Young Gentlemen and Ladies, Being the Second Volume of the Circle of the Sciences, &c., (London: John Newbery, 1748) (accessed May 25, 2012), 3.

[2] Ibid. 11.

[3] Ibid. 56.

[4] Ibid. 52.

[5] Ibid. 73.

[6] Ibid. 21.

[7] Ibid. 183.

May 26, 2012


As I've been researching and fleshing out my persona, I've been wondering about his education.  Being a bookbinder, and possibly a printer or bookseller as well, I'm assuming that he would, at the very least, be literate.  In addition to reading, I would guess that he also has basic writing and math skills.

Yesterday I spent some time looking into writing in the time period.  It would appear that a style of what is now considered calligraphy, Copperplate Round, or Round Hand, was a popular handwriting of the time.  I did some general internet searches and reading, but nothing really exciting enough to write about.

While I was reading, I did, however, come across something interesting on a blog called Slightly Obsessed.  In particular, the post Run like the Devil from the Excise Man got my attention.  First, the main image is of a nicely bound journal.  More importantly, though, is the mention of taxes and accounting for businesses.  These are two topics that I immediately added to my research list, as they would definitely affect my bookbinder.  This is also the point where I decided that Eli Davis was definitely an educated man.  He would, at the very least, have to be educated enough to run his own business.

Sufficiently sidetracked in my research now, I began looking for accounting books of the time.  My good friend Google Books turned up a few things, including Book-keeping Methodised by John Mair, printed in 1772, and An Essay on Book-Keeping by William Webster, which was mentioned in the Slightly Obsessed post.

While I was looking through these books, I began to wonder about how Eli might have learned arithmetic.  I remembered hearing the term "Learning his cyphers" one time in regards to learning math.  I typed "Cyphers" into the Google Books search box, filtered by dates between 1735 and 1776, and found Arithmetic Made Familiar and easy to Young Gentlemen and Ladies, printed during 1748 in London.

The preface of the book begins by stating that fractions will not be covered in the text as "most common Business may be carried on with the Knowledge of Whole Numbers only..."[1]

"Okay, good," I thought with a chuckle, "Everything I need to know about business, I can learn from this book."

I read more of the preface.  After a long history of the origin of arithmetic, the author writes something interesting about how various cultures do calculations.  Some calculated on their fingers, without using a pen and paper. Some used grain.  The Chinese, he states "do not much regard Rules in their Calculations, instead of which (Father le Comte tells us) they use an Instrument made of a Plate a Foot and a half long, across which are fitted ten or twelve Iron Wires, whereon are strung little round Balls: By drawing these together, and dispersing them again one after another, they calculate with great Ease and Expedition."[2]

The author had just described an abacus.  Since they were known in 1748, I wondered if they may have been used by New England business owners in 1776.  Something else to add to the research list.

After finishing the preface, I continued reading, covering a few chapters of the book, including notation, addition, and subtraction.  I think I'll cover that reading in another post.

One final thought from the author that I thought was interesting. In the introduction, the author explains how learning arithmetic is useful to those who would go into business, or to those who would like to improve their station in life.  He ends by stating: "Even the Ladies themselves, who have generally the Care of the domestic Expense of a Family ought therefore to have a proper Share of this useful Accomplishment."[3]

That one statement gives an interesting glimpse into the social world of the 18th century.

[1] Arithmetic Made familiar and easy to Young Gentlemen and Ladies, Being the Second Volume of the Circle of the Sciences, &c., (London: John Newbery, 1748) (accessed May 25, 2012), A2.

[2] Ibid. A6.

[3] Ibid. 2.

May 25, 2012

Bookbinder Ads & Banishment

My copy of the Spring 2012 issue of American Ancestors magazine arrived in the mail yesterday.  In it, there was a mention that members of the NEHGS have online access to the Readex collection 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, Early American Newspapers, Series I 1690-1876.

Armed with this information, I headed to my computer last evening and began playing.  Keying the term "bookbinder" into the search box after logging in via my NEHGS account, and limiting the search to the year 1776, turned up 22 individual articles.  As I began looking through them, I saw that they were all ads for bookbinders, mostly in New York.  The others were from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Boston.  Some of the advertisements were duplicates, printed in more than one issue of a particular newspaper.  The ads are interesting on their own, easily establishing the trade in New England, and giving a bit of insight into the occupation.  It appears that many of the bookbinders also sold the books, along with other items such as stationary.  A couple mention printing as well.  It looks like my persona could open up his options, and if I ever decided to pursue it, I might have a good basis for a small business if I ever attend reenactment events as a participant.

The ad below, from the Connecticut Courant, shows that the advertiser was not only a bookbinder, but also a stationer and bookseller.  It also gives a flavor of the political atmosphere of the time.  The Hartford printing office is also mentioned, which, the way I read it, was probably a separate business.

The next three ads come from The Constitutional Gazette, printed in New York.  The first and third again show that bookbinders also sold books and stationary, and that the topics of items being printed were related to the current events of the time.  The second item below is a help-wanted ad, looking for the services of skilled labor.

Another help-wanted ad appears in Boston, this time looking for someone to move to a different state.
Nathaniel Patten again appears, this time in The New-London Gazette, looking for rags for the purpose of making paper.  I like how this ad states how important paper was to the "true Friends to America."
 Next we find advertisements from The New-York Gazette.  Again we find stationers, booksellers, and the military.  These ads contain some of my favorite wording.  From Valentine Nutter: "The said NUTTER binds all Kinds of Printed and Paper BOOKS, in the neatest Manner, on the shortest Notice."  And from Philip Brooks: "He will study to give general satisfaction to his customers, and flatters himself the public will favor him with some encouragement."
 My marketing co-workers would love this one from The Providence Gazette.  It outlines a new publication to be sold by J. Douglas McDougal, Stationer and Bookbinder.  The ad summarizes the dramatic contents of the new book, including mentions of scenes from Lexington and Bunker Hill.  My favorite part, though, is the mention of a discount for bulk buyers. "Great allowances will be made to those who take a quantity."
 Finally, Nathaniel Patten shows up again looking for linen for paper-making.  This ad from Norwich, Connecticut uses the same wording as that of the The New-London Gazette, but the type is set differently, changing the emphasis.
In addition to all of this great information about bookbinders in 1776, I also found the primary documentation that I was looking for in regards to the Banishment Act of the State of Massachusetts.  The full text of the act was printed in The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser on October 22, 1778 in Boston[1].  William McAlpine, Bookbinder, is listed in the first column.

[1] The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser; Vol. 11 Iss. 531, Boston, Massachusetts (22 Oct 1778): p. 1. Digital image online, accessed 24 May 2012.

May 23, 2012

Establishing a Home

With my persona's trade of bookbinding documented within New England, I think my next step is to establish a home for my character.  The easiest thing to do would be have him reside in Boston, as I have already established that bookbinders did work in that town during my target time period.  However, I'd also like to research New Hampshire and Vermont, since those states were on the migration path of my own real ancestors.

I started with Vermont.  Rather than look specifically for bookbinders within the state, I decided to look up the date of the first printing press used in the area.  After all, without a printer, a bookbinder isn't very useful.  This is an assumption on my part, but I think it's a comfortable assumption.

A quick Google search turns up that the first printing press used within Vermont was known as the "Dresden Press".  A search of Google Books for that term brings up a copy of The Vermonter, from August of 1905, which tells the history of printing in Vermont.  A couple of passages rule out the idea of my character, Eli Davis, living in Vermont.

"In 1777, when Vermont declared its independence, not more than 20,000 people inhabited the State. In view of the sparseness of the population in these early days it is not strange that the New Hampshire Grants were without a press during the Colonial era and that during the Revolution Vermont had no newspaper published within its borders."[1]

"The year that witnessed the organization of the New State Government of Vermont - 1778 - was marked by the establishment of the first printing office within the territory then recognized for political purposes as a part of the New Hampshire Grants. The site of the printing office was in the township of "Dresden," a name given to a district located on the east side of the Connecticut river, which included the older settlements in that section, and by an arrangement of the people themselves was under the jurisdiction of the independent government of Vermont and had representatives in the Constitutional Convention at Windsor, July 2, 1777, and afterward in the Vermont Legislature, in 1778."[2]

It appears that printing in the current state of Vermont was not available until two years after my target date.  Also, if the first press was actually set up on the east side of the Connecticut river, the press was actually in what is now New Hampshire.  With this information, I'll rule out Vermont as Eli's home.

[1] Charles S. Forbes, "History of Vermont Newspapers," The Vermonter, 11, no. 1 (1905): 9, (accessed May 23, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

May 22, 2012

What to Research Next?

With some basic information about my character established, I need to determine what to research next.  Over the past few days, discussions on the 18th Century Life list have brought up the topics of religions of the time, getting started in the hobby, and clothing.  Any of these would be good topics to research next.

In addition to those topics, I need to research the trade of bookbinding some more.  I've done reading about this in the past, but more to learn the basics of the craft as opposed to documenting its use.  I did do a little general Google research on the history of bookbinding last night.  I also made an attempt at finding a couple of books that I own about the subject.  One turned up, but not the other.

Since part of the goal of this project is to fully document what I can, I suppose I should first establish that the craft of bookbinding did exist during the time period.

In 1775, The New and Complete Dictionary of The English Language lists two terms that document the craft in the time period that I'm researching:

"Book'binder (s. from book, and bind) One whose business is to bind books."

And below it:

"Book'binding (s. from book, and bind) The art of binding books."[1]

Now to document that the profession existed in New England in, or around, the year 1776.

A simple search for the term "1776" on the website of The American Bookbinders Museum returns 17 results.  One result is for a piece of equipment. Ten of the results are for bookbinders outside of New England.  Of the remaining six entries, four are for William MacAlpine (also spelled McAlpine), and two are for James While, both of Boston, Massachusetts.

Clicking on the entries, it appears that both men are mentioned in the book Bookbinding in America, which I've requested via Inter-library loan from my local library.  One of the entries for William MacAlpine also mentions that he is listed on the "Banishment Act of the State of Massachusetts, 1778."

The Banishment Act sounds like it would be a good primary reference for documenting the trade in New England.

Google searches on the Banishment Act show that it was passed in 1778 to prevent certain people from returning to Massachusetts upon penalty of arrest or death.  A few sites have transcripts of the act, and William McAlpine, Bookbinder, is listed as one of those people.  The genealogist in me, however, wants to see primary documentation, or at least a transcription with a citation.  Without a good citation, it's not documentation, it's just a good clue.

Searching further, it appears that the best way to see a copy of the actual act is through the Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800, put out by Readex.  The only way to do that, it appears, is to find a library that subscribes to the series.  Looks like it may be time to start researching libraries in the area, and finding out what their visiting rules are.

While looking for information about the Banishment Act, I did run across another mention of William MacAlpine.  Apparently, in 1748, he had some property stolen by three people.  His name is mentioned on a warrant for their arrest: 

"3 The Jurors present Ann Grafton Cuffe & Quoma
Negroes as Above for Stealing sundry things from
Walter McAlpine of Boston Bookbinder of the Value
of Twenty pounds --"

The warrant is dated 12 July, 1748.  The reverse side of the warrant states that on 25 July, 1748, the three persons named were arrested and secured to appear in court.[2]

This primary document, combined with the mention of William MacAlpine in the Banishment Act, places a bookbinder in Boston, Massachusetts between the years of 1748 and 1778, which falls nicely into the timeline of my persona.  I'd still like to research the Banishment Act some more to see if I can track down a primary or cited source, but I think I can consider the trade of bookbinder in the location of New England documented. 

[1] John Ash, The New and Complete Dictionary of The English Language, (London: 1775) (accessed May 22, 2012).

[2] Warrant for the arrest of Ann Grafton, Cuffee (a slave), and Quoma (a slave), 12 July 1748. Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Historical Society. Digital image online accessed May 22, 2012.

May 21, 2012

What's in a Name? - Part 2

Quick research into my first name didn't turn up anything for the 18th century, so I decided to take a different approach to my persona's name.  Logging into the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I did an advanced search for names starting with the letter E in all vital records in 1735 (the birth year of my persona), refined by birth records, and the keyword "son".  In theory, this would give me a list of names of boys born in New England in 1735 whose names begin with the letter E.  This search wasn't exhaustive, but my goal was to find an appropriate 18th century name, not to do a complete name study.

The results of my search turned up 19 unique names in 65 records.  The results, ranked by popularity, are below.

  • 13 - Ebenezer
  • 11 - Edward
  • 06 - Ephraim
  • 05 - Elifha
  • 05 - Elisha
  • 05 - Ezekiel
  • 04 - Elijah
  • 03 - Edmund
  • 02 - Eliphalet
  • 02 - Ezekell
  • 01 - Elbert
  • 01 - Eli
  • 01 - Elias
  • 01 - Eliazer
  • 01 - Elkanah
  • 01 - Elnathan
  • 01 - Enoch
  • 01 - Enos
  • 01 - Ezeakel
My next step was simply to choose a name.

Ebenezer was the most popular, but my 21st century minds automatically associates the name with Charles Dickens, so that one was out. Edmund was a possibility, since I had an ancestor named Edmund.  A few of the other names were appealing, just due to their spelling.  In the end, I decided on Eli.  Spoken aloud, Elroy and Eli are close, and I sort of like the sound.

My persona now has a name: Eli Davis.

The final step is to actually document the name.  Another advanced search on the NEHGS site, this time for birth records for the first name Eli from 1735, brought up 2 records.  The first was for Eli Metcalf, son of Eleazer and Margaret Metcalf, born in Wrentham, Massachusetts on December 4th [1].  The second was for Eli Luther, son of Eliezer and Hannah Luther, born in Swansea, Massachusetts on July 23rd [2].

Since Eli Metcalf was born in December, the same month as the birth date I have chosen for my persona, I've decided to use his date of birth as that of my fictional Eli Davis.

[1] Thomas W. Baldwin, compiler, Vital Records of Wrentham Massachusetts, To The Year 1850. Volume I - Births, (Boston: F.M. Gilson Company, 1910) (accessed May 21, 2012), 148.

[2] H.L. Peter Rounds, transcriber, Jane Fletcher Fiske and Margaret F. Costello, editors, Vital Records of Swansea, Massachusetts to 1850, (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992) (accessed May 21, 2012).

May 20, 2012

What's in a Name?

As I stated in my last post, every person begins with a birth.  Following that birth is a name.  There are a few ways that I could approach this.

Some re-enacting groups choose period-appropriate names for their personas.  It seems that most of the RevWar re-enactors that I’ve interacted with, though, use their own legal names.  There’s nothing wrong with either approach, however, I have sort of an unusual name, at least for modern times.  If I’m going to use my legal name, it would be neat to research it to see if it would have been a name that would have been in use in New England in 1776.

My last name is easy to document.  The History of Rindge, New Hampshire lists one of my ancestors, Randall Davis, as one of the signers of the Association Test of June 1, 1776 [1].  Several others with the Davis surname also signed the document.  So, the surname Davis did exist in New England in 1776.

What about my first name, Elroy?  That one is tougher.  It’s a rare name in modern times, and I can’t recall seeing it in any documentation from the time-period that I’m looking for.

Time for some research.

A quick Google search of “Elroy” turns up all sorts of interesting things.  A couple of towns named Elroy, a clothing line, a baseball player (actually a distant cousin), an actor, plus a few pages that are actually about me and things I’ve done.  Not much on the name itself though.  Refining the search to “Elroy name” turns up a lot of sites to give expectant parents ideas for baby names.  The name is of French origin, meaning “the king”.  The name seems to have peaked in popularity in the 1920s, though the data starts in 1880, which isn’t very helpful for my purposes.

A Google Books search turns up at least one promising hit.  A search for “Elroy” in books published between 1 Jan 1735 and 31 Dec 1776 found a reference to the name in an English-language periodical.  Unfortunately there was only a snippet view, so it was difficult tell the usage.  It was the middle name of a playwright, it appears, but I couldn’t tell the location.  Further Google searching on the name of the playwright finds that he actually lived in the 19th century, so the date of the book appears to have been misidentified in my original search results.

An search turns up little regarding my name in 18th century New England.  A search of databases on the New England Historic Genealogical Society is similar.  The name does appear in the 1800s in New England, but I’m not having much luck finding anything from the 1700s.

It’s time to take a different approach to my persona’s name.

[1] Ezra S. Stearns, History of The Town of Rindge, New Hampshire, From The Date of The Rowley Canada or Massachusetts Charter, to The Present Time, 1736 - 1874, With a Genealogical Register of The Rindge Families, (Boston: George H. Elllis, 1875) (accessed June 9, 2012), 121. The Association Test was a document which allowed citizens of the American colonies to “show determination in joining our American Brethren in defending the lives, liberties and property of the inhabitants of the United Colonies,” and to “with Arms oppose the Hostile proceedings of the British Fleets and Armies against the United American Colonies”.  The declaration was originally sent out by the New Hampshire Committee of Safety to the selectmen of Rindge on April 12, 1776.  According to the transcript starting on page 121 of The History of Rindge, all eligible men of the town signed the document, with none opposed, on June 1, 1776.

Back to Basics

To keep myself from going into overload with ideas and research topics, I need to go back to the basics.  My main goal is to “Portray an 18th century bookbinder”.

Okay.  The 18th century was a long time.  I need to narrow that down a bit.  I’m interested in the history of the American Revolution, and most of the lists that I subscribe to are based on that period.  The Revolution occurred between the years of 1775 and 1783.  I’ve just narrowed my date range down from 100 years to eight, and my main goal has been revised a bit.Portray a bookbinder who lived between the years of 1775 and 1783.

To keep things simple, I’ll base other vital statistics on myself.  I’ll be 40 years-old this year, so my bookbinder will be 40.  I live in New England, so he’ll live in New England.  So far, so good, and even more refined.

Portray a 40 year-old bookbinder living in New England between the years of 1775 and 1783.

I feel myself getting closer to the point where I need to start researching and documenting, but I think I can refine my main goal just a bit more.  If I pick a specific year, I can narrow my scope a bit more.  An exciting time to be in the printing, and therefore binding, business would be after the Declaration of Independence was ratified and distributed.  That would put me in late 1776.  This would also have been the time of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and The American Crisis.  This seems like a good time frame for me, as I feel these works were as important to the Revolution as the military was.

Locking down a specific year does a few things for me.  First, it further refines my main goal.  Second, it gives me a target for research.  Third, it starts to flesh out my persona.  If he was 40 in 1776, then his birth date was sometime in 1736, or possibly late 1735, depending on the month.

Portray a 40 year-old bookbinder living in New England in 1776.

I could narrow my focus a bit more by choosing a part of New England, but that will require some research and documentation.  If I want to continue basing the persona on my own life, he would live in Vermont.  Were there bookbinders in Vermont in 1776?  My guess is no, but it will take some research to find out.  Massachusetts is a more likely place, but there may be other areas to look into.  I’ll add this item as the first on my research and documentation list.

With my main goal refined fairly well, I can start fleshing out the persona.  Every life starts with a birth, so I’ll start there.

As I mentioned above, if he was 40 in 1776, he would have been born in 1735 or 1736.  For the sake of ease, I’ll use December as a birth month.  It’s easy to remember, because, well, that’s when I was born.  So, my persona’s birth date will be December, 1735.  I could also pick a day, but I think I’ll see if I can find out anything about December of 1735 first.  It might be neat to have his birthday coincide with a large snowstorm or something of that sort, just to add some flavor.

So, there we have it.  My first bit of work into entering the re-enacting/living history/experimental archaeology hobby has been done.  I will portray a bookbinder, born in December of 1735, as he lived in New England during the last months of 1776.

The Beginning

The first step toward my goal is to decide on a persona.  The next step is to begin researching and documenting whatever I may need to.

On the surface, these both seem pretty straight-forward.  I have an interest in a few different crafts from the time period.  The easiest thing to do, then, is to create a persona around one of these interests.

I began by jotting down ideas in a notebook.  While I have an interest in military history, I’m not really interested in creating a military persona, or joining a military group.  My interests lie more in the artisan/craftsperson direction.  Because of this, I’m going to work on a civilian impression.

Here’s where things already start to get interesting.  What sort of civilian do I want to create?  Unlike military units, where a person may be constrained by what their historical unit was like, the world of civilians is wide open.  Obviously, I needed to set some constraints for myself.

I jotted down a few job descriptions that might interest me:  Printer, Bodger, Book-Binder, Carpenter, Cabinet-maker.

After this, my thoughts turned toward what I might need for each impression.  Clothing and equipment would need to be based on the profession.  Based on the re-enactor lists that I subscribe to, though, there are some basics that every man would have.  I jotted down a quick list of what I could remember.
  • Shirt
  • Stockings
  • Breeches
  • Shoes
  • Waistcoat
  • Coat
  • Hat
  • Glasses
  • Neckstock
 Then I started making lists of possible tools for each profession, again based on previous reading.  My lists looked like this:

  • Needle
  • Tub
  • Press
  • Paper
  • Lathe
  • Tools
  • Shave Horse
  • Draw Knife
As you can see, my lists weren’t very long, as my thought process shifted back to clothing.  My thoughts actually wandered all over the place at this point.  I’ll try to describe my thought process as I scribbled notes into my notebook.

To do this right, I’d want to hand sew everything.  This led me to wondering what sort of materials were used for sewing, in particular, what needles were made of.  A quick Google search for “18th century needles” led me to a vendor’s webpage.  The page listed all sorts of things that I hadn’t been looking for: needle cases, thimbles, scissors, and so on.  I had suddenly expanded on my list of things that I may need to obtain, and document.  Do I need to document a needle or thimble?  Probably not. But if I can, why not?

Okay, time to reign in the thought process before I get too far ahead of myself.

I stopped making notes and wrote down two goals:

Main Goal: Portray an 18th century bookbinder
Secondary Goal: Make as much as possible using period techniques

Of course, this second goal kicked my brain into high-gear again, and I began wondering what “using period techniques” meant to me.  How far do I want to go to get into this persona?

My first thought, since I was already writing in a notebook, was to keep my project log by hand.  After all, computers didn’t exist in the 18th century.  What would I need to keep a log by hand?  Well, handwriting.  The time-period had a different style.  I’d also need a journal.  Easy right?  After all, I’m going to be a bookbinder, I can make a journal.  I’d need to journal to document the making of the journal though.  Okay, stop thinking in circles.  What else?  Oh. Language.  In addition to proper handwriting, it should be written with period-appropriate language.

Sudden thought jump.  This is a hobby for me.  I wonder what people at that time had for hobbies?  Did they have hobbies?  Did my bookbinder have a workshop full of wood-tools at home?  Why not?  Okay, must research hobbies of the time.

As you can see, for a newbie, even brainstorming is not simple.  Time to stop now, and take it once piece at a time.


As an amateur history buff, I subscribe to several mailings lists that revolve around the hobby of researching and re-enacting the time period of the American Revolution.  While not a re-enactor myself, I find the lists interesting and full of information.

Generally these lists revolve around the military aspects of the time.  Occasionally, though, the topics wander to civilian life, or the sub-culture of re-enacting in general.  It’s not unusual for these conversations to turn to the subjects of authenticity, level of participation, documentation, and so on.  Since these lists are public, many types of people subscribe to them.  These people self-describe themselves using various term: re-enactor, living historian, amateur researcher, sutler, craftsman, and more.

A conversation a few days ago made me wonder how I would label myself.  I’m not a re-enactor.  I don’t dress in period clothing, or attend events.  I’m not a living-historian who volunteers at a museum or other venue to help educate the public.  Though I do research topics that interested me, I wouldn’t label myself a researcher.  My best description of myself is a dabbler.  I read when I can, and I occasionally make attempts at recreating period items.

What is this project about then?

One topic that comes up on the lists from time to time is the subject of new people coming into the hobby, and how they perceive, and are perceived by, others in the hobby.  How do these people avoid mistakes, do research of their own, get involved, and find their fit?

This is my attempt.

As I mentioned above, I’m not a re-enactor.  I don’t belong to a re-enacting unit, and my involvement with the hobby is mostly passive, reading on the lists about what others are doing.  With this project, I’m going to do my best to re-create a person from the 18th century, documenting everything that I can.  Why document?  It’s part of the hobby.  Documentation helps explain the decisions a person makes when creating garments, tools, living conditions, etc.  In my case, since I don’t belong to a unit, and don’t currently have any material pieces, or an established re-enacting persona, I’ll be starting from scratch.