Friday, October 14, 2016

The Clements Library: A Sneak Peek

For those of you interested in attending the Clements Library workshop at 
The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s next year, here's a little taste of the reading room
that you will see!

I'll be posting a video soon too! Check the blog for more updates...


Friday, August 26, 2016

19th Century Motif: Anchors

Ahoy matey! A storm is a' brewin'! One the likes you eh ne'er seen! That's about all the ship talk I'll add to this post. Hopefully you'll sea see the massive amounts of jokes/puns I throw in later. After all, there's nothing more funny than talking about the ocean!

Now to my serious research. I keep seeing anchors pop up over and over again in 19th century literature, patterns, and yes jewelry! As a resident of the Great Lakes state, water is a fixture in my life. Every time I see a reference to an anchor/water related item, I rush back to my childhood on the dock at my Grandma's house. Catching fish. Jetting around in the boat. Pushing my sister off said dock. Somehow we survived a watery Michigan grave...
And yet Grandma still trusts me...

Hence the birth of a very, very, (very) late blog post, one that I should have published at the beginning of the summer. I'm a creature of habit and vacations seem to destroy that with one broad stroke. Enjoy my poirpoiseful research...

Anchors are really old. The idea of tying something down with a rock dates back to the Bronze Age. The ancient Greeks used baskets with stone or wood, creating friction on the sea floor to slow down the vessel. Wikipedia has more information about the types of anchors, but I don't need to get into that here. Function trumps form in the ancient times.

Eventually though, metal really happened. So did Christianity. Anchors really became a popular symbol when specific quotes in the bible used it, noting "hope" as an "anchor of the soul, sure and firm." (Hebrews 6:19-20) Anchors can be found in ancient Christian catacombs, sometimes accompanied by fish, crosses, or rings. Anchors are one of the oldest Christian symbols still in use.

I can imagine how tickled the Victorian lady would be. The Etruscan revival certainly brought almost pagan-like imagery, with the gods and goddesses. Then suddenly a tomb opens, revealing Christian symbols. With the religious attitudes of many women of the mid-19th century, such a find could validate the use of anchors as an appropriate symbol to adorn oneself. The tradition continues today!

Spoiler Alert: We're going to see anchors pop up often with a heart and a cross in symbolism. The cross represents faith, the heart is charity, and the anchor hope. Art of Mourning has an excellent article discussing this in great length because they are awesome!

Photographic Evidence
There's not a whole lot here in terms of jewelry. Anchors show up many times as a symbol, but not necessarily as adornment. Of all the sources I collect, this is usually the most difficult.
Fancy shirt, 1853

Just like the butterflies, anchors show up on clothing! And earrings/necklace too. I know the anchor means more than nautical themes, but I'm seeing that more with the spirit photography. What I love is that anchors are masculine enough for men to wear, and religious enough for women. Based on this evidence (and I'm sure more to come), anchors were worn in various ways during the mid-19th century and beyond that time.

Textual Documentation
Remember, I include painting, drawings, and actual text in this form of documentation. Why? Because I consider these "interpretations," or descriptions through the lens of the mid-19th century person. While still a primary source, they are how people of the time viewed a particular thing. Sometimes how they depict it doesn't match up with a surviving original or a CDV (have you seen the directions on some of those crafts? Not realistic!). Sometimes...they do!
Princess Charlotte Augusta Mathilde probably by William Beechey, 1790s
Godey's Lady's Book, February 1857
Kellogg & Bulkeley, 1860
Italian, 1861-67
Godey's Lady's Book, July, 1863

C.D.S.— Sent hair anchor 17th.
Godey's Lady's Book, January, 1864

The anchor presents itself through numerous avenues throughout the 19th century. From jewelry to slippers, it is obvious that the Victorian lady might have encountered the motif in a fashionable way. Besides the hair, it seems that the anchor in jewelry appeared to be a metal substance. Surviving originals will make this motif crystal clear. (Like water-see what I did there!)

Can someone track this for me? Date unknown
Can't source this ebay auction, my guess later 19th century 

Do I have you hooked? As is common with other motifs that I research, the anchor can be made in an assortment of materials. My absolute favorite is any of the dark stones, such as jet, bog oak, or gutta percha. That cut steel anchor at the top? Fabulous! I definitely see the mourning aspect of this motif, but not with every piece. Sentimental jewelry could certainly feature an anchor for deeper meaning.

My research took forever because of one thing. Research terms. If you're looking online for an original, many of them are misrepresented as mourning jewelry. Like seriously, I wasted so much time with my typical research terms. An unfortunate part about internet jewelry is that everyone seems to label everything mourning. A fortunate part about this is that you now know the terrible secret that usually unlocks almost any research block.

In the meantime, I did snag a lovely antique brooch with the three symbols. I don't have pictures of the original on hand (it's now safely put away and I'm loathe to move from the couch) but I do have a copy of it made from clay. Forgive the terrible photography; a new phone is in my immediate future. Also, this will be made available at some later date in my Etsy shop, which I will announce with grandeur and flourish. Expect flourish in your future.

It does feel nice to finally finish a research post, after a stream of events this summer. I have been shellfish with my research, and time did seem to get aweigh from me. It a-piers that I will be busy making it up to my readers! HAHA!

Thank you for tolerating my terrible puns. I promise to write more often, pinky swear. I have a blog post coming up about The Clements Library with absolutely no references to the ocean.



Friday, July 8, 2016

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s: A New Midwest Conference

Here I am, dusting off this old keyboard. Ha! I've actually been doing quite a bit, but the blog has been put aside. For trips. For Greenfield Village. For family. For a conference!

March 24-26 2017, Monroe Michigan

You've probably seen me share this on Facebook, at one point or another. I've mentioned the soiree or class topics, accompanied by a link to the page. On a very basic level, people are starting to hear about this. But now I need to go into depth. A deep sort of depth, a profound yawning. Tighten your corsets/braces, because it's about to get real!

What is this conference about anyway?

Our Mission
To organize The Citizen’s Forum of the 1860s to provide educational speakers and workshops for men, women, and teen Civil War reenactors, along with vendors who offer quality reenacting goods. We will create a welcoming environment for sharing knowledge and personal growth as a living historian.

I'd like to start by saying this conference is for everyone. Not just me, who is oddly obsessed with jewelry and hole-y paper. We want anyone who is interested in history to be able to walk into the room and feel welcome. Note that we said teen-I'll return to that later. Our educational offerings are meant to appeal to a large audience, from our lovers of mourning to bibliophiles. All will give documentation for further study, which is important when contributing research to the community as a whole. 

So there's a cool conference. 
What kind of stuff will be going on?

There will be so much to do! Friday night we are holding a period soiree at The Historic Sawyer Homestead. We have reserved the entire house for our amusements, which will include games, dancing, and food. I love everything about this conference, but if you know me, you really know that 
I love food.

The 19th Century block carriage step is still there too

During the day we will be holding some awesome workshops. Glenna Jo Christen plans to magically twirl her needle to make aprons, while Ken Giorlando, of Passion for the Past, will help refine a working impression (he convinces me to wear a runaway bonnet, so he's good at this!). Oh, and if you sign up early enough, there is a totally free research trip to the Clements Library in Ann Arbor. I have a separate blog post planned for the library!

And all that is just Friday. Here's a more complete list of the seminars/workshops:

  • In a Family Way: Pregnancy in the 1850-60s

  • Matching: A Retrospective Exhibition of American Civil War Era Wedding Photographs

  • Oh Good Grief; History of Mourning Practices

  • Doll Basics 101- 1850-1865

  • Warm Weather Wear for Men

  • 19th Century Entertainment for Children/Adults

  • Making Young People Feel Welcome at Events

  • Creating a Male Impression

  • Civil War Collections at The Clements Library

  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Joseph Holt and the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators

  • Lunch/Dinner: Not a seminar, but still really important

While all of this thoughtful learning takes places, we will have a juried vendor area. And designated shopping times! So learning doesn't interfere with shopping. Or vice versa, depending on your perspective of things...

Finally, we will have a museum of items, material culture from the 19th century. Clothing belonging to men/women/young people will be there to see. Jewelry, punch paper, housewives, all sorts of bits and pieces that give you more of a feel of the time period. It can be overwhelming to have this stuff bunched together in one place; we have a faster, more tech easy/savvy to help everyone learn. I'll give you more information when I have better pictures to explain it!
Apples: Our first defense against technology

Anticipate food, prize drawings, and at least one Kristen panic moment (WHERE IS MY CAR?). Expect to meet some pretty amazing Michigan people. From what I've gathered from our registration so far, expect to meet amazing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia people too. Really, just plan on hanging out with cool humans in general.

How will this conference impact the reenacting community as a whole?

This is a good question, that needs a serious answer. 
What seems to be one of the biggest complaints about reenacting? (Besides 90 degrees or our magical fake fires)? A lack of young people to participate.

I hear this often in many of the groups: young people are few and far between. Our demographic often consists of small children or middle age to older adults. How can we keep children interested enough to continue? What will attract young people to hang out in wool or corsets? Here it is:


Bring them in as members of the group, not just playthings in the background. Value their thoughts, highlight their success. Take the headstrong under your wing for future leadership roles. I don't want to say too much here, because this is my topic for the conference. In any case, if you're looking for ways increase your youth membership, civilian and military, attend this conference.
Hint: They do not grow on trees

Oh, and we have a discounted registration for teens. Speaking of registration...

Alright, sounds like fun.
Now tell me how much it will cost...

Here's a transparent breakdown of (1) adult registration. 

Registration: $110
Hotel 3 nights (optional): $180
Workshops (optional): $45
Teen accompanying you (optional?): $45

Add in a bit of fuel/food, and this entire educational experience will cost less than $500. We wanted to create an educational opportunity that can reach a large audience from different areas. And that $45 for teen registration is not a typo. We want to give an incentive to bring young people! Here are a few situations I've already seen pop up in just the short time we've published this conference:

-A Grandma has been looking for a way to connect with her granddaughter.
-An intelligent 15 year old boy wants to learn more about the Lincoln assassination.
-The teenage daughter of a reenactor has a mind for learning, and will contribute greatly.
-A few rough and tumble military kids will learn some proper civilian behavior.
-One little girl plans to open her own shop one day, and wants to research!

Maybe it's just the teacher in me, but hearing about these genuinely interested young people gives me such hope. Hope that when I retire, I'll be attending events run by these same kids. 
And when she gets an ego, I'll remind her that she took a bath in a bucket

Another thing. The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s is a non-profit organization, meaning that we don't intend to have any profit. We will be supporting the Historic Sawyer Homestead, and possibly other historic sites in the area. Education and community support are greatly intertwined!

In Conclusion...

We hope to see you there! I'll be posting more as the date draws near. In the meantime, you can like our Facebook page to receive updates:

Online registration is available too, with more information on the actual conference website:

While we still have the better part of year before the conference, space in certain workshops is limited. I hope you have an awesome 2016 season; stay safe and embrace history!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Atlanta 2016

My posts are a little out of order right now, unfortunately. And I haven't finished a research post in...forever! I promise to get back on track with those in the next week or two. I just can't miss the chance to share our experiences down in Georgia, the land of peaches and sweet tea.

First we stopped in Richmond Kentucky. The long, 10-hour drive needs an overnight stop! To my surprise, I found a battlefield nearby. The Battle of Richmond took place in late August, 1862, and was considered a Confederate victory. The museum featured a number of lovely exhibits, including a topographic map with a projector showing the battle. I highly recommend a visit, as they are just off of I-75 on the way down to Florida (a trip many Michiganders know well!).

We drove into town fairly tired of the road. While my fiance studied medical stuff, I took off to explore the area. Fayetteville is a gorgeous town heading south out of Atlanta, with so many little adventures along the way. Antique shops are my absolute favorite! I didn't take many pictures, but I found this one shop that I just HAD to share. Their Facebook page is everything I want in my life. 

My fiance tagged along for the next stop: the CDC. The Center for Disease Control headquarters is in Atlanta, and I was so excited to visit! We were a little surprised by the security; they thoroughly searched our car before entering. Upon reflection though, the number of biological hazards in one building requires careful selection of visitors. I'm personally very interested in various medical topics, such as hemorrhagic fevers (ebola) or the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many of the books I've read reference the CDC building in which we stood. It was a sort of medical fangirl moment for me!

Next we made a stop at the Smith Plantation. We learned a bit more about the daily, working life of a southern plantation. As a northerner, I do not have nearly as much exposure to such a different perspective of the 19th century. I particularly liked how the presenter of the house showed pictures of each family member, so we could visualize him/her throughout the tour. The presenter also noted how the Smith family was known for its "hoarding," and that they are still digging out treasures today. This includes the trunk of their eldest son Willie, who died at the end of the war. In 1987 researchers discovered his trunk in the attic, which held his (untouched for over 100 years) personal items from the campaign. It was a fascinating tour, and I highly recommend it if you're in the area!

 Our last and final stop during our tour of Atlanta: The Atlanta History Center! We both arrived quite famished, and decided to stop at The Swan Coach House for a quick bite. Let me make a few observations about our lunch...

#1 Everyone orders sweet tea down here
#2 Sunday brunch is a slow, comfortable affair
#3 My fiance and I are incredibly impatient people
#4 The food is excellent!
#5 Like seriously, what was that fruit salad thing?

We moved next to the elegant The Swan House. Extravagant doesn't come close to describing this palace of sorts. We glided around the rooms most gracefully. We clomped through like tourists, taking in every gilded lampshade and pressed sofa ruffle. While I do love to see the "fancy" from different time periods, I feel more at home with the simpler stuff. On a side note, they had an entire room dedicated to the "nursery," set up with children's toys/games for visiting children. It's nice to see museums adding an interactive portion to make history come alive for young people!

Perhaps my favorite spot at the history center was the Tullie Smith Farm, perhaps because it reminds me so much of Greenfield Village back home. (We just missed you Lindsey Foster!). However, there were no ropes in this building; one could walk freely into the rooms without barriers. I even found a cat, that I totally thought was a prop and then petted it. In my defense the cat was very still, and looked too perfect. I forgot the little guy's name, but he was too cute! Also, a man cuddled with turkeys and I petted a sheep. Altogether the perfect afternoon!

In the space of about a week, we traveled hundreds of miles, visited many history places, and ate oysters again (sorry no pics-I still love 'em!). While not my first choice for a spring break vacation (ahem, Colonial Williamsburg), Atlanta has so many treasures to explore. The people are nice, the food is good, and the history is bumpin'. If you're heading down south...stop by!

As I bring this (too long) post to a close, I came to a funny realization. Since late 2015, I have traveled out of Michigan at least once a month. There was Florida in December, Chickamauga in January, Ohio in February, Harrisburg/Gettysburg in March, and Atlanta in April. No wonder I've had trouble writing/updating my shop/organizing my life. May will busy here in Michigan, with a craft show, my sister's graduation, and the Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village. Busy little bee!
I'm oh so lucky to have the opportunities to do all of these things.

And as my Grandma would clearly point out...

She's a mover and a shaker!



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