Monday, September 30, 2019

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s 2020

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s 2020

This is our 4th conference!
Our second year in Maumee, Ohio
at the Wolcott Heritage Center

Take a look at what we have available this year, as we've added many more workshops. With twenty different workshops, there's a bit of something for everyone! There are also 4 seminars that are included with registration, as well as an awesome Friday night soiree, a bunch of vendors, and food/snacks available throughout the weekend.

Practical Diversions: The Early Art of Amusement


​“The Never Tiring Amusement:” Visiting the Circus
~Clarissa Doak
Lions and tigers and acrobats, oh my! Prepare to be amused as Clarissa Doak, (list your title/certification) discusses her research about the history of the circus in the United States. Learn what people did, what they wore, and the societal expectations of those in attendance. Visitors beware; even pick pockets plied their trade alongside the performers! Primary sources will show that the traveling show was a popular pastime, one that shaped the modern perspective of performance art and entertainment. Threads from that history can still be seen in our amusements today.

The Mystery of the Groundskeeper: Recreating the Frank family in Revolutionary America
~Shirley L. Green PhD
My great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Franklin, was a well-known landscaper in his small community of Annapolis Royale, Nova Scotia. He passed down the oral tradition of the Franklin family to his sons--this information was passed down only through male members of the family and stated that the first member of the Franklin family came to America from Africa by way of Haiti. Two of his descendants—two freeborn brothers with the last name of Frank—fought together in the Rhode Island Regiments of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. By using genealogical and microhistorical research methods, I was able to document the journey taken by the Frank/Franklin family as they lived through the turbulent years of the American Revolution.

Pianos, Parlors, and Polkas- American Popular Music in the Home 
from 18th century through the 1860s
~Brian Shifflet
As is true today, music was an integral part of life through the 18th and 19th centuries in America. We know music was commonly played in the home and at social gatherings, but what types of music were played? And what types of instruments were used? This presentation will explore the everyday types of music played at parties, social gatherings, and evenings in the parlor with family and friends. Using research from primary sources, the Colonial Music Institute, and the Parlor Music Academy, the presentation will be a combination of lecture, performance, and some audience participation! In addition to the what, where, and why of popular song of the time, we will also discuss ways to use music as accurately as we are able in our impressions for various periods. The primary focus will be late 18th century, and mid-19th century (1840s-60s).

An Artistic Endeavor: Labels from the Civil War
~Bob Sullivan

For years, living historians and museum sites have tried to stock their shelves with products from the mid-nineteenth century in order to create a more accurate representation of history. Colorful labels have decorated shelves, attracting buyers with their symbols and images. Many colorful stories and legends have persisted about product labels. In this presentation, Bob Sullivan shows dozens of labels that are documented to the Civil War era, and will explore some of these myths and explain how to tell if the label is from the period or not.


Utilizing Technology for Living History
~Kristen Mrozek
The internet is an amazing tool that has so many uses for a museum or living history organization; posts on Facebook can advertise events, blog posts provide visual elements of history, while Youtube videos can truly bring an activity to life to anyone with a connection. Using technology impacts the way a group can communicate and effectively reach a larger audience. The workshop lead by Kristen Mrozek will offer guidance for using these resources to better serve your organization. Attendees will have the opportunity to review their or their/group's online profile and provide tips for reaching a wider audience. A laptop/tablet will be helpful to actively participate in this workshop.

The 18th Century Shift
~Sara Gonzalez
Explore a nifty facet of mid-century publications: a range of small, useful projects to be made with commonly-found household materials, with only a small expected influx of readily-available purchased supplies. Get familiar with mid-19th-century "Pinterest", and make something of your own! Participants receive a short list of stash items to bring along for their projects or to swap with others; a Common Findings table with findings and materials is also open for use, and the workshop includes an illustrated take-home workbook with templates and instructions for each project. All projects are drawn from US publications 1859-1865.

Up Close and Personal Clothing
~Glenna Jo Christen
Join Glenna Jo Christen for an in depth, interactive experience with the items on
display in our museum display in the Farmhouse. Go beyond static displays and photos and feel for yourself the difference between period cotton and wool fabric, look inside garments and accessories to see up close the hidden features and details and learn which are unique or typical for the era. Learn the context for who would wear or use different items and for what purpose. Take measurements of garments of specific interest to you. Feel free to bring your cameras, pencils and paper (no pens please).

Make Your Own Hardback Blank Book
~Bob Sullivan
In this workshop you will be taught elements of book-binding and will make your own blank book.
You will learn proper sewing techniques for binding a stack of paper as a book, how to create a cover, attaching endpapers, and finalizing the book. The workshop includes a kit with all the materials necessary to make 1 blank book with 50 sheets of blank paper covered in marble paper and half-bound in cloth. Book covers made in this way can also be used as covers for phones, tablets, and other modern devices that find their way into camp.

1860’s Fabrics 101: Training the period eye
~Sara Gonzalez
Have you ever wondered how to know if a fabric is period correct? Is it possible to go to a fabric store and just know if that cotton print is appropriate for the Civil War years or to throw it out the window with the rest? How do you determine these questions if it doesn’t say “reproduction?” What type of fabrics did they actually have and use frequently in the 1860’s? Get the answer to these questions and more in this brief lecture class by fabric enthusiast Sara Gonzalez, all while you pour over images of original textiles and discover their uses! This class is FREE to everyone to took this class in 2019. It has been updated with LOADS more information!

Circus Paper Toy Theatre
~Kay Dodge
This workshop will teach participants about the popularity of paper toy theaters from 1830 until the 1870’s. We look at some beautiful images of antique theaters and discuss the various types that were available in the 1860’s. Participants will then construct their own reproduction paper toy theatre. All supplies will be included in the workshop fee to include circus toy theatre, adhesives, scissors, character wands, and any other supplies necessary to complete the project.

Victorian Hair Flower 1
~Lucy Cadwallader
Each participant will be shown how to construct their own hair flower using the "gimp" technique. Supplies will be available to complete a flower. If you elect to bring your own swatch of hair, it must be at least 10 inches in length and the diameter of a pencil-place in a zip lock bag. You may opt to make your hair flower into a boutonniere, displayed in a glass paper weight/shadow box or encased in a pendant. Please contact Lucy if you wish to purchase paper weight/shadow box or pendant, supplies are limited.

A Workshop @ the Soiree
~Self Lead
Looking for an excuse to practice first person? The Wolcott House is the perfect opportunity! A special room in the house will be set aside for participants wishing to engage in polite conversation and experience authentic surroundings. Participants will be given information in advance to help prepare for a possible role. Games and other interactive items will be available on site.

Decorated Hairnets
~Betsy Connolly Watkins
As demonstrated in countless original images, hairnets (both decorated and undecorated) were one of the most popular accessories for women of all ages in the mid-19th century. These functional bits of frippery kept the hair neat and tidy while also accessorizing the ensemble.

In this workshop, we will discuss hairnets and look at different examples of hairnets. Participants will have the chance to try their hand at creating a decorated hairnet using ribbons, beads, and tassels. Basic hand sewing skills are necessary to complete this workshop.

Youth Discussion 
~Kristen Mrozek
Hey Young People! This is for you! We will return to the thoughtful discussion of youth in living history, and how we can attract even more young people. During this workshop, young people will communicate their perspective of living history while interested adults may quietly observe and take notes. In addition, young people will be asked to participate in a group project that visually represents their thoughts. As always, they will receive a book in the area of their interest to promote their future research.

Bonnet Veils
$15+, Nylon Net Kit $29.95 or Cotton Net Kit $65
~Kim Lynch
Have you noticed these lovely nets attached to bonnets? Bonnet veils were generally black lace in the shape of an orange wedge, worn with the straight edge draped over the front edge of the bonnet brim to hang evenly just below the wearer's chin. Veils served multiple functions depending on the situation; screening from the sun's glare and small flying insects an implied request for privacy when out on city streets or traveling on public transportation. In this workshop you will make a veil from a kit. Both nylon and cotton net kits are available.

"It Was a Dark and Stormy Night… Popular Reading of the Mid 19th Century
~Glenna Jo Christen
A brief overview of popular literature of the era and the roles reading played in society, including who was reading what kinds of materials. This will be followed by a discussion of the value (and pitfalls) of reading what people of your chosen era were reading, for persona development and a unique and important source for learning about the social and material culture of the era.

Examples of original books will be available to learn what to look for in used book stores and antique stores to find books of your own to read.Participants will receive lists of the best and better sellers of the era for future reference. The lists include notations of books that are still in print.

​Toxicity in Reenacting
~Amanda Fross ~Megan Reisener
Almost everyone has experienced toxicity within the living history community, especially with the rise of social media. This may have you asking if there is anything we can do to stop the cycle. This session will be separated in three parts. First, we will identify what specifically is toxic behavior within the community, second, we will brainstorm how we can positively combat these negative behaviors, and third, we will end the session with a round table discussion on specific experiences.

Wolcott House Tour
~Museum Docent
Curious about the beautiful Wolcott House where we hold the workshops? The six buildings on site date to the 19th century, and contain significant importance when learning about the past. A museum docent will review the history about the people who lived in and used the spaces. This is a walking tour, so be prepared to go up and down stairs.

1860s Gymnastics 
~Amanda Fross
Gymnastics was a new phenomenon in the 1860’s. Explore the history and fashion of this new form of exercise. At the end of the lecture, participants will receive instructions to try out different gymnastics exercises of the era.

The Spirits of Wolcott House
~Museum Curator
There are many who have walked the halls of the Wolcott House and claimed that the past residents remain. They say that these everyday objects and spaces of the past swirl with energy. Join us as the museum curator guides a tour through the house at night, reliving these stories and legends. Every old house has a little history...but this historic site has a ton!

Men’s Basic 3 Button Shirt Workshop
​ Intermediate to Advance Sewers Only
~Sandra Root
Learn to make a men's basic, 3 button shirt! This workshop will include an overview of men's shirts from 1850-1860's. An essential item in every man's wardrobe. You will learn to make a pattern and cut out the shirt using measurements, as well as insert arm gussets and neck plackets. There will also be instruction on proper buttons and buttonholes. Full written instructions for completing the shirt are included. Students may not have time to completely finish the shirt, but will have a full understanding on how to finish the construction.

19th Century Ladies' Drawers
~Sara Gonzalez
Drawers are a necessary 19th century underpinning! In this workshop, we will be taking measurements and cutting out a set of period accurate 19th century drawers in your size, then work through construction. All instructions will be given to take home, in case you do not finish your drawers in class. An overview on extant drawers and recommendations on trimming them will also be shown.

The Perfect Hand-Sewn Buttonholes: Made easy!
~Sara Gonzalez
Do you struggle with hand sewn buttonholes? Do you try with all your might, but they just don’t look good? Sara will unveil the secrets to hand-sewn buttonholes on a myriad of different fabric types and garment projects. Learn what you need to know to make the perfect hand sewn buttonholes in this crash course workshop! Hand-sewn buttonholes will help you “step up” your 18th AND 19th century garments!

Victorian Hair Flower & Wreath Construction 2 
~Lucy Cadwallader
For those of you who have taken the beginner hair flower workshop-and feel comfortable weaving the gimp pattern-Lucy is offering an in depth class where a variety of hair flower techniques will be introduced....we will focus on the actual construction of a wreath. There will be Victorian wreaths on display for your viewing and also reproduction pieces to inspire your creativity!

Registration is still $110 for adults and $45 for youth. I recommend signing up early, as some of these classes have a limited amount of seats (10 or less). It also helps us plan better for a large group, and how many booklets to order. And I like knowing a number WAY far in advance :)

We hope you join us this year!


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Visiting Quack: Selections from Eliza Leslie

As of recently, I signed up for a reading challenge, one led by the formidable Anna, of If I Had My Own Blue Box. We will be reading different texts from Eliza Leslie, an author from the 19th century who published a series of texts with stories, recipes, patterns, and different parts of material culture. I'm excited to be a part of this study of history, as it's so important to jump deep into the primary sources.

This is the first of twelve posts!

A Visiting Quack: Selections from Eliza Leslie
Upon first reflection, the book appears to be one of those "womanly things," a primary source easily overlooked by people studying battles or famous nonsense. It has recipes, stories, and project ideas; it is easily compared with magazines from today. And if I weren't the crazy studier/researcher that I am, I'd perhaps leave it at that. But oh! The meanings of things if we just take a closer look.

While not the most discussed topic in the book, I'd like to discuss one moment from a story that concerns medicine. For the 19th century person, taking care of oneself was necessary. There was no doctor or emergency room to rush to; advances in medicine were ongoing, but didn't necessarily reach every household. Reading materials often mentioned a person's spirituality as a component of health:

"Sickness came by sin. Man is a fallen creature in both body and soul." (1)

Eliza Leslie does mention physical ailments and health, albeit indirectly in her stories. I'd like to argue that this knowledge was rudimentary, but certainly practical. While people did not know the inner working of all illnesses, they certainly understood enough to practice basic medical care at home. Or at least enough to know when someone was pretending to be a doctor.

The Traveling Tin Man illustrates the mistrust of such charlatans, even from the common person.


The Warners, a Quaker family from Pennsylvania, are visited by a traveling merchant on their farm after a hard day of work. The tin man presents a variety of health related wares alongside the usual array of coffee pots and water dippers. The family was skeptical of these shiny medicines, and not just because the merchant made them himself:

"There were certain cures for every complaint in natur; draps for agur, the toothache, and the rheumatiz; salves for the ring-worms, corns, frost-bitten heels, and sore eyes, and pills for consumption and fall fevers; beside that most waluable of all physic, Swaim's Wormifuge"

Very quickly the "young people exclaimed with one accord against the purchase of any of the medicines." With that, the tin man put them away and readily accepted the invitation for dinner. Of course the story continues with his (terrible) shenanigans. If you haven't guessed already, he's not the hero...
Related image

Let's begin with the spelling of that atrocious description of the medicine. The English teacher in me shuddered to type that out (and I don't usually carry a red pen around). Of course they would be spelled so horribly, as they noted that the labels were "inscribed with his [the tin man's] own name in his own handwriting." If that doesn't tell you that the guy is a fraud, what will? 

I was also interested in "Swaim's Wormifuge," which sounded like all sorts of wrong spelling. Turns out, this actually existed as Swaim's Vermifuge (medicine that destroys worms???). William Swaim began production of his medicine in the 1820s, and from there published a book that recommended the use of his treatments. It has been suggested that he swiped the recipe from Dr. N.J. Quackinboss (really???), since apparently Swaim was a bookbinder by trade. No medical license hanging up on his wall.

The mixture included mercury, oil of wintergreen, and sarsaparilla. Poor Nancy Linton never stood a chance. But nice scarf, I guess?

Despite the fact that this was literally MURDER WATER, Swaim was worried others would try to replicate his special formula:

"But this medicine has yet another class of enemies who it is to be feared may or have effected more practical injury to the public than the other as their bold pretensions may deceive the ignorant. It consists of those apothecaries and others who admitting Mr Swaim's title to the original discovery advertised that they have attained the knowledge of his secret." (2)

Swaim made a ton of money from the mixture, despite many doctors recommending against it. His son continued the business and it was sold into the 1920s. You can go on ebay today and find people selling the bottles. I have to admit, they are pretty bottles, even if they sold death juice.

New York, 10 Jul 1832

You are very clever, Eliza Leslie!
The tin man was our villain from the beginning, despite his promises of scallop-edged pie tins.

The moral of this story, I've gathered, is that a quack deserves what punishment he receives. Certainly the crime of kidnapping a child and attempting to sell her into slavery earned the shady tin man his fines and imprisonment. However, the moment I discovered he was selling his own special brand of homemade medicine, I know the guy was terrible. Quacks still exist today, with their stupid diet pills and even more ridiculous juice cleanses that claim to heal organs. NOPE.

Overall, taking a closer look at a tiny portion of this Eliza Leslie's writing yielded a ton of research about the 19th century, and helped me to better understand the time period. Perhaps my next working impression will be that of a quack, peddling my "medicine" to the unsuspecting buyer.

Or I'll just buy some pie tins.


(1) A Pure Mind in a Pure Body, that is Health. A new system of health and medicine.

(2) A Treatise On The Alternative And Curative Virtues Of Swaim's Panacea, And For Its Application To The Different Diseases Of The Human System: ... Its Pharmaceutic Effects As A Remedial Agent

(3) Swaim's Panacea

(4) Selections from Eliza Leslie

On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...