Sunday, 8 January 2012

Research & Authenticity.

Way back 30 years or so when I first got into living history I did not have a computor and I lived a long way from any town. But an American chap I met at a black powder pistol club showed me a "Buckskinning" magazine. I followed many things I read in those magazines not realising that the authors had not done their research properly, and so I was missled. Now I know better, and I challenge what I read. Recently I saw a video from a well known American dealer showing what was supposed to be 18th century kettles. When I asked them for documentation, they supplied a quote from the maker!!!

Correct historical documentation should be primary documentation. That is the written word from someone writing in the period, in my case that would be a writer in the early to mid 18th century such as Peter Kalm for instance. Or it could be documentation in the form of a period painting, such as these by Chardin in 1732. These images show period copper kettles, but look at the size of the originals in comparison to the lower one being sold by some of today's dealers.

Being made of the same materials is not enough, the fact is this is a 19th century kettle not the larger type made in the 18th century.

The other thing that prompted this post is a post on a new blog belonging to a young man who I am aquainted with. His very first post sais that he has read that Longhunters wore their waist/equipment belts back to front for comfort and so they could wear a pouch in front. To my knowledge this is not correct, and I have found no documentation to back this up. This rumour started way back when a well known living historian misinterpreted some information. The written word stated that the belt was "tied" at the back, not buckled. Now to me this means a sash, sashes are tied, but not leather waist belts.
At the time I read this I remember trying it out myself as experimental archaeology. It was not very succsessful. Have you ever tried to buckle a belt at the back? Have you ever been caught short and had to take such a belt off?! No, it does not make any sense at all. The sash was often tied at the back because it stopped the fringe from getting caught in the brush when in the forest. But the belt was and is buckled in the front. I have never had any discomfort from a belt buckle of normal period size worn at the front.

Finding an 18th century image of someone wearing a waist belt with the buckle in front proves nothing, but I think we can safely assume that this was the most common way of wearing a belt. I can't say if any woodsman did not wear his belt backwards, I can only suggest that you try it yourself and come to your own conclusion.
My belt pouch is worn to one side as was the popular way. When wearing a cartridge box for militia duties I place the buckle to the side of the pouch, not behind.
Sash tied at the back to keep the fringe out of the way.

I have read of a sash lore. When men were visiting they had a way of comunicating their wishes to the opposit sex. To wear the fringe at the back as above, meant that you were not looking for a relationship. To tie the sash on the side meant that you were not actively looking for a lady, but you were open to suggestions. To wear the fringe hanging down directly in front meant that you were actively seeking a relationship with a woman. A very good idea I think.


Gorges Smythe said...

Good points. Enjoyed the last paragraph!

Le Loup said...

So what colour sash are you getting Gorges?!

editor said...

That buckled-at-the-back thing is persistent. There's a good documentary called "Boone and Crockett: The Hunter Heroes," which has a reenactor depicting Boone with his belt buckled in back. Just silly, for the reasons you cite.

It's important to apply common sense and ask why something might be done a particular way. And also to read the actual words in a text, eg. "tied" does not mean "buckled."

Jim Cornelius

Le Loup said...

Absolutely Jim. I didn't know about the Boone & Crocket doco! Thank you. Appreciated.

carolina said...

Some good points. I always try to be as authentic as possible, and I applaud your efforts. HUZZAH! On the paintings that depict copper kettles, though, I think it's important to remember that the sizes of whatever items are shown most likely were very different in earlier centuries. Eggs, for instance, were much smaller in the 18th C than they are now (as were the chickens who laid them). I'm not sure that the photo with the kettle and the "modern" eggs really depicts the actual size relationships of those items as they were in the 18th C. It's difficult to exactly match what's in original paintings with modern items.

Le Loup said...

True Carolina, but there are other items in the picture. Also note the attachment of the bail & the spacing. This is a much larger squatter pot/kettle to my thinking.
Thank you for your feedback, always welcome, & always good to question.