Saturday, 6 September 2014

What is Authentic, and what is not?

What is Authentic, and what is not?
Way back when I first got into 18th century living history, there was a belief among many that if an object was made out of authentic natural materials, then it must be right. This was called being “primitive”. But later on I learnt that this was not how it should be done, a lot of research has to be done to make sure that (a) a particular item did in fact exist, (b) what materials that item was commonly made from, and (c) the item would have been available to your persona in your particular chosen period.
We, those of us who are serious living historians, do not wish to invent something new because it makes life easier; we are only concerned with what actually was. It is simply not good enough to say “well the material was available, and someone may have thought to do this”, yes they may have, but did they? Where is your proof? Where is your documentation?
I have seen items like tricky cap holders made from horn and wood, I have seen holes drilled in the base of knife handles to be used as a powder measure, knives that are also fire steels, and shelters that there is to my knowledge no record of ever existing. Take the diamond shelter for instance, just like the 20th century “Baker Tent” the Diamond shelter seems to have become accepted at Rendezvous because it is made from canvas.
 But no where is period writings have I read that this type of shelter was ever used, the most common shelter used seems to have been the lean-to, whether made using a blanket or an oilcloth. So if you want to use a diamond shelter or a Baker Tent, fine, but don’t kid yourself that you are camping in 18th century style.

"The hunting and target rifles by their various makers, intended for the use their title denotes, had the octagon barrel turned cylindrically at the muzzle for about one inch to fit the guide bullet starter which was used in loading the rifle when used for target work... weighed from about 9 to 14 pounds, and had a longer accuracy range than the hunting rifles as well as being more accurate. These were also provided with a 'straight starter,' much lighter than the other, for use when hunting with these rifles and had various combinations of sights"


"Some earlier percussion rifles are 'turned for a starter' i.e., have their octagon barrels turned cylindrical for an inch or a little less at the muzzle in order to accept a plunger-like arrangement for driving the bullet the first few inches into the barrel."

Holman J. Swinney, NEW YORK STATE GUNMAKERS, 1952
New 19th Century Plungers.


Non authentic turn screw/nipple wrench combination tool with horn handle.

The short Starter, did it exist?

An Essay On Shooting 1789.

No mention above regarding a short starter, and it is quite precise in all other regards.

1 comment:

Cincinnatus said...

Excellent points. I certainly hope this makes the rounds, especially your point "c". To take it further, is it in the proper context. We would not expect a longhunter to have a silver tea set. With the plethora of information available electronically (both images of extant artifacts and period prints) there really is no excuse. Thank you for posting. The primary sources bring home the point.