Thursday 23 September 2010

Thomas Morton on the Indians.

Of their Houses and Habitations.

The Natives of New England are accustomed to build them houses much like the wild Irish; they gather Poles in the woodes and put the great end of them in the ground, placing them in forme of a circle or circumference, and, bendinge the topps of them in forme of an Arch, they bind them together with the Barke of Walnut trees, which is wondrous tough, so that they make the same round on the Topp for the smoke of their fire to ascend and pass through; . . . The fire is alwayes made in the midst of the house, with winde falls commonly: yet some times they fell a tree that groweth near the house, and, by drawing in the end thereof, maintaine the fire on both sides, burning the tree by Degrees shorter and shorter, untill it be all consumed; for it burneth night and day. Their lodging is made in three places of the house about the fire; they Iie upon plankes, commonly about a foote or 18 inches above the ground, raised upon railes that are borne up upon forks; they lay mats under them, and Coats of Deares skinnes, otters, beavers, Racoons, and of Beares hides, all which they have dressed and converted into good leather, with the haire on, for their coverings: and in this manner they liee as warme as they desire. . . . for they are willing that any shall eat with them. Nay, if any one that shall come into their houses and there fall a sleepe, when they see him disposed to lie downe, they will spread a matt for him of their owne accord, and lay a roll of skinnes for a boulster, and let him lie. If he sleepe untill their meate be dished up, they will set a wooden bowl of meate by him that sleepeth, and wake him saying, Cattup keene Meckin: That is, If you be hungry, there is meat for you, where if you will eat you may. Such is their Humanity.

Likewise, when they are minded to remove, they carry away the mats with them; other materials the place adjoining will yield. They use not to winter and surnmer in one.place, for that would be a reason to make fuel scarce; but, after the manner of the gentry of Civilized natives, remove for their pleasures; some times to their hunting places, where they remaine keeping good hospitality for that season; and sometimes to their fishing places, where they abide for that season likewise; and at the spring, when fish comes in plentifully, they have meetinges from severall places, where they exercise themselves in gaming and playing of jugling trickes and all manner of Revelles, which they are delighted in; [so] that it is admirable to behold what pastime they use of severall kindes; every one striving to surpass each other. After this manner they spend their time. . . .

Of their Reverence, and Respect to Age.

It is a thing to be admired, and indeede made a president, that a Nation yet uncivilized should more respect age than some nations civilized, since there are so many precepts both of divine and humane writers extant to instruct more Civil Nations: in that particular, wherein they excel, the younger are always obedient unto the elder people, and at their commands in every respect without grumbling; in all councels, (as therein they are circumspect to do their actions by advise and councell, and not rashly or inconsiderately) the younger mens opinion shall be heard, but the old mens opinion and councell embraced and followed: besides, as the elder feede and provide for the younger in infancy, doe the younger, after being growne to years of manhood, provide for those that be aged; . . .

The consideration of these things, me thinks, should reduce some of our irregular young people of civilized Nations, when this story shall come to their knowledge, to better manners, and make them ashamed of their former error in this kinde, and to become hereafter more dutyfull; which I, as a friend, (by observation having found,) have herein recorded for that purpose. . . .

Of their Trafficke and Trade One With Another.

Although these people have not the use of navigation, whereby they may trafficke as other nations, that are civilized, use to doe, yet doe they barter for such commodities as they have, and have a kinde of beads instead of money, to buy withall such things as they want, which they call Wampampeak [wampum]: and it is of two sorts, the one is white, the other is of a violet coloure. These are made of the shells of fish. The white with them is as silver with us; the other as our. gould: and for these beads they buy and fell, not only amongst themselves, but even with us.

We have used to sell them any of our commodities for this Wampumpeak, because we know we can have beaver againe of them for it: and these beads are currant [i.e. currency] in all the parts of New England, from one end of the coast to the other. . . .

Of their Admirable Perfection, in the Use of the Senses.

This is a thinge not only observed by me and divers of the Salvages of New England, but, also, by the French men in Nova Francia, and therefore I am the more encouraged to publish in this Treatice my observation of them in the use of theire senses: which is a thinge that I should not easily have been induced to believe, if I myself had not been an eye witnesse of what I shall relate.

I have observed that the Salvages have the sence of seeing so farre beyond any of our Nation, that one would allmost believe they had intelligence of the Devill sometimes, when they have told us of a ship at Sea, which they have seen sooner by one hour, yea, two hours sail, then any English man that stood by of purpose to looke out, their sight is so excellent. . . .

Of Their Petty Conjuring Tricks

If we doe not judge amiss of these Salvages in accounting them witches, yet out of all question we may be bold to conclude them to be but weake witches, such of them as we call by the names of Powahs: some correspondency they have with the Devil out of all doubt, as by some of their actions, in which they glory, is manifested. Papasiquineo, that Sachem or Sagamore, is a Powah of greate estimation amongst all kinde of Salvages there: he is at their Revels (which is the time when a great company of Salvages meete from severall parts of the Country, in amity with their neighbours) hath advanced his honor in his feats or juggling tricks (as I may right term them) to the admiration of the spectators, whom he endevoured to persuade that he would goe under water to the further side of a river, too broad for any man to undertake with a breath, which thing he performed by swimming over, and deluding the company with casting a mist before their eyes that see him enter in and come out, but no part of the way he has been seen: likewise by our English, in the heat of all summer to make Ice appear in a bowl of faire water; first, having the water set before him, he hath begun his incantation according to their usuall custom, and before the same has been ended a thick Cloud has darkened the aire and, on a sudden, a thunder clap hath been heard that has amazed the natives; in an instant he hath showed a firm piece of Ice to float in the midst of the bowl in the presence of the vulgar people, which doubtless was done by the agility of Satan, his consort.

And by meanes of these sleights, and such like trivial things as these, they gaine such estimation amongst the rest of the Salvages that it is thought a very impious matter for any man to derogate from the words of these Powahs. In so much as he that should slight them, is thought to commit a crime no less heinous amongst them as sacrilege is with us, . . .

Of a great mortality that happened amongst the Naitves of New England, near about the time that the English came there to plant.

It fortuned some few years before the English came to inhabit at new Plymouth, in New England, that upon some distast given in the Massachusetts bay by the Frenchmen, then trading there with the Natives for beaver, they set upon the men at such advantage that they killed many of them, burned their ship, then riding at Anchor by an Island there, now called Peddocks. Island, . . . they did keepe them so long as they lived, only to sport themselves at them, and made these five Frenchmen fetch them wood and water, which is the generall worke that they require of a servant. One of these five men, out living the rest, had learned so much of their language as to rebuke them for their bloody deed, saying that God would be angry with them for it, and that he would in his displeasure destroy them; but the Sa - vagcs (it fectues boafling of their ftrength,) replyed and say that they were so many that God Could not kill them.

But contrary wise, in short time after the hand of God fell heavily upon them, with such a mortal stroke that they died on heaps as they lay in their houses; and the living, that were able to shift for themselves, would run away and let them die, and let their carcasses lie above the ground without burial. For in a place where many inhabited, there hath been but one left alive to tell what became of the rest; the living being (as it seems) not able to bury the dead, they were left for Crows, Kites and vermin to pray upon. And the bones and skulls upon the severall places of their habitations made such a spectacle after my coming into those parts, that, as I traveled in that Forrest near the Massachussets, it seemd to me a new found Golgatha.

. . .And this mortality was not ended when the Brownists of new Plymouth were settled at Patuxet in New England: and by all likelihood the sickness that these Indians died of was the Plague, as by conference with them since my arrivall and habitation in those parts, I have learned. And by this means there is as yet but a small number of Salvages in New England, to that which hath been in former time, and the place is made so much the more fit for the English Nation to inhabit in, and erect in it Temples to the glory of God.

Of their Religion.

It has been a common received opinion from Cicero, that there is no people so barbarous but have some worship or other. In this particular, I am not of opinion therein with Tully; and, surely, if he had been amongst those people so longe as I have been, and conversed so much with them touching this matter of Religion, he would have changed his opinion. Neither should we have found this error, amongst the rest, by the helpe of that wooden prospect, [Morton is sardonically referring to an earlier publication: William Wood, New England Prospect (1634), in which Wood claimed that the Indians he encountered worshiped something, but exactly what is too difficult to determine. Morton contests that view in this pamphlet.]

Of their acknowlegement of the Creation, and the immortality of the Soul.

Although these Salvages are found to be without Religion, Law, and King (as Sir William Alexander hath well observed,) yet are they not altogether without the knowledge of God (historically); for they have it amongst them by tradition that God made one man and one woman, and bade them live together and get children, kill deer, beasts, birds, fish and fowle, and what they would at their pleasure; and that their posterity was full of evil, and made God so angry that he let in the Sea upon them, and drowned the greatest part of them, that were naughty men, (the Lord destroyed so;) and they went to Sanaconquam, who feeds upon them (pointing to the Center of the Earth, where they imagine is the habitation of the Devill:) the other, (which were not destroyed,) increased the world, and when they died (because they were good) went to the house of Kytan [the word Morton records for the supreme good Spirit or God], pointing to the setting of the sun; where they eate all manner of dainties, and never take pains (as now) to provide it.

Kytan makes provision (they say) and saves them that labour; and there they shall live with him forever, void of care. And they are persuaded that Kytan is he that makes corne growe, trees growe, and all manner of fruits. . . .

I asked him [an Indian who had lived in Morton's house] who was a good man; his answer was, he that would not Iie, nor steal.

These, with them, are all the capital crimes that can be imagined; all other are nothing in respect of those; and he that is free from these must live with Kytan for ever, in all manner of pleasure. . . .

Of their Custom in burning the Country, and the reason thereof.

The Salvages are accustomed to set fire of the Country in all places where they come, and to burne it twice a year, viz.: at the Spring, and the fall of the leaf. The reason that moves them to doe so, is because it would other wise be so overgrown with underweeds that it would be all a coppice wood, and the people would not be able in any wise to pass through the Country out of a beaten path. . . .

The burning of the grass destroys the underwoods, and so scorcheth the elder trees that it shrinks them, and hinders their growth very much: so that he that will looke to finde large trees and good timbcr, must [look] . . . to finde them on the upland ground. . . .

And least their firing of the Country in this manner should be an occasion of damnifying us, and endangering our habitations, we ourselves have used carefully about the same times to observe the winds, and fire the grounds about our owne habitations; to prevent the Damage that might happen by any neglect thereof, if the fire should come near those houses in our absence.

For, when the fire is once kindled, it dilates and spreads itself as well against, as with the wind; burning continually night and day, untill a shower of rain falls to quench it.

And this custom of firing the Country is the meanes to make it passable; and by that meanes the trees growe here and there as in our parks: and makes the Country very beautifull and commodious.

Of their inclination to Drunkenness.

Although Drunkenness be justly termed a vice which the Salvages are ignorant of, yet the benefit is very great that comes to the planters by the sale of strong liquor to the Salvages, who are much taken with the delight of it; for they will pawn their wits, to purchase the acquaintance of it. Yet in all the commerce that I had with them, I never proffered them any such thing; nay, I would hardly let any of them have a dram, unless he were a Sachem, or a Winnaytue, that is a rich man, . . . . But they say if I come to the Northern parts of the Country I shall have no trade, if I will not supply them with lusty liquors: it is the life of the trade in all those parts: for it so happened that thus a Salvage desperately killed himself; when he was drunk, a gun being charged and the cock up, he sets the mouth to his breast, and, putting back the trigger with his foote, shot himself dead.

That the Salvages live a contended life.

A Gentleman and a traveller, that had been in the parts of New England for a time, when he returned againe, in his discourse of the Country, wondered, (as he said,) that the natives of the land lived so poorly in so rich a Country, like to our Beggars in England. Surely that Gentleman had not time or leisure while he was there truly to informe himself of the state of that Country, and the happy life the Salvages would leade were they once brought to Christianity.

I must confess they want the use and benefit of Navigation, (which is the very sinews of a flourishing Commonwealth,) yet are they supplied with all manner of needefull things for the maintenance of life and lifelyhood. Food and rayment are the cheife of all that we make true use of; and of these they finde no want, but have, and may have, them in a most plentifull manner.

If our beggars of England should, with so much ease as they, furnish themselves with food at all seasons, there would not be so many starved in the streets, neither would so many gaoles  be stuffed, or gallouses furnished with poore wretches, as I have seen them.

But they of this sort of our owne nation, that are fit to go to this Canaan, are not able to transport themselves; and most of them unwilling to go from the good ale tap, which is the very loadstone of the lande by which our English beggars steer their Course; it is the Northpole to which the flowre-de-luce of their compass points. The more is the pity that the Commonalty of our Land are of such leaden capacities as to neglect so brave a Country, that doth so plentifully feed many lusty and a brave, able men, women and children, that have not the meanes that a Civilized Nation hath to purchase food and rayment; which that Country with a little industry will yield a man in a very comfortable measure, without overmuch carking.

I cannot deny but a civilized Nation hath the preeminence of an uncivilized, by meanes of those instruments that are found to be common amongst civil people, and the uncivil want the use of, to make themselves masters of those ornaments that make such a glorious show, . . .

Now since it is but food and rayment that men that live needeth, (though not all alike,) why should not the Natives of New England be said to live richly, having no want of either? Cloaths are the badge of sin; and the more variety of fashions is but the greater abuse of the Creature: the beasts of the forrest there doe serve to furnish them at any time when they please: fish and flesh they have in greate abundance, which they both roast and boil. . . .

I must needs commend them in this particular, that, though they buy many commodities of our Nation, yet they keepe but few, and those of speciall use.

They love not to be cumbered with many utensils, and although every proprietor knowes his owne, yet all things, (so long as they will last), are used in common amongst them: A bisket cake given to one, that one breakes it equally into so many parts as there be persons in his company, and distributes it. Plato's Commonwealth is so much practised by these people.

According to humane reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people leades the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the mindes of so many Christians: They are not delighted in baubles, but in usefull things. . . .

I have observed that they will not be troubled with superfluous commodities. Such things as they finde they are taught by necessity to make use of, they will make choice of, and seeke to purchase with industry. So that, in respect that their life is so void of care, and they are so loving also that they make use of those things they enjoy, (the wife only excepted,) as common goods, and are therein so compassionate that, rather than one should starve through want, they would starve all. Thus doe they pass away the time merrily, not regarding our pomp, (which they see dayly before their faces,) but are better content with their owne, which some men esteem so meanely of.

Source: Thomas Morton, New English Canaan . . . (1637), reprinted in Old South Leaflets (Boston, 1883), vol. 4.

What's In The Bag.

I am continually being asked, what do you carry in your knapsack and how much does it weigh. This video answers those questions.

Tuesday 21 September 2010


"Daniel Boone seems to have been the only one of these hunters to whom the wilderness especially appealed. Consequently, for many years he made frequent trips into the territory, staying as long as two years on one occasion, and winning the title of The Long Hunter. Boone was alone on many of these trips, never seeing the face of a white man, but frequently meeting roving bands of Indians. From a cave in the side of Pilot Knob in Powell County, he could catch glimpses of the joyous sports of the Shawnee boys at Indian Fields; and from the projecting rocks he feasted his eyes on the herds of buffalo winding across the prairie".
This was written in 1913. Is this where the term Long Hunter came from? And if so, can it be applied to anyone as it is so often done today?
"the common name of the country, known to all, was Kan-tuckee (kane-tooch-ee), so called by the Indians because of the abundance of a peculiar reed growing along the river, now known as pipe-stem cane".
," Boone easily persuaded a company of men to come with him to the wilderness and to bring their families. The journey was tedious. Those on foot went ahead and blazed a trail for the few wagons, pack horses and domestic animals, and killed game to furnish meat when the next camp should be struck at nightfall. It was a courageous, jolly party that thus marched through Cumberland Gap, and blazed a way which has since been known as Boone’s Trail. Hostile Indians had to be  fought along the way, and several of the party were slain, among them being Boone’s son. An Englishman, also, was killed, and his young son was adopted by Boone and thereafter known as his own son".
"The party passed the present site of Richmond in Madison County, and reached a point on the Kentucky River, in 1775, where Boonesborough was built. The site selected was a broad, level stretch of land, with the river to the north, and high hills to the south. This particular spot was selected because of a fine spring of water, and high hills that could be used for sentinel towers, inclosing fine level ground for cultivation. The settlers cut trees and constructed a stockade in the form of a hollow square. It was from this fort that Rebecca Boone and the Calloway girls were stolen by Indians while boating on the Kentucky River".

The Story of Kentucky

By R. S. Eubank, A. B.



Copyright 1913, by F. A. Owen Publishing Co.

Taken from the Gutenberg Files. 

Pioneer Times USA. An Interesting Site.


Monday 20 September 2010

Robert Rogers in the French & Indian War.

Much is said about Rogers being an American hero, and the men he gathered around him being yankees. But the fact is at this time the American revolution had not happened. People born into a German or English family in the New World, thought of themselves as German or English, not American, and they spoke with the same accent as other family members. In fact Rogers went to England after the war, and I believe he is buried somewhere in London.

An Armour Stand.

I found this armour stand, and thought that it would also pass as a clothes stand.

A Quick Plywood Armor Stand

This armor stand is quick to make, and takes down for storage or carrying to events. It needs minimal tools, and takes less than an hour to make.

Tools: Jigsaw, measuring tape, straightedge and/or combination square, piece of string for drawing arcs.

Materials: 2' x 4' x ¾” sheet of plywood, sandpaper, and stain / paint / varnish if desired.

24" x 48" x 3/4" Plywood.

Procedure: Make the cuts as shown. Gray shading indicates discarded wood. Area A is 14 inches wide, B1 and B2 are 10 inches wide. The “head” of A is 9 inches high x 6 inches wide. This makes the “shoulders” of area A 4 inches each. C is 4 inches wide x 9 inches, with the top corners slightly rounded. Slots in the “foot” end of A, and in the tops of B1 and B2, are 8” long x ¾” wide. Slots in the top of A and bottom of C are 4½” long and ¾” wide.

Sand the edges of the pieces, and assemble. B1 and B2 go slot-side-up, forming legs with the slots at the bottom of A. C gets slotted into the top of A. Stain, paint, or varnish as desired.

Questions, answers and options.

As you can imagine I get asked quite a lot of questions on various forums. For those of you who have wondered but never asked, and for those of you who may be interested in making the move to 18th century living history, here are some Q & A.

Q. You live in Australia, so why choose New World living history?
A. New world living history covers a much earlier period than does Australian. The New World had more nationalities than Australia. I have a larger choice of personas/characters, trades, skills, activities and scenarios, clothing styles, equipment. Because if I was living in England in the 18th century the New World is where I would want to be.
Q. Why choose the 18th century?
A. Because for me it just feels right, not too early so I am limited in technology and comfort, but not too late that I am into the industrial revolution. The 18th century New World gives me a large choice of period living skills and primitive native skills to learn and practice.
Q. Why get into 18th century living history in the first place, and what is so attractive about it?
A. I guess my early interest in woodsmen and the lifestyle plus the love of old guns led me into it in the first place. What I like about it is it is completely different from the 21st century. I guess it is a sort of escapism. Once you are wearing 18th century clothing and away from a modern environment, say in the woods for instance, you can get completely involved/immersed in the 18th century. It is as if you have gone back in time.
Q. What made you choose an English woodsman as a persona?
A. Again I guess because of my early interest as a kid in England in Daniel Boone. Actually when I first was introduced to living history by an American friend in the Territory, I was interested in the western Mountain Man fur trapper. But after I did some research I found that it was not really possible to emulate this character without a string of pack horses and a bag load of beaver traps! Then of course I remembered my early love of the Daniel Boone lifestyle, and my love of woodsrunning as a kid, and it all fell into place.
Q. If you like the early lifestyle in America so much, why did you choose to move to Australia?
A. Actually I did apply to move to America, this was over 40 years ago. But they turned my application down because basically I was not a scientist and they did not want any more ordinary trades people. So I applied to move to Australia, and they welcomed me with open arms.

Thursday 16 September 2010

The Wheelright's Shop.

Slightly more mechanised than 18th century, but still a joy to watch. My grandfather on my Father's side was a wheelright, so I have a special interest in this "Out Of Town" production.

Out Of Town with Jack Hargreaves

When I was a young man in England, this series was one of my favourites. I post it here because these skills go way back to the 18th century and I just love watching these sort of skills being performed. I hope you like it to.

The Raven.

The Raven was my blood brother's granfather's name. I would like to share a story with you, one of many experiences I have had with wild animals. Perhaps this will explain how I feel about what I do, the way I see things, often differently to others. I always try to avoid getting spirtual in my writings, because it is often seen as strange and weird these days. But for those of us who live so close to nature that we believe we are an animal among other animals and we are a part of this environment, it is only natural that we feel a spirit in the wild. 

The Raven. © Keith H. Burgess.

The raven was perched in a low dead tree up ahead. My dog was running here there and everywhere following the multitude of scents that were all about. The paddock was empty of sheep now, but it was not the sheep scent that Noir followed, she was trained to ignore sheep. No these were the scents of roo, fox, perhaps dog and rabbit and hare.

The raven was still in the dead tree but appeared to be alert. Noir ran in that direction but she did not look up and see the raven but the raven was watching her. The trail I followed ran through bracken but as I approached the dead tree the trail widened as the bracken fell back to expose grass. Suddenly the raven took flight, but toward me instead of away from me. I kept walking but the raven flew straight at me and then turned and dived toward me again. But this was not an attack; it was more like a warning. It continued to flap in front of me appearing to do some sort of aerobatics directly in front of me and then suddenly something caught my eye, a large snake crossing my path just a little ahead. As soon as the snake had crossed my path and disappeared into the bracken on the other side the raven broke off its gyrations and returned to the tree. My dog came bounding over obviously on the scent of the snake and I called her to heel.

As I got to the tree I stopped  and said “thank you”, and after a brief recognition that I had spoken to it, the Raven took off calling loudly.

Northwest Passage

I dislike the way Indians are refered to as some form of lower life in this movie, but that is how it was in my childhood, and when this movie was made. That is why my blood brother's Father his his indentity when he moved to England from Canada. But if you can ignore this rudeness, and the lack of some authenticity, this, for me at least, is an enjoyable period movie to watch.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Blade Sharpening.

Each blade may have a different angle on its edge, the only way to get this angle right for each blade doing it 18th century style, is through observation and experimentation. I know right away as soon as I look at a blade at what angle to grind/sharpen it. After you have run the blade over the whet stone a few times, check the edge to make sure you have the same angle on both sides.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Making Camp-The Stills.

Making Camp.

Some people have been asking me for ages to make skills videos, and in particular one on setting up a camp using an oil cloth as shelter. Well I finally got round to producing one. We have had rain for three days in a row here, and it is very wet. But today was sunny so I decided to set up the camp and make the video and get some still shots as well.

I did make one mistake though. I have made several fire lighting videos of late, and I forgot to replenish my tinderbox with more tinder, and I forgot to replace the dried grass kindling I have used! The consequence of that was that when I went to make fire for this “Making Camp” video, I found I was short of both!

Luckily I had found a disused bird’s nest lying on the ground, but it was a little damp. Anyway, at the last minute I decided to tip all the tinder I had in my tinderbox into the birds nest and make fire that way. It did work of course as I knew it would, but now I must remember to prepare some more tinder and find some more dry grass!

Please note the laying of the fire. There is nothing fancy here, no boy scout stick tipi. I put large piece/s of wood at one end to lay the kindling against, this stops the fire being crushed and smothered. I also lay sticks on the floor of the fireplace. You will note that the fire takes straight away and there is no problem with it going out. The large piece/s of wood at one end allow air to get at the fire.

Friday 10 September 2010

Where Do I Start?

Where to Start?
You start with deciding who and what you are. Are you a seamstress or tailor, or are you a woodsman or woods woman? Your trade will give some indication of your place in society, are you gentry, or one of the middling sort? If you are a farmer you could be either. You could be a gentleman farmer with people working for you, or you could be a farmer of the middling sort and have to do all your own work and the same goes for the wife and children. Once you know who you are, then you can start to do some research and find out what clothing you would likely have worn, and what accoutrements you may have had. Regardless of your occupation, if you are male, and between 16 and 65, live in a community, then you would have to be in the militia, and that means more research to find out what is required of you in the militia.
Farmers were often also woodsmen, some doing more hunting and trapping and less farming, leaving the farm work to the wife and children. Others relied mostly on the farm for their subsistence and only went into the woods to hunt for meat. Either way, as a woodsman there will be certain tools of the trade that you will need.
Authenticity means factual, it means that if your clothing is authentic to your period, and to your persona (character) in design, manufacture and materials then it is correct. Why does authenticity matter? It matters to living historians because only in being authentic can they truly experience what life was like in another time, at least to the best of their ability. You can’t light a fire with matches and a firelighter and expect to understand what it was like in the 18th century to make fire. Basically you are cheating yourself and spoiling it for anyone who is with you.
There are three areas of research, 1) Primary information. This is a record of what happened at the time, written by someone who was there. 2) Secondary information is recorded by someone who was not there at the time but did record it in the same period. There is also the eye witness who does not record it at the time, but writes about it at a later date. Both of these are open to interpretation and may not be wholly correct. 3) Tertiary information is that written by a historian who has researched the period, and what he/she writes is their own interpretation of the facts. This may be found in magazine articles, books and other papers.
Experimental Archaeology is what all living historians do; we use the equipment of the period to accomplish period tasks. Sometimes we have to make the equipment first, and this is all part of our learning and understanding. Whether it be as big as building a period ship and sailing it on an original route, or as small as making fire with flint, steel and tinderbox using plant tinders we have prepared ourselves, sometimes it is the only way we can find out how something was done, or how a certain tool or method worked. This is not always as easy and straight forward as it may seem, let me give you a for instance.
Many people when making fire continually use charred cloth, and only charred cloth. Now charred cloth was used, but generally only in the home, or perhaps on a short journey. You would not expect a woodsman or woods-woman to use charred cloth for making fire whilst in the woods, they are far more likely to use what plant tinders come to hand. Some people who use charred cloth fold the charred cloth over the flint and strike the flint with the steel, the exact opposite of what was normally done, e.g. one strikes the steel with the flint to direct the sparks onto the tinder. You can only use this method of striking the flint with the steel effectively if you are using charred cloth, and it is my belief that this is not a common period method.
Many people do not use a tinderbox, and some of those that do, use a tin with a hole in the lid so that they can char cloth in it on a fire. The fact is that this too is not a period method. If they did their research they would know that the tinderbox was used to make fire, the steel is struck by the flint directing the sparks onto the tinder in the tinderbox. Although I reasoned this myself, I have since found period sketches showing this being done.

Tinderboxes were not made with holes in them, so I reasoned that tinder was charred by some other method. I reasoned that if tinder were charred directly in the fire, and then placed in the tinderbox and the lid closed, the smouldering tinder would be extinguished, just as it is when making fire using the tinderbox. The kindling or spunk is placed on the smouldering tinder in the box and blown into flame. The lid is then closed saving the unused tinder for later use. Some tinderboxes even had a lid that fitted inside the tinderbox to be pushed down on the tinder to smother it. This type of tinderbox could be made of metal or wood.

Did everyone use a tinderbox? I don’t know. If someone had no tinderbox how could they have charred tinder? Well I experimented with this and charred tinder directly in the fire and then buried it in dry earth. I also tried wrapping the smouldering tinder in leather and then buried it. Both methods worked, though using the leather was better than not. This experimentation took me further to find natural kindling instead of the teased rope fibres other people were using. By not taking the easy way out, by doing my own research and experimentation, I have learned a lot about making fire and about an 18th century lifestyle.
Having done your research and made choices of clothing and equipment, it is now time to start getting your gear together. Some people are better at making things than others, I think I fall somewhere in the middle! I can make some things but am not really good enough to make others, or I do not have the equipment needed to make some items. For instance I can build a muzzle-loading gun from a kit, but I cannot make all the parts from scratch myself. I can make my own clothing, but not half as well as my wife can! So I make what I can, plead with my wife heaps and get her to make my clothing, purchase what I cannot make but can afford. Also I have the option of trading for what I need.
Many items can be found in second hand shops, and many of the materials needed for clothing can be found in op-shops. Second hand woollen blankets can be used to make work frocks, leggings, mittens, blanket coats, shirts, weskit, breaches and breechclout. Leather coats can be used for moccasins, leggings, pouches, and bags. Linen or cotton table cloths and sheets can be used to make shirts and work frocks etc. Cruising shops like Spotlight can often net you specials on linens, cottons and wool material.
If you belong to a group or club, check if they have research information available. Groups like ours, the New England Colonial Living History Group, may have their own forum on the net. Ours is at http://neclhg.freeforums.net/ and is open to anyone who is resident in Australia. It is in a group’s own interest to help new members wherever possible, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Reenactment Video. Bushy Run Battle.

17th Century Life.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Whale in The Thames.

(Reuters) - The skeleton of a huge whale, thought to have been butchered for its meat, bone and oils 300 years ago, has been discovered by archaeologists on the banks of London's River Thames.

  "They saw the whale one morning when the weather it was fair
the men were white as ghosts, but the Captain didn't care
I'll take this whale myself he said the weak can stay behind
The strong can share my glory and tonight they'll share my wine
Di Di Di Di Di Di Di Di"
Traditional folk song - 18th century?
Contributed By Dave Reid  http://www.blogger.com/profile/10686894099000443027
Thanks Dave.

Monday 6 September 2010

A Change! The Lusty Young Smith.

Lyrics courtesy of Songs of and About Elizabethan Times.

A lusty young smith at his vise stood a filing,

His hammer laid by but his forge still aglow,

When to him a buxom young damsel came smiling and asked if to work at her forge he would go.

With a jingle, bang jingle, bang jingle, bang jingle,

With a jingle, bang jingle, bang jingle, hi ho!

“I will,” said the smith, and they went off together
Along to the young damsel’s forge they did go,
They stripped to go to it, ’twas hot work and hot weather;
She kindled a fire and she soon made him blow.

Her Husband, she said, no good work could afford her;
His strength and his tools were worn out long ago.
The smith said, “Well mine are in very good order,
And now I am ready my skill for to show
Red hot grew his iron, as both did desire
and he was to wise not too strike while ’twas so.
Quoth she, “What I get, I get out of the fire,
Then prithee, strike hard and redouble the blow.”

Six times did his iron, by vigorous heating
Grow soft in the forge in a minute or so,
And often was hardened, still beating and beating,
But each time it softened it hardened more slow.

The smith then would go; quoth the dame, full of sorrow,
“Oh, what would I give, could my husband do so!
Good lad, with your hammer come hither tomorrow
But, pray, can’t you use it one more, ere you go?”

This song first appeared in Thomas D’Urfey’s ‘Wit and Mirth: Pills to Purge Melancholy’ in 1698.

The Sword, Finally Finished (I think).

Do you remember the broadsword I purchased?

First I removed the cloth, but I found that the guard still caught on my hand.

So I removed part of the guard. This was better but I found that I was unable to grip the hilt properly and control the blade. Part of the reason is artheritis in my hands and wrist, but the grip was still not right.

I took the old grip off and made a new one which was a little larger. In doing so I found that the genuine leather wrap on the grip was in fact imitation!

I also found that there should be a leather guard between the brass basket hilt guard and the blade. so I made and fitted one and oiled and beeswaxed the new grip.

Oh yes, and I shortened the blade! It is now the common length of a cutless and a few other lighter swords.

Now what can I do with the section of blade I cut off? Hmmm.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Primitive Skills. Stalking.

Sorry I could not show the whole stalk, but without any cover it took me a long time to get this close. The wind direction was not good either, and I really needed to be on the other side of that fence. But I wanted to show you how to get close enough to a wild animal to touch it, so I took the chance from where I was.
My most difficult stalk was getting into a herd of goats, it is always much harder when there is more than one animal to watch. A stalk into a ring of roos watching a roo fight was probably a close second, but all my stalks have been fun.
PS: I am not wearing camo!

Living Primitive.

Making Cordage.