June 28, 2017

Mourning Jane Austen at 1812 Weekend

"My mother is preparing mourning for Mrs. E. K.; she has picked her old silk pelisse to pieces, and means to have it dyed black for a gown - a very interesting scheme" - Jane Austen to Cassandra, October 7, 1808

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death.
December 16, 1775 - July 28, 1817

200 years ago, on this day, July 28th, one of the greatest English novelists, Jane Austen, left this world for another.  Her legacy, however, lives on through masterpieces like Sense & Sensibility (1811), Pride & Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1817), and Persuasion (1817), among other works.

So I thought it fitting to write about this past weekend - the annual War of 1812 and Jane Austen Weekend - my favorite event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum!  In fact, it appears that I've dedicated an entire post to it for the past couple of years:  1812 Weekend in Genesee Country (2016) and 1812 Weekend at the Genesee Country Village (2015).  

Friday, June 23rd - Setting Up Shop

The dressmaker at work.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, the dressmaker and I put together a special mourning display.  On the Wednesday before the event, Rhonda contacted me with the brilliant idea, and that Friday, two days later, we were setting up her shop.  Together we collected every scrap of ribbon, lace and trim, fine silks and wools, accessories and the latest fashion plates a lady might need to remain fashionable at every stage of mourning.  Two hours and a laundry basket, several various bags and bonnet boxes later, the shop was arranged for the weekend.  

On the main work table, draped in black sateen, the dressmaker offers the finest black, silk ribbon, reticule and leather gloves for full morning, as well as a checked, silk bonnet, ombre ribbon, length of white china silk, and dainty cotton gloves for half morning.  Propped up on an early copy of Sense & Sensibility and Northanger Abbey, the silhouette of Jane Austen is framed for all to see.  

In the later years of the Regency Period, the British observed quite a bit of royal mourning.  In the Fall of 1817, Princess Charlotte died after giving birth to a stillborn child.  A year later, in 1818, the Queen Consort Charlotte died, as well as King George III in January of 1820, ending the Regency Era.  Six days later, the Duke of Kent passed, leading the country into double mourning.  Periodicals like Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblee would have printed the latest fashions for mourning:  

Mourning fashion plates from Ackermann's Respository.

Right above the table is fully stocked shelf with all sorts of antique lace lengths, ribbons and trims, millinery flowers, gloves and other small accessories.  As well as several lengths of silks of various weights in black, white, greys, and even a purple and grey plaid taffeta for half mourning.

Mourning customs were observed to various degrees by class, and dictated not only what was socially appropriate behavior, but gave a dress code that divided the mourning period into two distinct stages - full and half mourning.  In the first period of mourning, black, the traditional color that dates back to the Romans, was the preferred color, with crape or bombazine, a silk with a matte finish, being the indicator fabrics.  In the half mourning period that followed, more colors were introduced with greys, purples and even white. 

Fabrics, trims and millinery ribbons for all stages of mourning.

While the wealthy could afford to make separate wardrobes for mourning, most people transformed existing garments for mourning, covering bonnets in crape and dyeing old dresses.  Even the poor made attempts to follow mourning customs with a black ribbon or armband.  

My favorite part was arranging the shelf!
We really liked the idea of cascading ribbons
and trims from the band boxes.

To complete the left side of the shop, a gown (which you may recognize as the one that Samantha made!) suitable for half mourning hangs with a double ruffle chemisette.  

Half mourning dress with a double ruffle chemisette,
central work table and millinery shelf.

On the other side of the shop, we draped the mirror with black point d'esprit, and the chest with a length of black silk.  Several grey wool dress lengths and a white cotton lawn sit, waiting to be made into mourning dresses.

On the other work table, also draped in black, we arranged an undergarment display for the visitors.  The items included a shift, long pantalettes, three pairs of stockings, short stays, long stays, and an antique petticoat.  

My new short stays and an antique petticoat from my collection.
It features two scalloped flounces with gorgeous white work -
a very, very lucky find!

Three pairs of stockings - plain cotton,
ribbed silk, and an antique set of clocked stockings.

Lastly, in the middle of the shop, where the dressmaker usually works, hence the small stand with personal belongings, we filled the scrap basket with grey and purple calicos, as if several dresses had already been sold.

With the shop ready to go for the weekend, the dressmaker and I locked up and had a lovely dinner with her neighbor, Kate from the apothecary shop.  Having only exchanged brief hellos in the past, it was a great pleasure to get to know Kate.  She is a fantastic lady with a true passion for historical education and appreciation for a multi-cultural past.  It really made day, if not the week, to sit in the presence of such wonderful company as Rhonda and Kate!  I sure hope that she will return again next year.  

Kate, the apothecary, and Rhonda, the dressmaker.

Saturday, June 24th - Event Day One

The dressmaker and I arrived bright and early in the morning to start our days.  (My family and I had the privilege of hosting and the pleasure of her company for the weekend as her carriage ride would be quite a distance more than mine.  We all like Rhonda so much, and it is such an honor to call her friend!) 

The dressmaker in her shop.
Photograph by Judy J.

One of the much anticipated festivities of the weekend is the Regency fashion show!  Unfortunately, I've never been able to attend the show as I am only an indentured servant at Hosmer's Inn, but, very fortunately, there are always plenty of likeliness's circling about so one does not have to miss out on the fancies.  This year, there were lots of models:

Regency fashion show.
Photograph by Ruby Foote,
official museum photographer.
(Via: Facebook)

For a fourth time now, I worked at Hosmer's Inn serving the reenactor luncheon.  The twin, a.k.a. Ariana, and I, jokingly referred to as the indentured servants of Hosmer, plated lunch in the woodshed/food prep area.  Day one's lunch included macaroni and cheese, dressed peas with greens, salted ham, apple sauce, salmagundi with the special Hosmer dressing, pickled beets and spicy East India pickles, and a "plain bun" with either cherries or caraway seeds.  For dessert there was bread pudding with a brandy maple sauce - yum yum! 

Lunch, day one.

The day ended with a little shopping, and the annual tradition of talking the twin, Ariana, into buying lots and lots of pretty fabrics!  What can I say?  Regency Revisited AND Fashions Revisited were there!  

My purchases for the weekend included two yards of the be-a-u-tiful indigo stripe,
a yard of the white sheer with green dots/stripes, and two pairs of clocked stockings
(to twin it up with Ariana, of course!  Matching socks are our thing.)

There was also a small, low key soirĂ©e that night at the Inn.  Met four new folks from Maryland that were very kind and very knowledgeable, and I hope that they all plan on returning next year.  Lively conversations late into the evening with a general air of friendliness.  I'll try to take pictures next time...

Sunday, June 25th - Event Day Two

Back to Hosmer's Inn for a second day of plating lunches!  Today's menu included a potato and carrot mash, stewed beef with gravy, asparagus, applesauce, salmagundi with the Hosmer house dressing, pickled beets and spicy East India pickles, and "plain buns" or whole wheat rolls.  For dessert, there was left over bread pudding with the brandy maple sauce or gingerbread and seed cakes.  All of it using 19th century receipts or recipes, prepared onsite with our own ham and beef, and very, very tasty! 

Lunch, day two.

We couldn't have done it without Pamela, historic cook and volunteer, and the "Canadian ladies" Bonnie and Norma who prepare most of the meal in the historic kitchen at Hosmer's Inn!  

Bonnie and Norma preparing yet another refill of the popular salmagundi dish.

As a whole, I was very pleased to see some familiar faces over the weekend, including Lisa and the Meryton Assembly Dancers, as well as another Lisa and her little "B."

The most ADORABLE picture ever!
Lisa & little B.

And had the pleasure of making new acquaintances, including meeting Lydia Fast of Regency bonnet fame!  (Aaahhh I met Lydia Fast!!)

Finally, it wouldn't be 1812 weekend without a few shenanigans with the twin...this year we kept it pretty tame with picking roses at Shaker, but just wait until next time ;) 

Oh Ariana, you're so cute!

After packing up the dress shop, Rhonda and I had one last dinner together.  Then, saying our good byes, parted ways.  And, with that, 1812 weekend was over...'till next year!   

The dressmaker and I.

Regency Mourning Resources
  • Regency Mourning - Published on the blog, Jane Austen's World, this article details several customs surrounding mourning and the appropriate dress throughout the Regency period.  It also provides several web links for further study. 
  • Dressing for Mourning in the Regency - This article from the Jane Austen Centre provides in-depth descriptions and period sources for understanding full and half-mourning wear.  
  • Mourning Becomes Her: Regency Mourning Dress & Customs - From the Risky Regencies blog, this post discusses mourning fashion within the "Death Becomes Her" exhibit that was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and gives a great overview and history of mourning customs during the Regency Period. 

June 23, 2017

Summer Reflections

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Toll House - entrance to the village and gateway to the past.

It is summer!  Or at least officially now that the solstice has past.  With the end of June quickly approaching, I feel a need to hit a pause button and reflect on the first half of summer.  I don't want it to pass in its entirety without notice, or without capturing a few of the memories in writing.  Especially when such a significant portion of both my life and this blog has centered around the Genesee Country Village & Museum, the place I've come to call home.

So, here are some of the highlights from the 2017 museum season thus far:

(1)  Opening weekend!  The season kicked with our annual chocolate celebration and Mother's Day weekend.

Spring in the village.

For our second annual opening day pictures, Judy, the partner-in-crime, and I sported our "twin gowns" for the day and proceeded with the usual shenanigans on Saturday.  Now that I think of it, we were dressed quite appropriately with the brown prints and caramel petticoats for the chocolate festivities!

Twinning it up for our second annual opening day picture!

I spent most of the first day running around, and the second at the Carriage Museum, which was the spot for all things chocolate.  Several partners from the historic division of MARS gave talks all weekend on the history of chocolate, as well as samples of their newest drinks featuring American Heritage Chocolate.  We also had several tables offering samples of spicy chocolate bean dip and chocolate chicken barbecue, as well as four wine and beer pairings with chocolates.

The carriage museum.

Not to mention, the American Heritage hot chocolate bar!  Here, we offered all kinds of cookies and candies - peanut butter M&Ms, coconut, peppermints, marshmallows, milk chocolate M&Ms, rainbow sprinkles, assorted sugar cookies, whipped cream and various syrups - to customize a piping hot cup of cocoa.  

American Heritage hot chocolate drink bar.

I had the very yummy pleasure of staffing the hot chocolate drink bar on Mother's Day, and made sure to throw together a chocolaty outfit: 

My "chocolate" outfit consisted of an 1830s short gown,
chocolate brown petticoat, apron, silk neckerscarf, and cap trimmed in pink.
(Please excuse the tired face...)

(2)  I suppose the biggest news is the new job!

Returning for a fourth time in the new role of interpretation office assistant, I have been enjoying my behind-the-scenes look at working for a living history museum.  It's not always glamorous, and very different than being an interpreter, but I greatly appreciate all of the new experiences and opportunities offered.  Oh, and never fear, I still interpret (and dress up!) whenever possible.

Day to day, however, what I look forward to the most are the co-workers I "assist."  From our senior director of interpretation, Brian, to our office manager, Sarah, and the lead interpreters - Deanna, Allison, Matt, Marisa and Pat - in the office.  The entire interpretation staff - Judy, the partner-in-crime, Richard, Sharon, Rhonda, the dressmaker, Ariana, my museum twin, Cassie, Katie, Mary, Sam, Lydia, Marie and Lyn, just to name a few.  Without any doubt, I can honestly say that I have never had the privilege of working with finer people.  I never want to forget them!

Judy and Pam in the Confectionery.

Richard in the Tailor Shop, our newest building,
which opened for interpretation this season!

Sharon, the newest cheese-maker at Jones Farm.

(3)  Special events like History on Tap!  

Something to really look forward to each season are the special events.  The after hours History on Tap night featured a happy hour with local craft beers, wines and ciders to sample, including our newest historic variety, the Flint & Steel Bourbon Barrel Cider.  Live music, food trucks and our village buildings, including special access to the Hyde House cupola, provided entertainment for all.

Posing in the Hyde House parlor.
Photograph by Wayne Panepinto.
(Used with permission from Rochester Events Past & Present)

For the second year in a row, I signed up to work at the Hamilton House.  Like last year, I interpreted on the second floor, while Judy and Irene were stationed on the first floor.  

The three of us - Judy, Irene and yours truly - on the Hamilton House porch.
Photograph courtesy of Peter W.

 Judy and I twinned again, both sporting our newest red dresses for the first time!  We made sure to take plenty of picture of course:

My favorite picture of Judy!

First wearing of the DNA dress!

Trying to look spooky in the Hamilton House parlor:

(4) Spring Hosmer Dinners!  

This year we're offering a four course Literary Feast!  From leek porridge in Kenilworth, to Dracula's robber steaks, plum pudding from A Christmas Carol, and the Amontillado toast, all of our dishes are authentic 19th-century receipts.  These first-person dinners offer fun for the guests and hosts alike, complete with an upstairs, downstairs tour of Hosmer's Inn and an hour (or sometimes longer if you have me as tour guide, sorry not sorry ;) tour of the village by lantern light.


This spring, I played tour guide for both dinners, and had a blast as always!  ("A" team - Ariana, Allison & Anneliese - forever!)  In three years, I haven't missed a dinner, and couldn't have asked for two better nights to end with.  In fact, coincidentally, some of the guests from the JASNA/Meryton Assembly Dancers were present for the first dinner I ever worked as well as the last!

I took several pictures of the pretty set-up this time:

And I am borrowing a few pictures off Facebook to better show the Hosmer Dinner experience:

Serving the salmagundi.
Photograph by Dave Boyer
(Photographer & owner of Boyer's Caricatures & Photography)

Since six of the guests at the last dinner were members of the Meryton Assembly Dancers, including their fabulous dance mistress, Lisa Brown, we were treated to a wonderful dance demonstration and even instructed through two dances!  That really, truly made the night something special! 

Lining up with Lisa and Dave as the head couple.

Dancing in the Hosmer ballroom.

One may begin the tour when it's light, but often by the end, we're grateful for the lanterns!

This year's Hosmer dinner outfit.
It's practically a right of passage at the village to wear the yellow dress!
Photograph by Dave Boyer.

I've learned to walk'n'talk backwards when I tour guide!
Photograph by Dave Boyer.

The tour by lantern light.
Photograph by Dave Boyer.

Last but not least, when the guests have left in their carriages and the last dish tucked into the cupboard, I head upstairs for my nightly stay at the inn.  It's tradition!  I will always remember you fondly, Hosmer dinners :) 

My room that night.

(5)  And, most recently, the Genesee Country Village & Museum hosted the Association for Living History, Farming & Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) 2017 National Conference!  

Silhouettes presentation.

This was such a fantastic experience that will be getting its own blog post, so please stay tuned!