Posts Tagged ‘Colonial life’

My short visit to Williamsburg resulted in a lot of pix and short videos. For those who have never visited Colonial Williamsburg, this renovated Virginia city evokes the 18th century just prior to the American Revolution. I visited on a glorious April day, just when the shops were about to close, and saw workers dressed in Colonial garb ending their day and closing up shop. I witnessed a juxtaposition of old/new, with modern-day people re-enacting chores and professions as if they lived during Thomas Jefferson’s and Benjamin Franklin’s time. This very short 18-second clip shows a female silversmith apprentice. My camera panned to her shoes, which she admitted were quite worn, perhaps more than was authentic!

From 1699-1780 there were 15, possibly 16, silversmiths in Williamsburg. There was a strong preference among wealthy planters for importing large silverware from London. – Silversmith

I walked further down the street and saw this shopkeeper locking up the Prentis and walking home.  Prentis shops in and around the historic section sell hand crafted goods made in the traditional way. Other than the absence of horses and carts, the scene could have been lifted straight out of the 18th Century.

This clickable map shows what a pitifully small section I walked (from the Capitol to Botetourt street and the two parallel streets to the Duke of Gloucester Street). I have seen most of Williamsburg over the years, for I celebrated one of my wedding anniversaries in this city and got to explore it quite a bit then.

Workers near the tavern

Workers in back of Shields Tavern

I concentrated on walking in portions of Williamsburg that I had not much explored before, which was the section closest to the Capitol.

Sign of the furniture maker

Sign of the cabinet maker

Many of the walkways are covered by either gravel or crushed oyster shells, a common commodity in Virginia’s tidewater area.

The furniture maker's workshop

The cabinet maker’s workshop

The cabinet maker is situated on Nicholson Street, which is parallel to the main drag, the Duke of Gloucester Street, where the Barber and Peruke Maker’s shop can be found.

Barber and Peruke Maker

Barber and Peruke Maker

You can see images of the shop interiors if you click on the tour and find the shop you are interested in.
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A peruke is a periwig, popular with men during the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Here is the official Williamsburg link to the Barber and Peruke Maker

Working gent

Working gent

While I met him on the porch of the Barber and Peruke Maker, this gentleman was simply making a delivery and did not work there.

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This building was quite new to me. No wonder, since it was reconstructed a mere 4-5 years ago. It has been at least 8 years since I last wandered around the historic district.

Chatting outside the coffee house

Chatting outside the coffee house

I loved this man’s pose.

Outside the milliner's shop

Outside the milliner’s shop

The milliner’s hats can be purchased at the store or at a stall in the market place.

Inside the milliner's shop

Inside the milliner’s shop

One needs to purchase a series of tickets before entering a shop. Since I had not done so, I could only peek through the windows (made with hand blown glass). Thus the rather fuzzy image of the shop keeper tidying up before closing the store.

Chatting to tourists about life as a black man in Colonial Virginia

Chatting to tourists about life as a black man in Colonial Virginia

All the workers in Williamsburg are willing to chat with tourists. I took this image when this man was in deep discussion with someone, who was peppering him with questions. I admired his patience.

A comely maid walks home after a long day.

A comely maid walks home after a long day.

The sun shone through the trees on what I consider a perfect spring evening. In a few short weeks, hot humid days will descend upon Virginia.

All the staff are friendly and willing to pose

All the staff are friendly and willing to pose

At the end of a long day, the workers returning to their real 21st century lives walk through a quiet town towards their parked cars. The following video captures only the sound of the birds and breezes. The loudest music comes from the male cardinal who, this time of year, is quite loud in claiming his territory. You  can also hear the phoebe. The sheep are Leicester long haired sheep.

Every day the sound of fifes and drums pierce the air. I had wondered where all the visitors had gone. Why, to watch the marching band and to walk with them!

Colonial Williamsburg’s field musicians are drawn from a waiting list of young community applicants. Boys and girls begin their education in military music at age 10 and practice weekly for the next eight years, until after they have graduated from high school. These young people talk with the public about the role of music in the 18th-century military. They teach younger members the music and history lessons needed to continue the tradition of the field musicians. – About the Fives and Drums

If you look closely at this video you will see that the kids do not break formation, even though they are walking over horse droppings. Where are the street sweepers when you need them! (The street sweeper below is lamenting the advent of the machine!)

street sweeper and machine

Note to readers: although the era so dramatically demonstrated at Williamsburg is from the 18th century through 1776, the customs and costumes would have been familiar to Jane Austen’s parents at the time of her birth. One can easily imagine Reverend Austen and his wife Cassandra wearing similar clothes as they raised their growing family in Steventon.  Their parsonage had a cow (and a pig and chickens, no doubt), a well and kitchen garden, and the means to make cream and butter, wines and preserves, and other household goods that are so well demonstrated in Williamsburg!

My other Williamsburg posts:

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Guides in front of the Governor's Palace, Williamsburg

Guides in front of the Governor’s Palace, Williamsburg

My very short visit to Colonial Williamsburg this week provided me with an immersion in 18th century Colonial life. The time frame captured by this historic city is 1760-1776. The costumes worn by the guides would have been similar to the dress worn by Jane Austen’s parents around the time of her birth. The Capitol building (rebuilt 1934) is a site of historic events, including Thomas Jefferson’s first attempt at a bill for religious freedom. Today, immigrants are naturalized here in a ceremony held once a year.

Walking towards the Capitol building in Williamsburg, I met four guides, three women and a man, dressed in Colonial costume. All graciously posed for my camera (see 21-second video above), turning and posing to show their mob caps, bonnets, and aprons, and the construction details of their dress. The young lady who wore her apron up explained that she had not been taught to tuck it up, and that she did it naturally. This made sense, as there are many images from the past that show women wearing their aprons in this way, which allowed them to carry items inside the tucked section.

This 6-second video is of the Capitol.

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After a meeting in Williamsburg today, I stayed to wander the streets of this restored colonial city as the sun sank. It was a beautiful evening. The tourists were thinning and I wandered in areas without car or bus traffic. I was struck by the natural sounds – birds singing, insects buzzing, water gurgling in a stream, the fifes and drums of a marching band, and a horse clopping along a gravel road. Except for the runner walking, I was transported back in time. Here’s the first video of my walk. More to come later.

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