Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Uniforms Weren't So Uniform...18th century military dressed to impress

German Soldier, 1718 by Johann Christof Merk
Nowadays, everyday and combat duty military uniforms are based on comfort, utility, and the ability to blend into the landscape. Not so for our 18th century ancestors. In an era when most battles were fought hand-to-hand on open fields of combat, uniforms served to distinguish friend from foe. Generals sat on horseback, spying through their telescopes and depended upon easily recognizable uniforms to check on the progress of their troops. The uniforms were often constructed of heavy wool, hot and itchy in the heat of battle, miserable in the heat and humidity of summer but made for durability as well as identification. In a time when keeping up appearances extended to the battlefield, the richer looking the army, the more successful and intimidating they appeared.

Today I bring you a gallery of contrasting views: contemporary vs 18th century uniforms. 
German Soldier per Wikimedia Commons

Polish Soldiers 1697-1795 by Jan Matejko
Polish Soldiers per Wikimedia Commons

British Soldiers, mid 18th century by David Morier
British Soldier (
American Soldiers, 1781, per Wikimedia

American Soldiers per Wikimedia

French Soldiers, 17th to 19th Century by Charles Vernier

French Soldiers by Isafmdeia per Wikimedia

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What to Drink After Colonial Tea Parties?...revolutionary thirst quenchers

The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, 1846 by Nathaniel Currier
Here, in Edenton, North Carolina, the month of October, 2014, was set aside to commemorate one of the first organized political actions by a group of American women: the Edenton Tea Party. On October 25, 1774 (ten months after the famous Boston Tea Party in which male colonists disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and dumped shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor,) Edenton's Penelope Barker organized a tea party of 51 ladies who signed a petition addressed to King George, pledging a boycott against the purchasing
Penelope Barker, 18th cent, artist unknown
of tea and cloth imported from England. The protests were spurred by The Tea Act in which England imposed a tax on tea bought by the colonists. Although the tax placed upon the tea was actually lower than it had been in the past, it was the notion of “taxation without representation” that fueled the patriotic protests.

Penelope Barker is a fascinating subject and I will dedicate a post to her at some time in the near future. But for now, I’ve been pondering what took the place of tea in America once its consumption was deemed unpatriotic.
In 1773, Susannah Clarke penned the following:

We’ll lay hold of card and wheel,
And join our hands to turn and reel;
We’ll turn the tea all in the sea,
And all to keep our liberty.
We’ll put on our homespun garbs
And make tea of our garden herbs,
When we are dry, we’ll drink small beer
And freedom shall our spirits cheer.

Schokolode by By Itisdacurlz via Wikimedia Commons
As alluded to in Mrs. Clarke’s poem, herbal teas brewed from native American roots and plants, and small beer (the Colonial version, made with very low alcohol content) were two beverages of choice. In addition, coffee gained great popularity (to this day, still ranking higher than tea consumption on the western side of “The Pond,”) and my personal favorite, chocolate, maintained its place at Colonial American tables. (***Interesting Chocolate Factoid!*** Although drinking chocolate had been the delicious norm for centuries, did you know that, other than chocolate used to flavor baked goods, there was no form of solid “eating” chocolate prior to 1830? A big “Thank You” to England’s Joseph Fry and Sons for all the leftover chocolate Halloween candy taking space in my cupboard! Of course, it won’t be there for long.)

Mint Tea By Onderwijsgek via Wikimedia Commons
The non-tea “teas” brewed in the Revolutionary era, were often made by steeping the leaves of strawberry, rhubarb, blackberry, or goldenrod plants. One favorite was called “Balsamic Hyperion” brewed from dried raspberry leaves and another called “Liberty Tea,” was made from the leaves of a plant aptly named loosestrife.

Well, time for a cup of tea, I think…or coffee…or maybe small beer…or hot chocolate. Yeah, definitely chocolate! (Just for research purposes, of course…) 

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!