REPOSTED from Carpenters’ Hall

Join us for interactive fun!
  Join us for July Family Fun Days at Carpenters’ Hall These events are free and ongoing throughout the day      


The Colonial Surveyor July 10 outside the Hall from 10 am – 4 pm  

The first surveyors in America arrived with the Jamestown Company in 1621. Given the goal of quickly settling Virginia and the vagaries of Royal Charters for Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolina colonies, surveyors were critical to establishing order in the colonies. The role of the surveyor was to transfer land from the crown to private ownership. The survey was completed using a compass on a staff, called a Jacob’s Staff, and a 33′ Gunter’ chain. It was the responsibility of the buyer to be the pilot, showing the land’s boundary to the surveyor and to hire two chain carriers.  Once the fieldwork was completed, the surveyor drew a plat and wrote a description of the property. The survey plat and description were copied and entered into the county survey book, and the originals were sent to the Governor. Upon entry of the warrant with survey plat and description, the Secretary of State issued a land patent signed by the governor and marked with the colony’s seal.    Later as significant municipal buildings like Faneuil Hall, the Pennsylvania Statehouse, Carpenters Hall, and significant manor homes like Mt Vernon and built, it was critical that detailed and clear surveys were prepared to aid the architect not only in the design but also in the ultimate construction of these buildings.   During the Revolutionary War, George Washington, himself well-schooled in surveying, commissioned a battalion of surveyors and geographers to map the terrain ahead of the army. A knowledge of the terrain, location of roads, fords, and various other aspects of the land was vital to the ability to effectively move the army and wage war.   This will be an interactive program where participants are encouraged to employ the tools and techniques of the 18th Century Surveyor and actively measure a section of the back lawn of Carpenters Hall. Participants will be allowed to site lines using the compass and range poles. They will be allowed to measure those lines using the Gunters chain as well as measure splines off that lines for irregular boundaries. Finally, participants will be encouraged to use these measurements to draw maps and write property descriptions (which they may take away).           

The 18th Century Gentleman Scientist July 17 outside the Hall from 10 am- 4pm  

While we all know the ramification of Enlightenment thinking on politics in the 18th Century, it also had a profound and seminal effect on science. Prior to the Enlightenment, scientific thought, when it could be separated from theology, was dominated by theories of absolute truth but over the course of the 16th and 17th Centuries this absolutism began to be replaced by modern empirical observation and experimentation. The world doesn’t work as it does because it should, or because of supernatural forces, but rather it follows series of natural laws. Rocks don’t fall to the earth because, as Plato argued, they belong to the earth; they fall because, as Newton observed, objects are attracted to each other in proportion to their mass and inverse proportion to their distance separation [squared]. God, if involved at all in the process at all, is the author of laws that govern the universe, not the prime mover who physically controls each particle. This subtle shift in focus and explosion of scientific inquiry and the creation of the “gentleman scientist.”   Join or exemplary “Gentleman Scientist ” for the following demonstrations:   Two sealed fermenters (one inoculated) with airlocks ➔ an experiment challenging spontaneous generationReproduction of Joseph Priestley’s experiments discovering the element Oxygen à challenging the conventional wisdom and Theories of Phlogiston.Demonstration of the use of a nautical sextant to measure angles and a discussion of how with just a sextant to measure latitude, Mr Thacker’s newly invented chronometer (1714) to measure longitude, one can accurately determine their exact location on the earth.Display computations and discussion of the 1769 observations of the Transit of Venus with an explanation of “big science” in the 18th Century and how these data allowed the Royal Academy to compute the distance of the Earth from the Sun.Display and demonstration of various computing devices used by scientists and surveyors in the 18th Century.    


Cyphers & Spycraft in the American Revolution July 31 outside the Hall from 10 am to 4 pm   Going into the Revolution, Americans were at a huge disadvantage to the European powers when it came to cryptography, many of which had been using secret offices where sensitive letters were opened and deciphered by public officials for centuries. It was not uncommon for the messages of Revolutionary leaders and American diplomats to be intercepted and read by their enemies, both at home and abroad. To combat this, many of our founding fathers and key generals relied heavily on the use of cryptography. Cryptography is split into two ways of changing the message systematically to confuse anyone who intercepts it: these are codes and ciphers. Many people believe, and use, the word code to mean the same thing as cipher, but technically they are different.   A code is a way of changing the message by replacing each word with another word that has a different meaning. For example, “Burn the City” could become “Take the rubbish” where the word “burn” is represented by the codeword “take”, and similarly for “city” and “rubbish”. Using codes requires a codebook, which contains all such codewords. Considering the large number of words in most languages, this is normally quite a large book, making the use of codes rather cumbersome. However, they can be used to encode key words in a message. Consider the message “Kill him as soon as possible”. With a simple change of a single word this becomes “Meet him as soon as possible”, which may pass through security detection without being noticed. So, although potentially hard to use, a simple code can be very effective, since even if the message is intercepted, they can be used so that the code reads as an innocent or unrelated topic.   Ciphers, on the other hand, convert the message by a rule, known only to the sender and recipient, which changes each individual letter (or sometimes groups of letters). Ciphers, are significantly easier to use than codes, since the users only have to remember a specific algorithm (a mathematical word for process) to encrypt the message, and not a whole dictionary of codewords. The major setback for ciphers compared to codes is that if someone finds a message that has been encrypted using a cipher, the output is almost certainly going to be a random string of letters or symbols, and as such the interceptor will know straight away that someone wanted to hide this message.   Cryptography was no parlor game for the idle classes, but a serious business for revolutionary era statesmen who, like today’s politicians and spies, needed to conduct their business using secure messaging. Codes and ciphers involved rearranged letters, number substitutions, and other methods. What follows are some of the most common cyphers used by George Washington and the Continental Army.   Our Spy Master, will recruit and train spies and provide them with hands on exercises to practice their spy craft before being sent into the British encampments to collect intelligence. We will present several codes and cyphers for the participants to encode and decode messages, “dead drop” will be established in the environs of Carpenters Hall for our spies to exchange messages with other spies, and we will have discussions of famous spies in the George Washington’s and General Howe’s employ.          

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The Carpenters’ Company | 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106    

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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