Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 25, 1789        Bill of Rights On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 25, 1775        Arnold’s March through the Wilderness. Early in the American Revolutionary War, Colonel Benedict Arnold led a force of 1,100 Continental Army troops on an expedition from …

Early Meteorology — Predicting the Weather 18th Century Style: scientific beginnings in England

The shift from superstition to scientific study of meteorology began when proper measuring instruments became available in the mid-17th century. By the early 18th century, Daniel Fahrenheit produced accurate mercury thermometers calibrated to a standard scale that ranged from 32 to 96 degrees (i.e., from the melting point of ice to body temperature).  Early work …

Colonial Spymaster (#3) — Ottendorf or Book Cypher

The Ottendorf Cypher, or Book Cypher, is a cyphertext is made up of numbers in groups of 3, and these numbers correspond to positions in a book (or other type of text).  Most often the numbers refer to Line, Word, and Letter.  To encode a message, the encoder needs only to find the word at …

Basic Colonial Brewing #18 — Proof your Whiskey, Sir

When it comes to arcane historical terms for spirits and other alcohol, proof is one of the frustrating ones.  In our modern vernacular, with the blessing of modern analytical chemistry as support, we simply think of “proof” as two times the alcohol by volume (ABV).  But why is this measure even a thing?  After all, …

Colonial Spymaster (#2) — Caesar Cypher

The Caesar cypher is one of the earliest known and simplest cyphers. It is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is ‘shifted’ a certain number of places down the alphabet. For example, with a shift of 1, A would be replaced by B, B would become C, and so …

Why I March with the Color Guard

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman….”  Thomas Paine, The Crisis (19 December 1776) So, I just had a stupid argument …

Colonial Spymaster (#1) — Codes and Cyphers in the Continental Army

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 …

Proper Salutes in the British Army

In 1740, the “French salute”, or greeting another by kissing them on the cheek, started to become fashionable in London.  With the Seven Years War (AKA French and Indian War), the “French salute” quickly became controversial, being called unEnglish. Encouraged instead was the “old English” way of “pulling off a Hat. For the British, removing your …