American Historical Mythology

If you hang around Fort Mifflin very long you will, no doubt, be regaled with stories of the supernatural and the pseudoscience that supports its existence. These are all good fun but let’s be clear, SOME people actually believe these things and even though the scientifically minded dismiss THESE beliefs, they are quick to then …

Colonial Market Fair at Benjamin Banneker House

Largely self-taught, Banneker was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. His significant accomplishments include the successful prediction of a solar eclipse, publishing his own almanac, and the surveying of Washington, D.C. Banneker spent most of his life on his family’s 100-acre farm outside Baltimore. There, he taught himself astronomy by …

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. May 14, 1796 – Edward Jenner publishes his procedure for smallpox vaccination.  His procedure differed from previous attempts at vaccination in that he injected a milder “attenuated” version of …

The danger of always marching in lockstep

If you’ve ever been part of an organization that marches — not just the military but even marching bands and re-enactors (sort of) — you know what it means to march in lockstep.  Everyone steps in precision to a standard cadence (usually 120 steps/min, 28 in/step) and one person takes a step with his left …

The dye that causes people to die

Wallpaper with Scheel Green In the mid-1700s, Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered a copper derivative that was a particularly vivid green. Scheele’s discovery — known as Scheele’s Green — was used as a pigment for all sorts of artistic works, particularly among the European elite. Wallpaper, in particular, was made using Scheele’s Green to achieve the …

Basic Colonial Brewing #5 –Why use Copper?

Go to almost any brewery or distillery and you will see lots of gleaming copper. This is not some quaint historical holdover nor is it there for show. We use copper in brewing for real and practical purposes. The reasons for using copper were well understood by the Colonial Brewer but why it worked has …

Eli Whitney Patented the Cotton Gin on March 14, 1794

In 1794, U.S.-born inventor Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, a machine that revolutionized the production of cotton by greatly speeding up the process of removing seeds from cotton fiber. By the mid-19th century, cotton had become America’s leading export. Despite its success, the gin made little money for Whitney due to patent-infringement issues. Also, …

Ben Franklin DID NOT Invent Daylight Savings Time!

Well, today we lose an hour of sleep to the interest of commerce. Don’t worry, you will get it back in November.  Before the middle of the 19th Century, keeping time was more of an art than a science.  Time pieces and clocks were available, even common in certain circles but they were notoriously inaccurate.  …