April 3, 2021
Gentleman Scientist at Fort Miffli
10:00am – 3:00pm  

  • Discussion of Transit of Venus and the measurement of the Astronomical Unit
  • Discussion of critical role of astronomy in 18th Century and a reference to the Vernal Equinox
  • Discussion of Enlightenment Science vs “exact sciences” of Aristotle
  • Field trip to riverbank and exploration of the new “germ theory” (c1750)
  • 18th Century computations

April 17, 2021
Tavern Night and “School of the Soldier”
Thornbury Farms

During the day, the 43rd Rgmt of Foot will practice and drill, perfecting our presentation for 2021 events. In the evening, likely beginning around 5pm, we will open the tavern to both the soldiers and the public. Expect music, games, food, drinks and, of course, beer.

May 1, 2021
Annual Colonial Mayfair — Pottsgrove Manor
11:00 am to 5:00 pm

A great event with lots of period demonstrations and vendors including me as the Regimental Brewmiester.

May 29, 2021
“Hands on”  18th Century Surveyor class 
11:00 am – 2:00pm (two sessions)

  • 11:00 – 12:00             Mapping the Fort (urban surveying)
    • Military survey of grounds inside the fort
    • Preparation of plat plan for use by military architect
  • 1:00 – 2:00                  Wilderness Survey (beyond fort’s walls)
    • Military survey of trail and paths to mortar casemates
    • Preparation of surveyor’s notes and communication to field officers with recommendation for troop movements

June 18, 2021
JEFFERSONIAN PICNIC – Did Jefferson ever believe “All men are created equal …?”
5:00pm – 8:00 pm

We all know Jefferson owned slaves. We also know that in 1803, he purchased Louisiana from Bonaparte setting the stage for future displacements, genocides, and other crimes against America’s First Nations. Were “all men” only white Protestant males in Jefferson’s mind? Did he feel that Africans and Indians deserved any rights or were they just to be treated like the cattle and fauna of the land? Was the Declaration of Independence meant to be a vision and ethos for our new nation, or was it just convenient propaganda to gain support for separation from the British Empire?

June 26, 2021
TAVERN NIGHT
Behind the Scenes — Debate for Independence
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

I will play John Dickenson and debate and discuss voting on the Declaration of Independence.  We will explore Dickenson’s disquiet with the haste of the vote and his issues with being ordered by the legislature (meeting upstairs in the Long Hall) NOT to vote for Independence.  Richard Lee (author of the Resolution for Independence) from Virginia, Roger Livingston from New York, Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania, and Samuel Adams will endeavor to convince Dickenson to allow the vote to be unanimous.  The ultimate compromise will be, of course, that Dickenson will not vote for Independence (legally) but arrange to be absent. In exchange for facing the wrath of the legislature, he will be asked to draft the Declaration of Independence along with Adams, Franklin, Livingston and Jefferson.

Note:  There will be a special discount rate for reenactors in proper military uniform  (either Continental or British, we will figure it out)

July 4, 2021
Freedom Blast – Public Reading of the Declaration of Independence
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

July 4, 2021
JEFFERSONIAN PICNIC — Was the Continental Congress amiss in offering the Olive Branch Petition?
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

We live in a new era of political apologists.  Politicians are eager to express their loyalty to party and causes and sometimes this loyalty defies reason or even their own best interests but this is not a new behavior in American politics.  In on July 5, 1775 the Continental Congress send an apologetic letter pleading for Parliament and the King to reconcile with the colonies.  The King never responded and is rumored to have refused to even read it.  Was sending this letter a necessary step in creating the resolve of Congress to declare independence 12 months later or was this a vain attempt at preserving the self-interests of the delegates?  Should Congress have sent this petition or taken a stronger stance against the Crown?  Could the Revolution have been avoided or had the actions in Boston put the Colonies on an ineluctable path toward separation from the British Empire?

July 10, 2021
Colonial Surveyor
Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia
10:00 am — 4:00 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). 

July 17, 2021
Gentleman Scientist Visits Carpenter’s Hall
10:00 am — 4:00 pm

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.”

My impression is to be an exemplar of the “Gentleman Scientist.” One who corresponds widely with others who are exploiting this new “scientific method” to challenge to challenge the status quo on EVERYTHING from physics to politics, one who conducts a wide variety of scientific investigations, and one who focuses on shifting our understanding of how the world works from folklore and tradition to mathematical scientific “laws.”

Demonstrations:

  • Two sealed fermenters (one inoculated) with airlocks ➔ an experiment challenging spontaneous generation
  • Reproduction 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.

My impression will consist of a display table and stools on which I will place the display items and my writing box. I will be dressed as a gentleman from Philadelphia (not a 1st person impression), and I will focus on explaining how the “modern” man of 1771 uses science as part of his worldview in the Age of Reason.

July 31, 2021
Cyphers and Spycraft
in the American Revolution
Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia
10:00 am — 4:00 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 (it is a bit like a French dictionary, giving the translation to and from the codeword). 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.

As the Spy Master, I 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.

August 21, 2021
Rain Date for planned events
at Carpenter’s Hall
10:00 am — 4:00 pm

July 24, 2021
“Hands on”  18th Brewing Class
10:00am – 4:00 pm

Perhaps you are an accomplished homebrewer and you want to appreciate the challenges faced by brewers in the 18th Century who brewed good beer without all the instrumentation and modern equipment we rely on, perhaps you are a history buff and want to know just what beer tasted like in 1770, or perhaps you just enjoy a good story and some fine beer.  If any of these are you then you should join one of our immersion classes and learn to brew like our forefathers.

Rather than a demonstration where you can just watch and maybe smell the process, I strive for a full immersion experience.  Step back in time and join the team as we brew the work for Spruce Beer to be drunk by the Continental Army.  Beer was so critical to life in the early years of our country that the Pilgrims ended their voyage early and settled in Massachusetts rather than Virginia because the ran out of beer.  Beer was so critical to the health of the army that George Washington ordered his quartermasters in 1775 to provide each man “One quart of Spruce Beer per man, pr diem” in order to keep them fit for service during the siege of Boston.

In this class you will learn:

  • The general history of beer and brewing in America and how the practice rose from a basic task performed in nearly every household to a profession which fed the various Taverns and Alehouse of our new nation.
  • The roles of the Colonial Tavern in the social, political, and civic life of early America.
  • Why everyone; men, women, children, and slaves; drank beer all day in order to stay healthy.
  • What the difference is between the parti-gyyle, the hoffbrau, and the small beer.  Who drank what and why so many styles from a single batch of malt?
  • Why beer was so critical to early life in America and how it fueled the debates that led to revolution.
  • How the Royal Navy’s failure to protect Pennsylvania from pirates launched the industry that would create our nation’s oldest professional breweries.
  • How to make beer with only your five senses and some basic field kitchen equipment including:
    • Mashing the wort
    • Decoctions and extractions
    • Lautering, brewing, and chilling without the benefit of modern appliances.
    • Assessing the progress and quality of your beer without modern instruments like thermometers, hydrometers and clocks.
  • Beer Styles of the 18th Century and how to adapt historical recipes to work with modern supplies.
  • How beer in the 18th Century was very different than what we call beer today.

At the end of this class, you will be given the product of your work.  Take home and ferment into the Spruce Beer wort you make in this class to ferment and condition into the beer that saved many 18th Century expeditions into the far north and helped the men avoid scurvy and other ailments.  Share not only your experience with your friends but beer you brewed with your hands, your nose, and your own personal experience.

August 14, 2021
JEFFERSONIAN PICNIC —
“Remember the Ladies” 
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

–Letter from Abigail Adams to her husband in Philadelphia — March 31, 1776

It won’t be until 1848 that the movement for women’s rights is launched on a national level with the Seneca Falls Convention.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and, of course, Susan B. Anthony fought hard to raise public awareness and support in Congress for women’s voting rights.  Even after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, women still were considered second class citizens under the law with many restrictions and prohibitions.  What would have been the implications had Congress Assembled followed Abigail’s advice to “remember the ladies” in 1787 and granted full rights of citizenship under the Constitution to both men and women?

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