Monday, April 23

Period Handwriting

 
There has been quite a bit of interest in the Mail Packet project that we're doing for the guys in the the Acasta group. I've gotten a lot of questions about writing letters of the period, so this week we'll be taking you step-by-step through the process of writing a letter that looks like it came from the era. Each day will deal with a different aspect of the process, we'll cover:

Period Handwriting
Period Content
Letter Folding
Addressing
Wax Seals


First up we tackle...

Period Handwriting
The first problem that people tend to encounter when undertaking a hand written letter project is "I don't have nice handwriting". Well, neither did a lot of people in the period... so don't be too hard on yourself. People wrote letters to communicate with friends and loved ones over a great distance, and so long as it was legible, that was what mattered.

There is a great period reference to make use of when trying to learn how to create lettering from the period. I highly recommend George Bickham's little book about penmanship! I have owned several copies of this very book and it is delightful. Not only does it show you how to create each individual letter in various styles, it also has pages for the reader to copy for practice!

You can find a modern edition for sale on Amazon HERE:

Or, if you'd like a period correct copy along with some beginning writing supplies as seen in the image above, click HERE:

If you decide to purchase the period letter writing pack, be sure to tell them the Doctor referred you!

And to see some lovely samples of letters from the period that revolve around Royal Naval officer Francis Godolphin Bond circa 1765-1839, click HERE.

In the meantime, get out your pen and paper and practice, have some fun with it!

Friday, April 20

Thursday, April 19

How to Speak and Write...


Here's a cool printable guide (from Colonial Williamsburg) to 18th century letter writing - kind of an easy primer or cheat sheet for those interested in participating in the mail packet project!

http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume10/sept11/images/letterslessonmaterials.pdf


Wednesday, April 18

What should I write?

Need help with letter content? People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.

Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people we portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.

There are a few interesting resources I'd like to share that might inspire you to create content for letters of the period.

A well known book was 'The Complete Letter-Writer', which offered up samples of various types of letters that people wrote. Thank heavens for the fine folks at Google Books for offering a digital version online:

Below, you'll find a the text from a letter of the period to a Royal naval Lieutenant from his Aunt back home, taken from a collection of letters that you can view HERE:

to:
Lieut. F. Bond
on board His Majestys Ship Pompee, Devonshire
Cambridge 9th. March 1798 Received 24th. April

Dear Nephew,


With pleasure and a most agreeable surprise did I receive your letter of ye 29th. December many circumstances have occurred which has prevented me from answering it at ye time intended, and I am in fears least your ship should have left ye port - you find I am like all the world apt to flatter myself in thinking a letter may be agreeable but how natural it is to judge from ones own feelings - your apologies are and ought to be accepted as I know your time must be much taken up in professional Duties: I will candidly own that I imputed your silence at being weary of a correspondance with your aunt - and that I had no right to blame you yet I severely felt its loss - with your turn of mind ye company on board a ship cannot be pleasant whose ideas in general extend chiefly to conviviality - but you have comforts which to them are denied -they if alone find time heavy and irksome and know not what to do to arrouse them - whereas you can always find resources within yourself -if providence sends to some more tryals and likewise sensibility to feel them -yet surely the pleasures abovementioned are in some degree adequate - if so the distribution of the almighty are more equal than we are apt to imagine or allow - such has been my firm opinion for many years and thro' it have obtained many comforts in this chequered Life - you could not expect your Brother Thomas to meet with a wife like ye first I fear they are few if any like her and it is wonderful to me he should venture. You did not mention wether your Mother or Charlotte was well if you see them remember me kindly - or when you should at any time chance to meet with an officer belonging to the alarm - you would think of your deceased uncle and inquire wither any writing was found or how his effects was disposed of -I would have wrote when ye vessell came home but as I think they often change their captains knew not what mode to persue. Neither do I make an apology for troubling you to a Benevolent mind - ye acting ye part of a Father to the poor infant will meet its own reward - your uncle Charles and Family were well when I last heard of them - but living fourteen miles distant do not often see or write. I cannot prevail with your cousins to correspond with a gentleman not personally known - but I hope the time will arrive when you will meet and persuade them - I long to see peace wave Her olive branch over this once happy land -but wither it will be in my time I know not my health tho' something better than when I last wrote owing I believe to the mildness of the winter - is far from being established and I have my fears that it never will - may you enjoy that blessing and every other this world affords is the wish of 


your affectionate aunt
M Bond


Need some ideas for what to write? Try one of these:

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from immediate 'family' this year if you please.)
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Tomorrow, come back and we'll talk about folding your finished letter!

Tuesday, April 17

Whoever Shall I Write To? 2018 Edition

Wondering who to write to for the 2018 Mail Packet Project? Here's a listing to the cast of characters who are scheduled (so far) to be in attendance at the Jane Austen festival. Some haven't submitted their short character biographies yet, I'll update this as they do. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about the project and enjoy!

Remember, this year it'll be 1805 with the Acasta having just returned to Portsmouth.

Shea McLean Second Lieutenant-
A newly appointed officer aboard Acasta.








Lord William Fitzroy Third Lieutenant- Lord William FitzRoy, KCB was a Napoleonic War British Naval officer and politician (and a REAL PERSON!), retiring as Admiral shortly before his death in 1857. With the Acasta Fitzroy is portrayed as a young Lieutenant just beginning his adventures. He was the third son of Augustus FitzRoy, Duke of Grafton and former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Serving in or near almost every major naval action of the Napoleonic War(s), FitzRoy’s story is an exciting and interesting tale of adventure, ambition, and promotion.


James Apple Carpenter- Born in Hackney, England 1766 in April. Grew up in a family of Carriage makers and blacksmiths with a moderate shop in the east end. His father, james Appel was born in Hesse and went back to take care of family affairs some time ago. His mother, Barbara Bedwell still manages the shop and has a tendency to be to lenient on collecting payment for finished work. He has a son, Hunter that turned 18 in October of 1814 and since has gone to sea under the name of Nathaniel Bekket. He also has a daughter, Golden Jewel that turned 16 in August of 1814 that has moved with her mother to Chataguey, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. He has a new wife, Lynne, who now keeps his house in Hackney and looks in on his mother in addition to teaching many if the lesser-sorts to read and write at the new Church of St. John.

Nicholas Armitage Purser- Volunteered to serve aboard 'HMS Acasta' in 1792, with prior experience in London merchant grocer businesses and counting houses, that gave him some skills requisite for a ship's purser. His half-brother William St George, currently serving as a lieutenant on 'HMS Conqueror' (74), and Armitage does have a wife in London ('Georgiana Carr Armitage')'.

Jean Baptiste Girard Surgeon's Mate- A well traveled old Creole who has usually worked in some medical capacity on merchant ships. He has been impressed onto the HMS Acasta, but is not unhappy there. In his time Baptiste has traveled through both the East and West Indies and spent six years among the Igorots of the Spanish Philippines when a Spanish privateer (on which he was a prisoner) was shipwrecked there. During the French revolution a Captain who he admired and respected was guillotined, cementing his philosophy as a Monarchist.  His wife Marie is Igrot; she is currently living in Louisiana on the plantation of Messr. Francois Rochambeau. They have young twin boys.

Early in his career Baptiste learned that he could make extra money by collecting curiosities from his travels to sell to educated gentlemen. His non-formal education in natural history and things medical still allows him to believe many superstitions in both fields.

John Griswold Ship's Chaplain- The Rev. Mr. John Phinehas Griswold was born August 2, 1755 in the town of Kenilworth, in the [then] Colony of Connecticut.  Descended from Edward Griswold of Warwickshire and loyal to the King, John received his formal education in the Colonies during those turbulent years of the rebellion before traveling to England to complete his ordination.  Upon taking residence near Warwick, John met and married the radiantly beautiful Miss Agatha W., the younger sister to Lady Caroline Linnington.
After his ordination, it was the prolific writings of the Rev. John Newton, a former sailor, who greatly influenced Griswold’s faith and practice. Newton’s books and letters along with the sermons of Rev. James Ramsay, a former Naval Surgeon, first alerted Griswold to the possibilities of serving in His Majesties Navy as a Chaplin.  News of the successes of the Evangelicals in serving in ships under “Blue Light” Captains drove Griswold to actively seek a place to serve.  But it was not until Agatha’s tragic death three years ago that Griswold was able to consider fulfilling that call.   Preaching at sea seemed a suitable balm for his weary soul, and a salary of 11.8.0 per annum was of no consequence as eternal prospects far outweighed temporal rewards. Rev. Griswold has served onboard HMS Acasta for the past two years.

Nathaniel Beckett Able Seaman- Hailing from St. Katharine Docks in East End of London, came from a poor family and found himself on the streets fending for himself. He found himself one night climbing up the side of Tower Hamlet at the command of a navy man betting him he couldn't reach the top only to take the bet and walk out the side door of the tower sometime later. Young master Beckett completing his task found himself in his cups with the navy man later. After many ill deserved drinks Beckett awoke and found himself sailing away to his new life a crew member of HMS Superb. Some years later Beckett found himself at port and found himself in company of the French Man and Carpenter of HMS Acasta. He has lent his hand ever since.

Charles Winchester Landmanborn in 1760 in Dorchester, England.  His mother, Anne Marie Bousard was of French Hugenot descent. His father, James Winchester was a farmer and horse trader from Weymouth. Anne died during childbirth giving birth to the couple’s fourth child.  Shortly afterwards James was accused and arrested for a horse deal gone wrong. He spent a year in gaol.  During this time Charles and his three sisters were sent to Weymouth to live with his aunt Beatrice.  In 1770 upon his release from gaol James sold his farm and business giving the money to his sister-in-law and moved to Portsmouth. After a failed business venture there he joined the Royal Navy aboard HMS Antelope in 1772.  He never returned.

     Charles was sent to Bournemouth to apprentice as a blacksmith.  His master, Silas Hartford, was a hard man, being overly fond of gin. Charles was a little too free with his tongue for Silas and the master struck Charles across the face with a bar of pig iron. After less than a year Charles broke his indenture and ran away to Portsmouth and took a job on a fishing vessel. At age seventeen Charles signed on to a coastal trading ship making runs between Portsmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth. At age twenty-two he joined the crew of a mail packet making the run from Portsmouth to Cardiff and Bristol.

     In 1787 he married a nineteen year old Bristol girl, Sarah Powels and settled in Bath.  Like his father he took up horse trading, also dabbling in farming and sheep. He and Sarah had six children; four daughters and two sons: Elizabeth (b.1789), Rachel (b.1793), Johnathon (b.1795), Sarah (b. 1797), James (b.1799) and Anne (b.1807). In 1800 with the farm failing the family moved to Portsmouth for a year and then to Plymouth.

     In April 1802 Charles signed aboard the 18 gun brigantine HMS Imogene on a coastal cruise looking for smugglers. Over the next three years he sailed on several cruises to the Cape of Good Hope and off the coast of Guinea.  The ship ran aground and was lost in March 1805, but the entire crew was saved.  After this close scrape Charles left the service, returned to Plymouth and took a job aboard a number of coastal trading vessels over the next two years.  In 1812 Charles signed aboard a merchant vessel, the Nancy, bound for Barbados.  This vessel was captured by the American brig Federal off the coast of the Azores two weeks later.  The entire crew was taken captive and were to be taken to France.  Charles, along with 32 others, signed aboard to supplement the crew after part of the crew of the Federal went aboard the captured Nancy. En route to Boston one month later the Federal was taken by the HMS Acasta.  All British crew members (and a number of Americans) joined the crew of the HMS Acasta. At present Charles is still aboard HMS Acasta and solemnly vows if he ever sets foot on the shores of old England he will never go to sea again!

Nathaniel Johnson Able Seaman-

Sam'l Linden Volunteer 1st Class-
Former ship's boy who was recently promoted to 'Volunteer First Class' and is well on his way to 'Midshipman'.
Noah Thomas Boy-
Ship's boy who is eager for his promotion to Volunteer 1st Class
Mark Thomas Landsman-
One of the newer recruits to join the crew.
Nick Weremeichik Landsman-
One of the newest recruits to join the crew.



The ‘Mail Packet’ is an educational project conducted by the ‘HMS Acasta’ Royal Naval reenactment group. The project began in 2013 and the crew have received hundreds of period letters and packages from all over the world! It’s an awesome educational opportunity, not only for the recipient and the writer, but also for the public that gets to see and share in the experience.

The MAIL PACKET for 2018 will be delivered at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky on the weekend of July 13-15! 


People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.

Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people the Acastas portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.

A few prompts on what you might write:
A Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from 'immediate family' if you please. Imagine how awkward it is to get three different letters from women claiming to be your ‘wife’ or ‘mother’.)
A bill or request for payment, they’re not just for your modern mailbox!
An overdue payment of a debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Letters should be addressed thusly:

Recipient's Rank and Name
HMS Acasta
PORTSMOUTH

While the sender’s 'return address' was occasionally added, it was not a universal thing like we know on the mail of today.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via the Royal Navy Doctor Facebook page, or via my email at:

Monday, April 16

8 Ways to be a Better Historical Reenactor

Looking for ways to improve your reenactor-game? Here are some easy suggestions that can help you do just that! 


8.) GATHER YOUR RESOURCES
Everyone should do research into their clothing and gear. What you wear and why you wear it. Get your primary and secondary sources together, images, links, etc. Then put them all online somewhere like a Facebook Album or a Pinterst board so that you can show them off. If anyone questions what you have on or your gear, you have your research all gathered and ready to show off.

7.) DON’T PLATEAU
‘Plateau-ing’ is something I’ve noticed with a lot of reenactors, they reach a certain point in their interpretation and they just stop like this is the 100 meter dash. They want to research really fast to get to the ‘end’ so they can be ‘done’.

I’ve got news for you kids, you’re never going to be ‘done’ researching and improving. There’s always more to learn, more to discover. New things are being found all the time, sometimes they serve to confirm what you’re doing and sometimes they will challenge or even prove what you’re doing is wrong… but history isn’t a 100 yard dash for a finish line so that you can go rest and never research again.

6.) DON’T COPY THINGS YOU SEE ON TV OR MOVIES
I know, first hand, how tempting it can be to want to copy something cool you've seen in your favorite period-movie.

Because we never know where or even IF the costumes designers have done their research, it’s not safe to copy movie/tv costumes. Not even if the program was produced for the BBC. Not even if it’s your favorite movie of all time. Instead, the proper way to make use of movie/tv costumes is to use them for inspiration… use them to fuel your own research based on primary and secondary sources.


5.) DON’T COPY OTHER REENACTORS
This is another one where we never know where (or IF) they’ve done their research. They may look great, but make sure you’re doing the research to back up your stuff...



4.) DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE ‘TYPICAL’
There’s no shame in representing the societal norms for the era you portray. When everyone at the event is the historical oddity or representing something rarely seen… then the public can get the wrong idea of what MOST of your era looked like.



3.) CITE YOUR SOURCES
“Nullius in verba”, is Latin for "Take nobody's word for it". You don't have to have everything written out in MLA format, but if you can’t tell me what primary and secondary books and images you’ve taken your impression from, I’m going to be VERY skeptical about your impression. I would see your research sir!


2.) MODERN BEARD/GLASSES/SHOES
These are the big three things that will kill you impression the fastest. Facial hair differs from era to era, so make sure to do your homework and find out what's appropriate and what's not for the time-period you're doing. If you need glasses, consider getting period correct frames, contacts, or just going without if you can. 

1.) IF YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER
Not long ago, I spotted a friend's images from a recent historical reenactment they attended where the participants ran rampant with inappropriate facial hair, modern shoes and glasses, clothes made and/or worn wrong by men AND women. Their camps were filled with modern camping gear and camp furniture. The event looked like a train wreck, full of modern anachronisms, showing the worst sort of ‘historical reenactment’. I shudder to think what kind of ‘knowledge’ the public walks away from an event like that with.

In my frustration, I asked the fateful question, “What the hell are they doing?”.

Do they care that they’re perpetrating false history? Are they aware that they’re making themselves and the event look bad? Are they lazy? Are they just camping in funny clothing? I know they KNOW better, so why didn’t they DO better?

I’ve said it before, I'm a firm believer in research… and in theory ALL historical interpreters/re-enactors should be. It's the MOST important tool we have in our arsenal for showing the public what life was like in the past. Because, at the end of the day we're supposed to be displaying and depicting correct history, or at least as correct as we can make it… right? It is OUR job as historical interpreters/re-enactors to be as historically accurate as we can for the public.



Do you have any easy suggestions for reeanactors to improve their impressions? Please feel free to share them in the COMMENTS section below, we'd love to hear your ideas!


If you have enjoyed reading this or the other adventures of HMS Acasta, be certain to become an honorary member of the crew. This is a easy way to show us that you're out there and paying attention. If you find a post that you are particularly fond of... be sure to share a link with your friends, over Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc. so they can enjoy it too!

The Acasta log is generally updated every weekday by 8am CST, visit back often, and encourage your History Nerd/Reenacting/Royal Navy friends to visit us.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 13

The Acasta is in the Details


The last page of the Acasta Sailor's Visual Guide that discusses some of the details you can make use of to round out your impression. It also covers the list of things that are NOT allowed. Click any image to enlarge.


The 'Success to Nelson' mug, based on an original. Our own Tony Gerard had a series of these made for the group.


A graphic that details what facial hair is allowed in the group.


Tony Gerard shows off his medical leeches to the public.


Images from our popular Mail Packet project. Full of beautiful paper folding, handwriting, wax seals and reproduction stamps!



A table full of sailing gear laid out by Buzz Mooney.


One of the edible reproduction 'Blue Pills' created by Albert and Tony.


You don't want to know how Tony achieved the authentic look of this blood spattered canvas table cover.


Sculpting the brim of a new straw hat to better replicate the one seen in the period image to the right.


Our Boatswain's hat, hand painted with our own original design.


One of the many period style Acasta broadsides


The hand painted canvas envelope that the mail is delivered in.






You get the idea... a well rounded impression is more than just a suit of clothes! It's about the little things that make it really come to life for the public. Just imagine in 200 years, reenactors will be trying to reproduce the stuff you have in your pockets right now!