Tuesday, May 31

More Mail Packet Inspiration

'THANK YOU' to all those that participated in the 2015 Mail Packet project:

Melissa Alexander
Toni Tumbusch
Tony Gerard
Lauren Muney
Catie LeCours
Stephanie Farra
Adrian Geary
K. Tolhurst
Paris Major
J. Winchester
Kat Rosewitz
L. Phillips
Sabine Schierhoff
R. Bartgis
S. Jones

…and all of our other readers who submitted pieces for the education and enjoyment of our members and the public. Without you, the mail packet project would have been woefully empty.

Monday, May 30

A letter to Mister Loomis


The following is an excellent example of one of last year's Mail Packet entries from an Acasta reader like you. It was written to new Midshipman Saml. Loomis. Below, you can find his reply to the above missive.

August 9, 1815

Dear Mr. Loomis,

I daresay you will be surprised when you see my name to this letter, who you have not seen since you were in petticoats! But you know I was always a good friend of your mother from our school-days, and I got your direction from your aunt and Uncle Phillips when I dined with them yesterday. When I found that the road to Manchester would take us within a few miles of their seat, I resolved to call upon them, for all Mr. Barrett protested. Nothing would please your amiable aunt more than our staying to dine with them, and so we did. They could talk of little else, but the reports in the gazette of your ship and her successes. I thought you would not mind an old friend of the family writing with news from home and to ask if you would be so kind as to bring me a new shawl from the Indies. The advertisements in the lady’s Magazine for the London warehouses say that a fine Indian shawl may be got for 2 shillings, but I daresay you will find a handsome one for cheaper. Now I come to think on it I do not quite recollect if your aunt said you were in the East Indies or the West Indies, for it is only in the East that they make shawls, I find, and I have no need of Rum, or Sugar, or whatever it is they make in the West. But if you should happen to take the east Indies in your way, I would be very much obliged if you would think of your Mother’s old friend and I shall certainly make good my debt if you should find a shawl at a good price. 

Since writing the previous, Mr. Barrett has told me that I quite mistake the matter, and that you are not in the Indies at all, but the North American Station. So much the better, for America is where they make the finest furs, I believe, and my tippet is sadly wore out. I should be just as obliged to you for a new tippet as for a new shawl, if it were not too dear.

Your aunt and uncle Phillips are in very good health, and do you know will soon be grand-parents, for their daughter Mrs. Grant expects her confinement any day. Your uncle Phillips was touched with the gout last winter, but I hardly count that as ill-health since a season at Bath affords so much pleasure. It is my old nervous ailment, and it would hardly trouble me if only I did not feel the cold so. A fine new fir tippet would quite set me up, if a shawl is not to be had. Old Mr. Hayter, God rest him, has finally died, and there is a new young vicar in his place, who dined with us. It hardly seems proper for a vicar to be so young. A certain young Miss was also of the company, that everyone teazes [sic] for reading the Navy List so carefully, but I shall name no names. I hope this letter finds you well, and that you wrap up warm when the wind comes on to blow. Pray mind your language, for I hear that sailors, for all they are called the bulwark of England, are on the whole a rough, blasphemous lot. It would distress your friends if you were to turn out wild. Do spare a thought for one who wishes you well.

Your affectionate friend
Mrs. Barrett

My Dear Mrs. Barrett,

It is indeed a wonderful surprise to hear from you Mrs. Barrett, and I do in fact remember you from my mother’s annual Christmas party so many years ago. Your letter brought me a great deal of pleasure and incalculable aid to my spirits. It has indeed been some time since I laid eyes on England let alone the family estate in Bury, and I look forward to seeing everyone soon now that the war in the colonies is over. It is especially good to hear of my Aunt and Uncle Phillips, news from my father’s side of the family rarely cross the ocean to me. I must again thank you for your wonderful insight into life at home particularly Manchester.

We are indeed not station'd in either the West or East Indies, but rather just leaving our duties along the north eastern half of the colonies. The change of pace feels very good, besides Old Boney, has started to rise again and will need another proper thrashing from his majesty’s navy. As luck would have it your letter arrived just in time for me to take in the markets of Boston, and I did indeed find a rather fantastical deal on a pair of matching tippets, I figured my mother would be most jealous of yours if I failed to find her a match to it.  Please consider this a gift of the rather stupendous luck the Acasta has been having, what with the taking of the Curlew, Betsey, the schooner Prudence, and of course the Stephanie most recently I dare say I am eating most healthily of late. 

As for the young miss, and not to generate too much gossip, I would have you know that the moment I return to the white cliffs of England, after re-taking the Lieutenants exam of course, I plan on seeing the honorable Dr. in London to ask him for his daughter’s hand. Hopefully as Lieutentant Loomis .

As for my own welfare, I find life at sea agrees with me, that is for the most part. Aside from some light digestive destress Dr. Roberts says I am in the peak of my health.  I do hope to this letter finds you in good health, and for a speedy reunion at my mother’s next Christmas party, or even sooner if luck would have it. 

Your Friend,
Samuel Loomis

Tuesday, May 24

What ever shall 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:

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

Some examples of things that we got as part of the project:

The Doctor got a secret coded message from Sir Joseph Blaine with the Admiralty. Obviously from a Patrick O'Brian fan.

Lt. Tumbusch got a notice from the Dutch East India Company letting him know that his stock was now worthless.

Rev. Mr. Griswold got a letter letting him know of the death of one of his parishioners sealed with black wax.

Capt. Freymann got a letter from a father in England looking for news of the location of his two sons.

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

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from '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!

Friday, May 20


Open Call to ALL Reenactors, 
Historians and Creative Writers!

It's July 1805. After escorting a valuable fleet to the West Indies, the Acasta has returned home to Portsmouth under the temporary command of Sir John Duckworth.

The Royal Navy reenacting group that represents HMS Acasta usually attends the Jane Austen Festival in July of every year. The JA Fest is back after a one year hiatus for July 15-17 of this year, so we're moving the Mail Packet project back to July!

This is where YOU come in!

Anyone who would like to submit a period correct letter to add to the packet is encouraged to do so! We'd love to have your contribution, however large or small! Anything added to the packet will help to enhance the historical experience for not only the Acastas who receive them, but for the public who will attend the Jane Austen Festival as well.

Not sure what to write or how to write it? All next week we'll have instructional posts that will walk you through the process of writing a period letter.

We have several of the character biographies written so far, here are some examples of those:

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.

Samuel Hollybrass, Able Seaman- The bulk of Hollybrass's teen and adult life has been spent at sea. Hollybrass has followed Captain Freymann for years from ship to ship, sometimes to Freymann's dismay. A competent leader of men without the learning or refinement to be an officer. A well meaning, if gruff old seaman with no family back home that he knows of.

Hollybrass is enthusiastic and lusty, but tends to do poorly with the ladies given his general appearance and lack of hygiene.

Some examples of things that we got in 2014 as part of the project:

Lt Ramsey got a love letter from Germany with candy in it.

Captain Freymann got a letter from a surveyor about his property back in England and a map of said property.

Midshipman Hamilton got a letter from a worried Aunt with a hand knitted scarf in it.

Baptiste got a letter with a black spot in it from an anonymous 'former shipmate'.

The Bosun Mr. Cullen got a letter from a former shipmate inviting him to join him in a business venture back in England.

The Ship's Chaplain got a solicitation letter from a company that manufactures mourning candies.

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. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces & Nephews are fine, but none from Mothers, Fathers, children.)
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Contact me to find out where to send your finished letter… or questions, or for any other additional information.

Finshed letters will need to be to ME by the first of JULY so that they can find their way into the Mail Packet!

Start thinking about what you'd like to contribute this year, and HAVE FUN!

Thursday, May 19

Our Mission

The purpose of the HMS ACASTA and the ROYAL TARS of OLD ENGLAND is to accurately portray a crew of His Majesty's Royal Navy circa 1800-1810 for the educational benefit of the public and for the mutual research and enjoyment of the individual members.

Our organization will educate via a series of first person activities designed to demonstrate the real lives of sailors as they go about their business and live their lives. Landing Parties, Surveying Crews, Recruitment Drives, Press Gangs, Shore Leave... these are but a few of the activities that our crew will undertake whilst encamped at an event. During duty hours, we follow proper Navy protocols and sailors are expected to live a sailor's life.

You can learn more about our group on the ABOUT US page.

Tuesday, May 17

Naval Gunnery & Small Arms Training

Lieutenants Wand and Tumbusch lift glasses at Tavern Night at Navy Hall.
All proceeds went to benefit the Friends of Fort George, a most worthy cause.
To: Captain Robert Fryman, HMS Acasta, at sea
From: Lieutenant Thomas Tumbusch, Fort George, Niagara

15 May 

Captain Fryman,

I write to express my sincere thanks for granting me leave to assist in the gunnery training exercises held these three days past at Fort George. Having on many occasions heard you express the opinion that the men of the Royal Navy should more regularly be trained with powder rather than merely running the guns in and out in dumbshow fashion, and having long been in full and complete agreement with you regarding the inestimable value of such training, it is my great pleasure to inform you of the capital and professional manner with which the said exercises were carried out.

Briefing session with Lieutenant Commander Reed.
I believe I make no idle boast when I say that every man among us, from the saltiest jack tar to the greenest landsman who kissed the gunner's daughter for the first time this Saturday past, shall return to his vessel with new skills and insights that cannot fail to bring honor to his shipmates, his commanding officers, and to His Majesty’s Service.

Officers, left to right: Warrant Officer Gurth Pretty (cook and event organizer), Lieutenant William Wand, Lieutenant Commander Andre Reed, Lieutenant Tumbusch, and Sgt. Gregory Renault.
I had the honor to serve under the command of Lieutenant and Commander Andre Reed, whose welcoming courtesy, candor, and close attention to the safety and well-being of the men swiftly earned my admiration. I was also much impressed by Acting Lieutenant William Wand, who commanded the port watch (myself being entrusted with the starboard). He is a most amiable gentleman whose experience and skill greatly exceeds my own. We were further assisted by a detachment from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencibles under the able command of Sergeant Gregory Renault.

Dinner in the barracks at Ft. George.
Warrant Officer Pretty and friends with Sunday’s breakfast. Being on shore,
we received the full soft bread ration of one pound per man.
Some 35 men of divers ships were present for training, which included the exercising of great guns, plus hands-on training in the use of swivel guns, railguns, muskets and small arms, as well as pike and cutlass drill. Our artillery exercises concluded with a demonstration for an eager gathering of the local citizenry, where we had the satisfaction of firing a near-simultaneous volley of four guns. I have it on good authority that our public demonstrations throughout the day were observed by some 100 persons, by means of which I hope we may have provided encouragement to future volunteers.

The only observation which has given me cause for concern, through no fault whatsoever of any officer here present, is the great and pressing need for Warrant Officer Gurth Pretty, cook for the Royal George, to be speedily assigned a mate, the said post having, in my humble judgment, been vacant overlong. Mr. Pretty's dedication to his duty — not to mention to ensuring that men are well fed to a degree far exceeding the usual custom at sea — are to be commended most highly. I nonetheless fear his great zeal shall presently compel him to overtax his powers and work himself into a state of dangerous exhaustion and fatigue, to the great loss and detriment of his shipmates and His Majesty’s Service, if he is not provided with some relief apace. I should thus be greatly obliged to you, sir, should you be willing convey some similar encouragement unto the Commodore, that the said Mr. Pretty may swiftly have some succor and assistance. While a man with prior experience in cookery would be most preferable, I am in no doubt whatsoever of Mr. Pretty’s ability to train any man with the least bit of wit — even, if need be, one who has been maimed or wounded to the point of being unfit for other service — to perform the said tasks most admirably in short order should no more experienced man presently be available.

Beating to divisions.
In closing, sir, I should be most remiss if I failed to mention the exceptional hospitality granted to us these past three days by the men of Fort George and their many Friends here in the Town of Niagara. They have made warm quarters and other facilities available to us most generously, refusing any and all remuneration for the same, whilst enlivening our brief leisure hours with fine music, refreshment, camaraderie, and a thousand other kindnesses great and small. We are further obliged to several victualers, including ACE Bakery, who hath in goodwill donated all of our bread rations; Pine River Cheese & Butter for a most capital old cheddar; and not least to Corby Wine & Spirits and Admiral Suthren, who contributed the rum for our grog.

I shall most happily supply you with any further details of these proceedings as shall interest you upon rejoining the Acasta, whence I am bound without delay upon posting this letter via the packet presently at anchor here. Moreover I shall not conceal from you my earnest desire that it may be convenient for a greater number of our men to participate in such exercises in future. It is the Admiralty’s intention to make the said training available on an annual basis, either at Fort George or other divers places associated with His Majesty’s Service, the said enterprise having my wholehearted and enthusiastic support. 

I remain, sir, your obedient humble servant,

Lt. Tumbusch

Thursday, May 12

Have you met the Crew?


Within the context of the 21st century, the Captain of the HMS Acasta is Robert Fryman, a soft-spoken and eccentric instructor of German and Military History at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia. Prior to arriving at MMA, Fryman earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh concentrating in the historical archaeology of the 18th and 19th centuries and previously taught as a professor of Anthropology at Kent State University and Georgia State University. He is an active bridge officer in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and brings his love of the sea to his interpretations of 18th and 19th century sailing.

Fryman spends his much of his “copious” free time researching and studying the naval technology and sailing practices of the British and American navies of the 18th & 19th centuries. He most commonly can be found in his study at “Friedlichkeit”, his home in the Shenandoah Valley, poring over period manuals, journals, and historical fiction relating to the “Age of Fighting Sail.”

Fryman has been interpreting history and reenacting since 1977, traveling through time to the American frontier of the 18th century, the War of the Rebellion, to the struggles on the Western Front in 1917. As the “Captain”, Fryman has developed interpretive programs on the duties, responsibilities and life of a British naval captain during the Napoleonic Wars which have been presented to public groups and historical sites in the eastern United States. His presentations are guided by his love for passing on the knowledge of life and sailing aboard the tall ships during the height of the Age of Fighting Sail.

When not pacing the windward side of the quarter deck of the HMS Acasta, or teaching German in a classroom, Fryman stays busy reading, researching, and chasing after his dachshund, the Herzogin Audrey, affectionately known as “Tuti”.

In your 'modern world', the Doctor is Albert Roberts, mild-mannered high school Visual Communications teacher. Before teaching, Roberts was a professional Graphic Designer for ten years for various design firms and sign companies.

Roberts spends his free time in the pursuit of strange and obscure medical and scientific knowledge of the 18th & 19th centuries, and typically has a heap of books on his night stand that range from period texts and journals to historical fiction.

Roberts has been interpreting history and reenacting since 2001. As the Doctor, Roberts has gone on to bring his medical demonstrations to historical sites and events all over the eastern United States, to the praise of public and reenactors alike.

When asked why he doesn't portray a specific doctor or surgeon from history, Roberts replies, "My love is for passing on the knowledge of the medical and surgical techniques... not for trying to BE some particular historical figure. That way, the public doesn't get hung up on who I AM, but instead what I'm DOING becomes more central. Just as it SHOULD be."

When not saving the past from disease and injury, or teaching design to the next generation in a classroom, Roberts stays busy chasing after his four daughters who range in age from 13 to 6.


Jim Hamilton was born and raised in Maryville, Tennessee and is of Scotch-Irish descendent. Hamilton is the 10th generation living in Maryville and the 5th generation of his family living in his current home which was built in 1899.

Hamilton spent most of his career in management roles including the last 16 years as either a CFO of Executive Vice President of midsized manufacturing firms. He is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Broadway Electric Service Corporation. For 15 of those years he worked for foreign companies (mainly British) and worked and traveled abroad extensively, primarily in the UK, Germany, Italy, and Russia, and Canada.

Hamilton has always loved history and reading and believes that this passion was fueled by being able to visit many historical European sites.

He began reenacting in 2000 portraying American Continental Light Infantry from the Rev. War where he currently portrays a Sergeant. This unit finds on average 25 solider per event and can field a total of 40. He also portrays a French and Indian British Private at Fort Loudon as a member of the Independent company of South Carolina. On some occasions you might find him in Colonial Militia garb when no other uniform will work.

Along with commanding, soldering, and “civilianing,” Hamilton has a great passion for period cooking and often prepares meals at events. He has also been a wine maker for 25 years, and loves sharing wine with his reenacting companions.

Hamilton graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Accounting & Finance with a minor in Geography in 1986. Jim is married and has two sons, Houston (16) and Alex (13) and a niece Taylor who all enjoy history and reenacting.


In another day and time Lt. Michael Ramsey recently graduated from University with a degree in history.  Ramsey works in various positions at Burdett’s Tea Shop and Trading Company and as a Research Annalist with a Health Care Consulting Firm.  When not at work, Ramsey spends much of his time as father to his 6-year-old son.

In his “spare” time, Ramsey continues studying history, particularly British and American history during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Ramsey has participated in living history since 1997 time traveling from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the battlefields of Europe during WWII.

Ramsey only began interpreting 18th and early 19th century history in 2004 and has done so for the public through living history event, lectures, and demonstrations.  For the past three years Ramsey has enjoyed recreating historical clothing, equipment, and other articles of material culture.


Lt. Thomas Tumbusch is the son of a Royal Navy officer who hails from Portsmouth, a seaport and naval base in Hampshire, England on the island of Portsea in the English Channel (also the modern-day home of HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar). Through a connection with one of his father’s former shipmates, he began his naval career at the age of 10. He previously served under Captain Fryman as a midshipman, and has since returned to his service after being re-posted to the Acasta as Third Lieutenant. While serving on the North American station out of Halifax, he had the good fortune to secure the affection of Antonia Norton, a tailor’s daughter, which enables him to sport much finer uniforms than he would otherwise be able to afford.

In the twenty-first century Mr. Tumbusch is a freelance commercial copywriter who specializes in marketing copy for the creative industry and green businesses (for more details, visit www.wordstreamcopy.com). He has taught historic dance to people of all ages since 1988, and enjoys woodworking projects that re-create items from the Revolutionary War through the Arts and Crafts period.


John Frank Jarboe was born in Breckenridge County Kentucky and raised on a farm near the tiny town of McDaniels.   Graduating from high school in 1973 he was never interested in history.  But since, in addition to tracing his genealogy back to the 11th century, Frank has spent the past 25 years researching the events surrounding The Second Great Awakening of 1800 and the religious atmosphere in the 17th to the early 19th centuries.   

Frank spent 35 years as a photographer, with most of those years being the manager of a professional photofinishing lab.  In addition to his years in photography, Jarboe and his wife Carol along with their two daughters operated a small farm on which they raised sheep, horses and chickens.  They also ran a horse-drawn carriage service for 10 years.  Frank & Carol are grandparents to 6, one of which resides in heaven.

Frank & Carol’s journey into reenacting began in 2003 with the idea of incorporating Frank’s research into the persona of a frontier minister.  Since that time, the couple has traveled extensively (averaging about 44 weekends each year) doing 18th c. presentations as Parson John and his indentured servant Maggie Delaney – or early 19th c. as Rev. John P Griswold (a family name) and Lady Caroline Linnington.  As an ordained minister, Rev. Jarboe regularly conducts time/place appropriate church services along with other ministerial duties such as weddings and funerals. www.parsonjohn.org


Jean Baptiste Girard, surgeon's mate on the HMS Acasta, could  well be the hypothetical great grandfather (many times removed) of Tony Gerard. For over 20 years Tony has taught biology and physical geography at Shawnee Community College in southern Illinois. Prior to that he taught junior high/high school biology and earth science in central Illinois.

When he can find the work, Gerard works part time in film production. Beginning as one of the core extras in "Last of the Mohicans", he has worked on over thirty other productions to date. A self professed "nature geek", he lives with his wife Berna and their twin sons on the edge of Wildcat Bluff in the Cache River State Natural Area.

In addition to living history they are both active volunteers in local environmental educational programs. Reptiles and amphibians are of special interest and they share their home with varying numbers of turtles, snakes, salamanders and frogs.

Gerard began re-enacting in the early 1980s with the eastern frontier of the 18th and early 19th century as his area of special interest. Portraying a naval surgeon's mate is an entirely new endeavor. His favorite facet of this new persona? "I've been fortunate to be able to travel to some far off places in my life. Portraying a well traveled old sailor allows me to incorporate some of those far off experiences into my 19th century persona".


Aboard the Acasta, James Vasserman acts as the Doctor's personal servant. His occupation in the modern world is quite different. Vasserman lives in his 21st century world as an avid historical clothing researcher, re-creator, and advisor, and was recently engaged to utilize his historical clothing knowledge to retool a popular annual program at a well known historic site.

When not advising historic sites on their textile collections, sewing for himself, others, and his shipmates, or attending events in the most stylish garb, Vassermann can be found surrounded by books and internet archives researching every minute detail he can find.

It has been mentioned privately that Mr. Vassermann bears a striking resemblance to the lovely young wife of Doctor Roberts. We don't see it.

Wednesday, May 11

From the Journal of Ship's Carpenter

Jas. Apple
From the Journal of Ship's Carpenter, Jas. Apple:

 Mr. Roberts having all but his man Vassermann to help to assist as he went about his dailies, was as it seemed at a loss for a doctor's mate but as fate would have it a Frenchman who was found in long clothes and self professed to having never been to sea and being not more than a farmer with no real trade or papers was pressed into our service and taken aboard our good ship as a landsman in hopes that although he be ripened on the vine that he would in our time make at the least, if not a able seaman a somewhat tolerable one. 

Gerard Taken up ashore.
He was, as we would find not by any great means, but by admission of his with much back and filling of his true identity in fact a surgeon's mate on any number of French ships, and was a great addition for the crew and for the doctor I might add, for unlike Vassermann, he was not mute as a stump. One time having been set in the doldrums and quite idle, and many on board being full of constant drip and bleats and being quite tiresome to the Frenchman Mr. Gerard, he insisted that we should go tend to the bugs and birds in the doctors cabin. And having done that he took to telling me the names and uses of the this-and-that and how to administer any number of cures.

Having lost track of time and no bell to be heard the ship shook and lurched and as we climbed to the sun found us full sail and well underway and a great speed I might add, heading as the devil his self and Mr. Gerard my only witness straight off the known edge of the world, having heard from some that the world was once flat it would that day prove to hold true.

The Frenchman was as fearful and was found holding his beads and whispering to them, then shouting only to tell me in a great panic that all was to be lost and he was sorry for having sailed with me this day and that should we meet again on the other side that we might still be friends, just as our ship began to break up and all our men lost in the water that shot us over the edge like broadside of chain shot, I was stuck in place as water and stars mixed, between heaven or hell when Mr. Roberts rescued us from certain death and took us bellow, shaking his head the whole way, but never breathing a foul or unkind word amongst us. The doctors new mate might very well know the words and uses of Mr. Roberts medical chest, but I do not believe the doses translate well from French to English, and the good Doctor now uses a lock that only has one key.

Friday, May 6

The Reluctant Surgeon

The Reluctant Surgeon
by John Kobler
A brief Book Review by Tony Gerard

The Reluctant Surgeon is a biography of the remarkable John Hunter. Hunter was more than just an eighteenth century surgeon. He was probably one of the greatest comparative anatomist of all times, he was curator of his own personal massive museum, he was a teacher of surgery and medicine, an inventor of various medical equipment, a scholar of natural philosophy.  Although he never lost faith in the almost universal practice (at the time) of bleeding, he was far ahead of his time in many of his recommendations to surgical students. He believed in going the least invasive route possible in treating an illness or injury. Surgery he regarded as a last resort. Many of the medical principles he first espoused are the foundations of modern medicine.

His areas of interest extended to all of the natural world. How deer antlers grew, the inner workings of a bee hive, now pearls form within oysters and a thousand other questions were part of his constant investigations. Many of his writings foreshadow Darwin's ideas on evolution and natural selection.
Kobler is the kind of author that makes history an interesting read. Not only does he thoroughly document Hunter's life, but he goes off on interesting side tangents within the realm of Hunter's world. Where  18th century surgeons got their training and credentials, the prejudice against Scots in 18th century London and the "resurrection men" who obtained bodies for anatomists are just some of the included side stories.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in 18th/early 19th century medicine and scientific investigation.