Thursday, July 7

History of the Mail Packet Project

The Mail Packet project has been a great success this present year, and as we get closer to the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville KY, there will be more and more images and information made available about this year's results. Today, let's have a look back at the Mail Packets of the past.

In December 2009, I attended the annual Christmas event at Fort Loudoun in Vonore, TN and decided that I'd put together a packet of 'mail' to take and distribute to those that attended. The soldiers at the fort were always fond of gathering in the barracks in the evening and singing period songs, so I thought it would be fun to burn CDs for everyone with some period songs on them. I wrapped each CD in period repro paper and wax sealed and addressed each as if they were mail and bundled them into the packet. These, along with a few period repro letters for some of the officers are what the first packet was made up of. It was a big hit and a LOT of fun. I made the entire thing from start to finish, the contents and exterior of the packet were all on me. It was fun, but it was also a LOT of work.

the 2009 mail packet, front and back

A much younger 'Doctor' at Loudoun. Make note of the Mail Packet there on the table.
After the creation of the HMS Acasta unit, I decided it might be fun to try it again for the guys in the group. So in 2013 I gave it another go, enlisting the aid of my goode wife and Midshipman Raley. At that year's Jane Austen Festival, every officer and sailor got two handwritten 'prize letters' from the Admiralty, along with some other fun miscellaneous correspondence. And, after putting the call out to the readers of the Acasta site, many of you assisted with some fun submissions, including one from a published historical nautical fiction author. It was a big hit with the guys of the unit and gave them and the public a look at one of the aspects of Naval life in the era we portray. The 2013 mail packet was double the size of the first one from 2009.

 the 2013 mail packet, back and front

Our Midshipman with the 2013 Packet in his arms ready to be delivered at the JA Festival.
So for 2014's Mail Packet Project… I started putting the call out early to see if outside people (YOU the readers) wanted to participate. The increased daily traffic on the Acasta website as well as social media like Facebook helped to propel the project to a level of success that I could not have imagined! 

The response to the invitation to participate came from all over and some unexpected places… a librarian teaching kids about the War of 1812 by having them write letters, an officer in a 'rival' American naval unit, several fellow reenactors, Acasta fans from as far away as Germany & Switzerland, even a university professor offering her Modern World Civilization students an opportunity to reach back in time and write to guys from the War of 1812. 

The size of the packet itself had again doubled from last year! Here are a few images of the final exterior of the packet in 2014:

The Captain enlists the aid of a sailor's knife to open the 2014 packet.
Lt. Tumbusch assists in handing out the letters.

In 2014, I also decided it was time to add a new aspect to the project… VIDEO! I shot video of some of the Acastas reading their letters so that you, our readers, could enjoy them reading some of the awesome submissions. It was my attempt to reward all the hard work of our letter writers.

Baptiste STILL doesn't know who the 'Black Spot' letter came from!

With the success of the 2014 project under our belt, we were definately going to do it again in 2015, but there was a problem. The Jane Austen Festival was being put on hiatus for that year, so we'd have to deliver the packet during a different event. We selected another of our largely attended events, the Fair at New Boston, to deliver the 2015 packet.

It was another HUGE success. In 2015, I actually got more video of the Acastas enjoying their letters than photographs. So much so that I was able to put together a little highlight reel of them:

In short, the Mail Packet project has been an amazing success because of everyone involved who wrote letters and took the time to jump in and participate.

The 2016 Mail Packet gets delivered to the Acastas approx. NOON on Saturday, July 16th at this year's Jane Austen Festival!

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