Just on principle, I pretty much like ALL living history experiences. When done well, 21st century participants can feel part of history – usually meeting and interacting with ordinary people going about their everyday lives. These are often real craftsmen demonstrating skills that are no longer required, and have taken it upon themselves to preserve and share their talents with future generations. Think black-smithing, weaving, candle-dipping, cooking (over an open campfire), salt-making, musket shooting, cobbling. Some are fun activities like riding in a covered wagon or learning how to use ancient weapons such as an atlatl.
I fell in love with hands-on historians many years ago, and you are no doubt aware that we include these experiences at every possible opportunity in our tours, sometimes deliberately omitting any mention of it from the itinerary description to enhance the wow factor. We have even scheduled entire tours around a particular historic re-enactment.
Fortunately, I am not the only enthusiast, and every year I learn of more people getting involved and sharing their expertise.
Many places in America commemorate important events with re-enactments – most notably Civil War battles. Civil War reenactors from both sides of the conflict, are probably the most numerous, but there is also a thriving Rendezvous community here in the West that hold numerous reenactments during at least half the year. They not only dress the part, but live it. Their encampments – where hand-made items, fur pelts, leathers, authentic foods and the like are offered for sale – proudly ban any modern intrusions such as motorized vehicles, campers, picnic coolers and cell phones. Authenticity is the mutual goal of all participants, and it’s a great way for modern city dwellers – and especially children – to get a taste of what life was like 150-200 years ago.
It is the reeanactors who make our travel adventures so memorable, by making these experiences come alive for our participants.
But today, I want to talk about a company that makes these characterizations possible: Jas. Townsend & Sons, Inc. As the throwback name implies, Townsends is a “manufacturer and retailer of quality reproduction 18th and early 19th Century clothing and personal accessories”. Their annual calendar is a charming combination of period recipes and everyday clothing and household items that would have been used by customers 300 years ago. I swear that their models look completely at home in the functional garb of their ancestors. The company also provides the raw materials and tools for customers to make their own clothing, food, tents, candles – you name it!
Townsend’s serves theatrical, motion picture, and television production companies, and the living history community, historic sites and museums, including the many reenactors we meet along the trail.
Sidebar # 1: Full disclosure compels me to confess that I discovered this company through a decidedly modern technology: the internet.
Sidebar # 2: Join us in May of 2019, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the trans-continental railroad in Utah, including a reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike.