Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Locust Grove Interpreters

I'm having trouble getting this to post in comments, but if you want to know some of what we have been working on at Locust Grove, check this out

Photo by Heather Hiner of Fox and Rose Photography

This was a special event showcasing a wedding in 1822.You can read more on the Locust Grove Blog. 

Normally our interpreters portray members of the Clark and Croghan families and other notable Louisvillians who would have visited Locust Grove in 1816. I have been the theatrical director for this program for the last 2 1/2 years (since I moved from California to Kentucky) and I could not be more proud and blown away by what this group has done.

Locust Grove interpreters are all volunteers. The Grove holds open auditions 1-2 times per year. During the year cast members attend a series of workshops on the history of the home, period manners, games, language, clothing and physical characterization. Interpreters also bring their own research on their characters and period trades and pastimes to the program. During rehearsals we work on taking historical information and presenting it in a natural manner with our guests. Interpreters provide their own clothing after their first year, all of which must pass approval. These are some of the most trained and dedicated volunteers you will find anywhere.

In the last year, interpreters have become part of an increasing number of Locust Grove events. This group performs in extremely varied conditions, from close quarters with guests in the house, to the open air of the 55 acre grounds. Each and every time we go out there, I have seen our people rise to new heights. In it's heyday, Locust Grove was a bustling farm, with probably 60+ people living there including the enslaved workers. We may never be able to actually recapture the level of activity from the early 19th century, but our people make the place come alive in a way that gives you an idea of what that may have been like. It is truly special and I honestly cannot say enough good things about each of the people it has been my privilege to work with on this program.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To cap or not to cap?

A common myth or 'reeanctorism' I hear in the Regency/Federal period is that 'all married women always wore caps'. I think there is this idea that as soon as the nuptial festivities are over, a committee of very dour matrons show up with the local minister for the awful capping ceremony, wherein the young bride's once pretty locks are shorn in the back, and the cap is surgically installed on her head. Like, that's it, it's over, YOU'VE BEEN CAPPED.

There are a couple of things about this that I feel need to be cleared up. For starters, this seems to sometimes come with the idea that wearing a cap makes you 'old' and caps have to be ugly. Please see below for several images on how this is inaccurate and caps can be very lovely.

However it is also simply not true to say that all married women always wore caps. As evidence, I give you the following sampling of  images from Britain and America (you can easily find more if you look around, trust me, I held back).

First, a couple of American examples:

Mrs. John Norton, born Sara Low 1818 

oil on canvas Speed Art Museum 1971.1.6.2


Mrs. Ann Booth Gwathmey c. 1820 

Filson Historical Society 2010.2.4


And here are a couple of beauties from across the pond:

Mrs. Mary Fisher 1816

And, my personal favorite, two kids and no cap!

Lydia Elizabeth Hoare (1786–1856), Lady Acland

Now, don't get me wrong- caps are great! There are some amazing caps out there I just drool over.

For example, this lovely lady from America 

Lucy Price Weisiger 1820
Kentucky Historical Society 2010.54.9

And this stunning British beauty 

Mrs Catherine Morey 1814-15

Several stunning extant examples also survive from this period, such as  this amazing rouched goodness from the Met 

1812 American, linen 

And OMFG are you *kidding* me with this amazing craziness?!

1810s American, Cotton 

Unmarried women also wore caps, famously including Jane Austen, so it may simply be better to say that older women were more likely to do so (which is not to say that younger ladies cannot wear caps as well). As with many things, if you are looking for a hard and fast rule you may end up leading yourself astray. Caps are an *option*, and a lovely one at that, but they are not a requirement.