Monday, April 28, 2014

The Traveling Trunk

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, April 27, 2014 in the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall beside the historical society headquarters in order to accommodate the larger crowd for the April program.

President Sallie Mabon introduced speaker Terry Manning, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, whose program, The Traveling Trunk - Artifacts of Colonial Lifestyle, gave a wealth of interesting information on household and military artifacts and customs of the Revolutionary Period.

Manning, a retired auditor with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Life Master at bridge, is a member of the Atlanta Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. His hobby of collecting colonial era artifacts and replicas enables him to entertain while teaching in schools to a targeted fourth grade level audience.

Manning began by explaining his uniform, a revolutionary period buff and navy suit that George Washington designed. He explained each colony had its own design and color combination. Many colonists fighting wanted to wear the Daniel Boone style coat and clothing but the political leaders knew the colonists would be fighting alongside the dapper French and the Americans would look like ragamuffins!

Shoes back in that day were made alike-no left vs. right-and you could buy one or two or more. You wore one on the left foot one day and could swap it to the right so that it did not wear permanently. Knee breeches were the norm partly because it was the fashion plus simpler and quicker to wash and dry knee socks than whole trousers.

Manning displayed the contents of a haversack-snacks, spare stockings, light weight tin plate and cup. Water was carried in a canteen often wooden made because England put restrictions and taxes on what could be made and metal canteens were made in England only.

Manning explained about the cat o’ nine tails and punishments.  Soldiers’ punishments were added up and on “Blue Monday” the lashes administered.  The term lobster back came not because of the British red coats but because the men’s backs were raw from whippings.

Muskets and muzzle loaders created a vastly different battle scene from today’s warfare.  If a shooter were good he could get off four shots in a minute. He could make bullets ahead with the powder and bullet wrapped in paper, but because guns needed cleaning and reloading, battles lasted for a few hours or went to fixed bayonet fighting.

Items of entertainment were plentiful in Manning’s traveling trunk, a deck of cards had no colorful top side and numbers were not included as extra ink would have been required. Children had toys like a ball and cup toss, wooden tops, Jacob’s ladders, and whirlybirds-simple carved wooden toys. Manning demonstrated a dancing man toy that tap danced on a bouncing board. Bowling pins were popular and so heavily bet upon that nine pins was outlawed. The colonists simply made it ten pins! The king or lead pin was often painted to look like King George.

Toiletry items were simple and unique.  Sassafras twigs were used to care for the teeth and freshen breath, and a family lucky enough to have a boar bristle brush shared the one toothbrush among the members of the family. Combs were carved from bone or antlers. Mob caps were worn by the ladies to keep bugs and dust away because a soaking bath and shampoo were not done often. 

Sandalwood fans were popular because they could be strategically held to hide disfiguring scars and marks and were perfumed to keep bad smells at bay. The language of fans was a way to communicate with a folded tapped fan meaning “yes” to a request to dance. Soaps were available and made from fat and made in barrels and often sliver were added to water to make a liquid soap mixture like the common washes that are popular today.

Flints were used to start fires but char cloth was often carried to make the tedious process easier. Paper currency was not preferred and when a merchant or seller could not make change for a shilling, coins were cut in half and in half again and called “bits” so hence “two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar.”

Manning showed sugar cones wrapped in indigo dyed paper and sealed with the maker’s wax. Packed and compressed blocks of tea with its maker’s stamp were also displayed.

Manning finished with a display of Indian items like a blowgun and tomahawk.  The Indians appreciated the colonists’ finer tools and weapons and stayed around to trade and acquire the imported goods.

President Mabon thanked Manning for coming. John and Diana Norris had heard him speak at an earlier event and recommended him to the Meriwether club.

 Mabon said she had attended the Sons of the American Revolution Marquis de LaFayette Chapter’s placing of a memorial marker for Dempsey Tyner at the Greenville cemetery on April 26th.  Relatives from Texas, British Columbia, and Florida attended the Tyner event for the Meriwether citizen who fought in the Revolution and settled in our county.  Two proclamations were read, there was the posting of the colors, and a musket salute were impressive parts of the ceremony.

Mabon finished by encouraging the members to attend the May 6th meeting at the courthouse when the state tourism team headed by Commissioner Chris Carr of the Department of Economic Development presents its findings for our county on improving tourism.

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