• Category Archives Living History
  • Over 10,000 expected for Kalamazoo’s 40th year of Living History

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    This weekend the Kalamazoo Living History Show will celebrate its fortieth year.  As in recent years, the owner, Leslie Martin Conwell, is anticipating over 10,000 in attendance.  Over 270 artists, craftsmen, exhibitors, and vendors of ware will set up at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center on the Kalamazoo County Fairgrounds 2900 Lake Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The show is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on  Saturday March 21 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, 2015.  Admission is $7 for one day or $10 for both days and free for children 12 and under when with a parent.

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    Whether you are a Living History participant, antique collector, steampunk, or just like fun, historical collectibles, the Kalamazoo Living History Show, the largest, indoor living history event east of the Mississippi, is an event that is well worth the trip with hundreds of booths to shop for crafts, art, clothes, jewelry, books and other pre-1890 living history supplies.

    There will be hundreds of folks dressed for the period from Native Americans and frontiersmen and women to military men from the Civil War and earlier.

    This year the show’s them is “Rangers Lead the Way – The American Ranger Tradition” and the featured speaker will be Lieutenant Colonel Danny Davis, Ph.D. Retired.  Lieutenant Colonel Davis will speak on the rich history of the American Ranger from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War and beyond.  Tim and Terry Todish will be presenting on “wilderness Warriors of the French and Indian War.”

    Additionally the Bush Native American Drum and Dance and the SouthEastern WaterSpider Drum groups will be performing traditional Native American music and dance.  So you don’t need a modified DeLorean to drop back in time a century or two this weekend and check out the beautiful costumes, crafts, and cultural exhibits at the Kalamazoo Living History show!

    For more about John N. Collins, find him on TwitterInstagram, Youtube, and Facebook.



  • Featured ImageThe gentlemanly sport of 1860s base ball

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    Base Ball without the gloves
    Base Ball without the gloves

    Back in 1860’s when the sport was young the name of the game baseball was two words, not one.  Though some did wear gloves, many base ball players thought it unmanly to do so.

    In 1860 the game was played by Beadle’s Rules which is used by many members of the Vintage Base Ball Association.  The fellow with the bat at the home plate was called the striker.  It was the pitcher’s responsibility as a gentleman, to pitch the ball as close to the center of the home base as possible so as to present a hittable ball for the striker.  The pitch was generally an underhand throw, much like pitching a horseshoe.

    Pitcher Michael Page following through
    Pitcher Michael Page following through

    While there were no penalties to the pitcher for a bad throw, there was no room for deception.  If a pitcher were to put a foot beyond the pitcher’s plate (15 yards  from the home base) or were to start a throw without completing it, a baulk would be called and all men running bases would be entitled to advance one base.

    Later rules, such as in the 1867 Haney’s Base Ball Book of Reference used by The Greenfield Village National Base Ball Club, allowed the referee to warn the pitcher that he must throw hittable balls if the pitches were not hittable.  If the pitcher continued to throw an additional three unhittable balls, the striker would advance to the first base.

    At the end of the game the teams line up and shake hands
    At the end of the game the teams line up and shake hands

    Similarly, in the 1860 rules, there was no penalty for strikers to pass up good pitches but to swing and miss a pitch was considered a strike and three strikes were an out, ending the batsman’s turn.  In addition to giving more power to keep the pitcher honest, Haney’s also allowed the umpire to warn the batter if they were not swinging at hittable balls.  On subsequent hittable pitches, he would call a strike if the striker didn’t swing.

    By Beadle’s Rules a striker with a successful swing was called out if an opposing player caught the ball on the fly or after only one bounce.  By the time Haney’s rules were printed, fair balls had to be caught before the first drop in order to be considered an out though foul balls caught on the first bounce were considered outs as those were harder to catch, being out of the normal playing field.

    The Douglas Dutchers Base Ball team
    The Douglas Dutchers Base Ball team

    For some anachronistic, summertime fun don your Victorian garb and check out an 1860s style base ball game at Greenfield Village, and other venues or join one of the many Vintage Base Ball Association clubs and take a swing at it yourself!

    For more about John N. Collins, find him on TwitterInstagram, Youtube, and Facebook.



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    British soldiers line up at the bicentenial of the Battle of New Orleans
    British soldiers line up at the bicentenial of the Battle of New Orleans

    This past weekend in Louisiana, the final battle of the War of 1812, The Battle of New Orlens, was celebrated by living history reenactors from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain.  The Battle of New Orleans was fought in Chalmette, Louisiana.

    On June 18, 1812, President Madison signed a declaration of war due to British agitation including blockading American ships, impressing Americans into serving in the British navy in the fight against Napoleon, and inciting Native Americans against the citizens of the U.S.  After winning many battles, the British entered Washington D.C. and burned down much of the city, including the U.S. Capital building, the President’s Mansion,  and the Library of Congress and all its books.  This was in retaliation for the destruction of private property on the north shore of Lake Erie.

    In November 1814 the British fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, led by General Edward Pakenham and reinforced by ships and troops who had been in the war against Napoleon, set sail for New Orleans.  They invited pirate captain Jean LaFitte to join them and guide them through the difficult waters to New Orleans.  Instead he stalled them and sided with the Americans, providing his knowledge, men, and weapons to defend the city of New Orleans.

    Being warned of the attack, Lousiana Govern Claiborne sent word to General Andrew Jackson.  General Jackson and his men arrived in New Orleans on December 2nd, 2015.  In December, General Jackson’s men fought to delay General Pakenham’s advance and built an earth wall at a point where the land land was blocked on one side by swamp and on the other by the Mississippi in Chalmette between the British and American forces.  Meanwhile British troops continued to arrive until they numbered around 11,000 men, more than double the men under General Jackson.

    On the eighth of January, 1815, General Pakenham implemented a rather clever plan, using ladders to scale the wall in the early morning fog.  Unfortunately, the fog had cleared along the wall leaving the forces in plain view of the American troops on the wall.  Additionally, when the men arrived at the wall, due to an oversight in planning, they had no ladders to scale it.  General Pakenham and his second in command were fatally wounded in the battle and, although he ordered his third in command, General Lambert, to fight on, the British retreated after his death with over 2,000 men lost in the battle.  Ironically, the Treaty of Ghent ending the war of 1812 was signed December 24, 1814, two weeks before the Battle of New Orleans.

    The reenactors of the battle set up camp, provided military and civilian demonstrations of the of the era to thousands of visitors in addition to staging multiple battles over the weekend.

    For more images from the reenactment check out the author’s photo album.

    For more about John N. Collins, find him on TwitterInstagram, Youtube, and Facebook.  Be sure to let him know your thoughts on his articles!