Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Williamsburg in the Fall: People

Although the things at Colonial Williamsburg are very interesting, they are all kind of flat without the people of CW. We probably get more enjoyment out of striking up a conversation with any of the CW interpreters or guides than any other aspect of our visits. Here are a few people we ran into this time.

We were surprised in our first visit to the Palace this fall to find Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by Bill Barker) waiting to greet us in the ballroom. Since he had lived in this building (or the original Palace of which this is a recreation) as governor of Virginia, he shared some of his thoughts on the building and its importance to him. I think he still prefers Monticello.

Another former governor of Virginia is Patrick Henry. We caught up with him in the grounds north of the Palace gardens where he had gathered a crowd for a short address. I think Richard Schumann does an excellent job portraying Henry, and I make it a goal to listen to him speak at least once each time we visit CW. When I took the photograph above, he was answering questions from the audience and remarking how inconceivable it would be for any of those that had just thrown off the shackles of tyranny to replace it with the burden of a large federal government.

We enjoyed classical guitar music at the St. George Tucker House courtesy of this able musician. His instrument is a 12-string reproduction of a guitar once owned by Marie Antoinette (which only had 5 strings). The black and white designs visible on the body and headstock are inlaid ebony and camel bone since ivory is protected now, and camel bone is very similar. The back of the guitar was even more intricate than the front.

Our family visits the Millinery many times on a typical trip to CW, and we always find the tailors and milliners there to be exceptional conversationalists in all things sewing related. Mark Hutter was found in his usual spot constructing a very red wool suit that he planned to wear at a CW function illustrating proper 18th century table manners. Even under the stress of a tight schedule, he was as engaging and insightful as always. Notice the bundle of fabric-covered buttons in the basket in the foreground.

As the apprentice in the tailor shop, Neal Hurst does whatever needs to be done, and at the moment that means helping on Mark's very red suit. Neal was sporting a very dapper new waistcoat that is peeking out from under his frock coat. I believe he said the milliners did the embroidery for him. Click on the image so you can zoom in and appreciate the buttons on the waistcoat as well as the buttons on the frock coat. Even though his apprenticeship will be finished in less than a year, Neal said he intends to stay on at CW as trusty sidekick to Mark Hutter.

Miss Janae and Miss Doris fill the mantua maker roles of the establishment, and are always busy on some beautiful ladies garment. This gown was scheduled to appear at the same function Mr. Hutter was working toward, so these ladies were also working on a tight schedule. Miss Janae shared that CW informed them that a gown of a certain formality was required for this function, so she suggested they replicate a gown she had seen in a museum collection. This required access to study the garment, and specially made fabric to match the original. I think these ladies enjoy making dream gowns on a regular basis, especially when someone else is covering the expenses.

Last, but not least, is our good friend, Cookie Baker. While not an employee of CW, her sons are employed as fifers in the Senior Fife and Drum Corps. We enjoyed worshipping with Cookie and her family at St. Stephen Lutheran Church on Sunday, and then we rendezvoused two other times through the week. She is the quintessential "fifer mom", showing up with camera at all the marches of the Corps, and I fear she may experience some withdrawal when her youngest son, Thomas, graduates from the Corps. Until then, we look forward to sharing many more marches with her.

Thanks for visiting!


  1. Ahhh... what a pleasure this was! I must say, your travel posts never disappoint.

    And now a question for Karen and Lily: I (of course!) clicked on the pic of the seamstresses working on that luscious dress... the fabric was just breathtaking! But I was kinda surprised to see one of the gals wearing what looked like a purple polka-dot dress. I was wondering if this kind of garment/pattern is historically accurate? It almost looked like she was wearing modern foundations as well... Now,I know the CW folks are sticklers for accuracy- hey that's why we love them so much, right? Often, my perceptions of what is "accurate" are waaay off due to my relative ignorance about such things, *blush* so I'm hoping you gals can educate me a but here;)

  2. I agree that Williamsburg would never be the same without the actors. They do a great job. We encountered 'Benedict Arnold' on our visit as he raced through the town on horseback telling us why we should all support the King. 'George Washington' gave his farewell address which received lots of cheers as he talked about not burdening the next generation with lots of debt. Hmmm.
    Thanks for posting these great photos.


  3. We heard Patrick Henry on our trip too... neat that it is the same interpreter!

    Lily, did you make a new hat???

  4. Well, Diane, if Janae is wearing it, it must be authentic! Printed material was not unknown, and short coats, etc., would have been made from the good parts of older, worn out garments. However, it doesn't look as if she's wearing stays.

    We were in Williamsburg several years ago, listening to a discussion about a fellow who had been found guilty of dealing with the British. The interpreter asked my husband what they did to "such traitors in Joppatowne". I piped up and said that there had been a man convicted of selling flour to the British ships in our harbor, "and we had hanged him".

    "Sir, do you always allow your wife to speak out in public in such a manner?"

    To which the Lord of the Manor replied, "I'd be ill advised to question the wisdom of the woman who saw fit to marry me." The crowd all laughed, and the interpreter applauded. "Well said, sir, well said!"

    Usually, you think of these snappy comebacks the next morning!