Keep Your Wig On!

We just got out new “William Penn” wig today, and we’re wiggin’ out!!

Pennsbury Society board member Sue Crook is having a “Hairspray” moment – William Penn’s going to have to work hard to pull this look off better than her!

Many thanks to Colonial Williamsburg’s Wig Shop, who constructed this wig along with another on display here at Pennsbury Manor.  I know it’s not their typical time period, so we appreciate them taking on the challenge of late 17th-century styles! 

Curator Todd Galle models our first “William Penn” wig, put on display in the Manor House in November 2011. We are excited to premiere the “Penn Wig 2.0” at Holly Nights next week!

Our official “William Penn” was in desperate need of a properly style ‘do, so I know he’s excited to try this on for size.  The new wig will settle in nicely as it travels all over the community visiting classrooms, bouncing down parade routes, and welcoming visitors at Pennsbury Manor.

Come to next week’s Holly Nights and see William Penn vanquish the infamous pirate Captain Kidd in our traditional Mummer’s Play!  Visit Pennsbury’s website for event details and a coupon! 

 

By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator and Costumier

A Posting on Possets!

Our fellow museum bloggers over at Winterthur just posted a great article on the popular Posset Pot, a commonly-shared drinking vessel which had its own unique beverage concoction.

A couple years ago, one of our interns posted a Collections Featurette on one of the posset pots in the Manor House, so I was excited to see more examples from the Winterthur collection, which is located just outside Wilmington, Delaware.  Some look very similar to ours, but there some feature amazingly detailed and ornate decoration on the sides and lid.  They also posted a recipe for the posset, which might be worth a try!  Visit their blog post at the link below to learn more about this fashionable 17th-century tradition:

http://museumblog.winterthur.org/2012/08/24/a-good-sack-posset/

Invitation to Share

This summer a young friend attended summer camp at Pennsbury Manor, and during the course of the week she formed some opinions about my job as the Museum Educator.  She told me that I have the coolest job in the world because I get to “take care of the animals, give tours, and drive the golf cart.”  Well, maybe my job isn’t quite as simple as that, but it is pretty cool! 

Without question, my favorite part of the job is talking with visitors.  I get to learn where they are from and what brought them to Pennsbury Manor, hear their questions and discussing answers – because history is rarely made of pure facts.  Most of all, I love that moment (especially transparent in children) when an idea catches hold and true learning takes place.

Every day, all sorts of people (including you!) visit our blog.  I often feel like I am missing out because I can’t have the same conversations with you as I do with the people who visit the physical site.  But lately we’ve been having some great discussions with our readers and volunteers.  We’d like to encourage everyone to feel they can participate, with questions, comments, and experiences of your own!

Below each blog article, there is a comment section for anybody to post their responses.  If you are shy (like me) and don’t wish to post a public response, please email us at willpenn17@aol.com.  We’d love to know what your interests are, and what you would like to hear more about!  I’d like to know what questions you have about current or previous posts.  Finally, I’d like to hear about YOU.  Where are you from?  How did you come to love history?  What experience at a historic site or museum truly moved you?

Go ahead, make my day and shoot me an email or comment.  I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Mary Ellyn Kunz

Museum Educator

Exploring the Artifacts: Just a Matter of Time

 

Popular from 1600 to 1650, the Lantern Clock that is located in the Governor’s Parlor of the Manor House is just one example of many that were produced during that period of time. The design, English in origin, is characteristically known for its square, lantern shape, single hand face and ornate engravings. Lantern clocks were hung on the wall and were broader than the Gothic wall clocks that were previously popular.

 

Almost entirely constructed from brass and driven by weights, Lantern clocks were modern for their time and fulfilled all the important requirements of a clock, such as keeping a time standard, having a driving force, and having a counting and indicating system.

The lantern clocks would later be replaced by the Longcase Clock (seen right and below), which became popular in the 18th century.  This later design would show off a woodworker’s skills by encasing the mechanical functions with intricately-designed panels.   

  Continue reading

Exploring the Artifacts: Take Your Mattress and Stuff It!

Those of you that have walked the grounds of Pennsbury may have seen a building called The Worker’s Cottage.  This reconstructed outbuilding’s original purpose or even existence is unknown, but we use it to talk about the laboring class’s lifestyle in early colonial Pennsylvania.  Most people did not live as luxuriously as William Penn’s family.  Most homeowners, or people who worked as an apprentice or slave for a homeowner, lived in a 1-2 room house similar to this. 

Today we are exploring one of the biggest features in this cottage:  The Bed!  This is technically not an artifact, but a reproduction, an exact replica of a historic object.  Reproductions are used in many historic sites to fill the gaps in our artifact collections.  The originals may be hard to find or too delicate to handle with visitors, so reproductions are a nice substitute that interpreters and visitors can interact with!

Raised beds would have been a luxury for many families, reserved for the master and mistress of the house.  Children, servants, and slaves would have slept on mattresses on the floor.  Our bed is a reproduction that we use to interact with visitors.  But the old roping and mattress were looking extremely worn out from all the fun we’ve been having.  So it was time for a make-over! 

We started with the roped frame, creating an interlocking bottom similar to basket weaving.  The tool pictured here is called a Key, and is used to pull the ropes tight. Stretching the ropes as tight as possible, then tying them off would keep a firm foundation for the mattress.  Still, ropes stretch with use, and would need occasional tightening to ensure the occupants don’t fall through in the middle of the night!

Once the bed is tightly roped, it’s time to add a mattress.  Whenever possible, colonists would use feather down to stuff their bed.  But those without the money or means could always use straw.  A sturdy, tightly woven linen ticking (cotton would become more accessible and affordable later in the 18th century) made a great casing for the straw and prevented any irritating stalks from poking through.  Just like today’s pillows, they were sewn on three sides, flipped inside-out and stuffed fully, then sewn closed.  Over time the straw would break down, so the mattress could be reopened and emptied, then stuffed with new straw. 

  To see an example of how to stuff a 17th-century mattress, check out this clip of the BBC series Tales of the Green Valley, which documents a year in the life of a 17th-century farm: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqpvax_e8-tales-from-the-green-valley_lifestyle&start=815 .  This is an amazing series which I wish was available to purchase in the US.  However, all the episodes are available on YouTube and I highly encourage you to watch – once I started, I couldn’t stop.

In addition to the mattress, well-stuffed pillows and bed covers are also important.  Many people preferred sleeping propped-up, which explains why some beds may seem short to modern eyes (there was not a big difference in height, contrary to popular myth).  Depending on the weather, you might have many layers of sheets and blankets piled on top.  We have one light blanket of a wonderfully scratchy blue wool, but others could certainly be added.

We are so pleased with the way our 17th-century bed turned out – please check out the finished product below!  Continue reading

Exploring the Artifacts: Giles Penn’s Portrait

I love portraits of people.  I can’t help but wonder about the lives behind the faces.  When I was new at Pennsbury, I was told that the portrait in the Common Parlor was of Penn’s grandfather, Giles Penn.  I accepted that fact at face value (pun intended).  But over time I began to question how we know it is Giles Penn, and further, what did the man do to warrant having his portrait painted?

This portrait surfaced in England in 1936.  The owner obtained the painting from the Pennington Family.  There is a type-written tag on the back of the portrait that identifies the subject as Admiral Penn.  However, the man looks nothing like the other portraits of Admiral Penn.  Furthermore, the style of clothing in the portrait and the date of 1625 makes this too early for Admiral Penn who was probably born in 1621.  

A long tradition suggests that the painting depicts Giles Penn, father of Admiral Penn and grandfather to our own William Penn.    That makes more sense, except that Giles would be approximately 24 years old at the time of this painting, and the sitter looks older than that.  So maybe the portrait is of Giles, and maybe it isn’t.

So for fun, let’s pretend that it’s definitely Giles.  Sitting for a portrait was not a common experience, so clearly he was “somebody.”   

Sanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary Corsairs, circa 1615

Giles was born in 1601.  He became a seaman involved in the highly lucrative and dangerous trade along the Barbary Coast in North Africa.   Attacks from pirates became increasingly bold as the 17th Century progressed.  By the 1620s, Barbary Pirates were not only attacking ships but raiding settlements along the European coast as far as Iceland.  Captives from these raids were sold as slaves in Africa, and tens of thousands Europeans were held.  (St. Vincent de Paul and Miguel de Cervantes were among the small number of captives who managed to achieve freedom).  Despite the risks, young William went to sea with his father starting at age 10-12. 

In 1636, Giles Penn was commissioned by King  Charles I to command an attack on Salé in modern day Morocco, where it was believed a thousand Englishmen were held.  The attack and blockade was very successful as 339 captives were released.  Giles was rewarded with the consulship of Salé where he arrived in 1637 with his 16 year-old son, William.   William did not stay in Morocco, however, as we all know.   In 1638 William became the captain of his own ship at age 17. 

Giles Penn died c. 1664, probably in Morocco.

 

Written by Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator

A New Year

I hope everyone has enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season!  I love the end of the year, it offers everyone a chance to reflect on the past 12 months and start the next year with a fresh perspective!   William Penn’s dream for his new colony was all about living a fulfilled and worthwhile life, and it’s never too late to make a difference.

We have featured some amazing articles this past year on so many different issues and people, and gathered a wonderful following for the blog!  I’d like to send out a big THANK-YOU to the staff and interns who have contributed articles this past year.  I think we have created a very special resource for our volunteers and anyone with an interest in 17th-century history!!

But this is not meant to be a one-way street – we invite your comments, questions, and discussion!  Also if there are any topics you find fascinating and would like to learn more about, please feel free to comment on this post and we’ll try to address it in the coming months!

I wish all Pennsbury’s wonderful volunteers a very happy New Year!

Written by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator