Spring Cleaning at Pennsbury!

Spring Cleaning at Pennsbury Manor!

Every February, the staff here at Pennsbury Manor descends upon the Manor House with mops, buckets, brushes, vacuum cleaners, wax, and gloves. The once a year “spring cleaning” helps prepare the house for the many visitors that will come to Pennsbury Manor for a guided tour of William Penn’s 17th Century countryhome. Even though the house is dusted and vacuumed regularly, this gives us a chance to give it a once of year “thorough cleaning”.  It will take staff 151 hours and four days to clean all three floors of this Georgian style reconstruction of William Penn’s original home built in 1682.

Unlike a regular “spring house cleaning,” we are moving and cleaning objects that are over 300 years old. Special instructions on care are given to ensure that we do not damage or harm the objects in our collection. Gloves are used for handling textiles and wood, so as not to leave oils behind and gloves are taken off for glass and ceramics, so as not to have them slip and fall out of your hands. No butter fingers allowed here!

It is an impressive effort on the part of the staff to dust, vacuum, wax, mop, rinse, and repeat in each room of the house. The four bedchambers on the second floor take two people 3 hours and 27 minutes to clean. To vacuum all of the textiles on the first floor it takes two people a total of 2 hours. To clean all of the windows and Plexiglas covers it will take two people 10 hours. Phew!

The wear and tear of almost 30,000 feet takes a toll on our wood floors. To keep them looking good we will have to use ten 1-lb cans of butchers wax to hand wax all of the public areas and then buff the floors until the shine. Wow what a difference a newly waxed floor makes!

There isn’t any pledge found in our cleaning supplies. All wood is dusted with a clean, dry cloth baby diaper. We use around 60 diapers to clean the house. We then wash them and pack away for the next year. We try to be green! Textiles are a bit tricky. One must use a screen when vacuuming, to protect the fibers. Much care has to be taken while vacuuming these. Speaking of vacuums, it takes four vacuum cleaners and 16 vacuum bags to catch all the dirt and dust. Must be all of those feet bringing in lots of dirt!

It is an exhausting, but fun four days together getting dirty to get the house clean. Now we sit back and wait to show off the newly cleaned house to all of our visitors. Stop out to see us, we’ll be waiting!

By Tabitha Dardes, Director of PR & Marketing

Our amazing (rain-free) Holly Nights Spectacular!

We had such a wonderful time with our visitors on Holly Nights this year!!  The rain gave us a 5-hour window to enjoy our Friday night, and we were so excited to see so many visitors come out.  This has been a long-standing tradition at Pennsbury Manor for at least 30 years, and both evenings turned out to be beautiful and full of holiday spirit.

We wanted to share some awesome photos of this year’s event:

 decorations Putting up the decorations!

DSC_0065 Volunteers help offer demonstrations every year, including this fan-favorite – Pomander Balls are made by sticking organges with cloves and rolling them in a mixture of cinnamin, nutmeg, and other spices

cooking over an open hearth

 Cooking over the open-hearth for visitors – looks delicious!

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 Candlelight makes the 17th-century manor house come alive

 william penn

William Penn defeats the notorious pirate Captain Kidd in our classic 17th-century Mummer’s Play!

blacksmith

Our awesome blacksmiths working in the warmest spot on site – lucky guys, but try doing this on a hot august afternoon…

the site with luminaries

Thank you so much to everyone who came out for Holly Nights!  We had between 80 and 120 volunteers participating each night (not including all our amazing performers!), so we owe all our success to their dedication and joyful holiday spirit.

Have a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to blogging with you in the New Year!

 

By Hannah Howard

Photographs courtesy of Tabitha Dardes, PR, and Joseph Long, volunteer

Our Not-So-Quaker Holly Nights!

Pennsbury Manor's Holly Nights

The staff at Pennsbury Manor are scurrying everywhere getting ready for our annual Holly Nights this week, but in reality William Penn’s home would have been quiet and uninterrupted over the holiday season.  Quakers did not believe in setting apart certain days as more “holy” than others, so they typically let the 12 days of Christmas pass by uncelebrated.

But we at Pennsbury just can’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate this special season!  Our classic Holly Nights, a two-evening candelit event, includes some of our favorite 17th-century traditions that William Penn would have known as a child growing up in England.  Our amazing volunteers will be Wassailing the apple orchard, burning evergreens to bless the New Year, brewing beer, cooking a sumptuous feast in the kitchens, and much more! 

Pennsbury Manor's Holly Nights

I thought about writing up a post about some of the holiday traditions Penn would have known, having been raised in a typical 17th-century Anglican family, but Colonial Williamsburg and their partners at the Jamestown Settlement have already done it!  Click here to read their amazing article and pick up some cool ideas for your own holiday merry-making! 

HOLLY NIGHTS

Bring your family and friends and kick off your holiday season with style at Pennsbury Manor

Thursday, December 6 and Friday, December 7  from 6:00-9:00 PM.   Visit our website and download our $1.00 off coupon!

Pennsbury Manor's Holly Nights

By Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator & Costumier

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

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

The Country Life: It’s Harvest Time… Right?

When many people think of the harvest, they think of autumn. But another important time for gathering crops, not to be forgotten, takes place in the heat of the summer!

In an age where food wasn’t from the local supermarket, but from the land people lived on, it was important to use the soil to the best of its ability.  With ground-breaking techniques (no pun intended!) of the time, farmers were able to work the land to provide maximum yield from the beginnings of spring, to the eve’s of winter.

The Corn Harvest (August), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

One important crop of colonial Pennsylvania was wheat.  Of three varieties grown, winter and summer wheat were able to be harvested around the month of June if weather had been good.  Governor Penn even reports “they may sow eight acres; half with summer wheat and half with Oats,” referring to successful agriculture production in his colony.  Other summer crops include rye, hemp, barley, oats and flax.  

In smaller kitchen gardens, more customized techniques could be applied to each plant being grown. Here at Pennsbury Manor we have a reconstruction of William Penn’s own kitchen garden. It was intended for raising vegetables, herbs, and anything else that could be found useful in the estates kitchen. Structures like “hot beds” were created to begin the germination of seeds in late winter. This wooden framework was filled with manure, and topped with a layer of soil; this bed could become as hot as 100°F in the coldest of winter. Once mature enough, they can be moved to garden beds.

A view of the cold frames and hotbed at Pennsbury Manor

Similar to the hot bed, the cold frame was a structure used to protect fragile herbs.  This structure was enclosed with spare glass, matting or canvas. One would also find raised beds. This state of the art invention allowed planters to control the fertility of their soil and manage it accordingly.

With innovations such as these, the kitchen garden would be able to adapt to the seasons and continuously provide for the estate. In a time like Penn’s, it was always important to put time to its best use, even in the heat of the summer!

By Ray Tarasiewicz, Intern

Edited by Hannah Howard

Come visit Pennsbury Manor next Sunday, August 26 and learn about the Kitchen Garden’s summer activities!

William’s World: We’re So Cheesy

Aelbert Cyup, “The Dairy Maid,” 1650s

We’ve been recently discussing just how important dairying was, first as a career for the idyllic milkmaids and as a country business that was transported into towns (resulting in a more convenient, but poorer quality product).  As those articles said, there were a number of ways to prepare milk to be turned into various food resources. Today, cheese is a highly popular product (and a great way to preserve milk long-term), but it wasn’t always so fashionable!

Volunteer interpreters Susan PLaisted and Joan Healy prepare to drain the whey from cheese curds at Pennsbury Manor.

A large amount of milk went into cheese making. Although dairy did take its role at the table of the 15th and 16th-century elite in a number of forms (of which the five most common were cream, curds, milk, buttermilk, and whey), the one seen at their table least was cheese.   Cheese evolved from being a resource associated with poverty to being a sought-after staple for all social classes.

The main change that occurred in favor of cheese took place in the 1650’s when cheese became the primary reliance of the English army’s soldiers in Ireland.  Also used to feed servants or humbler guests, it was also found on ships because it lasted without deterioration, and thus it was a good option to send with both sailors and troops.

The whey is allowed to drain from the cheese curds, then the bundle is poured into a cheesemold and wrapped with a linen cloth. Cheese needs to be rotated and maintained regularly while being cured, or the liquid will settle on one side and will turn bad.

 Further support for the consumption of dairy in the form of cheese came about as Englishmen saw cheese savored at the tables of high-ranking society members abroad. Initially startling the English elite, especially if served toasted and not cold, cheese eventually took hold at their table. This was especially so as the milk industry boomed and the different counties of England began refining the cheese making process to produce various types include what would be most similar to that of a sharp cheddar today. And, although the outcome was surely delicious, the process behind cheese making is less appealing.

Calve’s stomach, which was required every spring for cheese-making.

Firstly, “a suckling calf’s stomach- bag was the usual source of rennet” (rennet-a dried extract made from the stomach lining of a ruminant, used to curdle milk).  As a result cheese was made during the spring when a single calf could be sacrificed for the sake of cheese making and milk would be abundant. In conjunction, the process of cheese making was something simple that could be done at the home if you owned a household cow. Likewise, there was no need for special expensive equipment and the milk could be processed quickly.  The resulting cheese making industry soon grew too and frequented the spring with the annual cheese making processes.

Come see Pennsbury Manor’s upcoming Cooking Demonstration next Sunday, July 15th from 1:00-4:00pm!

Flrois Claesz van Dijck, “Still-Life with Fruit, Nuts, and Cheese,” 1613

By Mary Barbagallo, Intern

Photographs by Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator

 

Sources

Food and Drink in Britain – C. Anne Wilson, the Anchor Press Ltd., 1973, Great Britain

Food in Early Modern England – Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760 – Joan Thirsk, Continuum Books, 2007, New York, NY

The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition – Houghton Mifflin, 1985, Boston, MA

17th-Century Fashion Show!

In less than 3 weeks, we will have a very exciting event for all members of The Pennsbury Society: a 17th-Century Fashion Show!

 One of the benefits of membership in The Pennsbury Society is access to exclusive programs here at Pennsbury Manor.  On Sunday, April 22nd at 2:00pm, our second program of 2012 will take a look at 17th-Century Fashions in England and the Colonies.   Staff member and residential costume historian, Hannah Howard, will be sharing all her knowledge on the styles of William Penn’s time, including original artifacts, paintings, and drawings of the era.  The program will finish with a Fashion Show of Pennsbury’s clothing collection and discussion of how fashion changed depending on someone’s role in society, with outfits modeled by our very own volunteers!

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pennsbury Manor is a state historic site, but we owe a lot of our program funding to our not-for profit support group, The Pennsbury Society.   The funds they raise go to support our educational and specialty programs, including our wonderful Period Clothing Collection!  If you haven’t yet become a member of the Pennsbury Society, consider joining and taking advantage of our unique events and opportunities.  For more information, please stop by the Visitor Center or see our website: http://www.pennsburymanor.org/support/membership-opportunities/ 

 

Living the Life of a 17th-Century Farmer

Last weekend, during our annual Spring Interpreter training, I shared an amazing  BBC mini-series on 17th-century farm life, and I wanted to make sure everyone else got to hear about it too! 

(I’ve actually already shared it a couple of times on this blog, including a recent article about stuffing straw mattresses.  But this is a tv series any history buff should not miss, so I couldn’t resist re-posting a link!!)

The series, called Tales From the Green Valley, follows 5 historians and archaeologists as they live on a real 17th-century Welsh farm and perform the daily activities required to survive.  Unfortunately the series is not available on DVD in US-format, but luckily all 12 episodes are available onDaily Motion:*

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqprv1_e1-tales-from-the-green-valley_lifestyle 

These 12 episodes, one for every month of the year, offers a marvelous inside look at the daily lives of Stuart-era English farmers.  They follow the agricultural year and show how much life was influenced by the seasons, in ways that modern society hardly notices anymore. 

Throughout the year, we’ll be sharing more posts on seasonal activities, so stay tuned!

Hannah Howard

Volunteer Coordinator

 

*No copyright infringement intended, used for purely educational purposes