Their fans get up at the crack of dawn and drive, sometimes hundreds of miles, to empty fields where they put on an army uniform, pick up a bayonet, and faithfully reenact battles from the Revolutionary War. Or the Civil War. Or Desert Storm. Historical reenactments, known to their supporters as “living histories,” are events where individuals attempt to faithfully portray an event of the past. But wars aren’t the only historical events that lend themselves to enthusiastic and accurate reenactments. Here are six examples that may not be as widely known, but certainly have faithful followings.
When Major League Baseball went on strike in 1994, the Old Time Base-Ball League officially formed. Today, Old Time leagues exist all over the country; the largest league, with 11 teams, plays in Long Island, New York. In period uniforms and language, the players and their fans (called “rooters,” among other terms), who also dress in the fashion of the day, are as devoted to accuracy as they are to America’s Pastime. The players use real dinner plates as bases — standard protocol in the late 1800s — and the “hurler” pitches underhand. Hand-sewn, leather-bound baseballs are caught with bare hands, and balls caught on a bounce are an “out.” Should you ever decide to take up a bat, remember it’s four strikes and you’re out at the old ball game.
Conan O’Brien caught wind of the league, and decided to check it out. In his typical fashion, much hilarity ensued. On his final show, Conan called his 1860s Baseball experience his favorite clip in Late Night history:
In the early 19th century, the fur trade was one of the biggest moneymakers for settlers in the American West. The trappers, also called Mountaineers or Mountain Men, trapped and skinned animals and transported the pelts back to St. Louis, Missouri, where they sold the furs or traded them for supplies. After this, the furs were made into fashionable hats and the like for well-off patrons on the East Coast. Around 1825, the trappers realized that they could make even more money by trading the furs in their local mountainous surroundings. These annual summer gatherings, called “Rendezvous,” became blowout parties between the trappers and traders.
The annual Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous is a living history and reenactment that celebrates frontier life and the fur trade enterprise of the American West. True to history, the person in charge is called a “Bushway” (or “Booshway”), a term derived from the French word “Bourgeois.” The Bushway was the supervisor of indentured trappers and fur traders who were forced to work for the fur trade. Participants don’t always follow scripts; they simply want to give each other and viewers a taste of what it would have been like to be at a real Rendezvous. [Image courtesy of High Plains Regional Rendezvous.]
Do you want to know how to sip tea like a lady? Ballroom dance? Curtsy in a hoop skirt? Every summer, the historical Athenaeum Rectory in Columbia, Tennessee, transforms into an 1861 Girls’ School for a week. “Students” between 14 and 18 years old come from all over the world to learn what a girl would have learned in the 19th century: etiquette, Latin, dancing, hairstyling, mourning customs, and other vital skills. The faculty members are also faithful reenactors as well as devoted educators. To get the full experience, the girls stay in costume (often in gowns they sewed themselves!) and character all week and board with local families, who are also reenactors. At the end of the week, a grand ball is held along with commencement ceremonies.
No reenactment of the wild, wild West would be complete without a legendary train robbery reminiscent of the heists pulled by Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. Today, modern citizens transform themselves into gun-slinging outlaws and the sheriffs that dutifully take them down. Thankfully, the riders of the train coach expect the bombardment — complete with weapons and horses — and enjoy the experience. However, in December 2008, at a staged train robbery in Wisconsin, two people were shot when an actor’s gun mistakenly loaded with birdshot went off. Fortunately, the injuries were not serious.
This is not Disney-approved-Jack-Sparrow fare. Members of The Pirate Brethren are sticklers for accurate portrayal of the piracy that once ruled the waters. The Pirate Brethren live by their tagline: “Being a gathering place for Pyrates, Buccaneers, their Associates, and Accomplices, in the latter quarter of the 17th and early decades of the 18th centuries.” The group boasts an annual meeting of enthusiasts called the Adelphi Mill Pyrate Feast, and they portray pirates as both soldiers and common sailors year round. They wear appropriate attire that allows them to carry six pistols and a sword. And an axe. Be ye prepared. [Image courtesy of Pirate Brethren.]
This has been bouncing around the Internet for a bit, and even though it’s not a live reenactment, it sure is hilarious. As a community on Flickr, fans of Gary Larson’s Far Side comic strips stage photo reenactments of their favorite scenes. Some classic reenacting honors go to:
• The School of Geniuses
• Went to Market
• Objects in Mirror…
[Image courtesy of Flickr user WayneWho.]
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