Lauren Muney of Silhouettes By Hand mentioned in NPR article on historical skills

Lauren Muney, silhouette artist from Silhouettes By Hand, was mentioned in National Public Radio (NPR)'s article on modern people continuing historic skills.

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American History Lives: A Story Of The People, By The People, For The People

Updated January 21, 20163:32 PM ETPublished January 21, 201611:11 AM ET


Americans are doers. In the United States today, history is an action word. This is, after all, a participatory democracy, and people are participating in its history by volunteering, crafting, interpreting, reenacting, recreating and exploring the old — anew.

As the crowd of sources points out in this crowdsourced story, a fair number of our present-day neighbors in the United States dwell in the past — hunting or gathering or going through days (or parts of days) as their ancestors did. They dress up in vintage clothes, speak in distant syntax, use their hands and brains like citizens of yore. Teachers and interpreters demonstrate and explain antiquated activities. Growers adhere to time-honored methods. Makers shape things using the tools and materials of years past. Sellers hawk products today that were available 100 years ago and more. Companies continue to create centuries-old wares.

Some history lovers believe life was simpler long ago; still others have discovered it was actually pretty complicated.

And there are scads of people in every place — cigar-box guitar maker Bruce Graham in New Hampshire; blacksmiths Lewis Meyer in Kentucky, David Osmundsenin Wyoming and Mike Hensley in North Carolina; leatherworker Cliff Pequet in Indiana; chair caner Cathryn Peters in Minnesota; textile evangelist Abby Franquemontand decoy carver Laurel Dabbs in Ohio; ladderback chair maker Russ Filbeck, farrier Erin Simmons,winemaker Kat McDonald and invitation designer Kari Dias in California; broommaker John Potter, the book preservationists at Eidolon House and bookbinder H. DeLea Sayers in Texas; potter Reggie Britton Delarm and cheesemaker Sister Noella Marcellino in Connecticut, potters Brenda Hornsby Heindl in North Carolina and my cousins Dale and Brin Baucum in Tennessee; schooner chef Anna Miller in Maine; silhouette snipper Lauren Muney in Maryland; cooper Marshall Scheetz in Virginia; photographers Charles Trentelman in Utah, Jen Jansen in Illinois, Mark and France Scully Osterman in New York and Wendell Decker in Tennessee; Windsor chair maker Jim Van Hoven; apple grower Ken Weston and metalworkers Thomas and Catherine Latane in Wisconsin; the handweavers of Tierra Wools in New Mexico; baker Evrim Dogu in Virginia; glassblowers like Blenko in West Virginia and Charlie Jenkins in Maine and quilters at the Vermont Quilt Festival; scrimshaw artist Tina White, ax crafter Kyle Leslie and the flint knappers of Puget Sound Knappers in Washington; Southern chef Benjamin Dennis in South Carolina; hammock maker Mark Richardson in Washington.and Virginia Taylor of the Farm at Frost Corner in Virginia — who swear by particular techniques, ingredients, materials of yesteryear

All across America people are doing it the old fashioned way – painting murals in New York, making lace in Rhode Island, producing books in Kentucky...

Some people are pushing for a return to using draft animals; others are dancing like veritable Victorians. "At Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, formerly the plantation of Lee's father-in-law — and adopted son of George Washington — volunteers formed a Victorian dance group, which became an interpretive program. We dance the way Robert and Mary Lee danced prior to leaving the home at the beginning of the Civil War," writes Amy Delery.

"It is 1910 at my farmstead," says Susan Odom, who runs Hillside Homestead in Michigan. A food historian, Odom routinely serves "turn-of-the-century fare" such as escalloped eggs and graham gems. Amanda's Bequest is another historic farmstay in Michigan.

History Hotspots

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is a hallmark for many Americans with a hankering to experience the past. "When we were down there last January," writes Alicia Newcomb, "we were able to speak to some of the actors one on one. Most of them are actually historians or certified in some other way... I've been going there since I was a little girl."

Williamsburg is but one historical wormhole that leads to the past. Time and again we are told about the glories of Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford museum in Michigan. Joseph Boggs of Ohio, says: "As an American history teacher and a history enthusiast, my favorite place in the world is the Greenfield Village ... because of its commitment to history in action."

Of Greenfield Village, Lisa Pierce of the University of Arizona's School of Theatre, Film & Television, adds: "From old-fashioned candle-making, candy-making, blacksmithing, and more, people dress in period costumes from the 18th & 19th centuries and re-enact the jobs that were done in those times." Sarah Jensen and others especially recommend the Eagle Tavern there.

At Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, "I saw a cooper make a barrel, a cobbler make shoes, and workers performed both hand milking and hearth baking," writes Al Ross. "They do everything the way it was done before electricity."

And Robin Todd writes of Living History Farms in Iowa, "I've been there too many times to count. They plant food, harvest, shoe horses, make brooms, build outbuildings. They live exactly as they would have in their time period."

Old Salem in North Carolina is another living history museum, Kyle Denlinger tells us about a gun maker there who crafts 18th century long rifles by hand:. "The gunsmith at Old Salem always likes to point out that his rifles would have cost a person half of a year's wages, but it was a necessary investment. They provided food, protection, and, if you were a soldier, an income. Personally, I could get behind the idea of guns being similarly expensive today."

Traditional clothing at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

And at Old World Wisconsin, "they have brought together buildings from actual homesteads in Wisconsin from the various ethnic groups that settled there — Norwegian, German, Swedish, et al — and have docents acting out the lives of the families," says Diane Scholten.

Sometimes it seems like you can't open your carriage door without bumping into a living museum, many of which belong to the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.

Many museums, historic farms and interpretive centers conduct demonstrations and some places and people allow folks to witness timeless traditions, such as the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma; Fort Ticonderogain New York; Shaker Village in Kentucky; Homestead Heritage in Central Texas; the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Arizona; the Old Stone House in Pennsylvania; Furnace Town Living Heritage Village and the National Colonial Farm in Maryland; The Homeplace 1850 at Land Between The Lakes in Tennessee; Sauder Village and Slate Run Historical Farm in Ohio; Conner PrairieSquire Boone Caverns and Metamora in Indiana; the Marshfield School of Weaving in Vermont; Barberville Pioneer Settlement in Florida; Burritt on the Mountain in Georgia; Historic Richmond Town and Genesee Country Village in New York; the Plymouth Cordage Company in Connecticut; Riley's Farm , the gold rush-era town of Columbia. the Antique Gas & Steam Museum and Ardenwood Historic Farm in California; Old Aurora Colony in Oregon; the State Railroad Museum in Nevada; the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas; Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in New Jersey; the nascent Hermann Farm in Missouri; Baldwin County Heritage Museum in Alabama; Prairie Village in South Dakota; the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum and the Hermann-Grima Housein Louisiana; the Delta Blues Museum — brainchild of my late friend Sid Graves — in Mississippi; Fort Delaware State Park in Delaware; Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts; Coggeshall Farm Museum in Rhode Island; the Maine Forest and Logging Museum; the Napier SettlementHistoric Nauvoo and Lincoln's New Salem in Illinois; Native American powwows in Montana; the Village of Yesteryear in North Carolina; George Washington's distillery at Mount Vernon; the Frontier Culture Museum and Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Virginia; an old Dutch mill and Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas; the Calypso Farm & Ecology Center in Alaska; the Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Minnesota and the William Harris Homestead in Georgia.

Jim Corless sends along a list of other national park service spots that feature historic demonstrations: In Pennsylvania, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site "produces charcoal in the same manner as colliers at this iron plantation did up through the 1880s" and Independence National Historical Park "prints publications using a late 18th century press and binds these using 18th century methods." Fort Frederica National Monument in Georgia "once a year creates and burns a small-scale lime kiln to make lime for preservation work of the tabby structures at the site."

Last winter "my husband and I took our daughter to a soccer tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas. We ended up staying in downtown Little Rock and stumbled upon the Historic Arkansas Museum. It was an enclosed area that included four historic buildings from the 1800s on their original site," says Natalie Cagle. "The grounds included a real working garden that they apparently had researched to determine what the owners in the 1800s had grown. They used the garden and other 1800 devices to cook meals in old cast iron pots right there on the hearth in the detached kitchen. The day we were there they had just baked fresh bread and offered us a piece. It was pretty cool."

To boot, each year communities host meaningful multicultural celebrations to honor the rich, robust history of the United States. The grandparent of festivals is the midsummer Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the District of Columbia. You should also check out scores of others, including the UNDIA Wacipi in North Dakota; the Apple Butter Festival in West Virginia; several festivals at Joanna Furnace in Pennsylvania; the Feast of the Hunter's Moon in Indiana; Atascadero Colony Days in California; the Shepherds Harvest Festival and a passel of public events sponsored by the Pond Dakota Heritage Society in Minnesota.


According to our crowd of sources, this country is, in fact, chock-a-block with contemporary companies that in one way or another cling to the distant past, such as Hornstra Farms and Tremont Nail in Massachusetts; Frederick Duckloe & Bros. furniture makers in Pennsylvania; the Brass Rooster Hat Company in Wisconsin; Kokomo Opalescent Glass and the Thomas Family Winery in Indiana; Louis' Lunch in Connecticut; Raye's Mustard in Maine; Tabasco saucemakers in Louisiana; Mt. Devon Farm and FiberW. F. Norman tin ceilings and Red Guitar Bread in Missouri; Palace Shoe Service and Lyon & Healy harpmakers in Illinois; Type High letterpress shop and Williams Mug Shaving Soap in New York; Blue Ox MillworksJudson Studios stained glass and the San Francisco Fire Department Ladder Shop in California; Russell Pope's hand forged hardware in New Hampshire; Elderhorst Bells and Hoffman's Forge in Pennsylvania; Lehman's hardware store in Ohio and the Vermont Country Store in, well, Vermont; Standard Hat Works and Restaurant Gwendolyn in Texas; Montana Rio , makers of Buckaroo hats, in Wyoming; Doumar's and their waffle cones in Virginia; Burns Saddlery in Utah; Illahe Vineyards in Oregon; Legends Steakhouse in South Dakota; Glur's Tavern in Nebraska; Duluth PackNomadic Letter Press and Pioneer Power Sawmill in Minnesota; B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill in Connecticut and the Fly Creek Cider Mill in New York.

A Million Mills

To hear people tell it, there must be a million mills in America that whir away just like in the olden days. Textile operations such as Faribault Woolen Mill in Minnesota, "which has been in operation ... since 1865," writes Liz Pearson.

From the northwestern Catskill Mountains of New York, Peg Odell of Hanford Millsshoots us an email: "There has been a water-powered mill on this site since 1846. As a Museum we generate power using water in all three states, just as it was done 100 years ago. We operate a sawmill, gristmill, and woodworking shop using water power and steam power... And, about that third state of water? Ice! Before refrigeration, ice was harvested each winter so it could be used in the warmer months to keep food and agricultural products cool. We recreate this community tradition each year on the first Saturday in February. Using historic tools, kids and adults cut blocks of ice from the frozen mill pond, and then transfer it by sled to the ice house. The ice is packed in sawdust and will last through the summer and into the fall. We use the ice on July 4th to make ice cream on a steam-powered churn."

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