No matter the season, my favorite time in Colonial Williamsburg is always early in the morning, when Duke of Gloucester Street, above, belongs more firmly to the past. Here, too, you can see how gracefully the holiday decorations blend in with the architecture. I know they're not historically accurate (as I explained yesterday) to 1775, but the effect is still charming.
I especially like the decorations on the historic trade shops that imaginatively incorporate aspects of each trade into the design. The wreath, aboveleft, hangs beside the doorway of the Wig & Peruke-Maker's Shop. Woven into the boxwood greenery are not only pine cones and dried flowers, but also white 18th c. clay hair curlers, switches of false hair, and dainty strands of pearl beads that might have ornamented a stylish lady's hair.
The tools and bench visible through the window of the Joiner's Shop, right, indicate the fine woodworking done within. The trade also inspired the holiday decor over the window, a festive swag fashioned of branches and curls of hardwood created by the joiner's box plane.
One of our favorite trade shops in Williamsburg is the Margaret Hunter millinery shop, and each year I look forward to seeing how their wreath highlights the fashionable hats, fans, and gowns offered within the shop. (Here's the wreath from last year as an example.) Alas, this year I missed out. While the 2012 wreath was indeed lovely – here it is on the shop's Facebook page – apparently some Scrooge of a thief stole it one night earlier in December. Bah, humbug!
But instead of ending on that sour note, here's the tableau, lower left, that's on display inside the shop every holiday season. It's an 18th c. milliner's shop in miniature, complete with hoops to caps to a gentleman's cocked hat. One doll "baby" tends the counter, while another is a mantua-maker, draping a new gown on a customer.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.