Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old Sturbridge Village, MA

Sturbridge, MA approximately 150 miles from Newburgh, NY was our next stop. Nearby Old Sturbridge Village provided an interesting diversion for us; a recreated village with authentic buildings, some from 1790 with costumed historians providing narrative. We visited on Sunday and started the day with an "all you can eat brunch" at the Oliver Wight Tavern we packed it in, the food was very good and the tavern was busy - always a sign of good food.

The costumed historians and they were historians explained life in the 18th and 19th centuries. A village shop had clothing materials from China, England and Ireland; spices from India, Ceylon and the Spice Islands. And, yes…back then there was a big trading tradition with China for furniture, clothes, spices, tableware and ornaments from the very large to very small. We learned from the shoe maker that while he made shoes for individuals, his bread and butter came from orders received from one of the many shoe companies in New England for a given number of shoes a day to be delivered – shoes were not made left or right – the wearer’s feet over time dictated that. The shoe company sent to the wholesalers who, in turn sold them to the shops. From the Tin Smith we learned that in the 18th and early 19th century tin was like plastic is today; most household vessels were made of tin and highly decorated. The tin came from Wales in sheets of about 24 inches by 18 inches packed in boxes of 50; the Tin Smith would then press or hammer them into various shapes and sizes. We saw how to make a mug, remember the edges must all be curled to ensure that there are no sharp edges.
We explored several houses most of which had been moved from other New England locations, they were all furnished with period furniture and accessories. We watched three women dying wool outdoors using natural dyes in big vats over an open fire, and then hanging them on a line to dry. The wools had beautiful natural colors and the products used to dye them came from many countries – as you can imagine Adele had many questions, all answered by one of the ladies; the ladies were dressed in all the garb of an 18th century farmers wife. It was a very hot day and we cannot imagine how the ladies coped in 2013 in 18th century clothes. Another house had an exhibit of how artificial light has progressed through time; the candle was almost useless, oil lamps with glass bulbs gave good light, gas lights were a big improvement, the trouble being they were difficult to light. Followed by electricity, since which all workers work longer hours!

There were two oxen harnessed together pulling a heavy stone, the farmer was training them to work in the fields. A couple of village girls were launching paper hot air balloons. We passed a pen of horned sheep whose wool looked pretty dirty; those poor sheep should be on grass not dirt.
We finished off the day with a stage coach ride on an 18th century dirt road, uncomfortable! One cannot imagine the discomfort of a coach/carriage ride on cobblestones.

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