The Old State House and The Green are going back in time, even more so than usual, Nov. 6 when they host their first 18th Century Market Fair since, well, maybe the 18th Century.
The Old State House and The Green are going back in time, even more so than usual, next weekend when they host an 18th Century Market Fair. The First State Heritage Park is packing the day full of children’s activities, living history presentations, a new walking tour, modern-day merchants, dancing and more. Here’s what Elaine Brenchley of First State Heritage Park had to say about the event.
1 Why now?
“In the 18th century, The Green was the sight of market fairs and we have wanted for some time to recreate a little bit of that spirit,” Brenchley said.
The fairs were usually held twice a year, and brought merchants, artisans, craftspeople and more to The Green.
“It was kind of the big event every spring and every fall in town to exchange goods, but there were all kinds of entertainments,” she said.
In 1785, the legislature actually outlawed these marketplace events because the animals, peddlers, entertainment and, at times, drinking, could make for a rowdy time. They were later brought back ... and outlawed again ... and brought back.
This event is more family-oriented, so hopefully it won’t get shut down. If weather doesn’t cooperate, the event will move into the Old State House, including its rarely-seen basement.
2 Arrogant Frenchman steals the show
The headliner, if that’s the term to use at a market fair, is the Arrogant French Lacemaker, an interpreter who mixes humor with history. Monsieur LeFarceur de Villeverte portrays a lace merchant forced to flee the 1789 French Revolution, and will treat attendees as potential recruits as lacemakers. While he’s heckling the crowds, he’s also actually making lace, which is pretty impressive to watch, according to Brenchley.
Guests also will interact with historical balladeer and tea interpreter Stacy Flora Roth who will be wandering around with her sack full of surprises, including contraband tea and ballads. They can brush up on knot tying and scrub the deck with merchant seamen or listen to sailors’ shanty music, or find out about tanneries.
Eighteenth-century dancing by the English County Dancers, a Revolutionary War hero, woodworker, silhouette maker and more will fill out the afternoon.
3 Craftsmen put on a show, peddle wares
Modern-day shoppers will get a feel for what would have been available to them in the 18th century while perusing modern-day goods.
Blacksmith Jay Hoffman will demonstrate the forge and anvil while selling hand-forged products, woodworker Rick Schuman will use his spring-pole lathe and vintage hand tools, and Maria Bessette will show traditional painted floor cloths and sell handmade, natural soaps. John Dickinson Plantation interpreters will be on hand to demonstrate spinning, weaving, knitting and more, and some woven goods will be for sale.
As for food, there will be demonstrations and sales. The state’s only lavender farm, Lavender Fields, will be there as well.
As with most First Saturday events, there will be plenty for kids to do. They can make their own merchant trade signs, try wood carving, be an archaeologist at the John Bell House or play hook and stick.
4 New tour debuts
Brenchley said a new tour focusing on merchants and tradespeople will give guests a peek into the lives of the Loockerman family when it sets off at 2 p.m. from the John Bell House on The Green. “Spirits and Spices and Silks to Buy!” tells the stories of people like Vincent Loockerman and John Banning, and how goods got to Dover from the likes of Philadelphia and Europe. The stories of hatters working on The Green, medical practices and more will be shared during the tour.
“That’s a piece of Delaware and Dover history that the Heritage Park has never interpreted in any big way,” she said. “We have discovered that there are so many stories in Dover, that one walking tour doesn’t cover them all.”
5 First Saturday
As usual, First Saturday encompasses a slew of events. There’s “What’s in a Patent?” at the Johnson Victrola Museum, which discusses the patents obtained in the early 1900s by Eldridge Reeves Johnson, the company’s founder, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
At the Delaware Public Archives, “Analyzing Wills and Other Probate Records” at 10:30 a.m. will focus on what records constitute probate and how to use them in genealogy research.
For a complete listing of First Saturday events, visit http://www.destateparks.com/park/first-state-heritage/index.asp.