January 20, 2014
What does the daughter of the most powerful paramount chief of the Southeast wear to her wedding? Lamentably, no record exists to tell us what Pocahontas wore for her walk down the aisle, but Colonial Williamsburg’s Costume Design Center and Preservation Virginia are teaming up to hazard a guess.
In preparation for a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ marriage to John Rolfe, needles are threading their way through a reconstruction of the Falkland bodice, an elaborately embroidered fancy ladies jacket appropriate to the period.
Young princess Matoaka’s life ended dismally, but it began with great hope and promise. In this week’s podcast, hear how historians, seamstresses, and even the public are helping to remember the anniversary of the union of two cultures.
January 6, 2014
A gruesome relic informs a desperate history. In this week’s podcast, Historic Jamestowne’s Senior Archaeological Curator Bly Straube describes the find that let scientists and historians confirm the tales of cannibalism in America’s fledgling years.
Though rumors of survival cannibalism in James Fort’s early days had long circulated, there had been no concrete evidence of the deed until recently. A partial skull and a femur discovered in a cellar context tells the story of a desolate winter. Modern forensic science confirms an ancient suspicion: Those who survived the winter of 1609-1610 did so by resorting to the unthinkable.
History would come to know that winter as The Starving Time, a devastating season of disease, shipwreck, and indian siege. The Jamestown colony was very nearly lost, and the course of America came within a hair’s breadth of becoming a different story.
December 30, 2013
Mounting evidence points to the location of Virginia’s first school for the education of black children in an overlooked 18th-century Williamsburg structure. Relocated from its original footings and concealed by subsequent renovations, the little house at 524 Prince George Street has a big story to tell. First uncovered by William and Mary’s Professor of English Terry Meyers, growing clues shore up the theory that the Bray school may yet survive.
This week on the podcast, Staff Archaeologist Mark Kostro shares his excitement about the developing narrative. He says of the partnership with William and Mary’s Professor Terry Meyers: “When archeology is at its best is when it’s done in conjunction in tandem with archival research.”
December 23, 2013
Colonial Christmas celebrations tended to the austere, with some colonies eschewing festivities entirely. Enter the Rev. George Whitfield, celebrity preacher of the Enlightenment era. His edict to observe, albeit modestly, was a revelation to his flock.
Whitfield’s sermons were so popular that collections of them were printed and circulated throughout the East. One such compilation fell into the hands of Williamsburg’s Rev. John Camm, a loyalist Anglican minister and president of the College of William and Mary. That winter, “A Sermon for the Season” was delivered to the colony’s faithful.
Historic Interpreter Stephen Moore shares some highlights of the surprisingly relevant sermon in this week’s podcast. It’s a message that resounds with every religious tradition, and nudges the listener toward a more meaningful holiday.
December 16, 2013
Armonica. That’s not a typo; the glass armonica is Ben Franklin’s 1761 invention based on the sound of crystal goblets. This week, musician Dean Shostak brings the instrument’s clear and other-worldly tones to familiar holiday carols.
Franklin’s glass armonica was a re-imagining of the glass harp, which was a series of wine glasses filled to varying levels. Musicians would drag a finger across the rims, creating a clear, bright tone that corresponded to the level of liquid within the glass.
Franklin turned the concept on its side, stacking a series of graduated glass bowls on a horizontal spindle. An ingenious foot treadle rotated the bowls, and the musician had only to touch his finger to the spinning rim to create an ethereal ringing tone.
This week on the podcast, hear Dean Shostak play Christmas classics on the glass armonica, and learn more about the singular instrument’s history.
Listen in this week’s podcast.
November 18, 2013
In a reconstructed town famous for 88 original 18th-century structures, the hint of the discovery of an overlooked colonial building is a powerful temptation for historians and archaeologists alike at Colonial Williamsburg.
At 524 Prince George Street, a new mystery is unfolding as architects, archaeologists, historians and one mightily curious English professor pull back the layers that time has laid over the long-forgotten Dudley Digges house.
Cloaked in years of renovations and additions and severed from its original context, the building holds tantalizing tales of a colonial structure. The historic record begins to suggest that the home — remarkable enough in its survival alone — may have been one location of the Bray School, a school for the education of black children.
Calling the school a “bright spot in what is an otherwise complicated and painful history,” The College of William & Mary’s Professor Terry Meyers details how the little Bray school might provide a tiny drop of absolution for the many sins committed during antebellum pro-slavery zeal.