Fort Ticonderoga has already hosted four workshops as part of its Historic Trades program — one on coat making, two on making leather breeches and another on making napsacks.
Joel Anderson became a tailor out of necessity.
An avid historic re-enactor, Anderson couldn’t find affordable, authentic period clothing for his hobby. The solution was simple, although not easy — he learned to make his own.
“When I started as a re-enactor all I could find was poorly-crafted props. I felt like I was wearing a costume instead of an authentic piece of history. I realized if I wanted to do it right, I’d have to make my own clothes.”
Anderson, who was recently named artificer supervisor at Fort Ticonderoga, is now leading the fort’s Historic Trades program.
“In the 18th Century people had trades — tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths,” explained Stuart Lilie, Fort Ticonderoga’s director of interpretation. “They were like plumbers, electrician's, mechanics are today. They were skilled craftsmen using the technology of the period. They often served 5 to 7 years as apprentices learning their trade.”
Fort Ticonderoga hopes to keep those skills alive in its Historic Trades program, said Beth Hill, the fort’s executive director.
“It fits perfectly with our mission,” she said, “providing a living experience rooted in our documentation. We have the best staff in the country right here in Ticonderoga. This is another way to utilize their talents.”
The Learning Trades program will serve two purposes, Hill said. It will serve as an educational effort, teaching interested people how to make authentic 18th Century clothing, and it will be a source of clothing for the fort’s interpretive staff, who will wear the items made through the program.
“I believe this program will attract people from across the country and aboard,” Hill said, noting many historic re-enactors want to learn the skills being taught. “There’s an interest far and wide.”
Fort Ticonderoga has already hosted four workshops as part of the program — one on coat making, two on making leather breeches and another on making napsacks. Another napsack workshop is scheduled along with classes on making cartridge pouches and felt hats.
Besides the workshops, there will be daily demonstrations of the Historic Trades program during the fort’s 2012 season.
“Every soldier — French, English and American — needed clothes and shoes,” Lilie said. “Most of those items were made right here at Fort Ticonderoga. This is an exciting addition to the Fort Ticonderoga experience.”
Anderson comes to Fort Ticonderoga with 12 years living history experience, both as a re-enactor and museum profession. He has previously worked for Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark located in Charleston, S.C., specializing in livestock, carriages and military programming. In his own business, Anderson Tailoring, he hand-stitched, custom-fit Revolutionary War uniforms and civilian clothing.
Anderson studied at East Tennessee State University, pursuing his musical skills. An avid equestrian, researcher, and 18th century mechanic, he has already contributed to Fort Ticonderoga’s living history programs in 2011.
Lilie, who has worked at Colonial Williamsburg, is responsible for the development and implementation of Fort Ticonderoga’s interpretive department.
Lilie is a graduate of The College of William & Mary. He has worked in several interpretive and trades positions at Colonial Williamsburg and served as an apprentice archaeologist with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities at Jamestown. He has consulted on historical equestrian matters for films at Mount Vernon, 96 Battlefield, Moore’s Creek, Vicksburg and Cowpens National Park.
An avid Revolutionary War and Seven Years war re-enactor, Lilie has taken his belief in high standards of authenticity to work on the development of educational programming for many national sites including Colonial Williamsburg, Putnam Memorial State Park, Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, Minute Man National Park, Endview Plantation, Virginia War Museum and Middleton Place.
Hill noted community revitalization discussions have included talks about attracting artists to Ticonderoga. She believes the fort’s Historic Trades program can help.
“We’ve talked about developing Ticonderoga as a destination for artisans,” Hill said. “I believe this can help with that effort. I believe the fort and Ti can both be vibrant experiences.”
Fort Ticonderoga has been open to the public more than 100 years.
Built in 1755 by the French, the fort was captured by the British and Provincial forces in 1759 during the French & Indian War.
It was here in 1775 that Ethan Allen captured it from the British; the first victory of the American Revolution. It was cannon from Fort Ticonderoga that Colonel Knox hauled to Boston for George Washington’s Army. The British evacuated Boston as a result.
For information call 585-2821.