I loved looking at and seeing the old stores that they had at the time of George Washington. The people in the stores were dressed in the attire of years ago. All of their talks and demonstrations were very informative of how people made a living in Colonial times.
We had a tour of the Barber and Peruke Maker. Peruke means “artificial head of hair ” in the French language. Wigs were popular for men in the 17th and 18th centuries. They would shave off all of your natural hair and then they would fit you for a wig. Very few women had a wig because they did not want their hair shaved off. Wigs were very expensive and only the upper 5 % could afford to buy one. A wig such as George Washington’s took over 100 hours to make. Wigs were made from Yak, horse, goat and human hair.
We had a tour of the Apothecary or Drug Store. The original brown containers from the 1700’s that held the different compounds were in the store. All of the stores were very dark inside since they depended on candle light for light. Medicine was rolled in licorice root to give it a better taste. The different compounds were mixed together for your particular medicine.
The dressmaker spent 100 hours making a wedding dress as it was very labor intensive. A politicians suit with vest and all the lining took the tailor 100 hours to make. Corsets could take 50 hours or more to make.
The cabinet maker made cupboards, doors, and window frames for your home. He had every kind of wood plane that you could imagine for the different shapes and cuts to decorate the trim with. He also made wooden benches for outdoor use.
The shoemaker used leather from cattle and goats to make your shoes. Goat leather was used in the more expensive shoes as it is very soft and subtle. A pair of boots like George Washington wore took one half a years wages that most people got paid. Excellent quality shoes took 8 hours to make. Slip on slippers took 3 hours to make.
We went to the silversmith shop. They still make jewelry today that is stamped Colonial Williamsburg. I purchased a sterling silver cross of Lorraine. They sell candle sticks, rings, necklaces, ear rings and much more.
We had a tour from the Weaver. He told us it took all day to weave 13 yards of fabric. In Colonial days he would start out as an apprentice. He would have the apprenticeship for five years with no wages but he would get room and board. When the apprenticeship was finished he would be a journeyman. If he could save up a half years wages he could buy a loom and start his own shop.
We watched the Printer and Bindery man putting leather on a book. He said you had to be very careful shaving the leather so you would not put a hole in it and have to start over. He used cowhide to cover the books. He had to heat various irons for different patterns on the leather. If you heated the iron too hot you would burn the leather. You could not rest because if you stopped the pattern would be off and the leather cover would look terrible. The very wealthy would have gold gilded leather covers put on their books.
History truly came to life on Market Square in Colonial Williamsburg, Virgina.
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