Friday, March 30, 2012

Corded Petticoat - Part 2

This is the corded petticoat made of woven panels from Master Weaver, Louise Richens in its finished state, all starched and ready to wear!

At first, we thought this petticoat was too heavy and bulky, more like a carpet than an item for wearing, but after starching it’s advantages become apparent: the looseness of the weave of the fabric really sucks up the starch, much better than a corded petticoat made of muslin!

For more information on this beautiful reproduction, please read "Reproduction Corded Petticoat"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

“That Infernal Balloon!” - Part One

As Professor Thaddeus Lowe and other aeronauts serving with the Union army made ascensions to reconnoiter rebel positions, draw maps of terrain and fortifications, count numbers of opposing troops, and otherwise gain important intelligence on the enemy, Confederate soldiers and officers felt a great deal of consternation as to how they would deal with their foes’ apparent advantage. Often the Confederate response was anything but subtle: blasting away at the balloons with whatever artillery and musketry that could be brought to bear; while other measures were quite clever, involving some ploy to fool the aerial observers.

In late August of 1861, Lowe began making daily ascensions in his new balloon Union, designed and built specifically for military use. Almost immediately after these flights began, Confederate artillery batteries in the area opened fire on the aerostat. One such battery was under the command of E.P. Alexander, a young southern officer whose name will come up a bit later in this story. This artillery fire was ineffective, however, in doing anything other than wasting ammunition. Many artillery crews were trained to find their targets by “zeroing in”—to do this one must observe where a previous shot strikes and correct the next shot to bring it closer to the target. Since no impact could be observed when firing at an object floating in the air, the gun crews could not zero in their shots. Another difficulty was the effects of gravity on shot—the artillerymen knew that their fire would fall in an arc, but many did not have a grasp of the mathematics needed to calculate the proper angle of fire. Some cannon crews would adopt the tactic of creating a “blanket” of fire through which an ascending or descending balloon would have to pass. While this practice was more logical, and did cause damage to troops and camps beyond the balloon, it never scored a hit.

Despite the lack of any direct hits to Union balloons, there were numerous close calls. There are quite a few reports of cordage and even the basket being struck or nicked by solid shot or shrapnel. In late 1861 the balloon Constitution was making observations at Budd’s Ferry near Washington, when Confederate batteries opened fire, shells exploding quite near to the craft. At the siege of Yorktown, Lowe wrote of a heavy Armstrong cannon that exploded because of the extreme angle of elevation its crew used in an attempt to shoot down the balloon. At the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines), the balloonist reported a projectile passing between the ropes just beneath the basket. During the same battle, Confederates employing the “blanket of fire” method missed the balloon, but landed shells less than 200 feet behind it. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Lowe remembered a shell passing within 20 feet of his balloon.

This artillery fire did sometimes create havoc on the ground, though it may not have struck its intended target. The Army of the Potomac’s cavalry commander, General Stoneman complained to Lowe that the shelling of the balloons endangered and upset his horses. On another occasion, Lowe and Stoneman were talking outside of Lowe’s tent in the balloon camp when both men were showered by dirt kicked up by a shell targeting the balloon. It was reported during the Peninsula campaign that General Slocum’s cookhouse, located adjacent to the balloon camp was struck by similar indirect fire. General Heintzelman in his headquarters was nearly hit under similar circumstances. Also during that campaign a 64-pounder ball came within feet of killing General George B. McClellan (commander of the army) and General Fitz John Porter. The ball landed between two men sleeping in a nearby tent—both were miraculously unhurt. In the diary of a soldier of the 13th New Hampshire a story of artillery fire intended for a balloon ends with a fellow soldier being covered in filth when a cannon ball lands in the camp latrine he was supposed to be cleaning.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Cooking with Maple Contest Winners

Congratulations to all our winners!!!

Grand Prize Winner Over All: Michael Roll with Maple Sugar Cookie with Filling

Child Category:

1st Place: Wilson LeCount with DaBoss's Surprise

1st Place: Sierra Renitt with Maple Walnut Cookies

1st Place: Kara Kingsbury with Maple-Glazed Almonds

Youth Category:
1st Place: Cori Reniff with Maple-Pumpkin Cheesecake
2nd Place: Rebecca Reniff with Vanilla-Maple Cake

1st Place: Michael Roll with Maple Sugar Cookie with Filling

Adult Category:

1st Place: Brian Nagel with Genesee Country Maple Syrup Cheesecake
2nd Place: Michele Hand with Maple Cheesecake
3rd Place: Gail Fowler with Maple Walnut Cake

1st Place: Karen Rapone with Maple-Cashew Cookies
2nd Place: Barbara Caluorie with Pecan Maple Leaves
3rd Place: Matt Grimes with Maple Peanut Butter Cookies

1st Place: Judith Van Alstyne with Maple Chinook Pie
2nd Place: Dorothy Welch with Maple Syrup Pie
3rd Place: Gail Fowler with Maple Syrup Walnut Pie


1st Place: Susan Erdle with Maple Walnut Toffee "with a Kick"
2nd Place: Michele Conners with Maple Pumpkin Butter
3rd Place: Stephen Greive with Maple Smoked Trout

Friday, March 23, 2012

Project Learning Tree Workshop

This April 14th educators are invited to a Project Learning Tree workshop. Pre-Register with Melissa Marszalek at 585-294-8257.

Project Learning Tree is an international curriculum developed by the American Forest Foundation. PLT’s mission is to use “the forest as a window on the world to increase students’ understanding of our complex environment… and instill in them a commitment to take responsible action on behalf of the environment.” PLT, one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the United States, “helps young people learn how to think – not what to think – about complex environmental issues.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Maple Sugar Festival

Here are some photos of the Maple Sugar Festival this past weekend. If you weren't able to make it, we hope you will join us for this weekend.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maple Sugar Festival This Weekend!!!!!

This weekend's weather is going to be amazing. We hope to see you at our Maple Sugar Festival. Come enjoy several maple tastings (plus a Heritage Chocolate one), learn about how maple sap becomes many a tasty treats, fill up on a pancake breakfast and of course soak in the beautiful spring weather.

Science, Showmanship and Suspense: Part 3: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Lowe had taken off from Cincinnati, Ohio at around 3:00am on April 20th, 1861 and landed in a shanty town nine miles west of Unionville (now known as Union), South Carolina that same morning. He had traveled between 900 and 1,200 miles in less than nine hours, utilizing the high altitude easterly wind currents, the existence of which he had sought to prove. Unfortunately, the residents of rural South Carolina were at best suspicious and at worst hostile toward this enigmatic Yankee and his contraption.

As the locals debated whether or not to shoot the aeronaut, the young woman who had first emerged to assist Lowe told him not to worry as the men were “all cowards” (perhaps the brave ones had gone off to join the Confederate army). After releasing the remaining gas and folding the balloon, the woman invited Lowe into her family’s home for a meal of corn-dodgers. The “conservatives” of the town finally agreed to take Lowe and his balloon, under armed guard, to Unionville—the county seat a number of miles distant. After an awkward and uncomfortable wagon ride, Lowe and his escorts arrived in Unionville at about 10:00pm.

As the town officials made ready to incarcerate Lowe, the local newspaper editor (A.W. Thomson, who was also a member of the state legislature) and innkeeper both recognized Lowe’s name from publicity surrounding The Great Western. Lowe was therefore allowed to spend the night at the inn rather than the county jail—the first sleep he had enjoyed in over 40 hours. Lowe was awoken early in the morning of the 21st by an angry crowd in front of the inn. Fortunately, the innkeeper and Mr. Thomson were able to calm the mob and inform them that in their midst was not a spy, but a famed scientist. Lowe was paraded around town and met with several important locals who presented him with a signed certificate stating the time and location of his landing the day before.

The following day Professor Lowe boarded a train to Columbia, SC with the intent on continuing to Washington from there. Shortly after his arrival in the state capital, however, Lowe was placed under arrest. News of his coming preceded him and Confederate officials had ordered him arrested. A secessionist mob seemed inclined to “tar and feather the damn Yankee,” while others suggested simply hanging him from the nearest tree. Despite these threats, Lowe made it safely behind the bars of Columbia’s jailhouse. Here, he was visited by the city’s mayor and convinced him to confer with the faculty of South Carolina College. Indeed, the faculty had heard of Lowe and his pursuits and vouched for him as a scientist rather than a spy. Again, Lowe was released from incarceration and given a celebrity’s tour of the city. Mayor Boatswain even presented him with a signed “passport” to ensure unmolested passage out of the Confederacy.

As Lowe, with his balloon in tow, finally made his way back to Cincinnati he took note of the plethora of encampments, recruiting posts, military bands, army trains, and well equipped rebel troops along the way. Other than a few propaganda-spouting southern officers, the other travelers on the train were extraordinarily quiet. The aeronaut began to realize that his plans for a trans-Atlantic flight seemed trivial in light of the reality of civil war. “I was fully convinced,” he later wrote, “that the country was facing a severe struggle.” Upon finally arriving back in Ohio, Lowe’s formerly somber fellow travelers suddenly let out cheers at the sight of the flag of the Union—they were all displaced refugees or northerners returning home. Lowe came to the decision that he would abandon his plan of crossing the ocean by air, but instead offer his skills as an aeronaut to the US government in the conflict to come.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Filmmaker Ken Burns and Balloonist Sir Richard Branson Praise the Intrepid

We are very excited about the praise renowned documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and adventure balloonist and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson are giving the historic reconstruction of the Civil War Balloon, the Intrepid which will take flight this summer here at GCV&M.
We hope you will find the comments of these gentlemen just as exciting....

"Bravo for the reproduction of the The Intrepid by the Genesee Country Village & Museum. The history of aviation is fascinating and a bit misunderstood. Long before the Wright Brothers took flight on the dunes of North Carolina in 1903; two other brothers – Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier – were the first true pilots when they took to the skies in a hot-air balloon in 1783. Between those two dates, the first military use of aviation took place during the American Civil War in September of 1861 when The Intrepid flew above a Virginia battlefield. I’m proud that my small contribution to aviation history has involved flying balloons where they had not been flown before (across the Pacific and Atlantic), and I’m thrilled that the authentic reproduction of the Intrepid will help keep the rich history of ballooning alive."

Sir Richard Branson
Chairman, Virgin Group

"I was thrilled to hear that the Genesee Country Village & Museum is building a working replica of The Intrepid - a gas balloon that flew during the Civil War. On September 24, 1861 The Intrepid flew above a Virginia battlefield during the Civil War and made history. It was the first use of aviation in warfare and, with the help of a telegraph wire, the first time artillery was directed at an unseen enemy. That modest flight was a harbinger of the horrific role aviation would play in the world wars of the 20th Century.

The mission for the Genesee Country Village & Museum states that it seeks "…to foster a deeper understanding of the past and its relevance to the contemporary world." This is exactly what we try to do with our films such as "The Civil War" and, most recently, "Prohibition." Both strive to create a strong emotional connection with history and help us better understand who we are as Americans today. I have filmed at Genesee Country Village & Museum; it's a beautiful, living slice of 19th Century America and this new exhibit is an exciting addition. I also can't help but think that this balloon is going to make a great camera platform the next time I'm filming in Upstate New York!"

Ken Burns

Reproducing a Corded Petticoat

Original Corded Petticoat

After careful examination of a corded petticoat in the Ontario County Historical Society’s collection, Genesee Country Village and Museum weaver, Louise Richens, has successfully tackled the challenge of weaving an exact copy of the panels used to make the original.

Corded petticoats are petticoats with cord woven or sewn into the fabric. When starched, the cords stiffen and cause the petticoat to stick out. Worn under yet more regular uncorded petticoats, the corded petticoat provided a full skirt, a fashionable item from the 1830s to the 1860s. In the late 50s, the corded petticoats were mostly replaced by a new invention, the steel cage crinoline.

Original Corded Petticoat - close-up of cords

Two other attempts to weave the fabric used for corded petticoats have been made in the past, by Pat Kline and Rabbit Goody, but this is the first time for the Genesee Country Village and Museum. Without a weaver to weave the cloth, those who needed corded petticoats for living history had to attempt to make their own by sewing cords into cloth. This method was also employed in the 19th century, but purchasing cloth with the cords already woven in was time-saving.

Reproduction Corded Petticoat - Close-up of cords

Louise, a master weaver, says it took two weeks to weave 4 panels of 36” wide cloth. Enough for 2 petticoats. The panels are currently being made into petticoats with the addition of waistbands, ties, and hems.

Original Corded Petticoat

Reproduction Corded Petticoat

Saturday, March 10, 2012

History has Never Tasted so Good!

"When they wish to take chocolate, they send for chocolate".
(The Physiology of Taste, 1854)

We invite you to taste chocolate as our ancestors did. Full of richness, layered with exotic flavors and spices, GCV&M offers you a truly authentic tasting experience with American Heritage Chocolate. With each tasting, allow your taste buds step back through the centuries while learning about the history of chocolate as it ingrained itself into our society.

Chocolate Tastings will be available during select events throughout the season.

Once you’ve fallen in love with American Heritage Chocolate, be sure to visit the Flint Hill Store to take some home with you. We offer a variety including chocolate sticks, bars and shavings for hot chocolate.

We also have chocolate graters made by our local tinsmith.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Intrepid Reconstruction Gains Backing of Filmmaker Ken Burns and Balloonist Sir Richard Branson

 MUMFORD, N.Y., March 6, 2012 — Genesee Country Village & Museum’s (GCV&M: Intrepid forthcoming exhibit – the world’s only Civil War manned balloon replica – has garnered the attention of two prominent supporters. Renowned documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and adventure balloonist and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson are praising the historic reconstruction, which will take to the air this summer.

“I was thrilled to hear that the Genesee Country Village & Museum is building a working replica of the Intrepid,” Burns said. “On September 24, 1861, the Intrepid flew above a Virginia battlefield during the Civil War and made history. I have filmed at Genesee Country Village & Museum; it’s a beautiful, living slice of the 19th-Century America and this new exhibit is an exciting addition.”

Burns said the museum’s mission to foster a deeper understanding of the past and its relevance to the contemporary world is what he tries to do with his films such as The Civil War and Prohibition`. Both strive to create a strong emotional connection with history and help citizens better understand themselves as Americans today.

Branson was equally enthusiastic. “Bravo for the reproduction of the Intrepid by the Genesee Country Village & Museum. The history of aviation is fascinating and a bit misunderstood,” he said. “I’m proud that my small contribution to aviation history has involved flying balloons where they had not been flown before – across the Pacific and Atlantic – and I’m thrilled that the authentic reproduction of The Intrepid will help keep the rich history of ballooning alive.”

The Intrepid is being built by AeroBalloon Inc. of Hingham, Mass., with historical guidance from GCV&M and a team of prominent advisors including Tom D. Crouch, Ph.D., senior curator of the Aeronautics for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum; Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and Rob Shenk, director, Internet Strategy & Development, Civil War Trust.

The initiative’s total estimated cost of nearly $300,000 has been partially offset by a number of generous donations. As construction progresses, GCV&M will continue to seek additional financial support for the project. Its first public flight at GCV&M is expected to take place on July 4, 2012.

Science, Showmanship and Suspense: Part 2: The Final Test

Professor Lowe enjoyed the life of a celebrity as he awaited proper conditions for his final test flight before taking The Great Western across the Atlantic. He received invitations from every social circle in Cincinnati, attending parties and dinners on a regular basis. It was late in the evening at one such event when Lowe got word that the weather was right: strong westerly winds at ground level. With the winds blowing west on the ground, Lowe could provide clear evidence of consistent high-altitude east-blowing air currents (this was a theory that Lowe and other aeronauts were collecting data to support).

He went to his test balloon, Enterprise, which was already inflated, and rushed to make last-minute preparations. However, he was delayed by the local newspaper editor who was running off a stack of copies of the next day’s Cincinnati Commercial. Lowe would take these copies as proof of his point and time of origin. Once the papers were in hand, Lowe ascended alone between 2:00 and 3:00 am on April 20th, 1861.

The craft, as expected, began traveling west, until and altitude of 6,000 feet was attained and Lowe entered “the great easterly river of the sky.” The temperature dropped to zero degrees, which caused the moisture on the envelope’s surface to condense and create a miniature “sleet storm” in the basket. The heat of the sunrise caused expansion of the gas and Enterprise rose to approximately 18,000 feet. Lowe drifted over the Cumberland Mountains and ascended still higher due to buffeting air currents—what he figured to be some 23,000 feet.

After passing over the mountains, he quickly dropped in altitude, low enough to shout out to some farmers working in a field below, “what state is this?” Bewildered, the farmers looked all around, unable to locate the disembodied voice. They answered, “Virginia,” nonetheless. Lowe dropped a bit of sand from one of his ballast bags and the farmers looked up. Terror overtook them at the sight of the balloon and they fled for the cover of the trees. Lowe ascended again into the easterly current, until coming back to ground a couple hours later.

He was quickly surrounded by “several planters and negroes.” The slaves attempted to assist Lowe in wrangling the craft to the ground, but were prevented from doing so by the armed white farmers. Several of the latter made threats of violence toward the “damn Yankee devil,” so Lowe to decided to beat a hasty retreat and threw a large bag of ballast out of the basket. As he made another rapid ascent, a young farm hand called out to him, “Hey Mister! I reckon you forgot your baggage!”

The test flight came to an end as Lowe once more drifted down to the earth in a rural South Carolina village. The inhabitants of the town ran for cover; these poor whites and blacks, unlike their city counterparts, had never seen a contraption such as this. A tall young white woman was the first to emerge and lend aid to the professor. The others soon came out, “sneakily deposit[ing] their guns” to avoid embarrassment.

“Many of them still thought I was an inhabitant of some ethereal or infernal region,” Lowe later wrote. In an attempt to explain his journey, Lowe took out one of his rubber water bottles and cut it open to show the contents had frozen at high altitude. The townsfolk, however, saw this as only more evil magic. One elder declared that any Yankee capable of doing these things should be “shot on the spot where he had dropped from the skies.”

Lowe’s free flight had been a success, but he was now faced with threats to his very life. It would be a difficult, if not improssible task, to get himself back home. Not only was he a northerner (with a bundle of abolitionist newspapers, no less) in the South only a week after Fort Sumter had been fired upon, but he was also, at least to these people, a witch!...

Saturday, March 3, 2012



Mumford, NY on Saturday, March 31st 2012 from 9:00 am-7:00 pm - Does your diet change with the seasons? What if you are doing a lot of outside work? During the 1700 & 1800s the food of the common man (and woman) was relatively simple. Beer and ale were commonly brewed in the spring and fall during times of favorable outdoor temperatures. A popular saying in the past states “As we brew so must we bake.” One of the most enjoyable compliments to a seasonal beer and loaf of fresh baked bread would have been cheese produced on the farm or obtained from a local grocer. Spring was also a time to enjoy the pickled and preserved bounty of the harvest before the first crops of the season came in.

This spring, Deborah Peterson’s Pantry, in conjunction with Genesee Country Village & Museum is hosting “A Ploughman’s Lunch- Bread, Cheese, Pickles, & Beer,” a historic foodways program that features some of the region’s most respected food historians. Come join us during an all-day symposium at the museum on Saturday, March 31st from 9:00 am-7:00 pm, but stay for the weekend to take advantage of the many hands-on workshops and tours also scheduled.

Brian Nagel, Director of Interpretation and brewer at the museum, will offer insight into the trials and tribulations of reproducing historic beers. Patricia Mead, Lead Interpreter of Historic Foodways at the site, will help us gain a better understanding of using barm from the brewery to produce bread. Deanna Berkemeier, Lead Interpreter of Domestic Skills, will share her wealth of knowledge in the process of making cheese using vintage receipts (recipes). Pamela Cooley, Independent Historian, will share with us her attempts to gain more knowledge of the author of America's first cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1796.

Deborah has also arranged for hands-on workshops at the site on baking, brewing, & making cheese, plus special tours of local attractions not normally open this time of year. To learn more about the offerings that weekend or register for the symposium, visit or call 215-256-4615. Space is limited so register early!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Science, Showmanship and Suspense: Part 1: Crossing the Atlantic by Air

As Professor Thadeus S.C. Lowe gained notoriety and experience in the scientific art of aeronautics during the decade preceding the outbreak of civil war, he also joined the ranks of American balloonists who had announced their intentions to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air. Lowe’s rivals, James Allen and John La Mountain had also proposed the feat and even asked Congress for funds.

Lowe, however, was able to make a helpful connection the others could not: backers in Philadelphia put him in contact with Professor Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution. The two met and became friends. Henry, impressed by Lowe’s equipment, ability, and knowledge, supported his plan, but suggested one final overland experiment, both to assure the hardiness of the craft and to provide additional evidence of the theory of consistent easterly winds at high altitudes (thanks to the research of Lowe and others, the existence of such a current is now common knowledge).

Lowe’s massive balloon, The Great Western, had already been on display in New York City for several months. In fact, the aerostat had originally held the name City of New York, but when, much to Lowe’s annoyance, that city’s gas company was unable to fully inflate the balloon in the required window of time, Lowe moved his operation and renamed it.

The Great Western was an impressive vehicle—when fully inflated, the envelope was 130 feet in diameter, 200 feet high, and contained 725,000 cubic feet of gas. Suspended below was an enclosed basket with room for six passengers and provisions. Various national flags hung around the outside of the basket as a show of friendship to any country in which the journey may end—France, Spain, and Morocco for example. A boat (called the Leontine, after Mrs. Lowe), with sails, a small engine, and additional supplies was tethered underneath the basket, in case the crew should need to make a premature water landing. Supplies included food, water in India rubber bottles, barometers, thermometers, telescopes, compasses, life-preserving suits, passports, flares, and 100 rubber bags with small silk parachutes containing messages to be dropped over land or to vessels on the sea below.

As per Professor Henry’s suggestion, Lowe travelled with a smaller test balloon, Enterprise (built with funds gathered for his trans-Atlantic flight and associated research), to Cincinnati, Ohio and awaited the proper conditions for his final epic experiment—the journey that would prove his readiness to cross the Atlantic by air…