While the military and music demonstration capture attention from the visitors at Colonial Williamsburg, another important aspect that was all around us in that town but perhaps was less noticed is the authentic reenactment of daily life in an 18th century town. The most visible part was the town itself with its historic buildings. Many were ordinary people’s homes and not having any historically significant event associated with them, but in many places you could come inside and learn more about what it was like to live in that era.
Just like in our lives today, there were issues that the people in that era struggled with. There was the taxation by the British ruler that led to American Revolution and the struggle for independence. So you could go to the tavern and hear from the locals discussing this topic. There were also the social classes that existed in the society — there were slaves, house servants, freed slaves, farmers, professionals in various trades, and the upper-class society. You could see actors dressing up in the period clothes that indicated their social class. It becomes quite fascinating and educational when you hear visitors talking to these actors about the character they are portraying, and getting a history lesson on what life was like back in 18th century Williamsburg from that character’s perspective.
I did not spend enough time to explore these; I think they would make a fascinating follow-up visit to the town. And since it is meant to be a living history museum, a visitor can possibly experience different things at different time of the year as the events and programs are tailored to match the time of the year or any special occassions to commemorate.
I did visit one home that happened to be the home of a blacksmith, complete with a workshop in the back. When I went there to check out the workshop, there were a couple of actors who were demonstrating work as blacksmiths. They made nails and horseshoes. It was interesting to notice that one of the blacksmiths was a young lady — I never associate this profession as an occupation for females. I think that was where it hit me that just like life today, you have people in every level of society, and even in reenacting the history there, you there were more than just ladies at the upper-class level with their pretty gowns, but also those working in the hot and dirty blacksmith workshop and other manual labor places as well.
The photo below was taken on the street as a couple of ladies dressed up in very nice dresses talking with a little girl who also dressed up in periodic clothes herself.