19th century re-enactors hosting petticoat picnics Saturday

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 26, 2010

NATCHEZ — Monday through Friday Trish Hasenmueller is an art teacher, but when the weekend rolls around, she does a little time travel.

Hasenmueller is a member of a group of 19th century re-enactors who will be in Natchez this weekend.

Hasenmueller said what sets her group apart is that they focus on telling the stories of what home life would have been like during the Civil War era.

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“A lot of times when people think of re-enactors, they automatically think of men and soldiers, but we mostly stick to civilian things,” she said. “Most of the citizens of that era would not have been near a battlefield, and most would have wanted to be out of harm’s way.

“They had to continue to live their lives even when the war was going on. Doing that was harder in some places than others, but life still went on.”

Approximately 10 re-enactors will come to Natchez from across the southeast and will have two petticoat picnics this weekend in which they will discuss different lifestyles and traditions of the 19th century.

Saturday’s picnic will be at the House on Ellicott Hill. Hasenmueller said her group will discuss dressing tradition of women during the 19th century.

The ladies will be dressed in handmade reproduction dresses of the time.

“It is unbelievable the variety of lifestyles and dressing the different groups of ladies had,” she said. “You could tell basically what station in life a person was just by what they were wearing.”

The second event will be at Magnolia Hall, and the re-enactors will discuss different holiday traditions of 19th century families, focusing on Easter and April Fools’ Day.

“Before I started doing research, I never thought about that time period having an April Fools’ Day, but I have read stories of jokes people played on each other,” Hassenmeller said.

Both events begin with a boxed lunch from Uptown Grocery at 12:30 p.m., which is followed by the presentation from the re-enactors. Tickets are $20 and should be reserved by calling the Natchez Visitor Reception Center at 1-800-647-6742 or at the gift shop at Magnolia Hall.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill, the non-profit branch of the Natchez Garden Club that is used to preserve and maintain the group’s historic properties.

Event promoter Helen Smith said the petticoat picnics are a good addition to the Pilgrimage schedule because they allow tourists and locals alike a chance to have lunch and still learn more about the history of the Civil War era.

“The events are situated right between the morning tour and the afternoon tour so people don’t have to choose between this and seeing the houses that brought them here,” Smith said.

With the group of re-enactors, Goldsmith and Goolsby Photography Studio, a family-run photography studio near Birmingham, Ala., will be in town to demonstrate the art of wet plate collodion photography.

Wet plate photography was the only way of capturing images during the Civil War era and, until the invention of Polaroid pictures, was the fastest way to get a positive of an image, studio owner Georgiana Goldsmith said.

While in Natchez, Goldsmith said she and her family will be available to do both ambrotypes, prints on stained glass, and ferrotypes, prints on metal plates.

“For a lot of people who get this done, it is the closest they will ever be to seeing themselves the way they would have been back then,” Goldsmith said.

She said the process does take some time, approximately two hours total depending on the weather, but prints will be available before the group leaves Natchez on Sunday.

“There is some time involved in it because we have to get the camera set up and ready and then we have to wash the plates and let them dry,” she said. “A lot of modern photographers are interested in this type of photography because of the process that goes into it.”

For more information on Goldsmith and Goolsby Photography Studio, visit their Web site at www.goldsmithandgoolsby.webs.com.

To make reservations or for price information, call 205-566-4896. Goldsmith said she can be reached at that number during her stay in Natchez.