Home Introduction Chapter 1

Pre-Revolutionary Ropemaking in the American Colonies



By this cordage, ships are guided, bells are rung, beds are corded, and rogues kept in awe.
Adam in Eden, or, Natures Paradise
William Coles 1657[175]



These pages document my researches as an historical reenactor, demonstrating rope making as practiced in Virginia around 1770. "Docendo discimus" - the best way to learn is by teaching. Working with the public, of all ages, and all backgrounds, you get a lot of questions. Preparing for the next event by finding answers to the hard questions of the last event, leads to many wonderful hours of research. My notes and reading lists proliferated.

The Corona virus of 2020 provided the pause in everyday life that let me focus on my heaps of information, and force it into some semblance of order.

To accurately portray a period and place, you have to understand the history of the craft and its environment. You need to know the tools, and how the tools were made. Where the raw materials came from. Where the people came from. All of this background information seldom peeps out in a five minute demonstration to a class of seven year olds. But then again, you get talking with the old sailor, a yarn spinner, a survivalist, someone raised with horses, and that's when you need to know your stuff. That's also a very good time to ask questions, listen, and learn a little bit more.

People ask a lot of questions:

Some of them I can't answer.

Although these pages were begun in 2020, I'm still learning, and still adding my latest discoveries. If you've got something to share, or find a mistake, please let me know.


These pages don't need to be read in any order, you should be able to read any of the major sections on their own. If you don't find what you are looking for, there's the Contacts link at the bottom of every page. Drop me a note.



I would be remiss if I did not thank all the people associated with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm,Maps now defunct, who encouraged my ropemaking. They provided an environment where I could learn about the period. And while maintaining trails and trying to control invasive vines, I learned a lot about different plants, how they grow, and how to get useable fibers from them. They trusted me in their wonderful wood and metal shops. They also introduced me to a continuing audience that asked the best questions.

Cabin at Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
Claude Moore Colonial Farm.


Additionally, I want to thank the fine folk at Sully Historic Site Maps for letting me loose in their woods.

Big House at Sully Hitoric Site.
Sully Historic Site.


Thanks to Dr. Susanna Harris[053] [290] [380] [390], Maria Elena, and Nysa at the University of GlasgowMaps for tea and a few hours of chatting and lime bast twisting.

Huntarian Museum at the University of Glasgow.
University of Glasgow.


And thanks to Leo and friends at Mount VernonMaps for an interesting morning of breaking, scutching, and hatchelling with their tools, and their crops.

Threshing Barn at Mount Vernon.
Threshing Barn at Mount Vernon.


Also thanks to my family for the introductions, encouragements, edits, and suggestions, and for putting up with little bits of rope all over the place.

Rope Scraps.
Ropemaking Scraps.



Index Introduction Chapter 1
Colophon Contacts