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
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
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.
So here are some of the questions I've been asked, and hope to answer.
- What holds a rope together?
- Did the Indians teach the Colonists how to make rope?
- How long have people made rope?
- How strong is rope?
- What is the best rope?
I would be remiss if I did not thank all the people associated with the
Claude Moore Colonial Farm, 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 also introduced me to a continuing audience that asked the best questions.
Additionally, I want to thank the fine folk at
Sully Historic Site who also let me loose in their woods.
Also Benjamin and Alice, and most of all, Lindy.
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.