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Ninth Annual Material Matters: It’s in the Details Seminar

Group of men looking at historical artifact

Fort Ticonderoga presents the Ninth Annual Material Matters: It’s in the Details Seminar on October 19 & 20, 2019, in the Mars Education Center. We invite you to join us for this weekend focused on the material culture of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The informal setting promotes interaction between presenters and attendees throughout the weekend. Presenters are experts in their fields. Box lunches Saturday and Sunday are included in the registration fee.

Sessions include:

Historic Foodways as Material Culture
Objects offer intriguing insights into history—but what happens if the objects themselves no longer exist? Historic foodways present an interesting case study for applying material culture analysis to objects that have long since been consumed but have left a legacy of related primary source materials. Using this approach we can begin to understand how identity, consumer politics, and societal hierarchy can all be understood through the lens of 18th-century foodways. Sara Evenson is a PhD student at the University at Albany studying 18th-century American food history.

The Cowpens Staff Ride: The Battlefield as an Artifact
Applied history is at the heart of professional military education and leader development. One of the more popular elements is the staff ride, the focused historical study of a campaign or battle on the actual terrain. The battlefield thus serves as a classroom and part of the evidentiary record interrogated by students. It is the ultimate artifact in the study of battle. Battlefields, like many artifacts, are rarely pristine, unmodified, or in any shape resembling their state at the time of battle—Cowpens is just such a case. This presentation discusses teaching and learning with an altered artifact. Dr. Ricardo A. Herrera is Professor of Military History at the School for Advanced Military Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

“What Number?”: Reform, Authority, and Identity Through Military Buttons in the Late 18th Century
The marked military buttons seem like a self-evident form of material culture, but in fact, marked or numbered military buttons are a distinct artifact of the third quarter of the 18th century. Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator, Matthew Keagle, will explore the origin of the numbered military button in the context of the reforms following the Seven Years’ War and provide context and caution to their archeological significance, using examples from Fort Ticonderoga’s rich collection.

Hessians & the Bayonets They Used at Fort Ticonderoga & Other Sites
The origins of English & French arms used during America’s War for Independence are well-known. But little is known about the weapons carried by the so-called “Hessian” troops from six German states. Of the scant published information about them, much is outdated or incorrect. Thanks to ground-breaking research in German texts of the period, combined with bayonets excavated at Ticonderoga and other sites, a lot of the puzzle about the origins of Hessian shoulder arms can now be pieced together. Joseph Serbaroli is the author of two books on bayonets, and a well-regarded associate in the community of historic arms experts.

“The Frail Insignia of Human Greatness”—American Rosette Epaulettes
The rosette epaulettes that adorned the shoulders of American officers illustrate the innate conservatism of Americans in the early years of the Revolutionary War. These small yet important adornments carried powerful meanings beyond the mark of rank. Learn how the American rosette epaulette became the symbol of peoples struggling for liberty and left a tangible reminder of that service for future generations. Nicholas Spadone is the Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga.

Saint-Cripin’s Lance: The Pedestrian Concerns of Shoemaking & Shoe-Supply in North American Campaigns, ca. 1754-1763
There are few things as mundane as the humble shoe among all clothing and accoutrements of British & French forces during the contest for North American supremacy.  Without an adequate supply of good shoes, however, health declines and campaigns may end in disaster. Learn how archaeological artifacts join forces with documentary and graphic evidence to inform our modern understanding of shoes and shoemaking in the French & British military and navies. Brett R. Walker is a journeyman boot- and shoe-maker and shoe historian, formerly of Colonial Williamsburg and now working independently in the public history community.

Woolen Finishing in America: Fulling for Function and Form
Though it plays an essential role in determining both the look and feel of woolen cloth, the craft of woolen finishing has received little attention from historians. This talk fills that void by explaining how early nineteenth-century cloth finishers “fulled” and otherwise transformed textiles, using a combination of historical sources and experimental archaeology. Eliza West is a recent graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and a former Head of Costume at Fort Ticonderoga.

Event Details

Scheduled For:

October 19, 2019 @ 9:00 am4:00 pm


See registration form.


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Additional Information

Teacher Scholarships

Thanks to the generous support of Seminar patrons, Fort Ticonderoga offers two scholarships for K-12 teachers who are first-time attendees at the “Material Matters” seminar. Since, 2001, Fort Ticonderoga has provided 130 teacher scholarships to attend its conferences and seminars.

Scholarship Application

Where to Stay

Rooms book quickly for Fort Ticonderoga events. Book your room early. For more information.

Other Conferences and Symposia at Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga offers a series of conferences and symposia throughout the year.