March 29, 2020

The Citizen's Forum: 2019 Conference

I am writing this blog post from the comforts of my apartment, rather than from the hotel room I booked over a month ago.  This weekend was supposed to be one of my favorite events - the 2020 Citizens Forum of the 1860s, which is a weekend of educational lectures, workshops, vendors of period reproductions, and opportunities to study originals - however, like with most everything else in these strange and difficult times, the conference was postponed with a new date still TBD.

The Citizen's Forum is a wonderful event, organized by some of the hardest working, most dedicated reenactors and influencers within the living history community, and attended by so many I've come to call friends.  While there is disappointment, of course, for canceled plans, efforts seemingly in vain, and missing the chance to see those whom I may only cross paths with at this event, there is still hope that this year's conference will be rescheduled.  (And if not, there is always the next - health and safety above all!)  So while we wait for a new date, let me tempt you with the highlights of last year's conference, and hopefully, you'll consider adding this event to your calendar in the future:

For more information and updates, please visit the official website:
The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s & Facebook page, here.

The 2019 Citizen's Forum was held on March 22nd through the 24th at a new location: the Wolcott Heritage Center in Maumee, Ohio!  This was my second time attending the conference, (see the previous recap, here: 2018 Conference), and I loved the added historic ambiance of the chosen site, which included six historic buildings dating from 1840-1902. 

Every participant receives a welcome packet and folder,
complete with schedules, directions, speaker notes and worksheets.

Friday, March 22nd

For me, the festivities began shortly after check-in at the hotel...after throwing on my coral dress and, at the time, brand new bonnet from Timely Tresses (which I refused to take off because I was and still am obsessed), I ran into not one, but all three of the featured speakers - Cheyney McKnight, Elizabeth Stewart Clark, and Betsy Connolly Watkins, who I was finally meeting in person for the first time.  We ended up piling into my Honda Civic, and you bet I was absolutely starstruck, white-knuckle driving the whole time while internally chanting don't get lost, don't get lost...it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime, dream experience.

Anyways, we made it to the evening soiree!  This time, it was held at the historic Wolcott House:


So many friends to catch up with:

Elegant company at the evening soiree!

Sara of Ensembles of the Past

Angie and Brian

Betsy and Liz
This picture makes me so happy haha!

There was a delicious spread, per usual, with the most amazing cookies...I mean these were art, I almost felt bad about eating them:

Desserts, glorious desserts!

Is this not the prettiest cookie you've ever seen?!
I seriously felt bad about eating it...LOL

While I spent most of the time chatting and snapping pictures, I did jump into at least two: 

Amanda & me 

Cheyney & me

I couldn't have asked for a better evening!


Saturday, March 23rd

A very busy day - three speakers, two workshops, shopping, and the greatest privilege of having dinner with Cheyney!  

One of the many brilliant parts of the conference planning was making use of the spaces available.  While the featured presentations took place in the main gathering space of the church upstairs, the downstairs work room and Wolcott House held concurrent workshops.  They also provided food all weekend in the kitchen, access to the vendors in the school house, and an incredible "museum" display in the farm house.  It was a really impressive, well-organized set up!  

Outside the historic church

Inside the church: the upstairs served as the main lecture hall and gathering space.

The theme for the featured seminars was Reduce, Reuse, Make Do: Practical Frugality in the Mid-19th Century.  There were three fantastic speakers:
  • Betsy Connolly Watkins, presenting What You Have, Where You Are: Planning Civilian Events 
  • Cheyney McKnight, presenting A Story in the Thread: The Clothing of Enslaved Women in the Antebellum South
Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma's History

  • Elizabeth Stewart Clark (from the Sewing Academy), presenting Second-Hand Plumage: Used Clothing Trades in Mid-Century America

I also really enjoyed the two workshops that I attended:
  • Cheyney's informative talk on Interpreting and Reenacting Slavery 
  • As well as the Youth Discussion, hosted by Kristen Mrozek, conference director and proprietor at the Victorian Needle

In between sessions, I made sure to visit the vendors: 


A candid shot of the two masterminds behind the entire event:
Kristen and Glenna Jo

The Dressmaker Shop, my favorite!

I did my very best to buy ALL the ribbons from them!
I also splurged on a veil kit (that a whole year later I still have yet to finish...)


Sunday, March 24th


Saturday was so jam-packed that I made sure to leave Sunday morning free to spend at the farm house, which Kristen and Glenna Jo converted into a museum of original, extant garments and accessories from their own, personal collections!

Of all the conference offerings, this is one of the most spectacular, and I cannot imagine the planning and preparation that must go into arranging this...the entire first floor was set up with men's, women's and children's clothing for all occasions, inside and out, complete with informational cards, period photographs and documentation.  It was, in short, incredible (and really deserves its own blog post, but for now, I'm just sharing some of my favorite pieces).

The farm house, which became the "museum" of original garments,
selected and curated from the personal collections of Glenna Jo and Kristen.

"Work" clothing and men's wear in the common room and kitchen (not pictured):


There were tables in just about every room lined with various accessories, jewelry, sewing ornaments, and children's clothing:


A "party" dress for a child, c.1860,
apparently made from the skirt of an adult dress!

The parlor had some pretty, pretty dresses!  That silk apron is to die for...😍 


Front and back view of a sheer silk ball gown, c.1858 and remade in 1876.
The images do not do the fabric or brilliant magenta color justice,
this was one of the most fascinating pieces there!

Pocket detail...someone please reproduce this apron!

The back bedroom: undergarments, nightgowns, and wrappers, oh my! 


Lots of pretty white work and a coverlet too!

Last but not least, the final surprise of the conference was viewing Kristen's entire, 19th century perforated paper collection...it wouldn't surprise me if she had the largest in the country!  I fell in love with a few pieces, including this collar band box:

A snap shot of only a small portion of Kristen's perforated paper collection



Thank you so much to everyone involved with making the conference such a memorable experience - Kristen, Glenna Jo, Amanda, the speakers, vendors, and all behind-the-scenes!  

Looking forward to the next Citizen's Forum be it in 2020 or 2021! 

We ❤︎ Our Patrons

Like what you see here, and want to support future blogging and educational programming? Consider becoming a Patron - click on the button below to unlock exclusive contents, bonus blog posts, live chats, and more! Every contribution makes a big difference, thank you!