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October 13, 2003

New Colonial Williamsburg Retail Initiative Offers Sale of Authentic Handmade 18th-Century Wares

With thousands of American manufacturing jobs going overseas each year, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is taking active steps to preserve the American tradition of handcraftsmanship. Recently, the foundation launched an initiative to sell and market its authentic handmade 18th-century products at a new historic trades shop in the Prentis Store, right in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg’s famous Historic Area. Now guests can see -- and purchase – in one venue the full range of 18th-century offerings crafted on-site in Colonial Williamsburg’s popular trades shops.

Guests who make a purchase receive biographical information about the individual craftsmen who create the products, while store signage explains in detail each of the historic trades. Best-selling items to date include: sterling silver jewelry and sterling hollowware made by the silversmith; reprinted historic documents, leather-bound books and blank, marbleized paste cover books made by the printer; cedar buckets made by the cooper; and folding knives made by the gunsmith. In addition, the following merchandise is for sale:

  • men’s slippers made by the shoemaker;
  • bricks made by the brickmaker;
  • three-branch candlebras made by the foundry;
  • cloth made by the weaver;
  • a reversible maroon and black silk cloak made by the milliner;
  • curls and queues made by the wigmaker;
  • a wheelbarrow made by the wheelwright;
  • baskets made by the basketmaker; and
  • a South American mahogany writing desk, a South American mahogany drop leaf table and wooden mousetraps made by the cabinetmaker.

    Colonial Williamsburg’s historic trades program, first established in the 1930s as a way to preserve the tradition of 18th-century American craftsmanship, features more than two dozen colonial trades – from cabinetry to harness making – in 18 individual trade shops within the restored Historic Area. Most Colonial Williamsburg craftsmen participate in a formal apprenticeship program, one of only two such programs in the country. These skilled individuals strive to replicate the most exacting details of 18th-century goods using historically accurate tools and materials, performing tasks much as they would have at the time of the American Revolution.

    “Our tradesmen embody the pride of craftsmanship that is the hallmark of 18th-century handcrafts,” said Jay Gaynor, director of historic trades. “The new historic trades shop provides us with a wonderful opportunity to showcase their remarkable expertise and to keep our talented staff fully employed throughout the year.”

    The WILLIAMSBURG® Products Program, established in 1936, provides authentic reproductions of 18th-century antique furnishings and accessories as well as an interpretive lifestyle collection. Revenue from the sale of WILLIAMSBURG® products supports the educational programs of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt educational organization that oversees and operates the restored 18th-century town of Williamsburg and comprises the country’s largest living history museum. For more product information, call toll-free (800) 446-9240 or visit For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit

    Media Contact:
    Sophie Hart
    (757) 220-7272

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