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December 13, 2007

CW Historic Trades shops illustrate the products and services offered in 18th-century Williamsburg

What did 18th-century residents of Williamsburg do without department stores, hardware stores, bookstores and automobile dealers? They visited area tradesmen and women for these products and services and more. Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades program gives insight into the colonial workplace.

Special winter programs throughout the trades shops include:

  • Cabinetmaker – Fine Furniture: Plain and Neat, Hay’s Cabinetmaking Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Sundays, Jan. 2-March 16. Virginians preferred “plain but neat” furniture, modestly elegant and neatly constructed. Ornamentation on furniture was used to emphasize the stature of a person or the importance of the social occasion for which the piece was used. Visit the Cabinetmaker’s Shop to discover the tools, skills and knowledge of the cabinetmaker’s trade.
  • Gunsmith – Master of Many Skills, Ayscough House (Gunsmith Shop), 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Jan. 2-Feb. 6 and Feb. 27-March 12. Colonial gunsmithing required the skills of a blacksmith, whitesmith, founder and woodworker to build a gun. Using the same kinds of tools and traditional methods employed by 18th-century gunsmiths, Colonial Williamsburg’s tradesmen today require about 300-400 hours to make a rifle.
  • Shoemaker: Boots and Shoes for Gentlemen, Shoemaker’s Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Jan. 2-March 12. One of the two or three largest trades practiced in 18th-century Williamsburg, historical shoemaking is being rediscovered and preserved through the apprenticeship program at the Shoemaker’s Shop.
  • Wheelwright: No Matter Their Use – Round Above All Else, Wheelwright Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Jan. 2 and Jan. 30-March 12. See and hear about the shop’s latest vehicles to hit the streets.
  • Weaver: Coverlets and Conversation, Wythe property, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays, Jan. 3-March 13. The weaver warps his loom and sets to work on goods both useful and beautiful.
  • Harness and Saddlemaker: Working in Harness, Taliaferro-Cole Shop (Harnessmaker and Saddler), 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays, Jan. 4-March 14. Visit the harness and saddlemaker for a close look at the goods being made for the “better sort” in Virginia.
  • Printing Office: All the News and Then Some, Printing Office, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fridays and Mondays, Jan. 4-Feb. 22 and March 10 and 14. The printer put out the weekly newspaper, the Virginia Gazette, along with other jobs. See the journeymen and apprentices as they produce the news and then some.
  • Basketmaking: A Family Affair, Wythe property, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays, Jan. 5-March 15. Woven white oak baskets were as useful to colonial Virginians as they were simple, beautiful and strong. Basketmaking was a domestic activity rather than a business as families needed baskets of all sizes and shapes for personal use. Both men and women made baskets and taught the children as soon as they were old enough to learn.
  • Mantua-Makers and Milliners: A World of Fashion, Margaret Hunter Shop (Milliner), 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays, Jan. 5-March 15. Want a new gown or petticoat? Visit the milliner and plan your new wardrobe for the coming year. Consult with the milliner who will create your fashion accessories and who has filled her shelves with fine imported fashion and household items. Then engage the Mantua-maker to make your new gowns.
  • Silversmith: Talent, Taste and Design, Silversmith Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays and Mondays, Jan. 5-March 15. The 18th-century silversmith was thought of as someone akin to a sculptor. He had to know how to shape materials with artistic talent, taste and design.
  • Bindery – For the Love of Books, Bindery, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, Jan. 6-Feb. 24 and March 9-16. A visit to the bindery offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of fine books for all purposes.
  • Blacksmith – Going at it Hammer and Tongs, James Anderson Blacksmith Shop, 9:30 a .m. to 4:30 p.m., Sundays and Tuesdays, Jan. 6-March 16. With forge, anvil, hammer and tongs, blacksmiths make agricultural tools for farmers and iron rims for wheelwrights. They repair many iron objects used by Williamsburg residents. Their skills with vise and file serve customers as diverse as the miller, saddler, coachmaker and planter.
  • Tailors: A World of Fashion, Margaret Hunter Shop (Milliner), 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays, Jan. 7-March 10. Discover the fashions and fashioning of gentlemen’s suits, ladies’ brunswicks, children’s stays and slaves’ livery, among many others.
  • Apothecary – Good for What Ails You, Pasteur and Galt Apothecary Shop, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Jan. 8-March 11. Discover what medicines are offered to 18th-century ailing citizen.
  • Geddy Foundry – Crucible of Fire, James Geddy Foundry, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Jan. 8-March 11. Visit the Geddy Foundry to see, hear and feel the heat, dirt and hard work that always have been realities of the founder’s trade.
  • Wigmaker: A Head for Fashion, King’s Arms Barber Shop (Wigmaker), 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays, Jan. 3-March 13. Dressing fashionably in the 18th century meant looking good from the head down. The precise head dress was as important as any other article of clothing.
  • Cooper: Casks, Barrels, Buckets and Pails, Ludwell-Paradise Stable, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays, Feb. 1-March 14. The art of coopering dates back centuries and the basic trade has remained unchanged. Today the coopering trade is alive and well, and the results of the coopers’ work can be seen throughout the Historic Area.
  • Governor’s Palace Kitchen: The Finest Foods for the Pinnacle of Society, Governor’s Palace Kitchen, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays, Feb. 1-March 14. Meals at the Governor’s Palace served those at the pinnacle of social standing. The Royal Governor was able to provide his cooks with the best-equipped kitchen in the colony. The cuisine offered at the Palace reflected the French influence popular among upper class English society.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or Good Neighbor pass is needed to enjoy these programs.

    Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades program traces its beginnings to 1936. Since that time, it has evolved to become the largest and most diverse museum-operated trades program in the world and also one of the most historically accurate, with a strong emphasis on both hands-on and documentary research.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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