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January 09, 2010

Help Wanted - Quacks, Mountebanks, Frauds & Flim-Flam Men

The Pasadena Museum of History has asked me to work with them putting together programs in the coming year. One of the ideas we floated was a program devoted to bizarre popular pseudo-science of the early 20th Century.

I, for example, have a schtick as a phrenologist. However, we could certainly use people like a magnetic healer, a patent medicine huckster, a spiritualist, an elctrotherapist, a specialist in "female complaints" or anything else you can think of that would be historically appropriate, interesting and shed light on popular conceptions and misconceptions about science in the early 20th Century. There would even be room for people who want to present valid science and technology of the day.

Continue reading "Help Wanted - Quacks, Mountebanks, Frauds & Flim-Flam Men"

Posted by Walter at 04:28 PM | Comments (1)

November 24, 2008

The 19th Century Baseball Experiment

I am trying to get 19th Century style baseball started in Southern California.

I am keen to encourage and grow 19th Century living history that is not focused around war or gunfighting, since I strongly believe that such activities can have more to teach and can be more fun than more violent pastimes. Note that I am in no way trying to suppress battle re-enactments or gunfight shows. They will happen with or without my support--but I am trying to "grow the market" and create a net gain in chances to dress up in public.

One of the great advantages of an event that is built around a battle is that is has is a clear focus. There is a central activity -- a reason for all those people to be there and a thing for them to do. This can be a problem with a civilian event.

However, with a sports event we can have it both ways. We can have the focus and interest of a battle while still presenting the mostly peaceful world of 19th Century America. If we were British, our focus would have to be a cricket match, but fortunately we are Americans so we can play baseball.

In addition to the baseball game, there would be any number of spectators who can come in large or small groups or individually: picnickers, musicians, dancers, hawkers, cowboys, sheepmen, medicine shows, political demonstrations (Temperance ladies--here's you cue), blacksmiths, telegraphers, roving phrenologists, physicians, newspaper men, laundries, cooking, and all the variety and vitality that was 19th Century America.

One of the things I love most about the civilian concept is that everyone belongs. You can never be too old or too young or too female or too male or too ethnic or too skinny or too fat. This is not the case for military men (though on the old-fat front, that doesn't stop a lot of them) and you are all welcome at the game.

So, I am trying to pull together a "league" of 19th Century baseball players. We are forming a team in the San Fernando Valley and are looking for other folks who might be interested in joining us. If we can get two teams, we can find a field somewhere, declare a game and invite all comers to join us in the fun.

Here's what I see as the basic elements of this league.

  • We will use the rules of around 1870
  • You don't have to be good at baseball
  • You have to be healthy enough to do baseball stuff on a hot day without keeling over.
  • Uniforms are optional -- though 19th Century attire is required. If this takes off, teams may want to spruce themselves up a bit.
  • Boys only--no girls see! So, if women want to play they need to wear men's clothes and a comical false mustache.

Let me know if anyone is interested.


Walter Nelson

Posted by Walter at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2006

Help Wanted--Cemetery Tour

The Santa Monica Historical Society is looking for costumed volunteers to portray assorted historical characters for the Woodlawn Cemetery tour program on Sunday, November 5th 2006.

If this sounds like it might be fun, have a look at their fact sheet

Posted by Walter at 07:55 AM

March 11, 2006

Los Encinos Rancho Needs Docents

Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino will be reopening the De La Osa Adobe (build 1849) as a new and modern local history museum lacking only one thing: volunteers to give the tours. It is currently expected to reopen in September of 2006.

The Los Encinos Docents Association is starting a series of programs to recruit and train tour docents for this new museum.

If you might be interested in participating, contact Walter Nelson at

For more about Los Encinos State Historic Park, go to

Posted by Walter at 03:14 PM

March 08, 2006

Upland Event Needs Volunteer Docents

My old friend Alice asked me to spread the word on this:

Upland is having it's Cenntenial Birthday and in honor of it. Upland Heritage is putting on a Home
Tour with all homes being at least 100 years old.

Continue reading "Upland Event Needs Volunteer Docents"

Posted by Walter at 03:09 PM | Comments (1)