June 15

How things have changed since Revolutionary times


Today’s New York Times has an article about a rare Revolutionary War flag sold at auction yesterday for $17 million. I had assumed, I guess, that the Continentals had a flag, but I had never thought much about what it looked like, much less considering what one would now be worth.
Aside from the $17 million, what struck me in the article is the picture below:
Photo by Monica Almeida/ New York Times
I’ve known a few Civil War re-enacters in my time so I know how much time and effort they spend in achieving accuracy in all manner of uniforms and weapons. I can only assume that Revolutionary War re-enacters do the same. In fact, I would venture to bet that the uniforms pictured above are correct right down to the length of fringe on the epaulets. It’s too bad that these guys don’t spend the same amount of time, money and effort in trying to recreate the bodies of Revolutionary War soldiers. I seriously doubt that any Revolutionary War combatant living in the conditions of the day and eating the soldier’s fare of the day, which in most cases was scavenged game, would look like the guys pictured above. In fact, my bride, who just read over this post, reminded me that we have seen a number of Revolutionary War uniforms in museums and have always commented on how small they looked.
A note to those monitoring my New Year’s Resolutions, one of which (#3) was to become more digitally adept: I’ve figured out how to add pictures to the blog.

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  1. The rotund fellow front-and-center reminds me of a character from one of my favorite childhood TV shows — Zorro. Sargento Garcia, of course.
    He does indeed look like Henry Calvin, the man who played Sargent Garcia, and who died in 1975 at age 57.

  2. I’ve been a fan of your books and blog for a while now, but I have to let you know that I’m really offended at this post. If you want to make your point – fine, but don’t drag a specific person into it.
    Imagine the mortification of this man should he find his picture posted on the internet for the express purpose of discussing the size of his stomach. Imagine how ridiculous this would make him seem if his boss ever saw it. Many of your readers have been big all their lives and have experienced the torment of others that goes with it. Don’t perpetuate this by targeting a random person you find in the newspaper so that you can make your point. If you tried to publish this in a book your publisher would balk, imagining the lawsuit to follow.
    I’m glad you fulfilled your New Year’s Resolution; I just wish you had done it in a more intelligent and humane way.
    Hi RW–
    I’m sorry you were offended; it wasn’t my intention.
    I didn’t single out any one person in the post–all the people in the picture were overweight to a degree much greater than any Revolutionary soldiers they were dressing up as. My point was that if they spent as much time, effort, study and money working on their own health problems as they did on their costumes, they would probably look much more like the people they’re imitating. I guess what I was really trying to show was how the average human form has changed since the Revolutionary era, and the picture in the Times (which has a much larger circulation than my blog) demonstrates that pretty accurately.
    I feel like I can make that point because if I we’re to let myself go and eat everything I want to eat whenever I want to eat it, I would look much worse than anyone in the picture I posted in pretty short order. Since health and fitness are basically my business, I pretty much have to hew the line to look like someone who ought to be in the health and fitness business. if these guys really wanted to look authentic, they would do the same.

  3. At a recent visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, there was a room with life-size figures of the signers of the Constitution. While they were generally shorter than average, none were fat and only one whose name escapes me might qualify as overweight. The statues were created based on the most accurate physical representation that could be obtained through historical records. Remember that most of these people were among the most prosperous. It takes time to travel to distant locations and come up with a Constitution. Many were slaveholders. It is reasonable to assume they ate meat.
    Hi Mark–
    Thanks for commenting. That was my point precisely.

  4. Hello–
    I spent decades dieting and exercising the low fat/high complex carb way, and being kind and cautious in my comments about those who were really overweight.
    There really can’t be any middleclass people (you need a certain amount of income to be able to indulge in the reenactor thing, this predisposes a middleclass person) in the US who has not heard of Atkins. Everybody knows someone who lost a lot of weight on Atkins. I follow PPLP, but I have stopped feeling that I need to cut the obese slack. I view middleclass obesity as a conscious choice. You’re eating whatever you feel like eating and it is making you fat.
    Some of the most interesting uniforms, to me, are those from WWI, both European (especially British) and American. The men had short stature, thick waists and narrow shoulders, again, especially the British. Working class Englishmen of the time dined on bread, jam and tea ALOT and it showed in the physique.
    You’re right.  The diet always shows in the physique.

  5. I remember when I returned from Dominica, I was shocked at how “fat” our Society is. I am no longer shocked for reasons to numerous to go into here. However, I would say that there are other reasons one may be “fat” than just diet. Of course, we all know about thyroid insufficiencies. It doesn’t stop there though. You see, I was injured taking care of our Veterans. Now what does that have to do with being fat? Well, my personal metabolism and activity was sufficent to keep me trim throughout my life and sometimes to much so. However, I have lived with chronic pain for two years now. This pain has been like having a knife in my back twist and never let up. It even effects my dreams. I am right now one week out of surgery myself. I have said all this to say that Many of our present day Heroes are now in bariatric units not only causing difficulty to their own lives but to those who care for and love them. Look back at their younger days…..were they this heavy? Sometimes the answer is Yes but often the answer is not at all. When one lives with Chronic Pain, the size of ones “uniform” might vary greatly. Therefore, I would suggest that you look at this picture and ask yourself if it is meant to be before War and the Torments of same including non-relenting pain that makes life unbearable for so many. It is so easy to put on extra pounds when your activity level is forced to change due to out of control pain issues. Thanks for letting me stand on the soapbox a minute 🙂 Sincerely- IMW/R.N./Pain Management Educator in Training
    Feel free to stand on a soap box here any time.

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