Home Introduction Chapter 1

Pre-Revolutionary Ropemaking in the American Colonies



By this cordage, ships are guided, bells are rung, beds are corded, and rogues kept in awe.
Adam in Eden, or, Natures Paradise
William Coles 1657[175]



These pages document my researches as an historical reenactor, demonstrating rope making as practiced in Virginia around 1770. "Docendo discimus" - the best way to learn is by teaching. Working with the public, of all ages, and all backgrounds, you get a lot of questions. Preparing for the next event by finding answers to the hard questions of the last event, leads to many wonderful hours of research. My notes and reading lists proliferated.

The Corona virus of 2020 provided the pause in everyday life that let me focus on my heaps of information, and force it into some semblance of order.

To accurately portray a period and place, you have to understand the history of the craft and its environment. You need to know the tools, and how the tools were made. Where the raw materials came from. Where the people came from. All of this background information seldom peeps out in a five minute demonstration to a class of seven year olds. But then again, you get talking with the old sailor, a yarn spinner, a survivalist, someone raised with horses, and that's when you need to know your stuff. That's also a very good time to ask questions, listen, and learn a little bit more.

So here are some of the questions I've been asked, and hope to answer.


I would be remiss if I did not thank all the people associated with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm,Maps now defunct, who encouraged my ropemaking. They provided an environment where I could learn about the period. And while maintaining trails and trying to control invasive vines, I learned a lot about different plants, how they grow, and how to get useable fibers from them. They also introduced me to a continuing audience that asked the best questions.

Cabin at Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
Claude Moore Colonial Farm.


Additionally, I want to thank the fine folk at Sully Historic SiteMaps who also let me loose in their woods.

Big House at Sully Hitoric Site.
Sully Historic Site.


Also thanks to my family for the introductions, encouragements, edits, and suggestions, and for putting up with little bits of rope all over the place.

Rope Scraps.
Ropemaking Scraps.



These pages don't need to be read in any order, you should be able to read any of the major sections on their own. If you don't find what you are looking for, there's the Contacts link at the bottom of every page. Drop me a note.


Index Introduction Chapter 1
Colophon Contacts