Stepping into Colonial Williamsburg

On september 11th, the Chesapeake Semester crew went and visited Colonial Williamsburg. This historic town dates back to the 18th century time period which is when our nation was still under English power. While in downtown Williamsburg, the students were given an assignment to answer questions regarding a topic/subject of concern. For example, my topic was “Trades, craft- social and environment impact”. The questions that we we assigned were, “Thinking about and observing both the process of ” making things” and the origin of the materials used, what is the impact of these trades on society and the environment, either here or elsewhere in the region? Which of the trades do you think had the greatest impact on society and the environment, and what would those impacts be? How do these impacts compare with those of some of the trades/crafts that are practiced in our region today?”

With this topic and questions, my partner, the lovely Kelly D, and I spent time visiting the various shops and buildings in the town. We thought since our topic focused on the environment, we started our quest at the governors house gardens. We couldn’t find any gardeners to help us but we did eventually run into the head chief. After the chief, we visited the silversmith, bakery, coffee shop, Cooper, cab ant maker,and a garden. We asked each shop various questions such as where did their materials come from and if they produced waste. With asking this question, a pattern seamed to have unfolded. We were told that about 98% of all materials in Williamsburg came from England with the exception of wheat and tobacco.

This was truly an outstanding observation, at least to me, because the colony was wanting to become an independent nation. This brought curiosity upon my partner and I. It seamed almost impossible for the land to become independent if they were so dependent on England importation. The material behind the silversmith was most interesting to me because the silver it’s self came from Mexico and South America. Instead of it being shipped directly to Williamsburg, it was sent to England where they melted the silver and made money or silver good with it. Every silversmith in England stamped each of the silver peaces with there own business stamp and than was sent to Williamsburg. Once it entered Williamsburg, it was sent to a silversmith and remelted to make their own silver pieces with a new stamp on it. Another place which we visited was the cabinets maker shop. There, they make various furniture from local and foreign woods. We had asked at first if all the material they were using was from the Williamsburg area, but he said even if the material was grown locally, it was still shipped back to England to be processed and than shipped back. This fact had baffled me because the resource was right there, but yet they still hand it shipped across the sea.

All this findings on how much Williamsburg was dependent on England made me think that it was almost impossible for them to become a separate nation. Without England, there would be no new colony. Not just the cabinet makers or the silversmith, but the shoes maker, gardeners, coffee shop all relied on imported goods. Cow leather from England, seeds from various locations, coffee beans from South America. All none native materials. This just goes to show that a country can only be formed with the help of other goods to support a growing population. Ask me how they were able to become a free nation still under the reliance of goods from England? I have no idea.

(Pictures will be coming soon)


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