Weddings are always exciting, especially historical ones, and we at Locust Grove are deep in the throes of preparations for the reenactment of Ann Croghan and Thomas Jesup’s wedding on July 18! When we last checked in with the wedding, we admired Hannah Stoppel’s magnificent craftsmanship of Ann’s wedding dress, and now, it’s the gentlemen’s turn! Our Program Manager Brian Cushing, and our Thomas Jesup Brandon Vigliarolo are hard at work on the 1822 uniform coat that will serve as Jesup’s wedding attire. This is a very special project, so I’ll turn it over to them to tell you all about it!
First of all, let me introduce you to these two gentlemen. Brian is a Louisville native, a historic clothing aficionado, the chief of our Costumed Interpreter corps, and our current Program Manager. Brandon is a native of Michigan, a graduate of Michigan State University, a four-year veteran of the United States Army as an MP, Hannah Stoppel’s real-life boyfriend, a copywriter, and Locust Grove’s 1816 Dr. John Croghan. Brian and Brandon also take on other historical roles–recently they portrayed William Henry Harrison and Henry Clay, respectively.
Now, on to the important things: how did this wedding reenactment come about? Why choose Ann and Jesup over another couple?
Brian: The way I remember it, the idea to have a Summer “come one, come all” living history soiree on the grounds occurred at about the same time when we had to call off the historical ball in 2014 due to the threat of bad weather (basically- why aren’t we doing a version of this when we can’t get snowed out!!??). Then we started playing with the idea of incorporating an interpretation of an event that happened at Locust Grove that wouldn’t ordinarily fit into any of our interpretations to provide an interactive, educational, Locust Grove centered theme for the day. When it became apparent that the first year for the event would also act as a stand in for the Jane Austen Festival while it is on hiatus, the 1822 wedding made the most sense as a complement to that idea. As far as why that one and not any other- one is that it happened at Locust Grove, whereas William and Lucy were married elsewhere. Ann and Jesup’s wedding just seems to be a favorite in the current “Locust Grove consciousness.”
Who was Thomas Jesup? Why is he significant?
Brian: SO much more to tell [about him] than I am recalling at the moment. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and by 1822, Quartermaster General of the US Army. After William Croghan, Sr. died (not long after the wedding) Jesup wound up in a very prominent role as one of the heads of the family. His advice was constantly sought by pretty much everyone and he was one of the ones repeatedly bailing George Croghan out of trouble.
Brandon, how did you get the honor of being Jesup?
Brandon: When the event was first announced it was pretty much an immediate decision to cast Hannah as Ann — I don’t even know if they considered anyone else, which I think speaks volumes to her abilities as an actress, interpreter, and costumer.
I (albeit jokingly) was not too sure I was happy with the idea of someone else playing Hannah’s pretend husband, and did a fair deal of pouting when I was told that we definitely needed a John Croghan, and that they were looking for a Jesup. Due to other obligations, we were left without a Jesup, so I was asked to step in!I’m still not sure if it was because they trust me to play a good Jesup or because they wanted to put a stop to the pouting.
Brian: I would like to point out that I think it is fitting that our one US Army veteran currently with the interpreter corps gets to wear this insane uniform.
What can people expect the day of the wedding?
Brian: The wedding will be the unifying theme to what we want to be a laid back, enjoyable time for living history people of any period/caliber or just the curious to spend a day enjoying the beauty and history at Locust Grove and remembering why we love it so much and why it is important to work so hard to make it the best it can be. Wedding “preparation” will happen throughout the day as well as a performance of Jane Austen’s juvenilia by an actress from KY Shakespeare (for those who need their July Austen fix!), food for sale, an evening ball, and a special visit from HMS Acasta– commemorating the bicentennial of their last trip home.
What’s the deal with this coat? Why is it significant?
Brian: We have gone to a great deal of effort over the past couple years to be sure our first person interpreters appear as authentically as possible to the way people did at the time they portray. So when we took on the 1822 wedding, we knew we had to be all in. Hannah Stoppel set the bar high with her research and construction of an 1822 wedding gown for Ann. Carol made the final call that Jesup should be dressed correctly in uniform rather than a civilian alternative since the military was so much a part of this family and that Locust Grove would support the effort. The uniform regulations had just changed in 1821. The problem was, resources for such things tend to center around wars and since we were between major wars in 1821, this thing took quite a bit more detective work than had we been doing a scenario occurring during the Revolution or War of 1812.
What research went into making the coat? How is it being constructed?
Brian: A lot of interesting people have assisted our search for information and resources and the team we have working on this thing is beyond amazing with their skill and commitment to making sure this is done as best it can be so that the final product is nothing short of a museum level interpretation. You will never here these guys say, “No one will know the difference;” It’s correct or it’s not. I did the pattern and have handled cutting, fitting, and initial construction of the structure of the coat.Amy Liebert, Hannah Stoppel, Melissa Alexander, and Mia Seitz will detail work, pad stitching, finishing, and all around everything else.
The main fabric is a deep blue wool broadcloth, heavily milled- the edges will for the most part be left raw and will hold that edge without fraying. The buttonholes and blind stitched buttonholes will all be done by hand with silk buttonhole twist, deep blue matching the coating color. Nathanael Logsdon of Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters got the 2 gold epaulettes done for us and Steve Abolt of Allegheny Arsenal was able to provide us with the correct gold stars that are prescribed for the base of the tails. Blue was affirmed as the correct color for uniforms of the United States army- shortages during the War of 1812 had lead to quite a variety being seen. The regulations of 1813 ushered in an elegant simplicity to the army’s uniforms, which was continued in 1821. Contrasting colors and metallic lace was left behind.
The army updated its uniform regulations from the 1813 version in 1821. I have yet to find an extant 1821 staff officer coat or a portrait of anyone definitely wearing one. The regulations still exist, though, and we had advice from Steve Abolt, who has dug further into this than we probably ever will. I am watching the massive amounts of embellishment (that will nevertheless appear subdued) go in by hand right now, and the buttons are on the way (MUCH more difficult to find than we anticipated). So- fingers crossed- we have an incredible team and we are determined.
Brandon: Honestly I don’t think I have a whole lot to add since the research, construction, planning, and organization of the coat and event was very much a Brian accomplishment. All I get to do is make it look good.
Brandon, you’re a relative newbie to the Locust Grove team. What do you enjoy about it? Brian, why do you stick around?
Brandon: I love Locust Grove because of the chance it gives me to have a face-to-face encounter with history. There’s something powerful about a physical space that has existed as home to countless generations of people, and something amazing about being able to be a part of that history. I also enjoy the difference in the depth of the history between Michigan and Louisville — there aren’t too many places as old as Locust Grove in the north!
Brian: I came to Locust Grove in Nov., 1999 as a costumed interpreter. Never thought it would one day actually be part of my job. And it’s not just a job- bringing the past alive is what I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to most effectively do. I’m really honored to be able to put that to work at Locust Grove with the incredible potential it has for it and the relevance it has to the modern museum audience. The Jesup coat presented a unique challenge- we had made the commitment to not compromising on quality when it came to interpreting material culture in the past so we couldn’t stop here.
Well, gentlemen, after all the work that has been put into this coat and this wedding, we can’t wait to see it in person on July 18! Thank you so much for all your hard work and devotion to this project and to Locust Grove! Wedding guests can find all the details of the day here and you can check in on Hannah and the making of Ann’s wedding finery here. We could not be more delighted about this wedding than if we were Croghans ourselves, so we certainly hope you will join us for this splendid occasion!
With great anticipation, I remain,
(All photographs courtesy of Brian Cushing and Brandon Vigliarolo)