hsifeng: (Landsknecht)
... and wanted to let y'all know that they were rocking this look LONG before you were even born.

Let's be clear - there is nothing truly "new" under the sun. In the medieval era they dressed up like Romans for holidays, and I am sure the Romans dressed up like someone else too.

But damn, Ulm Festzug 1898 looks like it was one HELL of a party!


They clearly got the "laying around on the ground like a pimp while the ladies serve you wine" memo...

HEY! How did Stephen Jacobson get in this shot (second standing from the left is a *dead ringer* for him)?!?

"Look ma! A parade!"



And guess what... this wasn't even the *first year* of this event. Nope. Observe the 1877 program booklet kiddies!

1877 Festzug Ulm booklet
1877 Festzug Ulm booklet - inside

And Ulm wasn't the only city to hold them!

Erfurt Festzug 1902

PS: It looks like they are still throwin' this shindig, even today... :D

PPS: And that 'jousting' they host at the end of the parade. Yeah. Not on horses.

Yes, that is a dude in a dress. Get over it. Apparently it is a 'thing' at these events. They are JOUSTING IN BOATS for goodness sake...
hsifeng: (Sudlerin)
Some of us think we’ve been doing this ‘landsknecht thing’ since we were knee high to a grasshopper. But then, some of us HAVE been doing this landsknecht thing for that long…and even longer. Elizabeth Frye Jeffress can’t remember her first event, understandable given the circumstances. Elizabeth says, “My dad likes to joke that I've been going to faire since I was in the womb, and that's basically true. My parents first wore landsknecht gear to a faire in Fall of 1980[i], and I was born December of 1980.”

Elizabeth’s dad? Gordon Frye[ii], who along with his wife Charlotte help form the first fahnlein at Northern Renaissance faire.

Gordon and Alexandra Frye
Gordon with Elizabeth's Sister - Alex(andra) in 1983

So what was it like to be in a fahnlein from the very beginning? For a girl whose parents regularly dressed up and portrayed people from other centuries, it was not as odd as you would think. Childhood, with some distinctly historical moments thrown in for sparkle, as Elizabeth notes, “Some of my earliest memories are of playing around the St. Michael's guild yard….Lucinda [Nickel-Fors] had a goat. For the life of me I can't remember the goat or Lucinda that clearly, but the fact that she had a goat was always firmly in my mind…”

Elizabeth and the Goat
Elizabeth with Lucinda's goat

…and yes, there have always been questions about Landsknecht fashions…

“One of my clearest memories was when my dad was wearing his waffenrock, and I asked him why he was wearing a dress. He got so mad!  ‘It's not a dress!’  I remember thinking, ‘Okay, Daddy, whatever you say. It still looks an awful lot like a dress.’”

And what about her own clothing?

“I always wondered why I couldn't dress in shiny sparkly pink dresses and instead had to wear a simple, rough and tumble dress….I still remember the little pewter goblet my dad tied to my little belt. Water and juice tasted better out of that cup because it was mine. I had little leather cowmouth shoes that my dad made for me.”

Even at a young age, the folks who helped form the roots of American Landsknecht reenactment made an impression:

“I thought the world of my dad's reenacting friends. I called Carl Ontis ‘Uncle Kafter’ -- apparently he wanted me to call him Uncle Catdirt, but Kafter was the best I could do….”

But as we all know, things change as we grow up. The fun and games of the guild yard began to wane as Elizabeth reached her early teens, when “…the idea of running around in costume was mortifying. I didn't mind dressing up so long as the crowd was mostly reenactors, but having to face the public in a costume was far too embarrassing.”

There was a period where she avoided faires, but it seems that some things are part of nature as well as nurture. Elizabeth’s sister decided to try out faire as a hobby again around 1998. Elizabeth recalls, “….[Alex] came back every Monday talking about how much fun she was having, and it made me think I might give it a try. But I wasn't really that into it yet….Then the next summer, 1999, Alex desperately needed a ride out to workshops and she bullied and cajoled me in to driving her out, and while I was there I should take a few classes. Everyone was so fun and cool in St. Michael's that I ended up staying.”

As part of her return to reenactment, Elizabeth met many of the ‘new generation landsknecht folks’ including members of the multiple fahnleins that had begun to spread through the state. She spent a lot of time that winter getting to know folks and researching/sewing her costume. What she discovered a group of reenactment friends of her own[iii], which that included at least one person who would become a permanent fixture; Jeremiah Jeffress, her future husband.

Jeremiah SRS 2012 - SN Jacobson
Jeremiah Jeffress - School of the Renaissance Soldier, 2012 - S.N. Jacobson Photography

When I asked her about what highlighted her time growing up at faire, Elizabeth pointed out that much of her experience was similar to that of other young college student, including positive and negative run-in’s with both boys and alcohol.  But the environment made all the difference. “I am so glad to have been surrounded by grown-ups who'd already made the same mistakes and allowed me to do so as well -- in a safe place. Having ‘big brothers’ armed with katzbalgers and zwiehanders wasn't something I thought about then, but it was probably a really good thing.”

Zeke at SRS 2012 with the Boys - S N Jacobson
Zeke and his 'big brothers' - School of the Renaissance Solder, 2010 & 2012 - S.N. Jacobson Photography

Just like her parents, Elizabeth found herself drawn to research and history. As someone who had participated in numerous styles of reenactment events, she recalls that she was attending Sutter’s Fort at the same time she was studying the Donner Party in school. She believes that the total emersion of her experience lead her to see history as ‘more real’ for her than it was for her other classmates. It is likely that this lead to her choice of major in college, where she received her BA in History.

Together Elizabeth and Jeremiah attended faire for a number of years with various groups. Eventually the time to participate in events faded as Northern Faire moved further away, and school and career began to take more time in their schedules. However, they never left completely. Both Elizabeth and Jeremiah regularly attend the School of the Renaissance Soldier[iv] events developed and hosted by a group comprised of original St. Michael’s members. They also bring their young son, Zeke along to experience the life of camp and field (sometimes with his grandfather in attendance as well –three generations of reenactors together is something to see!).

Elizabeth and Zeke SRS 2010 - S. Jacobson v2 Elizabeth and Zeke SRS 2012 - S. Jacobson v2
Elizabeth and Zeke - School of the Renaissance Solder, 2010 & 2012 - S.N. Jacobson Photography

Zeke and Gordon SRS 2012 - SN Jacobson v2 Zeke in Gordons Lap SRS 2012 - SN Jacobson
Zeke and Gordon, on the horses and in the camp - School of the Renaissance Solder, 2010 & 2012 - S.N. Jacobson Photography

When I asked Elizabeth about what she thought about having a child out at events with her, she offered this observation: “Reenactment events are great for kids, just for the chance to unplug and eliminate all the screens and toys from their lives. I was amazed at how creative Zeke's play was at SRS. I only brought a few wooden blocks and otherwise no toys at all, and yet somehow he managed to be entertained constantly... I remember similar creative play with my sisters when we were kids at various reenactment events. Reenacting is the ultimate ‘unplugging’ experience!”

With Elizabeth’s permission, I want to share one of my favorite memories of the Frye-Jeffress family at a recent School of the Renaissance Soldier event. A few of us had organized competitive challenges for the ladies of the camp to participate in. The goal was to demonstrate ones skill and wits while having fun with both other camp followers and soldiers who were fresh back from the drill field. One of the games was jokingly called ‘The Venetian Courtesan’ and the ladies who played had the task of making one of the young soldiers blush. Whoever managed to get the biggest reaction of embarrassment would be the winner. Other participants whispered dirty stories, engaged their ‘lady lumps’ as smothering weapons, and largely played the expected roll of saucy wench in their attempts to get a reaction.

But not Elizabeth.

When her turn came, her husband and father brought forward a small bench and placed it directly in front of our soldier’s own seat. Then Elizabeth walked over and sat down with Zeke in her lap.

And then she breast fed her son.

To those of us in camp, this was a totally normal and non-embarrassing experience.

Apparently it is a little different when the nursing is happening right in front of you; while the mother stares directly into your eyes; grinning as her husband and father shout encouragements from the sidelines.

Our poor soldier was completely undone. If he could have sunk into the dirt, I think he would have. He had to last 30 seconds and I believe he did so only through an effort of tremendous will.

Hil. Lar. E. Ous. :D

Elizabeth Frye-Jeffress is one of the original campfrau – although I am not sure she thinks of herself as such. In a very real way, she is the bridge between those that started this tradition of reenactment and those that came to their fahnlein’s later. For my part, I can say unequivocally that events are always better with her there; she is women I both respect and enjoy, and one that I am happy to consider a friend as well as a fellow history geek.

[i] This date has been confirmed by other contributors to this series.
[ii] While it has been a bit since there was an update to this series, Gordon Frey was one of my first contributors. His interview can be found here: http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/149708.html
[iii] Elizabeth specifically singled out St. Maximilian’s Guild as a group that she found a special kinship with. Having also spent time with this landsknecht unit, I can only agree that they are a very special and inspiring group of people. http://www.st-max.org/
[iv] The School of the Renaissance Soldier is a non-public reenactment event held every Spring in the Northern California area. If you are interested in attending, check out their website here. http://actionspast.com/Groups/RenaissanceSoldier.aspx This event has also inspired others like it in both Southern California and Bristol, Illinois. The event itself can be seen as a spin-off of older Renaissance Military Society (RMS) traditions such as Schutzenfest and the Camp Tamarancho militaria events from days of yore.
hsifeng: (Landsknecht)

Interesting thing about (German) reenactment: Not all the traditions we hold so dear come from actual history. Some of them just come from our history. For example, take the flag tearing ceremony that many (most?) 16th C groups who portray German Landsknecht take part in at the end of their campaign year or their 'main' reenactment event.*

My own introduction to this tradition came by way of my involvement with Heiligesturm Fahnlein in SoCal. After a long and difficult seven weekend run out at our primary faire (proceeded by at least four weeks of build up and with at least two weeks of tear down to follow), the folks in our camp all gathered under our main shade structure and settled in for our Hauptman to give his closing remarks.

This was my first year in the guild, and while I wasn't new to reenactment, or military reenactment, I had formed incredibly close bonds with this group in a very short time. My friend A and I had shown up at the event working for a booth and swearing we'd never belong to an acting body at faire again and WHAM!; less than three weeks later we were paid members and already plotting our first German costumes. 

I drank that Kool-Aid. I drank it all up! chuckle


So here I sat, with one of my oldest friends and 40 or so of my newest friends (even now some of my BEST friends). And I watched our Hauptmann - a man who personifies many of the qualities that earn the title Strong, Silent Type - spend the next hour or so calling every member up one by one, sharing a drink with them, saying something to them privately and then saying something wonderful about them to the group. And after each person had been hugged and thanked for their work on behalf of the guild, they were given a piece of the flag - freshly torn from it's pole. 

We ended that hour laughed out, cried out, drunk and prouder than could ever seem reasonable to be the owner of a tiny strip of partially-dyed-and-painted silk. 

History in action? Perhaps. Although the actual historical documentation has yet to be produced in any group that I have spoken to. Vague references to more modern flag ceremonies, half-remembered nuggets from books of questionable pedigree, and flat out SHOCK on behalf of some of the first German reenactors here in the USA ("They TEAR their FLAG? Why would you DO that?!?") seem to be the norm with this one.

But you know what? I don't fucking care.

This tradition, more than almost any other in Landsknecht reenacting, has formed a bond between people of disparate groups and in far flung locations. Not from around here but you marched with us for a weekend? What's your address? Next thing you know a piece of tattered silk shows up in the mail, or tied to your arm, or handed to you by a friend in passing (along with a message, "We missed you on the last weekend, but the Hauptmann wanted you to have this...").

And BAM!, every memory of every flag you've ever marched under comes welling back. All the bullshit, and the ecstasy, and the laughter and the tears. Every moment.

And you hold on to that beautiful little chunk of cloth for as long as you can.

Because it's your version of a family photo.

And this is one of the best families you've ever known.  

NOW. For some actual 'history' on this tradition, ripped fresh from the pages of Facebook - that old teller of all things true and a few you just think are funny.

Which Came First, the Northern or the Southern Tradition?

Well, apparently it started up North with Shawn Galbreath in 1989 or 1990. Shawn recalls, "I believe it was my first year as Hauptmann, but it was so long ago that we had Dinosaur Leather Armor. I was also honored with a piece of the first Kriegshund (Southern German Fahnlein) flag." Scott Moore added later on that "Michael M" was the painter of that flag, which Shawn confirmed. 

Julia Adams agrees that Northern started the flag tearing, with Southern Germans in Kreigshund fahnlein following suit a few years later. Rio Kamimura goes on to say that it happened the first time down South, "...during group notes at the end of closing day, RPFS 1992. It was the first year that our assembled company had officialy presented itself to be known as Kriegshund Fahnlein.... Presiding over that first flag tearing ceremony was Lloyd Winter, Hauptman."

Regardless of who started this idea, it is now a well founded tradition with roots going back almost 25 years. And apparently, it is a practice that has been shipped back to Europe, with Luis Gonzalez reporting that at least one group he is familiar with in Sweden has torn their Blutfahne - although this may have been the result of an attempt to help avoid an international reenactment incident as a German reenactors dog had apparently peed on the fahn accidentally...those wacky Europeans... grin

*PS: It seems that the actual Germans doing Landsknecht reenactment think we are bit bat-shit nuts for this little tradition. I think they may be right. Then again, bat-shit nuts is one of the things we American Landknechts do best... chortle

hsifeng: (Blackpowder Love)
Gordon Frye recalls the first time that he, Greig Fores[i], Carl Ontis and the gang headed out to faire dressed as Landsknechts as September of 1980. He is pretty clear on this date because, “it was one of my first visits to Northern Faire , and I was in company with my wife Charlotte, who was at that time pregnant with our eldest daughter Elizabeth[ii], who was born in December of that year.” Gordon and the rest had put together their costumes in anticipation of attending the faire, and while Ontis’ had put together Landsknect kits Gordon himself (working on his MA in History at the time) had been working on a more Spanish style garment.
It is California after all, Spanish history is sort of a natural choice!
In the end, the Germans won out.
Then again, with costumes like this, there was good reason:
“Elizabeth, being the consummate historical researcher, had of course put together clothing which was not only accurate to the woodcuts, but was to last her for several more years…Carl was clothed in a suit of braintan buckskin,[iii] slashed and puffed within an inch of its life, and most importantly, bedecked with a very prominent, and of course outrageous codpiece.  We were hooked.”

Gordon Frye, Northern Faire - carrying a flag belonging to Jeff Schroeter  ( Says Greig: this picture is actually from a group shot at the old maingate where DSF ended up encamped after the new maingate was built. Prior to that the camp was at the end of horse tourney, closest to old maingate.  That original camp was compsed of a  fenced in enclosure with a couple of tents and enclosed lean-tos that were made from horse stalls.)

 Same man, same Waffenrock! 2007: This photo provided by Devk31 on Flickr (thanks for the link JBL!). ;)
Das Schwarze Fählein was formed soon thereafter, and Gordon recalls it happening before the group of friends joined up with St. Helena’s. The original intent was for the group to act as a fighting household at SCA events, lead by the Fählein’s first Hauptmann; Bob Bodeau[iv]. With a flurry of sewing and research projects, the tradition of West Coast Landsknecht reenactment began to form around this initial nucleus of comrades. Gordon says, “By the next year, we were all…outfitted with leather slash-and-puff hosen, leather jerkins and outrageous hats with too many feathers.” Codpieces, that quintessential hallmark of Landsknecht reenactment (nevermind that other nationalities wore them too; we wear them with panache!) were worked out as well and evolved from Carl’s first ‘fancy flap’  into copies of the original articles via Janet Arnold’s published research.[v] From these early years, Gordon especially remembers Dave Godwin’s "Condorman" Wams/doublet with its enormous sleeves and puff-and-slash decoration.[vi]

Grieg Fors and Dave Godwin - and Dave's 'Condorman' sleeves....*grin*
To the best of Gordon’s knowledge, the first crew was composed of himself, Bob Bodeau (Hauptmann), Carl Ontis, Greig Fors, Dave Godwin, Roy Kester, Tory (Salvatore ) Bruno, Dave (Oatmeal) O'Neal, Erik Bodeau, Elizabeth Pidgeon, Charlotte Frye (with Elizabeth Frye in utero) and Lucinda Nickel-Fors. In addition to this list there were those who occasionally marched with the Fählein including Dale Shinn[vii] and Wy Spaulding.
Gordon remembers the pre-Helena days as being enjoyed by a group of friends who readily found their own entertainment and refreshment, “sitting under the big oak tree behind Mullah's and drinking either beer or coffee as the mood hit us.” Landsknecht associating with the Turk! Another theme that would become almost a tradition in some German quarters...

 Dave Godwin, Salvatore Bruno, Carl Ontis, and Gordon Frye take a break behind Mullahs at Northern Faire

Then in 1982-83 the Germans ‘joined faire’ and became part of St. Helena’s under the direction of Mark Wallis. After a stint in with the ‘Street Peoples’, the Germans broke off and joined up with Queens Guard in the guild of St. Michaels. The group was brigaded in the old Gate-House entrance of faire.[viii] 
The space was used as the troops guild-yard and they put the camp to good use; Nick Worthington (Guildmaster of St. Michael's and Captain of the English Company of Foote) and Gordon (now Hauptmann of das Schwarze Fählein) put their respective companies on display with pike drill and other military displays. These included Nick and Gordon acting as living pells for some of the massed pike practice, “dressed in our half-armours with close-helmets and trying valiantly to portray Double-Pay men.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  My breastplate ended up with a nice dent in it from one such ‘practice’!” Again, the guiding force of the group was research, with drill coming from the best available resource - De Gheyn’s Dutch Drill from 1599.  Thankfully the copy of this book that Nick Worthington possessed included the commands in Dutch, English, Scottish and German – meaning that uniform presentation could be trained into the combined English and German troops of St. Michael’s force. 
And there was traveling as well. Many individuals and small groups of Northern Landsknecht ventured out to ‘troop the colours’ to other events and locations, spreading the word that the Germans had come to stay. These adventures included a number of trips south to partake of Renaissance Pleasure Faire’s events in the Los Angeles area.  Gordon remembers these as, “pilgrimages…to hang out at Court and be noxious German Nobles.”[ix]
Over the years the make-up of das Schwarze Fählein changed and evolved; with original members leaving to pursue other interests and new members coming in. David Miles (DSF) and Robbie (CoF) teamed up to clear the streets with their drumming for progress, costumes continued to improve as members inevitably competed to make better and better sets, armor improved and increased in number, weapons of every type continued to be created, purchased and acquired (swords, guns, pikes and spears). By the time Gordon and Charlotte decided they needed to step back and concentrate the extra time on their three growing girls in the mid-to-late 80’s, “we had already laid the seeds of contentment and World Domination with our kamaraden at Southern Faire.”[x] Although it appears that there was some concern that the Landsknecht has become not only popular but acceptable to polite society – a turning point that Gordon jokingly notes by saying, “Oh My!  We must have done something wrong...”
The Kids (human, not goat):

Elizabeth Frye Jeffress - youngest first-gen Camp Follower

Daddy Gordon and daughter Alexandra Frye in 1983

While discussing the back-and-forth between the Northern and Southern German groups, I told Gordon that both Tim Finkas and Conn MacLir had marked das Schwarze Fählein and its members as a source of inspiration for their own efforts. He says, “I attribute [the high standards of DSF] to the level of scholarly activity by the core-group (coming out of a rather scholarly Fur-Trade hobbyist group) and to the high level of costuming experience and ability that Carl [Ontis] and Elizabeth [Pidgeon] brought to the table.  We all just sort of had to follow….we all had to really stretch ourselves to keep up with everyone else! It became part of our ‘corporate culture’ to push the boundaries of scholarship and costuming, to become “more authentic” and therefore cooler than the other guy.  It was always great fun to be insulted by our friends because we had outdone them in some aspect of our kit!” And Gordon says, that while it while the inspiration may have started with the North, it was quickly matched and perhaps even surpassed by the Southern group.
As time went on and the Lansknecht idea started to spread, Gordon recalls Carl Ontis claiming to have completed a ‘study’ of the roots of all the various groups that were cropping up. Carl had stated to him, “quite matter-of-factly that ALL Landsknecht reenactors were descended in one way or another from [das Schwarze Fählein].  Even one's in Germany somehow (via SCA GI's, I believe he said).  At any rate, I'll go for the North American branch at least having descent from us!” Apparently Carl continued to track the spread of these ‘branches’ for some time, for his own amusement. It’s the pursuit of this same information that has inspired this blog-series.
According to Gordon, “I know of no one with earlier claims to having the portrayal in hand, and I can state quite firmly that Summer of 1980 was the year that we started DSF.  31 years!  A long campaign it's been, my friends, but a good one!”
31 years of Germans, and next year 50 years of Renaissance Faire. Sounds like a reason to party in 2012, and possibly to start planning for a major bashes in 2020 and 2030! *grin*
And with that, I will close out this post with a slightly modified version of one of Gordon’s own statements:
 “Life was IS good in Landsknecht camp!”

[i] For those who are reading along, you may recall that Greig remembers the series of dates of various events from this entry slightly differently, but that is how this kind of thing goes!  http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/147314.html Given that Gordon is working on a date that is pretty solid (the gestation and birth of his daughter) I suspect he has the right of it. :)
[ii] Elizabeth Frye Jefferies is the little girl in the goat pen in my prior posts, and someone who I enjoy doing reenactment events with to this day. *grin*

[iii] I wonder how much Carl would laugh to hear the woolen vs. leather pants debates that have gone on to this day? *chuckle* Gordon recalls mention of the use of leather for slashed clothing in Köhler’s book as a possible inspiration for this, and agrees that a Mountain Man reenactment background and the relative ease of slashing leather may have also played a part.

[iv] Gordon says Bob was, “[a] blond-haired, blue-eyed very, very Aryan looking Jew, he took to the part like a duck to water.”

[v] Per Gordon, “…my sister-in-law gave me a copy of ‘Costume’ magazine, from the Royal Costume Society that had Janet Arnold’s original article on Nils Sture’s suit, and in it was a proper pattern for a codpiece.  From that point, we had ‘proper’ codpieces of the proper size and shape for the period.  The article was from 1978 (I still have the issue!) and we started improving by late 1980, I believe.”

[vi] And clearly Gordon had an eye for costume, by 1984 the faire had made him Costume Consultant for the Living History Centre.

[vii] This would be the same Dale Shinn who made me this http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/58825.html#cutid1, created these for the hubby and I http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/57564.html#cutid1 and these http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/56327.html#cutid1. Yes. Dale rocks. ;)

[viii] A picture of this Gate-House camp is the centerpiece of my posting here http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/146393.html.

[ix] From Gordon, “Many was the time I would spend my afternoons at Court Glade conversing with Ron Love, who portrayed the French Ambassador, comparing notes and arguing furiously as to the better national qualities of our troops.  And making rude comments as to one another's ‘native tongue’ as well.”

[x] In discussing the inspiration that helped start the Southern Landknecht movement, I had mentioned that Tim Finkas lays major credit at the feet of Jeff Schroeter. Gordon says, “It’s interesting that you mention Jeff Schroeter.  He too was an inspiration for us as well...  In fact, my first wheellock from was from one of his kits, and we kept up a correspondence after that.” [NOTE: purchased at Southern before the Northern Germans were formed, around 1978, as a part of Gordon’s Spanish kit.]

BONUS PICTURE ("And Now For The Funny!"):

 Gordon Frye and Lucinda Nickel-Fors with Spot the Donkey at the Council of Worms in 84 or 85 - held on Greig and Lucinda's property

hsifeng: (Blackpowder Love)
Tim Finkas played a key role in the development of Landsknechts as a reenactment unit at Southern faire in California. However, it wasn’t until I began writing these interviews that I have had the chance to get to know him, or his story.

I appreciate the time that Tim has taken in relating this information to me, and I hope to get the chance to meet him in person in future.

After all, next year is the Fiftieth Anniversary of Renaissance Pleasure Faire, and I know Tim likes a good excuse to get in costume.



The Southern Faire Landsknecht (Tim Finkas)

Growing up with a mother who was a costume-maker, Tim Finkas discovered the love of dressing-up at an early age. He became involved with Civil War reenactments in 1975 at the age of 16, and had launched a group portraying a unit of the First U.S. Sharpshooters by the age of 20. As was the case with many other Landsknecht founders, his roots were in living history and the portrayal of historical characters.

This love for reenactment was only expanded when he began attending the Agoura Renaissance Pleasure Faire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_Pleasure_Faire_of_Southern_California) with his parents in the late 60’s. As he says, “The yearly Spring Renaissance Faire was a great excuse to convince mom to make a new costume for me.”

By 1980, Tim had found himself inspired by the images in first ‘The Landsknechts’ title of the Osprey Men-At-Arms series (pub. 1976, by Douglas Miller). That spring he attended the Agoura faire with a ‘Faire Ever’ pass in his first Landsknecht costume. The outfit was one that he and his mother worked on together and Tim says, “It really wasn’t too amazing, yet you would have recognized it as a landsknecht”. He had never seen anyone else portray a Landsknecht in his visits to faire up until that point, and was himself only “wearing a landsknecht costume to faire as a customer”, not portraying a German persona. Nevertheless, this appears to be the first instance of a Landsknecht strolling through the streets of RPFS that I can locate.

But dressing as a German didn’t last for long the first time out; 1980 was the year that Tim joined his first faire Guild, Clan Mac Colin. Clan was and is Scottish/Irish group and while there was some discussion initially of continuing to play a German in service to the Chief, Tim eventually traded in his slashed German kit for the garb of an Irish mercenary, or gallóglaigh (gallowglass). In this capacity he continued with Clan Mac Colin as a member of the Chief’s body guard for three years; serving first under Stephen Flannagan and then under Steve Gillian – who is still the Chief of Mac Colin to this day.

Tim as Irish gallowglass

It was during Tim’s first official year in Clan that he met and became friends with Conn MacLir. Over the years as they both worked in Clan Mac Colin, these two men evolved their Irish mercenary characters into more-and-more refined costumed personifications, including full maille-armor and axes. Together with other Clan Mac Colin members, they ceremonially escorted the Chief and his family during many functions and parades at the faire. This continued work on better costumes and gear paid off. As Tim recalls, he and Conn, “became something of a popular Photo Stop”.

When the 1984 faire season rolled around, it saw a change in characters for both Tim and Conn. Along with Charles and Cat Taylor and J. Paul Moore; the two former Irish mercenaries traded in their maille for the garb of Elizabethan sailors and help to launch the Sea Dogs under the auspices of St. Helena’s.

Brian McNally and Tim Finkas dressed as Mariners aboard the Golden Hind in Long Beach Harbor, Los Angeles

Tim did not stay with the Sea Dogs long, being drawn to the stage and into the casts of two acting troupes for the 1985 faire season. This year saw him performing with both a ‘Crye of Players’ and the ‘Globe Theater Company’ under a gatepass via St. Boniface. By the end of this season he had met John Hevy and Erin Harvey and this meeting would set in motion the beginnings of the first German Guild at Agoura. John and Erin worked in the arms-and-armor booth owned by Jeff Schroeter ("Antique Arms and Armor"), who had been wearing Landsknecht style clothing in his shop for several years. It didn’t take long for Tim, John and Erin to being discussing the formation of a Landsknecht group at the faire, with Jeff acting as advisory and sponsor.

Despite my initial impressions that the Southern California Landsknechts had sprung from an offshoot for das Schwarz Fahnlein to the North, Tim assures me this was not the case; “I was not in contact with any of the Northern Faire Landsknechts….However, the year before I had seen several visiting Landsknechts from Northern Faire and had marveled at their clothing and presentation. I am pretty sure these included Greg Fors1, Carl Ontis and Gordon Frye. They proved it could be done, and done very well! I have to credit them for giving us major inspiration with their amazing portrayals.“

Contact did come eventually, with both groups cross-hosting members for various events. I love this picture as it shows founders from both Guilds interacting in the same streets.

When North Meets South

Timothy Finkas with Gordon Frye, Greig Fors, Erin Harvey, Francesca von Hesse, Julia Neuneker Adams, James Schooler, Nick Worthington, John Hevy and Tony Swatton

But before that; prior to the 1986 faire season a formal proposal for a new entertainment Guild was given to the Living History Center, Entertainment Department for consideration. Leslie Patterson reviewed and accepted this proposal and St. Barbara was formed under the leadership of Tim Finkas as President/Guildmaster, with Erin Harvey and James Schooler acting as his assistants. By the time the 1986 season started, the Guild had attracted a number of friends and faire acquaintances. This included Tim’s friend from the Sea Dogs, Conn MacLir, who brought a number of friends with him into the new camp. Conn was also placed in charge of the group’s weapons safety.

Bryan Kramer, Francesca von Hesse and Erin Harvey circa 1986 at Agoura in SoCal

As there was no evidence of Landsknechts being employed in-country by the English military forces, it was determined that the Guild would portray the bodyguard of a traveling Dutch nobleman and ambassador. Tim portrayed the noble/ambassador part time, alternating with a Doppelsoldner persona, while Conn portrayed the groups Sergeant in-character. Tim says, “…We consciously tried to aim our clothing to the latter half of the century, but we admittedly ended up with a mix of early and late landsknecht fashion. People were too enchanted, at first with the early styles and there was a general reluctance to forgo them.” This mix of early and later period clothing styles in the same camp can be found in many German groups at Elizabethan events to this day.

EARLY PERIOD: Frank Weitzel, Bryan Kramer and Bill Rockwood circa 1987 at Agoura in SoCal

LATER PERIOD:Tom Sutton, Tim Finkas and Marcus Charlotte circa 1987/88 at Agoura in SoCal

For equipment, the camp began with one 8’ X 12’ marquis tent purchased by Tim, and an initial influx of arms and armor from Jeff Schroeder’s booth. However a number of the group’s initial members were capable metal- and leather-smiths including Tony Swatton (http://www.swordandstone.com/), Conn MacLir, Bryan Kramer and Tim himself; all able to produce swords or sword ‘furniture’ (hilts, etc.), knives, sheaths, shoes and the other various and sundry bits and pieces of non-fabric costume kit. And when it came to the general costuming, the Guild could turn to Tim2 and his mother– Carol Finkas – for assistance with patterning and the interpretation of woodcuts and portraits into actual clothing. As Tim recalls, “Between my sister, Stefanie, my mom and myself, we costumed perhaps 80 percent of our group! But everybody pitched in one way or another. I remember a crazy hat-making session where a good 7-8 people were at my mom's house making hats---all so that we could show up for Faire workshops with a group presence, in hats and custom printed t-shirts. We were a hit!”

Stitch and Bitch circa 1986 with Tim Finkas, Bryan Kramer, Carol Finkas, Red Armstrong, Wade Shows and Conn MacLir. Most likely location? Finkas Residence.

For inspiration, the group relied on a number of Dover titles including "293 Renaissance Woodcuts for Artists and Illustrators: Jost Amman's Kunstbuchlin" and "The Triumph of Maximilian". They also scoured the libraries of the University of California system, seeking information from volumes such as “Actions of the Low Countries” by Sir Roger Williams.

To the best of Tim’s recollection, the group in 1986 consisted of the following people; Julia Adams, Red Armstrong, Erin Harvey, John Hevy, Stefanie & Brian Kramer, Conn MacLir, Brian MacNaly, James Schooler, Jeff Schroeder, Daniel Wade Shows, Don Smith, Tom Sutton, Tony Swatton, and Mark & Alan Treas.

The group, however, did not last long as a single entity. The following year saw the group divide into two separate entities, each with a different focus. When faire opened in Spring of 1987 it saw the newly formed Guild of St. Martin’s under Tim Finkas (with a new theatrical direction3) as well as die Ritterlich Fechtschule\ Fahnlein4 under Conn MacLir. While these types of splits are almost never without some rancor, both German Guilds coexisted at the faire together and continued to grow and advance their own type of Landsknecht reenactment vision.

Tim Finkas (as Sir John Casmir) and David Finkas circa 1987 at Agoura in SoCal

In 1987, Tim recalls the following members of St. Martins: Maggie Allen, Marcus Charlotte, Bill Daily, Susan Dunmeyer, Kristin Hayes, Stefanie Kramer, Lee Lanningham, Brian MacNaly, Sandy Sampson, Jeff Schroeder, Daniel Wade Shows, Tom Sutton, Mark & Allen Treas and Frank & Janine Weitzel.

"Back in the day when dirt was rocks, and Bill Daily didn't have a beard...

St. Martins had created a camp in the midst of the faire, and there they hosted the Queen and members of her Court for various official and celebratory events. It was during this time that Tim became good friends with Kevin Brown, who would form the English Military Guild of St. Michael’s, South in the following year.

1988 saw a decision by RPF’s Entertainment Department to create a catch-all Guild for the organizations of die Ritterlich Fechtschule\Fahnlein, St. Martin’s, the Queen’s Guard, Stoddard's Company of Foot and the Mariners. Kevin Brown was made Guildmaster, and Tim Finkas Assistant Guildmaster of the newly minted St. Michael’s, South. At this time Tim was also portrayed Sir Walter Raleigh as a themed character for the overall event. This was the last year of Southern Faire at the Agoura site; the venue would change to Devor by the following year. The following year would also see the beginnings of change in St. Martins, with the move to ‘The Gentleman Adventurers’ format. Over time the characterization of members of the Gentleman Adventurers would switch from German to English.

Tim Finkas as Sir Roger Williams of the Gentlemen Adventurers at the first year of Devore

Finally, in 1992 or 1993, Kevin Brown and Tim Finkas would leave St. Michael, South to form ‘The Nonesuche Players’ under the Guild of St. Boniface. This theatrical company would go on performing at the faire until 2000.


1 For more on the reenactment experiences of Greig Fors , please see my entry here -http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/147314.html.

2 Tim is an accomplished costume-maker; making clothing replicas spanning a range of history from ancient Mycenaean Period to the Victorian era.

3 Of the St. Martins, Tim says, “My group chose the identity of protestant freedom fighters under the command of John Casimir of the Palantine. Casimir was an ally of Queen Elizabeth's and was known to have visited her court in England. We decided to further differentiate our identity from the previous landsknecht group by a more strict adherence to the landsknecht fashions of the last part of the century. Quite a few of us bought matchlock muskets and blank fire volleys and demonstrations became part of our routine.” (

4 More on die Ritterlich Fechtschule\Fahnlein here - http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/146065.html.

hsifeng: (Landsknecht)

In a continuation of this series of posts, you will find 

below the recollections on the first years of Landsknecht reenactment in California (in the States?) from the perspective of Greig Fors. Greig personifies the personality of “O.G.” (Original German) with a long history of reenactment, a passion for research, a vast arsenal of craft skills, and more stories about the First Days than you can shake a stick at. And honey, I have a LOT of sticks. *grin* Along with a small handful of Bay Area residents, Greig helped to lay the foundation of this thing we call Landsknecht reenactment.

I have been lucky enough to get to know Greig in the past few years, and fortunate enough to get his permission to post his recollections on this tops. 

And with any luck, I may even get him back in costume someday soon… 

*evil plotty hand rubbing*


“Friends First, Last, and Always”

Greig Fors met Carl Ontis (two of the founders of the original das Schwarz Fahnlein) in 1971 at the Mountain Ranch Rendezvous. Both Greig and Carl were involved in mountain man reenactments, which have a long tradition here in the States. Upon meeting these two recognized kindred spirits and became fast friends for years thereafter. Greig was there a few years later at the Railroad Flat (around 1975) when Carl met his future wife and life-partner, Elizabeth Pidgeon. She was attending her first rendezvous with a friend and Greig says, “[Elizabeth] and Carl were instantly together. It was pretty cool to see.” It was, as they say, an auspicious beginning; this close core of friends continued to attend rendezvous events for a number of years, eventually forming a group of free trappers and Hudson Bay Company traders known as “the New Helvetia Brigade".

With time the Brigade moved beyond rendezvous-only events and into new historical reenactment opportunities. This came about when Greig found himself in a unique (at the time) situation; he was asked by the California State Parks Department to begin acting as a costumed docent at the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. To his knowledge, this was the first such position in the Parks Department in California.[i] Over time this role developed into a more structured event with Greig, and later his friend Bruce Northridge (RIP), doing the ‘Adobe Days’ event at the Petaluma site. Both men portrayed blacksmiths, finally forming a partnership/business in the “Laurel and Hardy Forge and Brass Works”.[ii] Greig and Bruce would continue their friendship, and their personas as blacksmiths in the same forge, through their time together at Faire.

The Gang at the Petaluma Adobe - Bruce Northridge at left front, Carl Ontis second on the rt., and Greig Fors 4th back on the right.  

As more members of “the New Helvetia Brigade" became involved at Petaluma the docent activities began to spread further through the Park Department. Greig became friends with Glen Burch, the state historian for Northern California, and Glen in turn invited to group to come out and work at Fort Ross. In the end, Sutter's Fort became a site for their re-enactment activities as well.[iii]

Carl and Elizabeth Ontis - at Ft. Ross - early 80's

“A New Idea”

After a number of years of performing together as historical interpreters, a group [iv] from the “the New Helvetia Brigade" began a transition that would become the foundations of Landsknecht reenactment at both SCA and faire events. While the leap from ‘Mountain Man’ to ‘Renaissance Man’ may seem drastic, the move into the new and growing medieval/renaissance scene of the California Bay Area was a natural one for veteran re-enactors in the mid-1970’s. It went something like this; after participating in a Wild West show in the Marin Headlands in 1974-1975, a number of members decided to attend the “Great American Shindig” in 1976. This event had Ron Patterson, one of the original creators of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire (founded 1963), cast in the part of Wild Bill Hickok. Around this same time, 1976, these same Brigade members started taking part in Society for Creative Anachronism (founded 1966) events.

It was here, in the SCA, that the discussion of creating Landsknecht personas took shape and form. It was also around this time that Carl and Elizabeth were married, holding their wedding in Landsknecht garb – and apparently starting a long tradition of Landsie re-enactors getting married in their kit. *grin*

Hey! Any excuse for cool new German clothes!

Greig remembers that he was wearing his first set of Pluderhosen at the time of the Ontis wedding, “Charlie (Charlotte) Rushing, Jack Thomas’ wife, made me a pair of Pluderhose that was for the time, impeccable. After four of five years, they became the Fahnlein’s loaner pants and were kept unwashed for another seven or eight years.”[v] The group also picked up a number of additional members at this time, as their growing reenactment repertoire attracted additional folks.

Greig Fors and David Godwin - SCA 12th Nite event - prior to 1979

With a new period to focus on, it didn’t take long for the serious research to begin[vi]; along with a healthy helping of personal drive, the rigors of being a costumed docent for the California State Parks helped to mold an attention to historical detail that has passed down even to many Landsknecht groups in this day. As Greig says, it was these factors and “a bit of competition as well, you know, we would find something to outdo the others.” Carl Ontis seems to have taken a lead in encouraging this aspect of reenactment among the friends, with each person finding a niche that they found personally fascinating. For a blacksmith like Greig this was everyday items, like forks and spoons and weapons.

By the time 1978 rolled around the group – about ten folks in total, kitted out in German gear - decided to try out the local Renaissance Faire at Peacock Gap (started by RPF in 1966)[vii] in San Rafael, CA. While Greig and partner Bruce attended as a part of a blacksmithing booth, most of the members attended the event under the ‘Faire Ever’ pass (I believe this was a pre-cursor to Friends of Faire). Even in the booth Greig wore his Germans and did his best to get away f as much as possible to play with the others.

Greig Fors, Elizabeth Pidgeon-Ontis, and Carl Ontis

The experience of going to faire as a group the first time involved a lot of walking around and interacting with the other faire goers. It didn’t take long for Phyllis Patterson, the faire’s director, to notice this new band. They were ready made with costumes in place, a friendly attitude, and a willingness to play. After their second year in attendance, Phyllis asked them if they would like to join the event officially as a part of St. Helena’s. At the time Helena’s was the ‘catch-all’ street actors Guild, not the peasant’s only group it eventually became.

After a couple of years with St. Helena’s, it was time for the Germans to set out on their own; das Schwarz Fahnlein was formed. This group joined forces with the Queens Guard to form a new Guild, St. Michaels; a performance company that survives to this day at both Northern and Southern California reenactment events. The faire itself also made a move during the coming years, changing locations from Peacock Gap to Blackpoint Forest, Navato, CA. It was during this period that Grieg  was appointed as the Fahnenträger (ensign) and led queen's progress just behind the bell ringers; making him the first to learn to twirl the flag.

Greig remember’s some his favorite gigs from these early years: “…at the opening of Faire….We got the use of one of faire's carts and I think there were a few times we had brought a goat. There were four or five of us that would walk towards maingate with all our stuff in the cart, and the goat, if it was with us, was tied to the back of it. We all were acting like we had just walked miles and miles, heads down and quiet. We passed through the crowds without stopping and into the faire. I personally think it was one our best gigs.”

A VERY young Elizabeth Frye and The Goat (or one of the Goats) - Elizabeth still makes it out to reenactments, and now brings her own child along as well, second generation faire-brat! *grin*

And then this around 1981-1982: “Carl and I with one or two others…’caught’ somebody stealing, and we restrained him and did a be-handing. He was led off screaming and Carl and I played catch with the rubber hand.”

And then the one they did at rehearsals but never got around to doing in public: “Elizabeth Frye was just a baby and Charlotte [Frye] was carrying her. Both in costume. She came up to whoever was in charge (it was both the germans and queen's guard and standing in ranks) and asked to look for the baby's father. While her back was turned, a couple of guys snuck away. While she was at one end of the ranks, some more snuck away on the opposite side, and everytime she turned her back, even more snuck away until there was one poor guy left standing all by himself, shaking.”

(*I think I know a gig for Casa de Fruta faire this year…*grin* ~ hsifeng)

At this point, while Carl and Elizabeth were the founders of the Landsknecht movement, there were other folks that had become involved that Greig would like to name: Roy Kester (RIP), Gordon Frye, Charlotte Frye, Oatmeal (per Gordon Frye: Oatmeal was Dave O'Neal ["O'Neal, Oatmeal, you get it..."]), Dave Godwin, Lucinda Nickel-Fors, Shula Shoup, Salvatore Bruno, David Miles (Original Trummelschlager), Julie (Juliana) Gaul, Kathe Barrows (RIP), Bob Bodeau, Kevin Fogel, Mariposa and Moffit (Per Gordon: Bill Moffatt - which I would suppose means this is Bill and Mariposa Moffatt). As Greig says, “There may have been one or two more, but I don’t remember.”

The Usual Suspects - Northern Faire, 1983

“And From This Seed…”

...a mighty Oak has grown.” Starting in the SCA, and moving into Renaissance Pleasure Faire North, a group of friends started a tradition of German reenactment that has spread far and wide. From a starting point in the Bay Area of California, the style and traditions of these founders have found homes in Renaissance Faires throughout California in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Riverside, with outposts in many towns in-between. Outside of this state there are groups inspired by these founders in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Nevada (I am sure I’m missing a few). Not to mention the Landsknechts who are a part of the nationwide (worldwide?) network of the SCA.

Greig says, “At one point, Carl was asked to go to Australia to show off landsknechts to the Aussie SCA. When he came back, he told me that they had gotten pics of the two of us, made them into posters and we were hung on ceilings above some of the women’s beds. I never knew how true this was, but I certainly got a good laugh. I am pretty sure the poster was for real. So I think our group was the inspiration for Aussie Landsknechts.”

Continuing the long tradition of Germans on the Security Crew at faire; Greig left the Germans to work with Ops and on crew for RPF events in 1986. He continued this off and on, mostly at Northern until 1994.

And if I get my way, he’s going to be coming back out to faire in the next year or so, to celebrate my birthday with me at Valhalla and get Rockett’s Forge out there as a resource for amazing metal-wares again!

[i] The tradition of costumed interpreters continues to this day at the park, with the next Living History Day event scheduled for May of 2012.

[ii] As Greig says, “I had made a logo that had a cut off chisel in a laurel wreath. The chisel is called a Hardy, well you get the idea…”

[iii] Greig – “Once, for New Years, we had Ft. Ross all to ourselves, our group and a number of the higher ups in the Park Dept. It was a great party.”

[iv] These members were Greig, Carl Ontis, Elizabeth Pidgeon, Gordon Frye, Charlotte Frye, Roy Kester and Dave Godwin.

[v] As I said to Greig; It’s good to know that newbies were tormented with unwashed loaner gear even back in the day! And by the way, he STILL has these pants!

[vi] Greig recalls, “The books were bought and studied and discussions took place and we started getting better.” And, “There was animosity towards us in the SCA, because we were trying to be historically accurate, and we were labeled elitist assholes.” (See my SCA History Maven friends – this is a long tradition! *wink*)

Greig also remembers the groups research collection starting out with Braun and Schneider’s ‘Historic Costumes’ and Vecellio’s ‘Renaissance Costume Book’ along with, “Every Durer book we could get our hands on….We looked for anything Holbein, Bosch, and Cranach (both the elder and younger). I was lucky to find some hardbound museum catalogues from several German museums. There were some auction catalogues that I found from the mid twenties that had a lot of weapons and armor that was not in other books. Dover Books seemed to have a lot of what we were looking for.” Keep in mind, the HUGE number of costume resources we have today were not present or readily available when this group was starting out, many of them have come along or been ‘rediscovered’ in the intervening years. Including that perennial favorite of many first-time Landsknecht, Osprey: “The first Osprey book on the landsknechts has the color illustrations, well, there are landsknechts that look like Carl, Roy, Moffat (Mariposa’s husband) and myself. We always wondered...”

[vii] Seems like the Ren/Medieval scene really “jumped off” in the Bay in 1966, with the SCA getting started in Berkeley and RPF getting new digs up North in Novato in that year.

hsifeng: (Blackpowder Love)
Look at these young ruffians; who the hell let them get armed and organized?

*shakes head in disbelief*

The Early Days of das Schwarz Faehnlein; Blackpoint Faire, Navato, CA

Left to Right: Conn MacLir, Tony Swatton, Tom Moon, Chris Cook, David Forrest, Martin Young, Scott Moore, Jeff Schroeter,Carl Ontis, Don Smith

I believe this was from the Old Camp, out in front of the gates to the Faire itself.

A merrier, swankier and more vicious group of scalliwags and crooks, harlots and bastards was never seen to walk the earth. I have the very great honor of knowing many of them.


Original Image here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=64833929152&set=p.64833929152&type=1&theater
hsifeng: (Landsknecht)
 As you may recall from this post waaaay back in January of 2009, I have an interest in knowing just how this crazy German Landsknecht Thing got started out at events in the United States. The subject of a Family Tree Project came back around recently via some postings in the Old Guard hanging around on FB, and one of the most involved of these 'Old Guard' members was kind enough to have a chat with me about his recollections of the early days of Germans on the West Coast. This is a work in progress - if you have any information to help fill in the blanks (literally!) please let me know! Also, if you'd like to be 'interviewed' for this project, or have interviewees you think should be contacted, I would love to hear from you. 
[livejournal.com profile] anjabeth and Scotty Moore, please shoot me a message with anything you think needs to be added in postscript - or if you'd like to participate! ;)


Via Conn MacLir: As with most of us, Conn started out as ‘something other than a German reenactor’. First a Celt, then bodyguard for the nobles, then a southern Queen's Guard, then a Seadog; he had put time in with a number of groups and characters.

Conn MacLir & Tim Finkas portray Sea Dogs at Agoura Faire, Southern California

After being influenced early in the development of the California Landsknecht phenomenon by Carl and Elizabeth Ontis of das Schwarz Faehnlein; Conn MacLir, Tim Finkas, and Erin Harvey first promoted the style as a guild at the Southern California Renaissance Faire at Agoura starting in 1985 under the name St. Barbara's Guild (Landsknecht Trabanten). For a time J.F.Schreoder was a booth owner who also dressed Landsknecht with this initial SoCal group.

The next year this core of individuals moved in their own directions with Conn starting his own group, the die Ritterlich Fechtschule\ Fahnlein and Tim starting St. Martin's (German Reiters). Die Ritterlich was focused on historical swordplay, portraying the "Marx Brudder" of Germany in the early 16th century. Having come from Queen’s Guard Conn crafted the Germans of his group to that end…to protect the Queen. This is a common theme for many German groups at Renaissance Faire to this day, as is the tradition of Germans being employed as part of the Security for events.

Conn MacLir as Hauptman Sigrfied Von Bodensee of Die Ritterlich Fechtschule, Agoura Faire, Southern California

For a period of three or more years, Conn campaigned all over the west coast; going to every faire he could “like Johnny Appleseed”. This constant interaction with new groups and new people helped to foster the growth of the West Coast Landsknecht phenomenon at faire events. This growth continued to spread outward. Don Smith and Blair Reese – both having had their start in Landsknecht reenactment under Conn’s tutelage in die Ritterlich Fechtschule\ Fahnlein - were sent to the Texas Ren Faire where they were contact by management of the Renaissance Entertainment Corporation (REC) which was running the event. They in turn put these promoters in contact with Conn, who was asked to go to the Bristol Faire in 92 or 93 in order to start a German group at that event. (Group name?) Paula and Larry Perterka - also Ritterlich alumni - ventured to Maryland the East coast to begin das TeufelsAlpdrücken Fähnlein.

Conn’s time with Carl and Elizabeth Ontis in the early years gave him access to some of the best equipment and training to be had (even today); Firearms by Dale Shin, Fight manuals by Nicholas Worthington, costuming by Elizabeth Ontis, Adrian Butterfield and Victoria Ridenour. This early immersion in a high-quality environment drove him to seek the very best in his own groups, and to inspire the best from others .

Conn drumming with das Schwarz Faehnlein at Blackpoint Faire, Navato, Northern California

Conn in formation with das Schwarz Faehnlein at Blackpoint Faire, Navato, Northern California

hsifeng: (Work)

Over the years, I have heard a number of creation stories for the originals of that mysterious creature, the US Landsknecht. As I started reenacting 16th C German in the Ren Faire scene, and in California, I have the specific idea that this group of young scallywags are to blame for all things “Germanified”, at least on the West Coast.



This photo was taken at  RPFN (Old Northern CA Ren Faire, in Novato) in 1979. Apparently before there were "German Guilds". It features Dave Godwin, Salvatore Bruno, Carl Ontis, and Gordon Frye.


So my question is this, to those abroad or in other parts of the USA; to those in the SCA or other reenactment communities: Are they the first?


I am seeking the roots of our little sub-culture. I am constantly amazed at both the things that the original founders got *so* right, and the things they helped instate as “fact” that have later been proven to be “fiction”.


Tell me what you know.


hsifeng: (Default)

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