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)
 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: (Book Fortress)

“Mobility: Voluntary or Enforced? Vagrants in Württemberg in the Sixteenth Century” by Robert W. Scribner. from Migration in der Feudalgesllschaft, Gerhard Jaritz, Alber Müller (H.G). Page 65, published 1988, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/New York. ISBN: 3-593-33883-1

Page 69:

“Of all the identifiable types of vagrants, wandering soldiers seeking employment as mercenaries, the ‘Landsknecht’ or ‘Gartknecht’, made up by far the largest single group. Throughout the sixteenth century, they were held to be one of the greatest threats to law and order, even where they travelled singly, usually with their ‘Kebs’, or concubine. Like Veit Brunner, they often carried firearms and could be obstreperous, even without provocation. Most frequently they travelled in groups, such as the band of 15 persons who halted at an inn in Denkendorf in the district of Stuttgart in 1531: seven men and eight women, four of them married couples, and from places as scattered as Munich, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Pforzheim and four other places which are no longer traceable, possibly villages outside Württemberg. This group claimed that they were travelling to seek service under the Emperor, but they fell into a brawl with some carriers in the inn. Local farmers tried to intervene to keep the peace, and became involved in the fighting. One of the farmers was felled, another was wounded; and one of the ‘Landsknecht’ threatened to harm the village in revenge. This was common behavior as it appears in the criminal records – they quarreled, brawled, disputed the bill, threatened farmers and innkeepers, and were not averse to a bit of extortion, even forming into robber bands engaged in ‘Plackerei’ or highway robbery.”

OK. So ‘Kebs’ is a new term for me. As someone who attempts to avoid the term Kampfrau, I am always collecting other phrases to describe the women of the baggage train. The news that Landsknecht “often” carried firearms is sort of off-putting. I have always been under the impression that guns were still pretty pricey in the early period (where the Veit Brunner example comes from), so were these men just walking away with the contents of the local armory after a campaign? It seems unlikely. Maybe the guns were plunder? Hum…

It is also interesting to note that the group of 15 people mentioned in this passage came from such a diverse number of places. I have been under the impression that most ‘groups’ of Landsknecht would have been from a similar geographical location; both for social reasons, and because I had heard that travelling singly was dangerous enough that even soldiers didn’t do it willingly. Add to that the idea that most peasants didn’t like soldiers and it seems like you are looking for death long the roadside if you take off on your own to find a Fahnlein to join. Would it be possible that this group were picked up along a muster route?

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Landsknecht… No, really – there’s a song for that

Further along…

“From the end of the fifteenth century Swabia became the most common recruiting ground for mercenaries, and from that time on there were repeated attempts to regulate the trade.”

And further still…

“The usual period of absence on military service seems to have been no more than a year, for those charged were usually apprehended after returning home at the end of the campaigning season.”

And then…

“The most common employer was the King of France, followed by the Emperor. Occasionally employment was taken under German princes recruiting for local campaigns, such as the Landgrave of Hesse or Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg. Thus Italy, the Low Countries and Central Germany were the main theatres of activity.”

The article goes on to state that most of the folks arrested for this offence were not thereafter arrested again for the same issue. Perhaps evidence that not many people partook of multiple campaigns?

hsifeng: (www.crackafuckingbook.com)

This happy story brought to you via [livejournal.com profile] brickhousewench, who got it from Alena, who begat Abraham, who begat Issac…wait…sorry – wrong Big Book of Fun Knowledge.


Anyway, thank you [livejournal.com profile] brickhousewench!

“Mobility: Voluntary or Enforced? Vagrants in Württemberg in the Sixteenth Century” by Robert W. Scribner. from Migration in der Feudalgesllschaft, Gerhard Jaritz, Alber Müller (H.G). Page 65, published 1988, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/New York. ISBN: 3-593-33883-1

Page 67:

“The major themes of the paper can be summed up in the case of Veit Brunner of Vaihingen, a ‘Landsknecht’ arrested in January 1549 in a village just outside of Pfullingen, in the administrative district of Urach. Brunner had emptied his musket through the window of a house as he marched into the village with his female companion, Katherina Steb. He claimed that he had been drinking on the road, and was ‘full of wine’. For safety’s sake, he had wanted to discharge his musket before entering Pfullingen: 1 he just had not seen the house in the way 2. The district officials were dissatisfied with this explanation, and reported to Stuttgard, from where the Duke ordered that he be interrogated, by bringing him into the presence of the executioner 3 and if necessary by the use of torture.

“Nothing suspicious was discovered in the interrogation, and the district governor of Urach reported only that Brunner had been imprisoned two years previously in Esslingen, and since then had not been in his home town of Vaihingen for more than 2-3 days. However, he had remained there long enough to run up 100 Gulden worth of debts and to get a girl pregnant, who was even now supporting his child. In addition, Brunner was reputed to be slightly crazy 4. The previous August his own brothers Steffan and Friedrich had applied to the Württemberg chancellery to have a warrant (‘Steckbrief’) issued for his arrest. They claimed that he had been wounded in the head with a knife some years previously, had lost his reason, and had had to be locked up for his own protection. However, he had escaped and had been wandering the roads, and was given to all kinds of irrational behavior – abuse, threats and every kind of mischief. When he returned briefly to Vaihingen he had threatened to burn down all the surrounding villages. It was feared that he would harm someone, and all Württemberg officials were ordered to keep a lookout for him.

“Viet Brunner may have been crazy, but he had won himself a travelling companion 5, Katherina Steb from Überlingen. Katherina had been working in the hospital in Überlingen, where she had taken up with a fellow worker, Hans Beck from Ebersbach, only eleven months before. The couple had married just before Lent 1548, but only two weeks after Easter Beck deserted his new wife 6. Too ashamed to remain in her home town, she had moved to Marbach on the Swabian Alp, where she took service with a miller. There she met Veit Brunner, who arrived with a companion. Veit was struck with her, and declared that she was the woman for him. He forced her to go away with him, which Katherina claimed she had done ‘out of fear and lack of understanding’. They went to Bernback, where she again took service briefly, and then to Mittenstedt, where she found another position as a servant, and wanted to part company with Veit. But he stood in the street outside the house, and so cried out that she must come out and go with him that she gave in, again, as she claimed, ‘out of fear’7. From there they came to Pfullingen. Her account was confirmed by Veit’s testimony, except that he did not know that she was married, and had promised to marry her himself. Indeed, in his first interrogation he had openly admitted that she was not his wife, but had professed his intention to ‘lead her to church and street’ as soon as he was released.”


The article goes on to discuss Landsknechts and Gartknecht (Landsies on leave or between wars?) as a type of common vagrant. I can’t wait to read the rest of this article!

Footnotes presented here are mine, and are just my thoughts on the piece thus far:

1 So, he was marching with a loaded musket? And he was a vagrant? Really? Wow… How the hell did he afford the gun, the powder. The Fucking WINE?!? Oh, I guess if you have a loaded gun it makes it easier to barter with the local villagers. OK. I am satisfied.
2 That happens to me all the time.
3 For some truly fun information on executioners, skinners, butchers, soldiers and other “unclean” castes, try “Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany” by Kathy Stuart.
4 So far he sounds like every Landsknect I know. Except my husband. Of course. /side eyes the exits
5 Where ‘won’ is a cute euphemism for kidnapped and ran away with. *eye roll*
6 Katherina clearly has excellent taste in men.
7 Fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice...

PS: If someone has a translated version of Martin Luther’s (yes, THAT Martin Luther) “Von der falschen Bettlern Buberei”, originally published in 1527 and then republished in five further additions – I will be your best friend

hsifeng: (Blackpowder Love)

I have a search filter set up on Yahoo that occasionally throws me an interesting research bone. Today’s was a pre-set image search of the British Museums print collection (search: “Block cut by Jost de Negker”). I ended up seeing a few images that I have missed in prior woodcut searches/collections; including these two.


Cut for those who don’t care and don’t want to waste their bandwidth. )


Both of these images were carved between 1525-1530, with the actual publication of these prints falling around 1580-1585; according to museum records. I love the ‘tassel’ detail down the right leg of the Spiesstrauger, and I am always pleased to find more ‘handgunners’! 


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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