Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robert Lecce, August 6, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introducing Robert Lecce, who portrays an 18th century New England pedagogue

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Partial Transcript: This is an unrehearsed oral history interview for the Living History Oral History Project for the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.

Segment Synopsis: Robert Lecce says he is portraying Henry Denison, an 18th century pedagogue from Stonington, Connecticut. He says his living history occupation is a traveling tutor who instructs children in reading and arithmetic in return for lodging and food. He says the occupation might have also included work as a master of a common school, which would have provided education to an age range from 6 to 13. He says Henry Denison was a real person. He says his first interest in Denison began when he was a reenactor in the 6th Connecticut Regiment which was an authentic unit from Middletown, Connecticut during the Revolution. He says he portrays Denison in first person, which he thinks is easier to present. He says much of his research originates from the Henry Denison Homestead Museum and that he is friends with the curator. He talks about the Denison family and Denison's experience as a pastor and teacher. He talks about Denison's refusal to pay a tax or automatic tithe on avoiding church attendance.

Keywords: 6th Connecticut Regiment; Authenticity; Clergy; Common schools; Denison Homestead Museum; First person voice; Harvard University; Henry Denison; Pedagogues; Personas; Research; Schoolmasters; Tutors; Yale University

Subjects: Old Sturbridge Village.; Reenactment history; Sturbridge (Mass. : Town); Sturbridge (Mass.); Tutors and tutoring--United States.; Tutors and tutoring.

00:05:23 - Research sources and personal background

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Partial Transcript: Now before we started recording you sa--you were talking about, uh, uh, some secondary sources.

Segment Synopsis: Lecce talks about a secondary source in his research which was entitled "A Day in the Life of a Colonial Teacher." He says that he was surprised that it was a children's book but that substantively the information was useful to his living history presentation. He says that for a living he works as a director of therapeutic recreation in a nursing home, and he discusses his work. He says he portrays other first person historical personas, including Samuel Huntington. He adds that he is interested in Benedict Arnold and suggests he was misunderstood. He says his interest in living history began during a visit to Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut, which featured a living history interpreter portraying Abraham Lincoln and making appearances at all the train stops Lincoln made while on his way to his inauguration. He says after researching the 5th Connecticut, he settled on the Revolution period rather than Civil War. He says he has also performed some War of 1812 period. He says he does much of his research on the internet, focusing on uniforms and biographical information for the first person persona.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; Battle of Stonington; Benedict Arnold; Day in the Life of the Colonial Teacher; First person voice; Fort Trumbull; Personas; Research; Samuel Huntington; Sources; War of 1812

Subjects: Old Sturbridge Village.; Reenactment history; Sturbridge (Mass. : Town); Sturbridge (Mass.)

00:11:25 - Living history organizations / Authenticity and material culture

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Partial Transcript: Eh, now you're part of this particular, uh, unit. Um, he told me what that was. Uh, which, which unit is this?

Segment Synopsis: Lecce says he is currently with Ye Olde Lebanon Towne Militia from Lebanon, Connecticut. He says he has been with Ye Olde Militia for about three years and reenacting for ten. He talks about the organization of living history units. He says he belongs to the militia unit which in turn belongs to a larger organization called the Continental Line. He says his unit mixes military and civilian occupations and their focus is on education. He says he is also a member of a British regiment which focuses more on drill. He says the Continental Line and the British organization are similar in organizational structure. He talks about historical militia training days which were held near a tavern where food and drink were served liberally. He says the British umbrella organization is called the BAR but is uncertain what it stands for (Note: BAR stands for Brigade of the American Revolution). He says living history organizational membership involves a hierarchy which has requirements for appearances and engagement. He talks about his artifacts, which he says are all reproductions with the exception of his writing desk which is old but not period. He says all of his artifacts are as accurate as he can manage, even down to his glasses. He says he finds it comical when he sees living history reenactors using cell phones or wearing modern shoes. He agrees that living history is an educational experience that is shared between the reenactor and the audience.

Keywords: Artifacts; Brigade of the American Revolution; Continental Line; Drill; Education; Lebanon (Conn.); Living history organizations; Militia; Personas; Reproductions; Taverns; Ye Olde Lebenon Towne Militia

Subjects: Living History Association; Living History Farms (Museum); Old Sturbridge Village.; Reenactment history; Sturbridge (Mass. : Town); Sturbridge (Mass.)

00:16:55 - Changes in the living history movement

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Partial Transcript: You--now you said, uh, as I recall, you've been involved since, uh, was it 2006? Um, what kind of changes have you seen in living history events since you first got started?

Segment Synopsis: Lecce says that he has seen stricter rules during his ten years of participation in living history. He gives the example that it would be historically accurate for him to be smoking a pipe, even in front of students and children. He says however, that Sturbridge does not allow smoking, and he confesses that a security guard caught him smoking his pipe the previous evening. He describes his involvement in living history as a hobby which he loves. He says he constantly looks for new artifacts to use in his presentations, which sometimes requires additional research. He says he did not know how to use an abacus until he purchased one and then researched how to use it. He says his abacus is Russian, intended to count rubles. He gives a brief demonstration of how to use his abacus and he discusses the different types of abaci.

Keywords: Hobby; Kopeks; Pipes; Research; Rubles

Subjects: Abacus.; Living History Farms (Museum); Old Sturbridge Village.; Sturbridge (Mass. : Town); Sturbridge (Mass.)

00:20:35 - Feeling transported in time by living history events

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Partial Transcript: Uh, oral history is all about memory, recording people's memories of some relevant event, or some relevant thing.

Segment Synopsis: Lecce says his favorite memory as a living history participant was reenacting as an American militia soldier at Old Sturbridge Village. He says as his unit was marching he saw in the distance a British unit moving to intercept them and it gave him a chilling feeling as if he were transported in time. He says he always tries to engage the public in character and give them the same feeling of a transport in time. He talks about his first person speaking techniques using tone and pace and accent to achieve an accurate impression. He talks about the process of changing accents in England and United States.

Keywords: 6th Connecticut Militia; Accents; First person voice; Period rush; Personas

Subjects: Living History Farms (Museum); Old Sturbridge Village.; Sturbridge (Mass. : Town); Sturbridge (Mass.)