In Lenape Camp buildings and Prairietown homes,
there’s no insulation in the attics and walls like we have in our modern homes, and all the heat is provided by burning wood, either in fireplaces or cast iron stoves. The further you get from the fire, the colder you are. While we know that people in the past had to accept being cold in winter and hot in summer, there are some differences between their lives and Conner Prairie. We have a lot more people moving in and out of our buildings than would be normal then; their fireplaces didn’t have to heat nearly as much cold air as ours do.
In the past, people wore more wool during cold weather. Because the grounds are closed from November through March, most of our staff don’t have wool dresses, trousers and waistcoats. How do they stay warm? They use a combination of thermal underwear and historic outer garments to be able to share the 19th-century life with our guests.
Historic Clothing provides garments to keep staff and youth volunteers as warm as possible. For men and boys, we have knit hats, scarves, overshirts, waistcoats and coats, all in nice, warm wool. Many men wore two waistcoats for warmth in the 19th-century. For women and girls, there are shoulder capes called tippets, knitted zephyrines to tie over the ears, and a few stuffed bonnets that look like the hood of a down parka, as well as shawls and cloaks, all made of wool. Women often added wool petticoats under their dresses. All our costumed staff can borrow muffatees, fingerless gloves like cuffs with holes for the thumbs, which keep their fingers free for work. Adding wool stockings helps keep the feet warm, but don’t ruin your shoes by holding your feet up to the fire.
Doesn’t a visit to Conner Prairie make you thankful for modern heating systems?