Post Recreation - Tools of the Trade

Recreation Props Collage Journal and PencilPlaying CheckersAnimal Skins

Tools or props available for use in this station include the following:

  • Animal Skins - to represent the various animals that the soldiers hunted for near the fort. See section on hunting.
  • Books and writing utensils - for those soldiers who were literate, reading books and writing letters, diaries, etc. was an enjoyable pastime. See section on literary talents.
  • Checkers and Dominoes - games that the enlisted men played during their spare time.
  • Fishing Pole and Equipment - at Fort Scott, fishing went hand in hand with hunting in its popularity as a pastime.
  • Musical Instruments - the instruments with a star by their names are available for use at Fort Scott, the others are those that were popular at the time but which we do not have at the site.
  • Accordion - the accordion was still a recent invention in the pioneer times. A button accordion, though small, loud, and simple to play, would produce only certain notes on the squeeze and certain other notes on the draw.
  • Banjo -the banjo, as played by modern bluegrass musicians, sounds far different from the old-time clawhammer banjo style. Played with the backside of the right-hand fingers and with no metal finger picks, old-time banjo has a mellower, more intimate sound and plays a more basic rhythmic role in the music.
  • Bones - one of the oldest instruments known to man, the bones can be played with either one hand (English Style) or with a pair in both hands (American Style). For proper bones playing, you need to have them dance in your hands to the rhythm of the music. Be sure to hold the top bone, the one between your first and middle finger rigid. The clacking is all done by the movement of the bottom bone, the one between your middle and ring finger. To get the bones to dance and keep rhythm, quickly rotate your forearm and snap your wrist in time with the music. You can get different sounds by where you hold the bones. Double clacking can be accented by holding the top bone more rigid. Bones were either two pieces of wood or actual bones, rib bones or shin bones. Their use became popular during the minstrel shows of the 1840s.
Musical Instruments DrumFifeBugle
  • Bugle - military buglers have been communicating with troops and their families for centuries. Bugle calls told troops when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to eat, when to attack, and when to retreat. There were stable calls, water calls, drill calls, sick calls, and Sunday church calls. In America, bugles were first used for signaling by the British army during the Revolutionary War. The sound of the bugle made it possible to convey commands over a great distance. The sound could usually be heard above the roar of battle.*
  • Drum - the drum was used to keep rhythm during marching and battle.*
  • Fife - the fife has been used throughout history by the military personnel and folk musicians as well. Preserved graphics from the sixteenth century show the fife and drum as accompaniment instruments for dances and social gatherings. Throughout all of military history, the fife has been documented in records of the French, British, and American troops. Along with the drum, the fife provided musical signals and commands for every occasion of the soldier's life.*
  • Dulcimer - the hammered dulcimer, a flat box whose wire strings are struck with light, handheld hammers, came to Kansas by way of the British Isles and Germany, where it was called a "hackbrett." Known in various forms throughout most of the world, the hammered dulcimer originated centuries ago in the Middle East. It has only recently begun to achieve its deserved popularity in the United States, livening up dance tunes such as "Soldier's Joy," and "The Irish Washerwoman."
  • Fiddle - the fiddle was the pioneers' instrument of favor, because it was portable, fairly loud, and easy to maintain. It also conveyed the gaiety of the traditional dance, and a fiddler could single-handedly accompany a whole barnful of dancers. Settlers such as Charles Ingalls of the "Little House on the Prairie," books brought fiddles west on covered wagons, but cheap guitars soon became widely available through mail-order catalogs. They were easy to play and made a good accompaniment to singing. The Harlan Orchestra which first performed "Home on the Range," in Smith County, was composed of two guitars and a fiddle. The cowboys, however, didn't carry guitars as often as the movies might suggest. Probably more common on the range were fiddles and button accordions. The latter could take quite a beating and, like a harmonica, didn't have to be tuned.
  • Harmonica - the harmonica as we know it today was invented in 1821 by a 16-year old German clockmaker. The instrument was spread by American peddlers, soldiers, and immigrants. In the mid-1800s, cowboys played their harmonicas to calm restless herds, soothe their horses, and to keep themselves company on the long trails. By the Civil War, a great many soldiers-North and South-had a harmonica in their pocket.
  • Jaw Harp - Also known as the mouth harp or the jews harp. The jaw harp, a folk instrument of uncertain age and origin, was already well known during the European Middle Ages. The note it produces depends entirely upon the dimensions of the vibrating tongue, although the timbre of the note may be affected by the characteristics of the frame. The player can produce interesting effects with the note by regulating the breath.
Musical Instrumsnts-Harmonica-Jawharp JawharpHarmonica
Lady riding sidesaddle on horseback
Next Page

Last updated: July 30, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 918
Fort Scott, KS 66701


(620) 223-0310

Contact Us