My intent in constructing this page is to explore another dimension in what I think are the most plausible explanations for men to be recruited into a "fraternity/guild" of amateur woodworkers. Fraternity/guild is set off in quotes ("...") because, among English words, the connotation of each comes close to encompassing what I believe -- for the individual -- amateur woodworking embraces: amateur woodworking is primarily something that we do alone, but then, it is also social, because while we work in a context of "one", i.e., "alone", we love also to engage in a discussion community, especially to "compare notes", to find new techniques, to try out new tools, to contemplate designs for new projects.
The paragraph above was written before my discovery of two significant movements in amateur woodworking history, but reinforces the notion of a "guild".
From here to the end of this page, my intent is to show how either a wannabe amateur woodworker or an experienced amateur woodworker would investigate matters associated with woodworking, beginning in 1900, AND outside the woodworking fraternity.
Finding out certain things about the history of the amateur woodworking movement is relatively easy; e.g., using the Worldcat database as a means of discovering the numbers of woodworking manuals published year to year, or using the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents and/or the Old Woodworking Machines websites to locate dates and details about the patenting of woodworking machinery.
What is exceedingly difficult about writing a history of the amateur woodworking movement, though, is locating the sources of hard statistics on the numbers of Americans who -- at a given moment -- engaged in woodworking as a hobby.
For example, in the Proquest database, one of today's most popular fulltext database of periodicals, coverage -- for the most part -- only stretches back to the late 1980s. (In these few paragraphs, fulltext is the operative word, because with a fulltext database, you can conduct "freewod searching," which means, literally, that the entire text is serachable.)
It is at this date, the late 1980s, when the practice of digitizing entire issues of periodicals became common practice. For retrospective digitization of the issues of a specific periodical before that period, a special effort -- involving considerable effort and expense -- is needed.
In the Proquest database, one or two titles -- example, the Nation's Business, have been retospectively digitized over most of their publication history. Full text coverage of Nation's Business begins Sep 2, 1912 (Volume 1, Issue 1) - Dec 1985 (Volume 73, Issue 12).
My search of the text of the Nation's Business paid off (a little):
Since WW II there has ... been a boom in woodworking ... Since 1950 consumers have been spending more than $10,000,000,000 a year for strictly recreational goods and services -- five times the amount spent during the Depression and nearly twice as much as spent in 1945.
The downside, though, is that the article does not cite the source of these statistics, nor -- and for me, this is more important -- the article does not tell us who the originated the data itself. That is, who collected these statistics, and what is the motive for collecting them?
Targeted toward patrons of public libraries, the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature -- it started publication in 1890 -- is a (selective) author-subject index to about 180 popular magazines -- Time, Newsweek, Womans' Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, and the like.
As an example of how rich (occasionally) these general-purpose magazines can be, check out this famous 1954 Time essay, "The Shoulder Trade"
Only two titles, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics (scroll down) include some woodworking, if only a little.
(While both of these magazines have included woodworking topics for many decades, Shop Notes, a spinoff publication for Popular Mechanics was published annually -- although records for the volumes of some years are not conclusive -- beginning in 1905, until "about" 1959 -- the record is not clear. In other words, there are at least 50 volumes in the set, which makes Shop Notes a remarkable source of woodworking history. For evidence check out this page on the jointer/planer -- to see the jpg, scroll down a short distance.)
(Note: the example below is from the digitized database of the RG.)
In 1947, using the only format available then -- paper, the amateur woodworker was able to see this reference in several different ways. In a public library, the Reader's Guide would be displayed prominently, and the reference librarians would encourage library users expressing an interest in table saw to use the RG or the Index to Handicrafts
Both the Index to Handicrafts and Make-It indexes are library reference tools useful for writing a history of woodworking. With these tools, we are fortunate to have sources that expose the contents of many articles and books on woodworking topics for almost the entire 20th century:
The Index to Handicrafts begun its existence in the 1920s and 1930s as an in-house file of hand-written 3 x 5 inch library cards in the Minnesota Public Library.
The Index to Handicrafts, 1936-1973, indexes articles in magazines, entire books, and chapters in books. Make-It, 1974-1987, indexes book chapters only. (Beginning with the surge in "do-it-yourself" activities after WW II, the explosion in the quantity of articles to be indexed became too large for indexers to contend with, and so articles in magzinese were dropped, but books and chapters in books were continued.) The image on left, below, shows a page from the original 1936 edition, with references on "furniture" from magazines and books of that era.
Archival records of why this occurred, and the impact of the program are evidently not available, at least without actually visiting the archives department of Minneapolis Public Library. By a stroke of good fortune, though, an article published in the initial volume of the journal, Vocational Education Magazine, with the inviting title, "The Library of the Day Industrial and Trade School: How Should It Cooperate With the Public Library?" came to my attention.
The article reprints an address given January 6, 1922 by O. B. Badger, of the Department of Industrial Education, Wichita, Kansas, for the 15th Annual Convention of the National Society for Vocational Education, Kansas City, Mo.
Badger outlines two methods that public libraries employ to assist students in woodworking courses at day industrial and trade schools.
(The assumption, evidently, in 1922, is that trade schools themselves lacked sufficient budgets to support libraries.)
The first method, I think foretells the emergence of the Index to Handicrafts as a tool.
Badger lays out the agreement used by the Minneapolis Public Library to bring library facilities and services to students enrolled at the William Hood Dunwoody Institute.
(Today, the latter school is simply Dunwoody Institute.
"Soon after Dunwoody was organized," Badger notes, "the Minneapolis librarian offered to put one of her trained assistants in charge of the organization and cataloging of Dunwoody Library."
As Badger claims in his address, an agreement was reached for cooperation system -- unusual for the era -- whereby Dunwoody Library became a branch of the public library. The system included interlibrary loans, and -- interestingly -- the Dunwoody librarian was employed jointly by Dunwoody Institute and the Library Board.
(On the subsequent appearance of the initial stages in the 1920s of the Index to Handicrafts, a lack of archival records forces me to speculate here, but I believe that I am on secure ground.)
In his address, he notes how the two institutions agree to cooperate, including outlining details about the operation of the extension program by the Minneapolis Public Library to the Dunwoody Institute.
Continuing their general practice for serving the population of Minneapolis, MPL buys books of general nature, such as essays, biography, economics, history, and fiction. All technical books are purchased by Dunwoody, however, and they remain the property of Dunwoody. He also notes, importantly, that the catalog department of the Minneapolis Public Library classifies and records both books purchased by Dunwoody, and those furnished by the city board.
A regular back-and-forth delivery of books is maintained between Dunwoody and the public library.
Early in the 1920s, the Dunwoody Institute served from two to three thousand students, with the demand for books, periodicals and other materials almost entirely limited to trades taught at Dunwoody. Dunwoody students, Badger stresses,
"... were encouraged by the instructors to read, and the librarian showed them how to use books and periodicals, just as in the shop they are taught by the teacher to use tools.... "
When a great deal of material was called for on, say, one subject, because of a particular course, is the librarian at Dunwoody called upon MPL to help her supply that material. In the end, Badger emphases, a group of men and boys was reached at Dunwoody which could not be reached in any other way.
As Miss Marabeth Hobbs, Librarian at Dunwoody, said,
It is worthwhile for a mechanic, a tradesman, to learn the value of books. So every effort is made to supply the exact information as quickly as possible. The day of the library, just for the academician, is past. The man who works with his hands has need of books and is just as grateful, when they are supplied, as the man who uses only his head.
And while Badger doesn't actually mention the on-the-side production of the early version of the Index to Handicrafts, my own forty years of experience in public and academic libraries argues that not only was it possible, it was probably inevitable. That is, the creation of shoe-box files of 3 X 5 library cards, containing hand-written references to projects and processes contained in books and periodicals is, at the time, the only practice available to classroom instructors and libraries that could expose students (or anyone interested in the same topic) to the internal contents of books and periodicals.
Significantly, I think, a 1926 book, by Paul V Woolley, is listed in the online catalog of Minneapolis Public Library.
"The Importance of Projects for the Education of Boys" for
explanations of the distinctions between "Projects and Processes".)
True, the paper version of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature has existed since 1890. But in the Dunwoody context, the RG would be of extremely limited to students, especially students in woodworking courses. Why? First, barely a handful of magazines covering such subjects as woodworking projects and processes were being published. For quantified data on the issuance of woodworker's manuals and periodicals, see the chart that shows, decade-by-decade, output for the 20th century-- scroll down to the bottom of the page.)
(The six volumes of the Index to Handicrafts also index articles in woodworking magazines, although, in the period the set covers, none of the major woodworking magazines -- as we know them today -- existed. Fine Woodworking, the first magazine dedicated entirely to woodworking, for example didn't begin publication until 1976.)
reference librarian, these matters are day-to-day "givens"; that is,
before digitization and the Internet, in libraries, we worked within
the scope of the tools available.
Trying to sort out and explain these matters, retrospectively, to lay people is a little dicey.
Home Craftsman magazine is indexed in Index to Handicrafts, but NOT in Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature; as shown in the jpg image below, Popular Mechanics is indexed -- "selectively" -- in the Reader's Guide.Articles in PM and PSM are indexed, but NOT ALL. What this indexing policy means is -- sadly -- references to the promotional material written by Arthur Wakeling -- but whose name is NOT attached -- and published in PSM for 1933 can only be "picked up" later by someone deliberately paging through issues for the year. Thus, in all likehehood only the woodworking cognoscenti of that era would be "tuned in", which tells us that for woodworkers, the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature; is -- for retrospective searching -- limited as a tool for locating woodworking materials.
Scattered among the citations of woodworker's
manuals published throughout the decades is the indication that a
specific manual is indexed in the Index to
From the vantage point of technology available to woodworkers today -- fulltext searching for 1000s of woodworker's manuals on the Internet, compact-disks of indexes of woodworking magazines, increasing numbers of woodworking magazines uploading to the Internet the databases of their magazines -- the paper-copy Index to Handicrafts, confined to the shelves of public libraries, is reduced to be nothing more than an outdated a tool of a bygone era.
Thus, only when the contents of the eight volumes -- the Index to Handicrafts comprises a base-volume and five "supplements" and the two Make-It volumes for accessing the contents of the hundreds of books and magazines-- are digitized and their contents uploaded on the Internet, these volumes need to be consulted in their paper-formats.
The "PREFACE" of the 1936 base volume of the Index states,
It is the hope of the compilers that this Index may be a ready aid to the librarian in answering the innumerable "how to make it" questions incident to the rapid growth of hobby interests, workshop guilds and summer camps, as well as the more orthodox requests from manual training and occupational therapy groups.
Since the base volume covers the contents of books and magazines retrospectively (and selectively) back to the turn of the 20th century, and the Make-It volumes cover books up to the mid-1980s, these indexes offer a unique window on the activities of amateur woodworkers for almost a century.
To illustrate the impact of the Index to Handicrafts, let me use the 1946 woodworker's manual, How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools., Popular Science Publishing, is the source of the term, Skill Hunger; see my comments on this term by clicking on this hyperlink.
In comparison, how does this How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools, manual stand up in promoting use of power tools over competitive manuals?
I checked this matter by doing a survey of woodworking manuals published between 1941 and 1950 in the Worldcat bibliographic database.
(Worldcat, the world's largest bibliographic database of books, periodicals, publications of governments, etc, etc., currently contains records for over 50 million items.)
For How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools, Worldcat registers only 17 copies in libraries worldwide -- telling us that libraries did not perceive this title as a "keeper", meaning that we can't use library holdings as an indicator of the impact of this manual on the amateur woodworking movement in the '40s.
(Since How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power toolsis over 50 years old, and has been "replaced" by numerous other more up-to-date manuals, most public libraries could have "discarded" their copies for more recently published books.
By discard, do not think the trash can; instead, it is more likely that the book was offered for sale at one of the book sales public libraries conduct annually. As a rule, public libraries -- unlike college libraries -- do not consider themselves "last copy" repositories. However, while this assumption may be soundly based, it is still only speculation.)
Worldcat registers that, in 1946, 35 books -- that catalogers working in libraries classified as woodworking manuals -- were published, and for the decade, i.e., from 1941-1950, 206 woodworking manuals were published . So, with these figures, we can conclude that the How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools, as a woodworking manual, had much competition, especially in a nation occupied by a war.
How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power toolswas, however, indexed in the Index to Handicrafts, Modelmaking and Workshop Projects, 2d supplement 1950. This 1950 book is one volume in a series of reference books published between 1943 and 1975, and purchased widely by public libraries, because this source actually indexes the internal contents of manuals – chapter-by-chapter – to show craftsmen consulting with a librarian where certain "how-to" plans are accessible: for example, the following entry shows that you can find:
"Mortising and shaping on the drill press". In How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools pp. 91–5.
How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools is still in the Index to Handicrafts, Modelmaking and Workshop Projects volume, while the manual itself – probably because it is considered outdated --has been removed from the shelves of many public libraries.
Below, from a 1975 San Mateo, California newspaper, which -- for me, at least, has a poignancy that makes it worth reprinting. Regularly, Alan Hall, a librarian at San Mateo Public Library, writes a column on library matters. To celebrate National Hobby Month, Hall focused on a "library key" to hobbies, the Index to Handicrafts. And, cleverly, I think, he first explains the etymology of "hobby" as a term, tracing it back to the eighteenth century novel, Tristam Shandy , by Laurence Sterne .