Chapter 1: 1900 and Before 1:1 Background Information, useful for understanding developments in woodworking

under construction 2-10-09 Back to Chapter 1

Woodworking Epochs

Two tables by Charles Harold Hayward, the renowned English author of woodworking manuals, are spot on in capturing how eras of furniture styles historically reflect of the state of the art of woodwdorking technology. furniture_making_from_hand_to_machine One of the world's oldest artforms, woodworking has prevailed since everyman -- everyman is a term frequently used to designate the ordinary or typical human being -- first attempted to improve his lot on earth by producing objects designed to increase comfort and efficiency in a world sometimes inhospitable, sometimes fearsome, and sometimes dangerous. This everyman improved his everyday lot primarily by fashioning tools and other objects designed to create a means of making life on earth easier to contend with. On the upper left is a chart that sets out woodworking epochs from 1500 to 1900.


In a nutshell, historically between 1500 and 1900, men who construct furniture in the English-speaking world morph from "carpenters" to "cabinet-makers" to machine operators, topics covered in Chapters 1:4 and 1:5 respectively. (Click here for a discussion of the distinction bstween carpenters and cabinet-makers.) Notice that Hayward adds the concept "Designer" to his equation, an idea that didn't occur to me as a logical entity until I thought about it contextually. Classic components of furniture design, especially the cabriole leg of Daniel Marot (1700) on chairs and tables, the Windsor Chair's majestic hooped back with elegant spindles and scooped anatomical seats (1740) bespeak of a departure from the purely pragmatic traditions of design that prevailed in ages before the Age of Enlightenment.

How the Term "Conspicuous Consumption" Captures Economic Divide in American Society at Turn Into 20th  Century

(This section is still percolating in my mind. It is motivated by the knowledge that -- up until about the 1930s -- woodworking as a hobby had to be a choice for the leisure class, because of such limiting ingredients as the long workweek, rarity at the time of home-ownership (at least in urban areas), and sufficient disposable incomes to buy tools.)

From Consumption to Commodification

Consumption -- as a driver of satisfying needs is -- first, an economic act, but, second, can also be part of the process individuals follow to both differentiate and define themselves ", or, put another way, the means whereby consumption creates for individuals "an expressive social demeanor".

Consumption -- the act of consuming -- is an activty initiated by users, out of needs, but other motives as well. "Particular consumption practices are themselves based on custom, and therefore on stability, but also on novelty and mobility".

As the 19th century blended into the 20th, a major development in consumer behavior was the change from being "users of things" to "consumers of commodities". In other words, the emphasis in the process of goods exchange shifted from buying for use to packaging for selling: as though the buyer's active role is substituted for the seller's active role.

Whereas consumption was originally seen as the object of production in early Ford Model T considerations of the relationship between the two, in more recent years a range of other factors (such as marketing and identity) have been suggested as being more influential, and point to consumption as being as much (if not more) a cultural phenomenon as an economic one.

Consumer society becomes more culturally based,

social life becomes less structured and regulated, the use value of goods is subsumed in a series of signs, distinctions become blurred.

For consumers, an understanding and knowledge of goods, their meaning and "value" becomes an increasingly important part of post-modern culture. Consumption then -- in contrast to Ford Model Tconsiderations -- has an increasing cultural importance.

The analyses of consumption includes such issues as sense of personal identity, lifestyles, and whether individuals feel a sense of liberation and/or alienation, ( M. Featherstone, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, 1991, is a recommended survey of theories associated with consumption.)

Commodities convey information, information about a personal sense of class and gender, of freedom and constraint, and of an individual's knowledge and choice of specific commodities. A person's background. education and sense of social position also inform individual consumption.

Commodities carry culturally defined meanings, recognized by other consumers, and therefore form part of a system that informs an person's social life.

(Among amateur woodworkers, consider this dichotomy as a distinction between consumption and commodification: in the late '20s, a 1/2 HP Delta bench-top circular saw vs in the late 1990s, a 3 HP Powermatic 66.)

For a long while society made a direct link between correct habits of consumption -- "is it proper?" -- and character formation. "What will the neighbors think!" often accompanied any sense that conumption of any inappropriate objects sent the wrong messages. As consumption shifted to commodification, the role of the retailer shifted to a mediator in this process.

Scholarly Concerns for Issues of Consumption and Consumerism

Many scholars have applied themselves to the issues of consumption and consumerism. At the end of the nineteenth century, Thorstein Veblen considered that consumption had cultural as well as economic aspects, although his simplistic argument around "conspicuous consumption", was limited, because it was based only on pecuniary emulation. ( See Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions1899.)

Consumption -- in almost any sense or level -- has been an enduring index of social status and differentiation. Tensions of class, whether it's between hedonism and/or self-restraint, are expressed in condemnatory remarks by elite observers on the consuming patterns of lower or newer social groups, or in reverse, by lower social groups viewing consuption by overclasses as "conspicuous consumption". [21 Lancaster, B. (1995), The Department Store: A Social History, p. 162. ]

The Marxist approach which equates consumerism as a tool to create profit and maintain social control is mirrored in the idea that retailers do not produce anything and are therefore of little real value. However, retailers could be said to be at the nexus of Marx's ideas of use - value (function) and exchange - value commodity or sign. By offering advice and the opportunity for selection, they can satisfy both the use values needs and exchange value wants.

Cultural Capital: Social Background and Education

For the Frankfurt school, consumers are created and manipulated, consumers are regarded as passive, and all consumption is predicated on capitalism. For them, consumption is control as opposed to authentic existence. Consumption is in fact very varied and differentiated, since every commodity has an identity value that may or may not be related to particular individuals and is influenced by choice decisions.

More productive is the emphasis that social anthropologists, most famously, Mary Douglas, give to the idea that goods are a part of a system of symbols through which meaning is created. The symbolic purpose of goods is therefore `to make visible and stable the categories of culture'.[See Mary Douglas, and B Isherwood, The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption,(1979), p. 62. ] If we take Bourdieu's idea of these categories as being based on `cultural capital' - that is, social background and education - it can be argued that these factors provide distinctions within society. These categories are defined as `habitus' where they are based on similar economic and cultural resources within a social group but with contextual nuances. [See Pierre Bourdieu, (1984), Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p. 77. ]1 His concept of `habitus' expresses social difference so as to differentiate social croups and their lifestyles that are constructed through goods.

Source: Clive Edwards, Turning Houses Into Home: A History of the Retailing and Consumption of Domestic Furnishings Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate Publishing , 2005 pages 8-9

Conspicuous consumption among the era's affluent is perhaps best chronicled in books, and -- most conspicuously, no pun intended  -- the title that stands out is Thorstein Veblen's classic, Theory Of The Leisure Class(1899).

Veblen's meaning includes such related terms as

    "conspicuous leisure" , "conspicuous waste", "pecuniary canons of taste", "predatory culture", and "pecuniary reputation".
While these terms are employed to point out a fact about behavior of specific subcultures within a society, more frequently these terms are employed to make a value judgment about leisure behavior. They constitute one set of terms in Veblen's conceptual dichotomy, the other set incorporates terms such as
"instinct of workmanship", "industrial economic institutions", "engineers", "machine technology", "useful work", and the like.
Veblen identifies two sorts of "dichotomies" or "instincts", each in opposition of the other: one set of dichotomies are positive supports of our life's processes. But the other, second, set provides "contaminants" of that process. In the first set of dichotomies are the (1) inclination toward workmanship, (2) parental instincts, and (3) idle curiosity and motivations to create. (Workmanship, for Veblen "occupies the interest with practical expedients, ways and means, devices and contrivances of efficiency and economy, proficiency, creative work and technological mastery of facts."

Source: Thorstein Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts, first published in 1914, reprinted 2004, page 20.


On the left, is a fragment from Fredereick Lewis Allen, The Big Change, 1900-1950: A Startingly and Lively Re-Creation of Five Decades 1952 To show the starkness of the gulf between teh rich -- about 1% of the population, and the poor -- the other 99 % -- I quote below that fragment, and the paragraph that follows:

Of all the contrasts between American life in 1900 and half a century or more later, perhaps the most significant is in the distance between rich and poor-in income, the way of living, and status in the community. At the turn of the century the gulf between wealth and poverty was immense. Robert Hunter's Poverty is a famous document chronicling poverty at the turn-of the-century.

On the other pole, extreme affluence, one illustration may help to point the contrast. I have already mentioned Andrew Carnegie's income. During the year 1900 Carnegie owned 583 per cent of the stock of his great steel company. That year it made a profit of 40 million dollars. Carnegie's personal gain that year, whether or not he took it in dividends, was therefore well over 23 million dollars-with no income taxes to pay. During the five years 1896-1900, his average annual income, computed on the same basis, was about 10 millions. And these figures include no other income which he may have had from any other property.Leading up to 1900, as diverse as American society was, it was very much stratified. Before 1900, the chief issues that distinguished  population groups from one another were time, space, money.

(Space, Time and Money figure prominently in the history of amateur woodworking, a theme that I explore in Appendix 27, an exploration of the impact of homeownership on amateur woodworking. Read it, because I think that you will be surpised.) There was a pronounced "economic divide" that separated the social classes in American society at the time. The affluent were a small proportion of the entire population, though, and neither the leisure time nor the luxury of engaging in amateur woodworking was available to the mass of the population.

Sources: Thorstein Veblen, Theory Of The Leisure Class New York: Macmillan,  1899; Fredereick Lewis Allen, The Big Change, 1900-1950: A Startingly and Lively Re-Creation of Five Decades 1952 (not online yet)

(Veblen's book created an immediate sensation, and even today remains a famous testament to the excesses of the rich at turn-of-the -century America. [link] While Allen's "Big Change" did not create a sensation, it is a lasting account of the rapid social, economic, political, and technological changes that swept through America in the first half of the twentieth century. Originally published in 1952, my copy The Big Change is the 1965 Bantam paperback. The image on the left is from page 24.)

In 1900, America's Population Still Predominantly Rural

In 1850, about 85 per cent of America's population lived in scattered rural areas, and only about 15 per cent urban. This rural-to-urban ratio began slowly to decline around the end of the century. By 1910, less than 1 in 4 of the total population lived on farms. (Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Agriculture, volume III, page 22. This table, very large, from Historical Statistics of the US shows rural -- urban breakdowns from 1870 to 1990.Several of America's cities of 1900 were populous, and usually multicultural. The immigration of the nineteenth century had accomplished that.

Social Mobility as Modernity

Social Stratification and Social Mobility are two concepts employed in the social sciences to indicate structural conditions that exist in groups of populations. Both concepts fall under the umbrella of another concept, Modernity.

Modernity is the quality or condition of being modern, or in effect, an attitude of modernness of character or style. Modernity has three levels of meaning: the current, the new, and the transient. In the concept of modernity, specifically, all three of these levels of meaning refer to the importance ascribed to the present. Modernity, then, imprints the Present with the qualities that make it different from the Past.We can also describe Modernity as a break with tradition, that is, an attitude that inclines toward rejecting the inheritance of the past.

Modernity a Western Concept

The following is adapted from Alfred Crosby's The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 75-76:

Culturally, Modernity, is exclusively a Western concept, one that had no equivalent in other civilizations, although, with Globalization, the concept is also spreading to non-Western cultures.

The reason Modernity is exclusive to the West derives from our unique view of Time. For the West, today, "time is linear, irreversible, and progressive". But it was not always so.

For the Medieval West, the Time of a person's life that was spent on earth was considered a period to prepare for the time of heavenly "eternity", and thus in that sense, life on earth was only of secondary importance. Put another way, for the Medieval West, earthly time was no more than a preparation for the time of eternity, a condition making that the concrete course of history, secondary in importance. For example, Time puzzled St. Augustine (354-443):

I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is,and try to explain, I am baffled.

Source: St. Augustine, Confessions, translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin, Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1961, 264.

Non-Western cultures and other civilizations base time on a static concept, that is, the timeless time of so-called primitive civilizations, for whom the past was the archetype of time, the model for the present and the future, or a cyclical one, such as that of classical antiquity by which the distant past represented an ideal that would return at some time in the future.

The "Insubstantiality" of Time

Measurements of physical entitites are usually of something distinctive in itself -- a mile of road, ten acres of pasture, a 10,000 foot high mountain. Time, say, a hundred hours, happy or sad, is a hundred hours of time! . Unlike a "mile", an "acre", a "height", time lacks physical reality, and is said to be "insubstantial" -- waiting for arrival of degrazia, of time work, and leisure]

The insubstantiality of Time has defied, many, especially philsohers who have pondered Time. Time, for example, defied the Medieval St. Augustine's understanding. As the historian Alfrrd Crosby notes,

Veblen's meaning includes such related terms as "conspicuous leisure,"conspicuous waste", "pecuniary canons of taste", "predatory culture", and "pecuniary reputation". While these terms are employed to point out a fact about behavior of specific subcultures within a society, more frequently these terms are employed to make a value judgment about leisure behavior. They constitute one set of terms in Veblen's conceptual dichotomy, the other set incorporates terms such as "instinct of workmanship", "industrial economic institutions", "engineers", "machine technology", "useful work", and the like. Veblen identifies two sorts of "dichotomies" or "instincts", each in opposition of the other: one set of dichotomies are positive supports of our life?s processes. But the other, second, set provides "contaminants" of that process. In the first set of dichotomies are the (1) inclination toward workmanship, (2) parental instincts, and (3) idle curiosity and motivations to create. 1. Workmanship, for Veblen "occupies the interest with practical expedients, ways and means, devices and contrivances of efficiency and economy, proficiency, creative work and technological mastery of facts?"

It is not odd that Medieval Western Europeans took in measuring time their first giant step forward in practical metrology. Nor is it odd that they did so in measuring hours, rather than in calendar reform. Hours were not bounded by natural event, but were arbitrary durations and susceptible to arbitrary definition. Days, in contrast, had such boundaries in darkness and light, and, furthermore, calendars were artifacts of millennia of civilization, stiff with encrustations of custom and sanctity.

To illustrate: when, in 1519, Jeronimo de Aguilar met Christians after years of being stranded among the Maya of Yucatan, his first question was as to the day of the week. When his rescuers said that it was, as he thought, Wednesday, confirming that he had been able to keep track of the days of the week, despite his isolation, he burst into tears. What so moved him was not that his calendar was correct according to the stars, but that he had been able to maintain his schedule of prayer while among the infidel.

Source: Francisco Lopez de Gomara (1510-1560?), Cortes: The Life of the Conqueror by His Secretary, translated by Lesley Byrd Simpson Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964, page 31.

This keeper of calendars, typical of his era and people, then, was less concerned about accuracy, and more concerned about tradition and the possibility of salvation.

Source: Alfred W Crosby, The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600 Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 75-76

In the West, the Replacement of the Cyclical Concept Time for the Progressive Concept of Time Begins During Renaissance

During the Renaissance (1350 -- 1680), slowly an idea took hold that history contained a course of development (that is, "time") that could be influenced in a certain direction. Thinkers in the Humanist tradition, for example, wanted to revive the ideal of classical antiquity and to approximate it ever more closely.

This endeavor, however, was not devoid of paradoxes. In the famous seventeenth-century Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes the question was raised whether the "Moderns" could not rival or even surpass the "Ancients" in their attempts to achieve the highest ideal of art.

The result of this discussion: the cyclical model of Time was replaced by a progressive model, one that viewed every age as unique and unrepeatable, that was an advance on the achievements of preceding periods.

The "smoking gun" evidence that shows modernity as a concept emerged around 1635:

Yea, but I vilifie the present times, you say, whiles I expect a more flourishing state to succeed; bee it so, yet this is not to vilifie modernitie, as you pretend.

Source: George Hakewill, An Apologie Or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in the ...  1635

Examples of Modernity

Examples of Modernity is the concept, Social Mobility, that is, the emergence in a society of the capacity for individuals to move upwardly from one social class to a higher class. For mobility to take place, certain cultural, social, and political institutions need to be in place: the creation of an education system, to eliminate illiteracy, a political system that allows upward movement, in short, the capability of individuals, families, and/or social groups to move toward greater political consciousness within society, leading them either to greater influence and participation. Social Mobility denotes movement by individuals, families, groups  within the system of social stratification. Some social mobility represents a change of status and role, particularly in the occupations, without a change in social class position. This sort of mobility is called horizontal mobility. When social mobility marks a change in social class position it is called vertical mobility, with the sub-classes of upward mobility and downward mobility.

Social Stratification  the ranking -- sometimes "prestige ranking" -- of individuals, families, groups, in a given population. Whether they are treated -- in certain socially important respects -- as "superior" or  and "inferior",  relative to one another. Stratification includes such variables as political power, wealth and property, education.

Social stratification can be distinguished by looking at characteristics like degree of openness or closedness of specific populations in cities, rural areas, political states, and/or criteria used for ranking (e.g. wealth, kinship, etc.)

Social mobility is fostered by individual achievement, especially from illiteracy to literacy, by a migration of individuals and groups  from rural to urban settings, from systems based on barter to ones based on market economies, from traditional to modern social organizations (this is where  Modernization  comes into play). New political demands result. Social mobility reinforces either growth in nationalism and loyalty to your country. Normally, though, this is a two-way street, that is the citizen contributes to his/her nation, but, in turn, the nation contributes to his/her well-being, including right to work toward reforms, such as, say, shift from a tightly controlled trade guilds, ie, master craftsmen/apprentice arrangements, to labor unions, collective bargaining for better wages.

Modernity Results in Attitudinal Change

For example, the year 1905 is destined to play a very specific role in the history of human consciousness. Several writers lay out how Einstein, Freud and the Fauves revolutionized the modern world in the spheres of physics, psychoanalysis and painting. Therese Delpech,Savage Century, William R Everdell, The First Moderns, Peter Watson, The Modern Mind, 2001, Peter Gay, Modernism, 2007

1905 is known for three revolutionary events

First, in physics, Albert Einstein's paper on the theory of special relativity.This paper and of three others, by him, helped launch an intellectual and scientific revolution comparable to Newton?s three centuries earlier. Second, in art, 1905 saw the first exhibition of the Fauves in the Salon d'automne in Paris. For art historians, this art show is the beginning of 20th century art.

It happened this way: In 1905, at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, paintings  by Matisse, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Rouault, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin (sp?), and Charles Camoin were exhibited in one room, a room  that also featured a statue by Donatello, the fifteenth-century Florentine sculptor.

The art critic, Louis Vauxcelles,  saw this arrangement -- the calm of the statue contemplating the frenzied, flat colours and distortions on the walls --  he wrote, 'Ah, Donatello Chez les Fauvres.' (In French, fauve means 'wild beast'.) Not only did the label stick, it helped promote the movement. Each in different ways, these artists, primarily Matisse and Picasso, went on to become premier artists of the 20th century. Matisse's most notorious works during that early period were other demoiselles de modernisme ? "Woman with a Hat" and "The Green Stripe", a portrait of his wife. Both used colour to do violence to familiar images, and both created scandals.  Not Picasso. Until then, he had been feeling his way. He had a recognisable style, but the images he had painted "of poor acrobats and circus people" were hardly avant-garde. They could even be described as sentimental. His approach to art had not yet matured; all he knew, looking around him, was that in his art he needed to do as the other moderns were doing, as Strauss and Schoenberg and Matisse were doing: to shock.

He saw a way ahead when he observed that many of his friends, other artists, were visiting the `primitive art' departments at the Louvre and in the Trocadero's Museum of Ethnography. This was no accident. Darwin's theories were well known by now, as were the polemics of the social Darwinists.

Another influence (the second) was James Frazer, a pioneering anthropologist, who, in the 1890 multivolumeThe Golden Bough, collected countless myths and customs of many groups, of all Ages, Western and Non-Western. And on top of it all, there was the scramble for Africa and other empires. All of this produced a fashion for the achievements and cultures of the remoter regions of "darkness" in the world, in particular the South Pacific and Africa.

In Paris, friends of Picasso started buying masks and African and Pacific statuettes from bric-a-brac dealers. None were more taken by this art than Matisse and Derain. In fact, Matisse himself said, "On the Rue de Rennes, I often passed the shop of Pere Sauvage. There were Negro statuettes in his window. I was struck by their character, their purity of line. It was as fine as Egyptian art. So I bought one and showed it". read more: article in atlantic monthly

Third, in psychoanlaysis, 1905 witnessed the publication of one of the most important -- perhaps the most provocative of Sigmund Freud's works -- Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. (Freud's most famous book, The Interpretation of Dreams, was published five years earlier.) Freud's thought was to dominate the century, to such an extent that one can speak of "the century of the unconscious".

One of the many innovations of modernism was the new demands it placed on the audience.

What Watson states here relates to the notion of democratization. Ever since Impressionism -- see page on Salon des Refuses -- finally won the right to exhibit, a democratization of what is considered "art" had begun. The " refuses " finally won! (Salon des Refuses briefly defined.)

This was the course adopted by Monet and his fellow-Impressionists. They held separate exhibitions in 1874, 1876, 1877, and 1879; and eight exhibitions in all were held between 1874 and 1886. It was as one consequence of the exhibition of 1874, held at the galleries of M. Nadar, in the Boulevard des Capucines, that the term Impressionism came into use. The thirty exhibitors called themselves La Societe anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs. This was too long and too tame for one of their critics, who coined a more pithy title with the help of a picture exhibited by Monet. This was a view in a harbour, with lightly indicated boats becoming visible through a transparent haze through which gleamed the red hued sun. To this picture Monet gave the title: "Impression, soleil Jecant". Thus unwittingly led by one of the exhibitors, visitors to the exhibition came to use the term Impressioniste, and within a few days a contemptuously unfavourable notice of the exhibition appeared in Le Charivari under the heading, "Exposition des Impres- sionittes". It was not until after the lapse of several years that the name came into general use.

Source: John Ernest Phythian, Fifty Years of Modern Painting, Corot to Sargent: Corot to Sargent New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1908, page 83.

In furniture design, a similar effect was taking place:-- Furniture in Art Nouveau Style

Click here for an extended treatment of the origins of both Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts

mackintosh chair 1900 - 1st

Art Nouveau's impact, essentially as a style of ornament, much more than as a style of furnishings, endures as memory.

mackintosh chair 1900 - 2d

Among furniture designers/builders influenced by Art Nouveau are Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) -- trained as an architect -- who designed the chair above and below in 1900, in his Edinburgh studio.

In America, the Buffalo-based designer Charles Rohlfs (1853-1936) was one of few Americans to incorporate some more sinuous forms and nature-inspired ornament of Art Nouveau into his Arts and Crafts pieces. Today, as a design inspiration, Art Nouveau informs the Studio furniture movement.

Arts and Crafts Movement

Click here for an extended treatment of the origins of both Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts

Equally interesting is that while the decorative arts style that later was known as Art Nouveau was emerging, another design style -- subsequently became identified as "The Arts and Crafts  Movement", was also emerging.

(Indeed, in several ways, at the turn of the century, these two movements -- Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts -- intertwined to a limited extent.)

Both movements -- each in its particular way -- was reacting to the  to the excesses of the arts of Victorian era, particularly the problems caused by the Victorian era's production policies.

The focal point, evidently, was the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851.


Mid-century design critics and reformers such as Cole, Ruskin, Pugin, and Wornum claimed that machines were having a deleterious effect on production by diminishing the role of craftsmen, by separating design and production, and by creating the possibility of cheap imitations. This was an issue of national concern that had predated the exhibition by at least two decades, and continued to rage well after the exhibition closed. What the mid-century critics did not discern was that the division of labor had nothing to do with mechanization. Mechanization exacerbated the problems associated with the division of labor, but at the time Adam Smith popularized that phrase neither mechanization nor machines (at least not in the more modern form) had existed. Specialization of design and production took place long before the introduction of machines; machines initially had little direct influence on design, and the extent of mechanization was far less at the time of the Great Exhibition than historians have generally acknowledged. This suggests that the issue was not mechanization, as both contemporaries and historians have suggested, but the division of labor. Read more here.

Music, painting, literature, even architecture, would never again be quite so 'easy' as they had been. Schoenberg, like Freud, Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Weininger, Hofmannsthal, and Schnitzler, believed in the instincts, expressionism, subjectivism.

Sources: Joel Davis, Alternate Realities, pages 215-219; Philip G Nord, Impressionists and Politics

For those willing to join the ride, it was exhilarating. For those who weren't, there was really nowhere to turn and go forward. And like it or not, Schoenberg had found a way forward after Wagner. The French composer Claude Debussy once remarked that Wagner's music was 'a beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn.' No one realised that more than Schoenberg. If Salome and Elektra and Pierrot's Columbine are the founding females of modernism, they were soon followed by five equally sensuous, shadowy, disturbing sisters in a canvas produced by Picasso in 1907. No less than Strauss's women, Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was an attack on all previous ideas of art, self-consciously shocking, crude but compelling.

Sources: Octavio Paz, The Children of the Mire: Modern Poetry from Romanticism to the Avant-Garde Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press, 1974, page 23; Hilde Heynen, Architecture and Modernity: A Critique Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1998, ChapterOn the Road Toward Modernizing

Modernity, Modernism, or simply Modern, are terms not frequently considered appropriate for a history of the amateur woodworking movement, I agree. To the dedicated woodworker, these terms seem out of context, or perhaps even immaterial, but I think some consideration needs to be given to them. The following passage -- from William R. Everdell (The First Moderns ) captures the social, economic, scientific, artistic, and intellectual changes that, with greater and greater rapidity, occurred as the nineteenth century closed and continued in the twentieth century:


Communication was extremely swift, whether by postal correspondence (five deliveries a day in Munich), by publication (one month plus one week from contract to presentation copy for Kafka's first book of fiction), or by telephone and telegraph. It was possible for the poet Jules Laforgue to be born in Uruguay, educated at one of the best provincial secondary schools in France, employed as a reader by the Dowager Empress of Germany, and commissioned to translate the American works of Walt Whitman. James Joyce could write a novel meticulously set in the Dublin of 1904 while he was teaching English to Italians in the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this sort of world an aristocratic Russian like Igor Stravinsky could change the course of Western music with a ballet score written in Switzerland and performed in Paris. Niels Bohr could write his classic paper on the atom in English while teaching in his native Denmark, publishing it in the journal of the British Royal Society under the guidance of a New Zealander who had made his scientific reputation in Ontario, Canada, by extending the work of a Polish woman living in Paris. This kind of "hopscotching the world," as early film newsreels called it, suggests an absence of system, certainly to those who prized nineteenth-century distinctions based on ethnicity and language. But the system was there, and it was itself transnational. In fact, the insistence on a supra-ethnic community of thought and of art is one of the positions now often defined as Modernism.

Source: William R. Everdell, The First Moderns Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997, pages 2-3

The State of America's Woodworking Industry in the Late 19th Century and Early 20th Century

The impact of the mechanization of the furniture industry was fully evident:

The nineteenth-century tidal wave of machine-made furnishings, sweeping handmade objects from the domestic interior, also erased the techniques of hand craftsmanship. Factory goods were cheaper, and considered by many to be more fashionable, than handmade ones. Early pieces were banished to the kitchen, attic, or barn. And there they remained, frequently undergoing severe or irreparable damage, until one day the first stranger-apparently somewhat deranged-appeared at the door and offered to buy some.

Source: Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiquers: The Lives and Careers, the Deals Were Responsible for the Changing Taste in American Antiques, 1850-1930 New York: Knopf, 1980, page xi.

Today, our notion of the craftsman of old -- that is,before the ruination in the popular mind  of the of power woodworking tools that came with the Industrial Revolution --  might resemble this:  he worked with his hands to fashion works of art.

But, this concept of the craftsman evidently is not true. Calling this image a "romantic filter", a lens through which we visualize the artisans and treasured objects created before the era of power woodworking machines. Polly Anne Earl, the material culture scholar, argues that this picture of the craftsman is rooted in a nostalgia that recalls a seemingly simpler time, before the impact(s) of the industrial revolution, such as air pollution caused by smoke from coal spewing out of factories, before railroads, steam power, intimidating machines, and -- most significant -- the social, economic problems that emenated out of these technoloigcal innovations.

Instead, she continues, we need to look more critically at the past and discover that many of the "truths" of craftsmanship are not what as true as they may seem, just as many of our truisms about the industrial revolution are suspect. As proof, Earl points to historical records that show the transition from hand to machine is complex.  Part of our definition of craft work is derived from generalizations about the economic characteristics of early American businesses. Far from being individualistic proprietors of simple firms, many master craftsmen, especially in cities, were masters, not of their crafts, but of the business skills necessary to survive in the bewilderingly complex world of colonial trade and finance. They were organizers and managers who had to deal with rapidly fluctuating currencies, to contract for labor and supplies, to oversee what was sometimes considerable specialization and subdivision of productive processes, and to arrange transportation, insurance, and sale of the finished product.

Read more here: Revisionist View of Woodworking Industry in Factory System still working on sections that follow:

The Evolving Workplace

Conditions and traditions in this workplace setting were evolving. According to Laurie, concentrated in two fifteen-year-long eras, each following the downturns of 1819-21 and 1837-43, handicraft workshops necessarily accommodated to changing traditions: Shops grew larger, and by 1850, when some twenty to thirty men worked together, their guild or artisanal traditions were broken. Many of our images of the craftsman in wood in the nineteenth century, are, according to the material culture scholar, Polly Anne Earl, overly romanticized. (See  Polly Anne Earl, "Craftsmen And Machines: The Nineteenth-Century Furniture Industry" in Ian M G Quimby, and Polly Anne Earl, eds., Technological Innovation and the Decorative Arts , Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 1973, pages 307-329 [ this book is not available online:  ]

Balloon Framing and Other Innovations in Building Construction Devalues Role of Craftsmen

balloon framing

Beginning in the 1820s, argues Bruce Laurie (page 42), economic forces -- inside and outside the building trades -- devalued  skilled craftsmanship in urban housing construction. Prefabricated windows, doors, and other parts -- traditionally made and fitted by skilled carpenters on construction sites -- came first. Not long afterwards, "on speculation", building contractors, began constructing single homes or rows of tract housing, helped reduce even further the roles of craftsmen. According to Laurie, contractors "let out contracts to the lowest bidders in the various crafts, which triggered a competitive war and search for cheaper labor among master craftsmen." The upshot: Not unlike condditions today, Master craftsmen became specialized framers or installers of precut parts. On a given project, when their tasks were done, they yielded to other specialists. They moved from project to project. Their skill and judgment were still demanded, framers had to cut, notch, and join huge timbers. But, in the 1830s, their futures were jeopardized when balloon framing began.  A method for making building construction more efficient, balloon framing is a method introduced by Augustine Taylor (1796-1891). Briefly, as shown on the left, balloon framing -- a method of constructing supporting walls in buildings -- features long framing components (i.e.,  studs -- 2 X 4s, 2 X 6s), running from the foundation to the rafter plate. [Willis Wagner, Modern Carpentry South Holland, IL: Goodheart-Willcox, 1976, pages 144-115; Wagner is not online, but  see this 1917 framing manual.]

Journeymen Cabinetmakers Also Drawn Into the "Sweating System"

Cabinetmakers --  all-around journeymen famously capable of turning  rough-cut timber into elegant furniture -- fell victim to the sweating system.  Cabinetmakers could still be found in the 1850s, similar to the above described building tradesmen, but their numbers were shrinking.

More and more furniture makers worked in garret-like shops on single lines of goods for wholesalers in a process best described as a non-mechanized assembly line. Some cut out the parts, usually by hand but increasingly on steam-powered saws, that were assembled by another team, and finished by still another. Throughout the Northeast, guild handicraft production was in decline. To increase profits, masters introduced the "sweating system," demanding greater productivity from skilled workers. By resorting to cheaper labor--prisoners, women, children, the unskilled -- the apprentice system broke down as employers placed decreasing reliance on skill.  (Another term with a similar connotation, of the same era, is "putting out system"; more on sweating system here.)

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ [below under construction]

check on Freedley's Leading Pursuits and Leading Men 1854

(material below is adapted from Allen Henderson Eaton Handicrafts of New England New York: Harper, 1949, pages 10 - 12; Polly Anne Earl, "CRAFTSMEN AND MACHINES: THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FURNITURE INDUSTRY",  in Ian M G Quimby and Polly Anne Earl, eds., Technological Innovation and the Decorative Arts, Charlottesville, VA: University  of Virginia Press, 1973, pages 307-329.)

In the 19th century, common sense tells you, woodworking done outside the realm of the master-journeyman-apprentice level,  outlined above,  was driven by necessity, especially in rural and village settings.

Economics, for one, limited vast numbers of the basically-rural American populations to the creation of furniture and other similar objects they needed for day-to-day living. These operations were carried on mainly in farm and village homes -- the "back country" -- , a culture that is captured for the popular mind by Eric Sloane's A Museum of Early American Tools New York: Ballantine Books, 1964, and Edwin R  Tunis' Frontier Living 2000 

[Polly Anne Earl, "CRAFTSMEN AND MACHINES: THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FURNITURE INDUSTRY",  in Ian M G Quimby and Polly Anne Earl, eds., Technological Innovation and the Decorative Arts, Charlottesville, VA: University  of Virginia Press, 1973, pages 307-329.

THE notion of craftsmanship is a kind of romantic filter through which the artisans and material remains of our past are often viewed. The craftsman is usually seen as an independent, quasi-artist using hand skills to produce objects that combine a useful function with artistic merit.1 he handicrafts and other small industries organized by the original colonists -- and sustained by the  generations that followed --  formed the economic base created the conditions necessary for survival, but, as we now know, became an economic engine  that flourished.

After the victory of 1776, when commerce was cut off from England,  the newly independent colonies -- except through their handicrafts -- had no way of supplying most of their needs  or "household manufactures," as they were accurately called. 

To encourage these activities associated with handicrafts,  the colonists passed ordinances and laws, imposed fines and punishments, and provided rewards to prevent waste and to induce thrift and production.

[checking Ronald Schultz the small producer tradition.... 1990; Laurie Bruce, Labor Into Workers: Labor in 19th Century America, 1989; see pages 36+] George Washington's Suit

The variety of industries carried on in the home ranged from the making of many types of textiles to the making of iron nails. The household manufactures enumerated in Hamilton's famous Report on Manufactures in 1791 was to the people of his time a prosaic list of handicrafts made at home; to us it is an eloquent explanation of why and how the colonists were able to achieve and maintain their freedom. It is not to be understood that New England was alone in this; indeed, other colonies met the problems in the same way. [wikipedia entry on hamilton report]

As the noted chronicler of American handicrafts, Allen Henderson Eaton, 

the restoration of George Washington's home in Mount Vernon [date]  gives a vivid and reminiscent picture of how nearly everything needful for the support of life was produced in his day around the great estate. [for details about restoration of MV, see chapter xxi, here]

Here were all the facilities for making fabrics of cotton, linen, or wool, and until after the American Revolution the cloth for much of the clothing for Washington and his family and all of it for his workers was made on the home place. Broadly speaking, this was true of the Virginia colony and the other colonies as well. But it was a proud day for industrial America, says Ella Shannon Bowles (1886 - 1975) in Homespun Handicrafts, when, on delivering his first address to Congress in 1790, President Washington wore a suit made of broadcloth from the woolen factory of Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford, Connecticut, where all the processes had been performed in the factory except the spinning. Spinning was done in the homes on single wheels. Soon even spinning was done in mills. New England was the leader in the movement that resulted first in factory-made cloth being supplied to people to be made up at home, later in its being converted into factory. made clothing and other marketable articles. Ultimately New England became one of the most highly industrialized sectins of our country.

In the collections of old tools and machinery in which New England is rich one may see much evidence of inventiveness. From the earliest settlements everything that could be changed into a better tool or machine was worked on. In scores of instances the hand product of some countryman or villager was of such worth that a small business was built around it and in time, through Yankee ingenuity and organization, this handicraft beginning developed into a great industry. In the early days of the United States Patent Office, in proportion to population, more patents were issued to inventors in New England than in any other part of our country.

Source: Allen Henderson Eaton, Handicrafts of New England New York: Harper, 1949, page 11

From Handicrafts to Factory

The Transfer of European Crafts Guilds From Europe to America Not Successful

Source: Lawrence A. Cremin American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876-1980 New York: HARPER & ROW, 1988, pages 480-492 II

Both the number and the percentage of Americans involved in nonagricultural pursuits expanded rapidly during the half-century following the Civil War, with some of the most dramatic increases occurring in the domains of transportation, manufacturing, and trade and distribution. The development of the railroad and telegraph systems during the middle third of the century led to significant improvements in the speed, the volume, and the regularity of shipments and communications, making possible in turn a fundamental transformation in the production and distribution of goods. In agriculture, the transformation was marked by the emergence of the grain elevators, the cotton presses, the warehouses, and the commodity exchanges that seemed to so many of the nation's farmers the visible signs of a vast conspiracy against them. In manufacturing, the transformation was marked by the emergence of a "new factory system" in which plants became larger, more complex, and more systematically organized and managed. And in distribution, the transformation was marked by the emergence of the jobber, the wholesaler, and the mass retailer. These changes radically altered the nature of work during the half-century between 1870 and 1920.

To be sure, there were still small shops, where skilled craftsmen manufactured products ranging from newspapers to cabinets to plumbing fixtures. There were the sweatshops in city tenements, where groups of men and women in household settings manufactured clothing or cigars on a piecework basis.

And there were factories in fields such as metalwork where individual contractors and subcontractors presided over what were essentially handicraft proprietorships that coexisted within a single building. But, as the number of wage earners in manufacturing rose from 2.7 million in 1880 to 4.5 million in 1900 to 8.4 million in 1920, the number of huge plants like the Baldwin Locomotive works in Philadelphia or the McCormick Reaper works in Chicago burgeoned, as did the size of the average plant (the Baldwin works had 600 employees in 1855, 3,000 in 1875, and 8,000 in 1900; the McCormick works had 150 employees in 1850, 4,000 in 1900, and 15,000 in 1916).

By 1920, at least in the northeastern quadrant of the United States, where most of the nation's manufacturing wage earners were concentrated, three-quarters of those wage earners worked in factories with over 100 employees and 30 percent worked in factories with over 1,000 employees.10 [10. Historical Statistics of the United States, I, 138; and Daniel Nelson, Managers and Workers: Origins of the New Factory System in the United States, 1880-1920 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), pp. 6-9]

Within this context of rapid industrialization, changes that had been occurring in the apprenticeship system since the 1840's and 1850's went forward at an accelerated pace. In some of the traditional trades that had been only moderately affected by the new technology—printing, for example, or plumbing, or bricklaying, or carpentry—apprenticeship, backed by strong craft unions, remained the leading entree into the work. But the apprenticeships tended to be informal—only a small percentage involved formal indentures, with the result that the statistics of apprenticeship almost always underreported the phenomenon, and only a fraction of the teaching was systematic. In other domains, for example, in the textile industry, where there had been no formal apprenticeships since the 1840's and 1850's because operatives in the mills could learn the few simple skills they needed to operate and tend the machines on the job in a matter of days, apprenticeship was merely the entry rung on the employment ladder, no longer serving educational purposes. And in still other domains, for example, the shoemaking industry, apprenticeship had all but disappeared during the 1840's and 1850's, as a former craft had become mechanized and rationalized and as operatives in the factories no longer needed the complex skills associated with shoemaking but rather the simpler skills associated with machine tending.

The last pattern came increasingly to prevail during the half-century following 1870, as, first in textiles and shoemaking, and then in distilling, cigarette making, watchmaking, glassmaking, flour milling, and automobile manufacture, a combination of coal and electric power, technological innovation, and the rationalization of production and management rendered traditional craft skills outmoded and substituted for those craft skills the ability respectively to perform highly discrete and particular tasks with the assistance of machines. The result by the turn of the century was a widespread perception that apprenticeship as traditionally conceived and practiced was moribund. The perception reflected the fact that the number of apprenticeships had climbed only modestly in comparison with the rapid increase in the overall number of persons involved in manufacturing. Also, it was widely assumed that the growing specialization of labor had sharply reduced the proportion of factory operatives who needed to have overall knowledge of the productive process and that apprenticeship was increasingly viewed as unprofitable by the employers who paid for it, the workers who did the teaching, the parents of the youngsters who served as apprentices, and the youngsters themselves. And, adding to all this, there was the constant argument of proponents of vocational schools that apprenticeship had become irreversibly inefficient and exploitative and that it was no longer possible to carry on decent vocational education in the workplace.

Source: Paul H. Douglas, American Apprenticeship and Industrial Education New York: privately published, 1921, p. 74; and Historical Statistics of the United States, I, 138, 143.]

Particularly after the organization of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education in 1906, the vocational school gained increasing support in the education community as the ideal agency to prepare young people for work. But there were those who continued to point to the strengths of properly conducted apprenticeships. Carroll D. Wright, the president of Clark College at Worcester, was one such individual. Wright readily conceded the inadequacies of what he called "the old apprenticeship system": it was exploitative, in that it held young people at substandard wages long after they had learned what they needed to know to do a journeyman's job; and it was inefficient, in that it trained young people for specific skills but conveyed none of the theory underlying those skills and hence left them unprepared to find meaning in their work or to cope with technological change. But Wright was equally ready to argue the ineffectiveness of the vocational school: it conveyed some of the theory needed by young workers and it made a respectable beginning at teaching some of the required skills; but under no circumstances could it prepare full-fledged workers prepared to take up a trade. What was needed, Wright maintained, was "an enlightened, coordinated system that shall secure all that can be gained from the apprenticeship system and all that can be gained from modern schools for trades and industrial education generally."12 [12. Carroll D. Wright, "The Apprenticeship System as a Means of Promoting Industrial Efficiency," in National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, Bulletin No. 5 (New York: National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, 1908), p. 31.]

Following the War for Independence, the shift of manufacture from farm to factory emerged, eroding slowly a two-century tradition.  

From 1620 to 1820, New England was in what is now called the handicraft stage. Around 1820, along rivers and streams capable of developing water power, small factories sprang up. These enterprises included weaving and spinning mills, tanneries, forges, grist- and sawmills.

The decline of rural handicrafts, corresponding to the rise of industrialized society, was perceived as a cause for concern by many designers and social reformers who feared the loss of traditional skills and creativity.

The increase in factory-made goods became especially marked at the turn of the nineteenth century, and after the Civil War the corresponding decline in handicrafts was pronounced. The "back country," however, was an exception for here many thrifty New Englanders have always made, and still make, tools, implements, and farming and fishing equipment in order to save a little or to get something better than they can afford to buy. Changes from water power to steam, and toward the end of the century to electric power, and the invention of many new machines, together with abundant labor, much of it from Europe, brought on a period of great industrial expansion, accompanied by the appearance on the market of many poorly designed and cheaply made goods. At this point a reaction set in against these often inferior articles of mass production. It was in the closing years of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century that a new voice was heard, at first in tones of inquiry and then of protest, coming across the sea from England?a voice which ushered in what was known there, and later here, as the Arts and Crafts Movement

Arts and Crafts Movement

This was the first effective challenge to mechanized and mass production in our country. It raised the question with which this book is primarily concerned: Is mechanized and mass production to be accepted as the sole method of meeting man's wants and needs; or is there to be a place in our economy and in our culture for hand production or handicrafts? The beginning of the answer to this question will be found in the following chapter.

Source:  Allen Henderson Eaton Handicrafts of New England New York: Harper, 1949

(Allen Henderson Eaton is a legend in supporting and chronicling the handicraft movement in America. Only recently, though, did I discover Eaton, something for which I blame my  personal "myopia". I shall try to rectify this neglect of such an important source of background on the handicraft movement.)


Eric Sloane ? the romance of tools ? 1964


Finding an ancient tool in a stone fence or in a dark corner of some de­caying barn is receiving a symbol from another world, for it gives you a particular and interesting contact with the past. Men used to build and create as much for future generations as for their own needs, so their tools have a special message for us and our time. When you hold an early implement, when you close your hand over the worn wooden handle, you know exactly how it felt to the craftsman whose hand had smoothed it to its rich patina. In that instant you are as close to that craftsman as you can be?even closer than if you live in the house that he built or sit in the chair that he made. In that moment you are near to another being in another life, and you are that much richer.


Why an ancient tool should be closer to the early craftsman than a modern tool is to a modern workman is not readily understood by most people. Even the ardent collector is sometimes unaware of the reason an ancient tool meant so much to its user. But reason there is. Henry Ward Beecher said it nicely when he explained that " a tool is but the extension of a man's hand."


Whereas today's implements are designed with the idea of "getting a job done quickly," there was an added quality to the early implements and an added quality to early workmanship too. For, like the nails on a beast's paws, the old tools were so much an extension of a man's hand or an added appendage to his arm, that the resulting work­manship seemed to flow directly from the body of the maker and to carry something of himself into the work. True, by looking at an old house or an old piece of furniture, you can imagine the maker much more clearly than you can by beholding anything made today.

An Early Hand Tool Was as Much a Work of Art as the Work it Fashioned

The Early American worker designed his tools too. The ironworker forged only the cutting blade, and thought little about the design either of the wooden handle or the rest of the finished tool. Likewise, a plane's irons, or even knife-blades, hand-forged, were sold like axe heads, leaving the craftsman to fashion his own wooden body, to hold the "iron", or blade. Decoration on these early tools, according to Eric Sloane, sprang out of  the pride of the a tool's maker, rather than from prescribed custom.

Did Early Hand-Crafted Tools Have Their Own "Souls"?

The belief that certain tools had souls of their own was not unusual. Often the maker of a tool thought of it as a companion,  worthy of its own name: axes, for example, were often marked "Tom" or "Jack". Maybe, today, all this sounds strangely superstitious, says the noted illustrator of early hand tools, Eric Sloane. Yet today, he reminds us, eighteen-wheelers can be named "Sally" or "Babe"; boats, likewise, almost always have names; even large machine tools, such as bulldozers, are labeled with names.

For the religious, gracing tools with sacred initials or scripture from the Bible was said to have an effect upon that tool?s quality of work. As proof, Sloane notes, woodworkers ?mindful that the carpenter Jesus once worked with such tools?, carved crosses on them.

One of the finer pieces in a recent showing of modern art was a piece of steel that curved like a bird's wing. It was set into a square block of wood and its title in the catalogue was "Number 1760." The artist had an even more honest sense of beauty than a sense of humor, for if you looked closely and with an informed eye, you could recognize the piece as the head of an Early American "goose wing" broad axe. In the back of the blade, the year 1760 had been marked, which, of course, explained the title. To many it was, at first, the most beautiful piece of art there, but, when they learned that it was only an old axe head, they felt as if they had been hoaxed. How, after all, could an axe head be considered a work of art!

Post-Civil War (1865) Era Marks Turning Point

The Civil War period marked a turning point in tool design, as it did or so much Americana. Before that time, the word tool meant an im­plement that could make one thing at a time; mass-production tools then entered the scene, and the word tool, which had meant only "hand tool," took on many added meanings. Finally the word tool came to mean any item having to do with the production of an item; it could be the machine and also the building that housed the machine. Even the salesmen, the advertising gadgets, and the business offices are "tools of the trade.

Generally speaking, hand tools made after the Civil War period lacked the simple beauty of those of the ante-bellum period. Things were made to sell quickly, things were made in large quantities so that they could be catalogued identically, and hand-made implements began to disappear. Wooden handles became "fancier," more curved and orna­mental, but the severe beauty of folk art and primitive usage was lost. Saw handles became "trickier"; they were designed to appeal to the eve instead of to fit the hand. Axe handles, which had always been almost straight, as a good club should be, took on curves such as the "fawn foot" and the "scroll knob." By 1885, handles on axes and adzes had become almost too curved, but by the 1900's they settled down to a sensible and standard design, such as that of those you can buy now at the hardware store.

Before the Civil War, most axe handles (like the handles of all tools) were made by the man who would use the axe. A pattern was cut from a piece of flat wood and saved as the model from which future handles would be fashioned. Axe patterns (which you can still find in old barns) were so subtly curved and proportioned that they were as distinctive as a man's signature; you could take one look and say "This tool belongs to Jones" or "That tool belongs to Smith." Very often an axe-handle pat­tern was handed down from generation to generation, and it was con­sidered counterfeit for another family to copy it.

While we are on the subject of the handles of old tools, I would like to point out that the collector should understand something of the phi­losophy about the connection between the workman's hand and that part of a hand tool that he touches. Most modern workmen will scoff at the idea, but any fine craftsman will tell you that the right wooden handle (let us say, on a hammer) helps you along with your work. A metal or plastic handle or even an incorrect wooden handle can feel "dead" and not "spring back" against pressure, thus causing blisters and slowing your work. The proper handle's "feel" or "heft" is the unex­plainable quality that a fine violin has to the musician. The Oxford History of Technology quotes Christian Barman's comments on an exhibition of early hand tools:

Everybody who appreciates the qualities of materials loves wood, and here was wood formed into a special kind of tactile sculpture made to be felt with the hand. I remembered that old craftsmen, when they buy a new set of modern chisels, throw away the handles and carefully fit their own. These handles, polished bright by a lifetime of use, became part of their owners' lives.

Always in the fine art of working with wood, the old-time craftsman's laboratory was in his head and his hands and his heart. He called it "knack"; some now believe it was a "sixth sense" or an extrasensory power. Elusive as this "knack" may be, it is the most important part of those small differences that distinguish the master craftsman from the good workman.

When we consider tools, we are dealing with human benefactors of the most primary sort. Tools increase and vary human power; they economize human time, and they convert raw substances into valuable and useful products. So when we muse on historic tools as symbols, we are always analyzing the romance of human progress.

Although Early American tools were traditional in design to such an extent that one can usually tell the nationality of the maker, there are almost always subtle differences and decorative touches in design that equally identify the region of American countryside from which the tool came. A collector can easily tell a piece coming from Pennsylvania from one originating in Connecticut. This distinctiveness was often in­tentional; the Early American's urge for identification was born of pride both in himself and in his time. An extraordinary awareness of life and time permeated our early days; when something was made and the maker was satisfied, it wasn't complete until his mark and the date were added.

Nowadays things are almost obsolete before they leave the drawing board. How lucky we are that so many of the old tools and the things that were made with them were dated and touched with the craftsman's

After the Civil War, factory-made things became popular and the tool house was limited to such minor work as farm repairs. The Dominy Shop (shown below) was used by Nathaniel Dominy IV (1737-1812) and his son Nathaniel V (177o-1852). This entire shop, including manu­script accounts covering the period from 1762 until 1829, has been kept intact at the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The visitor's first reaction is usually "What a primitive shop!" Yet the magnificent table standing in the center of the room was made in it.

Appendix 10: Furniture Styles Appendix 11:

On the Origins of the Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Style Appendix 12: The Aesthetic Movement 1875 - 1885

Sources: Examples of the romantic view of the craftsman are Edward H. Pinto, The Craftsman in Wood (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1962); Eric Sloane, A Museum of Early American Tools (New York: Wilfred Frank, 1964); George Sturt, The Wheel­wright's Shop (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1923); and Edwin Tunis, The Colonial Craftsman (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1965).]

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