Document 12: THE National Homeworkshop Guild

as published in Popular Science Monthly, December, 1933.


I cannot explain how I stumbled on the document and related materials reprinted below. Maybe by simply paging through 1930s volumes of Popular Science

Anyway, through bibliographies of masters' theses published by the federal office of education in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, I started to see a trend developing, along the lines of a national movement toward encouraging young men to create home workshops, with special emphasis upon taking up woodworking. For sure, this is a theme that I will develop more fully in the narrative parts of this online history of the amateur woodworking movement.

I encourage you to take a leisurely scroll down this webpage, to mentally soak up the data gathered from 1933 and 1938 issues of Popular Science Monthly. It remains a mystery to me why Arthur Wakeling, the editor of the home workshop section of PSM, took such a dedicated role in assisting in the formation of the NHWG. Read more about Wakeling and PSM role in founding the NHG here.

(To the extent I can, I am investigating this matter, but my location in Washington state does not allow me the freedom to access archives at the Popular Science Monthly headquarters in New York. In particular, I would like to get some biographical information on the PSM editor, Arthur Wakeling. What little background I have on Wakeling -- a founding member of the National Homeworkshop Guild -- is given here.)

In my searching these bibliographies on master's theses topics -- and with follow-ups in the Worldcat bibliographic database -- I encountered:

Document 13:


part of the front matter of the book, A GUIDE TO Woodworking Projects: A Companion Volume to A Guide to the Study of Woodworking, by Paul  V. Woolley  Peoria, Illinois: Manual Arts Press book, 1926.

(Begun in 1890, the Reader's Guide is the only "paper" copy indexing service available that covers the periodical literature that was published in  America, throughout the 20th century. What came as a jarring surprise to me was the indexing policy of the venerable Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature -- some periodicals, like the Popular Science Monthly, are indexed only selectively. Thus, while I had searched the online database of the RG  for the National Homeworkshop Guild, when I didn't find anything in that index about this group, incorrectly, I concluded that the topic wasn't relevant. Wrong! As I note above, only by paging through volumes of PSM did I discover the truth.)

Probably, already, you detect that this exhibit of materials on the NHG is not complete, deserving of more attention, if only to fill in some gaps in the historic details. Be assured that I am working on these matters. Put simply , though, from over two years of research, this lucky find is something of a breakthrough, and I wanted to get it up for all interested to see.

(The fact that these woodworking clubs were considered an antidote for the time, the Great Depression, when it was sensed that greater leisure time mandated that organizations such as woodworking clubs were in the National interest. -- I am checking the National Recovery Administration for more details.)

Kay T. Olsen entitled her 1936 master's thesis at Iowa State University, "Development of a Home Workshop Club in Des Moines, Iowa", a chronicle of the formation of the club in 1934. By 1936, this club registered 46 members. Eighty percent of the shops were in basements. With an obvious bent toward the smaller scaled power tools recently introduced to the market by such manufacturers  as J D Wallace, Delta, and Walker-Turner, Olsen found that "men owing owning the best equipped shops spent more time in them than those men whose shops were poorly equipped."

Popular Science Monthly, December, 1938, p. 190, announced that "Three Hundred Home Workshop Clubs Celebrate the Guild's Fifth Birthday."

Taken together, all these details about the NHG suggest a national movement that is begging to be investigated. I will post results as I complete them.

    Announcing a great new craftsman's club:

    ...The National Homeworkshop Guild --

    A nonprofit organization founded to help you develop your handicraft hobbies and make the most of your increased leisure under the NRA


    At last the home craftsmen of the United States are to have their own national organization. It is to be a great mutual benefit association for those who follow any type of handicraft hobby. It will pay huge dividends—not in cash, but in good fellowship, in opportunities for learning better craftwork methods from experts, in the development of club and community projects, in the interchange of ideas, in actual savings through discounts on the purchase of materials, supplies, and plans, in giving access to special tools. machines, and equipment, in the stimulation that comes from having an official magazine and annual exhibitions, and in all the things that will make your own home workshop, no matter what you use it for, more pleasurable, more useful, and more profitable. In short, it is the best solution yet offered for the intelligent and enjoyable use of the increased leisure insured to everyone by the NRA [National Recovery Act - more on NRA later].

    The new association is the National Homeworkshop Guild, Inc., with head-quarters in Rockford, Illinois. It has been chartered in the State of Illinois as a noncommercial organization. LeVern T. Ryder of Rockford, is the. president, and E. Raymond DeLong, also of Rockford, the secretary. With one exception, the members of the board of directors are also residents of that city. In addition to these officers, the Guild has an advisory council of most distinguished men, each one of whom is a national leader in his own field. Its official magazine will be Popular Science monthly.

    "How can I join the Guild?" is probably the question you are already asking. This information, the necessary application blanks, and many facts that cannot be compressed into this article will he sent you froth the national headquarters in Rockford if you will address a request to the Home Workshop Editor. Use the coupon at the end of this article and please enclose a large self-addressed. stamped envelope. The Guild has printed a reasonably large quantity of bulletins explaining how to start a local club. but there is no telling how quickly the supply will he exhausted. so don't delay.

    It may have struck you as curious that this splendid movement should have originated in Rockford. There is a very good reason for it. Rockford already has the largest and most successful home work-shop club in the world. In October, 1432, invitations were sent to forty men known to have an interest in handicraft asking them to attend an organization meeting  forty-seven came. Mr. Ryder explained that a club was to be formed to exchange ideas, conduct helpful programs and demonstrations, and to foster a wider interest among the people of Rockford in the useful employment of spare time.

    The success of the club exceeded all expectations. It grew with amazing rapidity and now numbers more than 100 members from every walk of life. Outgrowing its original quarters, it became affiliated with the Rockford Art Association and obtained the use of a large hall in as office building.

    Its activities have been exceedingly diverse and in all cases useful. At its bi- weekly meetings, members criticize and make suggestions for improving one another's completed projects; demonstrations of correct procedure in the use of hand and machine tools are given by members and professional craftsmen; members exchange tools, and those with exceptionally well-equipped shops frequently place their equipment at the disposal of other members.

    Last Christmas the members of the club made several hundred toys for a local children's home. In February the dub gave a handicraft exhibition, and more than that, 5000 visitors attended. Several unemployed members of the club have obtained jobs in local manufacturing plants because of exceptional technical skill demonstrated at the club meetings.

    Among the members are lawyers, doctors, merchants, foundrymen, machinists, toolmakers, accountant , photographers, carpenters, ministers, reporters, and painters. The output has covered practically everything that a home workshop can produce—furniture, models of ships, engines, and houses, jewelry, bows and arrows, bird houses, aquariums, speed boats, rowboats, fishing rods, pewter ware, hammered copper, brass, and iron, hand-forged hunting knives, and wood carving. By working out production methods, the club found it a simple matter to make more than 100 doll cradles, hobbyhorses, baseball bats, vanity cases, and puzzle boards for the orphanage.

    More ambitious still was their annual club project. They decided to make a drill press in which would: be incorporated all the best ideas of the members, including improvements not to be found in any commercial drill press. The ideas were criticized and worked over by several mechanical engineers who belong to the club. Patterns were then made under the supervision of a patternmaker; the castings were prepared with the expert advice of several foundrymen; then the machinist members of the club divided the remainder of the work among them.

    Every meeting of the club offers something tangible to the members. At one meeting an expert from a tool company may demonstrate how to care for and sharpen tools. At another meeting one of the more advanced members may give instructions in wood carving. Decorative metal work, patternmaking, the pouring of metal castings in the home workshop, furniture construction, the use of wood-working machinery, operating an engine lathe, and similar topics are taken up. Each meeting is followed by helpful discussions. The librarian of the club is al-ways in attendance and has available books, magazines, plans, and a complete set of catalogs of tools, machines, equipment, and supplies. And in all this there has been nothing in the least commercial, no effort to sell members merchandise or to influence them to buy certain brands. Prices are never mentioned at club meetings. Every club member, how-ever, can obtain a discount for everything he buys for his home workshop merely by showing his membership card to the merchants in Rockford. Strange to say, this was nothing the club requested; it was a voluntary arrangement suggested by the merchants themselves to show their appreciation of the advantages of the club and their desire to cooperate with it.

    Why should there not be such a club in every community in the United States? It is to make this possible that the new National Homeworkshop Guild has been formed. All the preliminary planning has been done, so that you can organize a local club with very little difficulty. Talk it over with your friends. If you do not know any others who are interested in the home workshop hobby, speak to your hardware dealer, lumber merchant, and paint dealer. They will be only too glad to tell you who are regularly buying materials for craftwork. Interest the news-paper editors and the local manual training teachers in the idea; they will give you names of probable members and help with publicity and advice.

    All you need to join the National Guild is to organize a club of not less than five members. Each member of such an affiliated group will hold an individual card in the National Homeworkshop, Guild. The Guild will also supply suggestion and plans for meetings and a model continuation and by laws Detailed instructions as to how to organize a local club, conduct the first meeting officers, appoint committees and you need to know about the movement are available.

    Until larger quarters are required, meetings can be held without expense in a schoolroom, club, church had, factory, or private residence. The Rockford Club started meeting the employees' meeting room of an industrial plant.

    A speakers' bureau at the national headquarters is to arrange for lectures and demonstrations before the local clubs when a sufficient number of them are organized. A monthly news letter will suggest plans for meetings and program. Professional craftsmen will aid members in the solution of specific problems. Methods of in-creasing interest and membership are to be relayed from one local group to another. Local exhibitions will be held by clubs and, when practical, a handicraft contest or national exhibitions, probably on an annual basis, will be held under the auspices of the Guild.

    The Guild is to be entirely noncommercial. The small fee which the parent organization will collect from the local clubs will be used entirely for promotional activities benefit of the whole Guild.

    In order to obtain the widest and gain the utmost support for the new movement. the Guild has chosen Popular Science monthly as its Official organ and has made Arthur Wakeling, the Home Workshop Editor, a member of it Board of directors. The activities of the Guild and of the local' clubs will be reported from month to month in this magazine. It should be made clear, hoarser, that the Guild idea originated in Rockford and that the headquarters is established there. This magazine has no other connection with the National Homeworkshop Guild (which should not be confused in any way with the Popular Science Homecraft Guild for distributing construction kits) than as a medium through which to give it adequate publicity and editorial support.

    In every community there are men who are finding relaxation and pleasure in their workshops. They usually work alone and are unacquainted with others who have similar tastes in their own neighborhood. They are frequently poor mixers. But there is no reason why they should work alone by themselves. A local home workshop club will bring them together and be of immense value. If you wish to take advantage of this opportunity and help get a club organized in your locality, fill out the coupon below [not included] and send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope.

1930s "National Homeworkshop Guild Organizational Leaflet"

The window below contains a reproduction of the text of a NHG Leaflet -- Bulletin No. 16 -- that contains three things:




"National Homeworshop Guild Organizational Leaflet"

Popular Science Monthly October, 1938, page 189. In the box below is a portion of an extensive article (and related material) that celebrates the fifth anniversary of the formation of the National Homeworkshop Guild:


    The Guild Offers a Free Manual

    You can now start a home workshop club with absolute confidence of building it into a successful organization because the National Homeworkshop Guild has just published a manual that contains everything you need to know. A copy is given free to each new club.

    Crammed within its nine closely printed pages are a multitude of ideas and suggestions: hints on arranging programs, obtaining good publicity, taking home workshop pictures, building up a library, holding club exhibitions, and enlarging the membership.

    Actually, the manual consists of seven bulletins on different subjects. The Guild plans to reprint these and other bulletins in booklet form later and will then have to charge for each copy, but for a limited period you can obtain one. without cost as soon as your club chartered.

    This is one of the most helpful of the many services the Guild has undertaken and will go a long way toward assisting your group to get firmly established. Once you have digested and put into practice the information in the manual, you club should grow steadily and soon become an integral part of the community.

    In order to help in the preliminary work of organizing local clubs, the Guild has another instruction bulletin that tells exact how to get started and contains a mod constitution and by-laws. It will be sent free, together with an application blank for a charter, upon receipt of a large (legal- size), stamped, addressed envelope.

    The Guild is a noncommercial and nonprofit unit for the promotion of the home workshop hobby, and it charges no dues or fees of any kind. For full information fill out the coupon or write a letter at once. Applicants must be at least sixteen years of age.


Charter for NHG club in Danville IL 1933