The first blacksmith to arrive in Colonial America was a fellow by the name of James Reed, who promptly forged an iron chisel for each of his greatful Jamestown shipmates. Needless to say Mr. Reed was sorely missed when a fever took him the next summer. Native American Indians also valued the ironworker's craft. So much so, that many chiefs demanded in their treaties with the Great White Father that a well supplied smithy be settled among them.
Blacksmiths rarely did any finishing or polishing of the charcoal blackened metal which issued from the forge. Some did however, impress their initials or mark upon tools of which they were particularly proud. Not a few smiths went on to manufacture tools on a larger scale. Many founded factories that existed well into the 20th Century.
In addition to a forge, bellows and anvil, a well equipped smithy needed several kinds of tongs and anvil-mounted accessories. Top-surface tools were the set hammer, flatter, fuller, top swage, and chisel. Anvil tools inserted in the hardy hole for working bottom surfaces were, the bottom fuller, bottom swage, hot hardie and cold hardie. Swage blocks and large cone mandrels were floor and stump mounted tools. American blacksmith shops became motorized around the turn-of-the-century.
Power driven hammers increased output tremendously and also eliminated much of the tedious drudgery associated with the trade.
Source: Tool Collectors, by Ronald S. Barlow, 1985.
The Biblical two wheeled chariot had no springs and was obviously a rough riding contraption on the best of roads. Little progress in carriage design was made from those early days until the mid 16th-century when an enamored Dutchman presented Queen Elizabeth with a fine heavy coach for her personal use.
English nobility and other rich folks of the day quickly adopted this new form of transport and a new British industry was bom. About a century later a Mr. Obadia Elliot invented the elliptic spring and someone else added leather shock absorbers. The cumbersome early coach soon evolved into a much more comfortable and graceful vehicle.
With these and other improvements came a more factory-like approach to carriage building. Blacksmiths were housed in one room and wheelwrights in another. The wood-working department was sealed off and a special dust free area was set aside for painting & varnishing.
Woods used in coachwork were Ash, for frames, and Basswood, Cherry, Poplar, and Tulip for body panels. Wheels were hickory spoked with gumwood hubs and oak felloes. All of this lumber was seasoned at least five years before any shaping was done. A first class Philadelphia body shop of the 1870's kept at least eighty thousand board feet on hand in its curing and seasoning rooms.
Painting, varnishing, and hand rubbing the finish was standard procedure on even the least expensive carriages. First the body was covered with a sealer coat of oil-based primer then any open pores which remained were filled with a thinned putty, lightly sanded and covered with another coat of oil primer. After drying, five coats of ochre pigment and japan varnish, mixed with turpentine, were applied. This was hand rubbed to a fine finish with pumice stone and again coated and sanded. The last color application consisted of 3 layers of paint followed with two protective coats of fast drying copal varnish. The coach was now ready for the customer, who had to repeat the whole procedure every year or two in order to protect his investment.
Just prior to the Civil War machinery covering nearly every phase of the coach-building process was introduced. Power-cut mortises, hydraulic tire-setting machines, and self-oiling junction boxes were but a few of the inovations by American carriage making firms who now led the world in production.
The topless sporting rigs and spidery wheeled Yankee phaetons actually frightened European visitors who were used to much more substantial looking coaches. Before the war of the Union it took half a year's wages to purchase one of these vehicles. Even an economy model was priced well over one hundred dollars. The term "Carriage Trade" had come to denote the wealthiest customers of local merchants, those who did their shopping from liveried carriages. However, by the turn-of-the-century almost any farmer could afford a factory made vehicle. Census figures for the year 1900 showed nearly one hundred thousand pleasure rigs a year coming off the production lines. Just a month's wages could now put a tradesman "in the buggy seat." By 1895 one could purchase any part of a wagon or carriage's running gear from Sears & Roebuck or any large hardware house. Factories had become assembly lines, components were no longer primarily made on the premises but were purchased from outside specialist firms in wholesale quantities.
The tools of the carriage maker run the entire spectrum of handicrafts. Generally speaking they are often more curved or refined than those of the carpenter or cabinet maker and are much in demand by collectors.
Source: Tool Collectors, by Ronald S. Barlow, 1985.
Coopers (Barrel Making)
As illustrated in the circa 1750 engraving left, early coopers needed only a few basic tools to ply their craft. Many European cooperage concerns operated in open-air city markets or under the archways of municipal buildings. American coopers most often worked in sheds or barn-like structures.
Barrel making was a 3,000 year old trade at the birth of Christ. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, gives the Piedmontese credit for inventing wooden wine casks which replaced their earthenware jars and animal skin containers. Early Egyptian merchants shipped grain in hoop-bound wooden containers and since then nearly every product under the sun has been transported in barrels. Southern plantation owners shipped their produce to Northern cities in casks. Other states moved apples, nails, beef, pork, fish, flower, sugar, cranberries and laundry soap in these containers.
There were two kinds of coopers: Wet Coopers who made barrels for liquids using^oak, chestnut or beech; and Dry Coopers who made containers for transporting dry merchandise. Pine or fir was preferred for these lesser quality barrels.
Domestic brewers and distillers employed thousands of coopers. In 1866 beer production alone required the construction of five million barrels. Whiskey output for the year 1870 was seventy-one million gallons. The West India rum and sugar trade kept both British and Yankee based cooperages going full-time for several decades.
This constant unflagging demand finally led to mechanization of the entire trade. Over 400 different barrel making inventions were patented in the United States between 1844 and 1883. Production became so efficient that by 1880 the cost of a barrel was only 32 cents.
The best barrel staves were those cleft with a curved
froe. The process of splitting the wood naturally along its
grain made staves much less likely to warp at some point
after assembly. A side axe was used to narrow the ends of
rough staves before a trip to the shaving horse where they
were further refined with a curved draw knife. Next a
jointer plane was employed to achieve the proper side
angle on each stave, for a watertight fit. Stave gauges
were used as templates for the radius curve and edge pitch
on large storage vats and other containers where an exact
measure of liquid was specified. Most work on stave joints
was however, done strictly by eye. After the jointing process
the staves were set up in an assembly jig and various
sized truss hoops were used to pull the whole thing together tightly.
Next came a steaming of the inside surface
with a cresset, or crude stove, fueled by woodshavings and
sprinkled with water. The truss hoops were further tightened
and the still open ends were sawn off.
If the farmer of the American Revolutionary years of 1770's could have returned 100 years later in 1870s, he probably would have been mildly surprised to see draft horses in the field instead of oxen and improved harvesting tools of the day like the reaper and binder. But almost everything else in ordinary farming would have been quite familiar.
Take the farmer of the 1870s, however, and wake him up today on a modern commerical farm in any good farming area of the country, and he'd surely go into instant shock.
During the second century of our Bicentennial, nearly everything in agriclture changed -- from seed the farmer plants and the livestock he raises to the way he sees himself, his occupation and his role on the world scene. He was a member of the majority group in American life in the 1870s. Today,  he and other farm workers represent 1 in 20 in the work force, and he and his family constitute only 4 1/2% of the total U.S. population.
See: Agricultural Equipment that built our Nation!
Sketch left are 16th Century wheelwright apprentices plying their 3,000 year old trade. The workman at far left mortises felloes which have been shaped with side axe and adze. At center we see spokes being driven home in a hub which had been aged for 10 years before being turned and mortised. In the background an apprentice uses a spoke shave to round off square edges. At right a skilled workman measures and trims oversized spokes before doweling the felloes together.
Sketch Left: A frantic looking crew of French wheelwrights hammer and pry a red hot rim into place. Afterwards they will plunge the whole thing into a water trough to shrink fit. At right, glowing nails are driven through the rim into each fello section. A hundred years later, in 1850, one man might mount and shrink 4 carriage rims in half hour using the newly invented hydraulic tire-setter. By the year 1865 every phase of wooden wheel construction had become a machine assisted operation.
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These records are part of the "Genealogy Computer Package"
*** PC-PROFILE *** Volume - II. Sarratt/Sarrett/Surratt Family Profile©
Compiled and self Published in Oct. 31, 1989 by Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. with
the assistance of my late mother|
Mrs. M. Lucille (WILSON) SARRETT (1917-1987) The SFA "Work-Books" were compiled by "States" listing the various families, born, married, died, and a history of that family branch. In 1996 I started "Up-Loading" this material on the Sarratt/Sarrett/Surratt Families of America (SFA)© site. ..prs