Saturday, July 1, 2017

An artisan and a patriot -- a little something for Independence Day -- NOT THE MOVIE

I saw something that I have never seen before on my, I probably shouldn't run again until my broken jaw is fully healed, morning walk.  I swear, I will run again.  You know, once the swelling goes down and my jaw returns to its former home and my formerly perfect teeth have their new caps.  On a side note, I'm switching from boxing to aikido.  I need to unify my life energy........or something.

 Where was I?   

Oh yeah, this morning I saw a roadrunner fly.  Or what passes for flying for a roadrunner.  It smacked into the side of the building 3 times before it got to the roof.  There was a hummingbird hovering a few inches over its head.  Maybe the roadrunner was after the hummingbird's eggs.  Anyway the carnivore was no match for the agile nectar eater who seemed to be daring it to make a move.  I'm pretty sure the hummingbird would have bloodied the roadrunner before it could even spread its pathetic virtually useless wings if it tried anything.  Hummingbirds are fierce and fearless.  

That's the roadrunner who probably sustained a brain injury trying to get to the roof and the hummingbird ready to attack

And now for the awkward segue.  

The United States was a hummingbird once.  Maybe not the United States but the colonies or the colonists.  This fledgling nation was fierce, fearless and agile.  I'm killing it with the bird analogies today.   Or are they metaphors.  Not sure.  I do know that they are not semaphores.  Actually I don't have any idea what any words mean.  I'm just making all this crap up.  Because really a segue is supposed to be a smooth transition. Onward to what passes as my point fearless reader.

Drawn and engraved for the Society of Iconophiles, New York, 1899.

You may have heard of this guy named Paul Revere.  He was a silversmith who apparently practiced dentistry.  Hmmmmm..........probably can't fix my own he was able to identify the nine month old corpse of one of his dental patients from the wire he used to hold his false tooth in.  The guy had died in a battle and was buried on the battlefield. His family wanted him to have a proper burial and a headstone.  Digging up corpses, creepy and yet fascinating.   Revere also made gunpowder.  Eventually he got into iron casting and he opened the first copper mill in North America.  To me he is a testament to the adaptability of the skills of the artisan class in general but specifically in Colonial America.    He did live a really long life which gave him time for all of this.  At this point it doesn't look like I will have that kind of time.  At least not if I continue to accidentally try to kill myself.  For those of you who like Hamilton, Revere was a Federalist.  

This wasn't the guy.  Patrick Carr was killed in the Boston Massacre. Paul Revere did the engraving.  What a talented guy.

Print shows section of newspaper column with illustration of the coffin bearing skull and crossbones and the initials of Patrick Carr, who died from wounds received during the Boston Massacre. Revere, Paul, 1735-1818, engraver

The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt. Boston : Engrav'd Printed & Sold by Paul Revere, 1770.   A sensationalized portrayal of the skirmish, later to become known as the "Boston Massacre," between British soldiers and citizens of Boston on March 5, 1770. On the right a group of seven uniformed soldiers, on the signal of an officer, fire into a crowd of civilians at left. Three of the latter lie bleeding on the ground. Two other casualties have been lifted by the crowd. In the foreground is a dog; in the background are a row of houses, the First Church, and the Town House. Behind the British troops is another row of buildings including the Royal Custom House, which bears the sign (perhaps a sardonic comment) "Butcher's Hall." Beneath the print are 18 lines of verse, which begin: "Unhappy Boston! see thy Sons deplore, Thy hallowed Walks besmeared with guiltless Gore." Also listed are the "unhappy Sufferers" Saml Gray, Saml Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks, and Patrick Carr (killed) and it is noted that there were "Six wounded; two of them (Christr Monk & John Clark) Mortally." The print was copied by Revere from a design by Henry Pelham for an engraving eventually published under the title "The Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or the Bloody Massacre," of which only two impressions could be located by Brigham. Revere's print appeared on or about March 28, 1770.

Paul Revere kind of amazes me.  He really filled his life.  He had something like 16 kids.  Who can participate in a revolution, run a silversmith business, create a gunpowder manufacturing facility because there was a need, create mass produced silverware with the use of a rolling mill , learn to cast iron and then bronze, and then use the rolling mill to mill copper?  Probably didn't even know his kids names. 

I do think it's fascinating that a guy who was depicted riding a horse and ringing a tiny little bell ended up casting giant iron and bronze bells.  This isn't one of them, but I couldn't find a picture of one. Seemed appropriate though.

The bell's first note....Woman with hammer alongside the Liberty Bell, in foundry. 
Repro. of painting by Jean Léon Gérom̂e Ferris.
-  This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.

Paul Revere never said "The British are coming"

The artisan class in colonial America was incredibly resourceful.  Not all were as successful as Mr. Revere, but they had limited technology and resources compared to manufacturers today. Even compared to the available technology in Europe at the same time in history.  They probably never had to say that their goods were handmade.  That was assumed.

Illus. in: Gleason's Pictorial, v. 6, (1854), p. 360.
-  This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
-  Caption card tracings: United States History; Connecticut; Foundries; Shelf.
I realize I am jumping around in history and maybe someday I will bring all of this together to make some sort of point, but for now I am just sharing the discovery process. 

One last thing.  This is a poster from 1917 for something called Wake Up America Day.  It uses a portrayal of Paul Revere to recruit for military enlistment during World War I.

Wake up America Day - April 19, 1917 / James Montgomery Flagg.
Poster showing a woman, possibly Jean Earl Moehle (Möhle), dressed as Paul Revere carrying lantern and American flag. Moehle reenacted Paul Revere's ride for the Wake Up America Patriot's Day celebration in New York City. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2015 and The New York Times, April 19, 1917)
Flagg, James Montgomery, 1877-1960, artist
Enjoy your 4th of July and remember history has lessons and we need to study it and contemplate it to see if we can figure out what it can teach us.  Follow the threads.  Don't get duped by the present.

Back to work

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Rabbit Hole, part deux

 I'm still stuck in the rabbit hole.  I thought I would be showing a process this week , but instead I decided to have a near death experience and then do online research while I recovered.  I asked a buddy of mine who is also an exceptionally fine blacksmith, and who made the bunny railing for La Fonda in Santa Fe about 20 years ago if he had any information on who did the metalwork for Mary Colter.   This is his response.

                Colter must have been an incredible force.  The bunnies ‘we’ (me) made were a railing for the La Fonda addition that became the high end guest rooms built where there was formerly a car park.  Actually John Prosser rough forged the bigger bunny butts ‘cause the 50 lb. Giant was not going to move that much material...... Lots of stories wrapped up in bunny butts.  The original bunny ash trays were made at the Santa Fe Rail Yard blacksmith shop.  I don’t know if that was in Abq or Santa Fe.  The owners (at the time) of the La Fonda or the architect tracked down one of the old farts that made them.  Ward met the old guy who apparently said something to the effect of “We hated making those fucking rabbits”, I think he used the collective “we” but I was not there.........

Since Colter used the rail line blacksmiths for the bunnies she might have utilized them for other objects. 

There you are.  I have a clue.  Yeah, I know, you wish I had a clue. 

These are the bunnies made by Harmony Forge for La Fonda about 20 years ago

This is the installed railing by Harmony Forge at La Fonda

Anyway, off I went to the Library of Congress and some other online resources to find out a little about the Santa Fe Rail Yard blacksmith shop.  I think when most people think of blacksmiths and blacksmith shops they either think of quaint little shops where a guy works on making all the things that the little town he lives in needs.  He shoes the horses and makes hinges and fixes wagon wheels.  The other perception is probably of the contemporary smith who makes really pricey decorative stuff.  Every time I go to a demonstration by some guy who describes blacksmithing, he describes one of those two things.  It's all about gates and hinges, but that description leaves out the industrial smiths.  They were making ship parts and train parts and machine parts.  They really didn't have any interest in bunnies.  So it's not surprising that the "old fart" hated making the rabbits. 

Hammering out a draw bar on the steam drop hammer in the blacksmith shop, Santa Fe R.R. shops, Albuquerque, New Mexico -- This is the title of this photo from the Library of Congress -- Photo by Jack Delano, 1943,  There is a black and white version of this too.  I don't know...

Albuquerque, New Mexico. An apparatus for shortening drawbars. The drawbar has just been taken out of the forge and is being lowered into place in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad blacksmith shop  -- Again title from Library of Congress -- Photo by Jack Delano 1943

Albuquerque, New Mexico. An apparatus for shortening drawbars in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad blacksmith shop. Repeated blows from the hammer at the heated end will shorten the bar to the desired length  --Library of Congress title -- by Jack Delano 1943

The interesting thing is, that according to the New MexicoDepartment of Cultural Affairs, the jackrabbit ashtrays were made by Walter Gilbert Wrought Iron Studio, ca. 1929.  So that's a little confusing.   It's plausible because according to Los Poblanos website Walter Gilbert worked with John Gaw Meem.     
                                  So what?,  you say.    
Well, John Gaw Meem  worked with Mary Colter on La Fonda.  So there you are.  Once again I am clueless.... ish.  

This is one of the original ashtrays attributed to Walter Gilbert (no relation) iron Studio

This is a jackrabbit ashtray made by Jim Pepperl
 about 20 years ago

I have more information and a bunch of pictures that I hope you enjoy but I don't have the full or even a clear answer to who made the metalwork for Mary Colter at the Grand Canyon.  

VIEW OF STORAGE YARD AND ASSEMBLING PLATFORM. BLACKSMITH SHOP UNDER CANVAS FLY IN RIGHT FOREGROUND - Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge, Spanning Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Coconino County, AZ -- Library of Congress -- I just put this in because this all started with metalwork at the Grand Canyon.  This photo doesn't have a year or a photographer attribution.  It's just another trail to follow.

Also, you probably noticed that I have gone back to putting virtually pointless links in my post rather than footnotes.  Eh.  

Check back next week.  If I recover fully and haven't thrown myself into a vat of vinegar, or baking soda, or boiling oil, or whatever works,  I will have a process post.  Otherwise you get more of this crap.  Which I'm enjoying.  If you aren't enjoying it you don't need to read it....oh wait, you aren't reading it.  Ha, jokes on me.

Back to bed

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Old iron stuff and who made it ... or How I got from the Grand Canyon to Jamestown

I fell down the rabbit hole. I'll admit I'm not much of a scholar.  Takes too much attention to detail.  Plus there's all that footnoting and bibliography that has to be dealt with.  As anyone who actually knows me, primarily my children will tell you, I'm much more likely to just pull it out of my pocket. (and yes, I did clean that statement up so I could appeal to a wider audience..........?) The three of you who found this blog can go ahead and share it with your friends. 

Where was I?  Oh yeah...the rabbit hole.  Actually I didn't fall so much as throw myself in.  A week or so ago I hiked from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch and back up.  South Kaibab down.  Bright Angel up.  I had a great time and learned a massive amount[1] and really just want to go back.  NOW.  I have thanked the appropriate people in the footnotes.[2]

Anyway, part of the Grand Canyon experience is recent history and that includes Mary Colter[3], the Fred Harvey Company[4], the need for water[5], El Tovar[6], mining[7], telephones[8], and transportation[9].  This is a partial list, but you know, the junk I'm interested in, in an everyday sort of way.  And I was asked questions. I had no answers.  Perhaps there are no answers, but that is what I want to find out.  I don't know who did the metalwork in El Tovar, or for Bright Angel Lodge[10], or for that matter any of the other metalwork.  My task, as I see it, is to try to discover what I can about the metalwork of the Grand Canyon.  

So here I am.  Deep in the rabbit hole with very little information about the things I was originally looking for.  As yet I have few answers to the questions about the Grand Canyon, but I did find this.

These are architectural fragments from excavations at Jamestown, Virginia.  The excavations took place in 1934 and 1935, Jamestown Island Colonial National Monument. [11]  The excavation uncovered fragments of old wrought iron hardware.  One of the two buildings was thought to be a warehouse.  It was long and narrow, near the shore and, of course, erected in the 17th century.  Not much of it remained.  The other was a house built by Edward Champion Travis after 1755.  It is possible it stood until 1803. 

This is the description from the original report filed of the hardware in the house. I wish I could touch it.

Hardware from the house

Hardware from the house

Picture of hardware from the house

This is the description of the warehouse.  

Hardware from the warehouse. There were no pictures.

The thing is, there are records of blacksmiths in colonial Virginia. I am hoping the same is true of the Grand Canyon.  I will keep searching and will keep posting asides as well.  This will be a long and winding road. 

As I  discover more, I will share it with my fan...Hi Bob!  How's the family?  If anyone else stumbles on this, ...hey! How's it going?  I hope you enjoyed this and come back ....please.

Now back to work.

[1] The hike was with the Grand Canyon Field Institute and was lead by a geologist named Brian Gootee with the assistance of Thea Gavin who is a poet.  They had so much information about the canyon.  Historical information from geological to original occupants to later occupant, as well as, an enormous amount of knowledge about the plants, animals and almost anything you could think of really in and around the canyon. 
[2] In addition to Brian and Thea (you should look them up, although I could make them links to themselves) I want to thank the rest of the very small staff at GCFI and my fellow hikers. 
[3] MaryColter was an architect and designer who worked for The Fred Harvey Company and the Sante Fe Railroad and did a lot of work at the Grand Canyon, including designing Phantom Ranch.  This is the Wikipedia link to information on her but look further.  She was interesting.
[4] TheFred Harvey Company was basically a hospitality company that worked with the Santa Fe Railroad to create restaurants and hotels along the rail lines and in the rail stations.  Again this is a linkto the Grand Canyon Lodges page.  It has a bit about Fred Harvey.  Again...this stuff is interesting.  Go look it up.
[5] The history of water in the desert and the history of water at the Grand Canyon are way too complicated for this footnote but as part of my process and my look into technology at the Canyon, I will be revisiting this topic.
[6] ElTovar is a former Harvey House.  It has an incredible history and is actually probably the place where I found the rabbit hole.  There is metalwork and part of this is trying to find out who did it.
[7] Mining is a huge part of the history of the Grand Canyon.  On the hike down the south Kaibab, Brian showed us a breccia pipe.  This one was radioactive which I learned after I peed on it.  Hey, it's hiking.
[8] The trans-canyon telephone line is another story I will follow while here in the rabbit hole.  All I will say at this point is it in the National Register of Historic Places. 
[9] All the ways that people arrived at the Grand Canyon and traveled the Canyon are fascinating.  Again, you will have to wait for this.
[10]Virginia L. Gratton Mary Colter Builder Upon the Red Earth.(1992)  There are some artisans who worked with Mary Colter who are named.  Earl Altaire painted furniture for La Fonda in Santa Fe. Olive Rush did murals and painted glass.  Colter used a master carpenter named E.V. Birt.  Arnold Ronnebeck did sculptured tiles.   Dorothy Stauffer did a mural.  Guy Gowan was a ceramic sculptor who worked with Colter on the Fred Harvey tableware.  Colter's secretary was named Sadie Rubins.  Fred Greer painted decorative motifs of sand paintings.  Fred Kabotie painted Hopi Room in the Watchtower.  Hildreth Meiere painted murals in Kansas City Union Station.  Interestingly the tinsmith goes unnamed, and the only mention of a blacksmith is in reference to aprons being used to upholster furniture.
[11] Architectural Remains, Unit B, Sub-unit 62, Jamestown, James City County, VA. Library of Congress. (1933)  HABS VA,48-JAM,4- and HABS VA,48-JAM,3-