After over a week of heavy rain, the skies began to clear on Wednesday morning May 23rd in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania just in time for the tailgating activities in the Comfort Suites University Hotel parking lot, signaling the start of EAIA’s 85th anniversary Annual Meeting. It didn’t take long for the rather vigorous tool sales to begin.
Everything from a spinning wheel, to planes, to hammers, to books, and even an early 5 key clarinet found new homes before the day was over.
The registration table was busy as 158 people signed in for the meeting including 21 first time attendees. Registrants were thrilled to find the complimentary gifts in their registration packets, particularly the 11th in the series of commemorative medallions designed by EAIA member Tom Elliott and the beautiful limited edition “libella” produced specifically for this meeting by Lee Valley Tools. EAIA Board member Robin Lee’s generosity made sure that EAIA’s 85th anniversary Annual Meeting will be memorialized in grand style.
Thursday morning the sun was out and the EAIA members in attendance left the hotel for a very busy day with tours of the Bethlehem Steel Works, the Moravian Museum, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and lunch in the Colonial Industrial Quarter. You can check all of these interesting sites out at, www.historicbethlehem.org.
It was a day filled with history, learning, new knowledge and camaraderie. The Fiber Arts Interest Group met back at the hotel in the late afternoon for a presentation on “rug punching” presented by Becky Densmore.
Members of this group also displayed their project from last year at Old Sturbridge Village, as well as other works in progress, and made plans for activities at the 2019 Annual Meeting.
Dianne Carpenter made sure that anyone who wanted some wonderful raw wool sheared from her own sheep went home with all they needed.
We convened after dinner at the National Museum of Industrial History just a few blocks from our hotel for the Ice Cream Social and “Whatsit’s” session. While enjoying Moravian cake, Tandy cake and Shoofly pie as well as ice cream with all the toppings, EAIA member Bob Muhlbauer entertained us with his singing while accompanying himself on his Martin guitar (he’s really good!).
The museum had been closed to the public for our event and members had the opportunity to view the exhibits at their leisure. This relatively new Smithsonian affiliated museum (see www.nmih.org) is located in a restored building on the Bethlehem Steel grounds and is well worth a visit if you’re in the Bethlehem area.
Terry Page and his crew once again did a fine job with the interesting “Whatsits” brought in by members. We managed to figure out most of them at this always popular part of our annual meetings.
Everyone went to bed tired but happy on Thursday night and were ready and raring to go again on Friday morning. We carpooled to nearby Nazareth, PA in the morning and visited the Moravian Historical Society Museum and then enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Martin Guitar Company.
Martin Guitar has been making beautiful handcrafted guitars and ukuleles in Nazareth since 1845. Many commented that this tour was “the best industrial tour” they’d ever taken (https://www.martinguitar.com/). The Martin Guitar Museum located at the factory is filled with fascinating exhibits and fabulous guitars.
Friday afternoon we enjoyed the sunshine and pleasant surroundings at the Jacobsburg Historical Society, home of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum.
The wonderful all volunteer staff put on a fabulous program as we learned about the five generations of the Henry family who made long guns at the site. The afternoon provided a relaxing time to view the Henry’s carriage house, the blacksmith shop, the boat shop, the summer kitchen, as well as the family museum and the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum. This group of dedicated volunteers have made the Jacobsburg historical Society a great place to visit if you’re ever in the area (www.jacobsburghistory.com/).
Friday evening, many members enjoyed the face paced antique tool auction put on by Mike Urness and Sara Holmes of the Great Planes Trading Company. It was another full day of learning and fun!
On Saturday morning the tool exchange started as soon as the doors open and we enjoyed 23 displays brought by members with the theme, “Tools that Cut and Tools that Measure. The displays were varied and showed great ingenuity.
Many members also attended the Saturday morning workshops which included blacksmithing, a great lecture and tasting by Historic Bethlehem’s own beer historian.
We learned how to make Moravian stars, had a behind the scenes textile and doll house tour at the Kemerer Museum and even heard about the history and making of the Polly Heckewelder doll, the oldest continuously made doll in the U.S. But there was still more! On Saturday afternoon, Henry Disston Jr. gave a wonderful lecture on the history of the Disston Saw Company. At the conclusion of his talk Henry and his brother Michael paired up with Henry on his Martin Guitar while Michael played his Disston musical saw.
We also discovered that one of our own EAIA members, Tal Harris also plays the musical saw and we were treated to a wonderful spontaneous concert!
Saturday evening concluded with the always fun Silent Auction with items donated by EAIA members in attendance, with many of the items made by EAIA members. All the money raised goes to support the EAIA budget and lots of people went home with one or more items from the auction. Our banquet and Annual Meeting followed with good food, great conversation and fond farewells as the evening wound down. The Lehigh Valley proved to be a great location for a memorable meeting to help celebrate EAIA’s 85th Anniversary!
We’ll meet again next spring in Lowell, Massachusetts May 15th thru May 18th 2019 for EAIA’s next Annual Meeting. Mark those dates on your calendar and join us for a great time!
Stay tuned for a picture gallery of the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting coming soon!
by Paul Van Pernis
Please check out this online photo gallery from the event which you can find here.
 A libella is a plumb level. The Assyrians and Egyptians were probably the first users of the libella. It consists of an “A” shaped frame with a plumb line suspended from the apex that coincides with a mark on the lower crossbar when the instrument is level. Archeologists are of the belief that the horizontal foundations of the great pyramids of Egypt were probably defined by using a libella. It was once a standard piece of equipment for the woodworker, carpenter, stone mason and surveyor. It can determine plumb and level, be used as a square and even serve as a ruler if needed. The modern toolbox has replaced the libella with three tools; a spirit level, a plumb bob and a framing square.