It may be hard to imagine right now in the depths of this long hard winter, but spring is coming and before we know it we’ll be gathering from all over the country for the 2018 Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting. It’s EAIA’s 85th Anniversary, so come and celebrate with us in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. If you haven’t already received your registration form in the mail, rest assured, it will be arriving shortly. We have a wonderful meeting lined up for you with lots to see and do. Fill out your registration form, sign up for the workshops you want, make your reservations with the hotel, and send it all in! Our weekend in the Lehigh Valley will be filled with history, architecture, learning, interesting workshops, and a celebration of EAIA’s 85th anniversary. We’ll be based at the Comfort Suites University Hotel at 120 West 3rd Street in Bethlehem.
The room rate is $119/night and is good for 3 nights prior to and 3 nights after our meeting. The phone number for making reservations is 610-882-9700. Be sure to mention EAIA when you call to make your reservations.
As usual we’ll start our meeting on Wednesday afternoon with tailgating in the hotel parking lot. So, bring those tools and other items from the dark recesses of your collection that you want to sell or trade. On Wednesday evening you’re invited to tour the Moravian Archives and view their amazing collection of architectural drawings, art works, day books, and journals.
The Moravians were meticulous record keepers and this archive is a treasure trove of Moravian history. On Thursday we’ll spend a full day in Bethlehem learning about the Moravians, their communal culture and their religious beliefs. We’ll visit the wonderful 18th century Moravian buildings, the Colonial Industrial Quarter, and the Moravian Church. The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts is also on the agenda. Housed in three interconnected mid-1800’s homes the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts features changing exhibits, period rooms, and galleries highlighting furniture, paintings, china, clothing, and silver from three centuries of decorative arts. The museum has over 60,000 items in their collection, so there will be lots to see.Their collection of antique dollhouses is a real treat.
We’ll also have a guided tour of the Bethlehem Steel Stacks and learn more about this vital industry that for over 100 years supplied much of the steel used throughout the world.
Thursday afternoon the Fiber Arts Interest Group will enjoy a talk by Rebecca Densmore on “Rug Punching”. We’ll top off Thursday with our annual Ice Cream Social and “Whatsit’s Session”. It will be held Thursday evening at the National Museum of Industrial History just a few blocks from our hotel. The museum staff have agreed to close the museum to the public so EAIA members will have the run of the museum from 7-10 PM. This Smithsonian affiliate museum houses wonderful exhibits related to America’s industrial history including some incredible pieces of machinery from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. Museum staff will be on hand to answer your questions.
You won’t want to miss it! Don’t forget to bring that “whatsit” you’ve been puzzling over and see if we can help you figure it out..
Friday will be another full day. We’ll carpool to Nazareth, Pennsylvania (just nine miles from Bethlehem) for a visit to the Moravian Historical Society which has an outstanding collection of Moravian artifacts. We’ll also take a behind the scenes tour of the Martin Guitar Factory and their wonderful on-site museum.
Lunch will be at the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum where we’ll tour the museum and hear from their archivists and enjoy a black powder rifle demonstration (Jacobsburg Historical Society). The Henry Family not only produced or repaired firearms for all our nation’s major conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, but they were also the primary suppliers of rifles for one of the largest American business enterprises of the early nineteenth century, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. The Henry firearm became the most prominent early weapon of the western frontier due to its durability, accuracy, and relatively low cost.
Then we can head back to Bethlehem in time for the Great Planes Antique Tool Auction scheduled for Friday night at the hotel. Mike and Sarah have put together a wonderful auction for our 85th anniversary meeting.
Saturday you’ll have the opportunity to once again spend time in the Colonial Industrial Quarter where we’ll set up Saturday morning tool trading and displays. Our display theme for this year is “Tolls that Measure and Tools that Cut”. This theme gives you lots of room to be creative! Displays are a popular and wonderfully educational part of our Annual Meetings, so please consider bringing a display! Once you’ve looked at the displays and done some tool trading you’ll have the chance to choose from several workshops on Saturday morning including:
- A Blacksmithing presentation which will be held at the Blacksmith’s shop in the Colonial Industrial Quarter.
- Moravian traditions activities including, paper star folding, candle dressing and scherenschnitte. Scherenschnitte is a traditional German folk craft that involves cutting paper to produce designs or pictures. At the end of this workshop, each participant will take home a glass Moravian star, a folded Moravian star and a “dressed” candle. Moravian stars, originated in the Moravian boarding schools in Germany in the nineteenth century as an exercise in geometry, the stars were carried throughout the world by Moravian missionaries and other church workers. Now, this popular Christmas decoration is used throughout the world to proclaim the hope of Advent.
- A special “Behind the Scenes” Textiles Presentation with the curator at the Kemerer Museum. The museum has an extensive collection of textiles and you will have the opportunity to see them in the company of the museum curator.
- Brewing Talk with tastings. The Moravians were into beer and a “beer historian” will discuss and demonstrate early American brewing techniques. Yes, you’ll have a chance to sample the brews!
- A Polly Heckewelder Doll presentation. Johanna Maria “Polly” Heckewelder was born on April 16, 1781 in Salem, a Native American mission on the Muskingum River in Ohio. She was said to be the first “white” woman born in the Ohio territory. Polly was educated at the Female Seminary in Bethlehem. After completing her education, she taught school before losing her hearing a few years later. Throughout her adult life, she lived with her parents, who returned to Bethlehem in 1810, and in the Single Sisters’ house in Bethlehem. In 1861, Ms. Heckewelder founded the Freedman’s Aid Society. The members sewed clothing and other items for soldiers fighting in the Civil War. In 1865, the group changed its name to the Ladies’ Sewing Society. Ms. Heckewelder died on September 19, 1868. When the Ladies’ Sewing Society began sewing cloth dolls for charity in 1872, they named the doll Polly after Ms. Heckewelder. The Polly Heckewelder doll is the oldest, continuously made, American doll. It originated in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where it is still manufactured today by members of the Moravian Church’s Ladies Sewing Society. The tradition of these handmade dolls continues today. The purpose of the society in making the doll has always been to benefit church and mission causes and to have fun. You’ll have the opportunity to see how these dolls are made.
- Behind the scenes Doll House Collection Tour at the Kemerer Museum There are 40 replica buildings and 5,500 doll house pieces at the Kemerer Museum. The collection features dollhouses from every decade between 1830 and 1930. You’ll have a chance to get “up close and personal” with these wonderful items from the Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection.
After lunch on Saturday we’re going to hear Henry Disston Jr. talk about the history of the Disston Saw Company and hear him play his musical saw at the end of his presentation. After Henry Disston Jr.’s talk you’ll get a breather before our annual Silent Auction. This fun event will be a great warm up to our 85th Anniversary Banquet and Annual Business Meeting.
Whew! That’s a lot to see and do! So, sign up on line, fill out your registration form, sign up for the workshops, track down your whatsits, think about what you can donate to the Silent Auction and come join us as we celebrate EAIA’s 85th Anniversary in the Lehigh Valley on May 23rd thru May 26th, 2018.
by Paul Van Pernis