Little-Known Anvil Makers

By Clayton Ray

Postman’s 1998 book, Anvils in America, is a landmark in the study of American anvils. He documented all of the major makers and many minor ones. It would, however, be too much to expect that he could have exhausted the subject, but not too much to suspect that some among the varied membership of EAIA might have knowledge of obscure brands, from advertising, brochures, catalogs, or other scattered contemporary sources. A few examples may serve to clarify the subject. All are late nineteenth or early twentieth century cast anvils.

Postman, page 140, recorded one “GEM” anvil but found no information on the maker. It is a cast iron anvil, unusual for its lugs for anchoring it, otherwise known almost exclusively on Fisher anvils.  My example is shown below.

Detail of “GEM” anvil with scale

Postman, pages 197-203, documented the American Star anvil, made in Trenton, NJ, the outstanding feature of which is its patented so-called “tempering cavity,” a cylindrical hole extending from the bottom well into the core of the anvil. The logo is a 5-pointed star centered on its right side.

Star was a popular logo and name of a wide variety of manufactured products, including one or more little-known anvils in addition to the American Star. Among these is the Swedish North Star brand, with a 5-pointed star. I have two anvils of about 100 lbs. each with embossed stars, about 2.5 inches in diameter, on the right side. These stars are unusual in being 6-pointed instead of the common 5-pointed stars. The only other mark is the weight on the front foot.

6-pointed star anvil. Although not very clear, the top scale on the ruler is in inches.


I have two anvils, one 8 lbs. and one 58 lbs., marked “U.S.A.” in large embossed letters on the right side. The letters are set in a recessed rectangle with rounded corners. They have hardy holes, but no pritchel holes.

Overall view of the anvil marked “U.S.A.”. Again. the top scale on the ruler is in inches.


Detail of the “U.S.A.” cast in the anvil.


Last, and to me most interesting, is an 18-lb. bench anvil, with no name, but with “chilled semi steel” in embossed letters along the right side near the bottom. Most unusual are swales on the underside, four linear crosswise and four circular, one at each corner.



18 lb. anvil with “CHILLED SEMI-STEEL” embossed on foot.


Detail of 18-lb anvil with embossed “CHILLED SEMI-STEEL” and swales evident on the underside.

Your help is needed in filling out information on these and many other obscure makers of U.S. anvils.

Clayton Ray

EAIA’s 85th Anniversary Annual Meeting Was A Great One!

Bling from the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

Pat Lasswell ponders an early plow plane while Jane Rees and Tom Elliott watch, 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Pat Lasswell ponders an early plow plane while Jane Rees and Tom Elliott watch during the tailgating at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

Pam and Ron Howard are pleased to see Cory Warner reach for his wallet, 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting tailgating

Pam and Ron Howard are pleased to see Cory Warner reach for his wallet during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting tailgating

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.[1]  EAIA Board member Robin Lee’s generosity made sure that EAIA’s 85th anniversary Annual Meeting will be memorialized in grand style.

A first look at the Bethlehem Steel Stacks during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

A first look at the Bethlehem Steel Stacks during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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,

Bethlehem Steel Stacks

The Bethlehem Steel Stacks

1848 fire engine named "Perseverance" at the Moravian Museum in Bethlehem, PA

1848 fire engine named “Perseverance” at the Moravian Museum in Bethlehem, PA

Lunch at the Luckebach Mill in the Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem, PA, 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Lunch at the Luckenbach Mill in the Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem, PA, during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

The Fiber Interest Group meeting at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

The Fiber Interest Group meeting at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

Nell Semel, Eileen Van Pernis and Alice Roemer show off their "Cricket" covers they completed from the 2017 EAIA meeting at Old Sturbridge Village

Nell Semel, Eileen Van Pernis and Alice Roemer show off the “Cricket” covers they completed from the 2017 EAIA meeting at Old Sturbridge Village

Dianne Carpenter made sure that anyone who wanted some wonderful raw wool sheared from her own sheep went home with all they needed.

Dianne Carpenter and Nell Semel at the 2018 Fiber Interest Group gathering at the 2018 EAIA annual Meeting

Dianne Carpenter made sure anyone who wanted some got raw wool sheared from her own sheep to take home!

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!).

EAIA Member Bob Muhlbauer entertains EAIA members at the ice Cream Social during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

EAIA Member Bob Muhlbauer entertains EAIA members at the ice Cream Social during the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting singing and playing his Martin Guitar

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  is located in a restored building on the Bethlehem Steel grounds and is well worth a visit if you’re in the Bethlehem area.

National Museum of Industrial History, Bethlehem, PA

National Museum of Industrial History, Bethlehem, PA

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.

Whatsit's Session at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Whatsit’s Session at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

Handwork at Martin Guitar, Nazareth, PA

Handwork at Martin Guitar, Nazareth, PA

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 ( The Martin Guitar Museum located at the factory is filled with fascinating exhibits and fabulous guitars.

The Martin Guitar Museum

The Martin Guitar Museum

Friday afternoon we enjoyed the sunshine and pleasant surroundings at the Jacobsburg Historical Society, home of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum.

The Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum

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 (

Lunch at the Jacobsburg Historical Society, 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Lunch at the Jacobsburg Historical Society


The summer kitchen at the Jacobsburg Historical Society

The summer kitchen at the Jacobsburg Historical Society

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!

Walter Jacob's display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Walter Jacob’s display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

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.

Charles William's display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Charles William’s display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Cheryl Fox's display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Cheryl Fox’s display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting


Roger Bourgeois display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Roger Bourgeois’ display at the 2018 EAIA Annual Meeting

Many members also attended the Saturday morning workshops which included blacksmithing, a great lecture and tasting by Historic Bethlehem’s own beer historian.

Blacksmith at Historic Bethlehem in the Colonial Industrial Quarter

Blacksmith at Historic Bethlehem in the Colonial Industrial Quarter

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.

Michael Disston playing the musical saw while accompanied by jenry Disston jr. on his Martin guitar at the 2018 EAIA annual Meeting

Michael Disston playing the musical saw while accompanied by jenry Disston jr. on his Martin guitar at the 2018 EAIA annual Meeting

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!

Historic Bethlehem's blacksmith discussing a classic moravian style hinge

Historic Bethlehem’s blacksmith discussing a classic Moravian style hinge

 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.

[1] 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.

EAIA’s 2018 Annual Meeting Photo Gallery – 85 Years Young!

Moravian Architecture in Bethlehem, PA

The Lehigh Valley was a great place to celebrate the Early American Industry Association’s 85th Anniversary during our 2018 Annual Meeting!  Beautiful weather, fantastic historic sites and museums to visit, great workshops, ,demonstrations,tool trading, and member displays. All done while we enjoyed lots of learning, friendship and fun in and around Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Watch the slide show below and enjoy the memories.  Can you find yourself?

Thanks to all of you for coming and special thanks to my co-hosts – David Lauer, David Pollak, and Eileen Van Pernis who helped make it all possible.  We hope to see all of you and many more EAIA members in Lowell, Massachusetts for the 2019 Annual Meeting May 15th thru the 18th, 2019!

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Stanley Model Shop Tools: A Transitional Furring Plane Prototype

This is the first of what is intended to be an occasional series describing some of the Stanley Model Shop tools in my collection and sometimes giving opinions and historical tidbits relating to them.  Many of the Model Shop tools are prototypes and, thus, are either one-offs or very limited production models.  Although information about a number of Model Shop tools has been published in journals such as The Chronicle, The Gristmill, and Fine Tool Journal and in various blogs, information about many others is not generally available to the tool collecting community.  I hope this series will help spread information about a few more of these very interesting tools.

Stanley maintained the Model Shop from the earliest times [1].  The Model Shop gave Stanley inventors an opportunity to try out new ideas and develop prototypes for new tools, to test prototypes and production parts, and to evaluate competitor’s products.  The Model Shop also stored prototypes for future reference.  Stanley actively solicited ideas for new tools from users at least as early as 1900 with the August 1900 Catalogue No. 26 stating on page 2 “We are frank to state that the design of many of the special tools which we show originated in the suggestions of our customers.  We are always pleased to receive suggestions from the tool-user.” [2]  I have heard, but I can’t remember where, that Stanley held regular Tuesday morning meetings to consider ideas and prototypes for production.

There were a number of authorized clean outs of obsolete prototypes, casting patterns, and other material from the Model Shop over the years with the largest happening in 1964 and 1974.  Typically, the removed materials were designated as “junk” and employees were allowed to take what they wanted.  This accounts for many of the prototypes seen today.

Many of the model shop tools share characteristics that differentiate them from production tools.  First, they are very limited production tools or one offs, some of which are unlike any regular production Stanley tools and some of which differ from regular production tools only in minor details.  Many Model Shop tools use mostly stock parts, but have specially made unique features.  The stock parts may be parts pulled off the production line or may be unfinished, imperfect, or seconds not of acceptable quality for sale.  Cutters may or may not be marked.  Lastly, many (but not all) of the Model Shop tools have Model Shop identifying marks painted or scratched on them, often in several places, or have tags identifying them as model shop prototypes.  Most of the identifying marks are numerical, although some are alpha-numeric.  These Model Shop marks don’t seem to have any particular chronological order and may have been put on at the whim of whoever was cataloging the prototypes that day.  Most Model Shop tags I have seen have dates which are useful for telling when the prototypes were made.

With that introduction, we now turn to the subject of this piece, a transitional furring plane prototype (Figure 1).  This is one of my favorite prototypes because of its simplicity and its self-documenting provenance.  As with many Model Shop planes, this one shows no signs of use.

Figure 1 Stanley prototype transitional furring plane

Figure 1 Stanley prototype transitional furring plane

The prototype is based on a regular production Type 10 (1893-1899) Stanley No. 35 transitional plane.  Features of Type 10 include an S casting mark on the lever cap, left hand threads on the adjusting nut, three patent dates on the lateral lever, and a STANLEY / PAT AP’L 19 92 stamp on the cutter.  The stamp on the cutter is quite weak on this example.  The patent date refers to Edmund A. Schade’s Patent No. 473,087 “Plane Iron” of that date for placing the large hole in the iron at the bottom of the slot in the iron rather than at the top as had been done previously on Stanley bench planes.

Although the patent for the “Schade slot” was not issued until 1892, Stanley had been producing and marketing the feature in 1890 [3] [4].  These dates became important because features made publicly available more than two years before the patent was granted rendered the patent void.  Among others, the Ohio Tool Company copied the large hole at the bottom of the iron (Ohio Tool used a hexagonal hole rather than a round one).  Stanley sued for patent infringement with the trial beginning in 1901.  Ohio Tool asserted that the low hole was a prior invention available to any company.  The court agreed with Ohio Tool, noting that the patent was an obvious solution to a simple problem, and Stanley lost the case.

Edmund A. Schade was born August 29, 1855, in Saxony Germany [4].  The family immigrated to America about 1864 and Edmund apprenticed in the Sargent & Company machine shop prior to 1873, when he was employed by Stanley Rule & Level Company.  Shortly thereafter he rose to foreman of his department and by 1900 became Mechanical Superintendent and remained so until his death in 1932, ending a 59 year career with Stanley.  The April 19, 1892, plane iron patent was Schade’s first known plane related patent.  Other notable Stanley plane patents by Schade include the design patent for the No. 20 circular plane (1893), patents for the No. 55 combination plane (with Justus Traut, 1895), the early Bedrock plane frogs (1895), the tilt handles on the No. 85 and 10 ¼ planes (with his brother Albert, also employed by Stanley, 1905), the new style Bedrock planes (1911), brass bushings and machine screws to secure the frog on transitional planes(1912), Gage iron planes (1920), the design patent for the No. 144 plane (1925), and the patents for the No. 164 plane (1927) and Ready Edge Blades (1927).

Returning to the prototype furring plane, it was made by modifying the sole of a No. 35 plane.  As can be seen in Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3 the sole has been by hollowed out ahead of and behind the mouth, leaving small bearing surfaces at the mouth and heel (the purpose of the two small bearing surfaces is to allow the plane to follow the contours of rough sawn lumber when planing the “fur” off rather than to produce the flat surface that typical smooth planes produce).  Figure 3 shows that the hollowing out at the toe was not done very carefully; the cut is slanted across the toe of the plane.  Figure 3 also clearly shows the markings on the nose of the plane:  the Model Shop number 3706 and STANLEY / RULE & LEVEL COMPANY / NO. 35 with the last line being cut in half. 

Figure 2 View of sole of prototype plane

Figure 2 View of sole of prototype plane

Figure 3 Detail of nose of plane

Figure 3 Detail of nose of plane

Details of the markings on the sole of the plane are shown in Figure 4.  I have observed the I15 mark on other Model Shop prototype planes.  Its significance is unknown to me.  The sole behind the mouth also contains the signatures of E. R. Van Vleck and Boyer Lilpho(?) and the date March 26 / 04.  The toe of the sole is signed “Made April 9/04 by E. A. Schade.”  I have seen other examples of Schade’s signature and this appears to be in his hand.  It is interesting that Schade, who claims creation of this prototype, signed it two weeks after the other two.  E. A. Schade has been discussed above, but the identities of E. R. Van Vleck and Boyer Lilpho(?) are unknown to me.  Were they employees of the Model Shop or did they have other positions with the Stanley Rule and Level Company?  If anyone knows, let me know.

Figure 4 Details of markings on sole

Figure 4 Details of markings on sole

The date this prototype was made raises a question about its intended purpose.  It was made more than a year after Jefferson Allen’s “Plane” Patent No. 721,771 of March 3, 1903, but before the cast iron bodied Stanley No. 340 furring plane was marketed in 1905 (Figure 5) [5].  Was this intended to be a quick and dirty prototype of the No. 340 or did Stanley consider making a transitional furring plane.  If the latter, one suspects that the time of consideration must have been very brief because the wood sole of the plane with its small bearing surfaces near the mouth and heel would have worn away very quickly when used on rough lumber.

Figure 5 Stanley No 340 furring plane

Figure 5 Stanley No 340 furring plane

It should be noted that the transitional prototype furring plane and the production No. 340 plane resemble the plane shown in Allen’s patent (Figure 6) only in broad concept.  The patent states “This invention has for its object the production of a novel plane in which the cutting edge of the plane-iron is situated some distance below the sole of the stock, whereby the plane may operate upon portions of the surface to be planed which are below the level of the higher portions thereof.…  [S]ince the sole of the plane is above the level of the surface being operated upon it is possible to plane or smooth the depressed portions in the surface.… My improved plane is especially useful in such operations as smoothing up the boards of a floor.… My improvement is of such a character that it may be applied to any type of plane.”

The primary feature of the plane is “a gage rib [6 in Figure 6] which extends across the sole thereof adjacent the mouth through which the cutting edge of the plane-iron projects. Preferably this gage-rib will be constructed to be detachably secured to the plane, so that the plane can be used with or without it, as desired.”

The plane also features a detachable nose piece (nose-plate) (8 in Figure 6) and a rocking support toward the rear of the body (13 in Figure 6):  “I have herein illustrated said rib as being formed integral with a nose-piece 8, which is detachably secured to the front end of the plane, whereby said nose-plate and rib may be removed whenever it is desired to use the plane in the ordinary [w]ay…. I will also preferably provide the heel of the plane with a detachable half round or semispherical projection 13 to form a sort of rocking support for the plane when my improvements are applied thereto. This rocking support provides means whereby the plane may be regulated slightly to better accommodate it to uneven surfaces.”

Figure 6 Jefferson Allen's “Plane” Patent No. 721,771

Figure 6 Jefferson Allen’s “Plane” Patent No. 721,771

The Model Shop prototype furring plane (Figure 1) and the production No. 340 furring plane (Figure 5) resemble each other closely in concept and design and are a great simplification of the rather complicated design described in Allen’s patent. Allen promotes his plane as “especially useful in such operations as smoothing up the boards of a floor” while Stanley recommends the No. 340 plane “[f]or preparing lumber as it comes roughly sawed from the mill.  The construction is such that it will remove the fur, grit, dirt, etc., and in fact “clean up” the surface and get it ready for the bench plane quicker than any other hand tool.” [6]

If you have additional information or comments about this or other Stanley Model Shop prototypes, please contact me at or reply to this blog.  I look forward to hearing from you.


[1] C. Blanchard, “The Stanley Model Shop or Barrel Days,” Fine Tool Journal, vol. 50, pp. 22-23, Fall 2000.

[2] Stanley Rule and Level Company Catalogue No. 26, August, 1900.

[3] J. Walter, Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools, Guide to Identity & Value, Marietta, Ohio: The Tool Merchant, 1996, p. 806.

[4] R. K. Smith, Patented Transitional & Metallic Planes in America–Vol. II, Athol, MA: Roger K. Smith, 1992, pp. 224-229.

[5] J. Walter, Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools, Guide to Identity & Value, Marietta, Ohio: The Tool Merchant, 1996, pp. 457, 809.

[6] Stanley Tools Catalogue No. 110, 1911, p. 38.



Tales, Teasers, and Enticements – Part II

The Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum

The 85th Anniversary Early American Industries Association Annual Meeting is not far off.  Join us in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as we explore the diverse and fascinating history of the Lehigh Valley May 23rd through May 26th, 2018. We guarantee you’ll have a good time, make new friends and learn more about early American industry and the fascinating history of the Moravians.

The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

Figure 1. The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts

On Thursday one of our stops will be the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts which is housed in three interconnected mid-1800’s homes in Bethlehem. The museum is one of only 15 museums in the United States dedicated to the “decorative arts”. The period rooms, and galleries highlight furniture, paintings, china, clothing, and silver from over three centuries of decorative arts. The museum is named for Annie S. Kemerer who was born in 1865 just south of Bethlehem. Annie married into a prominent Bethlehem family and she and her husband had one son. Annie and her family enjoyed surrounding themselves with beautiful furniture, paintings, and decorative objects.  After the untimely deaths of her son and then her husband, Annie became a recluse but continued to be an avid collector of antiques. Through her generous bequest, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts was established in Bethlehem after her death in 1951. Annie Kemerer’s extensive personal collection includes lovely examples of Pennsylvania German textiles, exquisite furniture, priceless Bohemian glass, and her breathtaking 200-piece wedding china.

The Historic Bethlehem Collection Resource Center was added to the Kemerer Museum in the fall of 2013. This is a two-story environmentally controlled vault that houses all of the most sensitive objects in the collections of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. On the interior there are floor to ceiling glass walls making it possible for visitors to see the collections.

Doll House at the Kemmerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Figure 2. Doll House at the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The second floor of the vault is home to the distinguished Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection, forty-four structures and 6,000 pieces, making it one of the largest antique dollhouse collections in the United States. This collection, spanning the period from 1830-1930, recounts 100 years of architectural and decorative arts history. Mrs. Prime was so precise in her collecting that she only put pieces in each house that were period-appropriate, down to the china. Because the collection is so vast, the museum feature select houses throughout the year. During our EAIA Annual Meeting we’ve arranged special “behind the scenes” tours of both the dollhouse collection and the Kemerer’s extensive textile collection.

Martin Guitar Factory Museum

Figure 3. Martin Guitar Factory Museum

On Friday we’ll visit Martin Guitar in nearby Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  Established in 1833 by Christian Frederic Martin the company is highly regarded for its steel string guitars and is a leading manufacturer of flat top guitars. The company has been run by the Martin family throughout its history. The current chairman and CEO, C.F. ‘Chris’ Martin IV, is the great-great-great-grandson of the founder. The firm was the first to introduce many of the characteristic features of the modern flat top, steel-string acoustic guitar.  Martin instruments can sell for thousands of dollars, and vintage instruments occasionally command six-figure prices. We’ll take a tour of the factory to see how these world class guitars are made and spend time in the delightful museum that is housed in the factory.

Moravian Historical Society

Figure 4. The Moravian Historical Society

Friday will also allow us an opportunity to visit the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth. Housed in the George Whitfield house (1740-1743) the Moravian Historical Society museum houses one of the oldest and most distinguished collections of artifacts, art, and architecture related to Moravian history in North America.  You’ll see the first violin made in America, early Moravian made organs and an amazing collection of Moravian musical instruments.  The eighteenth and nineteenth-century Moravians considered music a necessity, an essential part of their daily lives. Many Moravian clergy and laypeople were trained in music before they came to Pennsylvania by the same composers who influenced Mozart and Haydn.  In Moravian life there was no distinction between the “sacred” and the “secular.” Each person’s gifts were used for the benefit of the entire community. While there was little emphasis given to music as a distinct profession–many of the composers were also teachers and pastors–music was an essential part of everyone’s education.

Early Moravian Organ Made in Bethlehem, PA

Figure 5. Early Moravian Organ Made in Bethlehem, PA

Throughout the history of the Moravian Church, instruments have been used consistently in worship as well as entertainment. Instruments came to America early with the Moravians; by 1742 Bethlehem had flutes, violins, violas da braccio, violas da gamba, and horns. Beginning in the early 18th century, Moravian settlements in America used the trombone choir consisting of alto, tenor, and bass trombones as a distinctive part of worship.  In 18th century Moravian settlements, the trombone choir, playing from the church tower or from in front of the entrance, served to call the congregation to worship, and served as the congregation’s “portable” ensemble for accompanying outdoor services, burial services, and the Easter sunrise service traditionally held in the graveyard adjacent to the church.

Henry Factory in Jacobsburg, PA

Figure 6. An Early Painting of the Henry Gun Factory in Jacobsburg, PA

On Friday afternoon we’ll have lunch at the Jacobsburg Historical Society (just 4 miles north of Nazareth) home of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle Museum.  The Pennsylvania Longrifle Museum features more than 100 historic arms on either permanent display or in rotating, topical exhibits. Displays feature Henry firearms dating from the American Fur Trade, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the American West, and the early twentieth century. Most of the firearms were made by the Henrys of Bolton, but the collection also contains arms made by Abraham Henry (1768-1807), who apprenticed in Nazareth under his brother William Henry II (1757-1821) but returned to Lancaster to practice his trade. The Bolton area itself produced guns for more than 100 years. Here are a few tidbits about Jacobsburg and the Henry family.

    • Around 1750, William Henry I began making and repairing rifles in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He repaired arms for the Pennsylvania troops building Fort Augusta on the Susquehanna in 1756 and served as an armorer for the Forbes Expedition of 1758.
    • Robert Fulton, a Lancaster native, was an early inventor of practical steam applications. As a young boy, he visited William Henry, who had been experimenting with steam-powered boats on the Conestoga River.
    • William Henry I served during the Revolutionary War as superintendent of arms and military accoutrements for the Continental army. Both continental and state authorities gave him enormous responsibilities for procuring a wide range of materiel — including shoes and guns — that kept American troops in the field.
    • 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 weapon of the western frontier due to its durability, accuracy, and relatively low-cost.
    • William Henry II, who lived and worked in Nazareth after 1780, was appointed an associate judge of Northampton County’s Court of Common Pleas in 1788 and a presidential elector in 1792. In 1799 he served as a judge in the trials that followed the 1798 Fries Rebellion, during which several hundred farmers marched on Bethlehem to force the release of tax resisters that federal marshals had imprisoned in the Sun Inn.
    • Mathew S. Henry (son of William Henry II) built the first iron furnace in Northampton County at Jacobsburg, which he named Catherine Furnace after his wife. The furnace produced its first ton of pig iron on May 10, 1825.
    • William Henry III was a founder of the city of Scranton, PA.
    • James Henry drafted the first legislation protecting Pennsylvania’s wetlands and waterways.

Figure 7, A Photo of the Henry Gun Factory

And of course, we’ll have our Whatsit’s session on Thursday night, so don’t forget to bring that tool you just can’t quite figure out and we’ll see if we can collectively give you an answer.

There’s a lot to do in the Lehigh Valley in and around Bethlehem.  You may want to come a day or two early or extend your stay for a day or two just to spend some more time in this fascinating part of Pennsylvania.  Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Lost River Caverns: Head to Hellertown and take a guided walking tour lasting 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll see natural cave formations including stalactites and stalagmites. Pack a jacket because it’s always 52 degrees in the cave.
  2. America on Wheels: Anyone who admires classic Pierce Arrows and Packards should visit this Allentown museum. Highlights include major exhibits like one on performance (fast and comfortable) cars, car memorabilia and a great gallery of trucks produced for 68 years by Mack Trucks.
  3. Pennsylvania is fortunate to still have almost 200 covered bridges, and there are seven in Lehigh and Northampton counties. A great way to see them is to take a self-guided driving tour. It’s a 50-mile journey that takes you through some of the most picturesque parts of the Lehigh Valley on your way to seeing the Valley’s covered bridges.
  4. The Asa Packer Mansion: It’s a short drive from the Lehigh Valley to the beautiful town called  Jim Thorpe. One of the best places to visit there is the Asa Packer Mansion. Built in 1861, it was the home of philanthropist, railroad magnate and founder of Lehigh University, Asa Packer. One unique aspect: The interior of the Victorian mansion is virtually unchanged, with the same furniture and furnishings as when the Packer family lived there from 1861 to 1912.
  5. Did you know that Just Born is the ninth largest candy company in the country and all of their candy is proudly produced in the USA?  Their largest factory is in Bethlehem and is the home of PEEPS®, MIKE AND IKE® and HOT TAMALES®  You can’t tour the factory, but you might want to indulge while you’re at the meeting!
  6. Antique stores and malls – lots and lots of them, from Bethlehem to Allentown to Kutztown.
  7. And there’s more.  This part of Pennsylvania is full of historic sites, small museums, wonderful architecture wonderful small towns and beautiful farmland.  We’ll be there at the end of May, so things should be in bloom!

It’s not to late to sign up!  Do it today! Don’t forget to bring your “Whatsit” and please think about bringing something you’ve made or an item you want to donate to our Silent Auction. It’s scheduled to take place right before our Saturday night banquet. All the money raised helps support EAIA!  Come and join us as we celebrate the Early American Industries Association’s 85th anniversary in the Lehigh Valley!

by Paul Van Pernis

Tales Teaser and Enticements – Part I

Moravian Architecture in Bethlehem, PA

The Early American Industries 2018 Annual Meeting is only about 3 months away.  On May 23rd through May 26th, 2018, we’ll celebrate EAIA’s 85th anniversary during our annual meeting in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.  What follows are a few historical facts, some teasers, and hopefully an enticement or two that will convince you to come join us for all the fun.

Did you know that the Moravian church has been around for over 550 years?  Founded in 1457, the Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren) as followers of John Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church.[i]  The eighteenth century saw the renewal of the Moravian Church through the patronage of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (What a great name!).

Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf

Figure 1. Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf

The Moravians settled in Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve in 1741 founded their communal society in Bethlehem. Here’s a fact – Moravian College in Bethlehem traces its origin to a girls’ school called The Bethlehem Female Seminary founded in May 1742 by sixteen-year-old Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf. The young countess, was on an eighteen-month visit to the Moravian settlements in the New World with her father, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf when she felt moved to start the school.  Because the Moravians consider every human soul a potential candidate for salvation, they feel every human being should be educated. Their philosophy is summed up by one of their early bishops Amos Comenius who said, “not the children of the rich or of the powerful only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns, villages and hamlets, should be sent to school.” The Moravians therefore considered schools secondary in importance only to churches.  Come and see the wonderful architecture of the Moravians.  Experience their culture and learn more about their communal society.  We’ll visit not only the buildings, but we’ll have a chance to visit the Moravian Archives during an open house in the evening on Wednesday May 23rd.  The Moravians kept great records of all of their activities, and these records, pictures, drawings, and artifacts are preserved in the Moravian Archives.

Painting of Bethlehem Steel Works c.1881 by Joseph Pennell

Figure 2. Painting of Bethlehem Steel Works c.1881 by Joseph Pennell

Bethlehem Steel can trace its roots to the Saucona Iron Company which was established in Bethlehem in 1857.  On May 1, 1861, the company’s title was changed again, this time to the Bethlehem Iron Company.  Construction of the first blast furnace began on July 1, 1861, and it went into operation on January 4, 1863. The first rolling mill was built between the spring of 1861 and the summer of 1863, with the first railroads rails being rolled on September 26. A machine shop, in 1865, and another blast furnace, in 1867, were completed. During its early years, the company produced rails for the rapidly expanding railroads and armor plating for the U.S. Navy.  During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of armor plate and ordnance to the U.S. armed forces, including armor plate and large-caliber guns for the Navy.

6 inch Naval Guns Being Made at Bethlehem Steel

Figure 3. 6 inch Naval Guns Being Made at Bethlehem Steel

In the 1930s, the company made the steel sections and parts for the Golden Gate Bridge.  During World War II, as much as 70 percent of airplane cylinder forgings, one-quarter of the armor plate for warships, and one-third of the big cannon forgings for the U.S armed forces were turned out by Bethlehem Steel.  Bethlehem Steel ranked seventh among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.  Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s 15 shipyards produced a total of 1,121 ships, more than any other builder during the war and nearly one-fifth of the U.S. Navy’s fleet.

USS Massachusetts Produced by Bethlehem Shipbuilding During World War II

Figure 4. USS Massachusetts Produced by Bethlehem Shipbuilding During World War II

At the end of 1995, Bethlehem Steel discontinued steel-making at the main Bethlehem plant. After roughly 140 years of metal production, Bethlehem Steel Corporation ceased its Bethlehem operations. During the Thursday tours we’ll learn more about the history steel making during our guided tour of the blast furnaces and the buildings remaining on this historic site. We’ll top that off with an evening tour of the National Museum of Industrial History located in one of the 100-year-old Bethlehem Steel buildings.  The museum which is within walking distance of our hotel is being closed to the public for our group and we’ll enjoy our Ice Cream Social and Whatsit’s session at the museum Thursday evening, May 24th.  The museum staff will be on hand to answer our questions and the museum will be ours to enjoy. This Smithsonian affiliated museum houses a great collection of machinery that was displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. In addition, they’ve got great information on the steel industry.

Jacquard Silk Loom at the National Museum of Industrial History

Figure 5. Jacquard Silk Loom at the National Museum of Industrial History

Did you know that the Lehigh Valley was the home of America’s silk industry?  More people including women and children were employed in the Lehigh Valley’s silk mills than steel mills.  The museum has a wonderful display about the silk industry including a Jacquard silk loom.

There’s all of this and lots more to do and see during EAIA’s 2018 Annual Meeting.  If you have registered already, do it now!  I’ll tell you more in the next installment of Tales, Teasers, and Enticements.


Figure 6. At the National Museum of Industrial History

by Paul Van Pernis


[i] John Hus (1369-1415) was a professor of philosophy and rector of the University in Prague. The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where Hus preached, became a rallying place for the Czech reformation. Gaining support from students and the common people, he led a protest movement against many practices of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy. Hus was accused of heresy, underwent a long trial at the Council of Constance, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415

A Maritime Blacksmith of Lamu

In my professional travels in developing countries, I’ve been amazed how analogous work methods are to those used in America in the early period of our trade history. Several years ago we had the opportunity to join our son in Kenya where he was finishing his junior year at UMass. As Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1970’s in the northwest corner of Kenya near Uganda we hadn’t an opportunity to explore the coast despite my interest and experience as a wooden boat builder. Knowing the era of traditional construction of wooden Lamu dhows was declining, we took the opportunity to fly from Nairobi to Lamu Island in a small plane to sail a dhow and explore the construction and maintenance of these venerable vessels. Lamu Island is located on the Indian Ocean on the northern coast of Kenya about 60 miles south of Somalia. The island had been the center of dhow construction for several hundred years and has not changed the construction techniques or the general structure in all that time. All of the construction is done on the island, from selection of ribs in the endless mangroves that surround the island to the forging of all the fittings that are used in fastening the hulls of the boats. Consequently it’s a time capsule and a window on the entire construction process. In many respects it’s an analog to the methods employed for shipbuilding in America two centuries ago, but with much more basic tools.

Since my son and I are amateur blacksmiths, we made sure we saw that component of construction. After sailing along the coast in a hired dhow we moored on the northwest side of the island at the small town of Matondoni, famous for centuries as a boat building center. There were a number of dhows and other small craft under construction or maintenance along the shore. After enquiring about forging of the nails and other fittings for the boats we were led through narrow passages in the crowded village to a small rectangular shelter made from palm leaves on a bamboo frame.

We were introduced to the elderly occupant who was seated on the floor before several pieces of random iron and a small fire. He was the nail maker for the boatyards in Lamu and also sent nails down the coast toward Mombasa. He also forged other fittings, but his primary focus was the very long tapered nails that fasten the ribs together and the planking to the ribs, hence are of vital importance to the integrity and water tightness of the hull.
He very generously demonstrated the forging process from beginning to end, starting with a piece of reinforcing rod and ending with a perfectly tapered and headed spike. He also challenged our son to make a nail who did so with modest success after some coaching.

The smith’s forge was a small hole in the ground into which two metal pipes had been inserted to provide forced air to the fire. The fuel for the forge was charcoal and the bellows were made from two modified plastic lined cement bags. The bottom of each bag was attached to the end of one of the pipes. The other end of each bag was open; each side of the opening had been sewn to a straight sticks that formed a crude but effective valve. The bag was filled by lifting the open end, closing the sticks together and compressing the bag to push air into the pipe and then into the forge. By operating one bag in each hand, the smith was able to provide a continuous flow of air as shown in the photo below.


Note the great care that he has taken to economize on charcoal and maximize the forge fire by placing a small piece of metal over the fire to concentrate the heat. In the lower left-hand corner note the piece of corrugated steel roofing that was moved around to minimize the effect of wind.

His improvised bellows and minimalist forge.

The forging process started with the heating of rebar in the forge as shown above, drawing it out using a partially buried sledge hammer head as an anvil.

Drawing out and shaping the shaft of the nail.

The piece was straightened and partially cut with a hot chisel on the 3” x 3” steel bar beside the smith.

Hot cutting. The lighting suggests the material was cold. It wasn’t!

and bent off on the discarded casing for a vehicle axle end as shown below.

It was reheated in the forge and the cut end upset in preparation for forging the head,

The hot nail is upset at the head end.

the head forged in a rudimentary nail header, a hole through a vehicle leaf spring,

Using a hole in a truck spring as a nail header.

and resulted in a very neat rose-head on a 5 in. spike.

The final product was very clean, neat and professional and had taken less than 10 minutes….with very little fuel.

I was very interested in how the spikes were driven into the boats since it appeared that a small pilot hole would result in splitting when the spike was fully pounded in place and a larger hole would potentially leak. Much to my surprise each hole for a spike is typically drilled with three or four bow drill bits in sequence corresponding to the taper in the spike. Consequently the spike doesn’t split the wood, holds well, and is virtually leak proof.

Drilling a nail hole with a bow drill.


A bow with the four bits used in sequence to drill the tapered hols for a spike. Note that the entire spindle was replaced rather than just the bit.

We left Matondoni with a great deal of admiration for the quality of craftsmanship with very basic tools…and little bit of practical experience with bellows we never imagined existed.  A classic case of innovative “making do”, something for which blacksmiths have been known for times immemorial.

An new apprentice tries his hand at the bellows….and found them very effective after learning the rhythm.

Branded Wooden Planes in India

Branded Wooden Planes in India – American Analog….150 Years Later

During my professional career I’ve spent much of my time overseas including a 3-year period running an engineering and construction company in India, many of the projects of which were in the south. Due to the 1100 mile commute back to my family in New Delhi, I spent a number of weekends at various project sites and wandered through villages and towns of the area. As is the case for many EAIA members, I was fascinated by skilled craftsman and their tools, most of which they purchased from local shops or, more typically, constructed by the craftsman after buying critical components such as blades.

One Saturday afternoon in the industrial district of Chennai (southeastern coast of India), I was attracted to a hardware store that sold a remarkable range of locally and internationally sourced tools. Over one of the display cases was a large array of wooden planes. To my surprise they were not locally produced as was typically the case, but came from the north and were all branded “ALFA”. The proprietor of the shop told me that they are a bit more expensive than those that could be sourced locally, but were provided by a small company, EN-TECH Engineers, that wanted to develop a nation-wide brand that represented consistent quality for wooden tools at an affordable price. The owner of the company had personally traveled to Chennai with a trunk load of planes to develop the market.
I couldn’t help thinking that I had fallen into a time-warp, an analog of American plane making and marketing that was occurring more than a century and half later than similar business models in the US. I also realized this was a rare opportunity to examine the model, not through records, but through witnessing the process and the people who were implementing it. I bought one of the planes.

My first introduction to the ALPHA brand

The address on a small “rack-card” that contained advertising and the entire line of products gave me enough information to track down the owner, Zakir Hussain, who I contacted by phone. I expressed my interest in seeing the entire process and meeting the people involved. He immediately invited my wife and me to come up to Muzaffarnagar, his base of operations only 80 miles from our home in New Delhi. He also suggested that we make it a two-day visit to include seeing the craftsmen of Saharanpur, a city of approximately 700,000 people of which over 75,000 were in woodworking trades, primarily furniture and carving. Saharanpur also had a number of skilled blacksmiths and edge-tool makers from whom Zakir sourced some of his edge tools.

ALFA’s “rack card” with catalog of planes and prices. Note that a 20 in. jack plane (70 Rupees) cost the equivalent US $1.20.


We drove our trusty Tata Sumo, a bare-bones Indian SUV that seemed indestructible but equally uncomfortable on Indian roads, to Muzaffarnagar where we met Zakir and retired to a small hotel to rest for a very full couple of days ahead. Early the next morning we set off to the wood auction in Saharanpur to begin the journey along the pathway of manufacturing a wooden plane.

The wood auction is truly a one-stop source for every part of a tree. The small straight branches not used for firewood are sold to weave into the walls of homes, large logs are sold for sawn timber, and the remaining smaller pieces are sold to make small carvings.

Inspecting large timber at the wood auction.

Most of the wood used for planes is sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo) of the rosewood timber family which grows in the Himalayan foothills of northern India. It is both hard and wear resistant, more so than white oak. It is also used for carving and furniture, but has been replaced to a large degree by teak, both species now being plantation grown. An important characteristic of sheesham is the resistance of its heartwood to insects. However, its sapwood is susceptible to infestation, an important consideration for Indian craftsmen making or selecting a plane to be used in India.

There was a bit of clowning and dancing for the benefit of my wife, Alice, who was a great novelty; our host told us that they’d had never seen a European women at that wood auction.

A bit of pre-auction gaiety for our benefit.

The successful bidders moved their wood out of the yard to the mills or their furniture shops.

Auction winnings leave with the owners.

Zakir then took us into the havelis (old townhouses that now typically have commercial activity on the ground floor) of Muzaffarnagar to see some carving, but more importantly the source of edge tools that his manufacturing team used in making their planes.

A family edge-tool blacksmith shop

We initially went through some of the small craft shops where carvers were working but quickly moved to the source of edge tools, spending some time with an edge-tool blacksmith and some of his family.

His operation was a typical small family operation, including his young son who was turning a wheel that ran the blower for a very small forge. He should have been in school, reflecting a common problem of child labor among lower income families in India despite a constitutional prohibition prohibiting children under 14 from working.

The youngest son at the forge blower

The smith at the anvil. Almost his entire complement of forge tools are in this single photo. Superb quality with amazingly few tools. Note the rubber-band bound package of completed gouges on the face of the anvil.

His father was using discarded high speed still drill bits to forge chisels and gouges several of which I bought based on his “cataloge” burned into a small piece of plywood.

A really honest “catalog”: what you see is what you get!

We traced the next step in the plane-making process to the saw mill where the logs were sawn into slabs and the slabs were edge-cut.

Sawmill owner and sawyer take a few minutes out with the hookah.

Other than the pulleys and belts from an old “one-lunger” gas engine, the process was essentially as it was (and in some cases is) in the US. The one significant difference was the hospitality which included the elderly owner’s offer to smoke an Indian hookah. Somewhat to our surprise, it was started with cow dung which the elder sawyer assured us was quite sanitary due to the heat.

The boards were then sorted, edged, and sent off to the carvers of Saharanpur and Zakir’s shop.

Alice looks over wide slabs of clear sheesham. I drooled!


Edging planks of sheesham. I winced every time the sawyer stepped back….within inches of the drive belt.

The next step was at EN-TECH: cutting the plane blanks to length and some very preliminary shaping.

Cutting the rounded sides of the smoothing plane blank.

Clearly hand safety was not a significant concern and the electrical code was dealt with “economically” (wire in outlet without plugs!).
The plane blank was then trued with a fore plane.

The fore-plane used in initial sizing. Sheesham is very hard & tough wood hence it requires a “T”-handle tied back behind the blade for the 2nd “puller”.

The actual plane shaping then started with scribing the dimensions for the mouth and blade recess.


Then came cutting in the mouth and paring the bed.

All work was done while sitting on the ground….with very adept feet as the multi-position “vise”.

And recessing the cheeks for the blade and wedge.

It’s interesting to note that the floats, chisels, saws and files used are essentially the same as those used in early American planemaking.

Note that these operations used the craftsman’s feet as the vise, very similar to a number of craft techniques elsewhere in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

The bed was filed flat, and

Note the randomly spaced teeth on the hand-made rasp. Still the best (and most expensive) pattern even in the US!

the inlets for the wedge and blade trimmed with file and float.

And finally the mouth was trued from the sole.

Not that all marking was with a knife or blade of some sort. Not a pencil in sight.

In parallel, the blade was straightened, sharpened, and the cap trued.

I can’t imagine how many miles of railroad track are used as anvils worldwide. I’ve seen them on every continent to forge and adjust high quality hardware, fasteners, and edge tools.


The blades for rabbeting and molding planes were cut, forged and shaped from discarded band saw blades. As was often the case in the US, bench plane blades in India were purchased from reputable edge tool manufacturers and were made from high carbon steel. I can attest that they held a very good edge having used mine for several years.

The overall body of the plane was finally and carefully shaped.

Final shaping was the one station of production that used a vise…and was generally done by the most experienced workman.

The blade, cap and wedged checked for fit. The final “QC check” was actually trying the plane which is perhaps the most important QA test: real functionality!

The planes were then warehoused for packing and shipment…..and on to the shelves of hardware stores.

Decision, decisions! I was always careful to select plane bodies that were sheesham heart wood. Sapwood was quite hard, but not as resistant to insect damage.

The stages for producing a smoothing plane are shown below.

Note the combination of heartwood and sapwood as well as the use of both radial and tangential wood on the sole.

Although the process I‘ve described is for a smoothing plane, the company produced a wide range of planes using basically the same processes.

I obtained one of each type produced under the ALFA brand.

The full range of ALFA bench planes.

Example of ALPHA plow plane. The full line included quite an array of molding planes as well.

Regretfully, EN-TECH’s ALFA brand was discontinued. The larger Indian tool firms had made relatively inexpensive copies of several Stanley and Record planes which were more durable, much easier to adjust, and relatively inexpensive. The local carpenters who couldn’t afford the metal planes continued to purchase planes from small local suppliers despite the typically inferior quality….but lower price. I believe that Zakir thought there might be an export market for amateur woodworker who wanted to use traditional hand tools. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, although some extremely high quality wooden planes are being imported from China in addition to those from Western Europe.

Although not a success in the long run, it was very interesting to witness the process and the business model of promoting quality through brand recognition. It was also very interesting to see how the parallel to the American model for plane development was truncated by taking advantage of American manufacturers’ early metal plane designs rather than going through the period of transitional planes that we did. It’s comparable to the implementation of cell phone technology in India vs. the US. India had relatively little stranded investment in “copper” ground line communication, was able to quickly adopt cell phone technology from the west, skipped the cell network development stages we went through, and now has very robust cellular networks.

85th Years Young! EAIA’s 85th Anniversary Annual Meeting

Colonial Industrial Quarter, Bethlehem, PA

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.

Comfort Inn and Suites, Bethlehem, PA.

Figure. 1. Comfort Inn and Suites-University, Bethlehem, PA.

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.

Moravian Building in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Figure 2. Moravian Building in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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.

Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, PA.

Figure 3. An Interior Room at the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, PA.

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.

Powerhouse at the Old Bethlehem Steel Works

Figure 4. Powerhouse at the Bethlehem Steel Works

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.

The National Museum of Industrial History

Figure 5. The National Museum of Industrial History

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..

The Moravian Historical Society Building in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Dating to 1741-1742

Figure 6. The Moravian Historical Society Building in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Dating to 1741-1742

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.

Martin Guitar Factory Museum

Figure 7. The Martin Guitar Factory 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.

Early Handguns at the Pennsylvania long Rifle Museum

Figure 8. Early Handguns at the Pennsylvania long Rifle Museum

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.
Doll House at the Kemmerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Figure 9. One of the Doll Houses at the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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.

Moravian Colonial Industrial Quarter

Figure 10. The Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

by Paul Van Pernis


American Anvils

An Unwritten Chapter in the Annals?

by Clayton E. Ray

I believe that a significant epoch of anvil-making in colonial North America has yet to be recognized and documented. Postman’s pioneering 1998 book, “Anvils In America”, the first comprehensive coverage of the subject, provides a solid foundation for further research. Its greatest value is not as a last word, but as a catalyst, a value yet to be realized. Anvils are unquestionably the most important tool in the development of civilization but remain strangely neglected. The formation of BIG (Blacksmithing Interest Group) stands to redress this lapsus.

I have seen a few crude anvils of a certain blocky type, and have two in my possession.


Unsigned Anvil

These are cast iron without a face plate or cutting table, and without hardy, pritchel, or handling holes. They have no heel, a small horn, and no constricted waist, and their front and back surfaces are planar and vertical. The toes are insignificant in size, and there may be a fifth toe. The only one that I have seen having any marking is one of mine with the name “Jones” embossed on one side.

Anvil with cast in “JONES”


I think that these anvils were cast in one piece (excepting the horn), and were poured upside down, having no undercuts. The horn would have been added by welding.

The skilled iron workers in any of the foundries from Massachusetts to the Carolinas easily could have made these anvils clandestinely while pouring the sows and pigs that they were supposed to be making to send to the mother country to be returned as value-added finished products, including the expensive steel-faced wrought anvils for marketing to the needy pioneers, whose needs could have been met much more cheaply by the crude locally made cast anvils. No colonial community could have functioned without a smithy.

Not surprisingly, there is little or no paper trail of this activity, as production of such finished items in the colonies was prohibited. The royal appointees who supervised the Colonies (Spotswood, Byrd, and others) carefully concealed their own illicit profitable ventures. Thus far, I know of only one revealing allusion (cited by Postman, page 46), in which the writer in 1759 recommended the purchase of an anvil “of Byrd make”. William Byrd as early as 1744 had exploited his extensive iron deposits in central Virginia. There may very well be more clues to be found in colonial writing.

An additional source of documentation might be the metallurgy of the anvils themselves, but that is beyond my expertise and access. Meanwhile, I hope and expect that other members of EAIA have seen anvils of this kind, and will have better ideas for pursuit of their story. If my suspicions as to the source and age are confirmed, they would add significantly to the record of anvil making in North America.

Please share this blog with any of your friends who may have more information about possible American anvils of this period or even the anvils illustrated in this blog.  Any comments should be added as comments to the blog.  Your help is needed!