16 July 2014

Workday Wednesday: Blacksmithing circa 1900

Blacksmithing was an essential trade. The blacksmith made and repaired the iron parts for farming implements. He crafted carriage wheels and shod horses. His work, by the early 1900's, had grown to include repairing all types of manufactured, horse-drawn farm machinery. He repaired wagons, carriages and sleighs and sharpened plows, saws and other tools. In some areas, he even doubled as the local veterinarian. Over time, new technology led to horses being used less and less in the fields and for transportation. Many blacksmiths either found themselves out of business, learning to repair automobiles, or taking up another trade.

My great grandfather Pierson George Still was a blacksmith and farmer in Chester County around 1900. When he met Mary Kilpatrick, he was a blacksmith on the Main Line (outside Philadelphia). They married in 1908.

Born in 1886, he is only 14 in the 1900 census and living therefore with his parents on the family property in East Fallowfield, Chester County. In 1910, he still resides there but now he is married (wife Mary lives there too) and he lists blacksmith as his occupation.

The 1920 Census shows him as owning his own blacksmith shop on Main Street in Unionville Village, East Marlboro Township, Chester County. At that time, he was a 34 year old widower with nine and five year old sons. A housekeeper lived with them as well.

Now by 1930, he lists only a Poultry Farmer on the census. At that time, he was a 44 year old widower with one son (Uncle Jim) already on his own and a 16 year old boy (my grandfather) at home.

Ten years later, in 1940, he has joined Uncle Jim in Colorado and is again farming. The census shows he was still in Chester County in 1935 so the move West was sometime between 1935 and 1940. Though I'm not sure why the difference, he is listed as a farmer while Uncle Jim is listed as farmer help. They are living in Clark, Routt, Colorado.

Many living history experiences include blacksmithing demonstrations. Landis Valley Museum, for example, is one such place. Landis Valley recreates an authentic early German village and includes a blacksmith shop. Today's (16 July) events include: Blacksmith Demonstration, Visit the 1800s Landis Brothers House, Tour the Gun Shop, Leatherworking Demonstration, Visit the 1900 Country Store, Open Hearth Cooking in the Tavern, and Visit the Craft Barn.

Photos: Dreamstime
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.