History; 1970 to ?

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Appalachian Blacksmiths Association

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1970-present

table by jeff fetty

Contemporary glass-top table by blacksmith Jeff Fetty

 

Enough grandchildren must have been curious about Grandpa's anvil because a resurgence in blacksmithing began about 1970. Today, about 5,000 men and women belong to ABANA, the Artists Blacksmith Assn. of North America. There are an estimated 5,000 non-members. Add to that all of the farriers, bladesmiths, gunsmiths, and armourers and perhaps 20-30,000 Americans practice the metal arts of our earlier days. Maybe even more. But that's still not many in a nation of 270,000,000 people. And when you whittle this down to the full-timers who derive their living from actual metalsmithing, the percentage drops even lower. Don't sell your car and tractor, just yet.

The quality of work, especially in the arts, is more impressive now than it's ever been. There is more of a market for metal sculpture now than at any other time.

The quality of work of today's bladesmiths and gunsmiths rivals any time in history. But rather than arm a village, today's workmanship is primarily sold to collectors. 

While the styles and nature of architectural ironwork changes from decade to decade, we are seeing some truly fantastic work today. But you will never see banks commission window and door grilles as they once did. Nor will your university install iron gates at its entrance. 

And finally, farriers know more about their trade today than at anytime in history. But unless you are in Amish country or visit the Budweiser Clydesdale stables, then you aren't going to find farriers shoeing work horses.

We, as blacksmiths in the 21st Century, are merely keeping the forge warm. No one pretends to be Longfellow's man. Nor would anyone claim to be a master blacksmith like Samuel Yellin

If they do, they know nothing of history.

Speaking of history, consider this: Leif Ericsson wrote a detailed description of his Newfoundland expedition. He observed that winters there were so mild that they did not even have a frost during the winter. He also observed that cattle and sheep could graze year 'round because of the mild climate. The same site today supports only cold-tolerant vegetation such as partridgeberry, not forage grasses.  Global warming, anyone? 

For the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association, by David G. Allen

Continue on to History, Part 3

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Endnotes:

[1] "The European Discovery of America; The Northern Voyages," by Samuel Eliot Morison. Voyages to North America.  

[1] "A World Lit Only By Fire," by William Manchester. Excellent perspective of the end of the Dark Ages and beginning of the Renaissance.

[1] L'Anse aux Meadows is a Canada Park:  http://www.parkscanada.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/nl/meadows/index_E.asp

[2] George Washington commissioned two armories to make rifles. One was built at Harpers Ferry, WV in 1799. It was later the site of John Brown's raid (1859).  Iron ore was first mined here in 1760 and continued until 1910.  "The Bloomery", a high-quality ironworks, influenced Washington's decision to locate the armory at Harpers' Ferry.   http://wvweb.com/cities/harpers_ferry/   and   http://www.nps.gov/hafe

[3] James Rumsey (blacksmith/cabinet maker) is credited with developing the first steamboat at Shepherdstown, WV. (December, 1787)  http://www.lib.shepherdstown.wv.us/sin/rumsey.html 

[4] For more on Indian Wars and raids, see: Chief Cornstalk, Lord Dunmore's War. Some brief information is at:  http://www.wvculture.org/history/notewv/corn.html 

[5] For examples of early iron making in North America, see:  
Founded in 1646--Saugus, MA  Iron Works http://www.nps.gov/sair/        
Founded in 1771--Hopewell, PA Furnace http://www.nps.gov/hofu/        

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Education  ||  Pre 1492  |  1492-1700  |  1700-1800  |  1800-1860  |  1860-1910  |  1910-1970  |  1970-  ||  History, Part 3


David G. Allen for the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association 2008

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