Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Lambs and Their Parties

One of the great parties of all time was held in Clinton (well one of Clinton’s greatest parties) in 1889. The party was well publicized leading up to it. A November 7, 1889 article in Clinton Morning News, announced that the Lambs would be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary on Saturday evening, November 16, at their 7th Avenue home. The family sent out 400 invitations with 175 going out of Clinton.  
The Lambs’ four children were there: Mrs. Captain Wear, Artemus Lamb, Lafayette Lamb, and Mrs. Will E Young and 11 of their 15 grandchildren. The party started at 7pm and last until after 11pm. Entertainment was provided by the Vilitia Mandolin Band of Chicago. The band was in the east parlor, while the couple was in the west parlor.  
Mr. Lamb’s florist and the company, Rumble & Sons, decorated the dining room and house with flowers, vines, evergreens, roses, and more. One article claimed the flowers from the conservatory in the home. Mr. H.M. Kinsley of Chicago “superintended” the food. Kinsley “made” it in Chicago in 1865 when he took over the restaurant at Chicago’s Opera House. By 1884, he became the most famous chef in Chicago, and he was THE caterer of the elite.
The centerpiece of the evening, the main gift, was a floral circular saw. Yellow flowers made the sawblade, in the center were red flowers, and the teeth were white flowers. The whole piece was encircled with evergreen. Apparently on the blade was the figures 1839 and 1889 and there was a banner with kind words from his Old Employees. The banner read Sharpen my teeth and give me speed, I will pay you well If you give me feed. The employees last name: Dege, Zingg, Young, Parsons, Mattison, Davis, Nelson, Peterson, Boone, Young, North, Potter, Jackson, Peterson, and Switzer. They presented the piece, and their foreman, Mattison, gave a speech. Another article said the outer edge was feathery green, then a circle of white with a center of pink. The dates were in dark red.
                Other employees surprised the Lambs as they were part of the Swedish Cornet Band. Much more entertainment was had though. Outside was even more entertainment. A Danish band and a male quartet serenaded guests. While I can’t picture this, there were 100 horsemen who had sleigh bells, trumpets, and cymbals and played.
The out of down guests and their place of residence: Mr. and  Mrs. Weyerhaeuser of Rock Island, Mr. and Mrs. Denkmann of Rock Island, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Scott of La Crosse; Mr. and Mrs. H.M. Hooker of Chicago; Mrs. Loring of Chicago; Mrs. J.F. Studebaker of South Bend; Miss Grace Young of Philadelphia; Miss Hays of Oshkosh, Rev. and Mrs. J.G. Coden of Polo; W.R. Bourne of St. Paul; Mrs. W.G. Bevier of Tipton; Mr. and Mrs. Long of Morrison; Mrs. T.J. Reader of Centralia; Mr  and Mrs. Ansel Bailey of Mt. Carroll; Mrs. Rev E.K. Young of Philadelphia; Capt and Mrs J G f Cedar Rapids; Mr. Arthur Clark of St. Louis; Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Akely of Minneapolis; Mrs. Mathers of Brooklyn; and Col. VanDeventer of Knoxville. All ladies received a book of quotations featuring a ribbon exhibiting the golden signatures of the hosts, even if the signatures were fake.
A wonderful biography appeared in the paper, and one of the cooler facts was that Mr. S.B. Gardiner who went on to open his own sawmill in Lyons, helped Lamb build a mill in New York. Gardiner came with Lamb to Mt. Carroll in 1847. Why not Iowa? At that time Iowa still only had less than 50,000 people. Lamb went back east in 1849, but in 1856, he came to Fulton. Eventually he moved into Clinton, and well the rest is history. Lamb had an up and down sawmill history due to fire, but all was well. In fact by the mid 1870’s, Lamb had nearly $150,000 invested in boats.
Pleasure and business was never too far apart, as around the same time of the greatest party was another MRLC board meeting, again held at Clinton National Bank.
Pleasure and business was a common feature for the Lamb’s. Artemus loved throwing extravagant parties for his children’s weddings and for himself!
One of the other most famous parties in Clinton’s history was the societal debut of Emma Lamb and the 20th anniversary party of her parents Artemus and Henrietta Sabrina Smith Lamb on October 13, 1885. Invitations went out and announcements made the newspaper. The 1885 party was equally grand. Like his father’s 50th anniversary 4 years later, the most common description was that the whole house was lit. Followed by the use of ornaments and floral arrangements to sparkle in the light and fill the air with wonderful aroma. The house was filled with paintings and pictures. Miss Emma needed the assistant of Miss Mary B. Stewart of Detroit, her friend. The first floor was the reception and social setting. Once the first floor became busting, the entertainment of Flanagan & Greenhill orchestra filled the house. Guess followed the tunes to the third story. Two large rooms were turned into a dancing hall. The younger guests thus engaged “in terpsichorean pleasures.” The older guests stayed on the first floor and would dance in the corridors. The men went to the smoking, card, and billiards room (given the use of rooms and the use of commas I can only assume the Artemus Lamb mansion had all three). The cigars were “from the fine havannas.”  Food began at 8:30 and went to 1am. The Lambs used Kingsley of Chicago, the same caterer used a few years later.
                In 1891, Mr. and Mrs. Artemus Lamb threw a “Fancy Dress Party.” 400 invitations went out, and only 7 sent their regrets by not being able to attend. The party was to apparently usher in the new year. This party was in the Wapsie parlors though, but still, Chicago costumer of the Chicago Costume and Decorating Company, brought costumes and guests came dressed from their own creations/privately funded creations. Like a great marketer, Mr. Kennedy, the costumer, was quoted as saying this was the finest costume party he was ever a part of. There were twenty dances. The memoire cards were quite the hit. I will admit that I have no idea where the Wapsie parlor was, even though there was a Wapsipinicon Club. It is most likely the Club, but regardless, the Lambs loved their parties. Wherever they might host them.  
Artemus Lamb probably out did himself for the wedding reception for Miss Emma Lamb and Mr. Marvin John Gates of Cedar Rapids. 1600 invitations were sent out for the wedding. They were married at the Presbyterian Church. The church was decorated in white and greens. The arches were “twined with asparagus ferns and white carnations” and hanging from the apex was a wreath. The doors were covered in wild smilax and hundreds of roses. The organ was weighed down by the same arrangement as the doors. The family removed the front pews for an arch that suspended a basket of bride’s roses. The organ could feel the weight as Tomaso’s Orchestra from Chicago played Lohengrin’s wedding march. The bride’s dress was a white , stain, duchesse dress modeled off a Worth model. The dress had an en train, high neck, and long sleeves. The skirt had orange blossoms. Her veil was attached to a wreath of orange blossoms.
To top the wedding, Artemus had arranged for carriages to take the guests back to his house for the reception. Once again, light was a key feature, but this time it was “a double row of incandescent electric lights” strung along the trunks of the trees that lined Fifth Avenue and on the trees on Fourth Street so the front and the sides were all alight. The Fifth Avenue trees were all elm.
The house was decorated much like the church. The two dining rooms were contrasted with one being accented by white roses and then carnations and ferns while the other had pink roses. The table arrangements were inspired by the Louis XVI style. The candelabrums provided an artistic illumination. The Tomaso mandolin orchestra followed the carriages to the home and provided the music.
Artemus’s wife stole the show with her yellow and lavender, brocaded satin dress. The second floor housed all the extravagant wedding presents, a contrast to the no present policy of her societal debut.
It should be noted that a similar description was present for the 1892 wedding of James Dwight Lamb. Except the James Dwight Lamb wedding’s reception was at the bride’s parents’ house. The same for another of Artemus’s children. The children really liked the Tomaso mandolin orchestra. The orchestra was headed by Salvatore Tomaso. Tomaso was considered a great mandolin soloist.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Where Did Clinton's Sawmill Workers Hail? Immigrants and Lumber

In the continuing resource guide, below is a collection of data and anecdotes on Clinton's immigrant workforce. 

Immigrant Profiles:
Where Did the Mill Workers Come From:
In the early years (1840s-1869), many of the lumber workers were German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants. By 1870 and 1880 census, in Iowa at least, most of the sawmill workers were born in the United States. For example in 1880, the US census defined that 2,481 Iowa residents were employed in the sawmill industry. 1,581 were from America and in order: Germany, Ireland, Norway/Sweden, British America, and Great Britain, were the others.
Not a surprise, many of the names in the biographies of  19th century Clinton had immigrant parents, but they themselves were American born.

Profiles of Immigrants:

Struve Family (German):
            The museum has a wonderful treasure trove of letters written between the first Struve to come to America and his family back in Germany. In 1848, many Germans fled the European unrest, an unrest that pitted many classes against each other. The letters will be expanded on in a future resource guide. 

William J Young (Irish): 
    Young's story is the classic Ragged Dick immigrant story of the supposed pull yourself up by the bootstraps from a poor immigrant to being one of the richest men in the Midwest. Young was born in Belfast, Ireland, and he came to America at the age of 19 in 1846. In reality, Young had financial support from Cincinnati, seemingly some education, and the amazing ability to convince his financial supporters to move a mill from La Crosse, Wisconsin to Clinton, Iowa. A favorite line of Young's was that "(I) began life with all the capital I required, which was good health." Like many of these stories, he combined hard work with outside financial support. With some major risk in the early years, he took complete control of the company and relied on his own capital and the shared capital of the Mississippi River Logging Company. 

Joseph Borbeck: Born in Suedlohn, Westphalia, Germany in 1859, Joseph came to America in 1884. He settled in Lyons, and he worked with his uncle and cousin, Frank Lohberg Sr and Jr, selling lumber. His lumber store proved to be quite profitable once the sawmill industry died out. He was a member of the German Catholic church and many of the local German organizations. He was on the board of the following: German Society; German Workingmen’s Association of Lyons, and Woodmen of the World. He passed in 1929. 
            Ones of interest of Joseph is that Joseph’s parents stayed in Germany…. But in reality: His grandfather and his father were hoteliers and brewers. His mother most likely died shortly after giving birth (can’t tell), and his father died in 1873, when Joseph was an early teen. Once Joseph reached adulthood,  he sold his shares and became a baker. Joseph married Johanna Temming in Germany. Johanna’s father, G.A. Temming, came to Lyons Iowa at some point. It’s apparent Joseph’s uncle also was living in Lyons and had his own lumber store. Knowing how arranged marriages happened in relation to immigration, it is quite possible that Joseph’s uncle knew Mr. Temming, and they arranged the marriage. Or, often times, you could think of immigration like a modern Sister City, an American settlement would attract immigrants from the same region.
            Interesting note, given the death of the sawmill industry in Clinton, the firm rafted lumber down from Stillwater, Minnesota. The “mill” was a finishing mill. The mill was located one half mile north of the bridge at Lyons, or roughly just down the street from the museum. The office was Main & Eighth street.
J.F.T. Stamm: He was a junior owner of Ingwersen & Borbeck, a finishing mill and lumber retailer. He was the son of German immigrants, but yet born in London, England in 1872. Raised in England until 1887, his family moved back to Eiderstedt, Germany. In 1893, J.F.T. visited America for one reason. He attended the World’s Fair in Chicago. He tramped around America and never left. He came to Clinton in 1897. Notice his company was located in Lyons, but by 1897, Lyons had been annexed. He also married the daughter of N.E. Ingwersen.

H. William Meggers:
            Meggers was born in Holstein, Germany in 1841. In 1868, he entered America through New York. He came directly to Clinton, where he worked sorting lumber for Ira Stockwell. In 1874, he became the foreman of Gardner, Batchelder, & Wells. He stayed there for the next 20 years. In his retirement years, he was a real estate man and home builder. While in Germany, he married his wife. It seems, two of his sons must have been born in Germany, prior to leaving. His son, Frederick, worked by G,B, & W, until becoming the manager of W.T. Joyce lumber yards in Galva, Iowa. Touchingly, in 1894, he went back home and visited his father, who was near 80.

George C. Smith:
            Born in Lincolnshire, England in 1831, he came to America in 1851. George first worked in Chicago, but in 1857, he came to Fulton. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Lyons to work at a gristmill. When the Clinton Lumber Company opened, he began work there as an engineer. He actually engineered the construction of the mills. In 1868 and into the 1870’s, he devoted his full attention to the Clinton Paper Company (currently the office building is Lonergan’s offices in downtown Clinton). He constructed  the pulp mills for paper, and sold his first piece of paper in 1869. The mills themselves were between 18th and 19th avenue and Fourth and 5th street.

Charles W. Dege:
            Born in Prussia, Germany in 1841, he came to America in 1860. He came to Clinton in 1865, and worked as common laborer in Lamb’s lumber yard. By  1872, he was assistant foreman. A common theme in Clinton’s lumber force was high turnover, but for those who lasted, they had long careers. Interestingly, Charles would have been part of the high turnover statistic, as he moved to Lisbon, Iowa and tried his hand at operating a butcher’s shop. He came back to Lamb, and went on to manage 175 men.  Charles also didn’t know English when he came to America. He learned through observation, and went on to be on the board of the German Evangelical Society.

Joseph Neisslie
            Born in Wurtemburg, Germany in 1836, Joseph came to American in 1847 with his father. in 1863, he came to Clinton working on the Chicago, Iowa, and Nebraska Railway bridge. He started working at Clinton based sawmills in 1872. He worked for W.J. Young’s mills for 17 years.

Arthur Potter
  Potter, a Canadian, came to Clinton in 1876, at the age of 24. His job was a unique one in the lumber industry, he was a teamster and reseller of slab wood. He would buy refuse wood for $1.35 and resell it for $2.25 per load. 

Abraham Siddle
   Became secretary and treasurer of Clinton Paper Company, as along with Hosford, Siddle was a principal owner. Born in Yorkshire England, he came to America at the age of 9. 

In comparison, a quick rundown of other lumber workers and their place of origin: 

A unique one was Captain William Nickel, born in New York in 1836, he was the son of Irish immigrants. His father, Samuel, was  whip sawyer, a very intense job. William became a steamboat captain on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. A Civil War veteran, he earned a bullet in a shoulder at Vicksburg, and kept the bullet in his shoulder forever. After the war, he dabbled in lumber yards and farming, until the 1880's, when he became an assistant foreman in Lamb Lumber Yards. 


Monday, June 20, 2016

Labor and Lumber: A look at Clinton's Sawmill Labor History

Lumber Labor History:

            Worker’s rights were a very important issue facing both millowners and mill workers in the late half of the 19th century. The main bargaining points were pay, hours, and safety.  The word safety encompassed many issues but locally the recorded histories focus on one salient issue, compensating hurt workers. In Clinton, the added stress was that the mills employed 2/3rds of the population. With such a reliance on one industry, Clinton at a moment’s notice could become like many lumber towns and one industry towns around America, a ghost town.  
A brief overview of the Clinton lumber labor conditions:  In Clinton, there are three mentioned mill strikes: June 1, 1865, 1877, and July 1890.  Looking at the payouts for worker’s compensation and the local papers, injuries were a constant presence. Pay was also a constant point of contention. Most workers made between $1-50-$3 a day. Most of the lower end jobs would make around $1.50 a day while the more technical ones would be $2.25-$3.00. Some of the more skilled workers made $4 a day.
Even with working conditions and pay as they were, Young’s personal business papers are filled with requests for work. Another push for constant inquires was the large turnover in the sawmill industry. The highest rate of returning workers to Young’s mills from year to year was often 2/3rds. In other words, every year, a third of the workforce didn’t return the next year. Young seemed to advertise throughout the Northwoods and east looking for workers.
            A simplistic view of the “typical” lumber industry related worker comes from Wisconsin/Minnesota. While not proven to be pertinent to Iowa and Clinton, the work was seasonal. Logging happened in winter and was located in Wisconsin/Minnesota. The log drives and rafting was early spring. The sawing season was spring and summer. Harvest would be “fall.” Quite a few oral histories show that as new settlers were trying to establish their farms or young men looking for an adventure before settling down, would follow the seasonal changes of the workforce. Meaning, some would work in the forests, on the river, and in the mills all around their farms. This was made much easier in the Northwoods.

            How did the owners respond?
            Two main reasons underscore the response from millowners to their workers: 1. To keep the workforce local so there was a “full crew of qualified men.”2. To avoid the swelling calls for intervention and regulation.  So when looking at how the industry responded locally,  don’t feel the owners were being nice. At best, benevolent or paternalistic.
            Often times, the owner would support endeavors taken by the workers, independently of the company. For example, in 1871, Young’s workers created their own accident insurance. In 1895, Lamb’s mill workers organized a similar endeavor, called, “mutual accident insurance company.” In essence, these workers formed their own insurance protection, as the one offered by insurance companies was too expensive.     
            Unique for the time and industry, Young stuck to a 6:30am to 5:30pm with an hour lunch time schedule for his workers. Meaning, Young was an ardent supporter of the 10 hour work day, even when his competitors were still employing 11-12 hour days. Young also allowed extra pay for days that went over 10 hours and advanced pay. When depressions hit the industry, Young still found ways to keep his workers employed.
            As mentioned in many Clinton publications, one key aspect the lumber barons focused on to smooth worker relations was investing in local quality of life. While the term “quality of life” was not used, the lumber barons invested in fire, hospitals, town entertainment, transportation,  and so much more. 
            In the context of the Progressive era, the only lumber related firm that truly pushed the boundaries of worker and employer relations was the Curtis Company. Why? All the lumber mills were closed by the early 1900’s. The Curtis in 1913 established a pension system. They  opened an employees’ club house in 1915 (by the way converting one of Lamb’s old mills), and in 1920, created a bonus system.  By the 1950’s, the Curtis Company looked like a company that many harken back to the good ol’ days.

            How controlling were the owners:
            Town lore would say Young would fire any worker who was caught having a drink. It seems the real story came from the fact that in 1882, Clinton citizens voted for an amendment to prohibit alcohol. Rumors swirled that Young closed the mill on election day but still paid the workers, to entice them to work. Even further, some claimed Young’s political allies watched the polls to make sure his workers were voting for prohibition. If they voted against it, they were fired. Claims in 1884 were that Young made sure his workers knew that they were expected to vote Republican. All in all, it was company policy to not employ drinkers. Young would claim his temperance was for safety.
            To keep wages constant so there wasn’t migration from mill to mill and to help control striking, the mill owners discussed wages together. The goal was to have a set wage based off a ten hour day.
            Many of the lumber barons became mayors of the town and they invested in and owned many of the other industries. One of the museum’s research questions moving forward is how much of a “company” town was Clinton? While it’s clear it wasn’t your typical company town were workers bought from the company store, it would be interesting to see how much of a worker’s wages went back to  companies and landowners that were connected to the lumber owners. For example, the papers, the banks, the gas company, the street car, etc… were all owned in part by lumber owners. 

Updates to come as more information is discovered. 

Westward Expansion & Clinton Lumber History

As part of an effort to create resource guides for local teachers, a series of small pieces focusing on particular aspects of Clinton's sawmill history will be published. These pieces are meant to be assist teachers connect local history to the main themes present in all history curriculum.

Early Iowa Lumber Industry
William J. Young was born in Ireland in 1827 and emigrated to the United States in 1846. As a young man, he worked as a railroad contractor, and it was while he was working for the railroads that he met some wealthy men in Cincinnati who owned the Ohio Mill Company. They wanted to open a lumber yard in Clinton, Iowa and hired Young as an agent to run it. Young believed he would have more opportunities in the lumber business than he would working for the railroad, so he agreed to move west to Iowa. Eventually Young became a partner in the business, and it was renamed the W. J. Young Lumber Company.
                The success of the company was due in part to its ability to respond to the growing demand for lumber to build homes, barns and businesses as Iowa and neighboring states filled with settlers following the Civil War. The expansion of the railroad also contributed to the success of the company in a couple of different ways. The construction of the railroads required a large amount of lumber, especially to build bridges, and the railroads provided a way to transport lumber to other markets.  To meet growing demands, Young doubled his capacity in 1867 with the construction of a second sawmill. This second sawmill was said to have the largest production capacity of any mill along the Mississippi River.
                Another mill owner along the Mississippi River was Ernst Heinrich Struve. Struve emigrated from Holstein, Germany to the United States in 1849. His ship landed in New Orleans, where a fellow German recommended that he settle in Iowa due to its fertile land. During his early years in Iowa, Struve witnessed rapid changes and population growth. He mentioned in a letter to his parents in 1849 that Davenport already had a population of 2,000 people despite having been settled only a few years earlier. He purchased land with his brother near Davenport in the early 1850s, which they sold three years later for a good profit. He credited the increase in land prices to the influx of immigrants arriving in Iowa as well as the completion of the railroad between Iowa and New York. Struve experienced continued good fortune, and in 1869 he became part owner of Elk River Mill in Hauntown, Iowa. The mill was eventually passed to his son, William, and then to his grandson, Leslie, who operated it as a sawmill until the 1980s.

Sieber, George Wesley. “Sawmilling On the Mississippi: The W. J. Young Lumber Company, 1858-1900.” PhD Dissertation, University of Iowa, 1960.
“Deutschland nach Amerika: The Struve Story.” Compiled by Evelyn Baasch Wieck, 2002. Collection of The Sawmill Museum.

Leslie Struve Mill Equipment at The Sawmill Museum

Ernst Heinrich Struve with his wife, Catharina Schnoor Struve

William J. Young

Office of W. J. Young’s Steam Gang Saw Mills



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Gateway History Conference 2016 Live Blog

Our conference is about ready to kick off in a hour with Reggie McLeod, the keynote. Tune in here for updates on all the topics. Apologies for all typos as I'm on my phone.

They keynote is beginning. Reggie McLeod is the editor of Big River magazine. His talk is on the many attempts at engineering the river. Big River is the only independent river magazine in the world. Nutrients in the river from agriculture. Causes the state of the dead zone. They compare the dead zone to size of states. The area we are at now used to be a braided river. Lock and dams changed river to a series of lakes. Fish that evolved are now facing a new river. Even though we are the widest point at Lake Clinton it is getting shallower.

Two biggest problems for river: it's disappearing and nutrients. Brown maps of River. What do you manage the river for? Who eill manage it? Why is tough to sell river campaigns? Physical constraints and geometry, administrative constraints, conceptual constraints.

Looking at the river with a circle. Rivers are edgy. Minnesota river is the largest source of pollution in the Minneosta River region. Why? Tiling on farms. It causes flushes during rain. In MN just about every river edge is a border.

A great conversation on nitrogen and phosphorus. Lake Pepin

Time and problems flow like a river. Problems are upstream and the solution is downstream. Hence title selling the river upstream.
Now on what can we do.

Easy solutions: stay local, fatten up, use boundaries. Shout out to River Action. Friends of Pool 2.

Drift less area of river. Difficult solitons: watersheds, mentally connect. Make watershed political entity.

Now is a conversation on Clintom Corn strike. A series of interviews, 15-16 total, were conducted on strike participants. The presentation is on these interviews. The presentation is a video featuring the interviews and strike as a mini documentary.

Strike before and after. Clinton was a manufacturer. Could raise your family and family could stay and get jobs. A blue collar town. Clinton Corn and DuPont and Chicago Northwestern. Short strikes but after strike decades of hard feeling. 1978/1979. Strike caused people and friends to take sides. 37 years later and still want to spit on people. Everyone talked about how Clinton has not recovered from the strike.

Interviews brought out many issues: family & community tension. One of the issues was not everyone understood why people struck and why some went back. Clinton Corn was a family as like GM plants and all factory towns, family hired family. Retribution, revenge, and small mindedness is still rampant on both sides.

Last video is on work at 
Clinton Corn. 

Sorry for the delay. I was talking and then lunch! I was on a panel who talked about Mr. Sabin. Bill Sherman's argument is that Sabin was the most important person in rural education history. Great laughs were had on a few topics. The lack of quality restrooms was one. 20% of schools had no bathrooms or heavily soiled bathrooms that warranted them unusable. Sabin also was large in the movement to make curriculum, teaching certification, school planning, and more. Sabin also relied on the legislature. 

We are now having a presentation on BlackHawk Watch Tower. The history of this park in the Quad Cities is very interesting. Should say the Tri-Cities. 
The project history is best shown through a presentation or article. Lots of moving parts. It's pretty awesome to hear the amount of research the student did so I await the publication! Also amazing to see the debate over Blackhawk: the  park, the man, the representation of Native Americans, legacy, and what is a piece of land: history or ecology. 

The flood of 65 presentation was extra touching because it featured many people who are no longer with us. It allowed for a great look at how community responded to the disaster of their lifetime. 

We end with River to River. I was lucky enough to have a shake in Walcott with both owners. He yelled at me to get the malt as it was easier for me to walk over. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Live Vintage Sawing February 13, 2016

This Saturday our volunteer sawyers will be firing up the ol' sawmill and showing visitors how logs were actually milled. Below you will find out more about the process in a short video.

The sawmill itself is an American Saw Mill Machinery Company sawmill. It is a variable belt feed saw mill. Given the information provided by the mill itself (which is not much)), the sawmill seems to be from 1923-1928. During the 1920's, the American company was apparently the leading circular sawmill manufacturer. The company sold all sorts of machinery and even power devices.

In particular our mill, most likely an American No. 1 Variable Belt Feed Saw Mill, would have ran off a tractor engine. It would have needed a 10-20 hp engine. There were three other "Heacock" belt sawmill, all branded by sequential numbers. The different versions had larger carriages and other components that allowed for larger logs, which required more power.

Did you know a sawmill could be right or left handed? If the log passes to the right of the saw, then the sawmill was right handed. If it passed to the left it was left-handed. The importance of this comes from how the saw would be hammered.  Put another way, place yourself as the sawyer in the sawyer box. Determine which side of you the log carriage passes.

Missing from our setup that was common on American sawmills and on all sawmills is an "edger." The edgers were "essential for efficient sawmill operation."

The history of the circular saw is interesting in of itself. Many different people are credited with inventing the circular saw, but often left out of the tales is one the creators, a woman named Tabitha Babbitt. She created the circular saw that we know in the 1810's. Put more directly, the circular saw that became popularized in American mills was created by Tabitha.

 In Disston's wonderful book "The Saw in History," Henry, a prominent saw maker himself, credited Samuel Miller with receiving the earliest patent on a circular saw. Miller received his patent on August 5, 1777. Henry makes mention of a circular saw being used a century before the patent. In America, the first circular saw produced was done by a Benjamin Cummins in 1814. In wasn't until the 1840's insert-able teeth were created, and it wasn't until 1859, that insert-able teeth were perfected.

So many men were credited, and yet, Tabitha and the year 1810 is nowhere to be found in most early history books. What set Tabitha's creation apart from early inventions was scale, ability to be replicated, and the belief that she should not put a patent on the saw. Instead, Tabitha shared it freely. In fact, by 1813, her saw was in a mill. The key to the story is not that Tabitha created it first or who received a patent first, but that while watching men engaged in pit sawing, she developed a prototype on her spinning wheel that won over the male workers. It didn't hurt that apparently she, or those on her behalf, advocated for its use in sawmills. By the 1850's, the circular saw had been "perfected" enough to gain wide spread use. 200 years later, the same basic setup is still be used on circular saws.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the Vaults!

Recently I visited the University of Iowa Special Collections to peruse their William J. Young collection and Curtis Collection. What follows are some of the interesting asides I discovered. The order is simply the order I photocopied the documents.

1. from September 20, 1887, a receipt for the Provident Woodyard from Chicago, Illinois. The note was for "1 car edgings each week until further notice." The receipt was signed by McCauliff.
        The woodyard was located at 395 N. Clark Street. From the research, the wood yard was created to serve the unemployed, mainly those who found employment difficult to obtain. The Wood Yard seemed to be under the Chicago Relief and Aid Society. They opened multiple lumber yards.

2. A note from Ellis, Kansas dated September 9, 1887. The note most likely says: "Gentlemen, your special list of #5 for 188? at hand but can not tell anything by that. Send us ? prices on your stock and we may be able to buy something. Our sale from Kansas City here is 23 cents for 100#. Yours truly, Nicholson ?" There are pencil markings for O.K. 40 cents. William seems to have sent an answer of September 13, 1887 based off the note.

    Most likely, the company William Young was communicating with was Nicholson Brothers. I find records of two brothers, Jack & Ralph, who were born in 1887 & 1888. They went on to not only own a lumber yard but coal interests as well. In 1894, they were listed as one of two lumber companies in the town of Ellis. For the inquiring minds, The Reference Book of Lumbermen's Credit Association has for Lyons: Disbrow, M.A, (credited as manufacturing and d & b), Gardiner, Batchelder, & Welles (lumber and sawmill), Joyce D (lumber & sawmill), Lohberg F (lumber) Lyons Lumber Company (lumber and sawmill) and Sorenson Jens (p m s d & b). For Clinton: Clinton Box & Mfg Co (mfrs boxes); Clinton Lumber Company (lumber & sawmill); Curtis Brothers (mfrs s d & b); Gabriel & Siddle Company (l bks & h w l); Lamb C & Sons (lumber s & p m); Peterson Bell & Company (mfrs boxes); Smith F & Sons (mfrs boxes); Young W.J. & Company (lumber, sawmill, & p m). So this is a total of just 6 sawmills in 1894.

If you trust the web, it seems Nicholson Brothers lasted until 1972 when Trio Home Center bought the company. The Trio Home Center claims the the lumber yard opened in 1876.

3. Letter dated September 9, 1887: A quick aside, it was amazing to see how many letters Young got everyday, and all of them just about the same. Orders were not very business like, a fact that George L Curtis would remark on in the early 1900's. He felt his forefathers in the company didn't keep good enough books... Perhaps one problem, as will be evident in further letters, was that Young was always looking for bookkeepers.

The letter was from John Nicoll, dealer in Lumber, Sash, Doors, Blinds, Mouldings, Hard and Soft Coal. The firm was Goldfield, Iowa.


W.J. Young & Company
 Dear Sirs,

Please ad to my order ofthe 6th inst, 400 feet of no 4 stock 12 inch wide 12 feet long S2S must be dry  be shure and get this in as I want it at once. Leave out some of the ? in my order if need be to get this in and oblige
John Nicoll
William answered on 9/12/87.

September 9 was a Friday in 1887, so Young answered them pretty quickly.

John Nicoll seems to have been born in Canada in 1847 and had ten children before he passed away in 1914. Goldfield is right off the Boone River and has 621 people in it today. In 1880, it had 90. In 1890 it had nearly 350.

4. Document four is nearly illegible. More to come on this one.

5. One of the very interesting things present in most of Young's boxes were Night Messages from The Western Union Telegraph Company. This one was from John Nicoll of Goldfield from Document 3. The date was 9/9, and John asked William "Hold my order until you receive my letter."

Curious why he didn't send the telegraph to begin with.

6. A letter from Office of R. Newton Successor to River Sioux Lumber Company Dealer in Lumber, Lath, Lime, Coal, ?
Letter was sent from Missouri Valley, Iowa on September 25, 1887.

WJ Young & Company
(Note I have no idea if the transcription is right and I have no idea what it all means!)

I think if you can load Thursday I can make it if I can sure to get in the car here by Saturday morning. I can make it work all right.
        Your ?
       R. Newton

R, Newton is most likely Reuben Newton. They lived in River Sioux, Iowa, one of the thousands of railroad towns that were platted but never became incorporated. So in reality they lived in Missiouri Valley, Iowa as in 1883, Reuben and his family moved to Missiouri Valley, Iowa and opened the lumber company. Interestingly, Reuben was born in New York in the 1840's,

7. More to come

8. Dated September 1, 1887, a letter from C.W. Rodman & BRC Fruit, Produce and Commission Merchants.

The letter came from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and the company sold potatoes, onions, apples, and melons in car lots and Fish, Game and Poultry shipped to all parts of the country.