I have been surprised several times to learn (and in the process, to re-learn) that, well over a hundred years ago, superb precision was possible in woodworking with relatively crude tools. For it was not so much the tools themselves, but the skill of the craftsman using them, that created, and in the process improved our lives. As we traveled in New England, we ran across many such artifacts; in this entry I use a horse mill as an example.
“Fascinating!” This is how I described many of the items in the Sloane-Stanley Museum in Kent, CT (read an earlier article I posted here). I found fascinating the horse-powered mill in the following photo:
I did a little research, and learned that this is the Heebner 1883 patent level tread mill. The Heebners lived in Montgomery County, PA. They first patented a mill in 1871. For a short article on animal-powered mills, the American Artifacts web site is a good, concise place to start research. American Agriculturist, vol 32, shows this mill in 1883 as the power feed to a Little Giant Thresher Machine on the right-hand side, near the top.
The following is a brochure pinned onto the mill – it is possible it appeared in a number of publications of the time:
By itself, the price brochure is very interesting; but it is only a part of the whole – a person could buy this tread mill at Sears-Roebuck:
If you have trouble reading the text in the second photo, I provide the full content:
We offer these tread powers to the public with the entire confidence in their being superior to any other line of treads ever manufactured. This power is made upon purely scientific principles and is constructed of the very best materials. The rods are of the best Bessemer steel, the trucks are bored to a perfect fit and have the end center guide instead of of pressing against the rim of the truck. Our end circles are large, allowing the roller to pass without any jerking or back lashing motion. The rear circle is adjustable to take up wheel. Full directions for operating this tread accompany every machine.
No. 18026. One horse, weight 1,200 lbs, with governor…………………$95
No. 18026½. Two horse power, 2,000 lbs, price 115.00
No. 18027. Three horsepower with governor, weight 2,400 lbs...130.00
I must get into the shop, to continue creating, using tools that may appear much better than those used over a century ago. Many times I quickly learn that my skills may not be but a shadow of those of the craftsmen of yesteryear. I can only keep trying.
Acknowledgment: I thank Ms. Barbara Russ of the Sloane-Stanley Museum for allowing me to take photographs for publication on this blog. Although her official title is not “Curator”, she demonstrates the knowledge and research ability to be the Museum Curator.