On May 5, 2013, I attended an event at the D’Elia Antique Tool Museum for the spring meeting of Antique Tools and Trades In Connecticut (ATTIC), a club dedicated to preserving the knowledge of the tools and trades of bygone times. This organization hosts two events per year at museums and historic sites related to CT industry.
The Museum is located in the town of Scotland Connecticut (population 1,726). The tool collection is housed in the Scotland Public Library, built in 2005 as a gift by collector Andrew D’Elia and his wife Anna Mae. The collection consists of approximately 1400 planes.
ATTIC members arrived at dawn to set up a small scale flea market. Somebody brought coffee and donuts. Most of the attendees have been active in the tool collecting community for decades. This event was special because the D’Elia Museum contains one of the largest public collections of patented American planes in the country.
There were several notable dealers in attendence. Martin J. Donnelly was there to promote his ‘Live Free or Die’ auctions in Nashua, NH. He had a table loaded with old auction catalogs and was handing them out to any takers. Jim Bode was there selling tools off the tailgate of his truck. The largest table belonged to Roger K. Smith of Athol Mass., renowned collector and author of Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America Vol 1 & 2.
I spent some time talking to Roger and examining his tools, including a pair of Cesar Chelor planes. I was given a free copy of his 2010 calendar ‘New Discoveries of American Patented Planes’.
Andrew D’Elia arrived later in the morning to unlock the building. ATTIC members held a small meeting in the library where they voted on which site to visit in the autumn and collected membership dues. They passed around mystery tools and announced recent discoveries. During this session each member was given a canvas gift bag containing informational packets about CT tool inventors, catalog reprints, brochures, a mug and some stationary. Then we all headed inside the museum to view the collection.
The planes are stored in custom built display cabinets with glass shelves, mirrored backs, and recessed lights. The stained glass windows of the museum were custom made to depict actual tools from the collection. The entire museum is a single 1000 sq. ft. room. You can read more about the details here. On several occasions Andy unlocked the display cabinets and brought tools out to his desk to be examined more closely by the visitors.
I did my best under the circumstances to take some photos of the cabinets. The extreme sun glare combined with all the glass and mirrors made things difficult to say the least. The gallery can be viewed here. The download link contains much higher resolution photos for those of you who would like to read the cards and see the fine details.
About 400 of the most important tools from the collection were professionally photographed for the book American Wood & Metal Planes. Copies of this book were for sale during the show. It is well worth the purchase.
At the time of the 2013 event the museum was open on weekend afternoons from June – September, and year round by appointment. Since that time the hours have been removed from the brochure. It is suggested that you contact the museum by email or telephone to arrange for a visit.
Because this museum is dedicated to rare patented planes, I thought I would offer a document from my own research on American plane patents. This is an unfinished piece that I compiled for reference. It has not been edited since 2012.
It contains hundreds of pages of plane related patents that are not available in sources like DATAMP or book lists. The document is 4557 pages in length and consists of image files only. Bookmarks are provided by year to help navigate the volume. It is 227 MB pdf so right click and “save as” to your device.