This song is dated 1873-1900 and was taught in kindergartens associated with the International Kindergarten Union.
We have the lyrics but not the score. Is anyone familiar with the song? Although the records show the song was taught in the United States the origin may have been Germany (where the kindergarten movement started).
The hands at the top indicate the possibility of hand movements to go along with the progression of the song (as in Itsy-Bitsy Spider or Here’s the Church-Here’s the Steeple-Open the Doors and See All the People).
In 1744 John Wister built a summer house in Germantown, a rural area northwest of Philadelphia. The house later became the primary residence of the family and was known for its gardens, orchards and farm. When Charles Jones Wister (1782-1865), grandson of John, inherited the property he named it Grumblethorpe. He took the name from ‘Think-I-To-Myself’ a comedy by Edward Nares.
The Historic American Building Survey of 1934 notes, “Charles J. Wister had a taste for mechanics and in 1819, added a frame workshop.”
Wister’s workshop was on the second floor of the extension with a loft above. In the photo of the shop you can see the steps in the back left corner leading to the loft.
In the survey drawing of the second floor the workshop addition is at the very top, on the right is an enlargement of the shop. His shop was a generous 26’ by 10’-10’’ with a forge (F) connected to the chimney and a bellows (G) that was positioned below a cupboard.
The lathes (see photo) are under the windows in the back right corner. The cabinetmaker’s bench was likely on the left hand wall (under window #213?).
In 1920, a year before the workshop photo was taken, Jones Wister, great-nephew of Charles, published ‘Jones Wister’s Reminiscences’ with a chapter on his great-uncle. Here are excerpts with a brief description of the workshop:
”…The youngest of his family, born 1782, he early showed desire for learning and excelled at school and in college. He was celebrated as an astronomer, poet, lecturer and skilled mechanic.
Much time was given to his books and philosophical studies. His recreation was found in his workshop, where he had a forge, two turning lathes, and a cabinet-maker’s workbench, together with numerous mechanical tools.
At the last visit I paid my cousin at Grumblethorpe, I asked permission to revisit his father’s workshop, and found it just as I remembered and my great-uncle had left it, everything covered with dust, but intact, as it was sixty or seventh years ago. Nothing had been disturbed. He was to Germantown what the Weather Bureau is to the country. Three times daily he took the temperature, read his barometer, making careful notes, which were regularly published in the GermantownTelegraph, then owned and edited by Philip R. Freas.
He had an observatory, equipped with a telescope, through which he watched the heavens, and upon every clear day, observed the sun crossing the zenith. He issued bulletins of the time, and every clock in Germantown was set by his standard.
…He was a remarkedly versatile genius, for besides all his other accomplishments, he could repair clocks, and many which needed repairs were put into working order by his hands…
I should have taken more interest in my great-uncle’s educational researches, had not his shop possessed greater attractions. The long and short foot lathe, beautiful cabinet-maker’s bench, not to mention the blacksmith’s forge, won my enchanted admiration, and were much more to my taste. For here it was he turned the Wister tops, celebrated among all Germantown boys. These tops were made from dogwood, could not be split, but could split the tops of any playmate opponent, whose top was unlucky enough to be hit.
There are a few men still living today for whom my great-uncle turned a spinning top…He was a merry and humorous old gentleman, and when a new boy would be presented to him would astonish him by asking, “Why is a cranberry tart like a pump handle?” After the boy had puzzled awhile, he would quietly say, “There is no resemblance.”
The Bucks County Historical Society in Doylestown, Pennsylvaia has some of the tops make by Wister, other small items and some of his tools.
In 1820 Wister started a notebook to record his workshop activites and titled it, ‘Various Recipes & Formulae Used in the Shop.’ I believe the notebook is in the Eastwick Collection of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia with no digital copy available. However, in early 2010 an enterprising young intern at the APS posted several photos of items from the Eastwick Collection including this recipe from one of Wister’s notebooks:
Charles Wister was one of the early users of photography in Philadelphia and, according to notations in the APS archive, he took photos of Grumblethorpe. Did he take photos of his workshop? If so, and if they survived, the APS may have them.
What mysteries are waiting in the the various archives holding Charles Jones Wister Sr.’s notebooks and photographs? For now, we have one photograph taken 56 years after Wister died and a sparse account of the workshop that is dated around the same time. I will be sending a note to the Operations Manager for Grumblethorpe to find out what remains in the workshop and possibly get some photos.
Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925) was a painter of working people. He was known as a realist and specialized in depicting people working in their homes, in workshops and the fields. As far as I have found, he completed three pieces featuring woodworkers: carpenters (above, featured previously on this blog), a wheelwright and a turner.
Looking at the ‘Carpenter’s Workshop’ one gets the sense that if you could walk into the scene you would find yourself back in 1884. You would smell fresh wood shavings and wood smoke, hear the conversation between the men and perhaps have a quick greeting tossed your way.
The wheelwright’s wife sits close to her husband as he works and it is in her figure we see a sign of age, a reminder that there was no retirement. He will work until he no longer able.
The turner, like the wheelwright, has been at his craft for many years. He works in a confined space with his tools just behind him. In concert with the other craftsman he has his chopping block and ax at the ready.
Today I caught up on a few saved entries on the ‘Spitalfields Life’ blog by the Gentle Author. The blog documents daily life in the East End of London. A few days ago there was an anouncement of the death of the turner, Maurice Franklin, age 98. Mr. Franklin was interviewed for the blog in August 2011 when he was still doing part-time work. You can read his story here.
Mr. Franklin was apprenticed at age 13. When he was interviewed in 2011 he was quoted as saying, “I wake up every day and I stretch out my arms and if I don’t feel any wood on either side, then I know I can get up.” Wise words from a nonagenarian.
The general miserableness of August has been bearing down on me this month. Heat, humidity, everything in the newspapers and mosquitoes have driven me to stay inside. There is a stack of favorite books to reread and stacks more of new books. On the woodworking side, I’ve been dipping into Klaus Zwerger’s ‘Wood and Wood Joints-Building Traditions in Europe, Japan and China’ (available in German or English).
In a section discussing wood joints and aesthetic values he shows how the accomplished woodworker takes a functional element and adds ornamentation as a further display of skill. The log ends for exterior walls and interior partition walls of traditional log buildings offered the woodworkers a canvas for shaping and carving (or in Zwerger’s opinion some craziness). And so, we have the delightful Zierschrot (and Figurenschrot) found in the log buildings of Bavaria and parts of Austria.
The stag in the photo above (from Zwerger’s book) is a masterpiece on a partition wall. The body of the stag is the log end and the head, legs and tail are added inlay. Above and below the stag are the edges of other traditional shapes.
Here are some of some of the more common Zierschrot shapes:
This home has a full complement of traditional Zierschrot shapes.
One more example of the more common shapes.
There is no standard to follow for what combination of shapes to use, or a particular sequence. The same uniform shape was repeated, or the craftsman could produce a highly personal set of figures.The church was a very common shape for the log ends of partition walls.
The church could also be found on the wood joints of an exterior wall.
Zierschrot is not a lost art. This photo is from an Austrian site from about six years ago.
Another common shape seen in the log ends of partion walls is the cat and this one has a painted face (from Zwerger’s book).
Enjoy your Saturday, Samstag or Caturday, as the case may be.
The trades of the carpenter, joiner, cabinetmaker and turner, and their tools, have long been an inspiration for artists. Woodworkers and tool historians have, in turn, studied artwork to learn how tools were used in the past and how they have evolved. Some artwork centers around a celebration of just the tools and in some cases tools are arranged as amusements.
Note: If you are a long-time reader of this blog you will see some familiar images.
This title page for a portfolio of 12 plates about the childhood of Jesus is one of the iconic images in the woodworking world. Wierix used a square cartouche for the title with a surround of tools. The clutter can be overwhelming, however, when all the plates are assembled and each page studied the title page gets easier to figure out.
All of the tools used by Jesus, Joseph and the helper angels, as well as the implements used by Mary, are “summarized” on the title page. Wierix essentially made a tantalizing opening sequence of just the tools, perhaps not surprising as his father was a painter and cabinetmaker.
The construction of Noah’s Ark has been a rich source of information on early woodworking tools and methods.
The four volumes of Scheuchzer’s ‘Physica Sacra’ contain numerous engravings illustrating the Old Testament and its natural life. Each engraving is augmented with a tableau which provides a frame for the image. At the top, the spool of the line marker (to the left of center) unwinds, the line wends it way to the right, drops over the side and draws the eye to the bottom set of tools.
Of course, the top and bottom tableaux let us look at the tools in use at the time of Scheuchzer, but not necessarily available to Noah.
How better to honor a woodworker than to surround his portrait with his tools?
Hans Bach is portrayed with his carpentry tools, his fiddle and his favorite beverage (?). The placement of his tools is similar to a trade card. As can be seen in Billaut’s portrait a more formal arrangement is to form the tools into trophies.
A trophy is a celebration of victory and achievment. The items in a trophy are tied in bundles with a line or ribbon and the bundles hang vertically. Trophies often feature weapons and armor (spoils of war) or tools of a trade. Other than a plaque or maybe a mythical being the trophy is all tools. In the Wierix engraving two small trophies hang on either side of the title cartouche. And on the title page to Plumier’s opus on turning (above) two very neat trophies help introduce the tools used in turning.
Delafosse crammed in so many extras into his trophies for ‘La charpente et la Menuisier’ that it is hard to see the tools for the flourishes. These trophies are more a tribute to the professions than an attempt to fully display the tools.
Completed two hundred years before Delafosses’s work, this trophy (one of four on the same paper) gives a clearer view of the tools. It has the surprise of including a workbench with a holdfast. I am convinced the most appropriate method of viewing a trophy is to first drink a glass or two of beer or wine. A relaxed mind is crucial.
A 19th century cabinetmaker’s sign with a spectacular asking price of $18,000.
Two modern versions of a trophy from the delightful ‘Grandpa’s Workshop’ by Maurice Pommier. Maurice fills his book with creative depictions of tools and I urge you to get this book (from Lost Art Press).
There are many books illustrating trades with a small engraving and a short paragraph. The lighter side of this category is the Costumes Grotesques, or Costumes of the Trades in which the tradesman is dressed with the tools of his profession.
While both versions of the menuisier are fascinating, de Larmessin’s is the more creative rendition. He “clothed” his menuisier in finely worked wooden panels. Engelbrecht, on the other hand, provided a legend for the tools and a corresponding female, or wife, of the tradesman. Unfortunately, the wife of the menuisier is not yet available in the public domain.
We do have the charming carpenter and the carpenter’s wife with actual hats on their heads instead of glue pots.
Cross a tool trophy with a cariacture of a tradesman and you get a blacksmith and a woodworker composed entirely of tools. If you have visited the Lost Art Press storefront and made a trip to the men’s room (the one with the urinal) you probably have seen the black and white version of this image.
How tools are stored can also be a work of art.
Studley used exotic woods and incorporated architectural elements to display his many tools. His artistry is such that the tools and the design elements are in harmony; the gothic arches and chisel handles sit comfortably together and the hand plane is not lost in the arched niche.
In the photographer’s own workshop his eye for composition and balance offers another way to store tools in his ‘Tool Triptych.’
The Tool Chest Lid
The woodworker’s tool chest is another canvas for artistic displays of tools.
The Bath joiner, with beer in hand, gives us a warm wecome to his shop and a gander at his most important tools.
Finch & Co. Auctions in London had a Prussian cabinetmaker’s tool chest up for sale a few years ago. The chest was made in Mewes, now known as Gniew in northern Poland.
No lock is visible on the front of the chest and how it opens it is a puzzle (see the gallery for the solution).
In 2015 there was a collaboration on this traveling tool chest. Chistopher Schwarz built the chest with bomb-proof joinery. The fancy-pants lid was created by Jameel Abraham.
As long as there have been woodworkers artists have been beside them documenting their tools and work. From orderly arrangements to dizzying aggregations, the artwork of tools gives recognition to the hands that make and use them.
In the gallery: 1. the full page of four trophies by van Doetechum (Rijksmuseum); 2. ‘Implements Animated’ by Charles Williams, active 1797-1830 (Met Museum); 3-5. the front, top compartment and hidden lock of the F.W. Ballack chest (Finch & Co.); 6. arranged for sale: French gimlets (Objects of Use) and antique breast augers (Robert Young Antiques); 7. tools from the ‘Book of Plates’.