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Hummel, Charles F. / "English Tools in America: The Evidence of the Dominys" from Winterthur Portfolio
(Winter 1965)

English tools in America: the evidence of the Dominys,   pp. 27-36 PDF (3.2 MB)


Page 27

English Tools in America:
The Evidence of the Dominys
CHARLES F. HUMMEL
D   uring the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as for at least
half of the nineteenth century, American craftsmen depended upon English
manufacturers for most of their tools. Without them, the American artisan
would have been severely limited in his production. It might appear that
exports by the English tool industry restricted the American market of
other manufacturers; a market existed, however, for all goods in the ex-
panding economy of the New World. There was ample demand for articles
produced abroad, as well as in America, and export of such finished goods
as tools was consistent with English mercantile theory and practice.
There were, of course, craftsmen working in America whose specialty
was making tools for artisans. Although they were never great in number,
their products must be considered in order to place in perspective both the
importation of English tools and examples from this trade at Winterthur
which were used by the Dominy family. Toolmakers working in America
usually were immigrants who had learned their craft in England. When
Samuel Bissel, an anvilsmith, placed an advertisement in the Boston
Gazette, March 4, 1717, he thought it important to note that he was
"lately come from England." Bissel's notice that he was making "all sorts
of Black-smiths and Gold-smith's anvils, Brick irons and stakes," as well as
putting "new Faces" on old ones at his shop in Newport, Rhode Island, is
among the earliest references to the production of tools on these shores.'
New York City in particular attracted a number of toolmakers during
the eighteenth century for reasons as yet unknown. Perhaps an important
factor was the convenience of iron and steel from furnaces in the city. News-
papers of the eighteenth century reveal the extent of tool manufacturing.
In 1748 George Appleby, a blacksmith, advertised the making of axes
"after the best Fashion" as well as "all Sorts of Edge Tools." Thomas
Yates, "Brass Founder, and Copper-Plate Printer, from Birmingham,"
noted in 1759 that he made "small steel and Iron Tools for Cabinet-
Makers, Carvers, Silver Smiths and Engravers." In 1771, Lucas and
Shepard, the partnership of a whitesmith and a cutler from Birmingham
and Sheffield, maintained a shop "at the Fly-market, near the Ferry Stairs."
Guaranteeing that their tools were all made in New York, they advertised,
' GEORGE FRANCIs Dow, The Arts & Crafts in New England, 1704-1775 (Topsfield, Mass.: The
Wayside Press, 1927), p. 252. See also the advertisement of William Bryant, a Boston black-
smith, pp. 256-257.
WINTERTHUR PORTFOLIO II
27


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