Monday, June 6, 2011

Manassas Civil War Demonstration

It was an exhausting, but good, demonstration this weekend in Manassas.

30,000 people were expected and although we don't know the final numbers, we definitely talked to thousands of people over the 3 days of the event.  We educated people about blacksmithing and the value of doing something, anything, with your hands, whatever it is that you feel called to do.  This notion seems to resonate well with people at events like this, which is always great to see.

This was our first Civil War event and it was great to dig into the blacksmithing history of that time period and to compare it to the Colonial period we are more familiar with.  Although blacksmithing did not change all that much in the 100 or so years between these wars, the country itself changed immensely and that had a huge impact on the blacksmiths of the time.

During the Colonial period, most finished metal goods and much of the iron both came from England in ships. After the Stamp Act in 1763, however, Americans became much more reluctant to buy British goods and so the blacksmiths of the time slowly began moving from a repair-based workload to one of many more things made from scratch from iron made here in this country.  At the same time, people were moving westward and blacksmiths were among them.  Some smiths that apprenticed in the cities of the Eastern seaboard no doubt would move westward after they became Journeymen and would serve the local community they were in around their homestead.  Amidst all this change, the apprenticeship model remained firmly in place right up to the Civil War and beyond.

Shortly after the Civil War, things changed dramatically for smiths, with the advent of the railroads only 20 years after the end of the War and then mass production roughly 30 years after that.  So, despite their being not much change to the basic aspects of the blacksmithing trade for the almost 250 years before the Civil War, there was massive change in the 50 years after, leading shortly to the almost virtual extinction of them in the mid 20th century.  Thankfully, however, smithing is seeing a great revival in the last 50 years and I am glad to be a part of it!

We had a great time at the event and look forward to sharing blacksmithing history and practice in future events as well.  Hope to see you there the next time!

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