Here at Historic Huguenot Street I have been looking through the book Early American Wrought Iron by Albert H. Sonn. I am starting a project dealing with the metal hardware in the houses on the Street, and Sonn’s book has given me some interesting information that is going to help me in my work. At first, old American metal door knockers, nails, and latches might not sound like the most interesting subject, but when you start to consider what went into crafting these items, and then step back and look at the history of blacksmithing itself, you find some really neat things.
One thing that Sonn notes that really grabbed me is how until the Industrial Revolution and the advent of machines, metalworking methods had not changed for centuries. Sonn writes how a nail that was unearthed from the ancient Roman Forum was so similar to a nail found in an eighteenth century house in Connecticut “that they might well have been wrought from the same hand.” These tried and true methods of metal working were passed down from master to apprentice for centuries, and the fact that their work still remains is a testament to the skill of the smith. Recently a blacksmith came to Huguenot Street and gave a demonstration on metalworking, even crafting some nails right here on the Street. The techniques that he used to make nails in the twenty-first century are the same as the ones used by the Huguenot smiths in the early eighteenth century.
When looking at any sort of artifact or artwork, what went into its creation is of the upmost importance. A nail is just a nail until you stop to think that centuries ago someone was using all of his skill to create that nail, and then it becomes something special that is worth analyzing and preserving. Considering the human aspect to these pieces, even the tiniest pieces of metal, is what is important to me and my studies. ~ Matt Moskowitz