A Rural Carpenter's World
"Franklin's research is extraordinary. His sensitivity to differences in time and place, as in his contrast between the flourishing villages of Schenevus and Otego and their less progressive neighbors, Westford and Unadilla, is enlightening."—New York History
"Artifacts speak only in truncated translation. [This book] lifts their grunts and monosyllabic words into full sentences …providing a model for research elsewhere."—John R. Stilgoe
Sometime late in 1868, New York farmer and carpenter James C. Holmes bought a new pocket diary for 1869. Now, over a hundred years later, this rare document of craft activity becomes the center for an intensive study of rural carpentry in Holmes' place and time that unlocks an entire realm of significances.
Holmes' day-by-day record places his actual craft, not just its visible artifacts, in the context of nineteenth-century culture, society, and economics. Wayne Franklin's impeccable, wide-ranging research reconstructs Holmes' networks at a time when the coming industrialization of the building trades had yet to have much effect outside American cities. His meticulous identification of more than one hundred individuals referred to in the diary and his group biography of over sixty carpenters who practiced in the area until 1900 create portraits of real lives, demonstrating the complexities of the social landscape after the Civil War.
A Rural Carpenter's World makes carpentry a prism through which James Holmes and his work and his world shine. This graceful, living record has immediate and lasting value for social historians, students of vernacular architecture and the built environment, and all those interested in westward migration and rural America.
Preface by John R. Stilgoe
Introduction: Documenting the Crafts
Part One: Craft
1. The World of James Holmes
2. The Holmes Diary for 1869
3. The Major Jobs of 1869
Part Two: Context
4. Carpentry in Otsego County in the Nineteenth Century
5. The Carpenters of Westford
Conclusion: Skill and Responsibility
General Note on Sources
Appendix 1: Westford in 1869: A Biographical Guide
Appendix 2: The Carpenters of Westford: A Biographical Gallery
Appendix 3: The Holmes Memoranda