The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes
The Society For The Preservation And Study of American Wooden Planes.
The turn of the century is always a time of turbulence. It seems that there is always a way to interpret the bible to indicate the end of the world is coming. Changes in technology are either accelerated (or appear to be) since they are held under the glass for observation. The result is always a rebirth into a new era with new horizons to look forward to.
While I could have been talking about recent changes, I was actually thinking back to the opening of the 19th century. America was a new country, with a new constitution and a new sense of purpose and promise. Industry was on a new level with the start of the Industrial Revolution gaining momentum and a new land was opening before us to the west. The sense of unrest was not from the conflict of the revolution but from the sense of destiny that was opening its doors, beckoning us forward.
This would be a time of growth, of expansion, of adventure at every turn. It was into the sense of promise and plenty that in 1783 Enos Baldwin was born in Cavendish,VT. It is unclear where Enos received his training but he first appeared on the scene as a toolmaker in Albany,NY in 1807. He moved to Newburg, NY and finally to New York City and opened a shop at 90 Elizabeth Street. At that time, this placed him in the heart of the manufacturing center in what is now lower Manhattan, just north of Wall Street and the Financial District. As was the custom, Enosí sons, Austin and Eldridge Gerry, worked in the business for their father until 1829, when Enos died at the age of only 45.
E. Baldwin became A&E Baldwin in 1830, with the half-brothers working together in the business. Judging from the number of imprints and the quantity of planes still to be found, the brothers built the business into an impressive and prolific concern. They were also probably responsible for training many of the other NYC makers we are familiar with as well as a number of makers who learned their trade with the Baldwin and took their knowledge elsewhere. That was a good idea, as the trade was competitive enough in New York.
As examples of this, we can examine the papers of indenture for J.W.FARR. According to the papers, Farr, age 16 1/2 was to be apprenticed to Enos Baldwin for 4 years, 5 months and 13 days "to learn the art, trade and mystery of a planemaker." (This information and more is available in the 3rd edition of American Wooden Planes by Emil & Martyl Pollak, with whose kind permission I both quote and paraphrase.)
J.W.GIBBS, is a NYC maker who appeared on the scene in 1829, and he also may apprenticed to the Baldwin firm. It would appear that Gibbs may not have completed his apprenticeship, as he failed to stay in business long and his work is of questionable quality. For more on Mr. Gibbs click here Who Taught J.W. Gibbs.
The partnership between the brothers lasted until 1841, when Austin left the firm and moved to Connecticut where he opened The Baldwin Tool Company and later The Arrowmammett Works. He continued in business until about 1860, when he sold his interest in the company to The Globe Manufacturing Company and began a successful career in politics.
Eldridge continued in business , using the familiar E. Baldwin imprint until 1850. However, their legacy was already assured by the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of their tools.
We will bring you more of the history of
the Baldwins and other American Wooden Planemakers. Be sure to return for
regular updates and visit The Museum Of Woodworking Tools on line for more
interesting exhibits. More information is available at the Museum bookstore or
Mark R. Thompson
Mark R. Thompson
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