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Anvil Chorus: 1905

Washington, D.C., circa 1905-1910. "McKinley School shop." Side note: The McKinley track team was called the Blacksmiths. Harris & Ewing. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1905-1910. "McKinley School shop." Side note: The McKinley track team was called the Blacksmiths. Harris & Ewing. View full size.


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I LOVE the lights hanging in the foreground! They look like they have an electric bulb, but they're clearly modeled like a gas lamp.

[They are gas lamps. - Dave]

Old Skill

Blacksmithing is an old skill but that doesn't mean it's a dead skill. Think of these guys next time you buy a set of wrought iron railings for stairs or a custom design gate for your yard. These are the skills that make those things.

Fantastic description by DocN

And a view of the forges in more detail at another high school.

Fantastic detail!

As for ventilation, you can just see the edge of the roof vent, basically a skylight. The big motor at the back center is the blower -- the snail direction is blowing down into the floor.

You can see a pipe coming up from the floor to the forge, right below the arm of the blurry boy on the extreme near left. I'm not familiar with that pattern forge, but that hood isn't just for decoration.

The other motor at the back also appears to run a blower, appears to exhaust up like a chimney, and has a hood attached. I'm assuming, then, the small blower blows the forge, the larger one draws through the forge hoods as an exhaust.

The exhaust motor -- a variable speed DC according to the wall controls -- also drives a short lineshaft. There's a power hammer on the left end (below the clock and anchor), a pedestal grinder behind the boy with his hands on his hips (note the larger drive pulley to increase the driven spindle speed) and a small drill press seen right under the triangular fume hood on the right.

Buffalo Forge may well have made all three tools, in addition to the forges themselves.

Anyone notice the boy looking into the room through the double doors at the back left?

Shop class

Wow, it's a high school shop class and not a single bong is being made. Times sure have changed!

Nothing wrong with "old" technology

The comments on industrial arts strike close to home. In junior high school (now renamed "middle school") my shop class included setting type by hand. Sure, learning paste-up today would leave you baffled when facing a computer... except that paste-up is the analogue to computer layout, just as cold type was the analogue to hot lead. But it's probably a pied type tray that steered me into graphic design.

There's no reason not to learn something because it ain't the newest and "bestest." Most often, learning the foundations of your craft helps makes you better at present-day applications (and a heckuvalot more appreciative of new tools).

And let's not forget that using old technology can give you a niche in a crowded market. How else would you explain handmade paper, successful letter press publishers, or The Woodwright's Shop?

Steve Miller
Someplace near the crossroads of America

Clang, clang

Wow, imagine the racket in this room! No ear (or eye!) protection in those days...

On reading the title, my first thought was of David Lang percussion solo of that name. Only after I Googled "Anvil Chorus" did I realize the phrase was better known from Verdi's Il Trovatore.

I'm happy I got to work in a metal shop for a time a few years ago when I lost my software job. It was some of the most satisfying work I've done...

Well Ventilated

Each forge has its own hood and vent.

My friend the blacksmith

Sending this to, I know he'll appreciate it.

Hardly yesteryear!

Blacksmithing is a fantastic way to introduce students to metal, its properties and possibilities. It is one of the great "DIY" skills. Plus, understanding the history of an art is always beneficial, and hands-on, practical exposure, when possible, is best. Kids today are lucky if they have access to a forge at school.

Can you say CO poisoning?

I see about 6 coal fired forges with not much ventilation other than a few open windows. Maybe the contraption on the back wall is some kind of vent system?

For some schools... is yesterday, it would seem. About 30 years ago, our newspaper converted to "cold type," a paste-up, photographic and offset printing process that was the bee's knees then, but obsolete now. Our local area community college sent us an "intern" that summer who was majoring in hot-lead Linotype operation. We sure chuckled, and he was flabbergasted. Just the other day, my grandson began making a wooden goblet in "shop." I'm willing to bet the community college he might attend is teaching newspaper paste-up right about now, while its graduates will be faced with desktop publishing, Internet technology, and the probable demise of paper-based newspapers as we know them.

Preparing the students of today ...

... for the careers of yesteryear! Reminds me of Junior HS in the early 1970s and a course called Industrial Arts, which taught some useful things. But it also had a segment on typesetting (!) That was probably the equivalent of learning blacksmithing on the eve of the automotive age.

Surprisingly clean!

For a blacksmith shop. Someone needs to pick up the L square though.

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