His Deepest Connection with the Past

Courtesy of the Eric Sloane Estate

 Wandering abandoned farmsteads and rebuilding stone walls (a favorite hobby), Sloane made more discoveries: old tools, tucked away in the corner of a hayloft or hanging on some forgotten peg. He found a bog-iron gouge that had been long hidden in a stone fence and marveled at the durability of the tool to survive rust-free for centuries. In these tools, he found his deepest connection with the past.

Courtesy of the Eric Sloane Estate

“When we consider tools, we are dealing with human benefactors of the most primary sort. Tools increase and vary human power; they economize human time, and they convert raw substances into valuable and useful products. So when we muse on historic tools as symbols, we are always analyzing the romance of human progress.” Sloane liked to quote Henry Ward Beecher in saying that “a tool is but the extension of a man’s hand,” and he began to regard the early tools he found this way – particularly user-made varieties. He did not find much of interest in the mass-produced implements of the post-Civil War period. Vernacular, shop-made tools bore real, physical memory of the hands that shaped and held them.

– Michael Updegraff, excerpt from “An Overwhelming Call: The Life & Work of Eric Sloane” in Issue Five, available here.


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