Issue Four T.O.C. – Charles F. Hummel “The Business of Woodworking: 1700 to 1840”

Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here. 

In this issue, we are honored to publish an article written by Charles F. Hummel, one of the premiere furniture scholars in America. This piece, originally published in 1979 in an exhibition book, traces “The Business of Woodworking” in pre-industrial America. Here, Hummel relies on countless primary sources that reveal how craftsmen sourced their lumber and tools, how they interacted with clients, and even how much time they recorded spending on given projects.

We are so excited to publish this essay because, frankly, we’ve never read anything quite like it. The amount of details Hummel has unearthed from countless archives of documents gives three-dimensionality to these long-gone artists. He even provides vivid anecdotes like this one from a clock case:

“A sketch of cabinetmaker George Adam Gosler wielding an axe on a tall clockcase includes a notation that in the 1770s one of Gosler’s customers had “scrupled” about the price, claiming that it was too high. They argued, and Gosler, claiming that his work was good and that he would not let it go from his shop under his price, “took his hatchet and cut the Case all in Splinters.” This outburst of pride, a telling incident about the kinds of pressures to which many woodworkers were subject, was indirectly the subject of part of an essay by Felix Dominy in 1825. Among his observations of the things that he liked to see were "A Carpenter keep his saw in good order & not stand out too often for higher wages.”

The way that Hummel connects these personal (and very real) tidbits about the craftsmen with the work they accomplished is compelling and worth paying close attention to. We think you will love this essay.

You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.


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