This blog follows the reconstruction of the Revolutionary War Public Armoury on the James Anderson site
Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury
September 27, 2013
Meet the New Armoury Tin Men
We have completed our search for Tin Men to establish and lead our new historic Tin Shop, and have selected two workmen from a host of worthy candidates. We had 40 applicants for two positions in the shop, making review and selection a time-consuming process.
Ultimately, two candidates rose to the top and they are now members of the Armoury team. It was not easy to narrow the field down to two candidates from such a rich pool of applicants. Thanks to all who expressed an interest in being founding members of the program.
Steve Delisle is our Journeyman, charged with developing the first new trade in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades program in about 15 years. He has an extensive background in early American decorative arts which is enhanced by his interest in and passion for this period in history.
Steve is a native of Québec and trained as a tool and die maker in a modern manufacturing environment. As a personal interest he studied Canadian militia during the Seven Years’ War and published on this subject. This led him to Fort Ticonderoga in New York State after which he spent a number of years studying the French material culture of Fort Carillon from the archaeology, the period correspondence and colonial archives, especially the Magasins du Roy (King’s Stores). He was particularly drawn to the iron and other metalwork- materials relating to his machinist background.
Then, Steve volunteered in the Anderson blacksmith shop in a quest to understand and “read” 18th-century ironwork. In addition to his interest in hand work and early technology, he was drawn to the academic study of material culture and decorative arts, and earned an M. A. in American Material Culture from the Winterthur program and the University of Delaware — one of the premier programs of its kind. He also received a Museum Studies Certificate from the University of Delaware.
Following his graduation from the Winterthur program, Steve worked as a museum consultant to the American Revolution Center/Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, where he researched and catalogued objects from the former Valley Forge Historical Society and from other private collections destined for the ARC-MAR’s soon-to-be-opened museum near Independence Hall.
But like all good tradesmen, the call of hand tools was strong enough to draw him away from the desk and back to the bench. As tradesmen, we need to do creative, productive handwork that might use, but goes beyond, the computer keyboard and draws us to that hammer, anvil, shears and file.
For the past 10 years, Steve has assembled tinsmith tools and set up a workshop pursuing an interest in historic tinplate work, and also has taken classes from established tinsmiths to learn more about the trade.
Among the skills that Steve brings to the program is the fact that French is his first language, enabling him to translate early French texts describing processes in the tin trade. This sort of technical translation can be challenging if the translator has language expertise, but lacks knowledge in historic technique. Steve brings both skill sets to the table, improving the detail and accuracy of his work as translator and as tin man.
Joel Anderson joins us from Northern New York State as our tin shop apprentice. Joel has a number of years’ experience in the museum field as well as southern roots, having worked at Walnut Grove Plantation and Middleton Place in South Carolina. In addition to his background work in historical interpretation, he has experience in shoemaking and tailoring. While these “soft “or “genteel” trades may not seem to be related to the tin work, they actually have interesting parallels. In tailoring, shoemaking and tin work, patterns are drawn and cut from a two-dimensional material and the pieces are shaped and joined into three-dimensional forms. The visualization skills and hand-and-eye coordination are much the same.
Joel refined his trade skills and interpretive experience as an artificer at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State. His responsibilities included production of clothing and shoes for the Fort’s interpretive programming. His study of original objects and attention to detail provided outstanding accessories which enhance the physical setting of the Fort.
In addition to his hand skill experience, Joel’s background includes historic military research and presentation with a particular interest in provisioning the southern army during the Revolution. This rich background in research, presentation skills, and detailed hand work already has made Joel a productive member of the site.
Join with us in welcoming these two tradesmen to our newest Historic Trade.
Contributed by Kenneth Schwarz, Blacksmith, Master of the Shop
For more information, listen to Harmony Hunter’s podcast with Steve Delisle, the first tinsmith in the Revolutionary City.
Funded by a generous gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr., of Big Horn, Wyoming.