World of Tools in One Museum
by Louis Cozby
Published in the December 2001 Issue of Anvil
owes a part of his time and money to the business and industry in which he is engaged. No
man has a moral right to withhold his support from an occupation that is striving to
improve conditions. -Theodore Roosevelt
Urged by this philosophy, Lee Liles can walk with visitors and explain the importance of
treasured artifacts in the National Museum of the Tools of Horse Shoeing and Hall of
Honor, which he describes as the largest collection of such tools in the world. It is a
walk back into history and a return to the present.
|Horses and mules
contributed a vital part to the development of America, especially in settling the West.
The animals played such an important role in the American Civil War that high-ranking
Union officers demanded that troops seek and destroy Southern blacksmith shops on which
armies at that time depended. Soldiers in blue carried out their mission of destruction.
They promoted an end to the conflict when they found and destroyed the tools that kept
Confederate troops supplied with the absolute necessity of food and supplies. Complying
with the order, invading Union soldiers pounded on the horn until they separated it from
the anvil, thereby denying further use. And then they grabbed the much-wanted nails.
Lee and Alma Liles at entrance of museum
As important as the blacksmith was in
keeping the harness horses and pack mules safely shod, "his craftsmanship was just as
vital in keeping the wheels of wagons rolling safely," Liles explained. As pioneers
moved westward, one of the first businesses to appear was a hardware store with blacksmith
supplies, and next a blacksmith shop. A hotel and restaurant followed, along with a
Western saloon and place of entertainment, outbuildings, a livery stable, a courthouse and
a jail. Other business establishments were added as the need and demand arose. The visitor
finds this idea suggested in a subtle manner in the background in a spacious section of
"Most blacksmiths shod horses and mules as part of
their primary work with hammer, anvil, and forge," Liles explained. "Other
craftsmen avoided general work of the smithy, became farriers, and limited their work to
care of the animals' feet.
The two most important needs of the blacksmith and
farrier are hammers and anvils," he said. The latter he numbered by the dozens. One
of those anvils Lee can boast about as being the largest in the world. He knows, because
he designed it and had it cast, "just so I could say this museum has the largest in
the world!" He can compare that enormous size to the smallest, which weighs in at
2135 pounds and haybudden weighing in at 14 pounds.
The cost of shipping heavy anvils by wagons was enough to
encourage users in many states to design and cast their own version, using local materials
if available. By tapping each with a hammer, Liles demonstrates how each anvil responds
with its individual ping, ping, ping tone. Variation of sounds is made possible by the
different materials and method of casting.
The collection in one area of 400 anvils includes 110
designed for the farrier. One display is composed of horseshoeing anvils of less than 50
pounds. The oldest farrier is a Fisher, cast in 1889. An English carriage anvil, which
dates back to 1830-40, sports two horns, each shaped for a special need. Variations in the
form of the anvil's horn make up another part of the collection, and these also were
designed to serve a special need.
Years ago Lee learned in competition that other craftsmen
who care for the hooves of horses and mules had something he did not have. And when he
learned it was a Champion farrier's hammer, he sought one. The search was so exciting he
continued, and can show 27 of that favorite of all horseshoe hammers, a collection which
he describes as the world's largest. The search proved so thrilling that after Lee found
what he wanted, he just kept on looking.
"I still thrill when I find something few others
have," he said. Throughout the walk through the museum the visitor is aware of the
arrangement of tools as the touch of a discriminating artist. The museum also contains two
different styles of trip hammers, foot- powered and mechanical.
Various sizes of hammers include a 38-pound sledge, one
which would have demanded the best even of the village blacksmith who was praised by the
poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his well-known and nostalgic poem, "The
Village Blacksmith." (See Anvil Magazine, September 2001.) In it he wrote:
"And the muscles of his brawny arms are strong as iron bands."
Katherine and Jim Poor, farriers from
Midland, TX, combine efforts to create a copper horseshoe while visiting the museum
overcome cold iron's resistance to pounding into shape, heat from the burning forge is
called upon to make the metal pliable. That means a forge. Air must be forced through
burning coal or coke to produce the desired heat that makes metal pliable. The first of
the fire enhancers were huge bellows. When handles were pulled together, the device forced
air through the forge, spurring the burning coal or coke into action. The simple device
served for generations until someone developed the bellows of dual action, providing a
constant flow of air. That gave way to the hand-cranked blowers. Today the operation is
made efficient with the electrically powered rheostat to supply and control the flow of
air to feed the fire.
|It speeds up the process of preparing the metal. One of the early ones on display
is dual action. The bellows on display at the museum served the English smithies eons ago,
but has been well preserved. And it was the roar of the bellows that attracted school
children to "look in at the open door," in Longfellow's poem.
addition, many forges have been selected for display in the museum. Hundreds of tongs are
included, each designed to grasp and hold a particular piece of metal. All are products of
the smithy, the forge, the blower, the hammer, and the anvil.
Care of the feet of horses and mules which served the
cavalry demanded remedial work on extended assignments when away from camp. That meant
forges and anvils had to be designed to be taken across the prairies in wagons or fastened
to the backpacks of mules when traveling over rough country. Their design and weight
required careful attention. They had to be compact and the weight held to a minimum.
receiving surer footsteps with new shoes were sometimes reluctant to permit the farrier to
scrape or pound on its hooves. They demanded special treatment, so the unruly animals were
forced into stocks. The devices developed for safety of the farrier consisted of a machine
designed to lift the animal with leather straps or a blanket placed under its stomach. The
horse or mule was then raised to clear its feet to prevent it from applying its strongest
offense as a means of defense, the kick. Two such blacksmith helpers are preserved at the
museum. Liles describes one of them as the product of a genius. It is the Barcus, made in
Indiana in the 1900s, and Liles takes delight in pointing out all its good qualities.
Barcus stock is the product of devotion to perfection, possibly by more than one person,
and improvements employed gained from time and experience. If development of the country
depended upon the wagon wheel, along with well-shod horses and mules, keeping the wheels
turning was one of the blacksmith's major tasks. The museum has preserved some of those
along with the tools that were developed to keep them rolling. One of those is the rim
shrinker. With time and wear, the wood dries and contracts, causing the metal rim to fall
away and the wheel to collapse. But before it could be applied, the blacksmith had to use
the traveler, a wheel-bearing number which served to measure the inside of the metal rim.
Grasping the handle which guides the circular tool, the blacksmith marked a point on the
inside of the rim, and noting the number, rolled the traveler along the inside of the
metal around until he returned to the starting point. Using the same method, the
blacksmith marked the spot, noted the number, and rolled around the outside of the wooden
wheel. The inside measurement of the metal must be slightly larger than the assembled
parts of the wooden wheel. To complete the union of wood and metal, the blacksmith had to
cover the metal with firewood and heat it until it expanded beyond the circumference of
the wheel. He would then lift it out and, with light taps, returned the rim to the wheel.
As the metal cooled and contracted it pulled the wheel together, making it a compact unit.
It was not a complicated operation, but it had to be accurate.
with other tools of the blacksmith and farrier, the museum of 4,000 square feet displays
several panels of different styles of horseshoes. One board of shoes which is prized was
put together in 1893. Along with it appears one of nickel-plated shoes and another of
shoes made of stainless steel. There is also a collection on loan of corrective shoes.
Most of the shoes came from the forge, hammer, and anvil
of the blacksmith, either to satisfy a discriminating smithy or because shoes from the
manufacturer were unavailable or too costly. And many hooves needed corrective measures;
therefore, the need for special fittings.
Part of the museum's collection of
farrier art, anvils and tools
tools include shoe benders and clippers. Hundreds of swages make up another collection.
With the metal tools the blacksmith can heat and pound a piece of metal to conform to a
desired shape. Any number of swages may be used, depending upon the desired form. They may
be applied either above or below the heated piece of metal and stamped into soft material.
Many oddities include toe and
heel caulk, a cone mantel to curve shoes, special tools for harness horses, a display of
devices for dental care, ice chains for hooves, leather galoshes to protect the feet from
severe weather, foot gauges to measure the angle of hooves, sharp cleats fastened to the
shoe to ensure sure footage on ice, wide shoes for snow, and a Swiss Army horseshoe with
Lee Liles points to his collection
of champion horseshoe hammers, the quest of which led to his collection of tools for
museum pays tribute to those institutions and men who furthered the ancient trade which
has endured into the 21st century. One of those honored is Henry Ashworth of Cornell
University, who offered courses in craftsmanship for blacksmiths and farriers beginning in
1913. His teaching and writing contributed to great improvements in the ancient trade.
Liles points out that such famous inventors as John Deere, Studebaker, and Henry Ford
launched their careers as blacksmiths.
who receive special attention at the museum include Heller Brothers Tool Company; four
generations of design and manufacturing by Champion-Dearment families; the Kinney family;
Dale Sprout; George Ernest and Jay Sharp; and to Dr. Doug Butler, who for 30 years
contributed to accumulated knowledge with lectures, books, and tapes.
|The world's largest
collection of the tools of Horseshoeing and Hall of Honor also preserves what Liles
describes as "the world's largest collection of printed and tape-recorded history on
the subject." The library contains 300 publications that go back to the 1700s, 20
years of ANVIL Magazine, Farriers Journal going back to 1975, many catalogs of
horseshoeing products, and drawers of artifacts recorded for many years.
|While taking a break
during the tour, the visitor may rest, listen, and look at one of the many tapes that
cover various aspects of care of the feet of horses.
This wall of the museum shows the history of
the farrier tool companies still in existence to this day
The museum has the country's largest
collection of horseshoe hammers-some of them are seen in this photo
photographers, and poets have always been able to find romance in the blacksmith
shop," he said, and careful attention is paid to those artists. Displays include
walls covered with original drawings for magazine covers, paintings, and photographs.
|Americans are free to
claim professional status as farriers without certification as to competency, and only
Illinois sponsors a license. On the other hand, Europe has registered and certified
farriers since 1346 and the first farrier organization there was incorporated in 1764,
However, all is not
in the past. Today, of a population of nine million horses in the United States, 25,000
are shod daily by farriers. There are approximately 27,000 farriers in the U.S. and ten
percent of those tradesmen are members of the national association (The American Farrier's
Association) that shares and promotes improved methods and tools of the craft.
The museum has a total of 105
anvils, 56 of these were designed for the farrier
|Today the farrier,
equipped with the latest in technological development, goes to a barn to care for the
needs of horses' hooves. The men and women of the forge, anvil, and hammer also gather to
exchange ideas, to compete with fellow craftsmen, and to demonstrate the finer points of
skilled horseshoeing technique. Equipment may consist of a truck fitted for the purpose,
or the farrier may travel light and confine his equipment to a special trailer. The
ancient blacksmith or farrier would be amazed at the sight of a modern
A few of the many panel displays of
horseshoes-they include nickel-plated shoes, stainless steel, and a collection on loan of
Lee Liles and his wife
Alma have spent many hours renovating the former brood mare operation to display their
traditional and contemporary equipment at Carrousel Ranch on Highway 177, eight miles
north of Sulphur, Oklahoma.
What was the driving force that spurred the search and
acquisition of all the unusual tools of the trade? For that answer Liles points to a
framed quotation from former president and inveterate outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt:
"Everyone owes a part of his time and money to the business and industry in which he
is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an occupation that is
striving to improve conditions."
Some of the beautiful farrier artwork and other equipment
Note the old forge in the background
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