January 22, 1755 – George Washington Buys Blacksmith Tools
A Year of Colonial American History Stories – Book 2 366 Days in History SeriesJanuary 22, 1755 – George Washington Buys Blacksmith ToolsA receipt found in the archives of the Mount Vernon Plantation lists a number of blacksmithing tools purchased by twenty-two year old George Washington for the blacksmith shop on the plantation.
Blacksmithing at Mount Vernon
Blacksmiths were valuable tradesmen at any plantation. The blacksmith added to the many craftsmen that made a large plantation like Mount Vernon as self-sufficient as possible. The blacksmith performed many tasks on the plantation. These ranged from shoeing horses, repairing iron pots, tools and implements on the plantation. The blacksmith also made many of the tools used on the plantation.
Tools Made by the Blacksmith
There were four different types of tools manufactured by the blacksmith in his shop. These included farm tools and implements, kitchen accessories, weapons for hunting or war and blacksmiths tools. The farm tools included axes, plow points, hoes, shovels and cultivators. Kitchen and domestic tools included tongs, forks, spoons, cleavers and things for the hearth like pokers and ash shovels. Hunting weapons included knives, tomahawks, gun parts, and other necessities. The blacksmith also made some of his tools like tongs. On the List
The items found on the receipt include a bellows, a vice, files, anvil, tongs and a nail-making tool. These were all necessary tools for the blacksmith. The bellows supplied a steady flow of air to stoke the fires of the forge; he used the vice to hold items while working on them, the anvil to beat metal into shape and the nail-making tool to make the scores of nails needed for construction projects on the plantation.
On plantations like Mount Vernon, the blacksmith was a slave. Most, if not all, of the artisans employed on a plantation were slaves. Many times farmers in the area brought work to the blacksmith shop for repairs for which the plantation owner charged fees. Many times the owner gave the slave a percentage of the profit from the fee. The blacksmith also produced nails and other things for the plantation owner to sell. A skilled blacksmith might produce several thousand nails a day in various sizes and styles. The owner sold many of these nails to area farmers and merchants, producing a profit, which in turn he might share with the blacksmith.
The Blacksmith Shop at Mount Vernon
The easiest reference to a blacksmith shop at Mount Vernon is around 1755, the time the tools on the list were purchased, though researchers have evidence of earlier shops. Visitors can find a replica of this shop at the Mount Vernon Plantation.
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