1907 – American Messenger Company Established – Forerunner of United Parcel Service 18 year old entrepreneurs Henry Casey and Claude Ryan started the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907. James Casey (March 29, 1888 – June 6, 1983) The son of Henry James and Annie Sheehan Casey, James was native to Candelaria, Nevada. The family moved to Seattle, Washington in 1897. His father, a miner, became incapacitated while he was young of miner’s lung disease. Thus Casey quit school at age 11 and started working as a delivery boy for the Bon Marche department store. He improved his $2.50 weekly salary by taking work at a tea store, eventually making $6.00 a week. His younger brothers also assisted in supporting the family by working as well. Casey took a job with the American District Telegraph where he met Claude Ryan. In 1902 his father died. Casey and two friends started a messenger service they called the City Messenger Service, however they business did not succeed. Casey and one of his partners in the messenger service migrated to Nevada to try their hands at mining, however they did not succeed in that endeavor either. Casey moved back to Seattle and partnered up with his friend, Claude Ryan.
The two borrowed $100 and started another messenger service they called the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907. They started with two telephones, two bicycles and a staff of six boys. Using the motto, “Never promise more than you can deliver, and always deliver what you promise,” this business succeeded. The partners, having previously worked as messengers and delivery people for American District Telegraph and other businesses, they knew the city well. They put up signs all over the city with their phone numbers. Their rates, from 15 cents to 65 cents to deliver a message or 25 cents an hour to run errands, were good enough to cause their business to prosper.
In addition to delivering messages and running errands the partners began delivering packages for department and other stores. The company merged with McCabe’s Motorcycle Delivery Company in 1913 and became Merchants Parcel Delivery. The new company acquired a Model T Ford, painted bright red. They brought in Charlie Soderstrom, who was the head of delivery drivers for one of the leading department stores in Seattle. Soderstrom added the automotive expertise the company needed and originated the concept of painting the company’s vehicles brown, a color that did not show dirt and grime a vehicle acquired by driving on the dirt and gravel roads of that era.
The company continued to grow, gradually taking over the delivery trucks of leading department stores as they acquired their delivery business. They made parcel delivery their specialized business and after World War I ended, they sought to expand beyond Seattle. They acquired Motor Parcel Delivery, based in Oakland, California in 1919. In 1925 the company reorganized and began using the name, United Parcel Service, whose familiar brown trucks deliver packages across the United States. After his death in 1983 Casey was interred in Holyrood Catholic Cemetery in Shoreline, King County, Washington.
Sample Chapter Short History of Post Office Mid-1800’s Mail Delivery Systems By 1845 many different types of mail systems had evolved, including: Stage Coaches Horse and Sulky Railroad Post Office Saltwater Mail System Ship Letters Packet boat Steamboat Companies Semi-Formal Informal Stage Coach Companies Brutal Travel The stage coach originated in England in the 13th Century. Stage coach travel was dusty, bumpy and brutal. Most stage coaches seated about nine people on three seats inside the coach. The springless coaches provided for a rough ride over the dirt roads of the time. The stage coach acquired its name because travelers completed their journey in “stages.” Typically, teams of two to six horses pulled the coaches, which could weigh in at about 2.000 pounds. Baggage and mail was stowed in leather compartments called boots at the front and rear of the compartment. More luggage and mail could be placed on top of the coach behind the driver. Leather curtains provided some protection against dust while the leather seats provided little leg room. There was no back support, so passengers riding in the middle of the seat had to cling to a leather strap suspended from the ceiling of the coach. Periodic Stops Most stage coach lines had several stops along the way. Minor stops, called “swing” stops, allowed a stop of about ten minutes. These were about twelve miles apart. The stage driver had a small brass horn he tooted before arriving at the stop to alert the attendant the stage was coming. Once at these stops, the horse team would be changed and the passengers allowed out for a few minutes of welcome relief. About every fifty or sixty miles the stage coach stopped at a “home” station. These stations were bigger and usually had a cabin or house for the passengers to catch a few hours sleep and a meal before proceeding on. Sometimes there was a blacksmith on the site. A Butterfield stagecoach could cover about 110 miles per day traveling at about 5 miles per hour. Influential Lobby The stage coach lobby evolved into a powerful lobby in Washington D. C. Generally, the Post Office awarded contracts for mail delivery to stage coach companies for four years. In 1838 stage coaches carried mail 29,593,192 total miles for a total cost to the Post Office of $1.889,792. This amounted to about $.06 per mile. Although the bids were supposed to be competitive, allegations existed about rigging in the awarding of these contracts, which could be quite lucrative. Many government officials regarded postal contracts as a way to unofficially subsidize stage coach lines. Sulky Transportation of Mail A sulky is a two wheeled cart pulled by one horse and one seat for the driver. Much of the mail during this era was carried on horseback or by sulky. In 1838 sulky mail routes covered 11,575,918 miles at a cost of $831,038. This works out to about $.07 per mile. Railway Companies Primitive railway systems began emerging in the United States around 1830. The first public railway, the B & O commenced operations on May 24, 1830 with the opening of 24 miles of track over which horses pulled wagons mounted on tracks. The legendary race between the steam engine Tom Thumb on August 28, 1830 began the move to steam power even though the horse defeated the locomotive in the race. Post Office officials began utilizing the new technology on November 30, 1832 when they awarded a contract to a stage coach line that operated between Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The post office granted the company a $400 per year allowance to carry the mail for a short distance by rail. This practice increased over time. By 1838 the combined mileage for mail carried by rail and steamship totaled 2,413,092 miles at a cost of $410,488. This worked out to about $.17 per mile, however rail was much faster. 1838 – Railroads Designated Post Routes By Congress The first recorded use of railroads for mail delivery was in Great Britain in 1830. Specially adapted railway carriages were used to carry mail kon the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Historical lore suggests that the South Carolina Rail Road carried the first bags of mail in 1831. Stage coach contractors Samuel Slaymaker and Jesse Tomlinson received the first recorded grant to use the railroad to carry mail regularly in the United States in 1832 from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Railroads saw increased use as mail carriers between 1832 and 1838. The United States Congress passed a law that designated all railroads as post roads on July 7, 1838. The law limited post riders and horse drawn vehicles to carrying mail to post offices that were not on a rail route. Saltwater Mail System Crews on board the sailing ships that plied the oceans would go weeks, months, or even years away from homes and sweethearts. A letter from home was a tremendous morale booster. Sailors could spend many hours while at sea composing letters to send back home. Sailors, and their loved ones back home, kept in touch using the Saltwater Mailing System that had evolved over the years. The System The Saltwater Mail System was simple in concept and horrendously unreliable. A ship leaving port would take mail bags on board with their cargo. If, by chance, they met another ship at sea they would open the mail bag and see if there were any letters addressed to any of the crewmen on the other ship. The letters generally bore vague addresses like, “William Smith, Pacific Ocean.” If by chance they found one or two letters belonging to crewmen, they would hand them over. They would then take any letters the crew, or officers, had written and add them to the mail bag. When they reached port, they would deposit the mail at that port and take on another bag when they departed. The “post offices,” were frequently taverns near the waterfront that ship’s captains would use as a sort of makeshift headquarters when they were in port. Needless to say, this system resulted in many letters taking months or years to reach the recipient. If they even arrived at all. The Letters Since postage was calculated by the number of pages, numerous systems evolved to put as much information as they could on one sheet. Many used a system called “cross writing,” to double the amount of words they could put in a letter. Basically, they would write the letter from top to bottom, then turn the page 1/4 turn and continue writing, with these lines intersecting those written earlier. Ship Letters The salt water mail system used by sailors was part of a larger, loose knit system of mail often referred to as the ship letter system. Ship captains, both salt water and fresh water, frequently used a public house, or tavern, as an office. Tavern owners encouraged this practice, as a boat captain hanging out in their tavern generally led to and increase in traffic as people looked to boat captains as a source of news and mail. A visit to a tavern when a captain was in attendance would sometimes yield a letter dispatched from a faraway relative, lover or acquaintance. If you received a letter from a captain, it was common practice to pay the captain a fee for the service. Typically, the sender gave the captain 2 cents and the recipient 6 cents for the service. If you had a letter to mail, you would give it to the captain, he would add it to the growing accumulation of letters in his mail bag. Especially in the colonies, the ship letter system was slow and often unreliable. Many times letter writers would make several copies of an important letters and send them on different ships to increase the odds at least one would reach the recipient. Wars between nations could further complicate mail delivery. Ships sunk during naval actions would, of course, never deliver any mail on board. Others were captured and the letters became part of the prize seized by the captors. Piracy could also cause many letters to go undelivered. Ships sunk due to storms were another impediment to mail delivery in this system. A recent effort by the British National Archives to digitize many of the 160,000 letters seized as prize booty during Britain’s wars in the 17th and 18th centuries will cause many of these letters to be digitized. They should provide a valuable insight into life during that time. Many of these letters are still sealed with wax. Packet boat In the early days of maritime history ships often sat in port until they had enough cargo and passengers to depart. This could be days, weeks or even months. In 1660 an innovation appeared as regularly scheduled ship departure began carrying mail between Great Britain and Holland. The routes later expanded to include France and Spain. These ships became known as packet ships, because their function in the beginning was to carry packets of mail between ports. At this time, privateers and pirates preyed upon shipping so most of these ships were armed and prepared to defend themselves against attack. Since this was a common danger, the companies offered a standard table of compensation for sailors that lost limbs during an attack. Packet ships were mainly small vessels that plied the oceans, rivers and canals of Europe and the United States. They maintained a regular schedule and eventually evolved into ships capable of carrying freight and passengers as well as mail. The packet trade, as it came to be called, became quite popular, and profitable for ships owners and those that used the service. Packet boats carried multitudes of immigrants to the United States on packet boats. Packet boats on the Erie Canal and others carried immigrants into the interior of the growing nation. By the early part of the Nineteenth Century steamship companies began supplanting packet boats as mail and passenger carriers. Steamboat Mail Delivery Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston teamed up to build the first steam powered boat in 1807, forever changing water transportation and the carriage of mail. Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 – February 24, 1815) The son of son of Irish immigrants Robert Fulton and Mary Smith, Fulton received his education at a Quaker school about time he turned eight. His father died in 1774. He became an apprentice at a Philadelphia jewelry shop. While there he developed a talent for painting miniature portraits on lockets and rings. His talent for painting took him to London to seek his fortune in painting. His talent not sufficient for London tastes, he became acquainted with James Watt’s invention, the steam engine. He met Robert R. Livingston and the two teamed up to build the first steamboat in 1807, based on designs Fulton drew. This steamboat, the Clermont, made its first voyage on August 17, 1807. Fulton was also a huge advocate of building the Erie Canal. Fulton died of tuberculosis in 1815. Riverboats Fulton’s first riverboats were designed for the deeper eastern American waterways and didn’t fare so well in the shallower western rivers. He built a boat called the New Orleans to run down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The New Orleans departed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in September, 1811. It traveled down the Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky, where it had to wait for the river to rise before it could navigate the Falls of the Ohio region. When the water finally rose, the boat had to navigate in water only five inches deeper the boat drew. Coincidentally, the catastrophic New Madrid earthquake struck as the boat slipped into a pool of water just below the Falls. The shock waves of the quake threw water out of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, felled trees into the rivers, and just created a general mess. After many delays, the boat finally did reach New Orleans, but it never made the trip again. Rivers like the Ohio, Missouri, and Red Rivers needed boats with shallower drafts. These boats were eventually built, and river traffic at ports along these rivers blossomed. Ocean Going Paddlewheelers Paddle wheelers designed to cross the ocean were developed a little later. The Savannah, a converted coastal packet became the first paddle wheeler to cross the Atlantic. It departed Savannah Georgia on May 24, 1819 and arrived in Liverpool, England on the twentieth of June, 1819. Other ships made the trans-Atlantic crossing at irregular times until the British Cunard Line began a regular schedule in 1840. It was 1847 before American ships – the Herman and Washington began service between America and Europe. The ocean going ships of this era were wooden paddle wheelers also equipped with masts to use to take advantage of favorable winds when they occurred. Freshwater paddle-wheelers were limited to the larger rivers and lakes. Canals were narrower than rivers and travel was discouraged because the turbulence induced by the paddles caused bank erosion. Fulton died of tuberculosis in 1815. Early Mail Carriage Fulton’s steamboats carried mail on some of their first voyages, beginning in 1807. Unofficial carriage of mail, without a contract with the Post Office, continued until 1823, when the United States Congress declared the nation’s waterways as post roads, thus outlawing private carriage of mail. Typically, the unofficial carriage of mail used the ship letter system, however the volume of mail carried using this system created a drop in Post Office volume in many port towns by 1813. The Congress responded by passing a law that authorized local post masters to sign contracts with steamship companies to carry mail on February 27, 1815. First Mail Contracts The law that authorized post masters to sign contracts with steam ship companies also required all steam boat captains to deliver any mail they carried to the post office in any port at which they docked. This law compelled steamship companies to sign contracts with local post office officials, the first of which were signed later that same year. By the 1830 steam boats carried mail on the Ohio River, along the East Coast, the Hudson River, Erie Canal and the Mississippi River. By 1855 steamships carried mail a total of 14,619 miles. Two years before California achieved statehood, the Post Office authorized the establishment of post offices in that faraway territory in 1848. Since there was as yet no rail service between California and the eastern United States, steamship companies began forming that would provide a vital mail link between the two widely separated regions. U.S. Mail Steamship Company Established in 1848, the U.S. Mail Steamship Company transported mail from New York to New Orleans Havana and to the Isthmus of Panama. Mail arriving at the Isthmus was transported overland to a port on the Pacific Ocean and loaded on to a steam ship bound for California or Oregon. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company formed to transport mail from the west coast of Panama to the western United States coast. The U.S. Mail Steamship Company ceased operations in 1859. Pacific Mail Steamship Company A consortium of New York businessmen established the Pacific Mail Steamship Company on April 18, 1848, to carry mail from the western coast of Panama to points in California, Oregon and other points along the Pacific Coast. Initially, the steamship line transported mail and farm produce produced in California, however James W. Marshall’s discover of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California set off the California Gold Rush that same year. The steamship line found itself in the right place at the right time as gold fever set in and the rush of forty-niners streamed west. The company expanded its routes in later years, carrying passengers, mail and freight to Oregon, Washington and Alaska. The company closed in 1949. Informal Many farmers in the Midwest and other regions did not have a much cash on hand and could not afford to send letters via the Post Office. If they wanted to communicate with a family member or friend located in a distant town or city, they would write the letter and hold it until a local acquaintance was planning to travel to that place. They would entrust the letter to that person, who would deliver it free. Semi-Formal Merchants located in large cities like Philadelphia, New York and Boston developed a sort of informal mailing system. Any merchant that had a need to travel from one large city to another would advertise the fact ahead of time. Any businessman that needed to send a letter to that city would contact him and give him the letter to deliver. This service was performed free, as all businessmen had need of the service. Many could achieve almost daily mail service between the large cities using this method.
Sample Chapter Short History of the Post Office Genghis Khan and the Mail Genghis Khan relied heavily upon the messenger service he developed to govern his huge empire. Genghis Khan (c.1162 – August 18, 1227) The son of Yesugei Baghatur and Hoelun, Genghis was probably native to Delüün Boldog, Mongolia and given the name Temüjin. His father, a tribal leader of the important Kiyad tribe. Historical lore relates that at birth Temüjin clutched a blood clot in his hand, considered an omen of future greatness. When Temüjin was about 10 years old a rival Tatars tribe’s leader had his father poisoned. Temüjin attempted to claim the leadership position of the tribe, however they did not accept him and abandoned the family. Left to die, the family managed to survive the brutal environment of the Asian Steppe region. Their food consisted mainly of ox carcasses, wild fruit and small game Temüjin and his brothers managed to kill. Kidnapped Temüjin and his brother Khasar killed their older stepbrother Begter after he began to make claims to the family’s leadership. This would have meant that he could claim Temüjin’s mother Hoelun as his wife. An angry Temüjin and Khasar murdered him. Sometime after this a tribe that had been his father’s ally kidnapped and enslaved him. With the help of two of his father’s loyal followers and a sympathetic guard, Temüjin escaped during the night. Marriage and Rise to Power Temüjin married a girl to which he had been previously betrothed, Borte. In addition to the men that had helped him escape, Temüjin was able to gather more of his father’s former allies and then joined Toghril, chief of the Kerait. Temüjin’s father had once helped the Kerait and thus gained their friendship. Temüjin proved to be a formidible leader and military strategist. His followers began a campaign of subjection over neighboring tribes, a task at which they had tremendous success. The Great Khan At this time the Central Asian plateau north of China consisted of dozens of tribes, including Naimans, Merkits, Tatars, Khamag Mongols, and Keraites. Temüjin and his allies subdued these tribes one by one in a series of brutal, bloody campaigns. At length at a conference of these tribes in 1206 AD on the shores of the Kerulen river the leaders of these tribes awarded Temüjin with the title Great Khan. Further Conquests The Khan’s warriors were hardy men that could survive for days riding their tough horses with few provisions and rest. Each rider equipped themselves with up to 16 spare horses, which allowed them extreme mobility and the ability to move quickly over long distances. The Mongols utilized enemy tactics and technology, if it benefited them. Under the Khan’s leadership, this army expanded quickly, as conquered foes were frequently given the choice to either join the Khan or face total annihilation. The area governed by the Khan grew quickly as he attacked the Jin Emperor of China Emperor Xuanzong, eventually causing the fall of the empire by 1234. The conquest was completed by his sons, as Ghengis had died earlier. In addition to these conquests, Khan conquered the Khwarazmian Empire, Georgia, Crimea, Kievan Rus and Volga Bulgaria, adding each of these to his Mongol Empire that at his death in 1227 had become the largest contiguous empire on earth. The empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. The Örtöö Khan developed his messenger service, called the Örtöö, sometime around 1200 AD. The word Örtöö translates as the term checkpoint, which was a relay station on the route. At some point the service became known as the Yam, which is a Tatar word for road, related in turn to the Mongolian name for road, which is Zam. The Örtöö consisted of a series of relay stations located from 20 to 40 miles apart. Each station was equipped with horses, food and shelter. A messenger would arrive at the station, hand his message to the next rider in line, then eat and rest. The system grew to include thousands of relay stations. There were 1400 just in China. The Örtöö at one time had 50,000 horses, 6,700 mules, 1,400 oxen, more than 200 dogs, and 1,150 sheep. The service also owned over 6,000 boats and 400 carts. The system provided a means for the Khan and his officials to send messages, mail and intelligence reports. The Khan allowed merchants to use the service free. Abuse of the privilege led the Khan eventually to charge a fee. The Messengers The messengers were trustworthy individuals whose duties to the service superseded everything else. The members of the service enjoyed special privileges and carried a tablet called a paiza that identified them as members of the service and designated their authority to obtain goods and services from the populace when they needed them. The service evolved into the largest and most efficient ever developed until modern times.
Other Books in the Series: Short History of Libraries, Printing and Language Short History of Fire Fighting Short History of Roads and Highways Short History of Railroads Short History of the Discoverers Short History of Gardening and Agriculture Short History of Public Parks Short History of Political Parties A Short History of Traditional Crafts
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Preview Chapter Short History of Public Parks English Deer Parks The English Deer Park gave rise to the first English parks. After the successful Norman invasion in 1066, the invaders confiscated most of the lands held by the former Anglo-Saxon nobility. At first the Norman kings had exclusive right to establish a deer park. Since serving venison at banquets was a sign of great status, many of the minor nobles also desired them. The kings eventually allowed the nobles to establish their own deer parks to supply venison to their guests. To establish a deer park, the noble had to acquire a document called a “licence to empark,” from the king. The noble usually placed the park inside, or near, a royal forest. They surrounded the park by a ditch. A high bank with a stone, brick or wooden fence at the top bounded the ditch. the construction prevented deer from leaving the park. Sometimes the noble built a device called a deer leap outside, which allowed wild deer to enter the park, but not escape. Most of the time these were illegal, as it could deprive the king of his deer that roamed the open forest. Many nobles built hunting lodges inside the park, many of which were protected by moats. Inside the park was a mix of wild pasture land, forest and heath. The trees consisted of mainly oaks, whose acorns provided winter forage for the deer. Many of the ancient oaks now living in England were preserved inside these parks. the nobles imported deer from the European continent to stock their parks. Native red deer roamed the forests outside. The usual method of hunting deer was to drive them into nets. After slaughtering them, they became the “noble meat,” of feasts. Historians estimate that at their height, around 1300 AD, deer parks occupied about 2% of the English countryside. Many of these parks were abandoned after the deer park became unfashionable after the 1642 – 1651 English Civil War. Some were used as fields to grow crops, some reverted to wild lands and some found use as parks. Many of these parks are still in existence.
Description: European parks evolved from deer parks nobles used to raise and hunt deer to grace their banquet tables. In the United States the need for a location away from cities to bury the dead led to landscaped cemeteries. The public began using these resting places for the dead as places for recreation. City planners noted this practice and, using the cemetery as a guide, began creating parks for the public.
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Spinning tufts of fiber into thread, or yarn, is a craft that dates back to prehistoric times. The earliest form of spinning fiber into yarn was to roll tufts of fibers down the thigh with the hands. The rolling action twisted the fiber into yarn. The spinner kept adding tufts until they had the desired length. The next step up in spinning technology was to wind the fibers in a loose wad around a long stick called a distaff. The spinner attached a few strands of fiber to a tool called a spindle, which is a short, round, weighted stick. The spinner spins the loose fibers, twisting them, while pulling more fibers from the distaff. As the resulting yarn gains length, the spinner stops to wind the yarn around the spindle, and continues the process until they have a roll of yarn, ready for weaving into cloth. This was a daily chore that women performed, spinning wool, flax fibers, cotton or animal hair into thread. Historians are unsure of when the first spinning wheels appeared, however many think the originated sometime around 1030 in the Arabian world. From there, it spread to China and then to Europe. The spinning wheel was the first step in mechanizing the spinning process. Using the spinning wheel, the spinner starts twisting the wool with the fingers to form a thread by hand. When the spinner has a sufficient length, they thread the yarn through an orifice in the end of the spool, through hooks on a part of the spinning wheel called a flyer. The yarn is then tied securely onto the spool. The spinning wheel has groves that run to another groove on the end of the spool. An arm of the wheel attaches to a foot pedal by means of a crank. When the wool is secured to the spool, the spinner holds the bundle of fiber in the hand and gives the wheel a gentle push, starting it. The spinner can then work the fibers into thread, called carding, which the flyer twists before it wraps around the spool. The spinner keeps the wheel spinning by pumping with the foot while performing this operation. The spinning wheel made the spinning process go much faster than using the distaff and spindle.
Mechanizing the Process
This was the process used to spin cotton, wool, flax and other fibers into yarn for centuries. Lewis Paul and John Wyatt devised the first type of mechanized spinning in 1738. Over time water wheels and then steam engines provided power for the spinning apparatus. Today the process has been fully mechanized, however many crafters still practice the age old art of using the spinning wheel and the spindle and distaff methods. Weaving Weaving threads into cloth is an ancient art that dates back into prehistory. Archeological evidence indicates that it appeared independently in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas at different times. The simplest form of weaving was the band weaving method. In this process, the weaver simply tied thread to two sticks an equal distance apart. Then she would weave the cords, or thread, between the tied threads, creating narrow bands of cloth. They could wrap these narrow bands around them to form skirts, kilts or other apparel. Or they could sew the bands together to make something larger. Sometime around 6000 BC weavers started building looms. The first ones were simply a wooden frame on which they could tie the thread, or cord, and then weave other threads between them. This was a slow process and the cloth produced this way was quite expensive. Over time they developed the shed rod, which is a stick you could run between the threads fastened on the loom, separating every other thread. They next used a tool called a sword to raise half the cords at the same time. The invention of a device called a heddle road, sometime around 500 BC, allowed the weaving process to go much faster, lowering the price of the finished cloth. People living in different areas of the world used different types of cloth. In South America the natives used cotton and the fur of alpacas and llamas. In Medieval Europe it was mostly wool, linen, nettle cloth and cotton. Asia developed the silk industry, but also wove using various types of plant fiber like abaca and banana. Other improvements to the loom and the weaving process in the Eighteenth Century during the Industrial Revolution led to the construction of large mills in which thread was spun and then woven into cloth.
Sample Chapter A Short History of Traditional Crafts Gunsmiths The gunsmith performs a number of different tasks that involve many different skills, including woodworking, machinist, engineering and finishing. The first gunsmiths arose in Europe after the introduction of firearms in the Fourteenth Century. The Chinese, who had first invented gunpowder in the Ninth Century AD, were naturally the first ones to invent the firearm. Gunpowder History Invented by the Chinese in the Ninth Century, gunpowder at first was not explosive, but it was flammable. One of the first recorded uses as a weapon is a drawing of a flamethrower. The Chinese refined the mix, and soon they made rockets and fireworks. They used fireworks at first to scare away evil spirits. The technology spread to the Mongols, to India and then the Arabs. The technology reached Europe by the Thirteenth Century. Historians are not sure if the Mongol invaders brought the technology or if the knowledge came in through the Silk Road, but by the 1300’s the Europeans had gunpowder. Gunpowder Classed as a “low explosive” substance, gunpowder produces a large amount of pressure and gas after a rapid burn. This explosion of gas and pressure is ideal for propelling a projectile down the barrel of a firearm or cannon, as it is not intense enough to destroy the device. Gunpowder is composed of three ingredients, potassium nitrate, carbon and sulfur. Sulfur comprises the smallest component at about ten percent. The colonies imported it from Sicily, which has huge deposits. Carbon, the next biggest component at about fifteen percent, they could manufacture from charcoal, an abundant resource made by burning wood. Potassium nitrate is the most important at seventy-five percent and is the most difficult to obtain. Potassium Nitrate Potassium nitrate, or salt peter, accumulates in caves as the composted remains of bat manure, or guano. The early colonists knew of no natural sources of salt peter in the New World. Sources were found later on, but the need for this critical material during the Revolutionary War forced the colonists to find foreign sources. There is another way to produce salt peter, but it is a long process. Any organic matter that contains nitrogen is a potential source for potassium nitrate. Manure, blood from slaughterhouses, and plant material of all kinds they would gather and put in a huge pile. They would water this pile from time to time with animal and human urine. This huge pile of organic matter would decompose, leaving compost behind. They would then leach the salt peter out of this compost with water. They could then re-crystallize the salt peter by evaporating the resulting liquid in the sun. This process typically took a year to produce the salt peter needed for gunpowder. Brief History of the Firearm The Chinese developed the fire lance sometime in the 10th Century. This was simply a tube they filled with gunpowder. They lit the gunpowder which ignited and shot a fiery bolt of sparks at an adversary. Sometimes they would put shrapnel of some kind in the tube to inflict greater damage. By the 12th Century the Chinese had evolved their craft to create the first hand cannons which shot cannonballs. The firearm was probably carried to the Middle East by Mongol invaders in the 14th Century. One of the earliest forms of firearms was a gun called an arquebus. This was a defensive weapon whose name derives from the German word Hakenbüchse, or “hook gun.” The gun was mounted on hook like projection that steadied the weapon when the shooter fired the gun. Historians think that the arquebus first appeared in the Ottoman Empire sometime around 1465 and in Europe sometime around 1475. These early guns had to be fired by holding a lit match to a fire pan filled with gunpowder. This operation required a great deal of preparation at a time when the soldier was probably under attack. The development of the matchlock, possibly by the Japanese probably developed the matchlock and introduced it to the Portuguese sometime around 1543. The smooth bore muzzle loading musket appeared sometime around 1465, first as a heavier arquebus designed to penetrate armor. This led to the downfall of armor as protection and the musket evolved into a lighter firearm. The introduction of the matchlock made the musket more mobile. Gunsmiths The increasing complexity of firearms led to the appearance of gunsmiths that could make and repair the guns. The first gunsmiths were Italian craftsmen that assembled gun barrels. The early gunsmiths during the Middle Ages needed to join a guild in order to practice. Since there were no gunsmith guilds, these artisans joined blacksmithing guilds. As the various national governments soon began to employ gunsmiths their numbers and importance grew, leading to the appearance of specialized gunsmith guilds in the 14th Century. Britain lagged behind the other nations in gunsmiths leading King Henry VIII to invite gunsmiths in other European countries to work in London sometime before 1545. Because of the restrictive guilds in Continental Europe, many gunsmiths happily moved to England to practice their craft. Many gunsmiths migrated to America and began practicing their much needed craft among the first pioneers in the wilderness. The American gunsmiths developed the distinctive Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, long rifle which was much prized by pioneers like Daniel Boone for its accuracy. Gunsmiths provided a valuable service for the newly independent nation during the Revolutionary War. Eli Whitney’s introduction of standardized gun parts in 1798 made mass produced firearms more affordable and placed less reliance upon the hand crafted guns of the gunsmith. However, many gun enthusiasts still prefer the high quality weapon produced by a skilled gunsmith.
Discover the story behind many of the traditional handicrafts like blacksmithing, weaving, quilting, sewing, basket making and pottery. The book covers the history of those crafts as well as metal smiths, brewers and woodworkers. Table of Contents