034. Blacksmith Shop: "Anything and everything you needed in metals"

Michael Wohead donated the blacksmithing equipment to Naper Settlement when his father, Henry, the last remaining blacksmith in town, died in 1979. Here, Mike talks about the diverse skills of a blacksmith: “A blacksmith is called a blacksmith because he used the black metals. Before that we had the silversmith, the goldsmith, the coppersmith, and those metals would never hold up under the pressure we’d put under a farming condition. See, most people think that the blacksmith consisted mostly of sharpening horseshoes and so forth. It was not. It was part of it, but at the same time the rest of it was in maintenance care of practically anything and everything you needed in metals at that time. If you go back into history, every time anybody moved to any place or direction, a blacksmith would go with them. You take most of the local wagon trains that came and traveled west… Well, we look at a wagon today and don’t pay very much attention to it but most of your wagons were made out of wood—the wagon spokes and the main part of the wheel. But they always had a rim on it. Well, in order to make that wagon wheel hold up, you would make that rim to the point where it was smaller than the diameter of the wooden part of it. Then you’d heat the whole thing up and the metal would expand. You’d put it on the wooden part and then cool it off and it contract[ed]. And that’s how you held the wheel together. My dad’s background for blacksmithing went back [to] the days of the old West when they were building railroads. He worked in these section gangs and in most cases there he worked as a blacksmith. When he came into farming, he always had to have a blacksmith shop because he would always maintain his own tools.”