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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Extinct Trades That Were Popular In The 19th Century

Dallas Bogan on 14 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Certainly the trades of yesteryear have come and gone. The latter part of the 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century previewed the parading of industry to its fullest for that time period.
Eli Whitney is given credit for the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 and, as some say, the machine that started the American Civil War. Whitney is also credited with the development of interchangeable parts for firearms, thus helping to usher in the principle of mass production.
Before the industrial trend many crafts were done by hand and considered beneficial. As we proceed we shall examine some of these "lost occupations."
One craftsman of note was Nebo Gaunt of Oregonia. He was described as a "man of many hats." His work as a millwright, carpenter, wagon maker, and blacksmith were known throughout the County. Nail making was a craft that many early pioneers mastered. Gaunt was said to have built a two-story frame house and made nearly all the nails in its construction.
Cincinnati at this time had a large nail factory driven by oxen walking on an inclined wheel.
The old-time wheelwright was essentially needed in practically every community. One type wheel was the one used in the many versatile wagons.
Another type wheel was made for the hand-spinning wheels for wool and flax reels that were found in most farmers' homes.
The "Kicking" was the fulling-mill in which to dress the pioneer's woolen goods. The carding, spinning and weaving were all done at home or at some neighbor's, where adequate help was supplied.
The fulling-mill was set in operation during the long evenings in the commencement of winter, and often lasted until late at night. It was accomplished in the following practice: A piece of woolen goods were placed on the floor, and then a row of chairs was place around it. A rope ran between the legs of the chairs, forming a circle.
The "kickers occupied chairs" and when hot soap- suds were poured on the goods, the kicking would commence. Round and round the goods were kicked until all was in a foam of soap- suds. When the first group was tired another group would take their places, and the goods would be whirled around. Steam and mist would fill the room until the work was pronounced done. The girls did not do this kind of kicking. Afterward, a grand supper was prepared for the workers; next a dance would be in store, and the escorting of the girls home.
Hat making was a vocation practiced by some early pioneers. The hatter measured the head of his customer a week or two before the hat could be finished. In early hat-making glue was used instead of waterproof gum, which resulted in the ruination of the hat because of Mother Nature's deluge of Her many elements. This resulted in the traveler carrying an oiled silk covering for his hat.
Reed making was a business that has since gone into oblivion. Reed-cane was used for weavers' reels for the many looms found in country homes.
Daniel Cushing announced in 1810 that he was engaged in making black salts at Lebanon and would pay the highest price for good ashes. (Boiling lye until a dry substance appeared that was marketable at country stores accumulated black salts.)
One report says that in northern Ohio the first valuable reward of the pioneer's land was the many ashes he gathered from the burnings of his forests. These ashes were painstakingly gathered and leached. Many towns had their own asheries, which bought wood ashes, or black salts and transformed them into potashes.
Tanneries were found in virtually every community. These facilities had their vats in the tan yard, and the bark-mill in a shed that was turned by a single horse. The latter procedure was for grinding oak bark into small chips which were then placed into the vat along with a mixture of rain water, in which tannic acid was derived.
There was a tannery in the small town of Twenty Mile Stand operated by Silas Hurin in 1799. The first tannery in Lebanon was located on Cherry Street south of Main.
Lebanon, being a mere ten years old at the beginning of the War of 1812, had many enterprises such as a woolen factory, wagon making shops, plow-making shops, chair-making and cabinet-making shops, and other trades which time has induced to cease.
The Western Star inserted in an 1839 issue of its paper a list of 31 enterprises in Lebanon. The total number of personnel recorded in all the establishments was 293. The village at this time had a population of 1300 residents. The number of businesses listed were: 4 wagon-making shops; 2 woolen mills; 3 shoe-making shops; 6 blacksmith shops; 6 saddler shops; 4 chair-making shops; 3 cabinet-makers; and 3 hatters.
It was commonplace for the town folks, who hankered for a new garment, to purchase the material from the local dry goods dealer and deliver it to the tailor, who in turn took the measurement of his client.
James B. Graham moved to Lebanon from Cincinnati in 1835 where he set up a tailor shop. He said that when customers brought cloth to them for a new suit, they were to charge more for cutting, fitting and sewing than factory made suits of the same kind of cloth.
In this article we have discussed just a few of the extinct trades of bygone days. Our ways and ideals of today seem to allow us to forget there was another time; a time in which generations of people sacrificed that we should enjoy the luxuries of current times.

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This page created 14 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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