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Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry Paperback – June 17, 1999

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Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry + Colonial Living + Frontier Living: An Illustrated Guide to Pioneer Life in America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (June 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801862280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801862281
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Of great interest to historians of technology including blacksmiths... Tunis's work is a useful overview of tools and processes in the hand-craft era and the beginning of the industrial revolution... With their well-balanced blend of text and drawings they provide an interesting sampling of colonial craft practices, as well as a delightful 'flavor of the times.' We [blacksmiths] should all become familiar with this widely read book.

(John Austen The Newsletter of the Blacksmiths' Guild of the Potomac)

From the Back Cover

In this superb book, Colonial Craftsmen, Edwin Tunis vividly reconstructs the vanished ways of colonial America's skilled craftsmen. With incomparable wit and learning, and in 450 meticulous drawings, the artist-author describes the skills, technologies, workshops, town and country trades, and individual and group enterprises by which early Americans forged an economy in the New World.

The first craftsmen set up their trades in coastal settlements, which often sprang up around a mill or near a tanyard. Blacksmiths, coopers, joiners, weavers, cordwainers, housewrights, and their assistants invented their own tools and devised their own methods for using them. Soon they were making products that far surpassed their Old World models: the colonial ax was so popular that English ironmongers often labeled theirs "American" to sell them more readily. In a thriving town square, a colonist could have his bread baked to order, wig curled, eyeglasses ground, and medicinal prescription filled. With increased trade in bespoke (made-to-order) work, fine American styles evolved, many of them now priceless heirlooms--the silverware of Paul Revere and John Coney, redware and Queensware pottery, Poyntell hand-blocked wallpaper. Tunis describes the development of the Kentucky rifle, Conestoga wagon, and iron grillwork that still graces houses in some parts of the South. He also shows how colonial trade formed the basis for such important modern industries as papermaking, glassmaking, shipbuilding, printing, and metalworking. In many cases, Tunis's own careful research reconstructs the complex equipment that served these enterprises.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David on February 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
During the past years, I have extensively studied the Colonial period in Amrerican history. I devoured all the material I could find on the subject but, as of yet, have found no other book that can compare to this one. It brims with information, much of which could be practically applied, if one so chose. Colonial Craftsmen takes a deep look at each trade of this era, and developes a strong history behind each, as well. We come face to face with Paul Revere as he is casting bells, and watch with suspense as Samuel Casey disapears from history after committing a serious crime. During all of this, we also learn these men's trades. We cast a silver tankard, shape a Windsor chair, and pump our bellows under the chestnut tree with "smithy". If anyone is interested in "common man" kind of history, then this book is for him. I find it especially delightful that as I read, I can relate to what I would be doing in that time. A must read for all history enthusiasts from eight to eighty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vox Humana on April 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you trip over this book by accident, you might think it is of no interest to you. Think again. Think of everyday life: How are homes built? How do they make glass? How do carpenters make beautiful cabinetwork? Why should Paul Revere be more famous for his silversmith work than for his "Midnight Ride"? What were the handwork origins of frying pans? Bookbinding? Shipbuilding? That, and countless other things are beautifully and understandably described (with superb black and white drawings) in this book. This classic can actually fire up interests in yourself you never knew you had. Most highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I positively loved these books and their illustrations when I was a kid. These books are timeless and as relevant now as they were 45 or more years ago when I read then as a kid.
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