Colonial Williamsburg, 2016: Teaching the Historic Trades



Amy hammers an edge with a mallet in the tinsmith’s shop under the supervision of Steve Delisle, journeyman tinsmith, and Winterthur Program alumnus (Class of 2008)

For many years the Winterthur Program’s pre-industrial craftsmanship class has worked closely with the men and women in the Department of Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg. Working in the shops teaches them about the hand tools and simple machines that humans have used to make things for millennia; they also study design, materials, processes, business practices, training, marketing strategies, and distribution between 1600 and 1850. Although industrial modes of production have replaced most of these technologies, there are still many small-scale shops producing hand-made objects for traditional communities and specialized markets. Studying materials and processes informs scholars’ understanding of why things look the way they do and how they came to be that way. Thus, the craftsmanship course complements the intensive training in object connoisseurship the Fellows in the Winterthur Program receive and is open to graduate students at the University of Delaware by permission.


Placing a hot tire iron at the wheelwrights

As one of their course assignments, each student had to select one trade that they visited while in Williamsburg and write a blog on what made that trade so special to them. While their choices usually reflected their current thesis and dissertation research, they enjoyed all of the experiences they encountered. They were surprised by how physical the work was, how fast people in the past had to make things in order to earn a living, how challenging it was for Americans to compete with English and European artisans, and how each trade had its own set of challenges and specialized knowledge. They have shared some of the images they made during the trip to give readers a sense for the variety of projects they studied.


Cooling the iron to shrink it around the wheel

Finally, we wish to thank Peter Seibert and Shari Monaco of the Department of Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg for making the 2016 visit in early March such an extraordinary experience. We also thank all of the trades’ people we worked with for their kindness, patience, and joyful teaching. You all are the best of colleagues.

–Willie Granston, Amy Griffin, Jesse Kraft, Erica Lome, Emily Pazar, and J. Ritchie Garrison

Craftsmanship class

Left to Right: Amy Griffin, Emily Pazar, Erica Lome, Jesse Kraft, Willie Granston



One response to “Colonial Williamsburg, 2016: Teaching the Historic Trades”

  1. Abby says:

    One of the most memorable experiences I had in the program. I still wear my silver ring every day!

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