I’ve often watched, and was a fan of the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. I always wondered if we had any hidden gems in our house that would be worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. Then I discovered…….. we did!!!!
My tools are more than just my trade for me. Some of them are my family’s history. For instance, I have my Grandfather’s hand planes. Now my grandfather was not a furniture maker, but he was a very handy guy. He worked in a machine shop and repaired the different machines when they broke down. Before that, he was a handyman, doing all kinds of odd jobs. I guess you could say, being a blue collar worker seems to be in our blood.
My Grandfather died in 1988 and besides his hand planes I have a few of his other tools. I have some wrenches, sockets, and a chest of drawers. Inside one of the drawers I found and old tack hammer. The handle was broken and i just set it aside for many years. But recently I decided to to take a closer look at it.
I noticed it was a strap head hammer. A strap head hammer does not have a center hole in it for a handle to go through. The hammer head looks as if it is split down the middle with the handle sandwiched in between. The current “adze head” hammer as we know it today, came about in 1840. So this hammer had to be older than that. This had me very intrigued. How old was this hammer? But more importantly, why did Grandpa have a tack hammer?
This was my Grandfather’s tool on my mother’s side. I got along with my mother, but things always felt stranded. Recently I decided I wanted to change that and try to forge a new, better relationship. So I decided to start having lunch with her and his hammer would be a good conversation starter.
I asked her about the hammer and if Grandpa ever did any upholstery. She informed me he never did any upholstery. Still I wondered, how would grandpa, a jack of all trades man, come in possession of a specialty upholster hammer and not just a five and dime tack hammer? Perhaps he picked it up at a garage sale the same way I acquire some of my tools? She said he would have NOT bought it at a garage sale especially since there was no such thing as a garage sale back then. She also stated, grandpa would never think of owning “someone elses” stuff. I heard and learned things about Grandpa that I never knew.
The next couple of days, when cleaning the hammer some more, I found the name C.S.Osborne on it. I wondered if they were still around. Yes, they are! They are still in business from Harrison NJ. They were a tool manufacturing company that made specialty tools for upholsterers, and were established in 1826. I wrote to the company to see if they could help me pin down a year.
C.S. Osborne told me, it was a saddler’s hammer and was older than they had any records on. They thought perhaps it could very well be one of the earliest hammers produced. Again the question arose, why did Grandpa have this old, antique hammer?
One afternoon when I arrived at my mother’s apartment for lunch she had already been busy with work. She has piles of papers, documents and record books of our family tree all scattered about on the kitchen table. In these records she found a listing of a man by the name of Charles Taylor.
Charles Taylor was an uncle on my grandfather’s side. He lived from 1872-1940 He was born in Carrollton KY, AND….. was a manager of a harness store. How strange this paperwork had his occupation and this was a saddler’s hammer. It seemed clear that Charles Taylor was at one time the owner of this hammer. But it seemed that the hammer was even older than Charles since the split head dates before 1840 and Charles was born in 1872. It’s possible he was given it by a retiring oldtimer when he started work at the harness store as a young man. Or maybe Charles, heaven for bid, stole it while he was working there. Either way, it appears the hammer originated with him.
So it seems, after hours of research and the mystery of the hammer has been mostly solved. The time playing “detective” with my mother is a most cherished memory for me. My lunch visits were a way for me to spend time with her and find a common ground to share. In the past, things were kind of distant between her and I. During our lunch visits I learned more about my family’s history and especially, I learned more about my mother. I enjoyed the time so much, eventually i moved back in with her.
That might sound extreme to move in with her just for conversations. Let me explain. Moving back in wasn’t just to talk with her. You see, for the past year my mother was dying from cancer. Each week her health was progressively getting worse and every doctor said there was nothing they could do. I moved in with her to take care of her.
In her home, on April 11, 2017, holding my mother’s hand, she took her last breath and passed into death. Nothing on this earth can replace that time or those conversations we had. Oddly, that hammer was often the topic of conversation. To me, this hammer will always be unique. It’s usual look, and it’s connection to my family tree. But here is what makes this the most valuable hammer in the world; Hammers are mostly used in construction to make things. But this hammer was able to do more. It made memories for me and my mother and was able to nail back together a separated relationship.
I’ll miss you, mom.