Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Yankee Notion #4: New Waterwheel

Yankee Notions #4 New Water Wheel by Dorry Emmer
Nine-inch blocks, note the needle in the center and the words.

Part of Yankee industry was fiddling with things: Yankee ingenuity. A Yankee engineer no sooner built a waterwheel than he was thinking about a better waterwheel.

Water wheels were replaced by steam engines in the New England
mills in the late 19th century.

Yankee ingenuity and engineering:
 An incredibly complicated cylinder printing machine for printing different colors on one piece of cotton. Much of our textile technology originated in England but American mill engineers added their own inventions.

New Waterwheel by Becky Brown

In his 1890 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Mark Twain began with a familiar type:
"I was born and reared in Hartford, in the State of Connecticut.... So I am a Yankee of the Yankees — and practical; yes, and nearly barren of sentiment, I suppose — or poetry, in other words. My father was a blacksmith, my uncle was a horse doctor, and I was both...."
Sir Launcelot gets a bicycle from the Yankee
"I could make anything a body wanted — anything in the world, it didn't make any difference what; and if there wasn't any quick new-fangled way to make a thing, I could invent one — and do it as easy as rolling off a log."
And speaking of rolling off a log:
A Northern view of Southern culture. The more relaxed attitude,
anathema to the great-grandsons of Puritans, is perhaps best
expressed in a few catch phrases:
Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
Leave well enough alone.

Englishman Basil Hall contrasted attitudes in the 1820s:
"In the more northern parts of the country, we had been every where much struck with the air of bustle, and all sorts of industry—men riding about, chopping down forests, building up houses, ploughing, planting, and reaping—but here in Carolina all mankind appeared comparatively idle. The whites, generally speaking, consider it discreditable to work, and the blacks, as a matter of course, work as little as they can. The free population prefer hunting, and occupy themselves also very much with the machinery of electioneering." Basil Hall, Travels in North America: In the Years 1827 and 1828
Another Northerner's view of Southern culture.
Walt Kelly's Pogo cartoon

Denniele Bohannon's 12-inch block

The Block
New Waterwheel

It's BlockBase #1649 published as New Waterwheel by
the Chicago Tribune's Nancy Cabot column in the 1930s.

Reader Anna Law sent a block to Comfort magazine in 1906
 and called it "Checkered Square."

12-Inch Block
A - Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally with a single cut. You need 8 triangles, dark and light.
B - Cut 12 rectangles 1-7/8" x 4-1/2".
C - Cut  9 squares 1-7/8".

18-Inch Block
A - Cut 4 squares 6-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally with a single cut. You need 8 triangles, dark and light.
B - Cut 12 rectangles 2-1/2" x 6-1/2".
C - Cut  9 squares 2-1/2".

Dorry's 12-inch New Waterwheel

Rube Goldberg satirized Yankee Ingenuity in the 20th century.

This month's Tangible Yankee Notion


Woodblock print, Yashima Gakutai (1786-1869)

Engineering and fiddling with things might have changed technology over the centuries but there have not been many changes in the needle. Like pins, needles were first fashioned from bone and as industry improved then formed from fine metal wire hand ground to fine points, finally sharpened and drilled by machinery. 

The English pride themselves on making the best needles. Americans have relied upon British manufacture for their hand sewing needles for centuries.

And like pins, New England factories began manufacturing needles for hand
and machine sewing. The Excelsior Needle Company in Connecticut began in 1866.

Henry Spernon Tozer, The Quiltmaker
Some of us spend as much time threading the needle
as sewing the fabric. I wouldn't mind a better needle but
I'm still sewing with 19th-century technology.

Denniele's 18-inch New Waterwheel

The rocking chair is said to be a New England invention, designed so Yankees could continue to move while sitting still. This one from the Maine State Museum is made of a recycled spinning wheel.
Norman Rockwell illustration

Denniele's 18-inch blocks 1-4

See Mary Carolyn Beaudry's Findings: The Material Culture of Needlework & Sewing:


abelian said...

My father's first job, he said, was threading needles for the older lady next door. She paid him a penny a needle, and he would thread a pincushion-full at a time. Dot

QuiltGranma said...

After my father died, and I was an orphan I got my Mother's sewing machine and cabinet. As I sorted through I found a very large number of triangular shaped needles. It has been suggested that maybe they were my father's from WWII since he was a Sea-Bee. Any ideas on this Barbara Brackman?