Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Yankee Notions #3: Water Wheel

Yankee Notions #3
Water Wheel by Denniele Bohannon

Water wheels represent the Yankee Notion of industry.

Two styles of water wheels that use a moving stream
to power machinery, technology suited to New England's

Steam and then electricity replaced water wheels as a power source.

 #3 Water Wheel by Becky Brown

Northern view of  the pre-War division of labor in the South

Many essayists have discussed Yankee notions contrasting Northern culture with Western, Midlands and especially Southern culture. One sees the cultural conflict in newer states like Illinois settled by people from North and South who now lived side-by-side.
"Southerners enjoyed a relaxed work ethic, which both amused and miffed Yankees, who sported a finely tuned work ethic, one that never seemed to rest."
James E. Davis gives you an overview summarizing the clash of ideas concerning the use of time:

Some pre-Civil-War Southerners suggested their economy might benefit from a few Yankee notions.
"An infusion of a little Yankee industry and capital into the arteries of Virginia will produce a beneficial effect." enthused the Richmond Enquirer in 1845. 

But even after the War when it was clear that the plantation economy was no longer viable there was a resistance to change.
"Why are we as poor as Lazarus while they roll in wealth? I will tell you. Because there is hardly a town in New England...where you do not hear, all day and night, the buzz of machinery, the panting of the steam engine, the whirr of the driving wheel; and because in our towns, this music of industry and thrift is with few exceptions, never heard." Southern Farm & Home 
On the other hand, fans of the whippoorwill's song might not consider all that buzzing, panting and whirring desirable.

Water Wheel by Dorry Emmer (12 inch version)
Waterwheels below the factories powered machinery
with pulleys and belts...

that ran pistons that moved the shuttles.

Lewis Hine photo of a mill girl preparing the yarns for the loom,
 "drawing in" about 1910. Library of Congress.

The noise was deafening.

The Block

Water Wheel by Denniele Bohannon
Her 18" version

This nine patch with many ways to shade it was
called Water Wheel by Farm Journal and the Chicago Tribune's
Nancy Cabot column.

But the pattern is older: This one about 1900

12" Finished Block

A - Cut 16 squares 2-1/2".
B - Cut 2 light and 2 dark triangles 4-7/8".
C - Cut 1 square 4-1/2".

18" Finished Block

A - Cut 16 squares 3-1/2".
B - Cut 2 light and 2 dark triangles 6-7/8".
C - Cut 1 square 6-1/2".

Dorry's 9-inch blocks feature a Yankee Notion,
here a pincushion.

Yankee Notion of the month

Pins  made of bone and bronze go back in history for centuries but hand-hewn metal pins were expensive and labor intensive. Connecticut is proud of Yankee John Ireland Howe who in 1832 manufactured the first practical machine-made pins after watching  inmates in a poor house earn their keep by making hand-processed pins. Pins soon were an important New England industry powered by the water wheels of the 19th century.

Connecticut Historical Society

Today we buy our pins in plastic boxes, not nearly the fun pin dispensers used to be

Pin cubes & Pin Rolls
1893 mail order from Carson Pirie Scott

A Pin Ball

A Pin Wheel

Read about the archaeology of pins in Mary Carolyn Beaudry's Findings: The Material Culture of Needlework And Sewing.
Link to a preview:

Blocks 1 - 3 Becky Brown's Yankee Notions

1 comment:

Mary Says Sew! said...

The Pin Wheel (3rd image from the bottom) is gorgeous.

I always associated the Pinwheel blocks with the child's toy with four spinning blades, but seeing these pincushions and the circular pin wheel give it a whole new meaning.

Love this post!