If you’ve been following my blog this must seem like the longest trip, considering that I wrote the first blog post about it weeks ago. The title says Day 3 and that’s where I am.
This was a Friday and the AGM (Annual General Meeting of the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association)—the reason I was in Ohio—was to start that afternoon. That meant I had a good half day to do more site-seeing. I had read about David Warther, an ivory carver in one of the nearby towns. He carves incredibly detailed ships out of ivory and you can visit his workshop. So I got on the road and checking my maps and phone found Warther Museum in the town of Dover.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that this wasn’t the one I was looking for in Sugarcreek. I was at the Ernest Warther Museum in Dover, and Ernest was David’s grandfather. Nevertheless this was an amazing place to visit.
When I got to the museum a tour was just beginning. The tour guide was a man who, as a child, used to hang around Ernest’s workshop. What a great tour guide!
There is so much to this story that fascinated me but I don’t have time to write a whole book here. This is an early carving made by “Mooney”, as he was known. These were actually sent through the mail.
In the first room we were introduced to Mooney’s work. His “real” job was in a steel mill and he made time to carve in the early morning before going to work. He carved this model of his work place.
Many of the parts move, controlled by all these wheels and bands of various sizes that are below the model.
Detail of Mooney’s work station and his self-portrait.
Mooney became well-known for his train carvings. One of the trains was damaged and it was used in this display showing the number of parts and attention to detail in his work.
This is the detail of the panel above on the left. He didn’t carve from photos, but from the blueprints of the engines. He made all the parts to scale, even internal parts that no one would see.
One of the signs reads: “The materials Mooney used were extremely important. Being completely self-taught, Mooney read that when archeologists opened the tombs of the great Egyptian pharaohs, the materials that were perfectly intact were items of ivory. With this knowledge, Mooney started saving to buy ivory, starting first with chipped billiard balls before purchasing his first tusk. For smaller details, he would swipe Frieda’s [his wife] broaches and used the gemstones for the lantern lights. He used Mother of Pearl for a lot of trim-work and fine details. Probably one of the most important materials used was the Arguto wood. Arguto is a self-lubricating wood. Mooney put this wood where the facets worked mechanically so that his carvings would never need oiling. The tools Mooney used were files, small hand saws, and most importantly carving knives he made himself. “
This case displays the tools that Mooney used for his carvings. He made the knife handles and all the blades that would fit them. He never sold any of these tools but did start making kitchen knives to sell. Eventually he was able to quit the steel mill job and create a business that is now known as Warther Cutlery
The guide on the tour explained that there is a difference between whittling and carving. The story is that when Mooney was young and bringing cows in from the field he found a pocketknife and then a hobo showed him how to make working pliers from one piece of wood with ten cuts. This began his career in whittling and then carving.
Mooney figured out how to add more pliers and more pliers to a single piece of wood until he created the Pliers Tree with 511 interconnected pliers, made with 31,000 cuts. He somehow figured out how to make all those cuts that would then allow the whole thing to open up.
This tower holds the Pliers Tree. The guide told us that it was only closed and reopened once—at the Chicago World’s Fair. The piece of wood on the right is the shape and size of the original piece of walnut used for the Pliers Tree.
Check out the ends of these match sticks. Pliers!
The pliers are fascinating and it’s hard to imagine the complexity of figuring out that Pliers Tree, but the real carving began with his trains. He focused on stem engines and there were dozens in the museum. The detail is incredible.
Mooney used ebony and ivory here. It was explained that ll of the ivory inlay had to be carved to exactly fit the carving in the wood—and that goes for all the wording on the pedestals holding the trains—carving letters into the wood and then carving the ivory to fit. It isn’t something that you can bend to fit.
Mooney used ivory to carve the Union Pacific and Central Pacific engines that met at the Golden Spike celebration in Utah in 1869.
Detail from one of the engines.
Our guide said that the U.S. President (Grant) was not at this ceremony but Mooney thought he should have been so he carved him.
Mooney was obsessed with the life of Lincoln and carved the Lincoln funeral train with the meticulous attention to detail he put into all his trains.
This train car is complete with all the interior furnishings.
This is the only train that Mooney carved that didn’t actually exist—at least I think that’s what the guide said. Mooney carved it based on the blueprints for the train and then it wasn’t built.
While Mooney was carving his trains his wife Frieda, collected buttons. There is a small building near the museum in which her button displays are arranged.
I have not done this museum justice in my description. If you are ever in Ohio it is well worth taking the time to visit.
More beautiful farm country.
I was headed to Lehman’s store in Kidron, but made a stop in Sugarcreek first.
A restaurant owner in Wilmot, Ohio commissioned the building of the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock in 1963. It took 12 years and $50,000 to build, but exposure to the elements eventually took it’s toll. In 2012 the clock was moved to Sugarcreek and restored to working order. On the hour and half hour the door on the right opens and a five member band emerges and plays music while the man and woman dance. Then they go back in the door on the left.
While in Sugarcreek I visited the Alpine Hills Museum. One web reference says: ”Your trip through the museum starts with a short video on the Amish culture and the Swiss immigrants impact on the area's rich history. Your tour continues …take you back in time to an 1895 fire house, a 1900's Amish kitchen, an 1890 Swiss cheese house, an early wood shop, and even an early newspaper printing shop.”
I was interested in this 1913 newsarticle that gives pretty much the same information that we use today about feeding ewes—the importance of high quality nutrition in the last month of pregnancy and while nursing lambs. “Her unselfish nature turns the feed quickly into milk and little of it goes to nourish her own body.”
I admired art works by an 1800’s teacher.
Driving through Holmes County.
Horse and buggy on the road entering Kidron.
I have known about Lehman’s for years, but I knew only of the catalog and not their store in Kidron, Ohio. From their website: “What started as a small hardware store serving the local Amish in Kidron, Ohio, grew into something much bigger than founder Jay Lehman ever dreamed. Gathering four pre-Civil War era buildings under one soaring roof, today our store is a place to embrace the past: from old-fashioned treats and sodas to practical, non-electric goods that help you live a simpler life. Shop and reminisce your way through thousands of products while browsing Jay’s antique collection located throughout the store. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time—the full shopping experience is nearly a quarter mile long!”
Before I saw any of the store I went into a room off the entrance where there were about two dozen art pieces by Paul Weaver, a local Amish furniture maker.
They are carved from a single block of wood, each about two to three feet across.
Now for the shopping. The place is huge. One room opens into the next and the next.
Have you ever seen this many types of rolling pins in one place? I think I spent almost two hours here, but it was time to get back to Wooster and the start of the AGM.
On the road again.