Blacksmiths have always fascinated me. As a child, my granddad's cabin was a short walk from the tiny town's old "smithy." Granddad would tell me stories about growing up on the farm, working behind horses, and the necessity of a nearby blacksmith to keep everything working on the farm.
Did you know that the first blacksmiths existed in 1500 ... B.C.? The Hittites were the first known to heat and temper iron for use in tools. When they were scattered due to wars, they took their knowledge with them and 1200 B.C. gave birth to what we know as the Iron Age.
The early attempts at forging the raw metals were not scientifically understood, and thus some tools were too soft, others were too brittle so that they broke easily, but some were - as Goldilocks once said - just right. The legendary weapons rendered by blacksmiths to be true steel were famous. Most were named and handed down from generation to generation. As the science of blacksmithing improved, the smiths were essential to every community. Even so, in some areas, they were viewed as using magic to ply their craft and held in suspicion.
Blacksmiths kept their key role in society until the end of the 1800s when the Industrial Era started. They rallied briefly to do architectural ironworks in the early 1900s, but the Great Depression put an end to that.
In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the blacksmithing trade as a hobby. My husband and I enjoy attending the Black Iron Days in Grayling, Michigan. We also attend the Rendezvous at Mackinaw which includes a number of blacksmiths working their portable forges during the event - as seen in the photo here.
If you have a chance to visit a blacksmith shop at a heritage park or at a festival, do it! Enjoy the sounds and smells of a skill that built civilization as we know it.
Pegg Thomas peggthomas.com
Writing History with a Touch of Humor