A Life in the Trades: September 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010. March 2010. April 2010. May 2010. June 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

While earning my B.A. at the University of Houston, the ritual of buying new textbooks for each new semester was a chore. Perhaps I was just unfocused or insincere with the major I had chosen. I looked forward to the possible returns when I would be able to sell them back at the end of the semester. Of course, I kept a few.

Now that I have found my way into the Building Preservation & Restoration program at Belmont Technical College, the acquisition of new books each quarter feels like a true investment. I wouldn’t give up a single one. For a program that has a reputation for an intensive hands-on curriculum, our book load seems equal to my B.A. studies, if not more. Perhaps this should come as no surprise.

I recall a past PiP post in which Kaitlin offered photo of her school books with pride [see here and here]. This month I wanted to do the same and let readers in on the great books to which the BPR program has introduced me.

Keeping Time by William J. Murtagh. A concise study of the history and theory of preservation in America.

The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. “…it might be argued that it is among the most influential books about decoration and architecture ever published in the United States.” (Richard Guy Wilson)

Downtown by Robert M. Fogelson. An in-depth history of the rise and fall of “downtown.”

Structures or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon. A richly colored exploration into the world of Building physics.

The Blacksmith by Aldren A. Watson. Beautifully illustrated and nostalgic manual on the life and work of the early blacksmith.

Science for Conservators Volumes One & Two by The Conservation Unit of the Museums & Galleries Commission. The definitive textbooks for anybody entering the field of conservation. An introduction to the chemistry of materials and the chemistry of cleaning.

Construction Contracting by Richard H. Clough, Glenn A. Sears, & S. Keoki Sears. A very thick book with ant-sized type exploring the entire world of Construction: estimating, bidding, management, labor laws, insurance, etc.

Conserving Buildings by Martin E. Weaver. The preservation classic that explores the various techniques for conserving various materials in various types of deterioration.

Everyday Life in Early America by David Freeman Hawke. A brief social history of early America. Topics include: floor plans, “what they ate,” recreation, language, etc.

The Reshaping of Everyday Life (1790-1840) by Jack Larkin. A Distinguished Finalist for the P.E.N./Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction in 1989. The second part in the social history series.

Fundamentals of Building Construction by Edward Allen & Joseph Iano. A mammoth book on the complexities of building construction.

Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner. A truly comprehensive and easy-to-understand manual on all the various wood finishes. Considered the “bible of wood finishing.”

Basic Plumbing with Illustrations by Howard C. Massey. Uncluttered visuals pack this very handy manual.

Recording Historic Structures, edited by John A. Burns. Documentation from the perspective of the National Park Service. Rich with illustrations and photographs of case studies.

Structural Investigation of Historic Buildings by David C. Fischetti, PE. Fischetti is in the rare breed of “Preservation Structural Engineer.” Not only does the book explore many case studies of structural stabilization, but gives impassioned advice to structural engineers who tend to discredit our historic built environment.

Historic Preservation Technology by Robert A. Young, PE. An introduction into the world of Building Pathology & Preservation methodology.

The Very Efficient Carpenter by Larry Haun. Larry Haun invented the phrase “no nonsense.” All the “tricks of the trade” in one concise manual for basic building carpentry.

Architectural Graphics by Francis D.K. Ching. Introduction into the world of the architect: essential drawing tools, principles, and techniques designers use to communicate architectural ideas.

The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson, David Day, & Simon Jennings. Wonderfully detailed and clearly illustrated manual on all aspects of wood working: wood science, joinery, machine tools, chair making, marquetry, etc.

Plastering Skills by Van Den Branden/Hartsell. An in-depth manual on the science of various plasters, their various uses in buildings, plaster tools, and even work ethics.

Dictionary of Building Preservation, edited by Ward Bucher. With more than 10,000 terms, I can always count on this dictionary to have what I’m looking for. Everything from “King of Prussia Marble” to “out of plumb” to “State Historic Preservation Office.”

Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, edited by Cyril M. Harris. Over 5,000 important terms complemented by over 2,000 line drawings. Everything from ancient ruins to 20th-century Modernism.

House Histories by Sally Light. Light’s house curiosities become infectious. She is able to communicate the entire process of historic research for our historic structures for preservationists and non-preservationists alike.

The Lost Art of Steam Heating by Dan Holohan. Holohan is vividly in love with steam heating and I couldn’t help but become engrossed myself.

History Flashback: 1961, Part II

By Ken Loyd

In my blog post of October 30, I shared some quotes from my 1961 3rd grade history book, Our America. I only got halfway through the book, so today I’ll continue. Be sure to read between the lines!

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  • On “carpetbaggers” after the Civil War: “To make matters worse, dishonest men came down from the North. They didn’t care a thing for the South. All they wanted was to fill their pockets with Southern money, if there was any to be had. For a while it was no wonder that the Southern people did not trust anyone from above the Mason-Dixon Line.
  • On Edison’s invention of the electric light: “Now, when you press a button or turn a switch to get light, do you thank Thomas Edison? Probably not.”
  • On Henry Ford: “Henry Ford began to make his famous automobile in 1903. Some people called it a “flivver,” and others called it something else. But it did not cost an awful lot of money. So, soon workmen, farmers, and college boys were rattling around in Fords. Also money began pouring into Henry’s cash box.”

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  • On the 18th Amendment (1919)– ‘Prohibition’: “And now let’s look at the amendment which caused the most trouble. This law said that no one in the United States should make or sell any liquors that make people drunk. Beer, wine, whisky, and rum were some of these liquors. Men had always drunk them. And now they claimed the right to drink when and what they wanted. Uncle Sam said, ‘No!’ Let’s see what happened. Gangs of men, called ‘bootleggers,’ made liquor in secret. People drank in spite of the law, and the bootleggers grew rich. It was easy to see that this amendment was doing the country no good. But it was not repealed until 1933.”
  • On President Harding: “Warren G. Harding was a tall, fine-looking man, who made friends easily. He was a “good mixer,” as we say. Sometimes he mixed with the wrong kind of people. Then he was in trouble.
  • On the founding of the American Legion: “A lot of American soldiers met at Minneapolis, Minnesota, after the war (World War I). They formed the American Legion. The members swore to keep the spirit of patriotism alive in Our America. They wanted to fight in peacetime for the good things of life that they had fought for in the war. Perhaps your dad is a member of the American Legion.
  • ***NOTE*** As an aside, many people know that World War I was once called “The Great War.” But if you had looked it up in the 1925 World Book Encyclopedia (a mere six years after the war ended), you would have found it under “The War of the Nations.” I love reading about history in contemporary sources, such as period magazines and newspapers, before history can be “spun,” as is so often the case nowadays.

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  • On the Great Depression: “The Stock Market crashed in 1929. There was much weeping and wailing and cries of, ‘Our money is gone! It’s Hoover’s fault!’ But poor Herbert was not to blame. The people did not think of their own foolish spending. We all know what it is to ‘feel low’ or ‘blue.’ We say that we feel depressed. The whole country was certainly depressed after 1929. Everyone went around short of money and with long faces.”
  • On Franklin Roosevelt’s remedy: “President Roosevelt thought that he could cure Uncle Sam of his depression blues. ‘What the old gentleman needs, ‘ said Franklin, ‘is some of my New Deal medicine. The New Deal was made up of things with long names, like Agricultural Adjustment Administration and National Recovery Administration. Whew! These names were hard enough to say, without trying to remember what they meant. So letters took the place of the full name. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration became the A.A.A. Then we had the N.R.A., the C.C.C., and the F.E.R.A. Also the P.W.A., the C.W.A., and the W.P.A. And so on, and so on, and so on.”

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  • On the evolution of war from 1776 to 1945: “In 1775, the Minute Men of Concord fired ‘the shot heard round the world.’ In 1945 the earth echoed to the terrible atom bomb. That finished our war with Japan. It also destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atom bomb marked a big step ahead in wholesale slaughter. In the wink of an eye whole cities could now be destroyed. People could be killed by thousands, and nations wiped out. What a wonderful invention for the gods of war!”
  • On Television: “Many houses had queer-looking gadgets attached to their chimneys. TV had arrived. All in all, Our America seemed to be doing OK.”
  • 1961–The State of the Union: “We live in a wonderful country today, filled with wonderful things. Such things as the early settlers never even dreamed of. How they would stare at our cities with tall buildings reaching toward the sky! At our automobiles, buses, streamlined trains, and great jet planes.”

A history book of today (if 3rd graders had such things) might read similarly: “We live in a wonderful country today, filled with wonderful things. Such things as Americans of 1961 never even dreamed of. How they would stare at our personal computers, DVD players, digital cameras, cell phones, camera phones, satellite TVs, Netflix, Tweeter, microwave ovens, DVRs, GPS, Wi-Fi Internet, I-Pods, Wii, XBox 360, PlayStation. And so on, and so on, and so on.”

I hope you enjoy these history flashbacks. This may be my last post about the book Our America, but I have some other history topics coming up soon.