While visiting Huntsville, Alabama for a family reunion, my son and I visited the Alabama Consitution Village. The Alabama Constitution Village was great! I had no idea that the State of Alabama’s Constitution was signed in Huntsville, Alabama back in 1819 in order to organize the State of Alabama as the 22nd state in the union.
The Alabama Constitution Village is full of the sights, sounds and smells of what would have been there back in the early 1800s.
We visited the John Boardman’s Print Shop where they allow you to operate the old press and print something off of a plate. Once printed, you then place your print on stacked cheesecloth drying racks and wait 2 days for the ink to dry. You leave the John Boardman’s Print Shop with the smell of ink still in your nostrils and a sense of respect for how long it took to get anything printed. A run of 500 prints could take three days to complete, assuming the plate was ready to go. The shop has many letters of the alphabet that can be arranged on a plate in order to print something. These letters are arranged in two separate cases, one on top of the other and in order of the alphabet. Capitol letters are kept in the top case, while the small letters are kept on the bottom. This is the origin of calling a letter that is Capitalized an “Uppercase” letter as opposed to a “Lowercase” letter.
Clement Comer’s Law Library is also onsite and offers a glimpse of what it was like to be an attorney preparing for a case back in the early 1800’s. There is also the Federal Land Surveyor’s office, a Post Office, a Blacksmith’s Shop and sheriff Stephen Neal’s residence.
Of course, my favorite place at Alabama Constitution Village is the Cabinetmaker’s shop. They have craftsmen that still build things in the cabinetmaker’s shop the same way that they did back in the early 1800’s. Some of the tools are just genius and although they operate differently, the function of the tools remains the same.
There are two lathes; one is a handcrank lathe that requires one person to turn the lathe with a big spoked wheel while the other uses a chisel and the other is pedal powered lathe that is counterbalanced by a hickory branch suspended form the ceiling. looking at these tools, I was impressed with the engineering that went into how make them.
There was also a bandsaw that was also pedal powered and counterbalanced from a hickory branch along the ceiling. Basically, you would push the pedal down in order to move to sawblad down and then when you release the pedal, the tension on the branch would return the sawblade to the up position. The cabinetmaker showed us how easily his pedal powered saw cut through the wood. Of course, I am sure it takes practice to find the rhythm in order to make consistent cuts.
I love word etiology and one of the things that I learned is that once you had useda handmade nail in a door, you had to knock the end of the nail to the side. Once this had been done, the nail could not be reused. This brought the term, “Dead as a doornail” into common usage.