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July 8, 2008

"Metalworking for Revolution: Equipping the American Army" examines 18th-century metalworkers' crucial role in the fight for independence

For the patriots of America’s War for Independence, the phrase “let freedom ring” might well have referred to the sound of the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. Learn how the artisans of the American colonies powered the armories of the American Revolution when The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hosts its second conference for metalworkers – and others who want to broaden their understanding of 18th-century metalworking and its products – Nov. 16-19. “Metalworking for Revolution: Equipping the American Army” explores the materials, technologies and skills of the blacksmiths, founders, silversmiths, tinsmiths and toolmakers who supplied the equipment needed to fight the American Revolution.

Prior to the Revolution, Americans relied on English manufacturers to supply military arms and materials for defense of the colonies. With the onset of war, they turned to their own artisans. American metalworkers found themselves filling the demand for buttons, buckles and cooking utensils as well as swords, tomahawks, muskets, bayonets and entrenching tools. Much of this work took place in small shops, but large manufactories were established to cast artillery barrels and mass-produce small arms. Technologies included forging, welding, heat-treating, casting, sheet metalworking, soldering, filing, boring, punching, die-sinking and engraving.

Members of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades Program and guest speakers will discuss the development of these industries and demonstrate many of these processes, making reproductions of original objects using 18th-century tools and methods. Morning presentations will take place in the Hennage Auditorium at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and will include:

  • Blade and Point: Forging and Finishing Tomahawks, Bayonets and Sword Blades, with journeymen blacksmiths Shel Browder and Steve Mankowski.
  • Very Much Alike: Die Forging Gun Parts and the Realities of Field Repairs, with master gunsmith George Suiter.
  • Hilting a Sword: Pattern to Polishing, with journeymen founders Suzie Dye, Roger Hohensee and Mike Noftsger.
  • Casting Artillery, with Roger Hohensee and Mike Noftsger.
  • Incuse and Intaglio: Making Stamps, with George Suiter.
  • Fold, Seam and Solder: Tinsmithing for Battle and Camp, with master tinsmith William McMillen.
  • With Steady Hand: Copperplate Engraving, with journeyman engraver Lynn Zelesnikar and master silversmith George Cloyed.

    Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2-4:30 p.m. in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, the Blacksmith, Gunsmith, Silversmith, Foundry and Toolmaker shops will present special demonstrations for conference attendees, making many of the items discussed earlier in the day.

    “Metalworking for Revolution: Equipping the American Army” begins with a program introduction at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and runs through the evening on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Patterned after Colonial Williamsburg’s annual woodworking conferences, “Metalworking for Revolution” will be informal; participants’ comments and questions will be welcome throughout, and speakers will be on-hand during morning breaks and afternoon demonstrations.

    Registration is limited and includes the opening reception, three continental breakfasts, three coffee breaks, two afternoon breaks, dinner on Wednesday, all conference programs and a Colonial Williamsburg admission pass valid for the duration of the conference. Cost is $295 per person, and additional dinner tickets may be purchased for $65 per person. Lodging is not included in the registration fee. To register or for more information, call 1-800-603-0948 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. or visit

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Jim Bradley
    (757) 220-7121

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