the Interpretation of Old Mills (part 3)
One of the biggest debates about doing living history demonstrations
is the problem or lack of real "interpretive trash." Interpretive
trash is the worthless waste matter that would accumulate in an actual operating
mill such as: layers of dust; cobwebs; dirt; filth; rodent and cat excrement;
grease; flour and grain refuse; dirty grain sacks; etc. Today's modern mills
in an historical mills in a park setting would be free of rubbish and trash
for visual quality, health standards, visitor and employee health guidelines.
There would also be no modern safety percussions such as lighting, handrails,
belt guards, devices for modern health regulations such as bin covers, sneeze
guards, visitor fences or railings, etc. Floor boards cracks would be full
of grain and other refuse. Some mills would have batten strips attached
to the underside of the floor board cracks to prevent material from falling
through but the accumulation would not be regularly cleaned out. Millstone
cover would not be regularly removed and cleaned out around the millstones
after each days grinding or between each batch ground. Cobwebs and other
extraneous filth would be hanging on the ceiling above the millstones and
could at anytime fall into the grain and contaminate it. At the end of the
days work the mill would be left as they was when it was stopped, squirrels
and other rodents could eat of the grain in the hopper or spilled on the
floor. Road and boot mud would be left where it was deposited upon the floors.
It was a work environment producing a commercial product and they were more
concerned with the cleanliness final product that was packaged in containers
that would be shipped out of the mill and not by the physical condition
of the facility or the mill where it was manufactured.
Addition to the Interpretation of Old Mills
The illustration of "How it Works," in the mill site folder
should not be too technical or stylized so that it difficult for people
of any age group or level of understanding to comprehend. The following
is not a description of how the mill operates just some important interesting
facts about the mill:
The mill originally had two water wheels and each operated two pairs of
millstones. The 16 - foot steel Fitz Water Wheel weighs 6 tons, yet it takes
as little as 1 to 2 cups of water in less than half of the wheel's 48 buckets
to keep it turning at 4 RPM. At 8 RPM, the most efficient speed, the wheel
produces 45 horsepower. The two sets of grinding stones presently operating
at Cooper Mill can produce up to 800 pounds of flour or meal per hour.
Visitors to 1826 by Nathan Cooper Mill can watch the massive water wheel
power shafts and gears that turn 2,000-pound mill stones as the master miller-
in period costume- explains the history of the mill and the vibrant community
once also known as Milltown and Milldale. Also available are seasonal events
and exhibits such as stone dressing, a demonstration of how millstones are
sharpened, and the rare opportunity of seeing both mill stones being run
at the same time.
The Lee Mill (circa 1743) at Stratford Hall, was restored in 1939 by
the Fitz Water Wheel Company. Several years before Fitz Water Wheel Company
used mill parts from the Baughman's Mill near Linesboro, Maryland, in the
Peirce Mill restoration in Rock Creek Park. The other half of the mill works
(the millstones and gearing) was then used in the Lee's Mill restoration.
The miller explains the grinding operation of the millstones to a tour group
(left). A modern intrusion upon the living history scene, a fire extinguisher
attached to the front of the hurst frame (right). It should be mounted on
something other than the (vibrating) mill machine.
This mill was restored by the late Charles Howell with a grant from NABISCO.
The condition that the money was donated for the restoration, was the top
floor of the mill had to become a museum to vintage NABISCO product boxes
The miller demonstrates his craft of operating the grist mill (left). Milled
corn pours out of the chute for students to see (right). In photo in left,
the historical site made the decision to fence off historical displays,
turning machinery, and crafts exhibits from public spaced in the historical
buildings. There are may "pros" and "cons" for such
a decision, as long as it does not separate the visitor from the interpreter
or make the interpreter feel that he is on a stage performing for the public.
The Miller's Goose greets the school groups and visitors outside the
grist mill and escorts them to the doorway of the mill (left). The grinding
stones for the working grist mill (right). Beyond the far wall is an attached
saw mill. The miller is standing to the extreme left of the photo (the back
of his red waistcoat can be seen in the photo). Who watches the mill or
the miller's back with he is busy presenting a program to a school group?
When I worked at Peirce Mill, the rule was one adult per every 10 children
in a school group, or visitors had to be older than 14-to-16 (it was up
to my discretion to ask them to show a driver's license), or be accompanied
by an adult because of the turning machinery. This is a big problem in presenting
programs and demonstrations is the safety of the other visitors, the miller,
and the building if the miller is the sole person stationed at the site.
Mrs. Wallpe's fifth grade of Jac-Cen-Del Elementary, Osgood, Indiana,
recently studied the Middle Colonies. Students have built models of grist
mills to show how grain was ground into flour. The flour was then sold to
settlers throughout the English colonies. This is how the Middle Colonies
earned the nickname "The Bread Colonies." Below are two of the
grist mills that were created. Sometimes such models and art work is donated
or given to the mill visited for display or exhibit in those appropriate
areas. Amanda is on the left and Eric is on the right.
for Old Mills (part 1)
to the Interpretation of Old Mills (part 2)
Addition to the
Interpretation of Old Mills (part 3)
One: Footnotes and Selected Readings on Living History Interpretation
Two: Selected Readings on Living History Interpretation (part 5)
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Copyright 2001 by T. R. Hazen