Henry mercer dating old houses
The old wrought hinges appear in two common varieties in the houses examined; namely, the so-called H or HL hinge, cut out of heavy sheet iron and fastened against the face of the door with screws or clenched wrought nails, or the strap" or hook and eye hinge; namely, a long strap, bolted, riveted or nailed with clenched nails, against the door and turning on a hook or gudgeon which latter was either spiked into the lintel, or, where the lintel was too thin for spiking, set upon a plate, variously shaped, and sometimes strengthened with a projection or prop called a rattail." While the H and HL hinges (many of which were probably factory-made and imported from England) and nearly all of the strap-hinges, were found plain, a few of the latter, by no means typical and generally over-exhibited in museums, show floriated decorations.It further appears that hand-made, wrought-strap hinges (still common in 1923 on barn doors in eastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere), continued to be used on outer house doors and window shutters, long after 1783, and hence, when so found, should be disregarded as proof of dates, But with these exceptions, the evidence abundantly shows, that where wrought hinges (generally HL, more rarely strap) are found on original inner house doors, they date the house as Colonial, or built before the Revolution.William Bentley, who visited Read's nail works in 1810 (See Essex Institute Historical Col-lections, April, 1918, page 113), and found that the workmen were then heading nails in the only way thus far successful, namely, by hand, "as it is found heading is done better by hand than by any machine as yet invented both as to time and good-ness of execution.Joseph Whitaker (See his manuscript diary in the library of the Bucks County Historical Society) was also thus making cut nails in Philadelphia, from 1809 to 1816-20, by a double operation; namely, cutting the plates with a hand-cranked ma-chine and afterwards hammer-heading the shanks held in a clamp worked by a foot lever.The smith was here furnished, not with a nail rod, but with a strip of plate iron, several feet long, about two and a quarter inches wide, and often about one-eighth of an inch thick.
But these exceptions are not typical of the nails used to build houses after 1800.
The hand-cranked machine, for cutting and heading nails at one operation, patented by Nathan Read of Salem, Mass., in 1798 (See model at Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.), was not a success.
Neither were any of the other cutting and heading" machines, or simple heading" machines, in existence or patented at that time, as is shown by the evidence of the nails themselves, and further in the Diary of Rev.
Wrought nails, as free-hand forged products, vary greatly in style and shape, but the evidence examined has not as yet furnished any definite elate for any of their variations.
The far more easily made cut nail, as the evidence clearly shows, consists of a rectangular, tapering shank of iron, not hammered into a point by hand, but tapered, by a single cut, across a plate of iron.1825, and throughout the following century, with stamped heads, showing level tops impressed by a single blow or stamp.