Home Stephens Hammond Hyde Kile Stories Other        

A brief history of blacksmiths (from Wikipedia)

A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from iron or steel by forging the metal; i.e., by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce things like wrought iron gates, grills, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, horseshoes and weapons.Blacksmith in shop

What information exists indicates that all of the basic operations of blacksmithing were in use as soon as the Iron Age reached a particular locality.

During the early to mid-1800s both European armies as well as both the U. S. and Confederate armies employed blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair equipment such as wagons, horse tack, and artillery equipment.

As demand for their products declined, many more blacksmiths augmented their incomes by taking in work shoeing horses. A shoer-of-horses was historically known as a farrier in English.

With the introduction of automobiles, the number of blacksmiths continued to decrease, many former blacksmiths becoming the initial generation of automobile mechanics.

The nadir of blacksmithing in the United States was reached during the 1960s, when most of the former blacksmiths had left the trade, and few if any new people were entering the trade. By this time, most of the working blacksmiths were those performing farrier work, so the term blacksmith was effectively co-opted by the farrier trade.



Graphic version of e-mail address























Where is this, and why is there a picture of it? (part 3)

Unknown town with dirt roads, a blacksmith shop, buildings, and a buggy behind a building.

Looking for a blacksmith

Obviously, finding B. D. Thomas, the horse shoer, would be the answer. Find him and then I would know where this place is. Easier said than done. But I was also interested in finding out more about the man himself. In genealogy work, it's important to learn about people, places, jobs, and activities.

Making sense of the census
I first looked at several U. S. Census records for the periods 1860 to 1920. This seemed to be the best range of years for finding B. D. Thomas.

1920 census for B. D. Thomas

An old city directory told me more
The 1905 Atlanta City Directory showed "Tomas B D" on page 1223, under the Blacksmith heading. The spelling was different, but I knew this was the guy. And guess what? His business address, 113 Gordon, is in the West End community of Atlanta. The street (in 2010) still bears that name.


Atlanta City Directory entry for B. D. Thomas

Looking at the street listing in the same directory, we find Beverly D. Thomas (spelled correctly) at 113 Gordon—just where he should be. See, life can be so simple. This listing also shows his neighbors on the street.

1905 Atlanta City Directory showing Gordon Road addresses

This is great. I now know that the picture was probably made between 1900 and 1910, when B. D. Thomas was a blacksmith at 113 Gordon Road in West End. It could have been earlier, but there is no 1890 census to tell me about B. D. Thomas' occupation.

I still want to know more. Why was this picture in my family's collection? It probably had nothing to do with Beverly D. Thomas, whose shop was just an incidental part of the street scene. What else is on that street? The next section tells how Sanborn maps came to the rescue.

Go to page 4




Contact me at:

Graphic version of e-mail address





Last update: April 7, 2014