In honor of Father’s Day (coming up this Sunday, kids! Are you prepared?), today’s artifact is a gift from a father to a son. This exceedingly small ax looks like it was made for a six year old… because it was. Roger Brooke Farquhar, Sr. gave this to his son Roger Brooke Farquhar, Jr. in 1882, when Roger Jr. was six years old. (Roger Jr. donated the ax to us, and supplied the history.)
It is a functional ax, with an iron head and shaped wooden handle. The base of the handle has the number 21 stamped into it, which makes me think it was purchased, not hand-made. The head is wedge-shaped, which I believe means it was designed for splitting wood as opposed to chopping down Mom’s shrubbery. The blade isn’t terribly sharp, but it is almost 130 years old, and it shows signs of use; it may have been sharper originally. The whole thing is 10.5″ long, with a 4″ head. (The pen in the photograph is there for scale.)
The Farquhars lived at Rock Spring, a farm off Norbeck Road between Sandy Spring, Roger Sr.’s hometown, and Rockville. (The privately-owned house is still standing.) The diaries of both Roger Sr. and his wife Carrie (mentioned in an earlier post) revolve around the chores of a working farm, and Roger Jr. remembered helping out at a young age. All the children (he was the 5th of 8 kids) were expected to chip in, and this ax was probably intended as an educational or training piece – although maybe this particular tool was chosen because young Roger really, really wanted to be allowed to go chop up small pieces of wood. Alas for modern six year olds with the same wish! They’re probably not going to get an adorable little dangerous implement for their very own.