Continuing with the textiles theme of the past few weeks, though in a slightly different direction: A leather blacksmith’s apron, used around the turn of the last century by Jacob Poss (1839-1927).   Poss, a German immigrant, was a wheelwright and blacksmith who ran a livery stable in downtown Rockville.  Poss Livery was on East Montgomery Avenue, across from the Courthouse and next to the Corcoran Hotel.  Part of the business was a horse-drawn bus that ferried people from the railroad station to the hotel (which was owned for a time by Poss’s daughter, Emma Poss Carr) for ten cents a ride.

The apron is sturdy, and well-used.  Both sides (perhaps it was reversible?) are worn, cracked and stained.  The leather ties are attached at the top with grommets; one side pulled out of its spot and had to be reattached, a little lower down (and the grommet has pulled free again).  The slit down the front allows freedom of movement while still protecting the wearer’s legs. 

Though it may not look like much, this is the kind of artifact that sets your curator’s heart aflutter.  (Well, to be honest, that can be said of most artifacts.)  When the donor offered us his great-grandfather’s anvil and a few other blacksmithing tools, I was delighted.  Then he said something like “Oh, and we have his leather apron, too, I don’t know if you’d want that.”  Of course we do!  Anvils may not be thick on the ground, but there’s a certain degree of likelihood that they’ll survive over the years, just because they’re hard to get rid of.  A beat-up leather apron, on the other hand? A lot of people (including a retired blacksmith) might’ve disposed of that long ago.   We have plenty of fancy, expensive articles of clothing in our collections, in part because that’s what tends to be preserved. Working uniforms are often worn until they’re too tattered to wear, and they typically lack sentimental value; if they do survive, people might assume that a museum wouldn’t be interested as they’re not ‘pretty.’  Yet a blacksmith’s apron is as much a tool of the trade as an anvil, rasp or pair of tongs. When a rarity like this is offered to us by its generous owner, it makes for a happy curator!

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