After her mother-in-law passed away, Frenchtown Heritage Museum director Dorothy Boshears helped her husband Jerry go through and organize his mother’s personal effects. Among them, the couple found some old paycheck stubs that had belonged to Jerry’s father, who was a mechanic who worked on Model Ts in the 1920s.
“He made $4 an hour working on cars—a lot of money at the time,” Boshears said. “Then again, if you could afford a car you could afford to pay someone $4 an hour to work on it.”
Boshears said that her husband’s extensive antique tool collection, inherited from both his mechanic father and his grandfather, was the inspiration for the latest exhibit at the Frenchtown Heritage Museum.
“Jerry has quite a few toys— I mean tools,” she said. “These are some really old tools that include things like braces and bits, old mechanic tools and more.”
The exhibit, entitled “Antique Cordless Hand Tools,” features tools dating back to the early 20th century, many of which were tools used in homes for daily work or chores around the house. Also included in the collection are mechanic tools and tools used to make shake shingles for homes and barns, the drill used to make a hole for the peg to hold logs or boards together and even the saws that were used to make the boards.
Among the items in Jerry’s collection is an eggbeater drill.
“You turn a handle like an old-fashioned egg beater to make it work,” Boshears said. “
While a good portion of the collection on display belongs to Boshears’ husband Jerry, she said there are also items on loan from the St. Charles County Heritage Museum and the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site. She said the museums often share exhibit items.
A Look Into the Past
Boshears said she hopes the exhibit will offer museum visitors a glimpse into a cord-free and not-so-distant past. She said that many people in the younger generation might not even recognize or know how to use a tool without an electric plug.
“It hasn’t been all that many years since my husband was young—he’s 74,” she said. “As a teenager, he was into woodworking stuff, and he never had electric cords.”
She said that there are several interesting items in the exhibit, including an especially unique collection of planes on loan from the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site.
“I have never seen so many different planes—some are only about a half inch wide with a blade in it,” Boshears said. “I guess they were used for furniture making. There are quite a few, all in different sizes.”
The axe and fro shingle maker is also on display. The fro is a mallet and a short handle with a hole in it. To use it, you put it on the edge of the log and hit the top of the axe with the mallet to drive it through the log and it would make shingles, Boshears said.
She said the museum also has a canvas water hose on loan from the St. Charles County Heritage Museum.
See the Exhibit
The “Antique Cordless Hand Tools” exhibit will be available for viewing at the Frenchtown Heritage Museum through the end of March during regular museum hours. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
While the museum charges no admission, Boshears said donations are always welcome. She said the non-profit museum uses the donations to support itself, and that there are no paid employees.
“We’re all volunteers,” she said. “And after our caboose was recently burglarized, we bought a camera security system.”
She said that donations pay all the museum’s utility bills, including electric, gas and water, but that she and her fellow volunteers hold a couple of fundraisers each year to help pay for bigger expenses, such as insurance and other larger purchases.
“We volunteer our time and we don’t charge admission, but we still need to pay the bills,” she said. “We have to rely on the community to support the museum.”