Sometime late in 1868, New York farmer and carpenter James C. Holmes bought a new pocket diary for 1869. Now, over a hundred years later, this rare document of craft activity becomes the center for an intensive study of rural carpentry in Holmes' place and time that unlocks an entire realm of significances.
Holmes' day-by-day record places his actual craft, not just its visible artifacts, in the context of nineteenth-century culture, society, and economics. Wayne Franklin's impeccable, wide-ranging research reconstructs Holmes' networks at a time when the coming industrialization of the building trades had yet to have much effect outside American cities. His meticulous identification of more than one hundred individuals referred to in the diary and his group biography of over sixty carpenters who practiced in the area until 1900 create portraits of real lives, demonstrating the complexities of the social landscape after the Civil War.
A Rural Carpenter's World makes carpentry a prism through which James Holmes and his work and his world shine. This graceful, living record has immediate and lasting value for social historians, students of vernacular architecture and the built environment, and all those interested in westward migration and rural America.