The History and Importance of Horseshoeing

‘Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands.’

 

This quote from iconic American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow illustrates how important the local blacksmith or farrier was to early American communities. The history of metalwork and horseshoeing dates back to ancient times, long predating the ideal American setting Longfellow paints. Evidence shows early forms of horseshoes made from organic materials were present across the globe, ranging from Rome to Asia. The introduction of iron as a protective hoof material came sometime later, as other ironworking and metalsmithing skills and techniques emerged. By the 14th century, horseshoes were a commodity in central Europe.

 

Protection of the horse’s hoof, and consequently the importance of the horseshoe, became a strategic advantage to those who recognized the value. Horses with protection were more efficient and less likely to be hurt. This meant faster progress in several areas, including exploration to new western U.S. geographies, commercialization and transportation, and warfare. In the 1830s, the United States began the first commercial mass production of horseshoes utilizing machining technology. Northern armies used the technology during the Civil War to equip their horses with shoes, helping them win on the battlefield. Shortly after, an explosion of innovation quickly spread through the trade as new literature was developed, new techniques were explored, and industrial production provided easy access to shoeing and forging equipment.  

 

It stands that the farrier and horseshoes were more impactful to the development and history of the United States than most realize. But Longfellow illustrates what the smith meant to the community, beyond industrial progress or success in war. Throughout the museum you will find depictions of this important role the smith played in American history – as an advisor and hard worker at the center of community, the shop as a gathering ground. 

 

This museum exists to preserve the history of the farrier and blacksmith by exhibiting the early global beginnings, the industrial and technological growth central to U.S. history, and the cultural importance of the smith as a backbone of community. 

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