Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society shares antique tools with Long Island
During the last weekend of August, the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society hosted an Antique Tool Giveaway. The giveaway was successful, with other historical society representatives, local museum members and private collectors visiting the Sands-Willets House to browse the antique tools.
The Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society shared that over the past 40 years, the historical society had acquired an overabundance of antique tools, such as scythes, buck saws, wood planes, axes, two-man saws and more.
“I didn’t want to throw the tools away or send them to the metal recycler until I gave a chance to other people that are in the local history all over Long Island,” said Chris Bain, president of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society.
The antique tools were spread out on tables that lined the Sands-Willets House’s 65-foot-long porch for people to look through.
“We had people come from the Whaling Museum, the Walt Whitman House, Cedarmere in Roslyn, and a guy from the south shore that is restoring an ice house came to take some things,” said Bain. “I was amazed at the interest. Some of them just took a lot of stuff, and some came and took a couple of things they wanted to hang on their wall. A couple just bought a house in Glen Cove and wanted to hang some old tools on their wall because they just bought an old house.”
There were no rules to taking tools. People could take as many as they wanted. The historical society had the tools organized and grouped to make it easier for people to find what they wanted and compare different tools.
Students from Schreiber helped the historical society identify and sort through all the tools for the past few summers. Thanks to a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, students were paid through the foundation to help the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society organize the tools. The Gardiner Foundation grants have helped the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society with other projects, like rebuilding a historical porch and putting in an ADA-compliant access ramp.
“The kids that I worked with last summer and this summer, they had to identify things and then tag them,” explained Bain. “They had to measure them all and figure out, for example, this is a cobbler’s hammer, it’s 10 and a quarter inches high by two inches wide. Then we had to photograph everything.”
To help the students identify the tools, the historical society gave them access to many books and catalogs to look through. When finding a mallet, the student would look through the texts to match it with a picture and get the exact sort of mallet, such as a cobbler or leather mallet.
“The most useful thing we have is a reproduction of a 1897 Sears catalog. Sears sold everything. So you go to the tool section, and you can find the tool information,” said Bain. “The catalog even has sharpening stones for knives. If you had a farm, you had a lot of tools. There were no stores you could go to, so everyone had a Sears catalog, and I guess the Wells Fargo wagon would bring it to you.”
The historical society held on to a few select tools and kept the ones left over from the giveaway to create an antique tools exhibit in the circa 1690 Dutch barn. The tools used in the exhibit will now be logged into the historical society database on PastPerfect Museum Software.
“Now that we know what we will have in the exhibit, we’re starting to session [the tools] into PastPerfect,” said Bain.
The historical society is currently organizing the exhibit in the barn, which will include agricultural and shell fishing tools.
“Many of the tools are from Port Washington, but some we don’t really know too much about the story of where they came from,” said Bain. “People have been dumping antique tools on our porch for years. Most of them are probably local.”
“We have a lot of fishing, clamming and oyster tools along with the farming tools,” said Bain. “It’s a three-year project, and we’re about a year into the process now to turn this into an exhibition center. We’re going to bring in a museum designer to help us figure out what should go where.”
The historical society will be giving tours of the circa 1690 Dutch barn at their 2023 Fall Colonial Fair on Oct. 7.
To learn more about the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society and what they have to offer, visit www.cowneck.org