By Wayne Franklin
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Extra info for A Rural Carpenter's World: The Craft in a Nineteenth-Century New York Township (American Land and Life Series)
James C. Holmes diary, 1869 Page 4 as simple line items, without any of the sense of process that, on the contrary, a diary almost by definition creates. Since Holmes and his workers were involved in building or significantly modifying six houses in 1869, his diary can give us an unusually concrete picture of the rural craftsman's procedures at a time when the coming industrialization of many aspects of the building trades had not yet had much effect outside American cities. It is primarily for this reason that the diary is reproduced here as the intensive centerpiece of a study of rural carpentry in Holmes's place and time.
Even his craft, as the 1869 diary makes abundantly clear, was a composite of many different kinds of activity and production. These contrasts are sharpened by a quick reference to the experience of James's younger brother, Horace. When Horace Holmes began running Calvin's farm in the 1860s and then bought out the other heirs in the 1870s, he followed Joseph's lead rather than the precedent of Calvin or James. Already in 1865, when Calvin was relying heavily on Horace, the farm's butter yield had risen from 300 pounds (the 1855 figure) to 1,000 pounds, and by 1870 this had risen further to 1,200 pounds.
Although it might be claimed that he had learned carpentry not out of a desire to escape from agriculture but rather as a means of amassing enough capital to enter it in earnest-as at last he had by 1880-"in earnest" in his case meant something decidedly different from what it meant for either Joseph or Horace. James Holmes came from a large family and in 1869 was building his own, ultimately smaller, one. The members of both are profiled in appendix 1, as are all the local residents mentioned in the Holmes diary.