Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boone Blacksmithing Legacy

I am very proud to be part of a family that has been passing down the craft of blacksmithing for at least 18 generations. Yes, at least 18 generations!

According to family folklore the Boone’s have been forging iron since the time of the Vikings. Don Plummer, author of the book The Boone Blacksmithing Legacy, 1991, has traced the blacksmithing line back eighteen generations from the current smiths in the family; Dan Boone VII, Tom Boone, and M. Smyth Boone. Daniel Boone the famous American hero and explorer was a farrier blacksmith in George Washington’s army.

In the early 20th century the Boone blacksmith’s were working in the shop of their father, Kelse Boone, in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. The invention of the automobile was being developed allowing delivery of products to even the most remote locations and the industrial revolution was in full swing. General farmer blacksmiths services were no longer in such great demand due to the creation of mass produced and cheaply replaceable tractor parts and a cost effective delivery system.

Kelse Boone, Smyth’s great grandfather, told the boys in the blacksmith shop that if they wanted to continue to be blacksmiths, the family trade, that they would need to switch from being farmer style smiths to become artist blacksmiths.

Kelse’s sons Daniel Boone VI and his brother Lawrence Boone, Smyth’s grandfather, heeded this advice and became master blacksmiths of the twentieth century. The Boone brothers were hired John D. Rockefeller to do all of the forged ironwork in the famous restoration project of the city of Williamsburg, Virginia in the 1930’s. The Boone’s also forged the incredible ironwork in the Asheville Hotel and the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina.Daniel Boone VII, Smyth’s father, learned the art from his father and has gone on to become one of the more respected and successful blacksmiths forging in the U.S. today. Dan teaches the art of forging at many blacksmithing schools and regularly demonstrates his masterful signature item… dragonheads.

In the late 1980’s, Dan Boone VI taught his son M. Smyth Boone the art and craft of fine blacksmithing. Smyth has been forging notable commissions and has been teaching his skills internationally since 1991. Smyth combines his inherent blacksmithing skills with the versatile design talents of Robin A. Boone, artist extraordinaire. The unique arrangement of Smyth’s internationally recognized forging skills and Robin’s complex designs combine to form one of the strongest unions in the field of contemporary ironwork.

Tom Boone, Smyth’s brother is forging incredible commissions and demonstrating at some of the finest art and craft festivals on the East coast. You can find some of Tom’s beautiful forging in Dona Mielach’s book, Fireplace Accessories, Schiffer Books 2002.

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