The Friends of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is honored to have partnered with the National Park Service, the Fort Vancouver Trades Guild Volunteers to bring retired Colonial Williamsburg Blacksmith Jay Close to the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center for a public panel discussion on the history, art, and science of early 19th century blacksmithing skills in July of 2016.
The panel was composed of Jay Close, a retired expert blacksmith from Colonial Williamsburg, Tom Dwyer, the president of the Fort Vancouver Trades Guild and a volunteer blacksmith for the National Park Service, and Dr. Bob Cromwell, a trained archaeologist and the Acting Chief Ranger for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (NHS). The panel discussed the similarities and differences of the modern blacksmith programs at Colonial Williamsburg and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the advancement of technologies through time, and the role of archaeological research in documenting techniques.
"Blacksmithing was an essential industry across North America as Euro-Americans colonized the continent," said Bob Cromwell, Chief Ranger. "It is amazing to see the similarities in blacksmithing techniques used at sites such as Williamsburg, Virginia, all the way to the other side of the continent here at Fort Vancouver."
This panel discussion marked the end of a week-long blacksmith training program sponsored by the Friends of Fort Vancouver and the National Park Service. During the training sessions the demonstrations taught by Close were available for visitors to watch and learn from as well. Close replicated specific iron artifacts from the park's museum collection, and discussed manufacturing techniques used by the Hudson's Bay Company blacksmiths of the 1829-1860 period.
National Park Service Volunteer Tom Dwyer said, "The Trades Guild at Fort Vancouver has invited advanced blacksmiths from Colonial Williamsburg to do training programs for close to a decade. This program gives the volunteer blacksmiths a week long tutorial by a world class blacksmith. They, in turn, can share this knowledge with visitors to Fort Vancouver during living history demonstrations."