Things were not too different for those who were living in the 19th century. Okay, so they didn't have automobiles back then, but many folks did have horse-drawn carriages, wagons, or carts. And, just like the modern cars of today, those modes of transportation did break down, especially considering that most roads 150 years ago were unpaved, and those that were paved might as well not have been!
|Richart Carriage Shop|
Although handcrafted wagons and buggies were the chief product of his carriage shop, Robert Richart (born 1792), along with his two sons, William (born 1832) and Israel (birthdate unknown), produced, as stated in its original title, farm implements, and even furniture. Bobsleds were also a major product made and sold here.
In 1850, the original building made way for a larger shop on a nearby lot. This newer two story building was built with an outdoor ramp that lead to the second floor, where painting of the product took place and allowed easy access to the ground level for the carriages once they were completed. An interesting note here are the paint smears and "1865" upon the walls on the second floor, indicating where someone may have tested colors. It is supposed that painting was done on the 2nd floor to help avoid dust and dirt from mixing into the paint.
It's this 1850 structure, by the way, that is now standing near the entrance inside of Greenfield Village.
Early on, while they were still growing as a repair shop, father and son would hire themselves out when business was slow and would do chores such as thrashing - for the low price of fifty cents a day.
After the Civil War, this trend reversed slowly so that eventually "a third work bench was needed in the shop" for the hired help.
In 1855, Israel moved and opened his own business in the thriving town of nearby Tucumseh, while Robert and William continued on in Macon.
|The activity was non-stop inside the shop|
The seasonal nature of life in Macon is one of the most interesting finds while combing the ledgers. Summer typically busied the Richarts with wagon repairs, their own farming interests, and improvements to their respective homes.
As the leaves changed, so did the daily routine in the wagon shop. Summer wagon building and repair slowed down greatly in the fall months while winter construction and repair of sleds and cutters took precedence. William and Robert would also spend many autumn hours with a file in their hands sharpening saws, as their neighbors needed to cut and store wood for the winter. Barrels of apple cider appear frequently in the books as purchases as well as payments in October and November. In fact, in the years before the Civil War broke out in 1861, most of Macon's 1500 residents rarely dealt in cash. Besides, cider, payment transactions included buck wheat, lumber, beef, and other currencies.
|What? No Firestone tires?|
There's was a seasonal business - they kept busy all four seasons of the year.
Their carpentry skills made the Richarts sort of community handymen. They built picture frames, a dough trough, a dresser, a breakfast table, and bee hives. They also repaired chairs, sawmills, and even a dog house (oh! the wonderful things one can find while looking at old ledgers!)!
Robert hung the blackboard in the local schoolhouse and also worked at butchering. He also, as a hobby, tended bees (hence, the bee hives) and sold the honey to neighbors. William worked on a stoneboat clearing the fields (a stoneboat transported heavy objects such as...um...stones. I didn't know that - now I do!), as well as furniture making.
|Someone has to do the book work.|
|I would like to purchase a two horse farm wagon...|
Authenticity abounds as many of the tools and furnishings now inside the restored shop can be matched to the original photographs from a hundred years ago as belonging to the Richarts.
This building and way of life of 150 years ago can be likened to today's auto repair shop; it was an integral part of the community from which it came.