A Heritage of Crafts

Americans have long been known for their superior craftsmanship from the time of colonial silversmith Paul Revere. After the American Revolution, Revere devoted much time to making tea services in what's known as the Federal style. A genuine Revere item has the family name enclosed in a rectangle. Revere later worked in brass as well.

American Shaker creations originated with the Shakers, a Christian sect whose founder came from England. Since Shaker laws forbade anything too fancy, all creations, from buildings to furniture and baskets, were functional and unadorned. Light wood stains showed the natural beauty of the wood grain. By the 1880s, you could purchase Shaker replicas by mail order, especially chests, baskets, fabrics, and chairs.

As German Protestant immigrants streamed into William Penn's “promised land” of Pennsylvania, they brought along cherished folk traditions as well as the determination to pass these down through the generations. The Pennsylvania Dutch weren't only folk artists who loved to depict ornamental birds, animals, and flowers; they were also early makers of musical instruments.

Wood and master furniture craftsmen made elegant furniture and cabinets out of popular woods like mahogany. At Colonial Williamsburg, you can see cabinetmakers using the same eighteenth-century woodworking methods as early Americans.

Another famous American artist crafted beautiful stained-glass windows, bowls, and vases. Louis Comfort Tiffany had planned to become a painter, but he soon became known for his exquisite work in what he called favrile glass. This he created using a secret process of his own invention by which color, design, and texture are embedded into the glass before it is hand-blown. At the turn of the century, Tiffany art nouveau glassware was popular and would later become museum treasures. If you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, you'll find many examples of Tiffany's exquisite work on display.

Famous Firsts


First professional baseball team organizes and calls itself the Cincinnati Red Stockings


Aaron Montgomery Ward founds the first mail-order business (Sears came along in 1886)


Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone with repair mechanic Thomas Watson


P. T. Barnum teams with James Bailey to form the Barnum & Bailey Circus


Atlanta druggist John Pemberton invents Coca-Cola, first as a health tonic and later as a soft drink


Thomas Edison invents the light bulb


George Eastman coins a name that is easy to spell and pronounce for his Number One Kodak camera


Dr. John Harvey Kellogg invents the first flaked breakfast cereal

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