Windsor, Vermont: Celebration of Edwin Battison
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  1. #1
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    Default Windsor, Vermont: Celebration of Edwin Battison

    The celebration was noticed as follows:

    Celebration of the Life of Edwin A. Battison (1915-2009)

    Historian, Machinist, and Vermonter
    Horological and Small Machinery Curator at the Smithsonian Institution
    Founding Director of the American Precision Museum
    and
    Franklin Museum of Nature and the Human Spirit

    Collector of Finest Examples of Evolving Technologies
    Useful Tools to Put Them Back Together
    Books and Ephemera to Understand It All

    Saturday August 29, 2009
    Remembrance at 1 PM Celebration and Display from 2 to 4 PM

    Informal Gathering Under a Tent
    at the
    Franklin Museum of Nature and the Human Spirit, Inc.
    55 Ascutney Street, Windsor, Vermont 05089
    On Site Parking

    Display to include Steam Cars
    Locomobile Serial No.1 and Stanley No.134 (chain drive) – Unassembled
    His “Everyday” Cars
    A 1910 Stanley Roadster and 1955 Volkswagen Single Cab Truck

    Watches and Clocks:
    Howard, Davis & Dennison Movements Serial Nos. 2 and 17
    Goddard No. 4 in original Pair Case Rare Reverse Fusee Tourbillon
    J.C. Brown with Pomeroy Movement Sanford’s Pull-up Shelf Clock
    Early Hassam Tower Clock 18th Century Black Forest Cuckoo

    Vermontonia and More

    For more information go to www.FranklinMuseumInVermont.org
    Or Call the Franklin Museum 802-674-2093
    Jay Boeri 802-436-2521
    Joan Combie 803-815-0630 Barbara Rhoad 802-674- 2326


    I've just returned from this and--though I arrived late and into the remembrances of Battison, found the event and the place just as full of thught as could be. I knew, or knew of, a few of the fifty or so people there, and introduced myself to a large handful more. I introduced myself to 'Joe in NH,' who was, so far as I know, the only other person who corresponds here, who attended. Joe has already relayed some good Battison stories and I can tell you they are manifold, because Battison was such an interesting person in a number of different ways.

    I--who knew people 'like' him, missed my chance of knowing him, largely because I often travel as an outsider and--when I knew he was making the American Precision Museum--could easily have found plenty to discuss with him but found it then easier to stay away. I think that's a kind of a lesson, and was a wrong step on my part. I would be shocked, however, if Battison didn't talk with a relative of mine, my wife's Aunt Bet (died in 2000 she was just a couple of years older than Battison), who had lived nearby Windsor (in Hartland Four Corners), from about 1946 till about 1972 and who, extremely interestingly and quite oddly, liked various old things and old machinery and knew everybody over there with similar interests. Herbert Ogden (a state senator from Hartland who ran a water powered cider mill) was mentioned a few times in relation to Battison today and I know Bet knew him for years. Ogden was stated to be so old fashioned conservative by another state senator, John Howland (who was a Windsor native and an elementary school chum of Battison's), that he seemed liberal to the more modern conservatives.

    Battison, too, was sui generis.

    The folks that knew him and are keeping his example--and some of his stuff--in front of us have their work cut out and they deserve a great deal of thanks for what they've done thus far.

    Nice to meet you, Joe.

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    And a pleasure to meet you too Northernsinger!

    It was a very "varied" crowd there today. The attendees included national experts on industrial history such as Merritt Rowe Smith (who as it turned out learned at the knee of the Master Ed) and Don Hoke (who also was at the knee) and at least two other recognised experts in their respective fields who had learned or at least took council from Ed on various historical matters.

    Also included were steam automobile enthusiasts, machine tool enthusiasts and also local people, mostly older town people, who knew and respected Ed for his historical acumen. And they had a lot to respect.

    I'll have to say Jay Boeri and Charlie Carroll did a tremendous job bringing order from chaos. The grounds never looked that good when Ed lived there, that's for sure. And it is apparent that they put some time into the selection and display of Ed's artifacts. Portable lights were in evidence and even Ed's "ice cream shed" had been swept out and made neat.

    Once the formal part of the day started, Jay did a most excellent job with what amounted to a eulogy for Ed - although not presented in a religious sense. Jay indicated that Ed's remains were interred yesterday (private ceremony) alongside his mother and father about a quarter mile distant and up on the hill above his house and his beloved APM & Franklin Museum. Jay gave an excellent talk. I would like to have a copy of Jay's formal text for it really was a pocket tribute to the man. And from what I can detect, nobody living is as well qualified to give that eulogy as is Jay. Jay was with Ed but a day or two before his passing.

    The other details of the day were as well thought out and presented. The funeral home two doors down from his house did the "grunt work" of parking, meeting visitors, etc. Police were on hand to direct traffic on the busy Ascutney Road. Porta-potties were available, and certain areas of Ed's property were accessible and others not as organization/cataloging are not completed. On request, those in attendance would open areas not normally available if anyone (such as myself) had special questions about an artifact.

    I suspect the rain cut into the crowds a bit. But not too much. I estimate the crowd at about 50 and as it turns out the single tent and seating set up were just about equal to the task.

    After some formal and private remembrances, the crowd broke up into smaller groups and we got to see some of Ed's treasures. In the house were the timepieces, such as the VERY early Waltham key wind watches (8 day movement of which 17 were made.) Ed owned not one, but TWO. A Chauncy Jerome Ogee wall clock caught my eye since Chauncy was among the earliest of brass Connecticut clock makers.

    The two locomobile remains were displayed in the ice cream building and the Stanley Steamer was outside. (It last ran about 1969 before Ed gave it a place in the APM)

    Meanwhile, underneath the Franklin Museum Building (the one I describe in another thread about lifting up and replacing the foundation underneath) is stored the larger part of Ed's machine collection. These have been moved with extreme labor by Charlie Carroll from the lower mill building which presently is in danger of falling into the brook - having been compromised structurally by age and non-repair. In the process of moving all this a massive re-organization and cataloging has taken place. You can also see that this effort is a "work in progress" as Ed had a propensity to "disassemble" a machine and leave it for the component parts until he could get back to it later. Sometimes, like most recently, he didn't get back right away. Well, maybe he didn't get back A LOT. You could see Charlie's progress in the numbered temporary duct tape tags on everything where machines were logged and filed and cataloged. Also the discovered remnant parts of an incomplete machine would be placed "on top" awaiting assembly again into the whole parent machine. It's a work in progress for sure.

    Joan Combie seems is the organizational head of the Franklin Group. Her father was a work associate of Ed in his Springfield days and her family and herself always maintained a relationship with Ed. Probably the closest thing to a family that Ed had once his mother died. She indicates that Ed left upwards of 15K pages of "personal journal" going back over 70 years indicating where he found machine artifacts, and what history he could discover regarding them. Also independent research on them. Also sales of machines to individuals. (such as me!) In time, this journal will be scanned and available for inspection on the Franklin Museum Website. I encouraged her in this online presence since this is one of my pet peeves with both the Smithsonian AND the APM. They don't fully utilize the advantage of the Internet in display of their collections.

    Joan hopes this online presence will spur support for the Franklin Museum. Knowing the power of the Internet, this is likely.

    Anyway, I go away with some sense of awe of what Ed left behind, and maybe a bigger awe at the job which still remains. It's good to get a sense that these artifacts are being looked after. Full security and fire protection has been installed in the Franklin and Battison building. And between Jay and Charlie and Joan, everything is being looked after. All three have a sense of the "custodialship" they have in keeping Ed's collection safe AND appreciated.

    It's hard to remember that these last survivors of his collection are but a small proportion of the machine tools and artifacts that passed through Ed's hands during his life. Most people would have quit when they filled one large size basement. But in doing more his effect in this world went FAR beyond the significant assembly that we saw left over today. Ed was a busy guy! And we are better off for his having been here.

    Yup. It was a fitting memorial. Ed would be O.K. with today, I'm sure.



    The Franklin Museum Building and the tent set up out front.



    One of 6 (count 'em) Brown & Sharpe Milling Machines seen. Ed had a particular penchant for these earliest "modern" milling machines.



    Ed's 1955 VW Pickup. (The one which always broke down.) Operational, it was started and moved in demonstration during the discussions. Ed had no less than 11 (count 'em) spare or worn out engines for this car which have now been sold. The "Ice Cream Building" that Ed recycled as a garage appears behind.



    The 1910 Stanley Steamer that Ed REALLY preferred to drive. Except for those dern boiler tubes. (Joe, do you know where I can get boiler tubes?)

    A nice day. Thank you all.

    Joe in NH

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    Thank you so much for posting this...... it is so good that things are being cared for..... your photo of the VW brings back fine memories of a collecting trip up north with ED, and yes it DID break down on that day!

    Thanks again ED for all you did!

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    Joe, that's a fine recounting, thank you again.

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    Dang....I drove thru Windsor yesterday, in the pouring rain. I wish I had known about this. I have been to the APM many times so decided not to stop yesterday.

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    Paul, I would have liked to meet you, and you would have liked thinking about Battison and seeing the--to date--end results of his interests.

    The get together was not at the APM, however, but up the hill--upriver--at his place, just a few hundred yards away. Both the APM's director and development director were in attendance but were not as particularly involved as others.

    I had been past Battison's home at least once prior--when just looking around the town of Windsor--but had forgotten this (getting old, I think), so when I went to attend yesterday I couldn't recall exactly how to get there. I headed up the right road but stopped, turned around and stopped into the APM to ask how to get there. The front door person was not a good help. I was late, and anxious to be where I ought to be, she hadn't good knowledge of the event, though she had an invitation sheet to pass out, and didn't have the plain local knowledge to say 'drive up the road a couple of blocks and make a left, you're there,' instead looked up the address on Mapquest, and then sent me down the road five miles to Weathersfield where there is also an Ascutney Street. I should have known better but this seemed plausible at the moment, and was wrong, so I arrived later than I would have wished.

    Nonetheless, this little event was in some ways an important milestone, certainly commemorating pretty nicely a more interesting than most of us.

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    I was thinking about Battison again today and recalled that Joe in NH mentioned hearing a figure of eleven spare Volkswagen engines. Indeed, Joe, they did say 'eleven,' but that was only what he brought back from one haul. I think Jay Boeri said they found 'eighteen' of them when they cleaned out. I suspect that was a lifetime supply.

    When we emphasize this colorful aspect, however, we are only noting part of the story, there are other equally complicated and possibly more interesting parts.

    I have a moment this morning and will be writing to the four intersting people whose business cards I was given at the great event.

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    In the case of Ed it certainly was a lifetime supply - and a bit more besides.

    Yup, I owe them Emails as well. Dern homework got in the way again (kids are back in school.)

    Joe

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    Anyone know whatever became of Ed’s Franklin Museum plans, idea and stuff? Is it all still there? Or scattered to the wind?

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    It's so jarring to read the OP without noting the date, see the statement about "Gathering under a tent", and ask myself "but what about masks?".

    What a miserable damn year 2020 has been so far.

    I've been in the NH area for a long time, and the manufacturing history of Vermont has intrigued me, but I've not had the time* yet to visit some of the milestone museums or gear manufacturer sites that I'd like to. And now it's all so much more constrained.

    *In the end, time is all we had...

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    Yeah, I know what you mean - pita for too many places to not be open. But....it'll happen eventually- we ain't dead yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rivett608 View Post
    Anyone know whatever became of Ed’s Franklin Museum plans, idea and stuff? Is it all still there? Or scattered to the wind?
    A close friend of Ed's (actually a trio of friends) have continued the Franklin Museum of the Human Spirit Inc. and re-badged themselves as "The Battison Museum." Edwin Battison

    The museum is "near moribund" and is basically now a private collection shared by these three. Visits can be arranged in advance through "contact us," but it's not an "encouraged" thing.

    I actually think the museum prefers a low profile for reasons of security. One of the "backwaters" of historical value hopefully not lost in transition.

    There has been some "horse trading" as the museum struggles to pay bills and retain a reputation as a 401C3 entity. Example last year's video shown on "American Pickers." History Channel's American Pickers Coming to Vermont - YCN News 7.24.15 - YouTube

    One can research the property's current tax status in Windsor. The property is owned by one of the three principles, he pays no tax as the property is listed as a 401C3.

    As I say, they have a need to prove continuation in this status for their own survival. Taxes might kill them. (Estimated $8K per year for this property for Windsor.)

    Joe in NH

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    Thank you Joe, that web site did a great job of talking about Ed. Some of the statements are so right on target if you knew him. It says very few people were ever in the other mill and his home. I’m one of the lucky ones who was a number of times. I really hope they can do something with the museum. The new name makes since and with Ed’s diaries found it will really bring the whole story of this guy to life.

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    The new name makes since and with Ed’s diaries found it will really bring the whole story of this guy to life.
    Ed's diaries are reported to be upwards of 30 years plus of antique machine tool collecting. His contacts, his experience or difficulty with removal/acquisition, telephone numbers, sort of a "working notebook." History of the machines before his acquisition, and discussion of their significance to US industrial history.

    And this would include his research and work in watchmaking and clocks. Possibly even Ed's work on gun-making, which Ed wrote on while at the Smithsonian and there ruled out a prevailing "interchangeability" consensus at that time. (Guns in the period of Ed's discussion were made by "repeatability" methods which have the potential for complete interchangeability - but the potential was not realized in "manufacturing expediency." Money and output was more important in the 19th century than true "interchangeability.")

    I have thought to ask for info from Ed's log about the Pratt & Whitney ca. 1877 planer I purchased from Ed, which he reported to me came from a machine shop in the Lake Winnepesaukee area of New Hampshire. This machine weighs (according to the 1878 Manufacturers' broad sheet) about 2800 lbs with counter shaft. Ed carried the machine home on the back of his VW Transporter. Ed confessed it was a very "iffy" ride - and a tribute to "fine German Engineering." I would pursue this but now don't own the planer. I'll leave this for others...



    Pix above from "American Pickers" video from last year. The red wheels in the foreground are from the early Stanley which was Ed's project du-jour at his transition into elderly housing.

    Life for Ed was an adventure - some of this brought to him, but certainly a majority portion self-created. Certainly part of this Ed's ride up Mt. Washington in a non-condensing Stanley Steamer on the 50th anniversary of the original trip done the Stanley Brothers at the turn of the 20th Century. Ed "consulted" for the 100th Anniversary of the same ride of the same steam automobile as a favor to the then current owners of the Stanley.

    "Joe, do you know where I can get some small boiler tubes?"

    He had me on that one. Well, he had me on most things technical.

    Smart dude.

    Joe in NH

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    I went with Ed on Collection trip To pick up a early lathe up to Burlington, Vt. In maybe that very same VW (he did have a few of them but I think it was that one). It broke down due to a bad fuel pump. It is a long story so it will have to wait for another time. Anyway, I’m going to try to dig out photos from that trip and see if they have dates on them. This was in the mid 80s in Sept. I remember it snowed lightly that morning. It would be fun to see what he wrote about that day.

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    I'd always look forward to hearing or reading more about Battison, whom I am sure my relatives by marriage in nearby Hartland, Vt, (and who were interested in a number of the same things he was, and were about his age) knew.

    Please don't hesitate, any of you, in telling your stories.

    Of course the current American Precision Museum is a debacle and getting worse, I think. You tell me if think Battison would feel well about this.

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    Not much connection with Ed here, just a few visits to APM, a casual acquaintance with Jay and a good friendship with John Alexander. I'm curious about how you think APM could be improved.

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    What is the current "debacle" with APM???

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    The two questions just above were prompted by my offhand remark insinuating failings of the Windsor museum. I don't have much time but I'll expand quickly and I'd be happy to hear any correction of my ideas and defense of the current state.

    Museums do two things, in general, preserve and present, both important though I think the first much more important than the second. And the second often becomes more important to museum staff as they find their mission to be less collection and then preservation as presentation as they feel they are doing their job by attracting visitors which they need to bring in support via grants and admission charges.

    They need the enhanced presentations--including new and changing exhibits--to attract visitors to and interest grantors. To do so they grow staff at the expense of growing collections, and they design presentation to attract the interest they feel they need.

    Many institutions follow this path and feel they are succeeding. I feel it is dead end.

    The APM is, in my mind, a good example of a bad practice. In this case huge support is and will be needed just to run the 'free' (and beautifully historic and interesting) building. Where does this leave collecting? Research?

    Do you actually think it is as good a presentation as you think it could be? Do you think Battison would think well of it as it is?

    I'd be happy to correspond further about Battison--who was so interesting. perhaps a discussion of the APM or machinery museums in general should be a separate note. Thanks to all.

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    If preserve outweighs present, patron become disinterested. Why go there, or attend special donor/patron only events, only to see the same old thing. Perhaps benefactors were treated to a special viewing of a filthy artifact buried under a heap of stuff, under a tarp in a dimly lit outbuilding. Personally, I don't know as I've never been to APM. Some would view that as mismanagement, hoarding or lack of direction in the organization's mission.

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