2004 Tool Tour

By Hall, Elton | The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., November/December 2004 | Go to article overview

2004 Tool Tour


Hall, Elton, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.


Twenty-eight enthusiastic EAIA members arrived in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, September 14, and proceeded across the border to Lugano, Switzerland, gathering at the hotel Continental Park, high on a hillside overlooking Lake Lugano.

The beginning of these annual tool tours is always somewhat ragged as people depart from distant places and appear throughout the day. Those who made the early transfer to the hotel had a chance to look around Lugano during the afternoon, while the second shift made its way in from the airport. But we were all together for a pleasant dinner at the hotel.

Throughout these movements we were shepherded by Fiona Bennett, an English woman who has lived in Italy for twenty years and would be our courier for the Italian part of the tour.

The next morning, Wednesday, we proceeded to the Massagno home of fellow member Luigi Nessi (see photo) to see his fabulous tool collection. Luigi and his daughter, Daniela, had made great preparations for our arrival. Unsure of his ability to speak to us in English, he had Paolo Brenni of the Museum of the History of Science in Florence join us to translate his introductory remarks and anything else that came up during the day.

He told us of the history of his collection that he had begun in the 1970s after leaving a career in architecture and town planning. He devoted himself to collecting European tools of all trades from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. His purpose has been very similar to that of the EAIA-to show all the things that humans have had to enable them to do their jobs. In addition to strictly utilitarian objects, he has collected tools of extraordinary quality and beauty that could be exhibited in art museums as well as history museums. He is very much interested in documenting and interpreting his collection, to which end he has also assembled an extensive library.

We spent the morning looking principally at tools and scientific instruments that he had brought out to show us. At midday we walked a short way from the building that housed his collection to his home where he provided us with a fine buffet lunch with seating both inside and in his garden. Returning to the collection after lunch, some of us had specific areas to discuss with him, while others availed ourselves of the opportunity to open cabinets, pull out drawers, and examine tools of every description. And what it would take to describe them all!

We departed in two shifts, the second walking back to town with Daniela, who gave a short tour of downtown Lugano, ending at a suitable oasis where we refreshed ourselves.

As if all this kindness were not enough, we then proceeded to a local restaurant named Grotto della Salute, where we had a proper Italian dinner as the guests of the Nessi's. It was a day to remember for the rest of our lives. As one member said, "If the rest of the tour is a complete bust, this makes it all worthwhile."

Thursday morning after breakfast we headed south, over the spectacular Appenines to the ancient city of Pisa.

After lunch on our own, we regrouped and walked to the office of our fellow member Riccardo Chetoni, who has what must be one of the world's largest collections of plumb bobs. They were displayed in cases in his engineering office. We passed a pleasant time examining them, and asking and answering questions. There was something singularly appropriate in having a collection of plumb bobs in Pisa.

Across the street from Riccaro's office I was pleased to notice a tablet on the building, identifying it as the site of Gallileo's birth. The town was saturated in history. Ricardo povided us with some refreshments at a nearby trattoria, and we returned to the coach for the relatively short run to Florence.

Friday morning, the 17th, began with a brief tour under the tutelage of a local guide from the Uffizi Gallery, a great museum of Italian painting.

After lunch, we gathered at the Museo di Storia della Scienza, which featured a collection of early scientific instruments belonging to the Medicis and Grand Dukes of Lorraine. …

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