Academic journal article The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.

The D'Elia Antique Tool Museum in Scotland, Connecticut

Academic journal article The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.

The D'Elia Antique Tool Museum in Scotland, Connecticut

Article excerpt

The collection of tools, implements, and mechanical devices has always been one of the most engaging activities of members of the Early American Industries Association. This is no abnormal pursuit. From the hunter-gatherers of the earliest era of mankind to those who will spend this evening bidding on eBay, we have been a species of collectors. We originally collected as a means of survival. In recent times our reasons for collecting have broadened to every conceivable reason, and some are not sure why they collect. They just do. Some are passionate, purposeful collectors. Others are simply opportunists. Some are driven by intellectual curiosity, others because they like having stuffaround. Some are born collectors, others come to it comparatively late in life. But whatever, whyever, however, and whenever a collector takes up his or her interest, the time inevitably comes when he or she must consider what is to be the disposition of the collection. Here there are not nearly as many choices. Basically, there are four. It can be sold, given away, or bequeathed, and there are many ways in which each of these may be accomplished. The fourth alternative is to simply ignore it and let your executors worry about it. Through most of these options, in one way or another, the collections are redistributed for others to own and enjoy. In most eases this is a good tiling, for collections need material for their growth, refinement, and reconfiguration. Occasionally, something extraordinarily unusual and wonderful happens, when a collector has an important collection together with the imagination, means, and good will to ensure his collection's preservation for all of us to see, study, and enjoy. Such is the case with the new D'Elia Antique Tool Museum in Scotland, Connecticut (Figure 1).

Andrew D'Elia (Figure 2), a member of the Early American Industries Association since 1972, has had a long interest in tools and particularly in woodworking planes. Born in New London, Connecticut, he graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1958 and began a forty-year career in the paperboard packaging industry. While working in Leominster, Massachusetts, he lived in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, where he bought and restored an eighteenthcentury house. He also met Roger Smith (Figure 3) and Ken Roberts, who encouraged his interest in tools and taught him much about them. At a tool sale, he found and bought his first plane, an E. B. Jackson crown molder from Newfane, Vermont. It had a profile that nearly fit a molding in Andy's house. If the hook were not already set by then, that did it. There were other EAIA members who helped and encouraged him as his collecting knowledge and experience began to develop: Herman Freedman, William Hilton, John and Paul Kebabian, and Thomas Relihan. He focused on planes, with a particular interest in patented planes. During the course of thirty years' effort, he has assembled a truly notable collection including a broad representation from the earliest known American makers to about Wbrld War II, comprising a great diversity of style and purpose. Within the collection lies an important concentration of patented planes.

In 1982 Andy founded Atlantic Packaging, his own company in Norwich, Connecticut. This allowed him and his wife, Anna Mae, to return closer to his native place, and they bought another eighteenth-century house in Scotland, Connecticut, a charming old town east of Willimantic. They restored and renovated the house, which is not far from the center of town, surrounded by stone walls and gardens with woods beyond.

Scotland has been largely overlooked by twentieth century economic developments. The benefit of that is that it has remained unspoiled by modern development and retains much of its colonial period charm. The downside is that there is not much of a tax base, and the town doesn't have a great deal of money to provide services and amenities to its citizens. A few years ago, there was a need for a new library to replace the town's six-hundred-square-foot room in the town hall. …

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