Broom Making With Broom Corn
(Page 2 of 2)
He learned the craft from Bob Funke at Bishop Hill, an early Swedish settlement where broom making was the mainstay of the local economy.
"In 1860, they sent 1,260 dozen round brooms down the river to St. Louis," Jim said. "That was their sole income; they got a check for $2,106 (for that order)."
Until 1860, Bishop Hill broom generated only round brooms. After that, they also made flat brooms. The Shakers, Jim said, are credited with creation of the flat broom.
Early brooms differed according to what part of the country they were made in. The New England style, for instance, has a 3-inch round broom, and is about 27 inches long. The broom top is woven.
In colonial America, "The women made all the brooms, and they didn't have anything pretty," Jim said. "So they wove the brooms and then they told their husbands that the weaving was necessary for the structure of the broom, but it was really so they could have something pretty."
Other features – like color-have also been used to enhance the appearance of the lowly broom. Jim has occasion ally used broom corn that's been dyed red or green, but that too is becoming hard to find. "The only place you can get it is Berea College at Cumberland, Ky.," he said.
Even the wood handles in Jim's brooms are a bit exotic. Originally, broom handles were made from sassafrass. When demand exceeded supply, however, an alternative was needed.
"Now, the handle is made of a wood that comes from Indonesia," he said.
Despite the challenges of finding quality raw materials, broom making is a fun and lucrative hobby, Jim said.
"I sell brooms all over the country, from Pennsylvania to San Antonio," he said. "My brooms are in every state and several foreign countries. If I was 20 years younger, I could make quite a deal out of it. I used to sell 1,500 to 2,000 brooms a year. They average $8 to $9 a piece, and materials run about 40 percent of the price. I used to make about 10 a day, but now I make about three or four."
And they're all meant to be used. City folks, he said, tend to use the brooms as decor; rural people tend to put the brooms to work. Either way is fine by Jim. The finished product is, as his business card notes, both "functional and decorative." FC
Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer based in Virden, Ill.
Page: << Previous 1
| 2 |