Mid-West Tool Collectors Exhibit Welcoming Spirit

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Photo By Leslie C. McManus
Members of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. swarm over swap meet items during a national show last September.

Looking for an entry point
into the antique iron hobby? The Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. (M-WTCA) is a
logical place to start. Like linebackers on the football field, tools rarely
get the glory that, say, tractors do — and yet they are an absolutely essential
chapter in the story of farm mechanization.

Don’t be put off if you live
outside the Midwest. The M-WTCA has simply
outgrown its name. Today the 44-year-old group has local groups across the U.S. and more
than 40 international members (more than 3,500 in all). It’s a big tent packed
with members who have a nearly insatiable desire to learn about historic tools.

“You can collect about
anything you want and be a member,” President George Wanamaker says. Members’
interests range from Stanley
tools to saws, linotype tools to wagon wrenches, carpentry tools to kitchen
tools.

Some members are drawn by
the group’s friendly, welcoming spirit: “This is a very social group,” says
Susan Witzel, president of the M-WTCA Auxiliary, a parallel organization for
members’ spouses. Others are looking for a community where they can buy and
sell collectibles and learn more about them. Still others prize the group’s
quarterly magazine, The Gristmill, a benefit of membership. Filled with
an engaging blend of membership news and educational content, the magazine is a
very solid reference piece on antiquities.

M-WTCA conducts two national
meetings each year. The three-day events are packed with programs,
entertainment, tours, displays, an auction and more. Each of 19 regions holds
one to three events per year. At all of the meetings, education is a priority.
Elaborate, detailed displays assembled by members give historical background
and context; lively informal discussions focus on how tools were used and
produced.

Most gatherings also include
a trade show, where members buy and sell tools and related items. The national
meetings typically open with “tailgating,” where members set up a parking lot
swap meet before moving their items inside for the duration of the meeting. It
is not uncommon, long-time members say, to see flashlight beams trace the
parking lot just before sunrise on tailgating day.

Scholarships and service are
another important part of the organization. The M-WTCA and its Auxiliary
regularly present scholarships of up to $1,500 and make substantial gifts to a
variety of museums and historic sites. The organization also supports an intern
program. FC

Visit the Mid-West Tool Collectors website for more information.

For additional M-WTCA reading and a slew of homemade tool photographs check out Mid-West Tool Collectors Show Impressive Antiques.
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