Blacksmith Trade Sign
Pictorial blacksmith trade sign for John ChickCALEB WILLIAM HEATH (1835-1875)
Tamworth, New Hampshire, circa 1857
Oil paint on softwood panel, 24 x 32 inches, original brass ring hangers
Signed in paint along lower edge of molding of side A:
“C. W. HEATH LAWRENCE MASS”
Signed in paint along lower edge of molding of side B:
“W. HEATH painter LAWRENCE MASS”
The surface was cleaned with very minor scattered in-painting to selected areas of crackle, and a synthetic resin varnish was applied.
The artist who painted this sign, Caleb William Heath, was born August 19, 1835 in North Conway, New Hampshire, the son of George W. Heath (died 1836) and Mary A. Lang (1804-1888). On December 9, 1857 George William Heath was married to Olive Ann Clark (born February 28, 1837 in Bangor, Penobscot, Maine) in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the couple resided, with his occupation cited as a “painter.” In the 1860 census for Lawrence, Massachusetts, his occupation is cited as a “painter.” In 1862, when he was enlisted to serve in the Civil War, his occupation is cited as “painter.” In the 1870 census, he is cited as a resident of Boston with an occupation of “house painter.” At the time of his death in Lawrence, Massachusetts on September 19, 1875, his occupation was once again cited as that of a “painter.”
Given that Caleb Heath was recorded as a resident of Lawrence, Massachusetts at the time of his marriage in 1857 and when he enlisted as a soldier in the Civil War in 1862, and in 1870 he was residing in Boston, it seems relatively certain that he painted the sign prior to the Civil War.
According to Deborah M. Child who did the research, as the name of the blacksmith is not cited on the sign, this would not have been a sign commissioned by one of the ten blacksmiths operating in Lawrence, MA. Instead, the attributes of this sign suggest it was designed to be displayed in a more rural setting where imagery on signs had to be easily understood by those passing by, literate or otherwise. It is interesting to note that Caleb Heath, a New Hampshire native has included a distant view of the familiar White Mountains into the background of his sign.
Investigation into the family of Caleb’s wife has established that the sign was undoubtedly made for a blacksmith working in Tamworth, New Hampshire rather than one in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It appears that Caleb’s father-in-law, John Clark (1794-1873), probably made the arrangements for his young son in law to make this sign for the village blacksmith at this time, John Chick. These two families were close and related through marriage. John Clark’s eldest son, William, born in 1824, was married to Chick’s youngest daughter Ruth. As John was a carpenter by trade, it seems possible that either John or his son Albion, born in 1827 and also a carpenter, constructed the sign and then arranged for Caleb to paint it.
The Tamworth, New Hampshire blacksmith John Chick was born in 1799 in Limington, Maine, the same place of birth as the mother of Caleb Heath. He married Lucy Ann Bryant on September 9, 1822. She was born in Tamworth, New Hampshire and died there on April 16, 1846 at the age of 46 years. John Chick’s name appears in census records for Tamworth, New Hampshire from 1830 to 1850. He died on September 11, 1858.
The eldest son of John and Lucy Ann Chick, Walter (1822–1888) does not appear to have carried on the trade of blacksmithing, as he is cited as a farm laborer for John T. D. Folsom in Tamworth in the 1860 census. Their daughter, Hannah, born in 1836, married her first cousin, Wyatt Bryant and they had five children which they raised in Tamworth. The home in which this sign was discovered is located at the fork of the road immediately adjacent to the original Bryant farmhouse at #249 Bryant Road in Tamworth, New Hampshire, which was built about 1820. Within Tamworth circles, the house is commonly referred to as Wyatt’s house, referring to Wyatt Bryant, the son of
John Bryant and Mary Chick, the sister of the blacksmith John Chick. In 1853, Wyatt married his first cousin, Hannah Bryant Chick (born 1833). She was the daughter of the blacksmith John Chick and Lucy Ann Bryant, and the sister of Ruth Chick, sister in law of Caleb Heath who painted the sign. In the latter half of the twentieth century, this house was occupied by Wyatt’s great granddaughter Marion Edith Smith. Following the death of Marion Edith Smith, her property passed to her friend Margaret R. Jackson, who resided in the Bryant homestead until her death in July of 2008. The entire contents of this household were then sold at public auction in September 2008. Included in the sale was the sign from the blacksmith shop of John Chick. Owing to the fact that it was only used by John Chick for perhaps one year and then having been sequestered in this house from the time of John Chicks death in 1858 until 2008, the sign has survived in a remarkable state of preservation.
By direct descent in the family of the original owner, John Chick, Blacksmith of Tamworth, New Hampshire:
1. John Chick (1799-1858), to his daughter;
2. Hannah B. Chick-Bryant (1833-1901), to her son;
3. George Herbert Bryant (1855-1922), to his daughter;
4. Florence Marion Bryant-Smith (1882-1960), to her daughter;
5. Marion Edith Smith (1908-1994), to her friend;
6. Margaret Jackson (1920-2008).