Brand New Release: Eric Sloane’s Simple Machines: A Boy, A diary, and the Building of America by Wil Mauch

July 8, 2020 |  by  |  Comments Off on Brand New Release: Eric Sloane’s Simple Machines: A Boy, A diary, and the Building of America by Wil Mauch

             Brand new book in wraps, just released!  Eric Sloane’s Simple Machines: A Boy, a Diary, and the Building of America by Wil Mauch.  

This charming and informative volume introduces readers young and old to simple machines and how they work.  Will modeled this volume after Eric Sloane’s 1962 classic Diary of An Early American Boy, Noah Blake: 1805, using Eric’s original characters, pen and ink illustrations, design, and font.  New stories are told of how Noah, Rachel, Izaak, Mr. Beach, and Mr. Simon used simple machines throughout 1805 to help them accomplish many tasks.  These engaging stories provide the reader with a thorough understanding of what simple machines can and cannot do, generously supplemented with the drawings of architect Barry Merenoff.  Additionally, Professor James Brennan explores the mathematics and physics behind how each simple machine provides a mechanical advantage to the user.  The result is an informative and engaging book that will delight the young and the young at heart, the reader just beginning to understand simple machines and the reader who understands advanced mathematics and physics – and every reader in between.

            If you love the work of Eric Sloane, you’ll love this book.  The perfect gift for anyone who admires the pen and ink drawings of the artist, and who wants to learn more about how simple machines were used to build much of early America.

Eric Sloane’s Simple Machines

A Boy, a Diary, and the Building of America

*Hardcover with dust jacket, sealed in wraps

*126 pages

*Includes a glossary of terms, a reference section, and a complete list of books by Eric Sloane

*Numerous illustrations

*Special offer:  FREE Shipping

*Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum’s Noah Blake Cabin Restoration Fund

$21.95 – Includes all applicable sales taxes. Check, money order, credit card or PayPal accepted. Contact us here.

A Diary, A Cabin, and the World of Noah Blake

April 11, 2018 |  by  |  Comments Off on A Diary, A Cabin, and the World of Noah Blake

Welcome to the wonderful world of Noah Blake, the principle character in Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy, Noah Blake: 1805.  First published in 1962 and still in print today, Dairy of an Early American Boy chronicles a year in the life of 15 year old Noah Blake.

We have information, videos, activities, and more for:

Edith’s Page For Kids

And information, photographs, and more about:

Eric Sloane

The Cabin

The Outhouse

Thanks for visiting!  We hope you are inspired by Noah’s experiences, as well as Eric’s writing and illustrations.

A Brief History of the Noah Blake Cabin

April 11, 2018 |  by  |  Comments Off on A Brief History of the Noah Blake Cabin

The Noah Blake Cabin

A visibly proud Eric Sloane poses in front of the hearth-side of the recently completed Noah Blake Cabin

When Eric Sloane’s Dairy of An Early American Boy:  Noah Blake – 1805 was published in 1962, “Eric Sloane” was already synonymous with “American”.  Having painted everything from “cloudscapes” (a term he coined) to covered bridges, and written on subjects as seemingly diverse as meteorology and barns, Eric Sloane was looking for a way to synthesize so much of what he had explored in oils and in words. “Not long ago”, reads the dust jacket of the book, “Eric Sloane was exploring an ancient house and came upon a small, leather-bound, wood- backedvolume…” It was through this volume that Eric found the crucible in which to explore weather, clouds, barns, early American architecture, farm life, and pioneer culture.  Out of this crucible came a profusely illustrated work of great charm and wonder.

Not just charming and wonderful, it turned out, but very popular.  In fact, Dairy of An Early American Boy:  Noah Blake – 1805 proved popular enough to attract the attention of Walt Disney, who rather clumsily made an offer to purchase the rights to the book for the purpose of creating a movie.  Sloane rejected the offer, hanging Disney’s proffered check over his toilet.

This kind of interest in his book led Eric to conceive a project where he would re-create, on the grounds of the Eric Sloane Museum of Kent, Connecticut, the cabin as described by Noah Blake.  The project began in earnest over the summer of 1974 and was complete and open to museum visitors that autumn. The Noah Blake cabin continued to delight visitors for decades.  By 2002, however, it was clear that the elements were taking a toll on the cabin.  Five years later, the cabin was locked and the public barred from viewing the interior.  Museum curator Barbara Russ, with the help of Sloane biographer and museum volunteer James Mauch, worked a number of avenues in an attempt to focus attention on the condition of the structure.  At the time, the State of Connecticut (the owner and operating authority of the Eric Sloane Museum) showed little interest in the museum and in the plight of the cabin.

By early 2012, however, things began to change.  Mauch tacked to a different course, founding the federally recognized non-profit group The Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum.  Mauch re-conceptualized the task of restoring the cabin from a grass roots effort to bring awareness to a problem to a coordinated effort aimed at advocating for a group of dedicated volunteers to assume direct responsibility for the cabin. The Friends board worked to grow membership and financial support while working closely with Barbara Russ to develop innovative, hands-on programming at the museum.

In the ensuing years the Friends underwrote the annual art exhibit and sale, created a series of hands on workshops that led to the construction of a traditional New England dry laid stone gathering area and fire pit, re-engineered the space between the museum and the Kent iron furnace, and undertook numerous other initiatives to enhance the museum collection and visitor experience.  The organization was also building credibility and rapport with representatives from the State of Connecticut.

The vision of Friend’s Vice President Jeffrey Bischoff- a stone wall fire place and gathering area.

It was in early 2016 that Mauch forged a relationship with Elizabeth Shapiro, the new Director of Culture for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the organization tasked with day-to-day operations (among a myriad of other things) of the four state-run museums in Connecticut.  Liz understood immediately the importance of the four museums and worked diligently to create an environment in which the state could work cooperatively with the Friends organization.  Catherine Labadia, Staff Archaeologist for the DECD, worked tirelessly to create an innovative and creative framework whereby the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum could assume responsibility for the rehabilitation of the Noah Blake Cabin.  In the summer of 2016, the State of Connecticut and the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum entered into a formal agreement to have the Friends assume responsibility for restoring the Noah Blake Cabin.

Things really began to change when Elizabeth Shapiro was named acting director of the Department of Community and Economic Development.  Liz understood the importance of the cabin to visitors, and granted the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum the permission to re-create the cabin.  It was the intention of the Friends organization to restore the cabin, but the deteriorated condition of the structure made that unfeasable.  It was decided to re-create the Eric Sloane cabin in a way that reflected what Eric Sloane actually drew in Diary of an Early American Boy, and to ensure that the cabin would be accessible to everyone.

 At first, we thought we would build the cabin using new timbers.  Our discussions with local loggers and sawmills quickly dissuaded us from considering that possibilities.  All of the long-time sawmill operators in the New England area were concerned that, even with proper drying, ‘modern’ timber would bend and twist soon after construction ceased.  Our challenge was that the cabin as Eric drew it was a hewn, stacked log structure without chinking between each course of log, making a tight fit – log directly against log – very important.

The solution was found in purchasing a c.1825 Pennsylvania German bank barn and using the floor joists – which were 12″ x 12″ beams, hewn on two sides, but planed on the adjacent sides.  These provided the advantage of being able to be taken to a mill and cut to the correct dimension while leaving two sides that would face the exterior and interior of the cabin.  A nice, stable, flat fit with the benefit of being dried for nearly 200 years.

Next step was for Jim and his Amish friend Chris to construct the entire cabin as a “kit”.  They did so in an old barn.  This allowed the pieces to be cut and fit together prior to assembly in Connecticut.

     Some new timbers had to be cut for the roof and other areas to be framed.  These timbers were ordered over-sized, so that they could be adzed or broadaxed to appear period correct for a cabin built in the late 18th century:

      Since all of these areas would be exposed in the interior of the cabin, that left me with an awful lot of work to do….

    In the meantime, our friend Mike Gawel was busy at work building a brand new foundation for the cabin:

And floor joists were added:

Then, stone veneer to match the existing firebox:

Now, the really fun part (in case you haven’t guessed it yet) was to have the cabin, which we were building here in Pennsylvania, fit perfectly on a foundation being built in Connecticut…..

Well, you just have to do the best job that you can (which is exactly what we did!).  We built, then dismantled the cabin, marked and banded the timbers, and loaded them onto a tractor trailer.

Chris and I drove most of the night, following the driver to Connecticut.  At 7 a.m. in the morning, it was time to unload and start to work:

Peter Russ, along with the guys from CAMA were a HUGE help (my Amish friend Chris is just visible at right):

And then to work (in the rain!  Yay!).  The gremlins made the weather terrible, and despite my friend Chris and I putting in two 16 hour days on day 1 and day 2, plus a 14 hour day on day 3, we just couldn’t quite get it all done. Board member John Pennings and volunteer Scott Sheldon worked on Noah’s bedroom while Chris and I focused on the main cabin. They were a huge help.

Yours truly making sure that every log course was secured to the one beneath using 16″ Timbertechs.  Sill beam was anchor bolted to the foundation.

There is always at least one funny man on every job……

Getting there….

The Blakes didn’t have power tools like these…but I did find that parking our borrowed tractor in this manner sure did make cutting easier!

Scott and John work on framing Noah’s bedroom:

Nearing the end of Day 3:

After our marathon 3-day session in the rain, we took some time off from the project, returning later in the summer to finish some important tasks.  And finally, this shot taken last November.  Compare it to Eric’s drawing to see how you think we did:

    What about the interior?, you ask.

I was able to order some 2.5″ thick, What Pine, tongue and groove flooring in random widths.

Noah’s Bedroom with his window shutter closed:

Above:  Detail of the interior of Noah’s window, shutter closed.  I built the shutter, frame, a window to match Eric’s illustration.

Below:  Detail of Noah’s window, interior view, open:

Below:  Detail of Noah’s window from the exterior.  I was able to find some old, wavy glass to set into the window frames, which I made using Locust lumber.

Above:  Detail of the cabin’s only window, aside from Noah’s, according to the description in Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy.

Above:  I built two custom doors in my shop in Lewisburg.  These are made of 3 – 2″ thick White Pine planks, hand planed in rough fashion.  I was able to find two sets of hand forged strap hinges tucked away in my barn loft for a rainy day….

I also have an Old Order Amish connection to a backwoods sawmill that will cut anything I need them to and are always on the lookout for w-i-d-e trees for me.  Turned out they had been saving White Pine (which I love) for me and quickly turned out some 17″-21″ wide x 8′ long 1″ thick boards for seething Noah’s bedroom.  That’s Scott Sheldon on the left, John Pennings in the middle and me, I am ashamed to say given how dirty I am, on the right.

Well, what about what goes in to the cabin?

Once the exterior is finished and the site cleaned, we’ll be turning our attention to the interior of the cabin.  I used Diary of an Early American Boy to inform how the interior of the cabin should appear to visitors.  The only illustration within the book that shows directly the interior of the Noah Blake cabin appears on page 8 of the Diary book (other illustrations in the book aren’t necessarily of the interior of the Blake cabin – on page 10, for example – yet they still support the construction and design choices we made).

Much of what appears in the illustration on page 8 will be replicated using authentic early American antiques and appropriate historical reproductions.  Nearly all of these items are currently in the loft of the cabin and we will be installing them after the work on the chimney is completed.  Some of the items are pieces chosen specifically to replicate what appears in Eric’s illustration, and nearly all can serve as educative pieces, not dissimilar to the way historical objects are treated in other museums.  Many of these items will be depicted on a map of the cabin interior and included on a brochure about the cabin.  Context for each identified piece is provided for the visitor in this brochure.

Early in our discussions regarding the re-construction of the Blake cabin, we did consider how to more fully develop the cabin beyond simply reflecting in wood and stone what Eric envisioned on paper.  Over the ensuing years, I have given quite a bit of thought to this challenge, especially in light of our groups’ stated goal of attracting younger visitors to the museum. Since Eric did not illustrate most of the interior portions of the cabin, they are therefore free from needing to strictly conform to an extant drawing.  One such area is what Eric labels “the keeping room”, which serves as Noah’s bedroom for most of the year.  At this point, the room is furnished with a simple built-in bed and a period correct desk that would have been owned and used by someone of Izaak’s station.  However, I think it is appropriate to provide younger visitors with a way to engage with the cabin and the Diary story.  With the understanding that it is not realistic to expect a museum docent on hand at the cabin during visitation, I have included in the cabin a trunk with “early American” clothes that would allow children to dress up like Noah or Sarah, “hoops” (those early American stick and hoop toys Eric illustrated nearly a dozen times in his various books), as well as checkers and similar games that would have been played by children c. 1805.  Additionally, there are quill pens, ink, and paper for children to try their hand at writing, and children and adults will be encouraged to use the quill pens to sign the guest book.  Part of the “please touch” writing exhibit will be a writing prompt that will ask children to view a framed print of Eric Sloane’s October Gleaning and will ask them to write about how they might liked or disliked to have grown up in Noah’s time and why.

Eric does not illustrate two other interior areas of the cabin in addition to those discussed above.  These are the north walls to the left and right of the front door (the front door of the cabin was made to swing out, not in, to tale advantage of this space), and the log “wings” that are between the main cabin and Noah’s bedroom.  For these spaces I have built a set of “hands on exhibits” that reflect the use of simple machines as Eric drew them in Diary of an Early American Boy.  Each installation is compact, designed to clearly illustrate the concept of how the particular simple machine provides a mechanical advantage to the user, and each was developed with the safety of the user as paramount.  Illustrated boards show how each is to be used and the physics concepts each demonstrates.  Additional information is provided in the cabin brochure.

Pictured, Above: One of the many Eric Sloane illustrations used in Eric Sloane’s Simple Machines:  A Boy, A Diary, and the Building of America. 

The newly created Noah Blake cabin will not only provide museum visitors with an opportunity to connect with the Diary of an Early American Boy story, it will also provide educational opportunities in American history, art, writing, reading, physics, and mathematics.  A chance for creative play, reflection, critical thinking, and imagination will also be embedded in the experience.  I so look forward to the time when I can give you a personal tour of the Noah Blake cabin!

-James ‘Wil’ Mauch

Edith’s FAQs about Eric Sloane, The Eric Sloane Museum, and Diary of an Early American Boy

April 11, 2018 |  by  |  Comments Off on Edith’s FAQs about Eric Sloane, The Eric Sloane Museum, and Diary of an Early American Boy

Welcome to Edith’s Kid’s Section!! A place for kids and only kids. 

Who is Eric Sloane?. Eric Sloane was an author of many books including Diary Of An Early American Boy and I Remember America. He was also a painter, his works usually included barns and covered bridges*. He was very interested in tools from early America and other early American topics. Sloane was born on February 27, 1905 in New York City, New York. His real name was Everard Jean Hinrichs .  Eric Sloane died in 1985.

*Covered Bridge –. A bridge enclosed by a roof and by walls on both sides.

Who was Noah Blake?. Noah Blake was a character in Diary Of An Early American Boy. Eric made up his name when he found the diary with the initals N.B., he thought of commonly used names in the 1800’s and he came up with Noah Blake.

What is the book Dairy of An Early American Boy about?.  Diary Of An Early American Boy follows a year in the life of 15 year old Noah Blake. Sound boring? Read on! Eric did not just write boring stories about Noah, he also included real life diary entries written by Noah Blake himself…. not only that, but Eric drew a ton of cool illustrations, almost one on every page, that shows you the tools that Noah might have used and how to use them!!

Where is the Eric Sloane Museum? What types of displays do they have currently?. The Eric Sloane Museum is located in Kent, Connecticut. It mainly has displays featuring early American tools including hammers and nails that people might have used in the 1800’s.

Did Eric start the Eric Sloane Museum?. Yes.

Is the cabin that is on the grounds of the Eric Sloane Museum real?. No. Eric built it as a replica* of what the Blake’s cabin might have looked like.

*Replica – A very exact copy.

The Noah Blake Outhouse

April 11, 2018 |  by  |  Comments Off on The Noah Blake Outhouse

The NoahBlake Outhouse

In the summer of 2016, Barb Russ of the Eric Sloane Museum was made aware of an estimate to have the Noah Blake Outhouse refurbished, the low estimate coming in at over $7,500. Friends board founder and president James Mauch conferred with Barb and with Catherine Labadia of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development concerning the willingness of the state to have the Friends assume responsibility for the outhouse, and it was agreed that James would either restore or replicate the outhouse based upon an assessment of the structure.

The underside of the Noah Blake outhouse revealed the substantial degradation of the bottom support structure.  Much of the wood showed signs of wood destroying insect infestation.

The initial intent was to repair the outhouse following the recommendations set forth by the architectural firm hired by the state of Connecticut to provide building assessments for structures at the Eric Sloane Museum of Kent. Unfortunately, the outhouse was more substantively degraded than it appeared in situ. Given the condition assessment, it was determined that it would be very unlikely to be able to repair the outhouse following the plan set forth in the architectural overview document.  It was far more cost effective to replace the outhouse, with the added benefit that the outhouse could be more in keeping historically with what Eric Sloane envisioned in Diary of An Early American Boy.


Interior framing of the Noah Blake outhouse, showing modern dimensional lumber and framing nails.

Detail of the framing used in the Noah Blake outhouse

Unfortunately, most of the sawn lumber was rotted and displayed obvious signs of having been cut with a circular blade.  Ironically, Sloane himself wrote of the invention of the circular saw by a Quaker woman in 1813.  Others have pointed to an earlier date for the invention, but either historical possibility makes it difficult to believe that an outhouse supposedly standing in 1805 would be clad in boards that were cut by a circular saw.

The approach taken in the reconstruction of the Noah Blake outhouse was one that placed the outhouse in context with both what Eric drew in his illustrations for the Diarybook, as well as what was happening historically in the Kent area c. 1805.  Both suggested heavier timber framed construction, blacksmith forged nails, period door hinges, split shingle roofing shakes, and lumber dressed to reflect ways of working wood in the period.

The discussions and research that informed the approach of the outhouse was considered when discussing the refurbishment of the Noah Blake cabin.   The cabin, it turned out, presented many of the exact same challenges as the outhouse, with an added and important twist

Some Images of the Construction of the Noah Blake Outhouse


From top:  (1) Detail of timber framed roof support at front wall of outhouse, (2) Detail of timber framed roof support at rear wall of outhouse, (3) A nod to modern practices:  framed, pressure treated dimensional lumber supports the outhouse seat, and (4) timber frame detail at rear corner post.

The New Old Noah Blake Outhouse

The approach taken in the reconstruction of the Noah Blake outhouse was one that placed the outhouse in context with both what Eric drew in his illustrations for the Diarybook, as well as what was happening historically in the Kent area c. 1805.  Both suggested heavier timber framed construction, blacksmith-forged nails and a period door handle (photo below, handle courtesy of my grandfather Alfred Erwin), split shingle roofing shakes, and lumber

dressed to reflect ways of working wood in the period.  All of these practices and materials were taken into consideration when designing and building the new outhouse.

     Siding is of hemlock, cut on a horizontal band saw to mimic markings that would be found on lumber cut with a 18thcentury sash mill.

Pictured, Below: Early blacksmith made hinges attached to the Noah Blake outhouse door (notice the reproduction blacksmith made nails), courtesy of my grandfather, Alfred Erwin.  Pictured, Top of Article:  The inspection of the Noah Blake outhouse on delivery.  Pictured, from left to right – Elizabeth Shapiro, Director of Operations, Museum and Preservation for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community and Development, John Pennings of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum, Catherine Labadia, DECD Archeologist, Todd Levine, DECD Environmental Review, and Barbara Russ of the Eric Sloane Museum.

Photos, Below:  The newly constructed Noah Blake outhouse may be the only outhouse in Connecticut that includes art, educational displays, and a reading library inside!  Framed reproduction pen and ink drawings by Eric Sloane illustrate the manner of construction of the outhouse, while educational displays of nails and lumber samples show changes in technology from the 17thcentury to the 21st.  Mauch donated a number of Eric Sloane books, which he placed on a custom built shelf for readers to borrow, and other book donors to contribute books by Sloane.


A Video Introduction to Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy

February 14, 2018 |  by  |  Comments Off on A Video Introduction to Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy

Our current effort related to this project is the production of a series of videos to introduce the book and show viewers how to make a diary and a quill pen like the ones Noah used in Diary of An Early American Boy.  To date, we have created the introductory video:

and the instructional video for creating an replica of an early American diary:

Like all of our projects, we’re having a great time learning some new skills we never knew we were going to need (like video editing and voiceovers!).  You can follow us on our journey of exploration of Eric Sloane’s Diary of An Early American Boy through