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:

Teachers and Parents

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 2015 that Mauch forged a relationship with Kristina Newman-Scott, 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.  Kristina 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.

The Friends are seeking an initial $50,000 in donations to underwrite the first phase of the cabin’s construction. Vice President Jeffrey Bischoff is spearheading this fundraising effort. The Friends intend to re-build the cabin using a series of hands-on learning classes devoted to traditional skills.

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 www.noahblakeproject.com.