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Wagon-Making -Reviews

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"Paul Kube wrote the core of Wagon-Making in the United States during the Late 19-th through Mid-20th Centuries as a thesis for his master's of education in 1968. Those involved in the research and preservation of the Gruber Wagon Works quickly identified it as an excellent resource and adopted it as a guide in their efforts. Wagon-Making was the only work Kube (who spent his life first in the U.S. Navy, then as an industrial arts teacher in the Boyertown Area High School) ever published. His work is complemented by an introduction, contextual historical notes, and appendix material by Clayton E. Ray and Cathy L. Wegener. Ray, a retired paleontology curator, was the main force in publishing Kube's work. Wegener, superintendent of interpretive services at the Berks County Heritage Center, works with the Gruber Wagon Works site.

"Kube's work is largely a documentation of the tools and machinery used at Gruber and the processes used to produce the Gruber Farm Wagon, or box wagon. For each piece of equipment, Kube provided detailed information, including date of construction, date of purchase, specifications, materials, and function. Along with a brief historical commentary, the narrative is accompanied by a photograph and often a diagram.

"Kube first examines the sources of power used at Gruber, detailing each new technology introduced. Next, he examines the machinery built at the works, carefully moving through each section of the shop building. Finally, he examines the blacksmith's shop and its associated machinery/equipment. Kube shows readers that, rather than choosing the most advanced commercially available machinery, the Grubers made their own, instead, buying second-hand and cobbling together equipment that would suit their needs.

"Kube ties his documention together by discussing the process of making a wagon. In thorough documentary style, he provides many photos, diagrams, and specifications, allowing readers to visualize the process systematically. He then pulls back his focus and shows the finished product, specifications and all.

"Several pieces have been added to Kube's work under the imptus of Ray to extend its historical and documentation value. Ray wrote the introduction, which includes an overview of the wagon age and comments on the relevance of Kube's contribution to current scholarship on industrial processes. He also provides a brief history of the works since 1968 and a biographical sketch of Kube. Wegener ends with 38 pages of production records from the works.

"...Kube's work has many strengths. His documentation style affords readers a rare view of a small-scale, late-19th century manufacturing facility. Further, this book seems to be the only source available that describes in any detail the technique and process of making wagons in the US. Kube's narrative is very clear and precise, allowing any reader to understand the methods undertaken in this skilled and complex trade. Out of respect for Kube's death, the publishers did only the most minor editing of his work. They retained his original photographs for 'authenticity,' a practice that, unfortunately, resulted in a number of slightly out of focus and roughly printed illustrations.

"...Those interested in craft manufacturing as well as its associated tolls and machinery should consider [this book.] Kube's work is by far the most detailed in this respect, ...[is] useful to studies of the development of the automotive industry and mass manufacturing in general and the spread of their influence on American life. - Cameron C. Hartnell, Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, March 2008.

"Wagon and early truck-body enthusiasts with an interest in the fine points of 19th and early-20th century manufactories-and how their products were produced-will find this book illuminating." - George M. Meiser, IX's Ramdon Thoughts