Stonehill Industrial History Center (aka the shovel museum)

Shovel Museum

Most travel guides simply call it the “shovel museum,” but it’s really the Stonehill Industrial History Center. Much more than shovels, curator Greg Galer tells us the collection reveals interesting facts about what we were building and how we built it over the past 200 years.

Located on the campus of Stonehill College in Easton Massachusetts, the collection does boast 755 shovels from the Ames manufacturing companies. From the FAQ:

By the 1870s Ames was the largest shovel manufacturer in the world, making three-fifths of the world’s shovels, although even as early as the 1830s and 1840s they struggled to meet the demand for their highly prized products. Ames shovels were the tool of choice in both the California and Australian gold rushes as well as in most major American building projects including the Erie and Panama Canals and most American railroad construction. Ames shovels literally built America.

Above is the Ames Centennial display of 19 silver-plated shovels as prepared for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Amusingly, they’re displayed in the original display case. Inside the vault with the rest of the collection, Galer proudly points out not only the typical shovels we’re familiar with, but shovels designed for working coffee beans, 10-foot-long shovels used to dig telegraph pole holes, and tiny trenching shovels used by US troops in WWI and WWII.

But shovels are just a piece of the collection. Deeper in the vault are the business records, blueprints, patents and other materials that offer primary source documentation of America’s early growth into an industrial superpower.

greg galer, industrial archaeology, museum, oliver ames, shovel, shovel museum, shovels, stonehill college, stonehill industrial history center

12 thoughts on “Stonehill Industrial History Center (aka the shovel museum)

  1. I found two long shovels. One is 10 feet long a spade.
    The other is 8 feet long and is dished on the bottom to get the
    loose dirt out of the deep hole. The markings on them are
    SEPT 55 No. 2 Is this 1855 or 1955 and is there a market
    for them. I will probablly put them on Ebay.

  2. I found a unique shovel at an estate sale. It is made by SturdeSteel. It basically looks loke a long post hole digging shovel, however the blade has been relieved and cut out of the center leaving a blade on the end with 3 tines left in the center. I for a reference of a similiar style shovel on an English which referred to it a a “clay shovel”. What is it used for?

  3. i have a shovel pat. in canada on july 3 1917 but was made in the usa sept 18 in fair condition. is there any value??

  4. I have a couple of shovels I am having a difficult time trying to date or find information about. They are both ‘half spring’ style, hammered rivets, one is a Baldwin’s Optimus #2 wood and steel, y handle the shovel stands appx 3′ high and has “R2” stamped on back of spade. The second shovel is an Alaska Special 16 #2 wooden straight handle, stands appx. 4 1/2 feet and in addition to the model, the spring is also stamped ‘heat treated’ and ‘half spring’. I am hoping someone may be able to give me a little information on these. I believe the Alaskan may date pre-1900 as I recovered a handleless one from a mine that closed in 1909. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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  6. Found 27″L shovel. Marked O AMES. Curved, solid wood handle with “canoe paddle” style grip (no opening). Wood portion approximately 21″L and metal portion is 16″L. The 3.5″W grip has a bolt running from side to side. Spade is rectangle and measures 7.5″L and 5.5″W. Arrow shape underside with 6 bolts attach metal portion to handle. Do you have any information/identification on this particular model? Age? use?, etc. Thank you……………S.Henson

  7. Does anybody know what a “slush shovel” is? I found 2 of them listed on an 1820 inventory of my ancestor’s belongings. Some of the handwriting on the inventory is questionable, however the words “slush shovels” are written very clearly. I am stumped!

  8. What kind of trade marks did Ames use on shovels before the Civil War? I have a wood handled D shape that has a 2 and what looks like a rail side view for a railroad with an O in the center. Does anyone have this information? Thank you

  9. I found a shovel and in the front of the shovel there was a mark which said USA MPERED “AMES”
    since 1774.
    And in the back there is a serial number of 9NO
    Please e-mail me if you are interested to buy my shovel for your museum.

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