By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
EDMESTON – For years, Jim Mayne had coveted the Leonard Hammer, an 1848 tool patented by Edmeston farmer Leonard Powers. It was only the second such patent issued in the United States.
“I was visiting a friend who had it, and I asked if I could buy it off him,” said Mayne, interviewed Saturday, Sept. 19, amid a collection of many hundreds of vintage tools. “He said no, but then when I got home, it was waiting in my mailbox.”
The Edmeston Museum has a replica of the Leonard Hammer, as well as the patent in a pop-up show is it hosting Saturdays through Oct. 17.
“Leonard Powers was a farmer, no special engineering skills, but he had some ideas for providing additional support, so he applied for and received a patent.” said Museum Curator Deb Mackenzie of Hartwick.
“You find that a lot in rural areas,” she said, “where someone has an idea to improve a rake, a knife or an ironing board, they’re not afraid to ask for and get a patent on it.”
The Leonard Hammer is one of thousands of hand tools in Mayne’s collection, which also includes the first hammer ever patented – from South New Berlin in 1845. “I paid $750 for it,” he said. “I had a friend who collected tools, so I got into it.”
Recalling a collection of his axes and hatchets at a presentation in Town of Middlefield Historical Association in the School District #1 schoolhouse, Mackenzie reached out to him to help him curate a collection of axes and hatchets, now on display at the Edmeston Museum.
“Jim is an amazing collector,” said Mackenzie, adding, “He has such a vast knowledge of antique tools.”
A retired dairy farmer and Burlington Flats native, Mayne, 87, moved to Edmeston in 1951 to take over his uncle’s farm, bringing with him his wife, Jacqueline. The couple raised four daughters and a son, Bob, who lives with them.
Mayne began going to auctions and antique stores seeking hammers, axes, wrenches and other hand tools. “I have so many books on nothing but wrenches and hammers,” he said. “I love showing them.”
From there, he started added padlocks and oil cans to his collection. “There was a man who was helping out with an auction in New Berlin, and there was a can at the bottom of a box that got covered up. He wanted to buy it for next to nothing, but the auctioneer hauled out the can and I bought it!”
He paid $300 for that can of Winchester Gun Oil, the only oil they manufactured and a very rare item on the collector’s market.
And it’s not his only rare piece. Among the axes and hatchets in the Edmeston Museum exhibit is the Black Raven ax, manufactured by Winchester and prized for its rarity.
“It’s very picturesque,” he said, pointing to the seal on the head. “If you see one on Ebay, it’s going for three or four hundred dollars.”
He has two; the first is in the museum’s pop-up display; the second – with a less-clear engraving – is in his collection at home.
He used to mount and bring his collection to the Otsego County Fair. “I would bring about 10 things to the agricultural building and I would always win prizes,” he said. “But then someone complained that I was monopolizing it, so I stopped doing that.”
It had been almost a decade since Mackenzie had seen the Middlefield exhibit, and wanted to share it once again. “I know a lot of people haven’t seen it,” she said.
The Edmeston Museum is open 9 a.m. – Noon on Saturdays, and the exhibit will be on display until Oct. 17.
And if you miss it, you may just be able to still catch a glimpse. “You don’t need to go to the museum to see my tools,” he joked. “You can just come to my house!”