Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Treadmills and Treadwheels

Museum Village founder Roscoe Smith had some early memories of his own family’s dependence on a dog treadmill inspiring him to collect several examples of these metal and wood apparatuses as well as tread wheels that with horse, oxen, or mule astride their wooden disc could power any number of machines through a series of gear differentiations. The large, approximately twenty feet in diameter, tread wheel housed in an open shed at the museum was used to grind grain. The wooden cleats on its surface are well worn from the shod hooves of animals.

Another smaller version, approximately eight feet in diameter, could have been used for any number of tasks including shredding fodder, shelling corn, or threshing oats and wheat on a smaller scale than that depicted in the photos included here. It has suffered deterioration, and it will be restored in the near future as an exhibition particularly showcasing these machines is developed.

Smith recalled in his autobiographical essay “A Brief Story of My Life---A Country Boy” that “the little dog treadmill that stood under a little shed immediately adjacent to the kitchen. This was used to churn milk and make butter and the dog was the power that operated the treadmill. He knew which day of the week the churning was to be done and he tried to be absent or hiding away out of sight that day so he wouldn’t have that work to do.”

The two existing treadmills in the collection have suffered some deterioration as well over the years, and it is our plan to restore them to operational condition. The worst of the two recently travelled to the State of Maine where it is on loan to The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum. A victim to dry rot, the fabric belt that holds the wooden cleats of its tread will be repaired and exhibited in the next six months before returning to Museum Village.

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