Tin Punching

Historical Significance       

Family food in early America was typically prepared in a cast iron pot hung by a hook from a crane in the open hearth. Tableware consisted of wooden trenchers, pottery mugs and pewter spoons. Glassware and china were expensive imports and being extremely breakable and were seldom used. Cooking and serving utensils were in short supply and generally unsatisfactory in terms of weight, durability, convenience and appearance.

When tin ware became available in America in the mid 1700s, it was soon in great demand and was adopted as the basic material from which a vast number of everyday objects were fashioned. Tin was transformed into almost every scarce or non-existent item needed- plates, platters, bowls, dishpans, wash basins, mugs, cups, pots, pans, dippers, ladles, colanders, graters, candle-molds, pails, cake and pie pans, percolators, sieves, funnels, and hundreds of other utilitarian objects

Lanterns, inserts to pie safes, graters, and other objects were punched. The circle, quarter circle, and half circle, as well as the diamond motifs were very common to pierced metal during the early years of our country’s settlement.

How Tin Punching Relates to Tipton-Haynes

In Washington County Tennessee, pie safes and food safes were used in the days before refrigeration. At Tipton-Haynes there is an example of a floor standing cupboard that was used to discourage mice and insects and to keep dust from perishable foodstuffs. These cabinets had tinplate inserts in the doors and sometimes the sides, punched out by the cabinetmaker or tinsmith in varying designs to allow for all circulation. The pie safe at Tipton-Haynes was made by a cabinetmaker in Piney Flats Tennessee in the 1840s.

Student Activity

After examining objects made of tin and how tin was used in the 1700s, students will use graph paper to draw their original design. Using a piece of tin (aluminum flashing), they will hammer nail holes following the pattern to create their unique design. After creating their pattern in the tin, students will take home their designed punched tin.