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Media Type : Photograph
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Community : Bradford West Gwillimbury
Description : A Glimpse of History
When Lucy Shepherd (nee Fairbank) lived in the old Steel House at Steel's Corners (Highway 11 and Concession 14), she and her siblings discovered a dusty, calfbound volume in the attic of the home.
They played with the book, wrote in a few I.O.U.s and admired the elegant handwriting. It wasn't until years later, long after the Steel House had been torn down for the widening of Highway 11, that Shepherd realized she had something out of the ordinary.
The book turned out to be the Day book of blacksmith John Steel. Dating from 18855 to 1869, it itemizes the daily and monthly accounts of residents like Robert Kneeshaw, Joseph Fennel, James and Robert Bell.
Prices ranged from 10 cents to mend a pitchfork and 25 cents to replace a horseshoe, to $1.75 for repairs to a "thrashing mashen" (threshing machine). The accounts also contain a price list for construction materials for a new home in the late 1860's - including $123.41 for lumber, $19.50 for hardware, and $11.51 for the glass and "putey".
The prices seem unimaginably low by today's standards, and it is a surprise to note that over the 14 years spanned by the accounts, the blacksmith's prices did not go up.