The Making of Brooms

Today’s post is written by fellow author, Sandra Ardoin. A broom factory figures prominently in her novel, A Reluctant Melody. Welcome, Sandra!

 We all use them, those handy brooms to sweep the dirt from our floors. They’ve been around in one form or another since the dawn of housecleaning. In the early days, it could have been something as simple as a branch or backyard brush—whatever was handy at the time.

Then in 1797 a New Englander by the name of Levi Dickenson decided to make a broom for his wife from sorghum tassels (minus the seeds). Today, we call it broom corn. Like all good inventions, it needed improvement after it fell apart too easily to suit Levi. Even so, his neighbors were impressed and insisted he make them one. This started an industry as he went on to invent a machine with a foot-treadle for ease in filling the orders he received.

In the mid-19th century, the Shakers, who were always an innovative lot, improved Levi’s process, using wire rather than heavy twine to bind the material to the handle. Brooms originally had a round form, but the Shakers employed a vise to flatten the broom and give it shoulders. Then they applied the stitching. They increased the function of their product by also creating the whisk broom.

As the 19th century wore on, small shops across the United States became broom factories and broom corn growth moved to the states we normally think of as being most agricultural. In the first quarter of the 1900s, broom factories began to close. By the end of the 20th century, most of the brooms available to Americans were made outside the U.S.

Though many of the brooms purchased today are made of synthetics, some people continue to craft them the old-fashioned way with the original types of materials—a wooden handle and broom corn—on machines over a hundred years old.

-Sandra Ardoin

BIO:

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.

A Reluctant Melody

A pariah among her peers, Joanna Stewart is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit Barnes back into her life. When a blackmailer threatens to reveal her long-held secret, she must choose between trusting Kit or seeing her best friend trapped in an abusive marriage.

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15 thoughts on “The Making of Brooms

    • Hey, Gail! Times two, yes! 🙂 I’ve never seen a broom made in person, but I watched several YouTube videos of the process when I was writing the book. It’s interesting how simple it is (says someone who’s never done it) and the relative simplicity of the machinery involved. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. How cool! My two favorite Sandy’s in one place! 🙂

    My mom (born in 1929) made brooms for the family from what she called broom straw. It grows in ditches, reddish wisps sticking up in the fall, about 2 – 3″ tall. She showed me how she made it, I guess it was what you called a backyard brush broom. During the crafts movement of the 80’s she used to make them for presents and then sold them in her crafts store.

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    • And it’s my favorite Angie! Your mom did it all by hand, no machine? That’s awesome! I’ve heard of broom straw, but evidently it differs from broom corn since the latter is more like a corn stalk (only it’s sorghum). Thanks for the info! Our parents and grandparents (and back) were amazing, and I’m so spoiled. I wouldn’t survive. 🙂 Thanks, Angie!

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