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Simple Machines

During the 1920s and 1930s industrial designers took a new approach in the look, style, and creation of commercial products.

Tinsmith's Hammer

The Stanley Works
(USA, est. 1843)

1945. Steel and wood, 12 x 4 3/8 x 1" (30.5 x 11.1 x 2.5 cm)

The tinsmith’s hammer was designed by the Stanley Works Company specifically for use by tinsmiths, who make objects out of sheets of iron coated with tin (called “tinplates”) and then run through rollers. Tinsmiths (skilled metal workers) have been present in America since 1720. Because they typically form objects into simple shapes, tinsmiths need only a few tools in addition to the hammer―large shears, hand scissors, and an anvil.

This tinsmith’s hammer was part of an exhibition at MoMA titled Useful Objects Under Ten Dollars (December 2, 1941-January 4, 1942), which celebrated the ideal of standardization to make good design universally available.1 The hammer and all the other objects on view were examples of well-designed objects that were all commercially available at low cost.

Paola Antonelli, Objects of Design (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2003, 95).

What’s in a Name?
Over the centuries, many names have been used to describe tin workers. In colonial America, artisans who worked with tin were called either “whitesmiths” or “tinners.” By the 1860s, the title “tinsmith” had come into common usage.