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New Exhibit on “Dengelschtock” Celebrates 19th-Century PA Dutch Cooperative Farming Technology

by Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

New Exhibit on “Dengelschtock” Celebrates 19th-Century PA Dutch Cooperative Farming Technology

Exploring the cultural significance and superb craftsmanship of early agricultural technology for the cooperative farming practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch, a new exhibition on the old “Dengelschtock” (sharpening anvil) opens Friday, Nov. 3, and runs through May 24, 2024, in the gallery at the DeLight E. Breidegam Building, Headquarters of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. Through stunning installations of early Pennsylvania Dutch hand tools and their farm contexts, the exhibition highlights the cooperative spirit of inter-generational family farming that sustained the region’s culture for centuries.

From the time of 18th-century immigration until the rise of mechanized farming, the Dengelschtock, or sharpening anvil, played an essential role in the agricultural development of Pennsylvania. An expression of frugality and ingenuity, farming families used this precision tool to sharpen the light blades of Germanic-style scythes by flattening the metal to a fine edge with a hammer rather than wasting the metal by grinding it away. The fine cutting edge of the scythe was crucial for harvesting the hay that fed the livestock and draft animals upon which farmers depended for their livelihood.

By the mid-19th century, a specialized form of the scythe called a grain cradle replaced common reaping hooks for harvesting grain, and the Dengelschtock experienced a resurgence in use. This simple tool, all but forgotten after harvesting machines replaced hand tools and processes, serves as a reminder of the simple precision technology and cooperative inter-generational community farming that characterized the region.

Admission to the exhibition is free to the public. Visitors can explore the exhibition during regular gallery hours, 10 a.m. to noon, 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, DeLight E. Breidegam Building, 15155 Kutztown Road, Kutztown, PA, 19530. For more information, visit https://www.pagerman.org/dengelschtock/, follow PGCHC on Facebook, call 610-683-1589, or email [email protected].