Picture the Past
Taylor Davis is a photographer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She’s currently the artist-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel, one of Milwaukee’s poshest inns. There she practices and demonstrates her skill in tintype photography.
Tintype photography – also known as melainotype and ferrotype - dates back to the 1850’s when it was a more durable and less expensive photography technique than the popular daguerreotype. Tintype ultimately fell out of favor around the turn of the 20th century and is now practiced by very few. But it’s making a bit of a comeback due to its aesthetic quality. Specialty photographers and artists alike are re-discovering this technique and value its ability to produce intensely-defined images and its longevity over paper or digital formats.
I remember years ago a knife sharpener guy coming ‘round the neighborhood with a small cart and offering this service. I think we used his services a few times. But unless you’re a professional chef or serious foodie you’re probably like me and have a slew of dull knives in your kitchen. Sure, you might even have one of those sharpening steel rods a sharpening stone or an electric sharpener but how often do you actually use them?
If never then Lee Frederick is your man. He likes sharp knives, has a passion for them and is a one-man army attempting to keep this almost-forgotten craft alive. He started his knife sharpening business years ago to teach his son how to make money for college and they set up shop at local farmer’s markets. Word of mouth advertising grew his business so much he’s now opened a brick and mortar shop. Making a living sharpening knives. Now that’s sharp!
Pete Gerasopoulos is a locally-renowned cobbler. He does not advertise but that didn’t prevent Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts from finding him when the band played Milwaukee in 2005. Watts needed work done on his shoes and was told Pete was the only guy in town who could do it.
Pete’s been a cobbler since 1956 and has long established himself as the best in a dying industry. But there’s hope that this craft will survive and make a comeback. The number of shoe repair shops closing has tapered off in recent years and seems to be steadying and fashion-conscious youth willing to pay for repair rather than tossing shoes in the garbage may hold hope for the cobblers still out there.
Hats Off to You
Haberdashery. Now that’s a word you don’t see anymore.
Hat making is a craft almost relegated to the history books but fortunately for hat lovers it still lives in tiny pockets around the country. The Brass Rooster in Milwaukee bills itself as one the few hat makers left. It custom makes and repairs hats of all types for the fashionable man and woman who still believe that dressing to the nines also includes proper headgear - and we’re not talking baseball caps. They offer all manner of hats, everything from the well-known and resurgent pork pie (it never looks like it fits right to me) to the ever popular fedora and even the Metropolis (think vintage Clark Kent).
Here’s a little hat history: one version of how the hockey term hat trick originated was that any player on the 1950’s Guelph Mad Hatters team, sponsored by the Guelph Biltmore Hat Company, who scored 3 goals in a game would receive a free fedora. Go ahead, look it up.
Other professions and services that were once popular and seem to be making a comeback in our modern society are family farming, gunsmiths, local craft beer brewing, milk deliveries and hand-lettering.
If you seem to be stuck in an ever-sped-up time warp and yearn for a return to a simpler past go out and find similar anachronistic services in your corner of the world and reward them with your patronage.