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Blacksmithing in Wisconsin: Alvah Casterline


Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)


> Location: La Crosse Area Research Center, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> CITATION: Casterline, Alvah, Blacksmith Ledger, 1849-67, La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

Collection Summary

Alvah Casterline was a blacksmith in the town of Burns, Wisconsin. This collection contains his daybook, which tracks the work he did along with how much he charged for his work.

The organization of this book can take some getting used to. He organized it by placing the name of the customer at the top of each page. He then keeps track of all their orders and what they owe him until they settle the account. Some of these unpaid accounts can last for over a year! Something that is frustrating with this book is that the page order is out of place, certain chunks of the pages are not where they should be.  So, if you cannot find a certain page it might be farther back in the book.

At the far left of each page there is the date the order was completed, followed by the name or description of what he made, then the price with the left column being dollars and the right column cents. Very rarely did anything cost over a dollar. At the bottom of the page he will total up the cost and note the date that the account was settled.

Collection Description

This is the general order of the pages in the book:

Pages 1-42
Pages 97-120
Pages 169-202
Pages 123-168
Pages 45-96

Originally the pages were all in order by number, but at some point sections of pages got jumbled around and ended up in this order.

This finding aid has been organized into three categories: farming, bartering, and logging.



The first category is pages that serve as good examples of farming activity in this book.

Pages: 1-4, 6-32, 36-42, 97-110, 112-120, 169-195, 197-200, 123-139, 141-145,  149, 150, 152-168, 45, 47-52, 54-69, 71-90, 91-96.

It should be very clear that the majority of the work that Alvah was doing was making and repairing tools for farmers. In many of these examples you can also see examples of Alvah bartering for food with these farmers.



On most of the pages in this book Alvah will include items he bartered for with his customers in order to subtract it from the total cost of the money he made. However, these pages are ones where there is a lot of bartering going on.

Pages: 13, 17, 105, 107, 114, 177, 196, 146, 148, 151, 53

The majority of the bartering is farmers giving Alvah food, such as wheat, corn, and oats as a way to help pay for their orders. There are also unique examples, such as on page 146, Henry Vonus worked in Alvah’s garden for a day to help pay for his orders.



Pages: 4, 5, 33-35, 105, 111, 177, 201, 140, 46, 63, 70, 91

These pages show Alvah making a lot of equipment used for logging. Rodney Lower (Pages 5, 105, 63) appears to have done a lot of logging, on page 5 Alvah makes him axes and wedges for splitting wood as well as hooks and a sled for dragging the lumber.


Reviewed by: James Derr

See also

  • MSS F – Myric, Nathan
  • MSS AV – Merrill, N.H

Both of these are collections of day books of blacksmiths.