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America on the Move
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Knife grinder's push cart

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Knife grinder's push cart


This object appears in the following sections:

A  Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900
A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 — City Streetscapes

Knife grinder's push cart
Knife grinder's push cart

detail of cart sign
detail of cart sign

detail of cart
detail of cart

detail of side of cart
detail of side of cart

Knife Grinder's Push Cart
Catalog #: 1978.2480.01, Accession #: 1978.248
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection
The operator of this cart worked the streets of Reading, Pennsylvania, sharpening and repairing scissors, razors, knives, saws, and other tools mainly found in the home. The cart operator also repaired umbrellas; he carried spare handles, ribs, tips, slides and other parts. Community life collection.
Physical Description

Artifact. Size: 67 L x 55 H x 37 W. Material: Wood; stone; metal, copper; leather; metal, and iron.

This street grinder's cart is outfitted with double foot-treadle, wire-spoked flywheel, belt-drive, three grind stones, one buffing wheel, tiny anvil, saw vise, drip can, canister for umbrella parts, two lidded compartments (one lid missing), and a bell. There is a painted inscription on both sides with illustrations of a lawn mower, straight razor, umbrella, scissors and knife.

Date Made:
about 1920
Dates Used:
1920 - 1929

Traveling vendors and skilled workmen have plied their trades on city streets and country roads since colonial times. Itinerant peddlers and craftsmen multiplied after the Revolutionary War, when urban centers grew and settlement spread across the interior. Until World War II, city streets remained business thoroughfares for grinders, umbrella men, hurdy-gurdy operators, fish vendors, vegetable and fruit hawkers, milk and ice cream peddlers, junk, rag, and paper merchants, and others. Each had distinctive sing-song cries, bells, chime whistle, or horns to announce their arrival on the block.

Related People, Places, and Events
Place of Use
Reading, Pennsylvania (about 1920)

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