This is a display of miniature horse shoes and a blacksmith's forge and tools made before 1938 by F. Ivory of the Sydney suburb of Alexandria. As horses were the chief form of transport and source of work throughout the 1800s and early 1900s blacksmiths were located in virtually every city, town and village throughout the country. In the blacksmith's shop horses were shod, carts and drays mended, plough shares and pieces of equipment repaired and various other items welded and riveted. In 1918 the horse population in Australia reached its peak with one horse for every two people.
Until ready-made horse shoes became available, blacksmiths made them from bar steel. It was said that a skilled blacksmith could make four horse shoes in 15 minutes. Shoes varied in form and weight according to the horse, its work and the road travelled. Horse shoes and horse shoe nails came in different sizes, from size 1 to size 14, to fit different feet as shown in this display. Thoroughbred horses had small, rounded feet and low heels, while heavy horses had large flatter feet. Sometimes special shoes were made for corrective wear, like orthotics for humans, while others give a better grip. A shoe for a carriage horse might have weighed 500 grams while one for a draught horse as much as 2 kilograms. They had to be shaped precisely to avoid straining tendons.
The blacksmith removed the old shoe, and trimmed and filed the hoof, then heated up a new shoe in the furnace until it was red hot and soft. It was hammered into shape then placed onto the hoof hot to burn a mark and act as a guide for reshaping the shoe. (This smelt like burning hair but did not hurt the horse). The shoe was repeatedly reheated and reshaped until it fitted properly, then nailed onto the hoof, trimmed and filed with a rasp. Fitting horse shoes was highly skilled work. Horse shoe nails inserted too close to the outside of the hoof could split it, while nails too near the sensitive part could hurt or incur lameness.
Cars and trucks began to appear around 1910 and by about 1925 many country blacksmiths had diversified into operating service stations to cater for the influx of automobiles while their blacksmith's shops turned into welding shops.
'Country Australia', Reader's Digest Services Pty Ltd, Waterloo, NSW, 1989
Dell, Catherine, 'Superbook': Horses, Kingfisher Books, Grisewood & Dempsey Ltd, London, 1985.
Clutton-Brock, Juliet, 'Horse Collins Eyewitness Guides: Horse', HarperCollins, 1992.
Clutton-Brock, Juliet (ed), 'The Visual Dictionary of the Horse: Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries', Readers Digest, Surry Hills, NSW, 1994.
Margaret Simpson, Curator