Back in the summer of 1912, Charles Sorg, a farmer living out on what was then called the German Prairie east of Oswego, decided he needed a new barn. So he contacted one of Oswego’s well-known carpenters, Lou C. Young, to build it for him.
Young was the son of Oswego blacksmith and wagonwright John Young. Not only was Lou Young a good carpenter and contractor who built a number of prominent Oswego area buildings, but he was a bit of an innovator, too, with at least one patent to his credit.
Young also seemed interested in publicizing his talent at constructing farm buildings because he contracted with his son, Dwight S. Young, to photograph the process of erecting Sorg’s barn. Accordingly, Dwight Young set up his camera on the site and snapped a series of photos that allow us, today, to follow the process of erecting a typical early 20th Century barn. Copies of the photos were passed on to the Little White School Museum in Oswego by Dwight Young’s grandson, Glenn Young, where they form part of a valuable collection of images that show snapshots of the Oswego area’s history.
What struck me the first time I saw the sequence of photos was the small number of men it took to erect the barn’s timber frame, not to mention the relatively quick process. Of course, all the work shaping the timbers, and completing the mortise and tennon joints had already been completed when the frame was raised on July 18, 1912. But nonetheless, it’s still startling to see how much work a few men can accomplish using those simple machines we all learned about in school: The pulley and the lever. Here’s how it was done (with Dwight Young’s caption information):