Past Calling: this is a phrase—not so much used anymore—to describe a former occupation that one had. It is also the name of a monthly feature brought to you jointly by LebTown and the Lebanon County Historical Society.

In each installment of this feature the Society will share a different historic photo, document, or object from its collection. We welcome you, the reader, to examine, investigate, and share anything you know or discover about the object or document in question.

Last time on Past Calling…

Four mules, three men, two women, two children, one horse, and one dog amid a field. In the distance, a distinct barn can be seen. (Full resolution)

The folks in our historic image for January, captured by Harpel Studio—probably in the early 1900s—are harvesting a grain crop. No readers were able to identify any of the people in the foreground, nor the barn in the background, so they remain unknown to us.

The machine pulled by the four mules in the left of the photo is a grain binder. It both cut the grain stalks and bound them into sheaves by wrapping twine around them. Prior to the invention of the binder, either a horse-drawn reaper or men with scythes simply cut the grain, and others had to follow to gather and tie it into sheaves by hand. The grain binder’s twine canister can be seen just beyond the back of the first mule on the left.

Whether cut and bound by hand using the older method or harvested with a grain binder, the sheaves still had to be brought into the barn. There, farmers forked them up into a thresher that separated the grain from the stalk, so it could be used to feed man or beast, and turned the remainder into straw for animal bedding. When inventors combined the two processes of grain cutting and grain threshing into one single machine, farmers had the “combine,” still in use today.

This month’s artifact

A man in several layers of clothing, including a hat and boots. He is carrying an umbrella and a briefcase, standing in front of a curtain backdrop. (Full resolution)

In honor of Black History Month we are featuring an image of this popular Lebanonian from the first half of the 20th century. He is well known to us, but we are interested in hearing how many of you readers can identify him, and whether any of you have anecdotes about him. This image probably dates to the 1930s. If you know who this man is, send us a message below! We’ll share what we’ve found out in the next installment.

Previous Past Callings

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