Early brooms may have been just a bundle of sticks bound together with a piece of hemp, or a broom sage, a grass which grows tall that was cut and bundled together. Broomcorn, from the sorghum family, was grown specifically for making brooms. Its stalk was used for the handle, and its tassel bound with wire for sweeping.
The equipment in the broom house includes a “kicker winder” and a “broom vise” which were used, traditionally by men, in this building to make brooms near the end of the 19th century and today are used for standard, child’s and natural handled brooms. There are smaller “winders” which are used to make pot-scrubbers, cake-testers, whisk brooms, turkey wings and more.
The Broom house was originally used to house strawberry pickers in the 19th century. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the building was converted into a broom making house. The equipment inside, used by our broom makers, is original and came with the building when it was donated to Furnace Town. The Kicker Winder is especially rare, and as far as can be determined only a few are left in exsistence, including one housed in the Smithsonian Institute.
Ann the Broom Maker demonstrates how to use the kicker winder (left) to add the "hips" to the broom to make it wider. The broom vice (right) is used to hold the broom while twine or thread is interwoven to hold the brrom together. It takes about 45 minutes to make a broom from start to finish.
In the 19th Century, brooms were very expensive and considered a luxery item only owned by the very wealthy.