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Warthers Carving Museum, Dover, Ohio 8/19/2022

by Chris Guenzler

My wife and I awoke at the Ramada Inn in Macedonia and after our regular morning preparations, we checked out and went to Bob Evans for breakfast, after which I drove us to the Warthers Carving Museum and parked sat the bottom of the hill.

Warthers Carving Museum history

It all started when Ernest Warther lost his father at the age of three, in 1888, forcing him to take his first job at the age of five. It was during that cow-herding job that Ernest earned the nickname "Mooney", Swiss for 'bull of the herd', which stayed with him for life. But what ultimately changed the course of his life was when he found a pocketknife in the dirt road. He picked it up, started whittling, and never set it down for another 82 years. Although the knife changed over the years, Mooney's determination, ingenuity and artistic ability never did. In those 82 years, he would hand-sculpt over sixty works focusing around the steam engine. The result earned him the title of the World's Master Carver. The Ernest Warther Museum and Gardens is built around the original location of Ernest and his wife's home, his original workshop, and the first museum which opened on May 10th, 1936 in their backyard. Today, the Ernest Warther Museum is owned and operated by third and fourth generation family members whose mission is to share, educate and delight visitors with the works compiled and created by both Ernest and Frieda Warther to invoke passion, determination and admiration for the beauty of their art.

Originally, David's love for ships was less of an interest in maritime lore and more of a fascination for the graceful lines and beauty each ship exhibits. At age thirteen, David developed his unique hand filing and sanding process for making the ivory "string" for the ship's rigging; a technique that is a signature of his artwork.

Later David would tell folks that at the age of thirteen you can do anything; nothing seems impossible and one feels invincible. He thinks if he would have waited until adulthood to develop the method of making ivory threads, he would probably have said it was impossible. These ivory threads are seven thousandths of an inch in diameter (.007"), twice the thickness of a human hair.

A talent for carving had been in the Warther family for several generations. His great-great-grandfather was a cabinet maker and woodcarver in Switzerland in the early to middle 1800's. David's grandfather, Ernest "Mooney" Warther, was a renown carver of steam engine models, also using wood and ivory. When David was a child, his grandfather was actively carving and at the same time showering David with a great deal of love and encouragement.

David's father, a skilled knife maker, was able to convey closely held family carving techniques to his artistic and enterprising son. David's concept of carving "The History of the Ship" was undoubtedly spawned from his grandfather's lifelong project of carving "The History of the Steam Engine".

While the development of the ship spans thousands of years, its history was just becoming known through underwater archaeology when David was a kid. It has only been since the early 1960's that modern man has learned what ancient ships were like, how they were built and how they worked.

In his late teen years, David began studying the history of ship development and later became a member of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A & M University.

By age 17, David had mastered his special technique of making ivory rigging and was poised to create his first major carving. He had made scores of smaller ship carvings, but they lacked scale, accuracy and intricate parts. His first major carving took him over a year to complete and was a scale replica of the Coast Guard Training ship "Eagle" that still sails for the Coast Guard Academy. David was able to acquire blueprints and technical drawings of this three masted bark from the Academy. Many of the drawings were copies of the original German drafts from 1936 when it was originally built as a training ship for Germany's navy.

David learned to read blueprints on his own and was quick to convert the metric based plans to his English methodology. David's goal of carving the history of the ship quickly took shape as he entered his twenties. After delving into greater research he soon found himself carving ships from ancient Egypt to those of modern times. It was at this time he decided his future works would be in solid ivory. Scrimshaw, the art of ivory engraving, would be employed to convey deck planking, doors, windows and other details.

Ivory had been employed by maritime artists for some time and scrimshaw was a maritime art form in itself. However, nobody had combined the two art forms with David's mastery and attention to detail. The rigging would be made of his "ivory string", a name affectionately given to his intricate ivory rigging by mid-westerners.

David fashioned the bases of his ships from ebony wood for contrast, a design idea keeping with the traditional art theory from ancient Greek times of "dark-to-light;bottom-to-top."

The bases of David's ships are in the shape of a blunted pyramid, a design he developed for his first ship, the Coast Guard's "Eagle". The angles of the pyramid would be 23-1/2 degrees from 90 which equals the tilt of the earth and is a sound maritime figure.

David began carving full-time at age 29, and in 1993 he opened a carving exhibit in the nearby village of Sugarcreek which is considered a tourist enclave in the heart of Ohio's Amish country. David found himself carving every day amidst interested visitors and groups from bus tours as well as the local schools.

In 2008 David Warther Carvings was established as an IRS recognized 501c3 non-profit organization and in 2013 the carvings were moved to the new 10,000 square foot exhibit building known as David Warther Carvings Exhibit and Gift Shop. David's carving studio has been incorporated into this new building, where he shows visitors his special techniques and complete workshop of hand tools.

David's evenings are devoted to his family and to a musical instrument parts business he started years ago. In addition he has become an expert in knowing the laws and regulations regarding the buying, selling and gifting of estate elephant tusks and ivory carvings in the US.

Inborn interest and natural carving ability has resulted in an art collection that is highly educational in its conveyance of human history and progress. Of his creative abilities, David believes the words apply when Christ said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Our visit

Elizabeth and I were amazed at what we found here.

Greer Steel Corporporation 0-4-0T 7 built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1917. It was donated to E. Warther & Son, Incorporated, in 1963.

Baltimore & Ohio caboose C212 built by the railroad in 1927.

A locomotive bell.

Pennslyvania Railroad/Baltimore and Ohio one story cabin from Dover.

A railroad telephone booth.

A piece of track and old-style switch stand.

A handcar and trailer.

Baltimore and Ohio station signal. I walked up to the museum building and gave the lady a card, saying that I was writing a story for and she let us in for no charge.

1830 locomotve.

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, 20th Century Flyer, a 4-4-0 Atlantic-type locomotive built for the St Louis World's Fair which attained speeds of 100 miles an hour.

Santa Fe 2-10-10-2 3000. This engine was born out of the spirit of innovation. It was a daring attempt by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway to improve upon its early successes with mallet-type locomotives and to push this concept to the limit. Their theory was simple – combine two articulated engines under a single boiler with the aim of doubling the power of a single locomotive. By doing so, railroad companies expected to save big money on maintenance, fuel, and crew costs without compromising raw motive power. Santa Fe's most successful early effort with mallets was the conversion of 2-6-2 locos into 2-6-6-2 "Prairie Mallets". In 1911, they pushed the idea to the limit by doubling up existing Santa Fe 2-10-2 engines to create the ultimate 2-10-10-2 mallet. Imagine the power of such a massive locomotive.

15 miles an hour.

New York Central Empire State 4-4-0 999, 4-4-0 "American" type steam locomotive built for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1893, which was intended to haul the road's Empire State Express train service. It was built for high speed and was the first steam locomotive in the world to travel over 100 mph. It was officially clocked by railroad officials when it ran a world record of 112.5 mph on May 10, 1893. The locomotive was then exhibited in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. There was a two cent US stamp issued representing the world speed record event. Thousands of miniature replica ridable No. 999 locomotives were made for amusement parks worldwide. Manufacturers of electric toy trains designated some of their models No. 999. The original 999 locomotive has been restored and is now a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Baltimore and Ohio 5800 16 cylinder constant torque steam locomotive built by Baltimore and Ohio in 1938.

Erie Railroad 2-8-8-8-2 2603 built by Baldwin in 1913. A triple compound locomotive and the model steam locomotive and tender is made by Black = ebony wood, White = elephant ivory.

New York Central 2-6-2 5200 built by American Locomotive Company and the Lima Locomotive Works between 1927. It was the very first Hudson built for the New York Central. These engines are used for high-speed passenger train work, the Hudson locomotives were famously known for hauling the New York Central's crack passenger trains, such as the 20th Century Limited and the Empire State Express.

Pennslyvania Railroad 4-6-2 8661 Pacific type from the 1910s. Brown = wood, white = elephant ivory, black simulated coal = ebony wood, iridescent trim = abalone shell. This is a representation of a coal-burning steam locomotive. The original was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Company in 1913.

Philadelphia & Reading Railroad 2-4-2 694 "Columbian" Type Locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1891.

Great Northern 4-8-4 2577 built by Baldwin in 1930. This engine rotates in place.

Sir Isaac Newton's proposed locomotive built in 1630.

The first multi-tubuAlar boiler Read's Road locomotive in 1791.

Trevithick's locomotive was built in South Wales and was the first engine to run on rails in 1803 at a speed of 5 miles an hour.

George Stephenson "Rocket" pulled the first passenger train in the world in 1829 at a speed of 24 miles an hour.

"Dewitt Clinton", the first locomotive of New York Central Railroad in 1831.

Western & Atlantic Railroad 3 "General" is a 4-4-0 "American" type steam locomotive built in 1855 by the Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor in Paterson, New Jersey. It is best known as the engine stolen by Union spies in the Great Locomotive Chase, an attempt to cripple the Confederate rail network during the American Civil War. Today, the locomotive is preserved at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

New York Central Commodore Vanderbilt 4-6-4 built by New York Central in 1870.

Baltimore and Ohio 2-6-0 100, the first passenger mogul locomotive built for the Exibition at the Centennial Exposition in 1878. It was the first engine to move at 50 miles an hour.

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway 4-4-2, a prize-winning engine at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. It was the first engine to reach a speed of 90 miles an hour.

Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 4002 built by American Locomotive Company in 1941. This engine rotates in place and the wheels turned. The carving started on January 13, 1953 and was completed on October 30th. It was built from a walnut tree stump.

Stourbridge Lion built in England in 1829.

Peter Cooper's "Tom Thumb" for the Baltimore and Ohio built in 1830.

Best Friend of Charleston, the first locomotive built in America in 1830.

Old Iron sides, Baldwin's first locomotive in 1832.

Chicago and North Western 4-2-0 "Pioneer", the first locomotive brought to Chicago built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1836.

First American Type Locomotive built by Rogers Locomotive Works in 1844 for the Erie Railroad.

The Stevens Type was built by Norris Brothers for the Camden and Amboy Railroad in 1847.

"Dragon" 0-4-0 1848, the first engine built for burning Cumberland coal and the first to have a rocking crate; it travelled at a speed of 24 miles an hour.

Janmes Milholland's Illinois 1852. The first passenger engine to burn Anthacite coal.

A train crossing the Stone Arch Bridge.

Natchez and Hamburg Railroad "Mississippi" 1836.

The John Bull locomotive was built in England in 1831 and shipped to America and was one of the first examples of passenger train travel. This eastern coast locomotive was an open air train where the passengers had to tolerate some of the quirks of rail travel at the time. The open air cars left the passengers covered with dirt and dust from the engine and the rails. There was no whistlr or ell on this engine so whenever the train approached a town, a canon was fired to signal a train coming on the tracks. And lastly, when the designers of this track laid it, they did not include track at the end to loop the locomotive so once the train reached that end of the track, any passengers getting on had to ride in reverse. Mooney re-created the John Bull. The mural in the background dpecits the trip from Camden to Perth Amboy.

Baltimore and Ohio caboose 2122 which has been made into a donation box.

The most well-known work in the museum is the seven foot long Lincoln Funeral Train. Mooney spent exactly one year creating the train, completing the work on the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Lincoln (April 15th, 1965). Abraham Lincoln meant a great deal to a young boy who lost his father. As Mooney began reading about him in his youth, he quickly became enamored with him. And thus he created the greatest tribute he could for Lincoln. The train is made from the highest grade of ivory, the eye tooth of the hippopotamus and golden ebony. The carving is exquisite with its trim work, the eagle in scrimshaw on the side of the Presidential Car and the drapery carved into the ebony.

Baltimore and Ohio 4-4-0 "Lady Baltimore", which was the last work created by Mooney. Although not a significant engine in steam history, it was significant to him. This engine ran on the rail line that inpsired Mooney to love steam engines since his youth. As Mooney was working on this carving, he would suffer a stroke, leaving one size paralyzed and no longer able to carve. With just a few hundred pieces left to completion, Mooney set his knife down for the last time. His son Dave offefred to complete the work for him. But Mooney shook his head to decline. His son Dave stated "As long as I can remember, Pop always said he wanted to leave a carving unfinished on the work bench. He believed everyone should do something creative and should do it as long as you can". Mooney's hobby ended after over 80 years with a knife in his hand, whittling and carving.

Illinois Central 4-6-0 382 driven by Casey Jones on April 30, 1900.

Union Pacific 4-4-0 119.

Union Pacific 4-4-0 119 and Golden Spike drivers.

Central Pacific 4-4-0 60 "Jupiter".

The Golden Spike drivers.

The Nashville, one of four locomotives that pulled the Funeral Train of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Western & Atlantic Railroad coach 180.

Western & Atlantic Railroad coach 881.

Handcar and a chaser.

4-4-2 Yonah.

Western & Atlantic Railroad 4-4-0 Texas.

Western & Atlantic Railroad box car 211.

Western & Atlantic Railroad "General".

Locomotive 398 on the stone arch bridge.

Empire State Express 999.

Historical items and information about Funeral Train of Abraham Lincoln.

As I exited I walked through these elephant tusks. I was amazed throughout my tour of this museum, which was my second, and Elizabeth's first. Elizabeth commented that she could not beieve the intracacies and level of details that Mr. Warthers put into his cravings. They are unlike anything that she has seen and believes that Mr. Warthers should be a household name throughout the country, not just Ohio. To think that he hand-carved all of these pieces out of ivory, ebony and wood is astonishing. I completely agree with those comments.