Tinkers

“Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”
- Robert F. Kennedy

TINKERIN’ & TOOLIN’

MUSTACHED IMMIGRANT LABORERS IN

TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY MICHIGAN

MIXED MEDIA & FOUND OBJECT

MUSTACHED ASSEMBLAGES

In the 19th century, Michigan and the Midwest saw waves of German, French, English, Polish and Dutch immigrants. The industrial revolution and economic depression in Europe pushed many to migrate to the American Midwest, where they could continue to work as independent craftsmen, skilled laborers or farmers.

 

My Great-Great Grandfather, Samuel LaLonde came in Michigan in the late 1800’s for work. Like most French people, they had existing strong ties to the Midwest through previous relative’s migrations. He came from a long-line of farmers in Canada, and followed his cousin to Michigan to make a new life. In 1900, he bought 40 acres from the railroad company in the town of Standish. Growing up, I would see his pictures in relative’s homes and I could see my grandpa’s eyes. The grit of his story and his impressive facial hair always impressed me. His little farm is still working today, 120 years later and still in the LaLonde name five generations later on LaLonde Rd, in Standish, Michigan.

 

Using old tools, cigar boxes, metal bits and pieces and other laborer tools and vintage objects, I began a journey of telling these immigrant stories. How their professions were their life and all consuming. All these different nationalities coming together will different skills passed down from generations. Each face is tinkered and tooled in objects that represent their jobs and skills. Each is a celebration of these “manly” laborers and their love of craft.

Born in 1863 in Quebec, Canada, Samuel LaLonde came to Michigan in the 1880’s and worked before saving enough money to buy land to farm in 1900.

GARTH - 2019

“Old Norse for one who works

in the garden”

GROUNDSKEEPER

SOLD

FLORIS - 2017

“Old Dutch name meaning
thriving”

BOOKKEEPER

BRECHT- 2019

“Dutch meaning bright”

REFUSE HAULER

ALEXIS - 2018 - "Greek for defender"

POLICE OFFICER

MERRILL - 2017 - "Old English name 'of the sea'"

WARPER/BOATSMAN

HURBERT - 2017

"Old Polish name for 'man with clever plan'"

WATCHMAKER

BRASHER - 2017

"Old English - means one who works with brass

BRASS WORKER

McLAIN - 2017

"Son of a servant"

BUTLER

HAAK - 2018 - Dutch for Peddler

HANDYMAN

YALE - 2018 - "named for famous locksmith Linus Yale"

LOCKSMITH

© 2018 by Ryan LaLonde

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