Skip to main content

Brooms in the Appalachian Artifacts Collection

Selected brooms and broom-making-related artifacts as documented by Student Curators in 2015

About the Edna Lynn Simms / East Tennessee Collection

The Edna Lynn Simms Collection consists of artifacts from an area around present-day Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This includes the historical communities of Cades Cove, Sugarlands, Little Greanbriar, and isolated homesteads in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Edna Lynn Simms of Knoxville first visited this area around 1915.  She was fascinated by the life of the people there.  She began to visit the area often and build friendships.  Concerned that the culture and history of these mountain people would be lost with the coming of the national park, she began to collect artifacts, stories, and figures of speech.  In 1931 she opened The Mountaineer Museum in Gatlinburg.  Her artifact collection grew to about 2,000 artifacts.  The museum operated until 1955.  

After Simms' death in 1961, her collection was given to Berea College.  The artifacts form the heart of the Appalachian Studies Teaching Artifact Collection in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center as accession 1969.1.  This ollection is regularly used in College courses with over 200 students each year experiencing encounters with these artifacts.  Simms' papers are held in Hutchins Library Special Collections and Archives as record group RG81

This selection from the Simms Collection includes many of the pieces to which names were attached in Ms. Simms' records.  Many of these names will be familiar to people knowledgeable about the history of that region, such as Ogle, Trentham, the Walker sisters, and Lydia Whaley.  Others are more obscure.

Reagan Broom 1969.1.1032

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Weave DetailHandle End Detail

Style: Flat

Handle: Appears to be cherry, appears to be hand carved, not turned

Braid: Wooden Weave with white oak splits

Maker: Possibly made by Lawson Reagan

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: White oak splits are used for the braid and river cane is used for the stitching

Length of handle: 31"

Length of bristles: 25"

Total length: 56"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: There is a hole for hanging the broom. A white streak runs down the handle of the broom from unknown origins. The handle is in decent condition, with various nicks in places. Braid and stitching are in excellent condition and are an unusual combination of materials.

Provenance Notes: Base on the excellent condition, perhaps the broom was bought or made specially to be displayed in Simms' Museum. Based on similarities in design, it appears to be the same broommaker as 1969.1.1033. See general info on the Simms collection above. Possibly was Simms #674. Catalogue indicates there used to be a leather loop in the old for hanging, now missing. 

Reagan Broom 1969.1.1033

Style: Flat

Handle: Appears to be cherry, appears to be hand-carved, not turned

Braid: Wooden Weave using white oak splits

Maker: Possibly Lawson Reagan

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: White oak splits are used for braid and river cane is used for stitching

Length of handle: 28 ½"

Length of bristles: 19 ½"

Total length: 48"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: There is a hole for the broom to be hung. Handle has various niches and dents. The braid is in excellent condition. Top two layers of stitching are in great shape. Braid and stitching are an usual combination of materials. Large portions of broomcorn are broken off on the second row.  The third row of stitching is broken at both ends. The ends of the bristles are heavily covered in dirt suggesting use.

Provenance Notes: Based on similarities in details, the broom maker appears to have also made 1969.1.1032. See also general info on the Simms collection above.  Possibly Simms #674. 

Ogle "Sword & Pistol" Broom 1969.1.533

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Flat

Handle: Completely woven over a wooden core

Braid: Wood Weave, appears to be white oak dyed with walnut hulls

Maker: "Broom-Tie" Richard Ogle

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

String: None

Total length: 26"

Length of handle: 13"

Length of bristles: 13"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: At the top of the braid, the handle is loose. The stalks are broken in areas. The two sets of stitching are broken; despite this, the broom keeps its shape.

Provenance Notes: Simms inventory identifies the maker of this broom as "Broom-Tie" Richard Ogle.   Based on similarity of details,1969.1.533 and 1969.1.535 also appear to have been made by Richard Ogle of Sevier County, Tennessee, near Gatlinburg. Simms #675. See also general info on Simms collection above.

Ogle "Hearth Round or Witch Broom" 1969.1.534

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Round

Handle: Natural wood with bark still attached, possibly sassafras or willow

Braid: Wood Weave with white oak splits

Maker: "Broom Tie" Richard Ogle

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: Appears to be white oak splits

Length of handle: 12"

Length of bristles: 14 ¼"

Total length: 26 ¼"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Description Notes: This broom shows signs of use. The bristles are angled. At the top of the handle, the bark is broken off. There is a hole to hang the broom, however the hole is unusually far down the handle. The stalks are cut off awkwardly and the weave is loose. Stitching remains in good shape. The broomcorn is loose and broken off in multiple areas.

Provenance Notes: Simms inventory identifies maker as "Broom-Tie Richard Ogle." Simms number 676.  Simms general info on Simms Collection above.

Ogle Hearth Broom 1969.1.535

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Flat

Handle: Completely woven over a wooden core

Braid: Wood Weaver, white oak splits possibly dyed with walnut hulls, extends up entire handle

Maker: Most likely "Broom-Tie" Richard Ogle

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

stitching: String

Length of handle: 12 ½"

Length of bristles: 17 ½"

Total length: 30"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: Handle is in good condition, but the top of the braid is gone, revealing part of the wood below. Stalks are broken off and cracking; while some stalks are missing entirely. The bristles are dirty and some are broken. Only small fragments remain of the original string stitching.

Provenance Notes: Based on details, 1969.1.533 and 1969.1.535 both appear to have been made by Richard Ogle of Sevier County, Tennessee, near Gatlinburg. Simms #677. See also general info on Simms collection above.

Walker Splinter or Shave Broom 1969.1.540 & 1969.1.541

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Splinter

Handle: Birch

Braid: None

Maker: Possibly Louisa Walker, of the well-known Walker Sisters

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, Little Greenbrier Valley

String: None, uses metal wire tie off

Length of handle: 13"

Length of bristles: 3"

Total length: 16"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Description Notes: The broom has maintained an excellent shape. The bristles on one side seem to have indentation from lying on its side for a long period of time. It appears to have letters, possibly the initials LW, written on the handle.

Provenance Notes: Edna Lynn Simms attributed this broom from the Walker Sisters. "LW" on the handle possibly indicates Louisa Walker (1882–1964) as the creator. The small size may indicate that the broom was made as a pot scrubber, demonstration, tourist item, or made specifically for Simms to show in her Mountaineer Museum in Gatlinburg. See also general Simms collection information above.

 

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Splinter

Handle: Birch

Braid: None

Maker: Walker Sisters

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, Little Greenbrier Valley

String: None, uses metal wire tie off

Length of handle: 19 ½"

Length of bristles: 4"

Total length: 23"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: The broom is in excellent shape as if it was just made and put on a shelf.

Provenance Notes: Edna Lynn Simms attributed this broom from the Walker Sisters.  The small size may indicate that the broom was made as a pot scrubber, demonstration, tourist item, or made specifically for Simms to display in her Mountaineer Museum in Gatlinburg. See also general Simms collection information above.

Hearth Broom 1969.1.582

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Round

Handle: Unidentified wood with bark still attached

Braid: Wooden Weaver, white oak splits

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: White oak splits

Length of handle: 16.½"

Length of bristles: 13.½"

Total length: 30"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: The bristles are in poor condition and angled. The broomcorn is loose and bark on the top of the handle is broken off. There is a hole for hanging the broom uncommonly low on the handle. There is a nail sticking out in the middle of the wooden weave. The stalks at the top of the braid are cut off awkwardly. The broomcorn at the bristles is broken in multiple areas. The stitching of the broom is in good condition.

Provenance Notes: Simms #c818. See general info on Simms collection above.

Broom 1969.1.583

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Flat

Handle: Hand carved, wood unknown

Braid: Wooden Weave, white oak splits

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: Appears to be white oak splits

Length of handle: 36"

Length of bristles: 20 ½"

Total length: 56 ½"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: This broom shows wear and the bristles are angled. Handle has multiple small cracks, dents, cuts and holes. Broomcorn is cut at an angle. The braid is loose and parts of the stalks are missing or broken in areas. The stitching is broken off in multiple areas.

Provenance Notes: A similarity of details suggests the same unknown maker for 1969.1.583 and 1969.1.584.  See also general info on Simms collection above.

Broom 1969.1.584

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Flat

Handle: Hand carved, wood unknown

Braid: Wood Weave

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

String: Appears to be white oak splits

Length of handle: 35"

Length of bristles: 21"

Total length: 56"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: This broom shows usage. Handle has multiple cracks, dents, cuts and holes. The broomcorn is cut at an angle. Braid is loose and stalks missing or broken in areas. The stitching is broken off in multiple areas.

Provenance Notes: A similarity of details suggests the same unknown maker likely made 1969.1.583 and 1969.1.584. See also general Simms collection info above.

Broom 1969.1.1034

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Round or Cobweb

Handle: Hand carved, wood unknown

Braid: None, red painted sheet metal covering held on with wire and nails

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: None, wrapped with metal wire

Length of handle: 41 ¼"

Length of bristles: 14"

Total length: 55 ¼"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: A dented red-painted metal sheet covers the top the broom section. Nail and wire are loose and rusted. Various amounts of broomcorn is broken off and molded. 

Provenance Notes: The long length of the handle and metal wire wrap suggests this a cobweb broom. A similarity in details suggests the possibly same maker as 1969.1.1035. See also general info on the Simms collection above.

Broom 1969.1.1035

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

Style: Round or Cobweb

Handle: Turned handle, wood unknown

Braid: None, red painted sheet metal covering held on with wire and nails

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: None, wrapped with metal wire, loose string wrapping could be original or added later

Length of handle: 32"

Length of bristles: 14 ¼"

Total length: 46"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: Handle has various niches and dents in areas.  A dented red decorative metal sheet covers the beginning the broom. Nail and wire are loose and rusted. A string is wrapped around the corn that might be a later addition. Various amounts of broomcorn is broken off and/or molded from handle down.  

Provenance Notes: Lack of shoulders in broom and no appearance of stitching suggests this a form of a cobweb broom. A similarity in details suggests the same maker as 1969.1.1034. See also general info on Simms collection above.

Broom 1969.1.1038

Detail Views (Click to vew larger image)

 

Style: Flat

Handle: Turned handle, wood unknown

Braid: Handle attachment and any braid are hidden by broom corn wrapped back over.  Could be string or wire below. Interesting halo made from twisted broomcorn.

Maker: Unknown

Location: Tennessee, Sevier County, near Gatlinburg

Stitching: Cotton string

Length of handle: 31 ½"

Length of bristles: 12 ½"

Total length: 44"

Source: Donation, Edna Lynn Simms Estate

Descriptive Notes: There is a hole for hanging. The handle has minimal niches and dents in areas. The broomcorn at the top is braided in an almost a halo appearance and folded to produce a hump. Few brooms have this a feature. Stitching is in good condition. Broomcorn bristles are broken in various areas and covered in dirt throughout the bristles.

Provenance Notes: See general info on the Simms collection above.

About the Edna Lynn Simms Collection

The Edna Lynn Simms Collection consists of artifacts from an area around present-day Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This includes the historical communities of Cades Cove, Sugarlands, Little Greanbriar, and isolated homesteads in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Edna Lynn Simms of Knoxville first visited this area around 1915.  She was fascinated by the life of the people there.  She began to visit the area often and build friendships.  Concerned that the culture and history of these mountain people would be lost with the coming of the national park, she began to collect artifacts, stories, and figures of speech.  In 1931 she opened The Mountaineer Museum in Gatlinburg.  Her artifact collection grew to about 2,000 artifacts.  The museum operated until 1955.  

After Simms' death in 1961, her collection was given to Berea College.  The artifacts form the heart of the Appalachian Studies Teaching Artifact Collection in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center as accession 1969.1.  This ollection is regularly used in College courses with over 200 students each year experiencing encounters with these artifacts.  Simms' papers are held in Hutchins Library Special Collections and Archives as record group RG81

This selection from the Simms Collection includes many of the pieces to which names were attached in Ms. Simms' records.  Many of these names will be familiar to people knowledgeable about the history of that region, such as Ogle, Trentham, the Walker sisters, and Lydia Whaley.  Others are more obscure.