Forgotten Crafts: Broombinder
The other day I was absorbed in writing in my office when all of a sudden I was disturbed by a horrible noise. I got up to have a look out of the window to see what that awful noise could be. It turned out to be the street sweeper with his latest gadget: a leaf blower.
With a sigh I sat down and my thoughts wandered off to the days when street sweepers would do just that: sweep the street, with a broom: tsssjk-tjssk-tsssjk. And if the good man was in a jolly mood he would whistle or sing a song. I would like that far better that this deafening noise.
But, in our age, there are no old-fashioned street sweepers anymore. Moreover, there are no real brooms anymore. I mean the good ones made of birch twigs. And there are no broom binders anymore either.
Broom making used to be good business. It started out as a side job to add to the family income in rural areas along with basket making. Over time, it became a real occupation with its own guild. Winter was the ideal season to pick the right birch twigs. Some broom makers would travel around and create a broom to your wishes at the spot. Others had their own shop. Especially in the eastern part of the Netherlands the industry flourished. Around 1900, the industry was at its peak, producing over 150,000 brooms and scrubbers a year. Ultimately, industrialization took over from the old handwork to keep up with demands.
Thanks to industrialization, everybody can buy a cheap, reasonably good broom nowadays. But frankly, who needs a broom these days? We vacuum our houses and we vacuum our gardens. We even vacuum our streets. Very efficient, maybe, but I do miss the whistle and the tsssjk-tssjk-tsssjk-sound of the street sweeper.