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Westfield whips, whipmaking, 2018; Westfield, Massachusetts;
Westfield whips, whipmaking, 2018

Westfield, Massachusetts
verticle bar Artist
Carol Martin
Westfield, MA
verticle bar apprentice
Stephanie Harder
Westfield, MA
In the 1860s, entrepreneurs in Westfield, Massachusetts invented machinery and perfected techniques that dramatically altered the way that whips were made worldwide. The practice of whipmaking grew rapidly, employing roughly 80% of the workforce through the late 1800's, earning the community the moniker ":The Whip City."

The traditional Westfield whip, sometimes called a buggy whip, features exceptional weight, balance, and action, making them prized by equestrian professionals and dedicated amateurs worldwide. Unlike a braided leather bull whip, a Westfield whip has a center of machined rawhide encased in meticulously fitted strips of rattan and is covered with tough, braided thread. Today, rawhide and rattan have been replaced by fiberglass and nylon. Although the Westfield way of making whips is still done, it is too labor-intensive to be cost effective. This fact motivated Carol Martin to found the Westfield Historic Industries Preservation Project (WHIPP), now a part of Westfield Museum Inc. The museum will feature a permanent working display of making Westfield whips using traditional methods.

Martin's father, Harold J. Martin, learned whipmaking by apprenticing to a master craftsman in the early 1940s. He went on to become president of Westfield Whip Manufacturing Co. After his death in 1992, Carol took on whipmaking as a full time occupation. She is likely the only person alive today who has knowledge of how traditional Westfield whips were made.

Apprentice Stephanie Harder has shown a real talent for the making of some of the component parts that go into the traditional Westfield whip. Carol will impart both the skills and a working knowledge of the history of whipmaking in Westfield to someone who has the interest and ability to carry it on. Without that, the hands-on understanding of what made Westfield The Whip City will be lost within a generation. As part of the City of Westfield's 350th Anniversary in 2019, master and apprentice will hold an open house at the museum to demonstrate whipmaking as it grew and developed in Westfield.
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