The important business of ship building, in this case whale ships, arose in the 1820s in Woods Hole, which had the only local deep-water port. Whale ship owners and investors from Woods Hole and Falmouth (Ward Parker, Elijah Swift and others) developed the Bar Neck Wharf (the present WHOI dock). Support industries for whaling lined the main street of Woods Hole. These included coopers making barrels, bakers supplying hardtack for the long sea voyages, a boat shop making fine whaleboats, and the blacksmith making hardware and tools for the ships: iron and steel items not available from mass manufacturing sources in the earliest days.

Besides making ship hardware and whaling tools, blacksmiths also made farm tools, hardware for buildings (latches, locks, hinges, shutter hardware) and cooking tools. They probably worked as wheelwrights as well, forging wooden wagon wheels’ tires made of metal.

Braddock Gifford (1791-1873) worked as a blacksmith in Quissett in the early 1800s. There was a small shipbuilding works there and he made hardware for the small vessels, brigs, barks, schooners and sloops made by shipwright and captain Thomas Fish and owner-investor Barney Marchant at a stone dock built in 1802 on the east side of Quissett Harbor. When shipbuilding in Woods Hole began to boom, Gifford moved there.

Gifford had some competition in Woods Hole towards the end of his career and after the end of the local whaling era in the 1860s. The huge Bar Neck Wharf became the location of Sears & Swift, a lumberyard. Its invoices give the names of John K. Sears and Prince D. Swift as proprietors supplying "long and short lumber, mouldings, doors, windows, hardware, brick, lime, cement, drain pipe, paints, oils, etc." "Horseshoeing & Jobbing, Dealers in Iron, Steel, &tc." Its premises appear on the 1887 Birds-Eye Map of Woods Hole.

After Braddock Gifford’s death in 1873, the blacksmith next known in Woods Hole was Edward Ward Bragg. At some point in the early 20th century, the blacksmith shop building was moved across Main (Water) Street to Dyer’s Dock. It became a heavily used shed for the coal business on the dock. When WHOI bought Dyer’s Dock from Wilbur Dyer in 1957, the old blacksmith shop was moved away and salvaged. It eventually became part of a house on West Falmouth Highway.

Blacksmith at his shop

Blacksmith Edward Ward Bragg in the doorway of the old blacksmith shop in Woods Hole on the north side of Water Street with Eel Pond behind it, 1902. The advertisement on the wall at right reads: "Kickapoo Indian Oil. Quick Cure for All Pains."