We have just shipped an “Urn of Lilies Fireback and a Fleur-De-Lis Fireback” to Pittsburg, PA. The firebacks will be used in Tom Hanks’ upcoming movie with the working title, “A Man Named Otto.” This upcoming movie is a remake of the popular Swedish movie, “A Man Named Ove.”
The Our Town Foundation Art Center in Hamburg, PA, now has a display of Pennsylvania Firebacks, which have been cast in the town since 1979.
A video depicting the casting of a Pennsylvania Fireback, a North Star Fireback.
A video of J. Del Conner designing and sculpting the Autumn Firebacks
J. Del Conner sculpted and cast four custom Firebacks in 2020 – 2021. Elements of The Bear’s Den, and the Heron House sculptures were later modified, placed on the new Classic Plain Panel frame, and added to our line of Original Designs.
Another custom Fireback, The Rabbit, for one of the oldest clubs in Philadelphia, will be cast at the end of April, 2021.
I recently received an email from a man named Ben who had inherited one of my firebacks and asked how the rust could be removed, and the casting cleaned. The photo attached in the email was of a 1980 Great Oak, the first year this design was available. In good condition and retaining most of its original finish, I recommended it would be as good as new after going over it with a wire brush, and applying a fresh coat of stove polish.
Curious as to its provenance, I asked Ben for a little history on this casting. After talking with his father, he told me this had been a house warming gift from the founder of Pennsylvania Firebacks, and old high school friend, chimney sweep Terry Polis. Ben thought that it may be from the first batch of firebacks we produced in 1979.
This fireback is a testimonial to their heirloom qualities, durability, and connection to a family’s sense of Hearth and Home. Ben told me that this fireback was “well traveled,” having been with his parents in five houses, and now in his, its sixth home.
Design and sculpting of this firebacks began in early 1979, while also creating the company logo, advertisements and promotional literature. That August, the first batch of Pennsylvania Firebacks, consisting of twenty Franklin Suns, and twenty of what was then called, The Green Tree fireback, were cast in Pennsylvania. I can identify that Ben’s is from the first batch due to its logo below the date. The second batch had a more open and legible logo under the date.
On this day in 1985 Halley’s Comet crossed the celestial equator. That night, the comet entered the overflowing bowl of Aquarius the water bearer. With them paying the freight, we donated copies of this fireback to the Royal Astronomical Society in London, The Society Astronomique de France in Paris, and The Astronomische Gesellschaft in Stuttgart, Germany.
If you can’t wait for its return in 2062, you can catch a little glimpse of it leftovers twice in 2020. Mark your calendars.
May 5: The Eta Aquariids
This annual shower originates from none other than Halley’s Comet, and these meteors come in fast — 66 km (41 miles) per second! However, the shower’s radiant (in the Water Jar asterism of Aquarius) never gets very high above the horizon for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. Also, it rises only a couple of hours before dawn. Worse yet, this year’s peak will be spoiled by a nearly full Moon that remains in the sky virtually all night.
October 21: The Orionids
Here’s another modest shower due to Halley’s Comet. This year its peak, early on October 21st, is well suited for observers in North America and Europe. Moonlight won’t be a problem, and you can start watching around 9 p.m. on the 20th, after the shower’s radiant (located above Orion’s bright reddish star Betelgeuse) clears the horizon. But the best rates, perhaps one meteor every few minutes, will come after midnight.
We recently made a pattern of a miniature Catoctin Furnace Stove Plate for our friends at the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society in Maryland. We are in the process of making 25 rubber molds of the plate that will used by students in their Education Program to make Plaster of Paris copies.
In the meantime, we made and donated 24 plastic castings of the plate with hooks to be sold as tree ornaments at their Holiday Festival. We at Pennsylvania Firebacks are happy to support this early American iron work’s all volunteer historical society in their restoration, preservation and education efforts.