General Tools Award 2005 – Lance Metz

The General Tools Award is the highest honor that the SIA can bestow. The award recognizes individuals who have given sustained, distinguished service to the cause of industrial archeology.

At the Annual Business Meeting in Milwaukee, Committee chair Pat Malone announced that Lance Metz was the 2005 recipient of the General Tools Award. Lance may be the most avid IA enthusiast of all time. He is a tireless preservationist and a compulsive collector of artifacts, illustrations, and documentary records. However, preservation and collection are not the only ways in which he has protected the record of past industries; he has also contributed significantly to industrial documentation through oral history, photography, archival research, and public interpretation in various media-from exhibits to films, television productions, symposia, festivals, lectures, books, and articles.

Lance has been the Historian of what is now the National Canal Museum for over twenty years, stuffing its storage shelves with artifacts and filling its archives to bursting-creating an invaluable record of industries along the canals of the Lehigh Valley and beyond. Whenever he has discovered an important collection, he has found a way to acquire it-as he did with the Crane Iron Works collection, a treasury of ledger books that document the first anthracite-fired iron works.

Nothing that threatens our industrial heritage escapes his attention. For instance, he recognized that the last remnants of Pennsylvania’s silk industry were rapidly disappearing. Organizing a team effort to document every mill structure still standing, he raised funds to photograph the mills, collect oral histories, and interpret the history of silk manufacturing. He even produced a documentary film on this industry.

He has given his heart and soul to the effort to save “The Steel.” As he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “You cannot touch the history of the 20th century without touching the history of Bethlehem Steel.” He planted the seed and continues to fight for a National Museum of Industrial History at the Bethlehem site.

Lance is responsible for written histories of many of the industrial sites of Pennsylvania, including The Anthracite Iron Industry of the Lehigh Valley with Craig Bartholemew, Saint Nicholas Central Breaker with Michael Workman, and Bethlehem Steel with photographs by Andrew Garn. He has written or contributed to many other books as well and has produced articles on a wide range of topics, including the Molly Maguires. He is also the editor in chief of Canal History & Technology Press, where he compiles the impressive proceedings of its annual symposium and tirelessly promotes its publications. The SIA has long benefited from his participation. He has been a director on the SIA board, president of the Roebling Chapter, a frequent presenter at annual conferences, and the organizer of our fall tour in 2002.

Lance is a public historian in the best sense of the term. He reaches out to a wide audience and brings new people into our field. He is particularly impressive for his work with young people, who represent the future of industrial archeology. When he is introducing eighth graders to blacksmithing, he is laying the groundwork for future scholarship and sharing his exceptional gift for public interpretation of the industrial heritage.