Fondren is currently exhibiting materials from the Woodson’s Weber-Staub-Briscoe Architectural Collection. You can find the displays near the front entrance to the library.
Founded by Carl Herman Weber in the 1920s, the Weber Iron and Wire Company, Inc. manufactured quality architectural metal ornaments until it’s closing in 2006. The collection comprises a wonderful assortment of metalworking tools and artifacts, many of them designed by architects John F. Staub and Birdsall P. Briscoe. The scale of many of the ornaments is impressive. Some of are delicate and small, no bigger than the palm of your hand, while others are taller than I am. Weber Iron produced a rich variety of styles as well.
Here is Woodson Archivist Dara Flinn describing the fabrication process:
Fabrication of metalwork began with the design stage. A scale drawing of a design was executed in collaboration with the architect and client, and later a full-size drawing of the object was created. An artisan then sculpted the pattern with full ornamental details in clay. The clay replica was cast in aluminum and the aluminum ornament attached to a pattern board.
The pattern board was placed into a molding or casting box filled with packed sand. When removed, the pattern board left a void in the shape of the ornament. Molten metal (aluminum, brass, bronze, or iron) was then poured into the void to make the casting. When the metal cooled the ornament was removed from the casting box, finished by hand, and painted, making it ready for installation.