Coopers at work
This painting was first published in the National Park Service publication New Discoveries at Jamestown: Site of the First Successful English Settlement in America. The painting, which shows coopers at work, is an artist’s interpretation of life in colonial Jamestown. A cooper is a person who makes barrels, casks, buckets, tubs, and other containers out of staves — thin, shaped pieces of wood. The staves are placed side by side and fastened with a hoop. In this painting, the man on the left in the foreground is making a hoop, and the man on the right in the foreground is making staves. In the background, two men are putting a hoop on a barrel.
The original caption reads, “The Jamestown cooper was a busy craftsman. Many barrels, hogsheads, and casks were needed in the colony, and large quantities of barrel staves were made for shipping to England.”