Prairie Farmer, Vol. 56: No. 1, January 5, 1884
A JACK-KNIFE GENIUS.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: William Yohe claims to be the champion
jack-knife artist of the day, although he was born in St. Louis and not
Yankeedom. A reporter heard of this professional lacerator of pine
sticks and sought him out. It was not until the inside of an unused
Methodist church at Kirkwood, this county, was reached that Mr. Yohe and
his knife was cornered. The knife was slashing cigar-boxes to pieces at
railway speed when the reporter opened up with: "Are you the man who
makes an automatic world's fair and St. Louis Exposition with a knife?"
"No, that isn't what I call it. I am making what I call the Missouri
Pacific and Strasburg Cathedral Automatic Wonder, with the Golden Ark of
the Covenant. It will contain over 180,000 pieces and will have 1,100
moving and working figures."
All around the gaunt and dismantled church were piles of cigar-boxes and
laths and myriads of nicely-carved pieces of wood, apparently portions
of models of buildings. The whittler was a small man, with keen eyes and
ready tongue and about thirty-six years of age. In the course of an
hour's conversation he said in substance: "I didn't know that I was
anything extra of a whittler until about 1869, when, in a small way, I
made some models. I was in Texas working at millwrighting. The first
large piece I ever made was a model of a Bermuda castle. Afterward I
made Balmoral Castle, Bingen Castle, Miramar Castle, and the Texas State
Capitol at Austin. Solomon's Temple contained 12,268 pieces and had
1,369 windows. It is now on exhibition in Texas. The Austin Capitol
Building has 62,844 pieces and 561 moving people. Every room and
department in the building was given, with all the officers and
legislators. Everybody was represented, down to the man sawing wood in
the basement for the furnaces. All the figures were moved by a wooden
engine, which was run by sand falling on an overshot wheel. I made this
piece at odd moments in 1881.
"I have just hired this church and begun steady work. I shall sleep and
eat in this church until about May 1, next. The material? Yes, it does
take considerable. I have already used up 967 cigar boxes and 300 laths.
It will take in all 1,800 cigar boxes, 500 laths, and 500 feet of
lumber. The cigar boxes I get for one cent each. I used no tools except
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Our William Yohe
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