The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center is an open-air folklife museum and research center dedicated to preserving and celebrating Pennsylvania German folk culture, history, and language in a unique educational setting at Kutztown University.


Der Alt Dengelschtock
(The Old Sharpening Anvil):
Precision, Frugality, & Cooperation
in Pennsylvania Dutch Agricultural Tradition

New Exhibition Celebrates Pennsylvania Dutch Cooperative Farming Technology of the 19th Century

KUTZTOWN, PA – Exploring the cultural significance and superb craftsmanship of early agricultural technology for the cooperative farming practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch, a new exhibition on the old “Dengelschtock” (sharpening anvil) opens November 3, 2023 and runs through May 24, 2024 in the gallery at the DeLight E. Breidegam Building, Headquarters of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. Through stunning installations of early Pennsylvania Dutch hand tools and their farm contexts, the exhibition highlights the cooperative spirit of inter-generational family farming that sustained the region’s culture for centuries.

From the time of 18th-century immigration until the rise of mechanized farming, the Dengelschtock or sharpening anvil played an essential role in the agricultural development of Pennsylvania. An expression of frugality and ingenuity, farming families used this precision tool to sharpen the light blades of Germanic-style scythes by flattening the metal to a fine edge with a hammer, rather than wasting the metal by grinding it away. The fine cutting edge of the scythe was crucial for harvesting the hay that fed the livestock and draft animals upon which farmers depended for their livelihood.

By the mid-19th century, a specialized form of the scythe called a grain cradle replaced common reaping hooks for harvesting grain, and the Dengelschtock experienced a resurgence in use. This simple tool, all but forgotten after harvesting machines replaced hand tools and processes, serves as a reminder of the simple precision technology and cooperative inter-generational community farming that characterized the region.

Admission to the exhibition is free to the public. Visitors can explore the exhibition during regular gallery hours Mon-Fri 10am-12pm, and 1pm-4pm at the DeLight E. Breidegam Building located at 15155 Kutztown Road, Kutztown, PA, 19530. For more information visit, follow PGCHC on Facebook, call 610-683-1589, or email

Highlights from the exhibition are also featured in the 2024 Pennsylvania Dutch Calendar, a collaborative publication with Masthof Press. To order your copy online, visit: or download a printable order form.