James C. Sorber
Died Tuesday July 5, 2011 at age 94
James C. Sorber, noted builder, historian and collector died on July 5, 2011 of natural causes. He was 94 years old.
James was born April 18, 1917 in West Chester, PA and was the son of Joseph Sorber and Phoebe Bullock. He early on displayed an interest in collecting and wood working, the two activities that would consume the rest of his long and productive life, a life that was much focused on early American history.
He was a skilled enough wood worker at sixteen to be accepted into the Williamson Free Trade School and graduated Best in Class in 1937 as a cabinet maker. He spent the next years in various construction and cabinet making positions ending up finishing ship interiors for the Sun Shipyard in Chester, PA until drafted into the army.
During WWII James served in the Army Corps of Combat Engineers, 258th Division and was in Germany, France, and Holland. He commented that he built and blew up a lot of bridges.
After leaving the army James began his career as a building contractor of fine homes in the West Chester area and built many homes for the professional community. He also began restoring older homes of historical vintage. He joined the Chester County Historical Society and served on its Board of Directors for over thirty-five years. During that period he played a major role in growing the society, restoring its buildings, constructing displays and managing their resources. He installed the Period Rooms in CCHS.
Through in-depth study, travel and active participation James became an expert on American Colonial Homes and their features and fixtures. He was a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and participated actively in that organization.
James' special efforts were devoted to American blacksmith forged items. His collections have been featured in many fine magazines. He became a nationally recognized authority on antiques and was a frequent lecturer at various museums, Colonial Williamsburg and historical societies.
James had one of the largest collections of fine blacksmith made items in private or museum collections and was an authority on that subject. In order to more fully appreciate and understand how blacksmiths worked he became a trained blacksmith studying under Donald Streeter one of the nation's finest Colonial blacksmiths. Pieces of his collection were frequently shown in various museums and James often lectured on historical blacksmithing and the items they made. The collection was featured in many articles and magazines and was the focus of the book "Colonial Wrought Iron - The Sorber Collection published by Skipjack Press.
He actively supported today's blacksmithing community and was a member of the Artists Blacksmith Association of America (ABANA), the Pennsylvania Artists Blacksmith Association (PABA) and the Mid-Atlantic Blacksmiths Association (MASA). Pieces of his collection were frequently displayed at various local and national blacksmithing conferences and events.
His contributions to the knowledge and preservation of Colonial American historical objects and the crafts of that period are widely recognized and will be long remembered.
James is survived by his wife Sally (nee Miller ) with whom he shared 22 years of travel, great adventure and many warm moments, as well as several nieces and nephews.