Door panel detail.
FIGURE 1: Door panel detail.

Door latch detail, definitely a thumb latch and not a door knob.
FIGURE 2: Door latch detail.

Door details from house on Michael Korns, Sr. farm

Henry C. Mercer's 1923 article "The Dating of Old Houses" gives illustrations of hand-made and machine-made doors, and indicates that machine-made doors date a house to post-1835. For a complete copy of the article, click here, but be forewarned that it is a 4680KB PDF file and will take a long time to download.

Mercer does not state that the ovolo molding around the panels is wide in machine-made doors, but all of his illustrations of machine-made doors have very wide ovolo molding, and all of his illustrations of hand-made doors have narrow molding. Although the enlargement (above) of a panel from an interior door on the old house on the Korns farm is fuzzy, it seems clear enough to tell that the ovolo molding is quite narrow, and therefore consistent with Mercer's pre-1835 hand-made door illustrations.

Mercer states that nailed on molding is proof of a machine-made door. For an example of such a door, from the entry into the north wing addition of the house on the Michael Korns, Sr. farm, and showing post-circa 1883 nails, click here. Unfortunately one cannot absolutely determine if the molding on the interior door shown on this page is separate, or planed into the framing. All one can say is that one can't see clear evidence that it is separate molding; i.e. there are no obvious gaps between the molding and the framing, or at the molding intersections at the corners of the panels. I believe that even though Figure 1 is quite fuzzy, it is clear enough that it would have shown molding gaps at the corner intersections, if they were present.

All of Mercer's illustrations of door latches are of the thumb latch variety. Although the enlargement (above) of the latch from an interior door on the old house on the Korns farm is fuzzy, one can tell that the latch is of the thumb-latch variety, and is not a door-knob style latch.

I'm hoping that my father or other relatives have better photographs of this door, but for now this is the best we have.

I am aware that at least one other farmhouse in this region had far more primative interior doors than this one. For example, my grandfather Irvin Dietle's house in Laramier township, Somerset County, PA had unpaneled home-made interior doors that were made from rough-sawn boards, and had very simple thumb latches.

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