In order to expand his knowledge, he began reading archaeological journals and hobby types of magazines. In the early 1930s he began corresponding with other arrowhead collectors who were writing and/or listing in these periodicals. A culmination of one of these early correspondences occurred in 1988 when Gordon was contacted by Becky Amdall Goshorn; she asked if he was interested in receiving a postcard he had written to her father, Emmett Amdall of Wisconsin, some fifty-four years earlier, postmarked January 25, 1934. Of course the answer was "yes," and that card and ensuing conversations with Becky are among some of Gordon's fondest memories of those early boyhood collecting experiences.
Gordon entered high school choosing to pursue math and sciences and applied those learnings to his love of archaeology. Following a tour of duty with the Army Signal Corp, he married Marcella Shafer, and shortly thereafter they purchased a house in Bluffton (about two hundred yards south of the Wabash) where he started an electronics service business. With a family of three children (Steve, Claudia, and Kevin), Gordon and Marcella purchased a new home north of the river, where they have lived the past fifty plus years. Gordon's professional career converged into the field of medical electronics, and in the late 1950s he became the medical electronic consultant to the Caylor Nickel Clinic-Hospital and Research Center in Bluffton. It was through that professional association that he earned access to many highly educated specialists and their analytical test instrumentation. He used many of those resources to discover, learn, report findings, and formulate hypotheses about which he has authored and spoken.
With a growing family and three college educations ahead, the rate of growth of the Hart collection slowed considerably, but the quest for discovery and understanding never stopped. Son Steve began sharing the quest and learning some of the finer aspects of prehistory, while sharing many of the collector friendships begun by Gordon. In 1968 a tragedy occurred when the Hart home was broken into and a major portion of the collection disappeared. To this day, the whereabouts of the stolen artifacts remain a mystery. While emotionally a tremendous setback, Gordon looked at this as a difficult but positive learning experience, one which permanently changed his approach and attitude toward collecting Learning through the process of beginning anew, he discovered he had not fully documented all of his stolen artifacts and could not adequately define what had been lost. From this realization came the foundation of today's vocation: collect those artforms that have been documented previously, continue to build their research and records, and develop additional knowledge and understanding for future interpretation and refinement. Since the 1968 incident, the Hart collection has grown to several thousand pieces of which approximately seven hundred items are prehistoric pipes, the balance being flint, slate, and small quantities of stone and pottery.
In the early 1960s, Gordon recognized that prehistoric persons crafted effigies of those animals and birds they revered most into their smoking instruments, or as we call them pipes. He theorized that it was through these instruments that they offered homage to superiors and gathered to celebrate victories, matings, births and deaths, prepared for war, and offered peace by wafting their smoke upwards toward the overworld or heavens. With the exception of the birdstone, no other known ancient North American artform provides the number of effigies as does the smoking pipe. In pipe form, we see a wide variety of animals, birds, and even human effigies. Gordon ascertained he could learn more by studying pipes than any other form of prehistoric art. From that time onward, his collecting pursuits focused on studying well-documented prehistoric pipes. The pursuit of this newly focused avocation brought him in contact with advanced and senior collectors of an earlier era: Baker, Bartol, the Bushes, Copeland, Dougherty, Knoblock, LaDassor, Meuser, Malloy, Morast, McNeal, McPherson, Petrie, Shipley, Smith, Stephens, Vietzen, Wachtel, Warner, Wray and many, many others. He is also in contact with today's professionals such as Edmund Carpenter, David Penney, Barber Conable, and Emile Deleteille, as well as contemporary collectors, Earl Townsend and Gregory Perino to mention a few. Perhaps it was Dr. Stan Copeland of Columbus, Ohio, who was most influential in helping Gordon develop his vision, as Stan emphasized the collecting of well known, well-documented artforms, and the need to continue learning, researching, and documenting those works. Gordon continues to follow those simple precepts to this day.
In 1969, Gordon unveiled his concept of a national artifact authentication program to a group of senior collectors from the Genuine Indian Relic Society. In 1970 at Columbus, Ohio, the Authentication Committee, under Gordon's guidance, presented the first Certificates of Authenticity Register to the owners of several artifacts. To receive this certificate, the artifact owner presented the subject prehistoric item and all pertinent written information to a committee of three or more knowledgeable senior collectors. These persons offered individual judgment of authenticity, following a review of the information and an inspection of the artifact. If a minimum of three judges certified the artifact as true as represented, the certificate was signed by those reviewing individuals and a seal affixed. A fee of three dollars was collected to cover the cost of the certificate. Gordon chaired this very successful program for fifteen years, serving as its librarian and coordinator, spending endless hours researching and documenting artifacts and histories for numerous owners.
As Gordon researched and studied, traveled and visited, he became very aware that only George West had published a thorough treatise on prehistoric smoking pipes. Since West's research had been done in the 1930s, however, he lacked the advantages offered by many of the modern analytical tools and research available in the 1970s. Gordon set about to formally document and publish information gained, and the subsequent theories derived, on many of the more interesting pipes residing in the Hart collection. Following six years of research, photography, writing, and publishing, Gordon introduced Hart's Prehistoric Pipe Rack - Volume One in 1978. This work presented papers on almost ninety different prehistoric pipes of the Mississippi River waterways (east). Two of the more prominent papers featured the Hermitage Effigy Pipe (Authentication Certificate #A6) and the Colonel Bennett H. Young Pipe No. 1 (Authentication Certificate #A1), both collected by retired President Andrew Jackson, while living in his Nashville, Tennessee Hermitage home.
The 1980s and early 1990s was a period of working with museums and institutions. Pieces of the Hart collection were documented and displayed at the Rochester Museum of Art (Rochester, NY), the Detroit Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art - Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the Houston Museum of Art, and the Royal Museum of Art and History - Belgium (Brussels).
Following retirement from his medical electronics engineering and consulting work, Gordon penned, photographed, and published a second work, Hart's Prehistoric Pipe Rack - Volume Two, released in 1999. This collection of papers builds upon the premises of Volume One, but adds the research, study, and thought of an additional twenty years. Volume Two offers forty plus papers on more recently collected pipes and features an in-depth analysis and treatise on the Champion Owl Effigy pipe discovered in 1964 by Don Champion in Spencer County, Indiana. This single writing perhaps represents the deepest insight into a prehistoric smoking implement and associated materials ever presented. This second work offers a style and substance that challenges the reader's thinking and thought processes and questions aspects of prehistory that we have taken for granted in offerings by past authors and presenters.
Today Gordon continues his studies and research, broadening his horizons a bit by looking into other aspects of prehistory, exploring the exciting realms of computer technologies, and exploring how computers can be applied to endeavors of learning, refining, and recording our prehistory. Perhaps there will be a Volume Three, in digital format of course. You can learn more about Gordon's works by addressing his website at www.gordonhart.com.
Lifelong avocations can be launched from the simplest beginnings: a boy and a small broken arrowhead picked from the quiet banks of the Wabash River, right here in Indiana.
Mississippian spades found in March, 1985 along the Ohio River in Spencer County, Indiana. The longest spade is 10 1/2 inches in length. They are the personal finds of William Clark.