Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding Lost Treasures + Contest!

by Amanda Forester

This labor day weekend my husband and I decided to tackle the final frontier of our home organization project and clean out the garage.  When we started, stuff was crowded on shelves and on the floors all around the edges of where we parked our two cars.  After a long weekend of work, we now have stuff all over the garage and are forced to park outside.

Despite our dubious progress in actually cleaning the garage, I did find several boxes of things from my grandmother's house who passed away several years ago (at the ripe old age of 102).  She was an avid collector of things and somehow I ended up with several boxes of items from her iron and tin Americana collection.  Going through these treasures, mostly ordinary household goods from the 19th century, was like taking a walk back in time - super cool for this historical writer!  I will share with you some of the items I found interesting.

This is an iron curling iron (yeah, the original ones were actually iron).  It is not very big (I pictured my hand to get a sense of size) but it is heavy and solid.  Since the whole thing is iron, the handle must have gotten pretty darn hot too, and of course there is no temperature control so if you heat it too hot you burn yourself or your hair.  Fun times...

This is a candle wick trimmer that has its own special tray.  You open the scissor and cut the wick, with the burnt wick being pushed into the little box for easy clean up.  Clever.

At first I thought this was a kind of rolling pin, but the helpful tag left by my grandmother (you can see her tags of other items tied on with string and no I have no plans to ever cut them off!) informed me that this is a feather bed smoother.  I suppose real feathers can make for lumps in mattresses and comforters - this would smooth it all out.  Feather beds or feather ticks were popular in the Regency and Victorian eras and were gradually becoming more available for the masses (who had traditionally slept on straw mattresses).  However, they were still very expensive and often would be given as a special present (such as part of a bride's dowry) and may be specifically named in a will.

 Pictured here is a nutmeg grater.  Nutmeg, particularly in the early ninetieth century, was expensive so naturally it would be found in the kitchens of gentile society.  So important, it was deemed worthy of its own special grater.

An egg poacher.  The stamp on the item said it was patented in 1885.  I was surprised by how many specialty cooking items I found.  I suppose I thought making individual kitchen gadgets was more of a modern thing, but no, our ancestors also loved a cool kitchen tool. 

Tea caddies.  These are tin and at one time had colorful displays on the sides, now faded.  Tea was an increasingly popular drink in the nineteenth century and every good hostess kept the keys to her tea caddy and mixed her own special blend.
 Bread pudding mold.  I'm guessing one baked the pudding in the mold to get those quaint ridges on the pudding.  Reminds me of cranberry sauce straight from the can on Thanksgiving.  :)

Noisemakers.  Yes, our ancestors knew how to party.  Here are two examples.  You turned the handle on the side, which smacked wood and metal against one another to make a snap sort of noise. 

A cool scale.  Not sure if it would be kept in households or if this was from some sort of store.  I believe early recipes used more weight measure than things like cups (which could vary from household to household).  Of course most cooks used their own recipes handed down, not commercially produced cookbooks.

The lantern.  On those rare occasions when the electricity goes out I get a small taste of how people lived for thousands of years before electricity.  Before the light bulb was the lantern. Here is one of tin and glass.

What am I?
Contest time!  Most of the things I found had labels, but not this one.  This is a cool looking mini watering can thingy about the size of a large coffee mug.  I'm sure it had a special purpose - but what?  I will send an ARC of A WEDDING IN SPRINGTIME to the person who can tell me what it is - or can make up the best guest!


  1. I'll bet it's for straining gravy. The oil floats to the top and gets poured off first, leaving the gravy less oily.

    Great post! I really enjoyed it! I'll send my daughter the link. She loves kitchen gadgets and family history.

  2. That's some really cool stuff in your garage. All I have are old pots and tricycles. Really cool!

  3. An oil can? You really have cool oldies.

  4. Amanda, thanks so much for sharing the pics. I love antiques! I'm not very good at guessing what things are.

    I once LOVED this unique jar I found in a shop, only to discover the $300 item was an old pickle jar.

  5. I was thinking some kind of steamer maybe but I like Ashlyn's answer. We have a friend that collects these types of antiques and she has a huge kitchen with many of these types of things hanging on her wall and I don't think she knows what they all are lol.

  6. You've got some 'splainin to do to the Tin Man, young lady! He's looking for his oil can!

    Cool photos. Thanks for sharing.

  7. That is a priceless item. The person who inherits it gets a lifetime supply of ideas for romance novels. If you get stuck when it's time for a proposal, you merely put it under your bed (someone had a low bed at one time hence the crook there in the pour spout) and come morning you take it with you to your computer and pour the ideas into your head. I'd love to have one but alas, my grandmother left me a butter mold and her rug hook needle instead. You are so lucky!

  8. think it was used to pour gas or oil in cars

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  9. Ashlyn- now that's a clever idea. That makes a lot of sense, you may be right on the money with that one!

    Shana - I only found this stuff after sifting through a lot of junk. We finally decided it was time to let go of the crib and the stroller which was waaaaaay past due!

  10. Pat - oil can is a good guess, it kind of looks like one.

    Victoria - pickles are cool! They have been around for forever - even medical times!

  11. Catslady - a steamer is an interested guess. Could be. Maybe your friend could tell us what this is.

    LSUReader- uh oh! Poor tin man! :)

  12. Carolyn- oh I WISH!!! Maybe I'll just slip it under my bed just in case a fraction of it comes true. I could use some help! Hey, I hear those butter molds may have some mystical properties...

    Bn100 - Another vote for oil/gas can. That seems like a popular choice, maybe that means its the right one!

  13. Just a guess but the first thing I thought of was a smoker for bee hives. Thanks for a very interesting blog.

  14. Oil can

  15. I am going to say that it looks like an old watering can or something to put water in to heat to make tea/coffee.

  16. OMG I would love to have those, Not to use to decorate with.
    I am going with A Separator for Gravy or Milk

  17. Kyne- A bee smoker, now that's an interesting thought. It does kind of look like one, you could be right!

    Nicole - It does look very much like some kind of oil can pourer.

  18. And you use these daily, right??? :)

  19. Anonymous - oil can is a popular choice!

    Sheryl - It does look like some kind of miniature watering can. Maybe it was part of some kind of tea service.

    Ann - my Grandma had these all over her walls. I plan to do the same. I think a gravy separator would explain why the spout is on the bottom. Good guess!

  20. My first thought was definitely an oil can of some sort, especially if it's the size of a large mug.

    Those were some pretty cool things!!


  21. I agree that I thought it was something that you put kerosene or something in for refilling the lamps...but maybe it's for holding hot water for tea, lol.

    I like seeing all of the intriguing gadgets! Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway.

    elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

  22. Anita - oil can is certainly winning with the most votes, so your with the majority opinion. I wish I actually knew what it was!

    Elf2060 - hmm a kerosene lamp oil filler, now that's an intriguing answer. Good thinking!

  23. Hmm, that is an intriguing find! I wish I had some other idea other than oil jar. It makes me wish I could go back to that time and just see what it is because curiosity is killing me now lol

    ahui89 at hotmail dot com

  24. I haven't the faintest idea what your mystery object is, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post!

    Those everyday household objects are so often overlooked or forgotten about. Love it.