Hidden Treasures & Stories
Where we post interesting stories about artifacts found during inventory
Written by Kirsten Wilk, Summer Student 2015
The process of doing an inventory of the artifacts stored at the museum is, in theory, easy: find an item, locate its accession number, and then type it into the computer system. Things get a lot more complicated when an item doesn’t have a number, or the number on the item isn’t in our records (and then if I don’t know what the item is we’re in a real pickle). With the item pictured above for example, I had a few ideas of what it might be (ashtray, dish for baking angel food cake, etc.) but nothing concrete. Luckily, this particular item did have an accession number. However, upon typing the number into the computer system, to my dismay the description for this item was ‘Mystery Dish’! So the mystery continues…
*Update: The other day a relative of mine was browsing the housewares section of Value Village when she discovered a dish similar my ‘Mystery Dish’, and it was labelled as an ‘apple baker’! A quick google images search confirmed that my mystery dish is in fact an apple baker! A dish like this is used by removing the core of an apple, placing it on the middle of the dish and baking, often with cinnamon or nuts.
A couple from England was visiting our Museum when they thought they recognized this box of Reckitt's bluing laundry powder. I climbed into the display (no easy feat!) - and it turns out that this particular brand is manufactured in the small town in England in which he grew up! He told us stories about workers being completely blue coming home from work, not unlike how coal miners become covered in black coal dust.
Bluing powder is used to brighten white sheets which have begun to fade to a grey or yellow colour. The intense blue pigment of the bluing powder counteracts the grey/yellow since they are complementary colours, and your sheets appear white again!
Top hats like the one in the above photo were once the pinnacle of fashion in the Western world. The Biltmore Hat Company in particular was held in very high regard. The Guelph, Ontario based company began in 1919, but was sold to American company Dorfman Pacific in September 2010, and is now based out of Texas. The Biltmore Hat Co. was named after the lavish hotel of the same name in New York City, which one of the founders visited. The hat pictured above isn’t a Biltmore, but is very similar in design. It’s a shame top hats aren’t in style anymore!
Sometimes when trying to identify artifacts my age is a disadvantage. When I came across the item pictured above, I thought that it was a small bowl of some sort, likely used in the kitchen. Upon typing the accession number into the computer system however, the listed description was ‘Fruit Nappy’. Feeling highly skeptical, I decided I should research the ridiculous ‘fruit nappy’ before dismissing it altogether and writing a different description. Much to my surprise I discovered that a ‘fruit nappy’ does in fact refer to a small bowl without a rim, often used for fruit, dessert, or sauces. Later that day I was telling my parents about my discovery. Rather than being surprised and delighted to have learned something new, they laughed, and proceeded to show me several small bowls (fruit nappies!) that have been in our cupboard for my entire life. In my defense the term fruit nappy isn’t used very often anymore and there are several forums online with people discussing what a ‘fruit nappy’ might be.
The function of the farming implement pictured above is not known to us at the Museum. Several visitors have offered us their theories:
- Used as an attachment between a breaking plow and a horse. This would make it much easier to turn around to start the next row. The height of the plow can be adjusted by moving the main implement along the axel between the two wheels of different heights.
- Used to remove old tree stumps by whittling down the stump to fit into the implement, then pulling with a horse. The round part would actually point down and then the bar attached to the horse would pull up & out, creating enough torque to remove the stump.
- Used as an attachment between a breaking plow and a horse. Similar to the first theory, except for the difference in size between the wheels: the larger wheel would stay in the previous rut, to ensure the ruts are all straight (at least relative to each other!)
We may never know the function of the implement, but all of these theories could be correct. Given how resourceful farmers can be, it could have been used at some time or another for all of the above theories! If you have any other thoughts about the purpose of this implement please let us know!