Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mystery Artifact of the Week!

Greetings! and welcome back to the Mystery Artifact of the Week. We missed sending you one last week because we had gazillions of schoolchildren at the museum last week (it was the last week of school don't you know). 

Speaking of schoolchildren, one of our brilliant charges asked what this was last week. We were hoping you might be able to tell us...

If you think you know we'll be glad to hear from you. Heck! We'll be glad to hear your theories regardless. Happy guessing. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

And the Artifact is . . .

 . . . a wagon jack, pictured here in front of the buggy near the Chesebro blacksmith shop in our Prairie Stories exhibit!  Well done, Jess C., who posted her guess in our Facebook comments!

Wooden wagon and buggy wheels would be "ironed" by placing an iron rim around the wheels to protect them from bumps in the rough roads.  Blacksmiths would weld two strips of iron together which were bent to match the exact size of the wooden wheel rim.   Fitting the iron rim onto the wood was an exacting process requiring the metal be heated to a precise temperature--too hot could burn the wooden wheel, but too cool could result in a poor fit.  If the blacksmith was skilled, the cold water poured over the hot iron rim would cause the metal to shrink to a close fit.  Wagon jacks were often built by the same blacksmith who had ironed the wheels, and prudent travelers of the era would never travel without one.  Often wagon jacks were carried on the back of the wagon, near a grease or tar bucket containing lubricant for the axles.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guess the Mystery Artifact:

The last few mystery artifacts appear to have been pretty easy to guess.  Of course, that was intentional--we just wanted to get your brains all warmed up for a really tricky one!  So here you have it:

What do you think?  Does it look familiar?  Give us your best guess in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

And the Answer is . . .

 . . . a swift, used to wind skeins of yarn during spinning.  John was close with his Facebook guess "spinning wheel," but Susan guessed correctly that the swift was a yarnwinder!  Here is a larger picture of the swift in our collection:

It is located by the loom and large spinning wheel in our Prairie Stories exhibit.  Stop by and take a look!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mystery Artifact of the Week!

This week's mystery artifact can also be found in our Prairie Stories exhibit.  Take a look, and then take a guess!

Mystery Artifact 2

Post your guesses on our Facebook page ( or in the comments section below!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"This little village . . . ."

While researching in the Champaign County Historical Archives yesterday at the Urbana Free Library, I came across this lovely excerpt from the May 6, 1868, edition of the "Gazette and Union":

"Seated upon the west bank of the Sangamon River is a little village, the beauty of which is unknown to many of our readers.  We speak of Mahomet, or Middletown, located in the western part of our country.  The prospect of being made a railroad town at an early day is causing this little village to fairly blossom with improvements, and new business houses and enterprises are daily budding into existence.  Sometime since they completed the finest and most respectable appearing school house in the county, and now have in course of construction a Baptist Church which will equal, if not eclipse, any edifice of similar character in this city.  A beautiful wrought iron bridge spans the river at a point opposite the town, and the mills located nearby rattle away upon their logs and grists in a most industrious manner and the merry clatter of their cogs and wheels awake the echoes in the surrounding forests.  The country surrounding is the most beautiful God ever smiled upon and embraces some of the finest farms in this part of the State . . . .  When the iron horse, which will soon be bounding between this point and Mahomet, commences making resting spells there, then our two towns can look for a strong rival in this western village."