Friday, January 24, 2014

An Up-lift-ing Artifact Revealed

It's another cold and blustery day here in Central Illinois,but at least the kids made it back to school today!  Perhaps this cold snap is why I've been thinking of cozy and home-made comfort food this week, which led me to choose this mystery artifact:

Jenifer guessed that it might be part of a saddle frame.  And Jess's comment deserves to be posted in its entirety: 

"It's hard to study this one objectively when all I keep seeing is a giant pair of folding eyeglasses or a early prototype of the ThighMaster.  But no, this is... gate hardware? A pants hanger? A trivet? Hmm, no. It's a boot stretcher/shaper. You insert the hinged side into the shaft of the boot and open it enough to stretch the leather. The curved side fits in the calf side of the boot."
Very clever and interesting guesses, but a little wide of the mark (although Jess's aside about a trivet was pretty close)!  We have this week what noted celebri-chef Alton Brown would call a 'unitasker' (as opposed to multitaskers, which perform several jobs in the kitchen).  

This artifact is a pie lifter.   The baker would close the object around the pie tin to lift the pie, hot and steaming, from the oven.  With this particular model, the baker could then set the pie plate, lifter and all, to cool; the tiny 'feet' on the open end would hold the hot bottom of the pie tin off the flat surface as it cooled.

The original owner of our property, William Redhed, donated over 2,500 artifacts along with the property in the mid-1960s, stipulating that the Champaign County Forest Preserve District use the artifacts as a foundational collection in a museum on the property.  We have several examples of pie lifters from this original collection:

This one is very similar to the advertisement for a 'plate lifter' displayed in the 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalogue:

Although, having examined the photo more closely, it looks like there is a spring between the two wooden pieces.  Perhaps this one is a better match:

The wooden pieces lay flat when the spring is holding them open, but can be squeezed together to push the wire plate-holders together.

This is another interesting example of a pie or plate lifter, although this one would require a bit of dexterity to hook the protrusions onto each side of the pie plate while maneuvering around inside a hot oven:

This pie lifter, by contrast, has a much simpler design:

And, with perhaps the most straightforward design of the whole lot, our last pie lifter of the day:

I am not sure what Mr. Redhed's fascination was with pie lifters, but we remain grateful for his interest in collecting, and his desire to donate his collection to a public institution where it is used daily to educate and inspire.  I, for one, am inspired to go home and bake tonight!  Apple pie is sounding very warm and comforting right now . . . .

1 comment:

  1. Pie lifting is serious business! Thank you for the post. I like that you included an advertisement.