Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Wheels Go Round

This week's Mystery Artifact is a very useful little object.  Many settlers in Illinois would have never made it this far without it.  The object is forged metal consisting of a round, flat wheel with four spokes.  The wheel spins on a handle riveted to the center intersection of the spokes.  The handle is flat along the wheel's circumference, then rounds out and opens up to a loop at the end. 

As always, leave your guesses here or on our Facebook page, and come on in to see the artifact firsthand!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Milk It for All It's Worth!

It’s the time for the always-anticipated mystery artifact reveal.  Several readers guessed correctly this week (although an honorable mention goes to Jess C. for her single-minded determination to figure out exactly how this machine could be used in the distilling of spirits quite a bit stronger than milk)!

This strange looking machine is in fact a foot-powered cow milker. This particular model is very rare and was patented in 1899 by William M. Mehring.  It's thought there are very few left in existence.  

We were lucky enough to have one donated to the museum after it spent some time at the University of Illinois Dairy Science Department. Before that it was owned by a man by the name of Owen Dorney of Bridgeport, Illinois, who used it until 1965. One of the few other known examples of this artifact is in the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan (that’s some prestigious company to keep!).  

How it works
The device works by connecting the spigots at the top to suction cups that would be placed on the cows utter. We are lucky enough to also have some of these in our collection and they look something like this: 

When the pedals were moved they would create suction in metal basin and this would pull the milk from the utter down and out of the pipe on the side into a bucket that would be placed underneath it.
Other models
The late 19th century into the early 20th century was a time of great invention and innovation and the market for machine milkers was no different. One type that is similar to the one that we have in our collection is the hand-pumped model which works in the same way except that the pumping was done with the users' hands instead of feet. This model would usually look something like this. 

Another model was the petrol (gas) powered milker.

The innovation shown in the market for milkers was reminiscent of the world-wide market for many products.  In addition to gas-powered milkers, this time period produced one of the most important inventions in modern-day life - something most of us use every day of the week - the car.

That's it for this week's mystery artifact.  Check back soon for more artifacts to guess!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Rare Challenge . . .

Hello, all!  It looks like it is time for another mystery artifact!

The object this week is one that is extremely rare in its full condition, with some records stating only 4 or 5 complete specimens are known to exist. The example in our collection dates from around 1900 and is in quite good shape:

It has a low seat with a central beam or rail connecting the back to the front. The front has 2 pedals and an upright beam that connects to the metal top which has a metal pipe coming off and pointing up at around a 85-95 degree angle with the base. 

One hint:  we have several attachments for this artifact, one of which looks like this:

 Happy guessing!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Geneva Code Still Followed - No Torture Here!

There is no need to call Interpol on this one, no laws are being broken. 

The device above, while at first brings to mind images such as these:

 . . . should actually bring to mind something a little more like this:

Surprised?  Do not worry - you are not the only one!  At first I thought what some of you probably thought:  “That looks like a torture device.”  Luckily for all of us this device is much more useful and agricultural in nature. It is actually called a calf weaner and is used to help the calf transition away from feeding or suckling from the mother. This video helps show how modern ones work:Calf Weaner Video

As you can see the device in the video has only small spikes or nubs on it.  This is a more modern design that is currently in use for calf weaners. This type does not allow the calf to feed from their mothers because they cannot look up and put anything in their mouth due to the calf weaner blocking the path. It still allows them to eat hay off of the ground however, due to the direction the device faces when the calf looks down. 

The model that we showed was a much older model and worked by poking the mother when the calf tried to suckle.  She would kick the calf away sending a signal that they were not allowed to suckle. This sent a pretty clear message to junior that mom was not going to allow that thing near her. After wearing the calf weaner for a while the calf quickly learned to eat hay and other more adult forms of nutrition and the device would be removed. 

Both models are available for purchase and are extremely cheap, under $5. They are now mostly made of a hard plastic instead of metal. These can be picked up at any local farming supply store or online through a multitude of vendors. Some modern ones look like these. 

Well, there you have it!  Our mystery artifact has been revealed as the not-so-tortuous calf weaner (although Mama Cow might have a different opinion)!

Keep checking back for more mystery artifacts, and stop by in person to get face to face with some of these fascinating artifacts!