Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Mystery!

Good morning readers! What could it be? Can you guess this weeks mystery artifact?

This artifact is wooden, although other artifacts like it are made of fancier material- even ivory! The "wheel" is carved with a beautiful leaf and flower design. This artifact dates to the early 1800's and is only about 5 inches long. 

What is this artifact? What is it used for? Let us know your guesses in the comments below or on Facebook!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stretching for an Answer?

For what was this week's mystery artifact used?

Carol R. guessed:

"Based on what appears to be a ratcheting bar that extends the 2 prongs forward, or brings them closer to the saw bladed arm behind it, I'm guessing that the tool either stretches something or pries two things apart. Since the points on the blade face forward, the tool was more likely used to stretch something by digging the saw bladed points into something, then putting the prong end just in front of the saw bladed bar, then using the handle to ratchet the prongs forward, stretching the something wider. Now, just need to figure out what could be stretched back in 1887."

Well done, Carol!  This artifact is a carpet stretcher, used to stretch the carpet before tacking it down while installing it.

This advertisement for a similar item ran in the Spring and Summer 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue and Buyers' Guide:

It reads:

"Tack the carpet firmly at one corner, set teeth of the drawbar through the carpet, drive the hook into the floor close by the baseboard, as shown in the cut; then by means of the lever pry the drawbar forward until the carpet is sufficiently stretched, where the gravity drop will hold it until tacked.  Set the stretcher at intervals until the carpet is laid."

Note the bargain price of $.40 for one, and $4.32 for a dozen!

Check in next week for another mystery artifact!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another Monday Mystery

Hello all!  Can you guess this week's mystery artifact?

It is an iron object with a wooden handle about 16 inches in length.  Both horizontal and vertical iron cross pieces have a saw-tooth edge, and the front piece has two prongs, as you can see below:

A close look at the widest saw-tooth piece reveals letters reading "PAT. SEP 20, 87."  Here are a couple of close-ups of the lettered piece:

A quick hint:  this object's name describes its function.

As always, post your guesses in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.  Stay warm and dry out there tonight!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weighing In: Mystery Artifact Revealed

I didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to guess this mystery artifact, but the item above apparently left our readers stumped!  Does this photo give you a hint?

It features a hitching post in the town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which is deep in Amish Country.  It is not unusual to see horse-drawn wagons and buggies there on any given day, and visitors might see our mystery artifact in use there, as well.

It is a tether weight or buggy anchor and was used, much like a ship's anchor, to hold the horse and buggy in place if a hitching post was not available.  The driver would throw the anchor overboard, as it were, and with the chain clipped to the horse's harness, the horse would be held in place by the weight.  Well-trained driving teams of horses would not move far without a command to do so, but the weight ensured they would stay nearby even if spooked.

It certainly seems a more humane way of tethering than hobbling, in which a rope is tied between the horse's front and back legs (look closely at the mule in the photo below for the hobble rope).  With the rope in place, the horse can only hobble from one spot to another while grazing rather than running off.

Tether weights came in all shapes and sizes, like the ones pictured below:

Tune in next week for another exciting mystery artifact.  Until then, we hope you'll join us tomorrow at our Prairie Stories event!  You can find more information on our website, and here is a schedule of activities to help you plan your visit:

Demonstrations & Activities
10:00 am -5:00 pm Blacksmith
10:00 am -5:00 pm Cooper
10:00 am -5:00 pm Basket weaving
10:00 am -5:00 pm Pottery-making
10:00 am -5:00 pm Weaving
10:00 am -5:00 pm Outdoor Games

12:00 pm-5:00 pm Hands-on Activities

12:00 pm-5:00 pm Archaeology Activities
1:00 pm-2:00 pm Central Illinois English Country Dancers
2:00 pm-4:00 pm Banjulele

Schoolhouse Fun!
12:30 pm-1:00 pm Quill Writing
1:30 pm-2:00 pm Spelling Bee
2:30 pm-3:00 pm 19th Century Fashion

Bring out the whole family for a day of fun! We hope to see you there!