Monday, March 28, 2016

A Myriad of Mysteries

Perhaps 5 doesn't really count as a "myriad," but this post is a little different than a normal mystery artifact. This time we decided to show multiple versions of the same type of artifact, instead of just one.

They all have the same general shape. The narrow end of the wooden examples all have small holes. Most of the versions seen here have a groove or ditch down the center of them.

Though most of ours are made of wood, these can also be made of metal.

And a few of ours have a sort of hook attached to one end of them.

Some of you might know what these are right off the bat! Let us know your guess in the comments or on the museum's facebook page! 

Also, be sure to stop by to take a look at them. There's actually also a modern version of this artifact in the case along with the ones shown here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Mystery Uncapped!

Did you figure it out?

This mystery artifact is a bottle capper. Which means, it was used to fasten metal bottle caps,  or “crown corks” to glass bottles by hand. The machine uses leverage to push the bottle cap down onto the bottle top and seal it. The notches on the side of the bottle capper are there so it can move up and down and affix caps to many different sizes of bottles.

A patent for a very similar type of bottle capper was filed in 1921, so it is likely that this one is from around the same time. Even though the making, selling, and transporting of beverages with an alcoholic content was outlawed from 1920-1933 because of the Volstead Act, many people still brewed beer in the privacy of their own homes. It wasn't illegal to actually drink these beverages, and Prohibition agents couldn't search homes unless they had very clear evidence that alcohol was being bought and sold there.

To assist with this process of home-brewing, grocery stores also sold things such as these bottle cappers, along with hops, yeast, malt syrup and bottle caps under the guise of "breadmaking supplies" or similar euphemisms. In fact, the 1927 Sears & Roebuck catalog includes the following section, complete with bottle caps and grape crusher for making “grape juice”:

As you can see, there’s also a couple bottle cappers similar to ours.

These days, home brewers use similar bottle cappers (now referred to as "bench bottle cappers") that usually look something like this:
Looks pretty similar, doesn't it?

Finally, I leave you today with perhaps my favorite thing I've ever found while doing research for a blog post. It's a "bottle capping competition" from 1932, and they're using bench bottle cappers! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

That's all for this week! Check in here soon for a new mystery artifact!
And of course please stop by to see our new special exhibit Worth of Water and to check out the mystery artifacts up close.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Get a Handle on our Next Mystery Artifact

Happy Monday!

I have yet another mystery artifact this week.

Here's what I can tell you about this one: it's a metal apparatus bolted to a wooden stand. A metal plate sits on the flat wooden plank, and two feet lead up from there to a set of notches. These notches allow for the main part to move up and down as needed. The long metal handle brings the apparatus down, and a spring helps it move back up.

The whole artifact is a little less than 20 inches tall, the wooden plank is around 3 3/4 wide. The handle at the top is about 10 inches long and a little less than 1 inch wide at the widest point.

If you have any guesses or questions about this artifact, leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. And as always, please come in to the museum to take a closer look!

One last note!

Next week, our new special exhibit, the Worth of Water will be opening!
The formal opening is on Saturday, March 19th, starting at 1pm, if you'd like to join us. We'd love to see you. More information on the opening and the exhibit can be found on our facebook page.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Combing through this Mystery

We got a correct answer this week in the form of a comment on the blog! As commenter John guessed, this artifact is an old currycomb.
What’s a currycomb? A weird utensil for eating curry? No. I don't think so...

Currycombs are actually tools used to groom horses. Our artifact is made entirely of wood, but modern ones are usually made of rubber and look something like this:

What are they used for? Well, the comb is rubbed (or curried) on a horse’s skin to loosen bits of dirt, dead skin, and hair. After that is done, the horse can be brushed with a bristled brush to get rid of the loosened debris.

There are also metal versions of currycombs that look a little closer to the mystery artifact in terms of shape, like this one:
Those teeth! Eep.

These are a little different from the rubber type of currycomb. They are used to get rid of tougher bits of caked on mud or manure, since the metal teeth can hurt the horse’s skin if they touch it directly. However, both of these are only meant to be used on the horse’s body, as the face and bony legs are more sensitive and likely to be irritated by the currycomb. If you’re curious, here’s a Wiki-How article about how to use a currycomb. 

This use of the word "curry" has pretty much nothing to do with the Indian food, as that word comes from Tamil -- a language spoken in parts of India. This form of curry in the word currycomb has its roots in an Old French word meaning “to put in order." It does seem to be the reason we use the saying “to curry favor.” If you’re interested, here’s an explanation of that idiom’s etymology. I found it rather interesting.

That's all for this week, but stay tuned for more mystery artifacts. And please come visit us to see the artifact up close!