Archive for the ‘objects’ Category


This month we’re featuring another object from the Old York Historical Society’s “The Best of York” exhibit. The exhibit will be on view in the Remick Barn Gallery during the 2017 season.


This large, wooden vessel is known as a Communion Tankard.  It stands nearly 9 inches tall and is 6 1/2 inches wide at the base. The form is a very old one known as a “stave” tankard because it is constructed, like a barrel, using vertical strips of wood known as staves held together by bent wood hoops. Stave tankards were made in Scandinavia in great numbers for export to continental Europe and the British Isles.  The Old York Historical Society’s tankard may have been one of the many tankards made in Scandinavia, or may have been made elsewhere in Europe or in York.  It dates to the late 17th or very early 18th century.

In Puritan New England churches, communion wine was poured from jugs or tankards into smaller cups for serving to congregants.  This particular tankard reportedly was used for serving communion wine at York’s First Parish Church prior to the 1780s, when the church acquired silver tankards. However, given its age, the tankard may have been used at an earlier Puritan meetinghouse. It is thought to be one of the oldest surviving communion tankards in New England.

“The Best of York” exhibit features over seventy rare artifacts, most made or used between 1690 and 1850 in Southern Maine and the Piscataqua Region of New Hampshire. Many of these objects have previously been in storage or were part of period room settings in historic buildings. Together, they tell the story of the development of one of New England’s oldest communities from a frontier outpost to a community of sophisticated tastes and world views.

The exhibit is open to the public during regular museum hours, Memorial Day through October.  Please visit the Old York website for more information.


Read Full Post »

1978.309 (2)

This week’s mystery object is a seam rubber. Like its name implies, it was used to smooth and flatten the heavy canvas, making creases in sails before the seams were stitched.

The fact that it is carved from whalebone adds another interesting component. Originally, the term “scrimshaw” referred to objects made by sailors from the byproducts of whaling, such as bone, teeth and baleen. A seam rubber would have been an important tool in a sailor’s kit. Over time, the term scrimshaw has come to include the more whimsical pieces made by sailors in their spare time.

Read Full Post »

This week’s mystery object was a little tricky. The bottle which depicts the image of General Taylor on one side and George Washington on the other, was produced by Dyottville Glass Works between 1847-1849.

1972 .25x

In the early 1800s Englishman Thomas W. Dyott purchased an earlier glass works near Philadelphia and built an establishment called “Dyottville” which operated into the 1930’s. Dyottville was more than a glass factory; it was a home for 300 boys and  young men. It operated as a small community complete with a school, church, hospital, library and a farm. These workers were obliged to follow a strict code of ethics:

1.  No swearing, improper or abusive language.
2. $5 fine or dismissal for breaking the rule prohibiting liquor on the premises.
3. $5 fine for disobeying the orders of a superior.
4. Personal cleanliness and “necessary ablution” before meals, school and church.
5. Use of all fines to purchases books for the Dyottville Apprentices Library.
6. Strict prohibition of every species of gambling.
7. Immediate notification of the one’s superior in case of illness, so another could take his station in the factory.

The irony was code #2; workers who produced liquor bottles were prohibited from inbibing alcohol!

Read Full Post »


This is one of four porcelain plates brought back to York, Maine by Miss Elizabeth Perkins and her mother, Mary (Sowles) Perkins, from their travels to Russia (1896 & 1909). It can be identified as being from Imperial Russia not only by the double-headed eagle in the center, but also by the cyrillics (“lettering”) that are used. The Russian orthography was changed shortly after the 1917 revolution; the plates retain the older cyrillics from the late 19th-early 20th centuries.

The set was made by the Korniloff Brothers, who had a factory in St. Petersburg, Russia. The factory closed in 1918 when all businesses were privatized by the government.

All four of the plates in the collection feature cyrillics around the rim which give different Russian proverbs relating to food. This plate roughly translates as “If the bread is not yours, don’t open your mouth.”

Read Full Post »


This week’s mystery object is a sausage press. Ground up meat was placed inside the hollow tin cylinder and a natural casing was placed over the spout.  As the wooden plunger was depressed the base of the plunger would push the meat down, forcing the meat out of the spout and into the casing.

Sausage making was a fall activity, making efficient use of leftover bits of meat from slaughtered animals as well as their intestines for casings. The sausages were eaten fresh or preserved by cooking or smoking. Cooked sausages were placed in a crock and covered with melted lard. Once the lard hardened, the contents of the crock would become air-tight, keeping the sausages preserved until the weather grew warm.


Read Full Post »


This week’s mystery object was found by donor Elizabeth Boardman at a local yard sale. They belonged to Herman A. Starkey (1897-1983) who worked as groundskeeper at the York Golf and Tennis Club. The horseshoe shape is no accident; the four steel plates were used to protect the grass at the golf course from a horse’s hooves.




Read Full Post »


This particular medal belonged to Joseph Albie Sewall (1839-1922) of York who served as a private in Company G, 27th Maine. Contracted to a 9-month campaign, the 25th Maine was first asked to stay behind to defend Washington, D.C. in June, 1863,  due to the invasion of Pennsylvania by Robert E. Lee (the Gettysburg Campaign). They declined. The 27th Maine was then asked to help and 300 men agreed to stay behind. Initially, these soldiers were told that “Medals of Honor would be given to that portion of the regiment that volunteered to remain.” The battle was soon over and they left Washington for home on July 4th, reuniting with the rest of the regiment in Portland for their mustering out on July 17th. Later there was a disagreement as to which of the men actually served since records had not been kept. Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mark F. Wentworth, who had witnessed great sacrifice and valor in the battlefields, did not believe that the soldiers of the 27th deserved the medals. A few of the medals were distributed unofficially, but were purged by congress in 1917. This medal was given to the Museums of Old York by Joseph’s granddaughter, Anne Elizabeth  (Sewall) Bowden in 1970.

There were a total of 949 men listed on the muster rolls for the 27th Maine. During their service, the regiment lost nineteen men by disease and one was killed by the accidental discharge of his musket.

The medal is also known as “Minerva Repulsing Discord”. Taken in the context of the Civil War soldiers and sailors struggling to overcome the discord of the states and preserve the Union, the design was as fitting as it was symbolic. The medal depicts Minerva, the Roman virgin goddess of wisdom, fighting Discord, the Roman goddess of strife.


Reverse side is engraved, “The Congress to Joseph A. Sewall, C. G. 27th Me. Vol.”




Read Full Post »

1962.187-1 (2)

This week’s mystery object is a patch box! Patch boxes were used to store patches (false beauty marks) which were fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries. The patches consisted of bits of gummed taffeta or other fabric used to emphasize the beauty or whiteness of the skin or to draw attention to a particular facial feature, such as a dimple. They were also used to hide flaws such as scars, pimples, etc. They varied in form and design from simple spots, stars, or crescents and were sometimes dyed brilliant colors.

The interior of the lid was usually lined with a mirror and sometimes held two compartments, one for the patches and the other for rouge. In its heyday (1700s), both men and woman used patches, although it appears to have been more common among women. Patch boxes were commonly given as gifts and the covers are often decorated with declarations of friendship.


What is it?

Hint: Think Marilyn Monroe.

Read Full Post »


This week’s mystery object is a foot warmer, also called a foot stove. They were placed under a woman’s skirts or under lap robes or a blanket. They were a welcomed source of heat on a cold carriage ride, during a religious service, or even at home.


There is some debate as to how these were heated. Most researchers believe that hot coals or embers were placed inside the smaller inner box. The punched holes allow the heat to escape and oxygen to enter the warmer to keep the coals alive. Some people, however, think that the punched designs are simply decorative and the warmer was heated with hot stones.

Some warmers actually do contain slabs of soapstone; some of these stones even have wire wrapped around them to serve as handles. But does that mean that only stones were used? What about the inner tin pans?


What do you think?

Read Full Post »


This week’s mystery object is often referred to as a miser’s purse. The slit in the center allowed for coinage to be easily placed inside; the sliding rings secured the coinage into two different groups. This could be used to segregate coins of a lesser value from those of greater value or to separate money belonging to different individuals.  Notice that each end of the purse is decorated with a different fringe. The reason for this asymmetrical design is to help the user retrieve the coin from the proper side.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »