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.




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.





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.”




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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.


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?


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.


This week’s mystery object, also known as a squirrel cage swift, was used to wind and unwind skeins of yarn smoothly. The long slot allows for multiple positions of the cages and accommodate various skein sizes. This is a great tool for changing skeins into balls, bobbins, cones or spools. It dates from the mid 19th century.