Monday, January 18, 2021

Five Western Mystery Objects Revealed

This Mystery Object post has created quite a discussion. All in all there were 39 correct answers given. Congratulations to Rosemary, NYChatham, and Tundra Bunny, who tied for first place with four correct identifications each. A special shout-out goes to Mariette, who was the only one who guessed the apparently difficult #3.

Here are the answers:

#1 Button Hook

Mariette, Debra, Michelle, Jack, NYChatham, Rosemary, Sue Bursztynski, The Contessa, Travel, Mrs. D., Pipistrello, and Tundra Bunny all got this one correct.

In earlier times there were many buttons that held clothes together. Shoes and gloves especially were held on by rows of buttons. The button hook made the job easier. You put the hook through the buttonhole, grabbed onto the shank of the button, then pulled the button through the hole.

I have tried this and it is very easy to become skilled with a button hook. The tiny example pictured here was likely meant for gloves—the larger, tighter buttons on shoes would probably break it.

Here is a photo of a few more buttonhooks from dresser sets that my sister was kind enough to send to me:


#2 Hair Receiver


This direct top view shows the center hole more clearly.



NYChatham, Rosemary, Kirk, The Contessa, Mrs. D., Pipistrello, and Tundra Bunny all identified this object.

Hair receivers once adorned virtually every lady’s dresser top. Women would brush their long hair, then pull the hair out of the brush and push it through the hole in the lid. When the receiver was full, they could take the accumulated hair out and make a small cushion called a rat, which was used to supply extra volume and height for elaborate hairstyles.

There are many hair receivers (such as this one) made out of celluloid, an early kind of plastic. A great many were also ceramic, and some were even made of sterling silver. Here is an unusual square ceramic one with a square hole, again courtesy of my sister:


#3 Corn Husker

This was correctly identified only by Mariette.

This item was dedicated to Kirk, whose blog Shadow of a Doubt recently honored Carl Sandburg. Kirk in that post mentioned Sandburg’s 1919 award-winning poem collection called Cornhuskers.

When you buy fresh corn (maize) the ears are covered with leaves or husks which must be shucked off. This is not so bad if you are boiling a few ears for dinner, but if you have an entire field of corn to husk, especially when it has been left to dry in the field for animal feed, these tough husks would rip your hands to shreds. Enter the corn husker, of which there are many varieties around.

The leather strap went around your hand, and the point could be used to puncture and start splitting apart the husk, which was then easily removed by hand. Farm workers were incredibly fast with this tool, and indeed corn husking competitions were common in earlier decades, and there is some footage of these on Youtube.

I didn’t plan for this one to be so hard. Corn huskers can easily be found at flea markets or online. Here is a group that I bought together (the one used in the quiz was purchased separately). You can see some of the many forms these came in:


Proof that Necessity is the mother of Invention


#4 Jug Cover

Mariette, Debra, Michelle, Hels, NYChatham, Rosemary, slf, Jenny Woolf, Travel, Bazza, Pipistrello, Loree, and Tundra Bunny all knew what this was.

This is an object that could still be useful. When flies are numerous, cream jugs, drinks, and various dishes of food could all be protected by these crocheted (or knitted or whatever) covers, whose edges were weighted down with glass beads so they would not fall off easily.

The one illustrated above has a kookaburra in the center, indicating that it came from Australia, as Hels explained. In fact, these are found all over, but there does seem to be a predominance of them in Australia, where my examples came from.

I am adding a picture of a plainer one, an intricate one topped with a teacup, and a view of the whole group to indicate the variety these can be found in.


#5 Collapsible Cup


I admit this one was a bit of a perspective trick, as most of you have probably seen these. However, Debra, NYChatham, Rosemary, The Contessa, Travel, and Tundra Bunny all identified it correctly.

These compact cups were used to carry on one’s person, in traveling bar kits, and as camping equipment. They must have been a blessing for fastidious people in the days when drinking fountains or other sources a water had a single public tin cup for everyone to use.

The side view immediately identifies both its use and its telescoping mechanism. This one is very small, about the size of a shot glass.

The top view would have given it away, with its inscription Vest Pocket Cup in pleasantly old-fashioned writing.

The rivet on the bottom is a little mysterious. It doesn’t indent too much on the bottom, but given the size of the cup, I am guessing this might have been part of a traveling bar set, and the cup snapped into place.

 

Thank you to all who participated in this quiz. The answers and guesses were very well thought out, especially for items that were unfamiliar. Tabulating all the answers was quite a job, so if I made a mistake, let me know and I will fix it.

Please don’t worry that I will run out of mystery objects, either Asian or Western. In fact, when my sister was sending me the photos, she sent one of an item she had just obtained, that I believe will make the corn husker look like child’s play!

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All of the objects and photos shown here are property of the author, except as noted. The group photos of the corn huskers and the jug covers (except for the kookaburra, again, courtesy of my sister) were the original listing photos when I purchased them.



40 comments:

  1. A CORNHUSKER???? Oh, the solution makes me want to say bad words, Parnassus. VERY BAD WORDS INDEED. In all seriousness, though, thanks for this contest -- it was a lot of fun!

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    1. Hello Debra, I told you you would be amazed (a-maize-d) by the answer! (Sorry for the "corny" pun.) I also figured that old-fashioned cornfields were more typical of Canada and the U.S. than in places outside North America.

      Thanks for all your responses--they added fuel to the competition.
      --Jim

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    2. That pun deserves its own comment -- GROAN! And as a clue, it obviously went in one EAR and out the other!

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    3. Ha! Ha! Well, your pun makes up for mine! --Jim

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  2. Oh my, I never would have guessed any of them (well, except the one I did guess). La Contessa, on the other hand, has done very well. It was very interesting to learn what all these mystery items were used for.

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    1. Hello Loree, Perhaps where you live a simpler life is customary, and some items from the past have been forgotten. I can easily believe that you have never seen a corn husker before!
      --Jim

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  3. Oh, Parnassus, I NEVER would have guessed it was a cornhusker and that makes me want to say very bad words too! Historically, corn was not grown as a crop on the Canadian prairies, so the cornhusker must be more of an American thing. As an avid antiques collector myself, I really enjoyed your contest. Thanks!

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    1. Hello Tundra Bunny, I have enjoying collecting bygone items from different times and cultures who use is not always immediately apparent. Sometimes quite ordinary objects are hard to identify because in they past they were made better or decorated differently.
      --Jim

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    2. That is so true, Jim! Especially with tools and kitchen gadgets. One could amass an interesting collection of just potato mashers or rolling pins! My collecting interests have been in linens, quilts, blue & white transfer ware, silver, glass and jewelry. I love anything Art Nouveau or Art Deco.

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  4. Dearest Jim,
    Well, this was quite interesting and also difficult.
    When not feeling too fit, it is not working.
    But one morning I suddenly knew what the beaded doily got used for.
    Then RTC almost guessed the corn chucker and I thought I bet it is for the husks! Very inventive tool indeed.
    The retractable cup I would have never guessed...
    Thanks for the always educative and interesting posts!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Hello Mariette, Some of these take a while to sink in, followed by that a-ha! moment. Also, several of the items were decorative, but the husker was more on the practical side (although I think they look interesting), which might have thrown some people off.

      RTC was pretty good for intuiting the corn kernels--he should get partial credit for guessing the correct plant!
      --Jim

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    2. Dearest Jim,
      Yes, RTC did help me for getting that a-ha moment!
      Hugs,
      Mariette

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  5. A cornhusker! If Sandburg's poems had only come pictures!

    I have a confession to make about the hair receiver. Thinking that picture #5, what I now know is a collapsible cup, was something you might find on woman's Victorian-era vanity table, I googled images of those type of tables, and saw on several of them objects that looked like picture #2. Not the exact same object, mind you. They were different colors, and the shapes were somewhat different, but they seemed close enough. So I made it a point to find out exactly what those objects were, which was easy enough to do as most of the vanity table pictures came with detailed descriptions. So my guess may not be a true guess but really just a fluke.

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    1. Hello Kirk, Sandburg's poem states:
      "The cornhuskers wear leather on their hands.
      There is no let-up to the wind.
      Blue bandannas are knotted at the ruddy chins."

      but his meaning is obscure. Did he mean leather gloves because of the cold referred to, or to avoid the roughness of the husks? He's probably not referring to the gizmo, although almost all of them that I have seen have leather components. Corn husking often takes place in cold weather when the cobs are properly dried for storage.

      We can recognize an object, intuit and guess its use, or use a little research, which also involves analytic thinking. At any rate, you now know what a hair receiver is, and will probable start seeing them everywhere!
      --Jim

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  6. Hi Jim, Thanks for letting me have a chance to use my brain with curiosity. It's always big fun for me to know mysterious things.

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    1. Hello rtc, It's always fun to look at unusual things. Your guess with the corn kernels gave Mariette the clue to guessing the difficult #3 corn husker! --Jim

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  7. Thanks for the effort in preparing the quiz....AND I get to add a new oddity to my obscure knowledge bank.

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    1. Hello NYChatham, I was glad of your entries. And now you know what a corn husker is. That is sure to come in handy! --Jim

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  8. A telescopic cup! Of, course. They were still part of picnic sets when I was a kid and you often saw them on the playground in lunchboxes, in plastic or those anodised jobbies. As to the popularity of jug covers in Australia, it's no surprise when you consider the number of flies and other critters in this country!

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    1. Hello Pipistrello, If you look for jug covers on Ebay, it seems that the better half of them come from Australia, and often feature Australian patterns such as the kookaburra. As you say, this makes sense for Australia, but in the U.S. at least flies can also be a problem, especially before windowscreens became common! --Jim

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  9. Replies
    1. Hello Bazza, You got the jug cover right; don't underestimate yourself! A few of these turned out to be a bit tricky, such as the corn husker, although honestly it surprised me that more people didn't guess that one. --Jim

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  10. OH!, I DID KNOW ABOUT THE CORN HUSKER WISH I HAD SHOWN THE ITALIAN............what I did not know I never had heard how the HAIR RECEIVER JARS were USED!Hair from the brush!!!To make a BUN or TOP KNOT!Now I wonder if any one knows how they did that?JUST IN MASS.Or was there a skill to it!
    MAYBE your sister knows!
    THIS WAS FUN!DO ANOTER ONE!!MADE ME FEEL SMART!!!
    XX

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    1. Hello Contessa, I am surprised that you did not know about the hair receivers considering all your knowledge about feminine fashion. As far as I am aware the used hair was used to make cushions called rats (you can look them up on the internet), and the rats were used underneath the rowing hair to help bulk it out, but were not intended to be visible. --Jim

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  11. Replies
    1. Hello Ur-spo, Thanks. It is fun to collect odd items that can now be classed as by-gones. However, I often find alternate uses for these items, especially after seeing some of the clever comments!
      --Jim
      p.s. Your comment came through this time no problem--let's hope the best for the future.

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  12. I should have recognised the button hook. I kept thinking of crochet hooks!

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    1. Hello Jenny, It was probably the word "hook" in both common objects that created the mental block! --Jim

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  13. 金牛快樂!Please continue to take care and enjoy breathing the clean and safe air.

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    1. Hello rtc, Happy New Year to you, also! I hope that you also take care of yourself and enjoy good health during this Ox year.
      --Jim

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  14. Very interesting to see things that aren't around much, but could still be practical. I feel like I'll need that button hook in a few years, and I do have a collapsible cup/more a bowl for walking the dog and giving him water. The jug cover would be good for those picnic plates I think.

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    1. Hi Sam, Yes, it is very interesting to take a peek into the minutiae of peoples' lives, past or present. Sometimes I am still able to use these old objects, and that is a lot of fun.
      --Jim
      (p.s. I suppose the Ultimate mystery object would be a certain recent comment that we both read!)

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    2. Well if it weren't for the missing comment, how would we have known each other's blog? It's good to meet and know you!

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  15. 元宵節快要來了。Do you like to eat 元宵(湯圓)? NY stock market has marked the highest. It's too difficult for me to understand this trend even though Pfizer vaccine has shown effects.

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    1. Hello rtc, Yes, I like tang yuan, and have even made my own from rice flour (both sweet and savory kinds). I have tried many kinds, including inventing my own fillings, but my favorite is always black sesame.

      I hope that the vaccine is becoming available in Japan. Here there are no announcements yet, so I probably have little hope of traveling home this summer.
      --Jim

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  16. Amei conhecer esses objetos. Eu nunca ia conseguir adivinhar. haha
    Amei o descascador de milho.
    Abraços!!!

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    1. Hello Anajá Schmitz, Thank you for such kind words. Every place has many semi-forgotten bygones that need to be dusted off from time to time and admired.
      --Jim

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  17. The cherry blossom season has just ended in my area. You're waiting for the time of peony, aren't you? 牡丹妖艷亂人心 一國如狂不惜金 週末快樂!

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    1. Hello rtc, Although you take full advantage of them, it seems that I never go where the floral displays are here. I know that some regions are famous for their blossoms, but a lot of those are up in the mountains or places like that.

      You have a good weekend, also! --Jim

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I would love to know what you think. Please feel free to comment--no tricky security words required! Any difficulties or questions, email at: clavicytherium@yahoo.com