Fascinating Objects From the Past

Fascinating Objects From the Past

I love weird stuff! Especially those weird things from the past. I also greatly appreciate the beauty and artistry of even the simplest object from long ago. Our modern, fast-paced, factory produced industries — while wonderful in so many ways (lower cost being a big bonus) — typically do not create with the skill and attention to aesthetics as the hand-made artisans from the days of yore. For today’s post I will be sharing a handful of unusual, no-longer as necessary objects, along with others that have (thankfully) evolved into improved designs. To add to the fun, try guessing what the thing is before clicking to reveal the name and purpose.


What are these things?

Prior to electric and gas heating, if one traveled in cold weather a foot warmer of some kind in your unheated carriage, sleigh, or train compartment was a common, desirable solution. Known as foot warmers, or foot stoves by the Dutch, the simplest were punched tin in a wooden frame with an earthenware or iron pot inside. Hot coals, wood embers, or rocks were placed inside the pot. Foot warmers made of brass were more stylish, and silver warmers were preferred by the wealthy even if not as practical since they heated so thoroughly that one’s feet could not rest on the top. 


What are these things?

Surely you didn’t think a butler or diner would brush fallen bread crumbs off the bleached white tablecloth onto the floor? Perish the thought! Instead, some clever person invented the table crumber, or simply, the crumber. The crumber came in many forms: a small brush and pan, a tiny brush on its own (which sweeps crumbs into a waiter’s hand), and a flat metal scraper or blade with or without a handle. As seen in these seven examples, the materials widely varied but were almost always beautifully designed as befitting eras of fine, upper crust (pun intended) dining.


What are these things?

The need to supplement or substitute breast milk is not a modern problem. For a host of reasons, a mother’s (or wet nurse’s) breast was not always immediately available. Feeders (see above) and those shaped as a bottle (look below), dating as far back as 2000 B.C. have been found all over the world. The colorful glass feeder in the middle above dates to 1st century Rome. Recipes and theories of what to feed a baby varied widely, although milk (cow, goat, donkey, sheep, etc.) was typically the main ingredient. Additives to the milk base included wine, honey, mead, and egg, as well as breadcrumbs and thinned gruel or porridge.

Early feeders were made from terra-cotta and other pottery until the 300 B.C. Egyptians began making glass. Pewter and silver were later common materials used in both feeders and bottle. Feeders came in all shapes, designs, and sizes, the universal trait being a narrow outlet with a small hole allowing the fluid to drip into the infant’s mouth. Bottles shared a similar slim shape, usually with only one opening, and included some type of nipple meant to be inserted inside the infant’s mouth to suck on. In most examples, the nipple was the same material as the bottle and attached as a screw-on cap or stopper. Other bottle nipples were made from softer materials, such as cloth and gum.

As can be imagined from the examples shared here, cleanliness was the biggest downside. Instinctively, people understood the importance of sanitation (yes, even before the discovery of bacteria) but not to the same degree we do. How to adequately clean the inside when the openings are so small presented a challenge to be sure. How many infants were saved from starvation with the use of a feeder versus the number who died from ingesting a contaminant is unknown.



What are these things?

The first, actual “curling iron” was patented by Sir Hiram Maxim in 1866, but the device itself dates back over 6000 years. Considering antique curling tongs are seen or referred to in numerous cultures, it is doubtful a single person is responsible for the invention. Beauty is certainly not exclusive to one country or culture!

Typically, curling irons (or curling tongs) were made of iron, bronze, and other metals. Heating was done by the straightforward method of inserting into the fire or laying atop a hot stove. The handles were usually made of a different, non-heat conducting material such as wood, bone, ivory, etc. Most handles were plain and utilitarian, but some expensive models had nickel-plated handles carved ornately. Note the Victorian Era example in the lower left corner of the above image. The tong length and diameter varied, depending upon the intended use, which was not only for a woman’s hair but also for wigs and beards.

I hope everyone enjoyed these weird, interesting objects.
Tell me how many you were able to guess correctly before clicking the spoiler box?
If this type of post is of particular fascination, tell me so in the comments below
and I’ll keep digging for more weird stuff to share!  


17 Responses to Fascinating Objects From the Past

  1. This was fascinating. I figured the first one held coals but didn’t make the connection as foot-warmer. I guess I was still thinking of the bricks. I completely missed the others. I thought the brushes were clothes brushes. That was pretty ingenious to have crumb brushes. I completely missed the baby feeders. Wow! That was amazing. The curling irons were pretty obvious. This was fun. I like trying to figure out things. Let’s do this again.

  2. Don’t know exactly what I was thinking, but the foot warmers I thought would be space heaters. A little before their time. I thought the Crummers were simply small hand brooms and a dust pan like for small messes. I didn’t think of table crumbs still on the table, though. Had no clue whatsoever about the baby feeders. I finally decided the were strange flower vases. The bottles were kind of odd looking, though I guessed ok there. TaDa! I knew the curling irons! Though I never knew they used them on beards! How modern the last two are! It looks like a crimper and a ringlet curler. And the ornate one has a very modern styling.
    I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

  3. I enjoyed this segment. Unfortunately I didn’t get lucky to even guess one. the baby bottles looked very weird and i am there with you…questioning how clean each before the next feeding. Thank you for this post…hope you can share more

  4. Pretty interesting. Curling irons, crumb brush, a clothes brush. baby bottles but I thought either the mothers or the nannies breast fed babies. One of the bottles has the tip of a enema?????

  5. I guessed the curling iron but wasn’t sure about the foot warmers or bottles!lo! I bet babies had an interesting time trying to drink from those things! I hope you find more weird stuff it makes a fun guessing game!

  6. I got the the curling tongs, and I had the general idea with the foot warmers (I realized the holes meant they probably put coals in them, but didn’t realize where they would be used). The other two were totally new to me. I love the weird historical posts. You could do stuff like this every month and I’d be happy! Bed-stretchers are one I’ve certainly always been grateful not to need. And chamber pots.

  7. Funny that curling irons really haven’t changed that much… I was at a nice hotel restaurant in downtown Denver where the waiter used a flat metal scraper to clean crumbs. That is the first time I had ever seen someone do that. Not sure what that says both about me AND the hotel. Definitely some interesting stuff.

  8. I only got two. The foot warmers and the curling irons. I thought the crumb brushes were actually clothes brushes and I’m afraid my guess for the baby feeders was novelty decanters!
    Thanks for this entertaining post Sharon.

  9. The curlling iron is the only one I got. I thought the baby feeders were perfume bottles:) Imagine going out smelling like that 🙂

  10. The things that look as though they are broken in two aree a set of crumb removers. The smaller one pushes crumbs across the table cloth to the larger piece . between courses or before the cloth is removed.
    The bottom items look like toasting forks.
    Haven’t looked yet.

  11. What fun, Sharon. I guessed the curling irons and the middle box for heating. However, because it had the grid raised above the box, I thought it might have been for heating the bed sheets in winter. But I think I remember that they used a pan with a long handle instead for that. In other words, I missed most of them. Let’s do it again. It’s fun to try and guess what they are and finding out how far off we are. 🙂

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