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Washtenaw County Historical Society - Mystery Artifact
March 2007: Tenebrous Tool

<>Mystery Artiact for March 2007

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Help us identify March's mystery artifact. Maybe a donut cutter or a candle holder?

Please email us your ideas, and we'll post them on this page, below, with your initials. Thank you for your contributions.



January 2006: Cryptic Rod



(Click on picture for larger image).

This month's mystery artifact is an odd one. It resembles a handle of some sort, but the lengths of string are puzzling. It's unclear how the string and handle work in conjunction. What's the function of this cryptic rod?

Please email us your thoughts, guesses, or recollections, and we'll post them on this page, below, with your initials. Thank you for your contributions.

Guesses:

If it were modern, it might hold paper towels. It's a mystery to me, especially the strings. --S.K.

If the long metal part is a sharp blade it might be a scaper for cleaning hides at a tannery, but that wouldn't explain the strings. Or maybe the wood handle held string for sale in a store, with the apparent blade(s?) providing a way to yank and cut the length wanted. Or maybe it held cord for a butcher to cut off without needing scissors when wrapping packages for customers. Or maybe none of the above. --R.R.




November 2005: Enigmatic Roller



(Click on picture for larger image).

This month's mystery artifact is a stumper. It's clearly a roller of some sort, but the tapered, bead-like shape of the wooden roller makes the function of this tool unclear, and has us scratching our heads at the WCHS.

Please email us your thoughts, guesses, or recollections, and we'll post them on this page, below, with your initials. Thank you for your contributions.

Guesses:

I will take a guess and say it's for rolling dough to make noodles. I'm probably totally wrong, but this is fun! --S. W.

For some reason I have the idea that this is a roller used for detail work when installing wallpaper. The reason is that the curved shape, unlike a cylindrical roller, would not leave "tracks" in wetted wallpaper as the edges of a cylindrical roller might. --L.B.

Here is the envelope . . .
. . . And L. B.'s guess is the November winner! Below is a picture of a modern German version of the barrel-style wallpaper roller (or edge roller), which I found on a tool company website. Another site explained that the roller's barrel shape (less exaggerated in this example) is useful in laying down serpentine seams. The idea is to apply enough pressure at the paper's edge to squeeze the glue out evenly, so that the paper will lie flat, but not to squeeze it out entirely (in which case the paper would not adhere at all). Practice and experience lead to finesse. --W.S.



October 2005: Baffling Wooden Ring



(Click on picture for larger image).

This month's mystery artifact is a real puzzler. Not even the WCHS curator could identify this odd 6- by 4.5-inch wooden ring. The item has a handle-like rod in its center and is sturdily built and heavy for its size. Can you help us identify it?

Please email us your thoughts, guesses, or recollections, and we'll post them on this page, below, with your initials. We're confident that some kind reader knows exactly what this is, and we're eager to find out.


Guesses:

I do have a guess about the artifact. Is it a hat form or hat blocking form? (for men's hats of course). --S.W.

This strikes me as something with which to straighten or "iron" men's collars, which of course used to be separate items from men's shirts. My guess is a collar-straightener. --L.B.

[T]hat mystery object is a hat stretcher. To confirm, type "hat stretcher" into the Google Image Search page. --P.W.

(Here are the intriguing results for the Google image search for "hat stretcher").

I think it looks like a kind of pulley for ropes. That is only a guess, and I am most likely wrong, but that is what it looks like to me. --J.M.

I had my doubts about this object being a hat stretcher. It looks too small. However, my all-knowing husband took one look at it and said, "That's a hat stretcher. I've seen them in Western Horseman." Who can disagree with one's husband? --A.D.

I'm voting for hat stretcher too. Hats were made out of felt- felt stretches when wet. Knitters do felting even today. Felt holds it shape when dried. --P.C.

 

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