Are You a Founder, Settler, Pioneer, or Squatter? Here are the answers to those puzzling historic artifacts
In last week’s quiz you had to identify five artifacts from the museum collection of the Aurora Historical Society. They are only five of over 5,000 items that are either on display or currently stored in the society’s collection area. In addition, the society has over 10,000 photos of Aurora’s historic buildings, individual and family photos, household items, community celebrations, farm equipment and tools, clothing and apparel, and historic events. While the museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, the society has provided through the numerous articles printed in the Aurora Advocate since the beginning of the pandemic a glimpse into what the Aurora Historical Society has preserved pertaining to Aurora’s history.
Here are the answers to last week’s quiz. Give yourself 2 points for each correct answer and rate yourself on the following scale: 10 points, Founder; 8 points, Pioneer; 6 points, Settler; 4 points, Newcomer; 2 points, Squatter; and 0 points, Visitor. Let us know on Facebook how well you scored.
Artifact 1 – Coffee Mill (Wood and cast iron manufacture by the “Favorite Mill, Arcade Mfg. Co.” from the late 19th Century. Gift of Art and Ruth Moebius.
Drive through the center of town early any workday morning and you will find a line of drivers waiting in line at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks to by their morning “waker-upper.” Others grab that travel mug with a hot cup of coffee that was home brewed. Today, coffee grounds come prepacked and ready to put into the coffee maker. Some people buy the beans and fresh grind at home.
Large wooden box coffee mills were most commonly found during the late 1800s on a country store counter top. Shaped like a box the shopkeeper turned the crank on top of the box to grind the coffee beans. A small the box beneath the mill collected the ground coffee. The most common coffee mill was the type with the handle on the top while some had the crank on the side. This style was very popular as a home mill until around the 1930’s.
Artifact 2 – Barrel Churn (Wood and cast iron, 19th Century, gift of the Ray and Calvin Harmon family)
One of our kitchen staples is butter which historically has been suggested to have existed as early as 2000 B.C. The earliest butter churn dates back to 600 B.C.
A butter churn is the device that converts cream which has been separated from milk into butter. Cream can be separated from milk by simply allowing the milk to stand. Over a period of time the cream will rise to the top and then skimmed off. It was a time consuming method which increased the probability of becoming contaminated. To speed up the process several centrifugal separators were invented which allowed for the faster separation to take place. The spinning machine caused the heavier milk to be pulled against the wall of the cylinder while the lighter cream collected in the middle. Both the milk and the cream were drawn off into separate containers. The cream it then placed into the churn which was stir rapidly with the agitation causing the fat molecules in the cream to clump together forming butter while the liquid remaining was buttermilk.
Artifact 3 – Electric Toaster (Porcelain and wire, General Electric Co., Patented 1909, anonymous gift.)
Pop-Tarts, Eggo Waffles, or English Muffins, what would we do in the morning rush to get the kids on the school bus, or getting ready for that early morning zoom meeting? The pop up toaster first came into the kitchen in the early 20th Century with the production of the General Electric Model D-12 toaster. Prior to its invention, bread was toasted over an open fire an iron fork or in an iron basket.
The major obstacle in the development the toaster was making a heating element which would be able to sustain repeated heating to red-hot temperatures without breaking or becoming too brittle. Thomas Edison faced the same challenge with the invention of the light bulb. However, creating a successful filament for the light bulb was easier since it burned in a vacuum. The disadvantage to this early electric model was that the bread had to be turned by hand to toast on both sides. The first automatic pop-up toaster was patented in 1921. It wasn’t until 1925 that the first automatic, pop-up, household toaster was invented that could brown bread on both sides simultaneously, set the heating element on a timer, and eject the toast when finished.
Artifact 4 – Foot Warmer (Walnut and pierced tin, early 19th Century, used by Roxanna Russell Sheldon, gift of Frank and Mary Ellen Buell)
Heated bricks, stones, boiling water, or lumps of iron placed in portable containers. The most common use of a foot warmer was in the four hour services held on Sunday in local churches. During the midday break, parishioners would head to a shed know as Sabbath-day house which consisted of a shed with horse stalls at one end and a fireplace at the other end. Here they would break for lunch and place fresh embers in their foot stoves before they would head back to church for their second afternoon service.
Foot warmers were also used in unheated carriages or sleighs in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. As American people soon discovered the ease of rail travel, the foot warmers found their home on trains. Sometimes foot warmers were provided with first class rail service.
Artifact 5 – Chamber Pot – (White ceramic with brown painted scene, early 19th Century, gift of Bob Roth)
The human lexicon finds various names for the lavatory. If you’re a little kid is a “potty.” In colonial times it was referred to as the “necessary” or the “privy.” In the 1920s it was referred to as the “powder room” among ladies. In the navy it called the “head,” and in England the “loo.” I remember when I went with my dad and uncles on the yearly fishing trip to Canada having to get up in the middle of the cold fall night to take a journey to the “outhouse.” You would grab the toilet seat that was kept behind the cast iron stove to keep it warm. Imagine having to get up in the dead of the night, or in the midst of a rain storm. It wasn’t until the introduction of indoor flush toilets started to displace chamber pots in the 19th century, but they remained common until the mid-20th century. The alternative to using the chamber pot was a long cold walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night.
The Aurora Historical Society Museum is one of Aurora’s best kept secrets. Over the last three issues of the Advocate you knowledge of our town’s history has been challenged. The
Society will continue to tell the history of Aurora in future articles. When we are able to once again safely open the museum to the public we invite the community to learn and see more about what has made or community what it is today. In meantime please visit us on the web at aurorahistorical.org and on Facebook at Aurora Historical Society. We are in the midst of our membership drive and you are welcome to become a member my joining online.
Printed with the permission of the Aurora Historical Society which retains rights to all content and photos.