Monday, May 14, 2018

Items from a By-Gone Era

Gabrielle Here:

Recently, I visited a few historic sites with fellow author, Erica Vetsch. I'm always amazed when I go to a museum, or historic site, and find an object that would have been common to people from a by-gone era, but looks completely foreign now. Some items remain timeless (think toilet or bicycle), but many come and go.

I worked at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site for ten years and we had quite a few of those unique objects. One of my favorite things to do was stump our visitors. I'd hold up an item that someone could have easily identified in 1910--and would receive hundreds of guesses.

Here are two items that were common in the early 1900's. Have you seen or heard of them before?

Item #1 is a glove stretcher. This would have been used
most often by a woman. When she washed and dried her gloves,
they would shrink. She would put the narrow
end into her glove fingers and squeeze the handles,
stretching out the material. 

Item #2 is a hair receiver. It would have sat on a lady's
dresser. As she combed her hair, she would take the pieces
which came out on the brush and place them in the receiver.
Hair was commonly used in making jewelry, mourning
wreaths, and hair "rats." A rat would be a clump of hair
that they would pin in place, and then wrap their existing hair
around it to give more volume.
This is an example of a mourning wreath. The flowers
were made of hair from the lady who died.
This was the picture of the "Gibson Girl" she
was the epitome of feminine beauty. Her hairstyle
would have been produced with a hair rat to give it
height and volume.

This is a hair rat in the early stages.
This picture came from Gibson Glamour Blog
and was hair collected over a two week
period of time. Once hairsprays were
invented, the hair rat went out of style.
Your Turn: Have you seen these items before? What modern, every day items do we use now that might become a thing of the past? What did you use as a child that someone today might not recognize?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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  1. Those hair rats were interesting! And just a little gross...a fun post, thanks! Youngsters today already don't know what a rotary phone is, or a "party line". Having milk delivered to your door....old fashioned wringer washing machines...Great post!!!

    1. The hair rat does kind of sound gross! :) And you’ve listed some great by-gone era things.

  2. Fun post! One of boys asked me one time why we "roll" down the car windows when we actually just push a button. The first thing that came to my mind about things I used as a kid was a potato masher--the kind with a handle and the metal end that was sort of zig-zagged. When doing my mil's estate sale, I ran across and item that was totally foreign to me. After some research, I discovered it was used for making buns. It has an oval, decorative metal top that flips up then an expandable metal wire circle that enlarges to about five inches in diameter. When it's closed, it's only 1 1/2" across.

    1. Now we know where those funny sayings come from. Sleep tight used to mean, tighten the bed ropes. Roll down the window literally meant, roll down the window. :) That bun maker sounds really cool. I bet it was such a handy tool back in its day.

    2. LOL Vickie. I used my potato masher last night...a handle with a zig-zag metal end and it works great. :)

  3. This is interesting. I like writing HF and put in items that were used during that time period.Readers can read the book and enjoying learning about the old days at the same time.

  4. What a fun post Gabrielle!
    I knew about the "hair rats" and think I should start saving the hair that comes out when I comb and brush my hair and put one of those "hair rats" at the top of my head where it is thinning! ;-)  

    I remember as a child having a "party line" and rotary phone of course. You had to dial "0" for the operator and tell her the number you wanted to call and the number you were calling from. When I was 5 years old I wanted to talk to my cousin in Virginia (we had just moved to Maryland), my mom had gone across the field to my aunt's house for a few minutes and so I thought it was a perfect time to call. I had heard her call many times so I had memorized the numbers. Only thing, my cousin was taking a bath and I didn't get to talk to her after all. My 2 year old sister told on me when our mother returned but she didn't believe her. The operator confirmed that I, or someone from our number, had made the call. Now with phone numbers programed into the cell phones I don't know the numbers and have to look them up.

    Blessings, Tina

    1. What a great story, Tina! My daughter was just asking the other day about telephone operators (and what they were for). Technology has come so far!

  5. Fun post, Gabrielle. I have an older friend that uses a hair rat because her hair is so thin. Young people are not familiar with a potato masher with electric beaters and being able to buy mash potato mixes.

    1. This information about the hair rat is surprising me! I don’t think I know anyone who still uses one—but maybe they hide it well. :) Potato masher is a great example. We had one growing up, but I think I was the one who encouraged my mom to start using the electric hand mixer for mashed (whipped?) potatoes.

  6. I have seen "mourning jewelry" made from hair, and the hair rat was still used in the early 1940's. I remember my mother having one as well as her sister. They used them to make high pompadors on top of the head.

    1. I didn’t realize hair rats were still being used in the 1940’s!

  7. I knew about these things. My mother who just died at 101 years of age was an antique collector and dealer. I had a whole whole set of celluloid things like toothbrush holder, powder holder and com, brush, and had mirror and a hair reciever, and a button hook. They were in an old buffalo leather suitcase. I only have a few things left. No suitcase, though. From my early years— how about an eggbeater? I remember making pudding with it in the sixties! A cork stopper with an aluminum head with hokes in it? We put it on a glass pop bottle with water in it to sprinkle clothes with it!

    1. Yes! We were still making pudding with an egg beater in the 1980’s. I wonder if my mom ever uses that anymore.

    2. I used an egg beater up until ten years ago but I don't have an egg beater any longer, and now I use a wire whisk to make instant pudding or cooked pudding because it gets the lumps out.

  8. The hair receiver is new to me, but as recently as the last 10-15 years, I knew someone who still used hair rats.