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Thursday October 02, 2014
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A Taste of the Season

 

continued

Near an array of such period kitchen tools as a "lemoner," intricate cookie cutters, and carved wooden butter molds hangs a metal colander whose punched drainer holes spell out GRANT COLFAX. After the Civil War, Republicans Ulysses Grant and Schuyler Colfax were elected president and vice-president, taking office in 1869. Recalling the fervent political nature of many early area newspapers, I wondered whether this item was campaign swag distributed by stumpers intent on implanting their message in homes, or perhaps a sort of nineteenth-century bumper sticker purchased by an ardent if voteless woman expressing her political convictions in the kitchen in lieu of a polling place. I imagined the colander displayed extra prominently in a home with a Democratic husband.

As I pondered this relic, museum curator Alice Cerniglia entered the room with a visitor and chatted about a dress on display by the ornate Bach tea set. Examining the set, I tried to puzzle out the functions of its eight curlicued vessels crowned with cupids. A samovar for hot water held a small Bunsen burner underneath, and two paired items were clearly a sugar and creamer, but for all I knew the remainder could have been canopic jars. When I overheard Cerniglia speculate on the construction of a wooden fan by saying, "It was the eighteen seventies, so they had scroll saws," I knew she was the person to ask.

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