Overlooked Objects, 2016

In 2016 our former Curator, Emma Ballou, had the idea of highlighting some objects from our collection that one could easily walk right by while touring the Halsey House. These objects were all either small in size, or could easily be overlooked by being a seemingly common item. But every single item on display at the Halsey House is historic in nature. The majority of items on display in that home are older than the United States itself and all tell their own amazing story. Below you can find this great digital exhibit that was posted to our social media accounts in November 2016.


Day 1:

Small Creamware Plate with Blue Rim

This lovely small plate from the Thomas Halsey Homestead is classified as CREAMWARE. This cream-colored English earthenware plate was most likely produced in the late 1700s when European potters were trying to find an inexpensive substitute for expensive Chinese porcelain. Originally, the cream color was considered a fault but it quickly proved ideal for domestic ware. Creamware, like this sweet little plate, grew in popularity and was produced throughout the 19th century and later.

Day 2:

Tin Candle Snuffer

This small hollow tin cone is called a candle snuffer, an instrument used to extinguish burning candles. In early America candles were ABSOLUTELY essential to daily life. Candle makers (also known as chandlers) made candles from animal fats saved from the kitchen called tallow candles. The unpleasant smell of tallow candles was due to the glycerin they contained. The smell from manufacturing these candles was SO unpleasant that they were banned in several European cities. Beeswax was and excellent substitute, but of course, because it didn’t have an unpleasant smell it was more expensive.

Day 3:

Small Wrought Iron Peel

A peel is an ancient baking tool that is still used today by professional bakers. This shovel-like kitchen tool was most commonly used to slide lumps of dough neatly off a flat spade in an oven from a distance. One can conclude, that due to the smaller size of this particular peel, it most likely would have been used for turning small cakes or rolls. In colonial America, a home brick oven was designed and used exclusively for the making of breads, cakes, and pastries that they ate at every meal. In 1728 the "Boston News Letter" estimates the food needs of a middle-class ‘genteel’ family to consist of: bread and milk for breakfast; pudding, bread, meat, roots, pickles, and cheese for dinner; and finally bread and milk again for supper. How thrilling compared to today’s conversations about what to have for dinner, “do you want Chinese or Italian (again)?”!

Day 4:

Small Leather and Brass Hanging Mirror from the 19th century

Mirrors throughout history were incredibly costly since manufacturing them was dangerous, delicate, and required expensive materials. Some relief came in 1835 when a German invented a new method of backing sheets of glass with real silver, forever replacing the toxic material that was used up until that point, mercury. This petit mirror is rather unusual, with its leather frame and brass tack detailing it was most likely meant to hang on a wall in a stylish woman’s bedchamber.

Day 5:

Colonial Eyeglasses - Double Fold Spectacles from the 1700s

The constant problem of eyeglasses not staying in place was solved by Edward Scarlett of London. Around 1730 he perfected the temple spectacles which had short rigid arms that pressed against the head above the ears. The made wearing glasses more convenient and relevant to the current styles of wearing wigs or having long hair. A few decades after this innovation, eyeglasses with longer arms with hinges in the middle, increased in popularity. In 1752, a fellow Englishman, James Ayscough is credited with inventing the first double hinged temple. He also developed tinted lenses which were popular throughout the end of the century. Multiple design patents were issued through the end of the century, some which even suggested using four lenses to solve various issues.

Day 6:

Tin Wall Candle Sconce