Brass And Copper Utensils Part 4

Some beautiful Russian pieces are shown in Figure 182. The middle one is much like the Turkish shape for coffee-pots, and the genuineness of these articles is assured, since they were obtained from the Russian peasants on landing. The samovar, a peculiarly Rus sian utensil, had also come in for its share of popular favour, and two very fine antique ones are shown in Figures 183 and 184. They belong in one of the most noted collections in New York City.

Figure 185 has, besides the brass samovar which stands on an antique tray of beaten brass, an incense burner, used on festival days for sprinkling the guests when seated at table with incense. The strange old vase with Arabic characters upon it is made from a single piece of brass, and the candlestick betrays its nationality soplainly that it is hardly necessary to say it is Chinese. These pieces make quite a polyglot company.

The only sugar-bowl which I ever found in brass is given in Figure 186 [...] and with what might be called by courtesy a creamer. The pitcher is much the more venerable [...] the bowl has two handles of cast brass. Both pieces are either of English or American manufacture.

 Fig. 185 Russian Samovar, etc.. Fig. 186 Pitcher and Sugar-Bowl, Brass.

In Figure187 are some other Russian brasses, a coffee-pot and two bowls, the bowl which stands flat on the table being of extremely crude workmanship and very old. The other is in two pieces, and they are riveted together. Figure 188 shows the metal work of three nations. The kettle to the right is a handsome piece of brass repousse work, with a fine coat of arms for decoration. Once upon a time it had a piece of wood upon the iron bar which holds the two ends of the handle together, but this was burned off long ago, and even the iron is much corroded. This came from England. The brass tea-kettle in the centre is home-made, and furnished to cold and tired travellers hot water in plenty for their toddy. The brass pitcher with upturned lip is Dutch, and seems as if it might have borne company with the old brass shaving-bowls of a century or more ago.

 Fig. 187 Russian Brasses. Fig. 188 Brass Kettle and Pitcher.

Travellers from Holland bring home much brass these days, — dust-pans, snuff-boxes, and various small kettles, and once in a while one of the huge old milk- cans which are such a picturesque feature of the coun try. These, while pleasing, are generally quite modern, and will not keep company with the pots and pans shown here, all of which belong to the old regime.

Having all too briefly considered the brass and copper utensils used for heating and cooking, it is next in order to consider their use in holding a light. Before we can properly speak of the way our ancestors lighted their homes and buildings, we must glance at the scanty means which they had at command for getting that started. There were, of course, no friction matches, their invention taking place about 1827. The earliest friction matches which were used in this country were imported from France, and there is a story concerning their early manufacture in America which goes to prove how seldom the inventor profits by his invention. In 1836, nearly ten years from their first use, friction matches imported from France were clumsy phosphoric ones. They were made by dipping the match-stick first into sulphur and then into a paste composed of chloride of potash, red lead, and loaf sugar. Each box of matches was accompanied by a bottle of sulphuric acid, into which every match had to be dipped in order to light it.

The attention of a young man living in Springfield, Massachusetts, L. C. Allen by name, was attracted to this subject, and he set to work to invent a match which could be lighted by drawing it across a rough surface. He succeeded, and was urged to take out a patent. This he neglected to do, and when at last he took steps in the matter he found that a patent had already been obtained by a pedlar from Chicopee, Massachusetts, who had picked up in some way the results of Mr. Allen's labours. The end of the matter was that Phillips, the pedlar, gave Allen leave to make matches under his patent, in consideration of Allen's waiving his claim and not instigating any litigation. So the inventor of friction matches became a manufacturer of matches under another man's patent.

Before the use of matches all lights had to be pro duced by hot coals which were kept glowing by being covered with ashes, or by flint and steel. The practice of carrying coals from one house to another when a fight was needed became so common that the danger of fire to the settlements was much increased. Stringent laws were framed in many towis, ordering that "fire shall allways be kept covered when carried from house to house." Among the early laws of New Amsterdam were those regulating the moving of hot coals, and several Dutch atouws were brought to court for break ing them. The danger of fire was a constant menace, and every house was provided with fire-buckets, which were hung in some hand spot.

As late as 1742 an inventory of the belongings of Peter Faneuil, Esq., of Boston, was filed. He was a wealthy man, with a large house and rich furnishings, yet in the " great centre hall " hung " one large entry lantern, twelve baggs and bucketts and some books." Apparently the bags were to carry out the goods if it were necessary.

The method of using flint and steel is unknown to most people of this generation, but it was a process which is said to have caused more strong language from our ancestors than anything else with which they had to deal. The flint was a bit of stone, as the name implies, which was roughly shaped, oblong, square, or round, about two mches in diameter with a sharp edge, which was smartly struck against the steel. This latter object was hung over the the fingers of the left hand and the handle of it firmly grasped; the flint was held between the finger and thumb of the right hand, and the steel struck quickly with the flint from above dowmvard. This caused the sparks to fall upon the tinder in the box, the tiny spark was blown into a flame, a match covered at the end with sulphur was soon burning, and was quickly applied to either fire or candle. At the very best this process took from one to three minutes, and if the materials were damp, if the striker's hands were chilled, or if in the dark the steel was not successfully struck, it might take as long as thirty minutes to perform the operation. Many were the bleeding knuckles which were the portion of the unskilful. No wonder that the friction match was fore friction matches were made something far more wonderful could be seen in New York City. That was the house at No. 7 Cherry Street, which was lighted throughout by a marvellous and dangerous material known as Gas. This was in 1824, and the house be longed to Mr. Samuel Leggett, President of the New York Gas Light Company, aaIio took this method of showing how little danger there was in the new illuminant. The method of lighting it was by the sulphur match, which was lighted in its turn by the tinder-box, if no hot coals were at hand.

Figure 189 shows two styles of tinder-boxes. The round one on the left is closed, and the little tube on top held the candle. When the cover was removed the candle-holder came too, and within were the flint and steel, and a round bit of tin with a handle called a "damper," and used to put out the sparks in the scorched linen when no longer needed. The other box, somewhat like a wheelbarrow in shape, has within it yet the old sulphur matches and the flint. The steel forms the wheel. In all cases it was necessary to keep the boxes carefully covered, so that the contents should not get damp, for this added to the difficulty of getting a spark started. We can see why " early to bed " became a household word!"

 Fig. 189 Tinder Boxes. Fig. 190 Early Lamps. Fig. 191 Brass Candlesticks.

Table of contents


The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

© Furniture Ferret 2023