Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Labor Day Fireman's Musters

Labor Day is this coming weekend.  In the circa 1920 era, local people spent the weekend watching the competition among area fire departments, called a muster. The tournament, organized by the Willamette Valley Firemen's Association, was held in different cities each year, with Corvallis hosting in 1913, 1916, 1920, and possibly some other years as well.  One popular event was the hose race, in which teams of firemen competed to see which was the fastest at pulling a cart wound with a long fire hose.
Other events included a nozzle race (fastest to connect the hose) and a hose and ladder race.
The winner of the water fight was the team which could stand with their backs to the water from a fire hose 40 feet away.

Another event which the public enjoyed was demonstrations of fire-fighting skills such as raising a ladder and climbing to the roof of Corvallis's Julian Hotel.
The weekend also included a parade, a banquet, and a ball.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Featured Artifact: Pickle Caster

My last post featured glass Mason Jars used for canning. The object below is also made of glass but instead of a tin lid, this one is surrounded by a silver plated stand, handle, lid, and hook with tongs. And while Mason jars are still used today, few contemporary household would own one of these objects. What is it?
Mfg. by Middletown Plate Co.
Middletown, Connecticut
This is a pickle caster or pickle jar and was used to serve pickles or other relishes, not to preserve or store them.

During the late 1800s, giving elaborate dinner parties using a full complement of dishes and utensils, allowed a family to show off its wealth. If you could afford a specialized dish just for serving pickles, then you must be well-off. This notion was reinforced by the elaborate decorations on the casters. Also on the table would be elaborate soup tureens, specialized oyster plates, celery (then considered a delicacy) vases. Place settings included a variety of specialized eating utensils, such as asparagus or fish forks. And all these had to be polished and washed by hand!  While most families would not have or could have afforded all these items, the pickle caster was the one that many middle-class families chose.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Featured Artefacts: Mason Jars

Earlier this week I froze another quart bag of blueberries which I’d picked at a local growers.  To me, the ability to do so is one of the pleasures of living in Benton County.

Preserving fruit for future use has a long history.  A popular way to do so for decades, has been to can fruit in glass jars. They are often called Mason jars after John Landis Mason, a tinsmith who in 1858 patented the standard-thread screw-cap and jar to use with it. By 1896, such jars were machine-made, making them reliable and affordable.  In the 1900s, many companies made these jars. 
The Benton Country Historical Museum has a large collection of these jars in different sizes, colors, and made by different companies.  Here are a few of them.

This half-gallon blue-green jar was made by the Ball Glass company of Muncie Indiana during the 1896-1910 period and is one of the oldest jars in the collection.
The Ball Company also made this green pint jar during 1900-1914.  The jar was recovered during archeological monitoring of the Corvallis Riverfront during the Sewer Overflow Project.
Another manufacturer was the Anchor-hocking Company of Lancaster Pennsylvania which made this clear glass pint jar. The jar is embossed with an Anchor logo.
The Illinois-Pacific Glass Company of San Francisco made this quart jar of an unusual amethyst color around 1910.
The museum’s collection also includes jars by the Hero Fruit company of Philadelphia, the Hazel Atlas Company of Wheeling, West Virginia, and the Drey brand made by the Shram Glass Company. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon