Let’s Play: Guess the Antique Kitchen Gadget

April 13, 2009 · 66 comments · Print This Post

in Contests / Giveaways, Maine, Nostalgia

Guess the Antique Kitchen Gadget

Erin’s Note: The contest has ended. If you would like to learn the identity of the gadget please click here.

For many years my grandmother worked for a living history museum called the Norlands. Norlands is the ancestral home of the Washburn family. You’ve probably never heard of them but during the 19th century the ten children of Israel and Martha Washburn became governors, congressmen, senators, Secretary of State, foreign ministers, a Civil War general, and a Navy captain. One of them was even the founder of the Washburn-Crosby Gold Medal Flour Company, now more commonly known as Gold Medal Flour. That’s a pretty impressive pedigree for a family that hailed from rural Maine, wouldn’t you say?

While working for the Norlands my grandmother would often visit schools with her good friend and museum founder, Billie Gammon, to present outreach programs for children. My grandmother and Billie would teach classes about life in rural Maine and often bring artifacts for the students to handle and learn about. The mysterious gadget pictured above is an example of one of those items. My grandmother brought it to Easter dinner yesterday and completely stumped us all. None of us could correctly identify what this contraption was used for. Can you?

Please leave your best guess in the comments. One lucky random commenter (How nice am I? You don’t even have to guess correctly!) will receive a brand new copy of the adorable reproduction edition of the 1959 version of Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining. The recipes and images in this book are a scream. Very Mad Men meets Payton’s Place. I’ll leave the contest open until Wednesday at 5:00 PM. Let’s see if you’re more astute than my family.

1 anna April 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Is it a bottle opener??

2 Eva April 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm

It looks like a candle snuffer, but the key on the end is stumping me.

3 Marisa April 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I think that might be an ice cream scoop, but I’m not positive.

4 Amy April 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Egg cracker? Make a hole, pour the egg out and cook with it..crack the shell nicely for presentation purposes…

5 Felicia April 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I would guess a candle extinguisher…?

6 Michael April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I may me unduly influenced by the Gold Medal family connection (clue or red herring?), but it looks like a flour sifter, or like it might be used for sifting of some sort. At least it looks like the mouse-eared device at the top would be used for turning.

7 Michele April 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Hmmmm… I had coworkers look at it with me and we were thinking maybe a can opener???

8 jo April 13, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Sorry Erin! I twitted before I read the whole thing.
I think it might have been used to shave sugar off of the cones of sugar that were prevalent and wrapped in indigo paper to make the sugar look whiter.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

9 Alex April 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I think it is an eggtop cutter. Used to cut a perfect circle out of the top of an egg in order to use it as a serving vessel for a custard or such.

10 julia April 13, 2009 at 3:05 pm

hmmmm…..id say either a melon baller or an ice cream scoop, b/c the handle looks like it has a scrapey-out lever…thing, if that made ANY sense.
or a butter-shaper? they liked to do weird things with butter back then.

11 julia April 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

wait, scratch that. i’d say something used to score a hole in an egg, or something.
for soft-boiled eggs.

12 Monica H April 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I’m going to say a funnel to make funnel cakes!

13 Charese April 13, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I say ice cream scoop!

14 rachel April 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Ice cream scoop?

15 Amanda April 13, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Hmmm…Good one! I’m gonna go with a can opener!

16 Jessie Lynn April 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm

This is such neat a little giveaway! 😀

I think… my initial thoughts were a chopper of some sort or a sifter.


17 dawn April 13, 2009 at 4:14 pm

can we see the other side of it? looks like a candle snuffer or an egg separator

18 Jeff D April 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Could be some sort of measuring spoon where the key allows you to adjust the size of the bowl.

The thing it reminds me of the most is some thingie my parents had to mix drinks, but it was two sealed funnels back to back. You could pour a shot into one, dump it into the glass then flip it and pour a different liquor before you had to rinse it.

19 L April 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I thought candle snuffer, but then I thought it must be some kind of filter, maybe for tea?, because of the funnel shape. I can’t tell if the funnel is closed or open on the other side.

20 Julie Jenkins April 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Gosh I really wish we could see the other side!!! But I’m going to guess something for cracking egg shells open nicely. if that made any sense.

21 Erynne April 13, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I’m gonna say a measuring scoop…

22 Liz April 13, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Hmmm… I deal in antiques and you have me stumped! Just guessing, I’d say maybe a funnel of some kind?

23 zestycook April 13, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I am going to say a flour sifter! Love this post Erin 🙂


24 Angie April 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Tea strainer?

25 Claire April 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm

It looks kind of like it could be a garlic presser type of instrument? But it also looks like the top turns so something inside must be moving.. perhaps some kind of opener? I wish we could see the other side!

26 LJ April 13, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Based on the shape of the handle, I’d say that the gadget is upside-down right now, so I think it’s a flour sifter too.

27 edina April 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Is it a citrus juicer? I can’t wait to find out what it is!

28 Anna April 13, 2009 at 8:45 pm

A strawberry de-topped?!

29 Anna April 13, 2009 at 8:45 pm

A strawberry de-topper?!

30 Jasmine April 13, 2009 at 10:21 pm

This is my first time commenting, but I’m an avid reader of your blog! I have no idea what that thing is, but I’m going to guess that it’s some sort of bottle opener maybe?

31 Jenny April 14, 2009 at 8:22 am

I think it is an egg separator or some kind of egg tool.

32 Kathie April 14, 2009 at 8:32 am

This is a geared ice cream scoop.
I’m guessing it was once tinned steel.
I only know this because my husband’s Nana had one. Looked almost the same, but hers had a wooden handle.

33 Evelyn April 14, 2009 at 8:33 am

A flour sifter

34 pjamma April 14, 2009 at 9:33 am

I like the sugar cone guess. I’m going to go with ice shaver. Why our Maine ancestors were shaving ice with all that snow, I don’t know!

35 Ken George April 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

I’m gonna go with “flux capacitor.”

36 Aaron Foster April 14, 2009 at 10:03 am

Well, it looks like a candle snuffer but I’m going to guess a “sparker” for lighting gas stoves pre-electricity.

37 kristen b April 14, 2009 at 10:07 am

i’d say some type of egg cracker, going with the easter theme!

38 Air April 14, 2009 at 11:17 am

To me it looks like an antique flour sifter, or something that would be able to take clumps out of sugar, flour etc. =]

39 Gül Şat April 14, 2009 at 11:53 am

cork opener?

40 Teresa April 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I think it is a sifter

41 Donna April 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm

My guess would be a lemon reamer of some sort.. Thanks for the chance..

42 Amber April 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

i agree with jenny, some sort of egg separator. or an ice cream scoop. yeah, i don’t know.

43 Mary April 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm

I’m guessing a clamp for the end of a ham bone.

Erin! My grandmother volunteered at Norlands for several years (I think – I was 12, that’s what’s in my memory). Please ask your grandmother if she knew Elaine Wing. I have fond memories of the Norland’s Strawberry Festival.

44 Danielle April 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm

ice cream scooper? With the dial to loosen the scoop so it drops in your bowl?

45 Kate April 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm


46 Lowry Pei April 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm

My train of thought is this: it’s used to scoop something, and the key-like handle rotates something inside the scoop that frees the scooped substance so it falls out in a nice smooth conical shape. Hence whatever is scooped is solid and retains its shape. Butter does feel like a good guess, but I’m not confident it’s right. Ice cream doesn’t sound as likely to me (why conical ice cream?). I think the clue to this would be to come up with some kind of conical food. But that has me stumped.

47 jacquie April 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm

liquid measuring cup?

48 Shawn April 14, 2009 at 11:51 pm

ice cream scoop

49 Allen April 15, 2009 at 1:35 am

My mother has a ton of old family gadgets, so I love this sort of guessing game.

The key on the end of it reminds me of something we used to grind nuts. You place the nuts in, turn it over, and turn the key … or at least that’s what I’d do with it 🙂

50 Elizabeth April 15, 2009 at 8:58 am

Boy, that key has me stumped. My first guess is lemon zester. Drop in half a lemon with the pulp side up, turn the key, it shaves strips off the peel. My second guess is for softening brown sugar- drop in a hard lump, turn the key, it grinds up the hard piece until it’s soft.

We are probably all hilariously wrong!

51 Jeannette April 15, 2009 at 9:17 am

I’m going to go with ice cream scoop. my first guess was an egg seperator but i think those were just a spiraled piece of wire on a handle. Hm.

52 Deah April 15, 2009 at 9:23 am

From the way its laying there I would think a candle snuffer but that is too obvious. Maybe a filter or funnel of some sort?

53 david popp April 15, 2009 at 9:31 am

my guess to the antique device would be…..it removes the tops of eggs without destroying the entire egg.

54 Gül Şat April 15, 2009 at 11:55 am

I cannot find my earlier comment so I go again with my guess:

cork opener (remover)

55 Amy I. April 15, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I’d guess a funnel? My gut is telling me it has to do with liquid or beverages but I can’t possibly imagine what. Can’t wait to find out what it is!

56 yael April 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

My guess is some sort of bottle or can opener.

57 Elle April 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Before seeing yael’s comment, I was thinking can opener because it has a thing at the top that looks like it turns.

And what an interesting family–you’re right, I’d never heard of them!

58 Diane Willoughby April 15, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Candle snuffer.

59 Kerri Anne April 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I’m guessing bottle/wine opener.

60 carrie April 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I’m going with tea diffuser. though i like the bottle opener idea. but I think in my post-Lent-I-had-too-much-tea mentality, I’m going to stick with a tea diffuser.

watch it be like 3 feet long and turn out to be a fish mallet or something.

61 jill April 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I am going to go with … garlic press?

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