Monday Mystery Artifact
Early Michigan settlers, however, had a more concrete meaning for the word: a tinderbox was a small, snugly-lidded metal box containing a chunk of flint, a usually U-shaped flat piece of steel, and "punk," or, such light flammable material as charred cloth or birchbark. Holding the steel, the settler would strike the flint against it, creating a small shower of sparks that, often only after several attempts, ignited the punk in the box. Sometimes a pinch of gunpowder helped things along, but it was still a troublesome method of starting a fire.
Last week's Mystery Artifact was a newer analog to the old-time tinderbox. Found next to the stove in the Ypsilanti Historical Museum's "kitchen" room, the green item is a "match safe," or, a handy storage bin for matches.
This week's winner is former winner erksnerks, who guessed that the item is a "matchstick holder." Nailed up right next to the wood-, coal-, or gas-burning stove, the matchstick holder provided a convenient way of quickly starting a fire and the family breakfast.
This week's Mystery Artifact is less utilitarian, and less common, than the match safe in old-time homes. Only a certain kind of person owned this device. It consists of two heavy metal pieces, one with a wooden handle. Each component has a series of deep grooves that fit into each other.
How was this bizarre item used, and by whom in the household? Take your best guess and good luck!
WINNER'S LIST: 8/3/09: erksnerks 8/10/09: Larissa 8/17/09: no winner 8/24/09: erksnerks, second win
Mystery Artifact is published every Monday on AnnArbor.com.