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Posted on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 1:40 p.m.

Monday Mystery Artifact

By Laura Bien

Let's see; I believe I'm ready to go calling on Mrs. McCullough.

Here are those wax flowers I said I'd bring her. Oh, look at the time; I'd better finished getting dressed if I want to be there in time.

I've got my bag, my hat looks nice, and so does my new black sateen underskirt, now that I've pressed new ruffles into it with the fluting iron.

Two readers, erksnerks and Larissa, correctly identified this onetime household tool as a fluting iron, used to press pleated ruffles into the trimming on skirts and other garments. Fluting irons came in many styles, including "hand" and tabletop models. Two other types of hand fluting irons were for sale in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalog seen at left.

The user placed the flat bottom plate on a hot stove to heat up. Once heated, the plate was placed, using a detachable handle, on its holder (Sears models) or on a surface (Ypsi museum model) for ironing. The washed, damp trimming was then ironed a section at a time until the entire trimming had been pressed into dainty ruffles. On some skirts, such as the black sateen underskirt shown at right, there were multiple layers of trimming--all of which had to be pressed.

This week's Mystery Artifact is associated with less dainty work. It consists of two parts: a copper vessel and a rod with a large bulb on the end. This baffling object may be found on the Ypsilanti Historical Museum's second floor. Can you guess what it is? Good luck; answer next Monday!


WINNER'S LIST: 8/3/09: erksnerks 8/10/09: Larissa 8/17/09: no winner 8/24/09: erksnerks, second win 8/31/09: erksnerks, third win; Larissa, second win

Mystery Artifact is published every Monday on


Laura Bien

Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 4:54 p.m.

That is an excellent guess, goblue18! Unfortunately I have to keep a poker face till next Monday. But I'll be sure to tell you about it then! Thanks for reading!


Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 3:45 p.m.

chocolate stirring pot (with stirrer, of course)?

Laura Bien

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 2:53 p.m.

Hi erksnerks. Your question is a good one and relates to this object's function. It's not made of rubber, but of a hard, rough, porous, charcoal-like substance. Like a big charcoal briquette but tougher than charcoal.


Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 2:44 p.m.

Good afternoon Mystery person...Is that some type of oil measuring hootie? Is the bulb rubber?