"the cannonball"We call this “the cannonball.”  It is 18″ in circumference, and weighs 27 pounds (hence its nickname).  If I dropped this on my foot it would do some damage, but the “cannonball” is not a projectile; it’s a giant ball of gum and tobacco product wrappers, probably intended for recycling to help the war effort during one of the World Wars.

This impressive item was donated in 1986 by Miss Lona Huck, whose family came from Takoma Park. Unfortunately, while the donor was forthcoming on the history of the rest of the donation, the “cannonball” was described only (if accurately) as a “heavy ball made of foil.” One of my predecessors guessed it was created during World War II, but I think it more likely to date from World War I (at least in its inception) as it was possibly started by Joseph C. Huck (1844-1931), the donor’s father. One of Mr. Huck’s sons served in World War I; perhaps this was a father’s way of helping the war effort. Or perhaps another family member started it during the scrap-metal collecting efforts during the Second World War. Or maybe it was just a hobby, a personal collection, started by one of the Huck children and worked on for years; at any rate, if it was destined for the recycling bin it never got there.

Miss Huck has passed away, and I haven’t located any other descendants who might have some insight on the origins of the County’s Heaviest Ball of Foil. An expert on foil could probably tell me the correct timeframe, at least of the outer layer, but experts on foil are not thick on the ground. The consensus among my colleagues is that there’s no way just foil could weigh 27 pounds; maybe there’s something inside it that was used as the seed, like starting a rubber-band ball around a Superball. I wish I had a handy X-ray machine (there isn’t one in our medical collections, oh well) to do a little research, since I probably shouldn’t just start unpeeling the foil. In a thank-you note to the donor, our then-director added a postcript: “We’ve had a lovely time mystifying people with the ‘cannonball’!”  While perhaps mystifying people should not really be our goal, it can be entertaining to present the occasional “history mystery.” Not to the curator, though! Although (as this blog may make clear) I do enjoy hunting down facts and stories related to our artifacts, I prefer mysteries that can be solved with relative ease and don’t require X-ray machines or crystal balls.