March is, among other things, National Craft Month.  We’ve featured some high-end crafting on the blog, like the hair wreath, the fretwork Lord’s Prayer, and the engineer-built cardboard house model . . . but today, let’s look at something a little simpler: a train caboose made of wood, wire, spools, paint, and a milk carton.

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Our little caboose was donated in 1998 by Eugenie Riggs, who told us it was made by one of her sons as a Boy Scout project.  George and Eugenie Riggs had four sons, born between 1934 and 1946; the family moved from D.C. to Chevy Chase in 1936, and then to Ashton’s historic “Cherry Grove” in 1945.  Waxed cardboard milk cartons were invented in the early 20th century, but didn’t become popular until the 1950s or so; thus I think the caboose was probably made in Ashton.  (Any Ashton-area Scouts from the 1950s out there want to chime in?)

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The underlying structure here is a Lucerne Vitamin D Milk carton.  The wheels are made of wooden spools, cut in two and connected with dowels, then attached to the carton with heavy wire.  Extraneous bits, like the top of the compartment and the little ladders on the ends, are made of cardboard, including some decorative corrugation on the roof.  The whole thing is painted red and black, and marked “B-O” for the B&O Railroad, one of the oldest railroads in the country (and a presence in Montgomery County since 1873).

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Pretty cute, right?  Unfortunately, we did not get any other information from Mrs. Riggs about this piece; while she was definitely a ‘saver,’ and gave us a very large donation of toys and playthings, this is the only craft-type artifact that was included.  It seems likely that it meant something special, to her and/or to its maker.  I’ve always liked this little caboose because it shows that milk-carton kids crafts – which abound on the internet (there are entire websites devoted to what you can make from a milk carton!) – have been around as long as the cartons themselves.

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