Today we have two bottle cappers for your enjoyment. They are of similar vintage, but were used in the county at different times.

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Bottle cappers are tidy little machines that use leverage to force a metal bottle cap onto the mouth of a glass bottle, thus sealing in the liquid contents. Similar items are made today for use in home beer brewing, and indeed the vintage versions are often associated with the Prohibition era, at least in the popular imagination. A patent search for “bottle capper” shows that these types of tools started popping up in the late 1910s – perhaps in anticipation of the Volstead Act? And while I did not find anything along these lines in 1890s-1900s household catalogs, a bottle capper was available from Montgomery Ward in 1922, and the 1927 Sears catalog (image below) offered several “bottling goods,” including two capper options.  Though hardly definitive, these few sources would seem to indicate that bottle cappers did become more, ah, useful to the average consumer once commercial liquor was unavailable. Keep reading for more on the liquor angle, at the end of this post.

1927 Sears bottling goods

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Standard D Since 1923

(Special appearance by non-accessioned mid 20th century soda bottles)

From our collections, first up is this sturdy bottle capper, 17” tall, made of iron, and marked “Standard D Since 1923.” (An internet search has found a few other examples with the same mark, but so far no additional maker info or history.) It was donated in 1962 by Alice, widow of Henry H. Griffith (1862-1951), along with an assortment of farm and household tools; other than noting “used at Crow’s Content,” the Griffith family home in Laytonsville, Mrs. Griffith provided no specifics.

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Next we have a lighter, steel bottle capper, 16.5” tall; it’s likely also from the 1920s or 1930s, though it has no manufacturer’s name or other helpful marks. Donated recently by Jane Sween, this capper originally came from her husband’s family in Frostburg, but was later used in 1970s Bethesda for a Girl Scout project: bottling home-made root beer. Along with the capper, Mrs. Sween also donated the box of metal and cork bottle caps – purchased from Community Paint and Hardware in Bethesda – from the same project.

no makers mark

box of bottle caps

One gross of cork-lined metal Kerr Bottle Caps – “The perfect seal for all home bottling uses.”

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These two examples are of similar height and size, are based on the same general design (both can be screwed to a table or work surface, for example), and perform the same function, but they operate a little differently. The “Standard D” Laytonsville capper is all-in-one; the bar handle can be turned one way to raise the mechanism, and the other way to lower the capper onto the bottlecap and force it closed.  Our Frostburg/Bethesda capper has a removable ratchet-style handle, which can be slid onto the base at the appropriate height, then levered downward a few inches onto the bottle.  This 1929 patent for a similar mechanism explains some details.

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As usual I turned to the internet to find video of the artifact in action, and ladies and gentlemen, I have found a winner: newsreel footage of a bottle-capping race, circa 1920. These “home brewers” are using machines similar to our “Standard D;” the winner capped twelve bottles in nine seconds. You must watch.

As for the original usage of both these machines, let us assume that the Griffiths and our friends in Frostburg were bottling only non-alcoholic beverages – at least until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Others, of course, were not so law-abiding. Montgomery County Police records from the 1920s – early 1930s include a number of raids on home stills and arrests for “possession of intoxicating beverages with intent to sell.” For example, here is an entry from the Takoma Park Police station log, dated August 4, 1932:

1932 police log

MCHS Library collections

Aug 4, 32. Report of raiding the home of [redacted], Hollywood Park near Colesville. There we found about 150 bottles of beer and 100 empty bottles, and about five quarts of whiskey. A six gal. crock of beer was in the making which was destroyed, and some coloring. Time 11 PM. [Officers] Snyder & Barnes & Hobbs.

Though this police report does not list all the equipment discovered in the midst of this illegal operation, our anonymous whiskey entrepreneur would have needed a way to seal all those bottles. . . it seems probable that a bottle capper was involved.

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Sometimes, you need a little break from reality. Where better to turn than a ripping adventure novel? Here are a few from our collections.

Robinson CrusoeA large (8×12) illustrated edition of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, as Related by Himself, by Daniel Defoe, published by McLoughlin Brothers, 1897.  The flyleaf is inscribed “Mary Elinor England, from Aunt Mattie.” Mary England (later Ward) was born near Shady Grove in 1901, and moved with her family to Rockville around 1917. The book was donated by her son, who may have (probably?) read it himself as a child.

x20120310-4A nice little undated edition of Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, published by W.B. Conkey around 1910.  The inside cover is inscribed “Eugenia Warfield, Gaithersburg, Md.” It belonged either to Eugenia H. Warfield (1873-1963) or her daughter Eugenia Elizabeth Warfield (born 1907); the Warfields lived in Laytonsville, but the younger Eugenia probably attended high school in Gaithersburg, and the donor (Eugenia Elizabeth’s nephew) believed that all the books in this donation related to schoolwork.

x20080706And last but not least, a personal favorite: The Prisoner of Zenda, Being the History of Three Months in the Life of an English Gentleman, by Anthony Hope, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1898. This edition features “four full-page illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson,” including the frontspiece.  (If you don’t know anything about this book, it’s worth clicking on the title link to check out the plot summary – you’ll either want to run out and read it, or will be glad to know to avoid it.)  The flyleaf is inscribed “Maria Waters. 1912.” Miss Waters (1895-1970) of Germantown also owned the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, From the Memoirs of Fritz von Tarlenheim, in a 1923 movie tie-in edition. I always wonder: did she wait ten years to read the sequel? (Both books were first published in the 1890s.) Or was the 1923 book a replacement for an earlier volume that she loaned out, or lost?  Both books were donated by Maria’s great-niece.

Part 1 of “What are you reading?” included the readers’ notes and reflections on various works; in these cases, we have their novels, but not their opinions.  Yet all three books (and Rupert of Hentzau, not shown here) are far from pristine; they have loose pages, rubbed corners, broken spines, and other hallmarks of a well-used book. In addition, all were saved through at least two generations.  I think it’s safe to assume that they were read many times (or at least, read once, but hard) and were enjoyed enough that they were kept, to savor again.

Here we have one of those once-commonplace, now-mysterious household tools: a fluting iron. This little (9” tall) machine was used to make and launder clothing, specifically fluted trimmings, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A wide variety of fluting irons, or fluters, was manufactured.  Some were ‘rocker’ style; others, like this one, operated with a crank.  All were improvements over the earlier method of pressing pleats into fabric, which involved wrapping each individual crease by hand around a goffering iron.  Ladies’ and children’s clothing of the late 19th century featured a lot of pleated (also known as fluted or plaited) trim, probably the impetus for the invention of an easier way to create and care for your ruffles and ruches.

Our model here was invented by a Mrs. Susan R. Knox, patented by her on November 20, 1866, and manufactured by H. Sauerbier & Son, Newark, NJ.  In case you forget those facts, they’re written on the base.  The machine is iron, with brass rollers and a wooden handle.  Here is a description of the device, taken from her patent (“Improvement in Fluting Machines,” No. 59,913):

“This invention relates to a machine having a pair of corrugated rollers, between which the fabric or material to be fluted is drawn by the rotation of said rollers, the fluting effect, as well as the simultaneous rotation of the rollers in opposite directions, being caused by the intermeshing of the corrugations of one roller with the corresponding grooves of the other.  These rollers are made hollow in order to heat them by the introduction of heating-irons or otherwise, and thus render the fabric more susceptible to the fluting action of the rollers.”

The machine was donated to the Historical Society in 1962 by Mrs. Josiah Waters (Margaret Elgar Sherman) Jones.  Though no specific stories were shared about this artifact, many of the pieces donated by Mrs. Jones were from her husband’s family’s home, The Briers, in Olney, and this fluting iron was likely used there.

Bonus!  Here’s another fluting machine from our collections.  This one is, sadly, missing its bottom roller, but it has a decorative paint job and a few extra ‘conveniences’ (a table clamp that swivels up and out of the way; a lever to keep the top roller from flipping up by mistake) so I thought I’d throw it in.  This one is a Crown, patented in 1875 and manufactured by the American Machine Company of Philadelphia; a similar model can be found in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalog, for $3.25 (including “four heaters and a pair of tongs”).  It was donated to us in 1962 (a good – indeed, the only – year for fluters here at MCHS) by Mrs. Henry H. Griffith.  Again, nothing specific was shared about this item, but much of Mrs. Griffith’s donation came from her husband’s family’s home, Crows Content in Laytonsville.

Above: “side plaiting” trim at the hem of Isabella Snowden Stabler’s wedding gown, worn in Sandy Spring in 1884.  For more examples, try an internet image search for 1870s or 1880s fashion plates.  This site has photos of many other fluting machines, both crank-operated and rockers.

The inspiration for today’s post: Our copier decided to try a little fluting-machine action of its own, crimping all our papers. (It’s fixed now, don’t worry.)

Framed, it measures 20.25" x 16.75"

Today we have a fretwork Lord’s Prayer, circa 1890, made by Ernest M. Holland (1852-1927) of Laytonsville and/or Redland. (As always, apologies for my poor photography skills.)

I learned a lot about the various types of saws this morning, which I will not attempt to recreate here. (For a more informed summary, here’s an essay on scrollsawer.com.) In essence, fretwork has been around for centuries; the process was improved by the 16th century invention of the fretsaw; the 19th century saw the introduction of the mechanical fretsaw, or scroll saw, powered first by treadle and later by electricity. Because a fret or scroll saw’s extremely thin blade can be removed, one can be placed directly in a ‘starting hole’ to make interior cuts without having to start from the outside edge. (And yes, that peculiar explanation is why I was not going to try and recreate the history of fretwork.)

The scroll saw became widely used in America around the 1860s, prompting a fretwork boom both large (think Victorian house trim) and small. Professionals, artists and hobbyists have long enjoyed the art of fretwork, making plaques, ornaments, clock faces, box lids, and basically anything else that might benefit from the addition of some lacy cut wood. Our piece is, as far as can be seen, unsigned; the Woodward & Lothrop frame is relatively modern. Our correspondence with the donor, Mrs. Ann Golden Holland Pace, describes this as “the carving of the Lord’s Prayer by your father.” Many people won prizes at the county fair each year for their scroll saw skills, although Mr. Holland does not appear to be one of them (I’m still looking through the lists).

Ernest was born in 1852 to Nathan and Eliza Holland. According to his 1927 obituary, he “taught in the public schools of Montgomery County for years and later was in the mercantile business at Redland.” He appears to have been a true Montgomery Countian – by which I mean, he lived all over the county: born in Hyattstown in 1852; grew up in Barnesville; married Anna Harris in Rockville in 1877. In1880 he and his young family were in the Darnestown district. The 1900 census puts the family in the Laytonsville district, although in 1902 he was principal of the school in Cabin John. Mr. Holland was one of the gentlemen who founded St. Luke’s Evangelist Lutheran Church, Redland, in 1901, and a 1907 newspaper article describes him as a “well-known merchant of Redland.” After his wife’s 1919 death, he lived with his son in Wheaton. Finally, a few years before his 1927 death he left the county, to stay with relatives outside Baltimore.

Mr. Holland’s involvement with St. Luke’s church may or may not reflect his devoutness, so why the Lord’s Prayer in wooden form? Christian Victorian households often included overtly religious images and artifacts, and fretwork plaques were part of this trend. Lord’s Prayer plaques from the late 19th century – many almost identical to ours – are relatively common, as a search through internet auctions proves. A.H. Shipman’s 1881 “Amateur Mechanics Manual and Catalogue of Scroll Saws and Lathes” includes a Lord’s Prayer pattern, which the author proclaims “should be in the house of everyone that has a bracket saw.” I have not yet tracked down a copy to compare his version with ours, but perhaps that is where Mr. Holland got his idea.

Sadly, I couldn’t find any extra photos to add to today’s post.  So instead, here are some extra words! Researching Mr. Holland brought out some totally fun, if totally irrelevant (to this piece), family facts. First, I kept encountering another Ernest Holland from Barnesville, who lost a hand in 1897 by “having it caught in a cutting box.” Despite the potentially interesting connection of scroll saw / cutting box, this wasn’t my guy. Second, Ernest and Anna (the right ones) had one of the best naming conventions I’ve yet come across: their five children were named Egbert Pearl, Ruby, John Diamond, Ann Golden, and Opal. Census records and newspaper references indicate that they all went by their gemstone/mineral names (including Pearl).

Third, the local newspaper contained many of the little snippets that I find so evocative, but which are sometimes sadly lacking. Ruby married school teacher Joseph L. Waters in December 1902, “unbeknownst to her friends” until they made it public in January 1903. (Sadly, Joseph died of typhoid a month later.) Pearl married Laura Hawes of Laytonsville in 1902, but they divorced in 1919. (For some reason I am always surprised by divorces; I even wrote “Oh, Pearl divorced Laura!” in my notes.) Diamond, a medical doctor, died at age 37 in 1918, leaving a wife and two sons.  And Opal married the pastor of St. Luke’s (her father’s church) in 1912.  Anyone need a starting plot point or two for their historical novel? Here you go.

Side view

This cotton petticoat belonged to, and was probably made by, Eva Riggs (1838-1892) of Laytonsville.  It was donated in the early days of the Society, probably in the 1950s or 1960s, and the donor’s name has unfortunately been lost. The information he/she/they provided is still intact, however, thanks to a careful volunteer who noted that the hairpin lace* trim was made by Eva Riggs Griffith in the late 1860s to trim her trousseau. Miss Riggs married Festus Griffith (1838-?), also of Laytonsville, in 1871.

* Hairpin lace is a form of crochet, made on a crochet “staple” or, in a pinch, a bent-wire hairpin. The crocheted strips can be joined to create a light, airy, lacy fabric. Hairpin and other crochet work was popular in the mid 19th century as lace trimming for underclothes, baby bonnets and the like.  Note: I am going by what a previous cataloger called this work (which may simply be what the donor called it).  It looks like a crochet lace to me, but I am far from an expert needlework identifier and if you quibble with the “hairpin lace” designation, let me know!

Research in the census, cemetery records, and local genealogy files (all available in our library) shows that Festus Griffith (1838-?) was born at Edgehill Farm in Laytonsville; attended Benjamin Hallowell’s school in Alexandria; moved to Baltimore, where he worked as a clerk in a grocery store; and served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Captain. According to Captain Griffith’s entry in the Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Maryland and the District of Columbia (1879), “after the cessation of hostilities he engaged in mercantile pursuits in Baltimore and New York, until 1870, when he went to Texas, where he sojourned for four years, participating during that period, very actively, in public affairs, and extensively engaging in cotton operations. In 1874 he returned to Maryland, where he is now quietly engaged in agricultural pursuits.” On June 28, 1871, he married his old neighbor Eva Riggs, apparently in Texas (and I wish I knew the circumstances. Did he write her from Texas, asking her to come out and get hitched? Were they engaged for many years, waiting for Festus to establish himself through his extensive cotton operations? Had they been childhood sweethearts, or did they not really meet until after the War?) The 1880 census shows the couple living in the Mechanicsville [Olney] district with Eva’s parents, Elisha and Avolina Warfield Riggs. The Griffiths did not have any children; Eva died in 1892 in Howard County, and I have not been able to find a death date for Festus (one website, summing up his Confederate career, just says “yes” next to the date of death).

So there’s a lot about Captain Griffith out there. But what about Eva? So far, all I’ve found is her basic history; it’s not even entirely clear what her name really was: the various census and other records refer to her as Avolina, Eveline, Eve, Eva and Evvie (I’ve gone with Eva here because it appears to be what the donor called her). The only thing we have to flesh out the bare bones of Eva’s story is this petticoat – but it can tell us a lot. The fabric is clean and cared for, other than a few tiny stains near the waistband; the lace trim is well-made, and the donor’s remark about “trimming some of her trousseau” probably means she made a fair amount of it. The waist measures between 24 and 25 inches (depending on how much overlap you leave at the no-closure waistband fastening). The petticoat is styled for a bustle, the fashionable look for 1871. If you were to write the story of Eva Riggs Griffith’s life, based on the facts above and this garment, what would you conclude?

This "walking dress" appeared in the June, 1871 issue of Peterson's Magazine (Eva and Festus married in June of 1871). It shows the fashionably bustled silhouette that Eva's petticoat is styled for.