H is for Witchcraft: Kitchen Signs, Symbols & Artifacts Found So Far in the 1750 House

Little stories are popping up everywhere these days. Renovations on the kitchen are underway, but there is nothing flashy and exciting to show quite yet since it’s mostly been electrical work, beam support, plumbing upgrades, and insulation clean-up. Once the kitchen gets framed out and the walls go up, the tiles go on, and the appliances get installed then we’ll be ready for more exciting room photos.

In the meantime, during all this cleaning up, clearing out and repair work the kitchen is beginning to share some secrets. I haven’t had a chance to research the origin story of the house yet, but the following items and information we have discovered during the renovation of this room over the last couple of weeks definitely gives us some insight into the lives of previous owners.

Trapped in between layers of blown insulation in a west-facing kitchen wall we found these three objects on the same day in the same area…

a spoon, a bullet, and the shearing half of a pair of scissors. All from different eras of history, they each offer a glimpse into the domestic atmosphere of life lived centuries ago.

The Antique Teaspoon {exact age unknown}

This antique silverplate teaspoon has a really detailed pattern with wheat sprigs, a scroll (most likely where a monogram would have been placed) and a fleur-de-lis type embellishment. Well weathered, but in one whole piece, this spoon is really quite a work of art…

No easy teller of time and talent, it is, unfortunately, unmarked as to maker and manufacturer. After many hours pouring over antique silverplate patterns, I can’t seem to find any exact matches, but I suspect that it dates to somewhere around the late 1800s. It seems like quite a fancy spoon for a simple style house so it has piqued my interest as to who it belonged to and how it wound up stuffed inside the kitchen wall. I’ll keep researching it, but if any of you lovely readers recognize the pattern design please share your thoughts in the comment section.

The Bullet {pre-1936}

Never having researched guns or ammunition before, this was a real deep dive into the world of historic firearms. This bullet, officially referred to as an ammunition cartridge, was made by The United States Cartridge Company. Located in Lowell, MA from 1869-1927, USCC was one of the largest suppliers of ammunition during WWI, and produced ammunition for both the military and civilian use. This type of ammunition in particular is called a rimfire cartridge, with gunpowder located in the middle section and the bullet located at the tip. The design is known as a pineapple (vintage kitchen theme approved!) because it explodes in multiple directions once it hits its intended target.

Rimfire was used in rifles and pistols mostly for small game-hunting, and marksmanship. A very popular style of ammunition during the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was even used by the Boy Scouts to garner merit badges in shooting.

After The United States Cartridge Company was purchased by Winchester Repeating Arms in 1927, production moved to New Haven, CT which is just 30 minutes down the road from the house. Geographically, it is fitting that a locally produced bullet would be found here, but there is no way to tell if this particular bullet was made in Massachusetts pre-1927 or in Connecticut. Either way, Winchester stopped making USCC branded ammunition in Connecticut in 1936.

Poster image courtesy of Historic New England

Perhaps this was part of someone’s military memorabilia or maybe this one was part of a pack of similar cartridges that were used in hunting the land around here. So far in the yard, we have spotted one deer, five turkeys, several doves and a family of rabbits so I can only imagine what a diverse food source this area would have offered for hunters and gatherers.

The Scissors {exact age unknown}

Although quite rusty, these primitive scissors look to be hand-forged and pretty old. Like the spoon, there are no marks or labels to help identify a maker or a year of manufacture but they are intact enough to see that they are short scissors, measuring just 4.5″ inches from the tip to the first turn of the handle. Here you can see them next to a pair of standard fabric sewing scissors to get an idea of size and shape.

Long considered a domestic industry, scissor-making encapsulates the design of over 150 different styles of scissors that run the gamut from small and delicate to large and mighty depending on the task at hand. Given the smaller, more fragile shape of these, I suspect they were made for more delicate tasks like sewing, bookbinding or papercrafts.

The Handforged Nails {circa 1800s} and The Wooden Pegs {circa 1750s}

Before nails held houses together there were wooden pegs that did the job. In the kitchen, we uncovered several areas in the rafters where you can see these wooden pegs. They date to 1750, the year the house was built.

If you recall from the previous post, we think the kitchen was added onto the back of the house sometime in the 1800s. That would explain the presence of antique nails in place of pegs found in the rest of the room. These three antique nails are square-cut box nails in 3″ inch and 1.25″ inch lengths. Known as a general, multi-purpose nail, square cuts were used for a variety of projects including flooring, framing and even box making.

We see them mostly in wall supports in the kitchen and plan on saving all of them for some future project. While doing all this cleaning and clearing it’s been fun thinking about who built this house and this kitchen addition. Was it a master carpenter? The original owner? A team of people or one family over many generations? I can’t wait to find out!

The H-Hinges {circa 1750}

All over the house, including the kitchen, original wrought iron hardware is fastened to original doors and cupboards. The type of hardware that holds it all together is called an H-Hinge. An incredibly popular style of hinged bracket used during colonial times, there is a bit of superstition wrapped up in its form and function that suggests why it was a favored domestic carpentry detail. According to legend, the H stood for holy and acted as a symbol of protection. Against witchcraft.

Don’t be nervous about all those paint splatters on the hinges – they haven’t been cleaned up in decades but we are up for the task!

Oh my. Once learning this info, I immediately refamiliarized myself with the Salem Witch Trials. They occurred in Salem, MA sixty years before our house was built but Connecticut also had their own similar witch trials that were held in Hartford from 1647 to 1663 and in Fairfield in 1692. The last recorded witch trial in Connecticut was conducted in 1697 – fifty-three years before the wooden pegs were hammered into place in our place. Hopefully, by now, any and all nefarious spirits have long been put to rest, but I’m glad to know the kitchen (and all the other rooms of the house!) will be safeguarded just in case the “possessed” happen to return:)

In addition to these items found inside, we have also found quite a few treasures out in the yard and garden too (more coming on that in a future post) that offer equally compelling glimpses into life once lived around here. It’s not enough to put a complete story together yet just based on what we have found so far, but it’s a start. With a little bit of luck and some dedicated research, more of a narrative will unfold. Cheers to history and to long-form storytelling!

A little preview at one of our outside discoveries – a rock named Hilda.

Further reading for Colonial home enthusiasts: Colonial Style by Treena Crochet

Happy 4th!

Goodness gracious! Is it scorching hot here in the South!

Everything is either wilting or dripping. The garden has been wind-whipped by hot dry dust storms almost everyday, and that is after we went through an almost tornado storm on Sunday with 60 mph wind gusts, thunder and lightening. The garden is starting to show some wear and tear.  Pictures will come later this week.

In the meantime… the heat of the summer always signals the start of Ms. Jeannie’s movie marathons. There is nothing more decadent then curling up by a fan and losing yourself in the lengthy plot lines of seasonal tv shows, mini series and movie epics.  That’s how she was first introduced to Mad Men, the Tudors, Empire Falls, Castle, The Godfather, Good Neighbors…

So it is with that in mind, if you are experiencing a horrendous heat wave in your neck of the woods as well, that Ms. Jeannie recommends a most patriotic mini-seies for this holiday week… the HBO mini-series John Adams.

This came out a few years ago(2008), but the more Ms. Jeannie talks about this movie, the more she realizes a lot of people never saw it. If you fall in that boat, here’s the trailer…

Delightfully, it starts out in the winter with John Adams (played fantastically by Paul Giamatti) riding his horse through a blizzard in 1770 Boston.  Just watching that scene alone instantly cools you off and makes you forget about the temperature outside.

John Adams – Opening Scene

The mini-series is based on the thoroughly researched book John Adams by David McCullough.

A New York Times Bestseller! John Adams by David McCullough

Like the book, the mini-series painstakingly brought every single detail of colonial life alive in the production. Tom Hanks, a huge history buff, was one of the executive producers. It stars in addition to Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney (Abigail Adams), Tom Wilkinson (Ben Franklin) and David Morse (George Washington). The production team was dedicated to making the film look and feel exactly like life would have been in 1770’s America.

Official Poster. Such a smart tagline…He united the states of America.

They even aged the teeth of John and Abigail so by the end, they were pretty decayed. Exactly what people’s teeth would have looked like at the time! The whole production is a visual feast for not only the eyes but the imagination as well.

The opening theme delighted Ms. Jeannie.  Simple yet so dramatic and full of emotion. You can’t help but feel inspired by just watching that!

Since Ms. Jeannie used to live in Philadelphia it was equally fascinating to look at the sets and then remember the city as she knew it. Of course she has the done the history tour of Philadelphia many times, but now after watching the movie and reading the book she feels like she understands that time period, the city and our early government so much better now.

So if you want to fall in love with America all over again, Ms. Jeannie highly recommends losing yourself in this eight hour marathon. She guarentees you will walk away with a different perspective on our forefathers struggle to create our nation of independence.

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams

Have 4th of July dear blog readers!