by Laura Bien
A weird political kitchen colander, an elaborate silver tea set from the late Ann Arbor philanthropist Philip Bach (right), and an elegant wooden mini-sleigh resembling a baby carriage on runners, once used to whiz local children around on the snow, highlight the Taste of the Season exhibition at the Museum on Main Street, evoking winters past.
Near an array of such period kitchen tools as a "lemoner," intricate cookie cutters, and carved wooden butter molds hangs a metal colander whose punched drainer holes spell out GRANT COLFAX. After the Civil War, Republicans Ulysses Grant and Schuyler Colfax were elected president and vice-president, taking office in 1869. Recalling the fervent political nature of many early area newspapers, I wondered whether this item was campaign swag distributed by stumpers intent on implanting their message in homes, or perhaps a sort of nineteenth-century bumper sticker purchased by an ardent if voteless woman expressing her political convictions in the kitchen in lieu of a polling place. I imagined the colander displayed extra prominently in a home with a Democratic husband.
As I pondered this relic, museum curator Alice Cerniglia entered the room with a visitor and chatted about a dress on display by the ornate Bach tea set. Examining the set, I tried to puzzle out the functions of its eight curlicued vessels crowned with cupids. A samovar for hot water held a small Bunsen burner underneath, and two paired items were clearly a sugar and creamer, but for all I knew the remainder could have been canopic jars. When I overheard Cerniglia speculate on the construction of a wooden fan by saying, "It was the eighteen seventies, so they had scroll saws," I knew she was the person to ask.
Cerniglia revealed that a mysterious globe was the butter chiller, and an urnlike vase was the slop jar. She pinged the table bell on display, explaining that hanging sashes in a house's various rooms once connected to kitchen bells,
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