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Guess the Mystery Object!

Feeling clever? Historically clever?

Then let’s play What the Heck is That? the game where I show you some 19th century object, and you get to try to guess what it is.

Are you ready? Then here it is:

What is it?

This little metal 19th century whatchamacallit measures 5 inches long and 2 inches at its widest. The black cord attached to it is 3 feet, 10 inches long and has a loop at its end. I am not quite sure of what the material is—perhaps steel, as it is quite sturdy, or maybe German silver (an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc.)

As you can see from the pictures, the little circular piece with a daisy on it slides up and down the shank, permitting the object to open and close quite securely. The flat disks at the bottom which almost meet when the object is closed have what looks like desiccated rubber pads with a somewhat worn but still noticeable raised “tooth” pattern on their insides.

Care to venture a guess on the identity of this very useful (at least to a 19th century lady) item?


7 thoughts on “Guess the Mystery Object!”

  1. Some kind of grasping tool? If a lady is wearing gloves then her dexterity is slightly reduced and it was not uncommon for her to take a knotting shuttle or other fine thread work to an afternoon tea of small card party. Heaven forbid she drop something. This gadget might be just the thing to pick up a card off the floor or small thread work tool.

      1. My first guess was a needle, if pulling it through the fabric is too difficult — but it seems awfully large for that purpose, and not terribly wieldy if you have to keep sliding the circular piece. Dance card?

  2. It could gather up a long dress so you don’t have to lift up the skirt to not drag through mud and keep a hand free if you attach the cord somewhere?

  3. Ding ding ding! We have a winner–or two winners. Yes, it is indeed a skirt lifter, to do exactly what Ziska suggests–to keep the hem of one’s skirt out of the muck and dust. Tucking it into one’s belt would also free up a hand; how else would one hold a parasol and walk arm in arm with a bosom bow, plotting death to the patriarchy?

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