Sunday, August 18, 2013

"In every tool we create...

an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself."  ~ Neil Postman

The new movie The Butler provides a fictional account of a butler who served eight Presidents.  I just happened to unwrap a "silent butler" in the shop today.  Now I would gladly have a noisy butler...he could talk all the time for all I care if you know what I mean!
But, this little gadget was designed to hold ashes from ash trays (when smoking was in vogue) or even to sweep crumbs off the tablecloth (when sitting down at a table to eat was in vogue).
The term was coined in the 1930s-40s according to the dictionary, but I found nothing about their origin...usually someone is named as the creator.  The dustpan was patented by African American inventor, Lloyd Ray on August 9, 1817, and I suppose one could deem the "silent butler" a variant of this design.
Silent butlers are made of tin or aluminum, but there are some valuable ones made of precious metals.  Sterling silver ones would command prices for the bullion content alone.  Add historic or aesthetic appeal and research deems the pieces can command several hundred dollars, but the pieces one sees in shops are usually in the $5-$15 range,  or should I say they should be in that range.
Many are aluminum...I like the tole ones...there are ones that look like books...of course, I would like those...

 But, next time you see one of these little contraptions, think of the days when the lady of the house would carefully scrape the crumbs or dump the ashes into the decorative box.  Sometimes it just takes a little tin box to remind us of how society has changed in such a short time.

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. ~Khalil Gibran

1 comment:

The Cinnamon Stick said...

We have sold quite a few "crumb" pans in the past, that always had a brush with them for sweeping up the crumbs. Thanks for reminding me to keep looking for these fun objects!!