Small Objects

Treats: soreness, aches, pains, headache, frosted feet and unbroken chiliblains

 I have always had a fascination for small objects.  They never had to be flashy or very valuable; they just had to be interesting and possibly unique.  I remember a military cap, the kind with a stiff bill out front, when I was a kid.  Was it mine? Did the older kid who lived on the third floor just show it to me one day?  I really don’t know.  It is just one of those memories that go so far back that it is no longer clear.  The only thing that I am sure of is a sense of wanting to own this really neat object.


As you might expect I have picked up many of these quaint items over the years.  They rest in draws, shoeboxes, and assorted hiding places that I tend to readily forget about.  It has not been all that easy to share this interest with other people, until now.  The arrival of digital photography and Internet social networking sites make it simple to display and discuss those things that one has a keen interest in.  So, do me the favor of looking at these items.  You will recognize some right away.  Others may be unfamiliar or even strange.  Let me know what you think of them.

The first item was at one time found in the bathroom.  Musterole was the brand name for something called mustard plaster.  The idea was to rub this cream on affected areas and thereby relieve irritation.  It was described as a counter-irritant.  You have to read the instructions closely though to find this gem: “Do not bind or cover tightly after application.  In rare cases of very sensitive skin MUSTEROLE may produce a more severe irritation than is desired.”  I guess that is sort of like the medications that we take nowadays for depression.  They often carry the warning “may encourage suicidal tendencies”.

Many years ago (almost 40 years) one of my ninth grade science students gave me a peculiar gift.  It was something that I had never seen before or since.  This item claims to be a minerallac statiscope You just hold it up to a surface that you suspect would make a good point for the discharge of a static electricity charge you have built up on the scope.  A convenient place might be someone’s nose.  If there is a significant charge on the scope you will not only get the ordinary spark and scream but will also light up the little discharge tube inside the scope.  It’s great to take along when attending a winter party held in a living room that has a nice shag rug.


This next item is quite curious, or maybe not.  I need help with this one.  I purchased it thinking I was getting a neat desk accessory that sharpened pencils.  Insert the pencil in the hole, rotate the mount and you get a sharpened pencil.  That’s what I thought would happen.  To this date I have not yet sharpened a single pencil with this thing.  Can you figure out what it is really for or why it doesn’t work?  I have provided an inside view for the mechanical engineers reading this.


Small objects are especially interesting if it appears that they are very finely crafted.  They use wood and brass rather than plastic and tinned steel.  I have slowed down my acquisition of such objects lately but when at a recent yard sale I noticed something that begged me to take it home.  It is a small ruler (a machinist might call it a scale).  At least it looked like a ruler at first glance. 

 A little more investigation revealed that it could be used as a caliper also.  This Lufkin No. 372 folds together so seamlessly that at first I had difficulty determining how to open it.  My wife had to show me!  And yes, it is made of boxwood and brass.

The final item for today (aren’t you glad I am keeping it short today unlike that time I wrote about all the books I read?) is a lady’s compact I don’t even know if women use these anymore.  Watch a good detective movie from the ‘50’s and you will see them in use (along with the other standby, the cigarette).  A compact holds a mirror, powder, and a powder puff.  The idea is for the woman to put a little blush on (I think).  At any rate, this is no ordinary compact.  This one commemorates the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  It boasts a dynamic rendering of the fair administration building on its cover.  Very cool.  One more truly neat small object.

What small objects do you keep around the house?  Send me some photos so I can put them in a later “Small Objects” blog post.  Otherwise I may have to dig out a few more of my own next time.


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5 Responses to Small Objects

  1. jerryf says:

    You’re correct… the second item is a pencil sharpener- for mechanical drafting pencils, like these:
    I still have my pencils, sharpener, T-square, etc, from my days as a draftsman in the 60’s while I was going to college. Where else can you get paid for drawing pictures all day?

  2. jerryf says:

    One more thing… the sharpener just sits on the table (it’s fairly hefty). You insert the pencil with the lead extended about a 1/4 inch or so. You then hold the pencil and twirl the top part of the sharpener around. A couple of twirls and the rough surface inside forms a sharp point on the lead. Usually, you’d keep a pad of sandpaper on the side to stroke off the sharp point. It’s a process, and an art. 😉

  3. Morris says:

    Statiscope not for parlor tricks but an electrician’s tool for detecting the presence of high voltage in a conductor. Hold the metal end close (not touching) to the conductor in question and the neon lamp glows or not.

    • Kenneth Carr says:

      Thanks for the information, Morris! I will have to try it out as you have suggested.
      It sounds like this might have been an important tool for people who worked on electric lines.

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