What’s New at WDS – June 17, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

This week we see pre-K kids enjoying hands-on history with our experienced guides and “Cowlina” during the WDS “Cow” education program! Here tots learn how cows were utilized for food, leather, and labor during colonial times. They also listen to a story, churn butter, and make a craft. Everyone has fun trying on a small yoke for carrying pails of milk! Background on all of our fun and informative education programming is at: https://webb-deane-stevens.org/the-museum-school/

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“J” is for Jack!

The English language is chock full of terms with multiple meanings. Take the word “jack,” for example. It can be a familiar term for a sailor, a playing card, or the name of a workman, such as “lumberjack.” But it is also a term used for a variety of machines, including one used to turn a kitchen roasting spit.

The Deane House kitchen boasts an example of a clockwork spit jack. Like a tall case clock, it is activated by weights (which would be suspended on the exterior of the Deane kitchen’s south wall) that power a clockwork drive system. Instead of moving the hands of a clock, however, this device is attached by corded rope to a rotating wrought-iron roasting spit placed in front of the andirons in the fireplace. A series of gears and a rotating iron flywheel atop the jack help regulate the speed of the rotating spit. With this labor-saving device, roasting meat would slowly turn for an hour or more between rewindings, allowing whoever was tending the meat to do other tasks.

Though this spit jack is likely mid18th-century English, does this type of arrangement seem vaguely familiar? Consider the scene from the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” in which newlywed Mary Bailey (Donna Reed) employs an ancient wind-up Victrola to power a roasting spit while making dinner for husband George Bailey (James Stewart) in their leaky fixer-upper Victorian house… Ahhh, of course!

Around the Grounds

This week in “Around the Grounds” we see that linemen were across the street from WDS literally “transforming” the pole to accommodate electrical needs in the new WDS Education and Visitors Center! The electric supply runs under the road through a trench to the mechanical room in the lower level of the building. The third picture shows the circuit-breaker panels which will handle the power needs throughout the new facility. It’s astounding how much more of this construction process we appreciate when we slow down enough to notice all the steps in creating this addition, and the many various jobs that are essential to making it happen!