What’s New at WDS – June 24, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

No texts, no calls… how on earth did people communicate years ago? You’ll find out in this segment of our periodic WDS Digging Deeper Video Series, in which WDS guide and educator Will Conard-Malley digs a little deeper into life in the three historic houses comprising the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum! https://youtu.be/jMHQTwJHBqU

Collections A to Z

“K” is for Knife

Table manners have come a long way since the early 17th century, when diners typically used a spoon and a pointed knife at the table. Forks were largely relegated to serving meats, which were then cut and placed in the mouth with the pointed knives.

If we are to believe certain accounts, it was the French who led the way to a more civilized—and certainly less dangerous—knife design. By flattening the blade and rounding the tip the table knife was born. Though ill-suited as an impromptu weapon, it was sharp enough to cut foods and blunt enough to spread butter or cheese. This style of cutlery was copied across Europe and ultimately brought to America.

Knife-handle designs varied from the simplest wooden styles to elaborate examples of ivory or silver. In the 18th century the so-called pistol-grip design became popular, its handle ending in a curved bulbous shape reminiscent of pistols of the period. Besides the aesthetics of the design, this style incorporated what we today would call ergonomics, the science of designing objects for comfort and ease of use. Knives with this type of handle are indeed very comfortable to use.

This example of a pistol-grip knife, currently in the Deane House, incorporates a Delft handle. This tin-glazed earthenware, with its characteristic cobalt-blue decoration on a white ground, was developed in the Netherlands, and by the 18th century was also being produced in England, the likely origin of this unmarked example.

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!