Does Anyone Want a Half-Bottle of Scotch?

I’m taking a little break from the garden today.

I’ve always found it humorous when people will say, “Well, Great Aunt Flo would have been 107 years old” – except she’s not because she’s been dead for a decade.

I guess I should have more patience with others that remember their loved ones in this kind of time-warped manner. After all, my father would have been 100 years old today.

Having spent the day in a historical frame of mind, it made me think of all the old things we found when we moved into our house 23 years ago. Even then it was an old house. Many of these things are the kinds of items my father – or his parents – might also have used.

Mrs. Miller, the previous owner, gave us a brief history of the place. It was built as a farm house in the late 19th century and remained a working farm through much of the Miller’s time here. Although they mostly grew vegetables and raised chickens, the owners previous to them built the place as a horse farm. The horses were used to aid in digging the basements of the houses in the area. That would explain why digging around our garden occasionally yields a horseshoe or two.

Our purchase agreement with Mrs. Miller included allowing her to leave anything she wanted on the premises. That resulted in our filling at least three 20-yard dumpsters but a number of interesting items we saved – including an unfinished bottle of Scotch.

Today I quickly gathered a few smaller things that I thought were interesting to photograph. (I don’t even know what some of them are and could use some help identifying them).

Seeing some of these old things did make me think a truly time-bending thought. During my father’s lifetime there was more-than-likely someone that had been alive when George Washington was alive. Figure it out if you care.

In the mean time, take a look and tell me if you know what some of these things are.


I can identify some but what’s the thing with the circle and handle leaning against the left side of the box? Is it for canning? I’m not sure I want to know why the original owner of our house had a single large-caliber bullet hidden in the box.

found in an old metal cigar box

Old photos are always a thing of beauty for me. We found these Civil War-era daguerreotypes in the house. The link to those photographed is now broken and it’s sad. We’ll never know who they were.

Civil War-era daguerreotypes

This is a reminder that we live on a former horse farm. The tag says, “VEHICLE TAX CITY OF CHICAGO 1915 ONE HORSE WAGON”. The owners may have used this wagon to take produce to the market in Chicago.

"One Horse Wagon" tax tag

We found containers of all types. These are the smaller ones and include Kraft cheese boxes, a metal cigar box, many, many old canning jars and my favorite, an old lunch box.

old containers

One of our cheese boxes stored a few light bulbs and a small glass jar.

a box of old light bulbs


This old lunchbox is almost noble in its design and depression-era adaptation. Mr. Miller probably took his lunch to the ball bearing factory where he worked until Mrs. Miller kindly asked him to stop taking it. When we found it, it had received its electrical-wire handle and “stove bolts” hand written on both ends. On the inside we found stove bolts.

Lunch Box


recycled label

I found this two days ago while digging a new section of garden but had found others in the greenhouse in past years. Mr. Miller used old metal machine labels to make labels that suited him for his garden and orchard. I can only assume this was more to label an apple tree than a commentary on some of his produce.
Recycling was a way of life for the Millers and many Americans during the Great Depression.

original side of old metal label

In future editions I may feature some of the larger items we discovered in our house. This would include our old Chambers stove (which we use) and Mrs. Miller’s ancient White Star canning stove in the basement. (She figured that a basement stove would not heat up the house in August and September). A finely-built redwood chick incubator that we found above our garage is used in our family room as a catch-all table. We did throw away the 1/4 mile spool of barbed wire. It would be useful in our garden but not very neighbor friendly in our suburban yard. A complete set of late nineteenth-century Encyclopedia Britannica went to a history professor friend.

And finally, tucked away in the basement’s Mason jar room, behind one of the larger canning jars was this half-empty Scotch bottle. I suppose in a depression environment, nourishment came in the canning jars and courage from a hidden bottle. Happy birthday, dad.

a toast to my father

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10 Comments

  1. jesse March 24, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    these are great to see, and happy birthday grandpa! i didn’t know it was. wow… 100! when next i come back this is making me want to explore even more. maybe dig up a bit too. you don’t happen to have the machine that would press the type into the metal right? that would be great to have!

  2. William Koechling March 24, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Who knows? That machine may be there somewhere between the turtle shells and the oil stove.

  3. jesse March 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    can we wish upon 40 years of turkey wishbones to hope for it being there?

  4. Tim B March 25, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    The hosts from the show “American Pickers” from the History channel would be having a field day! Great pictures!

  5. andy March 25, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    there’s got to be a story behind that bullet. i looked up that circle with a handle tool, and i’m pretty sure it’s a jar wrench, which is just a tool to open cans. i love your photos. it’s neat to see all of that stuff in a kind of museum setting. that delicious tag could go on our christmas tree.

    oh yeah, have you smelled the scotch?

    • bill March 25, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

      Good idea about the tag, Andy. Someone else mentioned the tool as possibly being used to open canning jars but he also speculated that it could be for castrating stallions. As far as the Scotch, read my reply to Brandon below.

    • bill March 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

      A veteran pointed out that many soldiers returning from war keep a bullet – sort of a souvenir, I guess. He said he has one in his night stand.

  6. Brandon March 25, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    These are fantastic. The scotch looks a like cloudy. But if you decide to sample it, let me know!

    • bill March 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      Cloudy, Brandon. VERY cloudy.

  7. jesse March 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    not really anything to do with this, but it might be of interest:
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/ask-about-growing-indoor-plants/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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