Ever wondered about the ways Lowcountry folk controlled insects, stored food, kept warm and met other household needs during the 18th and 19th centuries? Well, a walk through the storage area of the Charleston Museum would provide the answers.
To donate or visit
Donations: To offer the museum items for preservation, contact Grahame Long, curator of history, at 722-2996.
Location: 360 Meeting St.
Tickets: $10, adults and $5 children, 3 to 12 (under 3, free); $16, museum and Joseph Manigault House or Heyward-Washington House; $22, adults to visit all three properties.
For more information on exhibits and tickets: visit www.charlestonmuseum.org.
In the cavernous spaces of “America’s First Museum,” out of sight to visitors, are items used for such purposes. Unless they are chosen by a curator for an exhibit, these functional pieces, some older than the 1773 museum itself, rarely see the light of day.
“Every time I think I’ve seen everything, something else comes through the door,” says Grahame Long, the museum’s history curator. “It can be amazing. Many of the furniture pieces are as solid as they day they were built.”
While most of these fascinating objects are in storage, a few are being exhibited in the main museum, and its Joseph Manigault and Heyward-Washington houses.
Pictured on this page and on Page D4 are some Charleston Museum treasures that help the museum staff to carry out its mission — preserving and interpreting the cultural and natural history of Charleston and the Lowcountry.
Other museum pieces:
Carriage warmer: Made about 1840, has an American origin and was used by James H. Blackhurst of Charleston.
Earthenware foot warmer: 1870’s foot warmer was filled with boiling water and corked to provide warmth in bedrooms. The object, decorated with the imprint of two feet, was found in the attic of a Montague Street house during a 1918 renovation.
Triple chest: Typically was used when traveling between plantations and townhouses. The three sections can be split into individual travel trunks. Most got a lot of wear and only four are known to exist today. This one has undergone extensive restoration.
Sugar chest: Walnut and yellow pine chest, used to store sugar, was made in the South Carolina backcountry around 1800.
pottery jars: Pottery jars, such as those made by slaves in Edgefield, were used for pickling, salting meat and storing lard. Among the most famous to make them was a slave named Dave who wrote “This noble jar has four handles. Pack it full of fresh meat. Then light the candles” on one of his jars.
Stoneware table coasters: Such double dishes were placed under dining table legs and filled with water. Crawling insects trying to make their way up to the food would drown. These were made in Edgefield County about 1850.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.
brazier: This large brass brazier, which included a pan or stand to hold lit coals and provide warmth indoors, dates back to the 1700s.×
Grahame Long, curator, opening "necessary chair" used before there was indoor plumbing. Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com 9/24/2013×
Mortician’s bench (home cooling table): The dead would be placed on a bench such as this one, which is American-made and dates from about 1870, during home funerals. It consists of wood and split-cane, with iron hinges and pulls, and folds so the mortician could carry it easily. Ice would be packed under the bench to keep the body fresher.×
Mahogany cheese coaster: Coasters such as this one, made in the early to mid-1700s, were rolled on small casters around dining tables to serve cheese. This one was used by the Ball Family at Middleburg Plantation.×
“Necessary chair”: Grahame Long displays a mahogany and white pine commode, which dates from the late 1700s and probably is Charleston-made. It conceals a chamber pot and is displayed at the museum’s Joseph Manigault House.An actual chair serving the same purpose, in the Colonial federal-style, also is part of the museum’s collection.×
Fly fan: This fly fan is wound manually to swivel its fabric paddles and shoo flying insects away. This steel and iron one, made by the Baltimore Enameling & Stamp Co. during the 1890s, was used at the Confederate Home on Broad Street. Its wings can be folded up when the fan is not being used.×
Whale oil lamps: Wicks soaked in whale oil from the animal’s blubber were widely used for lighting fuel into the late 1800s. These lamps were made during the late 1700s. Kerosene eventually replaced whale oil as the illuminant of choice.×
Cellarette for storing ice indoors, Charleston Museum. Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com 9/24/2013×
Sugar cabinet at Heyward-Washington House, Charleston Museum. Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com 9/24/2013×