Museum Talk

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coffee the old fashioned way

An interesting item in the kitchen area of the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette is a crystal #3 coffee grinder donated by Edna Wimberly Williams. It was made by the Arcade Mfg. Co. in the early 1900s. This company was founded in 1885 and made small cast iron items for home use such as screen door hinges and cork extractors.

The #3 coffe grinder was donated by Edna Wimberly.

In 1888 they began to make coffee grinders. The one at the museum is wall mounted and has a jar that fits at the top to hold the coffee beans and a smaller jar at the bottom for the ground coffee. The top jar is an original Arcade jar with the word "Crystal" etched in the glass. It is unusual for this jar to still be included with the grinders as they were easily broken. The small bottom jar is not the original.

The handle was turned to grind the beans. It is made of cast iron and is in very good condition for an item over one hundred years old. The coffee grinder may have been ordered through a Sears catalog. The identical grinder sold for $1.24 in the museum's copy of the 1927 Sears Catalog.

In the early 1900s, most Buffalo Island kitchens had a coffee grinder. My aunt remembers the small hand grinder that sat on their kitchen shelf when she was growing up and the wonderful smell of the freshly ground coffee beans.

The first coffee grinder was invented in the 15th century. Records show that ancient Egyptians enjoyed drinking coffee. The early coffee mills could be very elaborate. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a coffee mill decorated with red and green jewels. In 1765, Madame de Pomadour had a coffee mill made of gold.

The first reference to coffee as a drink in North America was in 1668. When the early Americans were planning the Boston Tea Party, it is noted they were in a coffee house. The first American patent for a coffee grinder was in 1798 and was issued to Thomas Bruff Sr.

The cowboys always had a pot of coffee on the campfire or stove in television westerns. Real cowboys always made sure their camp supplies included coffee beans and a coffee grinder. One coffee maker always put a peppermint candy stick in each bag of coffee beans. A cowboy would volunteer to grind the coffee as he would get the peppermint stick.

Today most Americans buy their coffee at the grocery store already ground, although some still like to buy coffee beans and ground their own, usually with an electric coffee mill. In a recent survey, it was found that 54 percent of adult Americans drink coffee daily and another 25 percent drink coffee occasionally.

The Buffalo Museum is closed during the winter months, but you may call 870-486-2000 for a special tour. Admission is free. Please check our Facebook page for more information.

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