Museum Talk

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Antique coffee pot on display at BI Museum.

I have passed by the old granite coffee pot sitting on the wood cook stove at the Buffalo Island Museum many times and not thought much about it. A couple of weeks ago, a boy stopped at the stove and said "Look, there is a coffee pot just like the one Chester makes coffee in for Marshall Dillon." This old gray speckled granite coffeepot was made in the early 1900s and was donated by Christine Lawson. It has been well used.

In the late 19th century factories began to make large quantities of granite for coffee pots, dippers and cups. I began to wonder about how coffee was made in my grandmother's time right here on Buffalo Island. After talking to a few "old-timers" I was told this recipe: first the pot was filled with cold water, brought to a boil on the old wood stove, removed from the stove, then one tablespoon coffee for every two cups water was added along with one egg, shell and all. I was told that the egg helped settle the coffee grounds.

Coffee has been around since the 13th century in Ethiopia and Arabia. It was first brought to England in 1652. It was 1780 when the Archbishop of Paris decided that coffee should not be boiled. The two level coffee pot held coffee in a cloth sock in the upper compartment and the coffee would drip into the bottom compartment. The coffee tasted funny as the sock was usually made of burlap or rough cotton.

The Stamp Act of 1776 placed a tax on tea which was then the United States' national drink. The Continental Congress declared that coffee was now the new national beverage. This began Americans' love of a cup of coffee in the morning.

The Napier Vacuum Coffee Machine was invented in 1840, but it was in 1930 that Inez Pierce of Chicago filed a patent for the first vacuum coffee maker that was truly automated. The first percolator was patented in 1865 and was popular until the electric drip coffee maker was invented in the early 1970s. You might think that having an espresso is something new but the first espresso machine was invented in 1820 and in 1885 it was exhibited at the Paris Expedition. Coffee makers have been improved throughout the years. We no longer use the old granite coffeepot. Well, maybe there is a person that likes to "rough it" while camping or hunting.

Our love of coffee continues with the first Starbucks opening in Seattle in 1971. The Mr. Coffee machine was first introduced in 1972. The Keurig Company was founded in 1990 with the principle that coffee is better brewed a single cup at a time. So go have a cup of coffee and think about that old granite coffeepot. Visit the Buffalo Island Museum and see the other items in the kitchen area of yesteryear.

Museum hours are Friday and Saturday 12:30-4 p.m. Admission is free. While at the museum, see our latest special exhibit of Japanese items, including a silk kimono that came from Japan during World War II.

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