Museum talk: Mole Trap

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Mole trap on display at BI Museum in Monette.

An interesting, but deadly looking, item at the Buffalo Island Museum is a mole trap made by the Animal Trap Company of Lititz, Pa., in the early 1940s. It was donated by Russell Strickland. The trap is about 16 inches tall, and is spring loaded. After mole tunnels were located, a spot would be flattened with one's foot, and the prongs put over the tunnel and the top of the spring pulled and the lever pushed to set it. When a mole goes through the tunnel, it will push up on the lever and the spring will release the six sharp prongs, killing the mole.

This company had an interesting beginning as the Oneida Company, a religious based group of about 250 people who lived as a family dedicated to selfless behavior in 1848. Sewell Newhouse was a blacksmith who joined this company. He had learned how to make hand-forged traps, so in 1852, the group started making traps under the "Newhouse" name.

The Oneida Company sold other items such as traveling bags, canned foods and silk thread, but the well-made traps were the money maker. By the 1870s, they were selling over 400,000 traps a year and had to build a factory and hire more workers. In 1906, they bought the Animal Trap Company and began to make wooden snap mouse traps and other small rodent traps under the Victor name.

By 1910, the Oneida Company began to phase out trap making and began to make high quality silverware. This change was very successful as many of us have some Oneida silverware in our homes today. They sold the last of the Oneida business to a group of former employees in 1925, and the name was changed to Oneida Ltd. in 1935.

The Animal Trap Company continued to make the small animal traps. It became the Woodstream Company in 1966, and is still making items we see every day such as Victor small rodent traps, Terro Ant Killer, and lawn and garden supplies. The mole traps made today are very similar to the antique one found at the museum.

The mole trap is just one of the many items at the museum in the section of tools and equipment that our forefathers used on the farm.

Buffalo Island Museum is open on Friday and Saturday 1-4 p.m. Admission is free.

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