Object of the Week: Highlighting the LCHA Collections

How did they do the dishes?

The original tavern (and Mrs. Goodwin’s) kitchen is interpreted as a kitchen -with the tools for cooking and washing clothes on the hearth, and peels in the beehive oven, etc.

After 50 years as a  museum, and for me, 15 years as a docent one topic had never come up – until  a year ago: if it was a tavern, and cooking for and feeding a  lot of people… how did they wash the dishes? Amazing! Such a pertinent question. I can only think that the man who asked it was the dishwasher in his household.

Anyway, we very quickly set up an exhibit on how that happened. The only differences to what we show would have been a longer table, and at least one larger container for the washing, and possibly one for rinsing.

We have positioned it just inside a window that is right at the site of the well. So, access to water would have been at its easiest.  We do include a “people-yoke” and a well/water bucket.  The heaviness of the iron fittings on the bucket indicated that it was, in fact, for using in the well.  Carrying buckets tended to be larger. Buckets of water are very heavy – hence the use of the yoke, to spread the weight across both shoulders and avoid the handles cutting into the hands of the carrier. (Obviously, this yoke/bucket system would be used for carrying anything heavy!) Once inside that water would have to be heated at the fire, then brought over and poured into the “washing-up bowl”.

The soap used (see the “Ash-Hole” article) would have been homemade lye soap. probably not really hard, quite “goopy”, and not pretty – kind of grimy grey (we show a much nicer bit of home-made soap!) but it did work up a good lather. 

Scrubbies/”brillo” -pads were made from tightly bound ends of rope – that as they wore, could be wound tighter, nearer the ends. And, clearly, old rags and bits of cloth were used as well. Roughly crocheted or knitted pieces might also have been made.

Except for especially precious items (coin silver spoons) drying would be done by the air! So, leaving out modern dishwashers, the process was the same as now – just much, much harder!

Perry Palmer, LCHA Collections Committee