What the heck is this?

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About once a month, on the Rednersville Loyalist, we'll post a photograph of one of our antiques and collectibles from the Rednersville Country Store and ask the question we hear most often from our customers, "What the heck is this?"

Click on the photographs, once then again, for larger images.

If you know the answer, and want to show off your antiquarian intelligence, or just want to hazard a guess, write your thoughts in the comments below this post.

Check out the comments from time to time, to see what our readers think. If clues are needed, we'll be posting hints here every week until it's correctly identified.

Okay, here's the big hint!

If you know somebody who might know what the heck this is, you can easily e-mail them a link to this photo by clicking the "envelope" button below so they can get in on the fun.


Blogger Brian Clutterbuck said...

I think this is a siphon.

September 24, 2004 1:10 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Brian, that's an interesting thought, but that's not what the heck this is! Any other ideas?

September 24, 2004 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a prosthetic spleen, made from solid tantalum. These were fitted to chemists, whose bitterness and bile could corrode through the normal human issue. On this particular model you can see a large duct fitted to the right-hand side, making it a "vented spleen".

September 28, 2004 3:46 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 29, 2004 9:41 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Dear Anon,

That's a tantalizing guess.

Tantalum (formerly tantalium) is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Ta and atomic number 73. A rare, hard, blue-gray, lustrous, transition metal, tantalum is highly corrosion-resistant and occurs in the mineral tantalite. Tantalum is used in surgical instruments and implants because it does not react with body fluids. Because it is totally immune to the action of body liquids and is nonirritating it is widely used in making surgical appliances.

But no, it's not a prosthetic spleen.

September 29, 2004 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The left side looks like a hose of some sort would be fastened. Looks like it was made to hold pressure, so I am guessing it is heated, or heated liquid passes through it. I guess that leaves me to believe it had to do with some sort of bathroom shower device. It's really got me wondering...!

September 30, 2004 1:21 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I've added another photo, showing a different perspective of this antique. Maybe this helps.

There have been some interesting guesses, so far, and I'm sure there will be more. But I might have to post a hint or two in these comments next week, if nobody can figure out what the heck this is.

September 30, 2004 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say it is a vaccuum operated ... ashtray?


October 02, 2004 7:58 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Women's healthcare in the 19th century wasn't what it is today, if this rare antique is any indication. Some of the concerns of women of the period are described by an historian in this article on Women's Health Issues.

October 06, 2004 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe a bidet for the bedridden (a bedet)?


October 10, 2004 3:51 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Rhiannon, that's a pretty good guess but not as it is described in the Patent, which give these instructions:

"It is operated as follows: The patient lying upon her back, with the knees flexed, takes hold of the body A at the upper end with the thumb and fingers of one hand, the opening B being toward the person, inserts the nozzle F into..."

October 10, 2004 4:08 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Okay, we'll tell you what the heck this is; it's a Vaginal Irrigator & Urinal, patented by Elizabeth J. Holcombe in 1881.

Comments to this post are now closed, but we'll have another "What the heck is this?" next week.

October 15, 2004 5:19 PM  

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