Anyone Know What This Thing Is?

Anyone Know What This Thing Is? December 20, 2007


Here’s a picture of something that was donated to the thrift stores run by my wife. Does anyone have any idea what it is? It’s got six double rolls, each wound with paper on which is printed three numbers. It’s 9 inches tall and 12 inches long. On the top of it is stamped “Patented Feb 2. 1897.”

1897! Now, c’mon. You guys are smart. What is this thing?

(Hey: I’m writing this, right now, today–as opposed to yesterday, when I wrote the above. Find out what this thing turned out be in today’s post, which is here.)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Looks like some sort of measuring gizmo. Technical, I know!

  • Me

    I don't know….a…scroll-holder???????

  • tam

    It is a confuzzle – confuzzles are crafted with no express purpose other then to confuse people who find them years later. If a confuzzle make you scratch your head and make wild specualtions regarding it's use… then it has done it's job.

  • Oh, I recognize that. It's your ticket to getting onto Antique Roadshow.

  • Me


    I like that…a confuzzle….is it possible for people to be confuzzles?

  • Pastor David

    Looks like a sandpaper dispensor

  • Pastor David

    Probably would make a great wrapping paper dispensor for a large volume wrapping center. (Can't help that one, it is Christmas you know!

    Merry Christmas, BTW

  • Harv

    a julian calender calculater? a first try by bill gates? who knows but you might make a mint from the antique road show on the thing.

  • Hjordes

    The Antique that will make you Rich beyond your wildest dreams.

  • Leif Sr.

    It's the fore runner of the toilet roll dispenser.

  • Yeah, a DRYING thing! Except, wait. It's only nine inches tall, and a foot long. So that can't be it. Unless it's a thing leprachuans (sp??) use to dry their hankies. (Jonathan's answer was funny.) Leif's I thought of, too: I thought it was maybe a toilet paper dispenser for, like, Edison-era nerds. But there's not room for the roll!

    Hjordes's answer ("It's the Antique that will make you Rich beyond your wildest dreams") was majorly good.

    All of these have been.

    One guy–a pastor!–emailed me and said he thought it was something used to pull groundhogs out of the ground. But that's just stupid.

  • Mama Lucia's Super Duper Wowie Zowie Multi Purpose Pasta Press?

  • Lisa

    A printing press.

  • tam

    John – yes people can be confuzzles. Some are designed stircly to be confuzzles. People can also be confuzzled (usually as a result of encountering a confuzzle).

    I also think jonathons theory (that it is a torture device) should be tried out on mMr. Tucker for rubbing it in that he knows what it is… and then leaving without telling us.

  • Treasure maps.

  • Paul Tucker

    I didn't want to spoil the fun if people liked guessing. I'm glad tam isn't in charge of homeland security if he's willing to torture me over this. So before I end up in some Abu Graib type situation I'll is a stamp dispenser. I gave you the inventor and patent number and you had the date. Anyone could have simply looked it up like I did. Mr. Haines designed this to dispense stamps when the post office handled postage stamps in long sheet like rolls. The numbers on the spindles were supposed to help keep count of the number of stamps dispensed and remaining on the spool. It doesn't seem like it would work very well and I couldn't find any evidence that it was actually used by the post office.

    I think this belongs in the National Postal Museum in Washington,DC which also has the old post office from my hometown Dillsburg, PA. I think we should send the photos and information to the museum to see if they want it.

  • Laura

    And I thought it was a miniature rug holder… darn

  • Mike Harrison

    that was fun. make sure to tell us what becomes of it john 🙂

  • Me


    this is "me" and I'm not John Shore, just so you know.

    And, in the case that people can be confuzzles, I know some confuzzles.

  • tam

    You are just attempting to confuzzle me too, aren't you? I apologize for thinking me was also John.

    Oh, and I so wish i was head of Homeland Security. Can you image the fun I could have?

  • Actually it’s a medieval torture device but by the time the guy got this thing through the patent office, it had been outlawed.

  • Me

    Some of these guesses are great!!!!!!

  • Mark Bradshaw

    Looks like the metal strips are meant to compress the rods together. First thing that makes come to mind is drying out clothes. I’d say this is some sort of drying machine.

  • Sam

    It's a map holder! It's nice and neat, made to organize something.

    Did you know the US Patent Office patented 487 patents on Feb 2, 1897? In case you ever wanted to know. You couldn't just give us the patent number and make it easy, could ya?

  • Donina

    It's a mimeograph machine! I remember the one at my grade school back in the days. Whenever the teacher would run off copies of papers and pass them out to us students, we would each hold it up to our noses and take a big SNIFF…! I know some of you out there have a similar memory… So I say the photo is of an old-style mimeograph/ duplicator machine… Thank you, and God bless and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  • joyousthirst

    um . . . ?

    YOu've certainly got the suspense going, though =)

  • Christian MOM

    I agree with Mark Bradshaw. It does look like some sort of drying rack or at least ringing out the water in clothes, so they aren’t hung to dry SOAKING wet! 🙂

  • John

    I sent your email on to mom. She knows her antiques. She’s a walking encyclopedia; a wealth of times long gone.

    I will post what she says.

    My guess?

    Something really old.




  • Paul Tucker

    I know what this is. Do people really want to know or do they just enjoy guessing? It was invented by David Haines from Sandy Hill, NY. It’s patent number is 576450.

  • Me

    we just like guessing, Mr. Tucker

  • You all are so funny. I think it's a dispenser for wrapping paper. The measuring lines on the "Thing" is designed to guide you in cutting accurately and precisely to cover the gift.

    John, I agree that whatever this is, it was designed to make you very very rich. I think it was brought in by a Geenie; so make a wish you lucky guy.

  • Paul Tucker

    It really is a stamp dispenser. I'm not just guessing. You can look up the patent at

    And I really think it should be offered to the National Postal Museum.

  • Paul Tucker

    The US Patent Office has utterly failed to provide a useful tool for searching patents. It is a shameful situation. Google patents on the other hand has provided a wonderfully powerful and easy to use search program that allowed me to find this stamp rack patent in a matter of a few minutes. I use it on my research of 19th century American furniture designs, woodworking techniques, airships etc. The images are not the same quality or size that the USPTO images are but you can search the patents on Google Patents and then go to the USPTO once you've found what you're looking for. I recommend Google Patent searching your home town where you can find out interesting and often crazy history of your town or someone from there. There seems to be an endless stream of bizarre and whacky ideas on parade here. So try out Google Patents, it's fun.

  • Barbara & Cleatus

    My husband told “me” to tell “you” it is a gigantic pasta machine…please note, I married a man named Cleatus…

  • Bill

    Looks like a textile device, if it has a patent, the patent office call give you all the details on it.

  • Bill

    About Searching and Viewing Patents:

    Our website provides full text for patents issued from 1976 to the present. We provide TIFF images for all patents from 1790 (YES, REALLY 1790) to the present.

    You can search on text in all elements (fields) of the patent or select those fields you wish to search only for patents issued since 1976. You can only search on patent numbers and/or classification codes (click the icon for any class in the online manual to automatically search and retrieve patents for that classification code) for the pre-1976 patents. Your nearest Patent and Trademark Depository Library maintains local search resources and may offer training in patent search techniques.

    ***** IMPORTANT NOTE: If you can view a screen that has a little rectangle with a red square, green circle and blue triangle in it, or if you get a message in your browser saying that some required software cannot be found, then you need to download and install a TIFF image viewer for your browser that works with our TIFF images. *****

    To view the images for any patent you must

    (1) download a TIFF image plug in (viewer) and

    (2) run the downloaded executable file to install a TIFF image plug in that supports G4 compression;

    (3) when you get a text search result based for a patent number, locate the image button near the top of the screen to launch the viewer.

    The system will download the images one page at a time. More extensive Instructions for obtaining and using a free plugin from different vendors are contained on “How to Access Full Page Images.”

    The biggest problem people have when installing a viewer is that they forget to close the browser application and run the viewer program’s executable file after downloading it in order to actually install the viewer plug-in. If you have run the file and still have problems, try restarting your PC.

    Now you see it – now you don’t? Experienced users: you may lose or change the MIME-type file association for TIFF images when performing a system upgrade or installing new software. If that happens you may need to reinstall your chosen viewer. Also, some viewers may need to be upgraded to work with the latest USPTO images (see TIFF image plug in (viewer) for links)

  • Wow. I can’t believe the quality of information I’m getting … um … right here on my own blog. Pretty freakin’ wholly amazing.

  • Bro Jim

    OH!!!! That's what happened to it! Where did I leave it?

    Lemme' guess at the airport in Chicago….that O'Hara is just a mess ya' know! Thanx for finding it! Can I have it back? 😀

  • melissa

    if u find out,let me know,my friend is a antiquedealer