This is an antique stamp hammer, and part of lumber history. A stamp hammer was used to make “end marks” on lumber and logs. These end marks are much like bands in that they are used to identify cattle. Like cattle brands, end marks and bark marks (cut with an ax), were symbols of identification and ownership. As such, the log marks were registered with the state. In fact, “sinkers” or “deadheads” with log marks still belong to the owner of the mark.
While your lumber doesn’t exactly mosey on off down the prairie, lumber was left to float on down the river to a sorting works (or boom, which had many divisions, called pockets), or shipped with other logs to a lumber company via railroad flat car. In either case, unmarked logs meant lost property. Like stray cattle found without a brand, a stray log without an end mark was a finders-keepers prize which could be kept. If unmarked logs were found, the finder could use their own stamp hammer to make it their own property; but when unmarked logs were found while sorting, the company would put the logs into a “bull pen”. The contents of the bull pen were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the boom company or mill would keep the proceeds.
As for identifying stamp hammers, you are looking for hammer with a three to eight pound cast iron head with a design on it. Like branding irons, the marks on stamp hammers are cast backwards so that the embossed design can be read properly when struck into the wood. The wooden handle of a stamp hammer is about three quarters the length of a common ax handle.
I found this antique tin advertising piece at the flea market this past Sunday. The little clay marble or ball inside it intrigued me… At first, I wasn’t sure if it had inadvertently stuck itself in there, but it rolled back and forth freely and there was a hole in the back that looked like a manufacturing punch to insert the ball. I played with it a few minutes… Rolling the ball back and forth. Not the worst game ever; but not exactly riveting either.
An older man watched me playing with the piece, so I looked up and asked him, “Do you know what this is?”
“I know,” I responded politely, “But what was it for?”
By now another older man had joined us and they both simultaneously replied, “It’s a towel holder.”
Ah, so that was it!
Having played with it, I decided to honor the dealer’s time (and patience) by buying it. Then returned back to hubby, who was waiting in our sales booth (yeah, we were supposed to be making money, not spending it; but that’s how flea markets go!) I was pretty sure if I’d never seen one, I could stump him.
But since a huge part of my interest in collecting is learning, my enthusiasm didn’t stop.
This antique advertising piece is from the Mahlum Lumber Company of Brainerd, Minnesota, (the lumber business formed in 1904, but incorporated in 1914) and it promotes the company as “The House Of Dependable Lumber & Coal.” But, unless you collect such advertising pieces, that’s probably not the most interesting part.
Called “The Erickson Towel Holder“, this antique tin piece was made by the C. E. Erickson & Company of Des Moines, Iowa, “Manufacturers of Advertising Specialties” and, according to the original box of one of these towel holders, “Makers of the ‘Result-producing Quality Line.'” C. E. Erickson & Co. were also creators/owners of a number of patents. However, the only patent I see for a towel holder is for a paper towel holder (one I am quite familiar with). Yet that one doesn’t seem to bear the name “The Erickson Towel Holder”.
The Erickson Towel Holder ought to have been patented (and perhaps it was; I just didn’t find it), because it really is a neat contraption.
Good-Bye Unsightly Nails and Disfigured Walls.
No torn towels — no towels on the floor — increased life to the towel and a convenient place for it.
Through the use of this Holder the towel is held by either end — or by the center, increasing the service and life of the towel.
As a mom, I know the problems of towels which seem to “jump” from the towel bar; no one around here ever admits to pulling it off during use. And as a thrifty and environmentally conscious person, I like the idea of hand towels — if they are properly used. When hands are washed clean and dried on the towel, they do not get dirty; the towels merely get wet and dry in the air. (Something I remind my family about every time I find dirty hand towels — when you thoroughly wash your hands at the sink, there are no grubby prints or smudges on the towels!) Plus, this small holder (less than 7 1/2 inches tall and 3 inches wide) fits easily into small spaces; something more modern towel holders cannot.
Because C. E. Erickson & Co. was a promotions making company, they also made these nifty postcards for their customers to mail out:
This illustration of the Erickson Towel Holder will give you an idea of how handy and simple it really is — No home is complete without this practical, convenient device. We have one for your home and want you to call and receive this useful household necessity with our compliments.
Kindly bring this card
(The blank spot after “Sincerely” was where Mahlum Lumber and other companies using these advertising premiums would place their names.)
How this nifty towel holder works is best described on the original packaging: “Simply insert the towel under glass ball with an upward movement. Remove with the same.” As stated before, my towel holder has a clay ball; presumably this version is an earlier form of the holder, with glass replacing the clay in later versions.
I cannot resist telling you that while writing this post, my daughter spotted this old towel holder, immediately picked it up, and began playing with it, rolling the clay marble back and forth just as I had! Even once it was explained to her, she still found the towel holder and its design as fascinating as I do. Best of all, she did it all right in front of her father. Hubby may have known what it was; but I was the one who knew how exciting this find was!