In the Garden: Groundnut – It’s what’s for dinner.

Groundnut Apios americana, twinning vine, herbaceous, tuberous roots used as food by the American Indians. Native to North America, purple pea flowers are fragrant in late summer. The raw roots are edible but tough with a milky juice and a pleasantly sweet turnip-like taste. The roots may also be eaten roasted or fried. It’s blooming on the South Lawn by the Japanese Tea House right now!


According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Biology Department:


“Early European explorers and colonists of North America often depended upon the groundnut for their survival. In the 1580s, colonists of Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina (the famous “Lost Colony” and the home of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World) sent samples of Apios to Queen Elizabeth I. In 1607, Captain John Smith of Jamestown (Virginia), wrote of the utility of this plant. The Pilgrims of Plymouth (Massachusetts) (1623) survived on groundnut when their corn supply was exhausted.”

More interesting info about the Groundnut here.

Found in the Attic – Part IV: Back to School… in 1898

Just in time for the “back to school” season we catalogued this unique pencil box from 1898! The pencil box is made of tin and ceramic and was found containing 20 ceramic pointed sticks (not writing utensils – we think they were for some type of game).

Upon closer examination, we could see it was more than just an ordinary pencil holder. The bottom half has a diagonal band and circular cutouts to display multiplication “answers” from aligning numbers on the central and bottom cylinder. A 4 inch/ 10 meter ruler runs the length of the bottom piece, and the lid has images of a female teacher and male students; one writing a multiplication problem on the chalkboard (no doubt getting help from his handy pencil box). Forget the abacus – any late 19th century child would be ready for straight A’s with this versatile school supply!

Tin, ceramic; S.A. Ilsley & Co.; Brooklyn, NY; USA; c. 1898 Marks: top & bottom ends – “Pedagogue/ Pencil Box”; near bottom – “PATENTED NOV. 1st, 1898”; bottom cylinder near seam – “S.A. ILSLEY & CO., BROOKLYN, N.Y.”Inside – .02-.21 – L – 14.8 cm.


History in Bloom

A gift that keeps on giving- – This Flamingo Plant (a.k.a Justicia carnea or Jacobinia carnea) was given to Britannia Peter in the mid to late 1800’s by an “admirer.” It still flowers and is blooming right now by the garage!

Found in the Attic – Part II: Music and Medicine

Late 19th Century Harmonica, with Box
A large F scale harmonica with 24 holes in excellent condition! The wooden core is flanked by metal on both sides, which is attached by screws and nuts on each end. There are fingerprints on the metal which may be from any number of Peter family musicians, but are more likely from an earlier collection exploration by the foundation.

Materials: Metal, brass, wood, textiles, paper;
From: Ands Koch; Germany

19th Century Scarificator
Brass 12-blade octagonal scarificator used for bloodletting practices. The device has a large lever on top to cock the steel blades and the side knob releases the spring-loaded rotary lancets to make shallow cuts on the patient. The top knob adjusts the cutting depth of the blades. The blades are grouped into two pairs of 6 blades, which alternate from left to right and overlap in the center. The scarificator measures approximately 3.5 cm high, excluding the lever and height adjustment knob.
The leather-covered wooden box is lined with burgundy velvet. A brass hook on the main portion of the box swings to catch in an eye attached to the top lid.
The scarificator is stained with possible smudged fingerprints. The lances are caked with an unknown substance and are beginning to show signs of corrosion.

Materials: Brass, steel, wood, leather, velvet
From: Unknown manufacturer