How Many Of These Old Household Items From The Past Can You Identify?

Advances in technology and changes in lifestyle constantly bring new items into our daily lives and often do away with others. Children today will likely consider once-commonplace objects, such as payphones, floppy discs and VCRs, to be mysterious relics of the past.

In the same manner, household items that were once used regularly in homes everywhere are now curiosities to us. Check out some everyday items from days gone by and see how many you can correctly identify.

Do You Recognize This?

Is this an ornate coat hook? A handle? Can you identify this object?

A Gas Light Fixture

After inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison helped form the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York in 1882. However, by 1925 only half of American homes had electricity. During that period, gas light fixtures, such as this brass bracket from vintage marketplace Ruby Lane, were installed in homes. These gas lamps had to be lit every time light was needed and could be dangerous because the gas flames could cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

What about these objects below?

Glass Insulators

Although they might look like kitchen glassware or shelf decor, these tinted, bell-shaped glass items were actually created for functional purposes. Glass insulators protected the wires on wooden telephone and telegraph poles during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They were produced in several colors, including amber, blue, green and purple.

Do you recognize the objects below?


Manual hand drills have been used since the 1800s. They are sometimes known as eggbeater drills for their resemblance to the kitchen utensil. The tools were a step up from augers (tools with a shaft used to create holes in wood, soil or ice) and paved the way for the modern drills we use today. Some craftsmen still swear by the tools for their ease of use, such as the pros at Walke Moore Tools who use continue to use old-fashioned drills like the one pictured.

How about this?

Coal Scuttle

During the Victorian Era, many homes used coal for heat. Decorative wood or metal containers called scuttles were used to store coal near the stove or fireplace. They were sometimes called coal hods or simply coal buckets.

What about this object below?

Bed Warmer

There’s nothing like snuggling up in a warm bed on a cold night. Before the days of on-demand heat and electric blankets, people warmed their mattresses with these household gadgets. The pan-like warmers were filled with heated stones or even embers and then moved around on the sheets before sleepyheads climbed in.

What about this object below?

Cherry Stoner

Before the days of canned pie filling or frozen fruits (with their stones removed), bakers and homemakers had to do all the work themselves. Cooks could clamp the device to the table or countertop and run the small, sweet fruits through the cherry pitter. The University of Michigan has a collection of cherry stoner types, including the one pictured.

Do you recognize the object below?


Fires were once used for everything from cooking to warming water to heating. Tinderboxes held items needed to build or stoke a fire. The most common contents were flint, a firesteel (used to spark a flame) and tinder.

Meat Grinder

Before there were Mickey D’s and grocery stores in every neighborhood, the most common way to enjoy hamburger was to grind meat at home. Meat grinders attached to tables helped homemakers produce fresh ground beef, sausage, bologna and more. The hand-cranked gadgets would mince almost any small cuts of meat.

How about this object below?

Water Dipper

Although coconuts grow mainly in tropical regions, people all over the U.S. commonly used water dippers made from their shells in the 1800s. Coconut was a popular ingredient in the 19th century, so there were shells to spare. The polished shells had a wood-like appearance and worked wonderfully for scooping water from communal sources.

Do you recognize the item below?

Charcoal Iron

Heating an iron to press out wrinkles is hard when you don’t have electricity. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, housewives used charcoal irons, which held hot coals to perform the task. Around 1915, electric irons began to be used in homes.

What about these birds below? Do you know what they were used for?

Pie Birds

Also called pie vents or pie funnels, ceramic “chimneys” were often used in baking. Typically designed in the shape of a bird, such as the collection from Bahoukas Antique Mall and Beer MuZeum, a pie bird was placed in the center of a pie before it went in the oven. The vent would help prevent the filling from bubbling over.

How about this object below?


Keeping the fire high for cooking and heat was crucial in days gone by. Fire bellows were kept close to the fireplace to add oxygen and fan the flames. Pumping the handles together caused air to expel out of the tapered tube on the other end.

How about this object below?

Washing Dolly

This tool from bygone times might make you appreciate your washing machine. Although it might look like some sort of stool or coat hanger, it was actually used to do laundry. Wooden washing dollies were used to dunk and agitate soiled clothing inside a washtub during the 19th century. According to Lee Maxwell, whose Washing Machine Museum includes the one pictured, they were also called dolly stomps.

What about the object below?

Flickr | Mom the Barbarian

Ear Trumpet

In the 18th and 19th century, hearing-impaired folks benefited from this item. The ear trumpet served as a type of hearing aid by collecting sound and “funneling” it into the ear. Although they didn’t work very well, they were the best option until the early 1900s.

What about this object below?

Coffee Grinder

There were no Starbucks or Keurig machines during the 1800s (shocking, right?). For a fresh, robust morning cup of joe, people used a manual grinder to prepare coffee beans. Thomas Jefferson’s dentist actually patented the first coffee grinder in the United States in 1798.

How about this item?


The first electric toaster for home use was invented in 1909. However, a decade later American inventor Charles Strite designed one that automatically popped up the bread when it was ready. Just a few years later, toasting bread got even easier with the advent of sliced bread.

How about the item below?

Antique Buyer

Carpet Beater

Getting dirt and dust out of carpets was not so simple before the invention of the vacuum cleaner. In the 19th century, homemakers and housekeepers had to hang rugs and knock the grime out of them with a carpet beater. This was especially demanding because the coal and wood used for heating and cooking meant loads of soot.

What about this object below?

Hand Mixer

It might not look much like the stand mixer on your counter, but it did the job back in the day. The rotary egg beater was invented in 1884. Its simple yet effective design carried over into the electric version we use today. There were multiple designs, including the unusual style pictured from Meeker’s Antiques’ archives.

How about the item below?

Bread Box

Moms and grandmas used to bake fresh bread from scratch for their families. The lack of preservatives and packaging gave bread a short shelf life, so people stored loaves in bread boxes to help prevent staleness and mold.

Do you recognize these below?

Butter Crock

Keeping butter fresh when you don’t have a refrigerator might be a challenge. Butter crocks were designed to prevent the creamy goodness from spoiling. Bonus: The crocks kept the butter perfectly spreadable, as well.

Have you ever wondered if it’s safe to keep butter unrefrigerated? Find out!