Monday, August 15, 2011

Mystery Object - Candle Box?

I present, for your amusement, a box of mysterious origin and use. It is made mostly of a light metal, I'm guessing tin since a magnet does stick to it, and wood. The measurements are 12" long by 5" wide by 4.5" deep. I purchased this item back in the early 1990s at a Cincinnati antique store for $3.00. It had that lovely primitive appearance that I am still fond of even though it has passed out of style for many. My first thought was a candle box, based on its measurements and the way the lid hinges back to let whatever was inside, be retrieved without bending......but.....on second thought......is that really what it is? There are some odd design elements as I will display below. After you see the evidence, please give me your thoughts on what you suspect its original purpose might have been. 

Instead of a standard arched, extended piece that is flat enough to hang the box from the wall, like many candle boxes I have seen, this one has a heavy duty handle meant for carrying.
The lid is one metal piece that it beveled in design and attached at the very bottom. The three sides are made up of one piece of metal rounded and bent to make the box shape. However, the bottom (end and box bottom) are both made of wood panels.
The lid itself, is only connected at the base and easily swings back to open as one awkward panel - quite unlike many candle boxes I have seen where the lid is an inset wooden lid that slides in and out. There are two tiny holes at the top where a string-like latch must have been to keep the lid closed when not in use.
Here is the weirdest feature of all.....3 perfectly drilled holes in the back wooden panel. The holes vary in size, are not evenly spaced, and yet, if they were an accident (rogue child practicing with a drill for the first time), they were never puttied up, but rather painted inside, just like the rest of the box. My Mom once thought that due to its black paint, and odd holes, that it might have been a signal box of some kind. We even tried lighting a candle in it to see what happened with the holes.....odd experiment with inconclusive results.
No matter what it may have been, I continue to love it and have it prominently placed next to the cute little caned ladder back chair that I purchased at the Ewalt house auction in Bourbon County Kentucky in the late 1990s (for $8.00, can you believe that?). Every time I see this box, I still sense a mystery. So....your vote on this? I would also be interested to hear theories on age.

4 comments:

Jenny Lanctot said...

It looks like it may have latched closed at some point. Perhaps it's some sort of ammunition box from a looooong time ago? (That's my attempt at aging your cool artifact, in case you were wondering). Whatever it is, it's pretty neat - and an excellent conversation piece in any case :)

Cheri Daniels said...

Oooooh, ammunition box....I hadn't thought of that....would have been durable enough for that use....very interesting!

NKJLK said...

I love this box and a good mystery especially if I haven't seen one? Is the round cylinder shaped part where the lid latches bent or a solid piece? ie. bent tin or solid wrought iron? That could help date iT!? It has a light colored spot on the lid where maybe a pull was fastened? Or just an spot? I can't tell.
I don't think they used any metal in the older ammo boxes, they were usually wooden because of possible sparks.
I agree the strap-like handle looks like it was for carrying but the hole in the wooden back could have been to secure it to a wall or side of something stationary to allow it to be accessed easily.
Closed metal tends to rust if closed with dampness inside so maybe wood was used on two sides to prevent this from happening or to prevent damage to the back and bottoms contact to a wall for rust or damage prevention...keep us informed, thanks for the mystery.
Oh, and BTW old things are always in fashion with new things and old things. Especially with the kids today having a lot of new 'aged' decorations. Besides if you love it, it makes you happy just rearrange the things to fit with other new things. You have it displayed very well in the last picture. JLK/NK56

Cheri Daniels said...

Thanks JLK! I took another look, and it appears to be one strip bent into a rounded handle (not folded). I'm still thinking it looks and feels like tin. The outside mental is all one piece bent to make one long, rectangular U shape, but the edges where the lid would come down to meet the sides have been rolled down to make the fit more in line with the rounded lid bevel. The small rolled sections are quite precise. If you were seeing the two little holes at the top - one just in front of the handle and one in the top of the lid, you are correct. There appears to have been a string/leather latch at some point. There is a place where the paint has chipped away on the lid and it is a very light gray metal....tin? BTW, great note about the ammunition boxes being wood due to sparks! Sometimes when I look at it I am reminded of the various tools my grandfather had in his barn. So many improvised containers and tools (even a huge antique armoire to lock things in)....it makes me wonder if it is just a clever little box meant to hold something simple....perhaps only its creator would know the true purpose. Thinking back on trades of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it could have been made to serve many uses.

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