Contributed by Richard Estelle
On the homestead or farm in years past, there was often not much ready cash at hand. Credit was usually needed until fall crops came in and accumulated bills could be paid. For many, the only “hard money” income for grocery purchases throughout the year was the “egg and butter money”.
Eggs produced by the family chicken flock could usually be sold to the town storekeeper for cash that could then be used to purchase sugar, coffee or other staples. Delivering the delicate and valuable eggs from farm to store was often a challenge with the vehicles and rough roads of the day.
This month’s artifact offered one solution to that problem. The “Humpty Dumpty” egg crate apparently did the trick, complete with 15-dozen individually-padded compartments for the eggs, contained within sturdy wooden sides and with a carrying handle on top.
The case is 14” high, by 12-1/2” square, and made from wood slats joined together at the corners with long wire pins. The pins extend through the top where they’re bent over and can be turned to secure the wood-slate lid with its carrying handle. (In actual use, however, experience likely advised tying the lid on with a cord for added security, since the bent pins appear less than effective in keeping the lid on the crate when picked up by the handle.) Five layers of dimpled fiber sheets and vertical interlocking cardboard dividers enveloped and cushioned each egg inside.
As with many items in our collection, the donor of this handy device is unknown to us. Its authenticity, however, is attested to by the minor remnants of straw and broken egg shell found within the layers.
Stenciled on one of the side slats is REG US PAT OFF “HUMPTY DUMPTY”. Embossed on the other side is MADE BY OWOSSO MFG CO. OWOSSO, MICH & BENTON, ARK. Research indicates that it was probably manufactured in the late 1800s.