In the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.
I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.
My understanding was that these items had passed down from Ruth Black to her son, Frank Walter Black (1878–1958), who grew up in that sod house and lived there well into his adult years, and upon his death, they passed to his widow, Catalina Johanna (Edel) Black (1895–1978). Either upon her death or in the years immediately prior to her death, these items passed to my grandfather, Vernon Cornelius Black. Vernon gave these items to my parents, and they in turn have passed them along to my sister and I.
The coffee grinder is simple in design. The body of the grinder is an undecorated wooden box with the four sides joined with finger joints and the bottom nailed to three of the four sides. The fourth side was left unnailed to allow a small drawer that catches the grounds to be removed and emptied. The top of the grinder consists of a decorative multi-piece cast-iron cover which separates the grinding mechanism from the hand crank that powers it.
In a quick examination of the grinder and the box, I found no markings that might help identify the maker or the year of manufacture. I did a complete and careful disassembly of the grinder (photos below) to look for any identifying marks, but I found nothing.
In a superficial comparison of this grinder to other box grinders, it is most comparable with grinders made around 1890 in the U.S. In the details of its construction, it’s a close match for box grinders made by the Charles Parker Company of Meriden, Connecticut around 1890 (specifically their model #402 National).
That’s about as far as I can take it with the information I’ve found, but I’ll contact specialist groups such as the Association of Coffee Mill Enthusiasts (A.C.M.E.) and Javaholics to see if they can tell me anything about this particular model.
A view of the front of the box grinder:The back side of the box grinder:
The left side of the box grinder:
The right side of the box grinder:
The bottom of the box grinder:
The front of the box grinder with the grinds drawer partially pulled out:
The inside of the grinds drawer:
The bottom of the grinds drawer:
The left side of the grinds drawer:
The right side of the grinds drawer:
The back side of the grinds drawer:
If there had ever been a manufacturer’s label on this grinder, it would have been here, above the drawer (I can see only faint hints that a label once was attached):
The top of the box grinder and the grinding arm:
The top of the box grinder with the articulated doors opened to expose the hopper:
A closer view of the top of the hopper and the grinding mechanism:
The top of the box grinder once the mechanism, drawer, and decorative plate are removed:
The top of the decorative top plate:
The bottom of the decorative top plate (note evidence of the original varnish coating):
The underside of the hopper:
Detail of the milling teeth to highlight the amount of wear they’ve received from use:
The rest of the grinding mechanism, disassembled: