Artifact Corner: Victorian Coffee Grinder

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this beautiful late Victorian coffee grinder. This piece is made of cast iron, and has a substantial weight to it. Perfect for setting on a table top and grinding coffee beans. This piece is also decorated with red black and gold paint. This piece was made by the Swift Mill Lane Brothers based in Poughkeepsie, NY. In 1845, Beriah Swift built a factory in Millbrook, New York to manufacture his own patented coffee mill, partnering with his cousins William and John Lane under the name Swift and Lane in 1855. The firm became the Lane Brothers in 1866. It is a very easy to use machine, simply slide the top to the side, pour in your beans, and turn the wheel. The ground coffee drops into the little tin container below, and viola, you have coffee. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of coffee.

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and was first exported out to surrounding areas in the 15th Century by Somali merchants. Sufi monasteries in Yemen employed the beverage as an aid to concentration during prayers. By the 16th Century coffee had made it’s way through the Middle East, India, Northern Africa, Europe and South East Asia. The word coffee entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch word, koffie, spelled k-o-f-f-ie. This comes from the Ottoman Turkish word Kahve, spelled k-a-h-v-e. Coffee’s popularity continued to flourish anywhere it was introduced.

Coffee was first introduced to the Americas in 1720. Gabriel de Clieu brought a few small coffee seedlings to Martinique in the Caribbean. The little seedlings flourished and in just 50 years the handful of coffee plants had grown to around 18,700 healthy plants. On December 16, 1773, a group of American colonists gathered at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston to protest what they saw as “taxation without representation.” The colonist dumped 342 chests of tea, imported by the British East India Company into the harbor. This first act of defiance was widely publicized throughout the colonies, and drinking tea was considered unpatriotic. But, people still wanted a caffeinated beverage in the mornings, and so, coffee became the drink du jour for Americans. Coffee continued to be popular throughout the 1800’s. During the American Civil War, each Union soldiers were allotted 36 pounds of coffee per year in their rations. In 1864, Pittsburgh-born brothers John and Charles Arbuckle began selling pre-roasted coffee by the pound, getting rich by selling it to cowboys in the West. James Folger, who sold coffee to gold miners in California, also saw great success. Several other big name coffee brands, including Maxwell House and Hills Brothers, quickly followed suit. The love of coffee continued into the 20th Century as well. In America we consume about 400 million cups of coffee per day, making us the leading coffee consumer in the world.

This coffee grinder is in fantastic condition. Most of the paint is in tact, and the the gears still move freely. The coffee tin even still has ground coffee in it. The Delord Hall family was heavily involved in the Temperance movement, and therefore, no alcohol was served in their house. But, coffee was plentiful! If you’re a coffee lover, let us know what your favorite coffee is! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,