Mice and other rodents have plagued humans since the age of agriculture. Yet, the first known U.S. patent for a mousetrap wasn’t filed until 1870.
This week’s Pennsylvania Treasure is a mousetrap that may have been handmade. Lawrence A. DeTurk donated the artifact to the State Museum in 1929. The trap comes from Huff’s Union Church in Berks County, home to a predominantly Pennsylvania German population.
Collections Advancement Project Curator Paris Tennenhouse selected this trap because it reflects the simplicity of ingenuity based on necessity. The mother of invention is within all of us and yields no boundaries for the imagination.
The trap has two planks of wood and metal wire all around. One end is open with a trap door that is fastened to a wooden hinge with a wire. The wire goes through the top and into the cage where a piece of bait is attached.
As a mouse enters to nibble the bait, the animal trips the wire that is connected to the hinge and the trap door closes. This trap is similar to an 1870 patented cage trap invented by William K. Bachman. That device was a solid wooden box except for one end that had wires.
“The mouse enters the open door and seeing the light entering through the other end of the box, he goes in without fear,” Bachman wrote.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.