This week’s Pennsylvania Treasure, as selected by CAP Curator Diana Zeltmann, is a mid-19th century waffle iron. This artifact appears in the recently opened Pennsylvania Icons exhibit at The State Museum.
This waffle iron was manufactured by Abbott & Lawrence of Philadelphia, Pa., which launched Liberty Stove Works in 1851. The company’s factory was located in the 400 block of Brown Street, in Philadelphia’s 12th Ward. Abbott & Lawrence, which changed its name to Abbott & Noble in 1858, closed its doors is 1915. Originally in the collection of the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, this waffle iron was transferred to the Community and Domestic Life Collection at the State Museum in 1994.
Typical of other period cookware, this waffle iron, consisting of an iron and a base, is made from cast iron. A hinged joint holds the iron’s two plates together, much like a modern waffle iron. Mid-19th century irons often came in different sizes and patterns. This particular iron is a size “8” and its pattern is that of a playing card suit, popular during this time period. Unlike today’s irons, two sides of the iron contain protrusions that allow the iron to rest on its base. The base holds the iron and allows for easy flipping on a hot stove, or in some cases, over an open hearth.
Some controversy exists over when and where the waffle was born. Some believe the breakfast staple originated in ancient Greece where flat cakes called obelios were cooked between two hot metal plates. Often cheeses and herbs were added to create a flavorful snack. Others believe that the waffle dates to the Neolithic Era, where a type of hotcake made of cereal pulp was cooked on a hot stone, making sure to be flipped and prepared on both sides.
Making their way to America sometime in the 1600s, waffles continue to be enjoyed throughout the country with variations on batter recipe and toppings.
About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
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.