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This cranberry sorter appropriately found in Massachusetts where the cranberry bogs are plentiful, retains original red paint and even has a story to tell. It dates to the late 19th to the turn of the century and was used to sort the specific size of cranberries that were to be sold at market. I have not seen another one like it and think it may be a handmade, one of a kind piece fashioned to suit this purpose on the farm.
Receding glaciers, thousands of years ago carved out cavities in the land that evolved into cranberry bogs. These newly formed kettle ponds filled with sand, clay and debris formed the perfect environment for vines to spread across the South Shore, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket areas of Massachusetts contributing to the birth of cranberry bogs. The Wampanoag Indians of southeastern Massachusetts have enjoyed these fresh berries for years before the settlers arrived. They used these berries in traditional healing rituals to fight fever, swelling, and even seasickness. (See image 33). Europeans that settled in New England during the 16th and 17th centuries were familiar with cranberry varieties which grew in the boggy regions of southern England and in the low-lying Netherlands. The English had many names for the fruit, but “craneberries” was the most common because many thought the flower resembled the head of a Sandhill crane.
In the year of 1816 cultivation of the cranberry began shortly after Captain Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran, of Dennis, Massachusetts, noticed that the wild cranberries in his bogs grew better when sand blew over them and began to transplant cranberry vines using this process. Others caught on to this idea and viewed it as a prosperous enterprise to commercially sell this ruddy, wild fruit therefore landowners started converting their swamps and wet meadows into cranberry bogs. See images 28, 29 & 30.
Farmers were looking for solutions to harvest the cranberries more efficiently rather than picking them by hand and by the year of 1880 cranberry scoops were born while the sorters and screening equipment soon followed suit. Many of the farmers relied heavily on help from the family (see images 31 & 32) as well as the community when harvest arrived.
The front door of the sorter is comprised of open wooden slats while two angled “battens” help secure these pieces in place. At one point the front of this sorter came into contact with a very fine mist of white paint over-spray as shown in images 2, 5, 6 & 7. On the opposite side of the front slats the wood resembles a triangular form that graduates downward on both the right and left hand sides as referenced in images 8, 10 & 11. This is a very interesting feature that adds extra strength and durability to this piece.
A sheet of tin was used to devise the sorter feature that has repeated holes where the cranberries would fall from this devise into a container assuming the size was unacceptable. It appears these concentric holes are all identical and may have been implemented using a machine to obtain uniformity. The patina-ed tin is held in place by small flat nails that were driven into the wood recipient. Image 22 shows a rough edge on the inside when the door is opened while image 21 reflects the honest nail bleed in the wood on both the right and left hand sides of the sorter. Image 16 references a tight hairline crack starting at the top, moving down past the first hinge and terminating in the middle. This same crack also appears on the inside as well and is in alignment with the screw that may be a replacement, (see image 12). All of the threaded screw ends project beyond the wood on the inside as referenced in images 12, 14 & 15.
There is a metal handle located at the top possibly for carrying purposes as referenced in image 23. A tiny, protruding wooden sliver can be found near the handle, close to the edge as shown in image 24. A small, half round metal latch located on the side slips into a circle counterpart as shown on the front side of the door to ensure closure when not in use (see image 19 & 20). Overall condition is good and there is a wire hanger located in the back as shown in image 25, so this piece can be hung if you so choose.
I added a little patriotic and festive wreath in the front that is hung from a piece of wire (as I did not want to hurt the integrity of this piece by driving a nail though the wood). It can be removed as well.
If this piece is hung the wreath will be upside down as the hanger is located at the bottom. I guessed and felt maybe this sorter would be in a sitting position on top of a table but I may be wrong! We can reposition the hanger, just ask!
The patriotic scene was painted on an old shingle and even though the form is naïve the colors are interesting…..my interpretation! This piece is attached to the wreath by two pieces of wire and accented with paper flags, cheesecloth and a faux spray of flowers. This sorter would make a great display all year long as you can change out the wreath for the holidays and even add fresh greens that cascade from the top. When the door is opened there are holes available that can be used to hang small collections from by attaching wire to the item, inserting it in the hole insert and then bending the wire over the hole. This is a very unusual piece to call your own and the decorating possibilities are yours to create! Enjoy!
Cranberry Sorter stands 22” tall including the handle (1” tall), measures 10 ½” across (right to left) & measures 5 ½” deep.
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