This 19th Century Firkin not only has amazing history equated with this piece but is sure to make your buttery accoutrements scream with envy! Set among-st a Root Cellar setting with heirloom tomatoes from the garden that covet a primitive bowl while root vegetables dangle in the background, this piece looks and feels right at home! I wanted to share some interesting information I acquired from my research with you about this firkin.
Hingham, a small town in Massachusetts was well known for coopering and bucket making as there were no known resources available for agriculture. In 1845, could be ten years earlier as there is conflicting information, Crocker and Alden Wilder founded "The Old Bucket Factory" on Cushing Pond that was run from steam power and the manufacture of wooden buckets was born. This new factory produced various designs and sizes for their buckets and were thought to have employed around 50 to 80 skilled craftsman that turned out about 1,000 pieces per day.
These utilitarian buckets were fashioned from three different kinds of wood that consisted of white oak for dairy products and spirits, red oak for heavy items such as nails, and pine for household use. Attention to detail included tongue and grooved staved construction so the buckets would not leak when used for liquids. This feature combined with their exceptional design of wider bases and recessed bottoms lead to easy stacking and set the company apart from the competition by offering a superior quality product.
The Wilders found profitable markets in Hingham and the New England fishing industries, as ships took the buckets with them around the world. It only stands to reason that this town became known as, "Bucket Town" because "Hingham, Massachusetts" was stamped on these wooden pails giving them the notoriety they deserve. The last two images show some of the different types of buckets made during this era and were on display in Hingham, MA several years ago at the historical center.
This firkin fashioned from pine has a wonderful surface boasting a warm chestnut ~ nutmeg hue with highlights of darker areas in the grain. The tongue and grooved staves with the lapped over finger bands lend an appealing craftsmanship from the 1800 period which is sought ~ after. There are copper tacks securing the fingers on the top and bottom as shown in image 2 & 3. The bentwood swing handle is pegged just as it should be and does swing freely.
There is no musty smell to report and the bands are tight. Nice solid piece! The lid is slightly warped as referenced in images 4, 15 & 16 and does have a little gap when laid on top of the bucket as shown in images 4 & 6 . Nothing totally obtrusive and another firkin can be stacked on top of this one if you choose to do so. This piece is a great medium to large size therefore it can be used closer to the bottom if you are going to use it to stack other firkins on.
There are also some slivers of wood missing pertaining to the lid, in the front, where the copper tack is located and on the right side. Please see images 2, 5, 15 & 16. As shown in image 17, a small nail is missing and what remains on the underside is a tiny indented sliver of wood. The lid is still sturdy.
The inside and the bottom are in great condition and so is the rest of the bucket. Surface wear on this piece includes some scratches throughout but no dents are present. I applied a whisper of oil to the surface to bring out the grain but there is no residue left from this application. Lastly, the maker's name is stamped and recessed on the lid and does not come through to the underside as shown in image 18.
The firkin lid is not exactly perfect but overall this handsome firkin does have desirable warm patina, still shows quite well and comes with early history! Just a wonderful piece of craftsmanship that would make any buttery or pantry proud to take up residence there among-st your other collection of fine primitives! Enjoy!
Firkin stands 14" Tall including the handle, 10" Tall without handle, 9" Across the top, & 9 3/4" Across the bottom.