Today’s Mystery Artifact: What a Tease

“Boot brush” (or some version thereof) was the most popular guess in today’s What-in-the-WORLD?-Wednesday guessing game on our Facebook page. An entirely logical response. Those prickly spikes set in a curved bed–clearly designed to efficiently dig the dirt from boot treads as you drag your foot from front to back. And the compact, yet sturdy, base was obviously made to sit right by the door without taking up too much room.

Too bad that’s not even close to the right answer.

We did have a couple guessers that pretty much hit the nail–or the prickly point, as it were–on the head. Michelle Stahl guessed “a hatchel for combing flax fibers” and Pamela Hobbs guessed “a tool for felting wool.” Good job, ladies. This is, in fact, as best as we can tell, a “teasel frame” used in textile manufacturing for raising the nap on wool.

As MHS collections registrar Holly Hurd-Forsyth tells us: “Teasels are thistle-like plants that were attached to a frame and used to prepare wool cloth. Metal substitutes were made, which is what ours might be. Our teasel also resembles a flax hatchel, but the teeth are smaller and finer. I’d guess circa 1825 for a date.”

The educated guesswork is due to scant notations in the original file for this item, and no indication of provenance. But you can learn more about raising the nap on cloth and the use of mechanical teasels on the U.K.’s Trowbridge Museum website.

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