What is That?

When in the Visitor’s Center at Allaire State Park, you may notice in the Row House exhibit’s downstairs kitchen what looks something like a set of circular pliers with a spring geared handle sitting on the table. What you see is a pair of sugar nippers, which were a common household tool until roughly the 1890’s. As you may guess from their name, these large pincer tools were used in the consumption of sugar. Before the 1890’s, sugar was produced for mass consumption in a solid conical, crystalized form called a sugarloaf which was very different from the granular form we’re familiar with today. This occurred because raw sugar was often sent to refinement factories back in Europe (mostly Britain as they controlled much of the sugar trade from the early 1600’s from the West Indies) and then consolidated into crystal cones instead of granular form as it travelled more safely in cones on the high seas. Also, both the humid air of the Caribbean which could not support the refinement methods of the time and the demand of English companies to refine sugar in Europe for personal profit all led to the evolution of sugar loaves.
Due to the form in which the sugar was refined and packaged for consumption, pairs of sugar nippers were common in kitchens and tea rooms throughout the world wherever sugar was enjoyed. When consumers brought home a sugarloaf, the nippers were used to break off chunks of the cone which could be added as a sweetener to drinks or ground down to fine grains with a mortar and pestle to be used in baking. As was common in previous centuries, the quality and design of household tools including sugar nippers were indicative of a family’s wealth and status. As a result, many pairs of nippers had elegant filings on the handles and joint of the tool, while other pairs were more humble and robust for a working family’s use. Sometimes, as in the case of the wealthy, their sugar loaves were often stored in boxes designed to keep moisture out as much as possible. In it was also a pair of crank powered nippers and collecting screen at the bottom of the box to cut and collect their sugar in a cleaner and safer process (sometimes the sharp cleavers or spring lever on nippers could cause injury). The pair which we have in the Row House exhibit are more utilitarian sugar nippers which would have been used by a village family. Simple tools such as these demonstrate everyday needs in the 19th century as well as a glimpse of daily life at the Howell Iron Works.

Origins of Santa Claus

Representations of the gift-giver from Church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas (known in Dutch as Sinterklaas), merged with the English character Father Christmas to create the character known to Americans and the rest of the English-speaking world as “Santa Claus” (a phonetic derivation of “Sinterklaas”). In the English and later British colonies of North

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The Joys of First Person Interpretation. By Timothy Brown

When people converse, magic happens: they learn about each other. When you are impersonating someone else, the other is learning about that other person. This is what historic interpreters do; teach people about another time by being someone else. It is like acting, but more – the first person interpreter actually does the things as

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News from the Collection – October

Last month we learned about the Tilt Top Table/Bench in the Foreman’s Cottage, The Tape Loom and the Stitching Pony and the sausage stuffer – check last month’s blog if you missed it! Some new developments in the Village are well worth a mention. The Foreman’s Cottage is receiving a face lift courtesy, in part,

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News from the Collection

The Historical Village at Allaire is the caretaker of an extensive collection of historical objects from the 19th century – our collection is literally all around you!  Each of our historic buildings contains objects that were used by our ancestors in their daily lives – circa 1836. Although we try to stay true to the

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America’s Pastime: Then to Now

Flowers are budding, birds are flying home, and baseball season is back! For nearly 200 years, Americans have anticipated spring and baseball side by side. Even though our national pastime has remained a consistent favorite from generation to generation, it has also undergone some pretty drastic changes through the years. In fact, baseball’s history goes

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5 Everyday Tasks That Were Way Harder in the 1800s

The 19th century in the United States was one of the most innovative periods in history. Providing us with many things we use today—electricity, the car, and the telephone, for example—the 1800s produced advancements that went far beyond the realm of stovepipe hats and covered wagons. Despite this substantial progress, day-to-day life 200 years ago

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Five Ways to Spice Up Your Visit to Allaire Village

The moment you arrive at the Historic Village at Allaire, you’re stepping into a time machine. Our guests do not simply observe the memories of a world gone by. Rather, visitors bring history to life by actively participating in the great experiences Allaire has to offer. Follow these guidelines to make your trip worthwhile: Indulge

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