99% sure it's not a magic lamp
November 22, 2019 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I'd love some help identifying a few things I found at Dead Horse Bay.

If you're not familiar with Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn here's a great explanation but the takeaway is: most of this stuff is probably from the 1930s, if that helps. I posted pics on my Instagram and later thought I should ask you all for help with the identifying. There are 7 items in total, and anything you'd like to add about any of them is welcome.

post with items 1-3
1.) Symmetrical metal thing, 4.25" x 3" x 1.5". Base has what appears to be screws. Close inspection shows what appears to be ornamentation of grapes or other fruit on the front center and back center but not the same pattern on both sides.

2.) Weiswasser and Rubenstein Prescriptionists pill bottle with a friction fit (no screw) cap. When was green plastic like this in use? I found that there's still a pharmacy at 1214 Flatbush Ave and that Weiswasser sold the property in 1968.

3.) Glass bottle with rubber stopper, 2.75" high. Some cursory googling led me to think it contained mercurochrome but that may be showing a bias because I really like the word mercurochrome.

post with items 4-7
4.) Ceramic figurine of man with blue shirt holding a figure (child? gnome?) by the throat. Would be about 3" high intact.

5.) Salt or pepper shaker, 1.5" high. I assume aluminum but someone online suggested sterling silver for some reason.

6.) Bakelite dining utensil handle.

7.) Glass bottle, 2" high. Only kept because it was handed to me by a stranger who said "it's an old cork bottle; you can tell because there are no threads."

Obviously items 5-7 are pretty straightforward and might not warrant any comments but whatever you feel like telling me about them I'm happy to hear!
posted by komara to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you end up not having any luck here you could try the subreddit whatisthisthing.
posted by beccaj at 8:09 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that first thing is a tabletop lighter. Like for cigarettes and cigars.
posted by ananci at 8:28 AM on November 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

"I'm pretty sure that first thing is a tabletop lighter."

So it IS a magic lantern! Wonderful!

But seriously a google image search for 'vintage tabletop lighter' turned up a few things close enough that I'm inclined to believe you're right.
posted by komara at 8:36 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

#3 may of course be a bottle for mercurochrome or anything else, but I believe a mercurochrome bottle would have an applicator rod descending from the cap down into the bottle. Good luck in your search.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:38 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

For an alternative less gruesome theory, #4 looks more like a portly child holding a doll.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:54 AM on November 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

#3 looks like a lyo vial to me; these are used for lyophilized drug products. (It's missing the aluminum crimp cap that holds the rubber stopper in place.) If true, that probably dates it to sometime after WWII since that's when lyo products became commonly used outside the military.

Agree that mercurochrome (or any solution that would be applied topically) would probably have been packed in a vial with an applicator brush or rod, or an eyedropper.
posted by Quietgal at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

In search of no.4, I've performed an act of great self-sacrifice and waded through this nightmare-inducing Pinterest page of child figurines, since the one at the top has a a similar figure shape, with that stocky little leg. No perfect matches, but there are examples that seem to be holding either a Mr Punch or clown toy in their arm, which would match yours. Or just a doll with a pointy hat. So it looks like that was a thing.
posted by penguin pie at 10:32 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's unlikely what you found is from the 30s. Robin Nagle, who's very familiar with the trash at Dead Horse Bay, states that a lot of the items on the beach are from 1953 between February and mid-March, thanks to Robert Moses evicting people to construct the BQE. This is also what I learned from my experiences there with her and Howard Warren, who used to teach about Dead Horse Bay.

Also, you're not allowed to take the items from there, although many do.
posted by vivzan at 10:54 AM on November 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

posted by bonobothegreat at 10:57 AM on November 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

posted by bonobothegreat at 11:07 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

#6 isn’t exact but could be like this or a matching carving knife set.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

vivzan: I had heard in passing about the razed homes thing, didn't get a good sense of the timeline from that short Atlas Obscura article. Thank you for the links to some good information.

bonobothegreat: you are ... something else. Something incredible.
posted by komara at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2019

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