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Local News

January 8, 2014

Do you know what this is?

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a mustache cup.

Many people gave their guesses as to the identity of the artifact.

Pat Ancell wrote via email: “It is a mustache cup used by men to keep their mustaches out of the coffee as they drink.”

Jane Funi also wrote via email: “That appears to be a mustache cup.”

Chris Isley of Tracy also wrote in an email: “This is a mustache cup, used to keep the mustache dry when drinking tea or coffee.

Nelson Pioneer Farm curator Kelly Halbert has done some research on the artifact. She wrote: “The most fashionable and elegant men of the Victorian ere prided themselves on their elaborate mustaches (or moustaches). However, disaster often occurred when he would sip a hot beverage and the wax that held the mustache in place met the scalding liquid. Droopy or stained mustaches and wax flavored teas resulted.

In the 1860s British potter Harvey Adams invented the mustache cup. The china cup had a ledge or mustache guard across one side with a small opening that allowed liquid through. When used, the carefully groomed mustache was held out of the way, allowing a gentleman to sip his beverage and remain impeccably groomed.

Most cups were European made; every fashionable china manufacturer began production using designs unique to their own houses. American potters were slow to identify their own wares and created the impression that this was a European trend. The cup the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum collection was made in Germany, probably sometime around 1900. It is a simple, cup and not from a renown china manufacturer.

After WWI, elaborate mustaches began to go out of fashion. As the style changed, so did the demand for these pieces of masculine tableware. By the mid 1930s these cups were no longer manufactured.”

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