Oskaloosa.com

December 27, 2013

Do you know what this is?

By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a a Model T tail light.

Some people sent in their guesses as to the artifact's identity.

Dorothy Vos wrote via email: “The artifact in today’s shopper is a railroad lantern.  It was used by the man in the switchyard to tell the train engineer when it was okay to stop & go.  They used when connecting cars together.”

Eric W. Boetger wrote on Facebook: “Railroad lantern?”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “1914 Ford Speedster T – Tail light

In 1908 when Henry Ford first introduced his Model T automobile – the car for everyman – he changed the world of transportation. Over the many years that this little car was produced, there were several variations on the basic vehicle. The speedster T was intended for the younger, athletic, unmarried male. As with all the Ford cars, the driver had choice of color – as long as that choice was BLACK!

The tail light on all models was made of brass, burned kerosene and had a red glass lens on the door. There was a clear lens to the right of the door – allowing light to fall on the license plate. These lights were not automatic, nor were they a brake light as we know them; these were simply a light at the back of the vehicle. These were also individual lights, not connected in any way one to another. The driver would have to maintain the lamps by filling the well with kerosene and lighting the lamps individually. The side lamps were similar, burning kerosene, these were situated on either side of the dash board with lenses shining both front and to the side so that the vehicle would be seen in the dark. Headlamps burned gas, drawn from a tube from the gas tank through the engine. The 1914 models were the last to be produced with gas headlamps.

In 1915 electric lamps became standard issue for head lights, but the tail light remained a kerosene lamp, just as the sidelights, remained kerosene. The changes were not as obvious on these object, but there were adjustments here too. The side lamps were designed to be interchangeable. The tail lamps and side lamps were redesigned with less brass and the fancy brass stud mountings gave way to a simpler, more functional design. This made them less expensive – a vital part of the plan to bring the cost of the automobile into the range everyman could afford.”

The Oskaloosa Herald and the Nelson Pioneer Farm are teaming up to test your knowledge of historical artifacts.

The Nelson Pioneer Farm has about 15,000 artifacts in its collection spanning in age from the 1840s to the present.

The Herald will take a picture of an artifact and publish it in the Herald section of the Oskaloosa Shopper, The Oskaloosa Herald an the Herald's Web site, www.oskaloosa.com. People can make a guess on what they think the object could be.

People can either email their guess to oskynews@oskyherald.com or mail their guess to The Oskaloosa Herald, P.O. Box 530, Oskaloosa, IA 52577. You can vote from Wednesday through Saturday.

The identity of the artifact and the vote breakdown will be announced in each Wednesday's Herald Shopper along with the week's new artifact.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com