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Local News

June 11, 2014

Do you know what this is?

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a foot-operated bellows.

Some people made a guess to the identity of the artifact.

Dorothy Vos wrote via email: “The artifact in this week’s shopper is an antique foot powered fireplace bellow.”

Tom Bowers also wrote in an email: “A lot of it is missing but it is a old foot pump that would have been used by dentist and by jewelries.  I am sure others found uses for this item since back in 1800s it was common to  find new uses for things.  But mainly it was used by those two trades.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “This interesting piece of equipment was designed for dentists and sold in 1897 as the Fletcher Foot Blower by the Buffalo Dental Mfg. Co. of Buffalo NY. Looking at the condition of the bellows now, it is hard to picture it in prime condition, sitting in the laboratory of your dentist, helping to heat the necessary materials to create dental plates, bridges and other items.

Although it appears as a regular fire bellows, there is a vital component that has deteriorated over the years. Below the bellows was an air reservoir – a rubber disk that was held in place by a net – that served as a bladder to inflate with air and dispense it through the tube on the side with a steady flow to the flame. Originally, the air reservoir was positioned on top of the bellows, but dropping tools and hot spills made this set up impractical. The No. 10 Foot Blower came in 3 sizes. It is difficult to determine for sure which size ours is, but it seems likely that it is just the No. 10. The medium size No. 10 A had 2 disks, and the No. 10 B had 3 disks and could produce enough wind pressure to melt 12 pounds of copper.

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