Artifact of the Month

Donor: Floyd & Alice Clark

Accession #: 1985-2756-001

History: Metal and wood alarm rattle/noise maker with crank and metal mounting bracket. The wooden cog wheel moves slats on each side when the handle is turned to make a clacking sound. Nowadays considered a toy, this clacker was an important part of many a policeman’s equipment in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Meant to be heard at long distances; when sounded it would have summoned assistance for an officer in distress or to sound the alarm in the event of a fire or a gas leak. Long before modern fire alarms were introduced these rattles were used as a primitive alarm system. During the Victorian era, oil and kerosene lamps were the main source of light in a house and fires were quite common. Fire watchmen roamed the streets armed with rattles. The watchmen alerted communities of the danger. This would cause people to grab the old wood or leather buckets and head towards the fire, a “bucket brigade.
The noise maker could also be used as a bird scaring rattle to scare away birds roosting where they were not wanted. Rattles were used by the police force in the UK before the introduction of the whistle and were later to find use in the trenches of WWI as a warning of a possible gas attack.

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