We remember doing many tasks the old-fashioned way. From preserving food harvested from the garden to manually cleaning nearly everything, there were very few efficient aids available for housework until fairly recently. Did you want canned tomatoes? Can it yourself! Did you want cherry pie? You gotta remove those pits yourself! Most young people today have never had these experiences and won’t know many of the old tools. You’re more likely to see these collecting dust in antique stores than in someone’s home because no one knows what they’re used for anymore!

10) Breadbox

Image taken at Seattle Antiques Market

Back when mom baked fresh bread most days, a bread box was necessary in order to keep it fresh (and protected from the cat!). When folks stopped baking all their bread and started buying pre-sliced in bags, we saw these become decorative items with old timey charm. They really are quite useful if you bake, though!

9) Rug Beater

Image taken at District LLC

Even after every household in America had a vacuum, rug beaters were used to on delicate or small rugs. Not so today, but we think the designs on these rug beaters are fun. 100 years ago these would have been used weekly by every women (and many a teenaged daughter).

8) Stovetop Food Dehydrator

Before those TV commercials selling plastic dehydrators that promised the earth, there were stovetop dehydrators. Most of the time, we laid things in sun or inside the oven, but this model was good for wood stoves in particular.

Via/Library of Congress

7) Pressure Cooker

When more people had gardens, the excess produce had to go somewhere. Canning was the preferred method for preserving produce and the pressure cooker was vital to getting the temperature up enough to ensure that the food would be fresh when the jars were open months down the road. Sometimes we really miss home-canned tomatoes, jams, and pickles!

Via/Library of Congress

6) Cherry Pitter

Most people buy cherries these days to eat them from a bowl. Back in the day when cherry pies were common to make at home, you needed a cherry pitter to get through a large enough quantity of cherries to make a pie. We’ve seen first hand the baffling effects when a cherry pitter is presented to a young person! Of course they still make these today, but many people have no experience of them.


5) Hand Coffee Grinder

Famously mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter for grinding wheat, the hand crank coffee grinders are still sold today. We love the old iron designs the best, though! These days everything plugs in, but manual coffee grinders were standard in most households before the invention of Sanka and Mr. Coffee.


4) Bible Box

Not everyone had a fancy box for it, but nearly everyone had a bible! It was always treated with respect. Bible boxes have a long history and often carried ornate designs. As time went on, they got smaller and became less of a piece of furniture than they were centuries ago.


3) Butter Churn

Those hand crank butter churns! Mom used to make the best butter. We doubt most younger people have even had homemade butter. It’s really a wonder that margarine ever caught on considering how the yellow color had to be mixed in at home back then! Homemade butter is a taste we remember well. Thankfully, it’s easy to make in a plain old mason jar, too!

Image taken at Seattle Antiques Market

2) Aluminum Ice Cube Tray

They seemed so modern at the time, but are pretty low tech when compared to the silicone ice molds we have today. That handle to break the ice cubes free was sometimes hard to operate, but the ice cubes weren’t skimpy so it was well worth it.


1) Pie or Food Safe

Well-known to antique hunters as collector’s items these days, before fridges and iceboxes, food safes were how you kept food that wasn’t exactly shelf stable. These were used into the 1950s in some homes. In particular, the mesh screen of a cheese safe has confused many a youngster!


We think there might be a few of your who still use these items on a regular basis. If nothing else, they are fun to look at! We sometimes miss the old ways of doing things, but then again we love being saved all that manual labor.

There are quite a few other things kids don’t understand!

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