Revisited Myth # 129: Punched patterns on tin lanterns varied by family so people could tell who was moving about outside at night.

September 16, 2017

First, the practical. Experiments revealed that it would be impossible to discern a particular pattern of tin lanterns at any distance. S. West reports “I just now performed an experiment with index cards, a hole punch, and a flashlight. In a dark room, if you can see the difference in the patterns – as the dots shine on the walls. However, outside, on the streets the light pattern would not be clear. Also, the more intricate the patterns, the more difficult it would be to tell them apart when looking at the lantern lit up from across the street.” E. Duval writes, “I’m dubious of the tin lantern theory. I work at Conner Prairie, a living history museum in Indiana where we frequently use these lanterns at night. Candles really don’t give off enough light to make the pattern punched into the lantern distinguishable from far distances. By the time you got close enough to see the pattern, you’d also be able to see the person’s face.”

Sarah Uthoff checked with her contacts and reports: Kitty Hillman Latané, a historic tinsmith, wrote, “I’d never heard the ‘family pattern’ thing about tin punching, though plaids and knit patterns have a tradition of family patterns. Here’s what Shay Lelegren, a historical tinsmith at Hot Dip Tin, told me. ‘That story being told in Nauvoo had made its way to Utah and I was asked about it many times in my Tinshop in Salt Lake. There is no documentary evidence to it. None of the museum pieces in the Utah Pioneer museums have patterns. In fact original punched tin lanterns I looked at have more holes than repros. Some have 90% of the body punched. I believe the story was invented by the gift shop industry. . . . In both sites they are volunteers serving a 2-year mission and they are telling the stories they have been taught by the generations before. The Nauvoo Tin shop was set up the late 1970 and has never been a working shop (only narrated) . . .  The tinware on display is all repro.'”

Another wrinkle: how would the “family pattern” continue into the next generation? Which son or daughter’s family would “inherit” the family pattern? And Mormon families are so big and interconnected, it would become impossibly confusing. 

I think we can judge the “family pattern” tin lantern a myth. Thanks to all the blog readers who helped with observations and information! 

 

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Myth # 129: Punched patterns on tin lanterns varied by family so people could tell who was moving about outside at night.

October 27, 2013

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First, the practical. Experiments revealed that it would be impossible to discern a particular pattern of tin lanterns at any distance. S. West reports “I just now performed an experiment with index cards, a hole punch, and a flashlight. In a dark room, if you can see the difference in the patterns – as the dots shine on the walls. However, outside, on the streets the light pattern would not be clear. Also, the more intricate the patterns, the more difficult it would be to tell them apart when looking at the lantern lit up from across the street.” E. Duval writes, “I’m dubious of the tin lantern theory. I work at Conner Prairie, a living history museum in Indiana where we frequently use these lanterns at night. Candles really don’t give off enough light to make the pattern punched into the lantern distinguishable from far distances. By the time you got close enough to see the pattern, you’d also be able to see the person’s face.”

Sarah Uthoff checked with her contacts and reports: Kitty Hillman Latané, a historic tinsmith, wrote, “I’d never heard the “family pattern” thing about tin punching, though plaids and knit patterns have a tradition of family patterns. Here’s what Shay Lelegren, a historical tinsmith at Hot Dip Tin, told me. ‘That story being told in Nauvoo had made its way to Utah and I was asked about it many times in my Tinshop in Salt Lake. There is no documentary evidence to it. None of the museum pieces in the Utah Pioneer museums have patterns. In fact original punched tin lanterns I looked at have more holes than repros. Some have 90% of the body punched. I believe the story was invented by the gift shop industry. . . . In both sites they are volunteers serving a 2-year mission and they are telling the stories they have been taught by the generations before. The Nauvoo Tin shop was set up the late 1970 and has never been a working shop (only narrated) . . .  The tinware on display is all repro.'”

Another wrinkle: how would the “family pattern” continue into the next generation? Which son or daughter’s family would “inherit” the family pattern? And Mormon families are so big and interconnected, it would become impossibly confusing. 

I think we can judge the “family pattern” tin lantern a myth. Thanks to all the blog readers who helped with observations and information! 


Two that Stumped the Mythbuster

October 6, 2013
Here are some more stump-the-mythbusters that readers have sent. Can anyone shed light on any of these? 
Martha Katz-Hyman curator at the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation and active in ALHFAM has two probable myths that I haven’t been able to substantiate either way.
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1) “I was at the ALHFAM annual meeting in Akron, Ohio, from 6/12-6/19, and one of our field trips was to Kirtland Village (https://www.lds.org/locations/historic-kirtland-visitors-center) and Kirtland Temple (http://www.kirtlandtemple.org/), both in Kirtland, Ohio. They are both important sites in Mormon history, with the village part of the LDS universe, and Kirtland Temple owned by the Community of Christ, a Mormon community not associated with the LDS folks. As you can imagine, their narratives are entirely different! At Kirtland Village we got a tour of the site, including the Newel K. Whitney store (https://www.lds.org/locations/newel-k-whitney-store). The store has been totally furnished using the store’s account books from the period, and the furnishings include a whole row of punched tin lanterns (see the pictures on the store page). In the course of my group’s tour of the site, the woman giving the tour (Mormon, of course) said something to the effect that the punched patterns were different because each family in the village had a different pattern, and that’s how, at night, you could know who was out and about.” 

2) “A friend recently attended a seminar on Civil War era quilts. The presenters mentioned that some quilts of that period had a strip of cloth sewn along the edge to protect against the oils of “grandpa’s” beard. It was stated that if you found a quilt with a yellowed  edge the stain was due to the beard and that this was a sign of a”period” quilt. Anyone familiar with this practice?” 

Can anyone help with either of these? 

 


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