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A Helper trivet (17th or 18th century)


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This past spring, after having been enlightrened by a friend about the subject of forged kitchen implements, I got realy interested and involved to the point of writing a blog about the kitchen implements of la Nouvelle-France (1630-1789).


Of course, there was the interest of looking into an area of blacksmithing that had few fans if any which is always interesting in itself. It was, at the same time a way to help me organise my work (forging reproductions of these objects) when clients and their commissions were not doing it.


And then there was the great priviledge of being able to measure, photograph and draw the objects of the Hotermans collection in the Stewart Museum in Montreal. Here is a link to an article by Richard J. Wattenmaker explaining the importance of this collection. (The article is in french and english).


In a conversation with Glenn, I mentioned the blog and he said I ought to post these articles here on IFI. Here is one of them.  And I will also add the book reviews I write on the subject of kitchen implements.



The subject is, I believe of interst to IFI would it only be because the history of kitchen implements in Nouvelle-France is also the history of same implements in New-England. Cooking on the hearth called for certain utensils, certain techniques that had to be the same wherever people cooked on the hearth. Looking into the kitchen of the Renaissance, is also looking back into the kitchens of the Middle-Ages and looking forward into the kitchens of the 17th and 18th centuries. 


Here is a first article.


This trivet worked harder …

An insectoid animal

Cooking food in a container means the container must be held on, over or near the fire. This is how Lecoq starts his chapter on tripods (page 193). And that is what tripods do. It probably started with rocks and then there was iron. A simple tripod will support any container. Then there were pans and handles were elongated so that the cook herself would not be cooked. The weight of these long handles would topple the pan and spill the beans. It had to be supported.



Most probably
this is our tripod in Lecoq's book

The front part, the one with two legs holds the pan over the embers to fry and otherwise cook the food. The helping end supports the long handle.

Helper tripod nº from the Hotermans collection in the Stewart Museum

The tripod on page 193 (pic above) of Raymond Lecoq's book "Les objets de la vie domestique, Ustensiles en fer de la cuisine et du foyer des origines au XIX siècle" is probably the one I had the pleasure to measure and photograph in the Stewart Museum in Montréal. In 1971 the MacDonald-Stewart Foundation acquired the Hotermans collection. Not only is the trivet nº of this collection utilitarian, it is also quite elegant and reminiscent of a mythical being. These qualities are not diminished by an otherwise partialy questionable workmanship.

The unequal workmanship

A close examination reveals that two blacksmiths forged this item. The master blacksmith forged and welded the ring at the busines end, the two legs and the rivets of these legs.



The work of the
master blacksmith

The helper end of the trivet was forged by, well, the helper. Or the blasksmith was hurried by the client. Or someone somehow affected the blacksmith's good mood. We will never know. Or maybe someone had a perfect tripod and asked a blacksmith who did not care for perfection to add the helper part. Or it might be something entirely different. I sent this article for review to a friend. He added :

I'm not sure I agree with your two-smith theory, although it is possible. I think the explanation for the coarse appearance of the upright part is more likely to be the fact that it had to be beaten to the correct shape and size from a larger piece of basic stock. This would have been a tiring job that may have left the smith thinking that the amount of time being spent on the job had to be cut back to ensure a profit. The ring was probably formed from regular flat stock, hence its better appearance.



At any rate, here are the consequences : the tenon linking the helper upright to the rod that goes to the ring is quite rough. The rivet tying the rod to the ring is also rough. And the supports have been cut in the same coarse manner.



Unequaly spaced
and coarsly forged

Such cuts are usualy,were should I say, we are in the 17th or 18th century, done with a hot cut instrument. Work of quality is achieved with cutting the work and then carefully forging the roughness left by the cutting action. 

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How was the trivet handle was attached to the stand?. I can see one rivet just below the branches which I will guess is the attachment point, making the stand the third leg. Was this a 90 degree fold riveted to the branch or a tenon that was passed through and riveted on the back side of the branched upright ?  


Great project, thank you

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Thanks for posting. As a student of Spanish colonial ironwork, it's always nice to compare. Cooking trivets were often used in the Southwestern U.S., but I had not seen one with the elevated, hot split portion.


Sayings and Cornpone

"We think others are thinking of us, but they aren't. They're just like us; they're thinking of themselves."

     "Bits & Pieces," June, 1981.

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Frank Turley,


1) Have you discovered a system permitting to separate french and spanish styles when the implements originate from the New-Orleans area? There were those who before 1930 firmly believed that that the iron work in N-O was forged by slaves whose basic training (the first few to come there) had been done in the french islands. There was also the french pirate Lafitte who alledgedly operated a forge in N O. And then  in 1937, I quote here Marcus Christian :


... the appearance of Stanley Arthur's Old New Orleans enuntiated the second theory of the origins of wrought ironwork in New Orleans. ... He declared that New Orleans' ironwork was the work of neither slaves nor pirates. Moreover, it had not been made in the city. It had he contented been imported from Spain.

(Christian, Marcus, Negro Ironworkers of Louisiana 1718-1900)



2) Do you have an image of or a comparable spanish implement that we could see?

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I've been to New Orleans twice, and I looked around at the ironwork and asked a few questions, but nothing in depth. Pardon my saying so, but the extant ironwork appears to be a misch masch. Today, much of the installed, viewable ironwork is cast iron. Many people rave about "the corn fence" which is cast and painted green and yellow. The balconies are mostly encased in ornamental cast iron. I saw some nice forged hardware on the tall, wooden shutters which are closed in the evening and open to the day. I'm afraid we're in a situation where we can't always separate French style from Spanish from Anglo from Black. I know too, that Donald Streeter (RIP) did hardware that was installed in New Orleans. He worked out of Franklinville, New Jersey, and his professionally made hardware was sent pretty much all over the world. His workmanship was excellent, hard to tell from the real thing.


I've enclosed a photo of a trivet which I found near Taos Pueblo, the New Mexico Indian village. I volunteered to be involved in a trash cleanup, and I found the trivet buried by the roadside. It stands 5" tall and the ring is 8 1/2" O.D. Sometimes a shank/handle is riveted on under one of the legs at the ring, not in between legs, as then it might tip over. A "rattail finial" was common.


In 1974, I gave a workshop in New Orleans and I went downtown to shop for any ironwork I might find. I'm sending a photo of four pieces, none of which was over $1.50. The little strap hinge is slightly over one foot in length. It has a purposeful bend in it, because I think it was on a shutter that was set back into its wooden casing. The shape of it is common in many areas, especially New England.


The two furniture bolts have sheet metal tenoned keepers. The openwork had a little break. The plain one has a brass knob.


The H-L hinge is well made of stock averaging 1/8" thick. The barrel is forge welded and the 'L' is angle welded (at the forge). This type of hinge was also found in New England and the Southern U.S.


There is a building called the Cabildo dating from the late 1700's where the Spanish town council met. There is some ironwork there, but it would be difficult to put an ethnicity on it.


Reference: "Southwestern Colonial Ironwork" by Marc Simmons and Frank Turley.


All Best with your research,


Frank Turley

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