by Gweneth Collins
Did you know that Washington County Historical Society Museum has a collection of antique potato mashers? You may think, “Potato mashers? Well, that’s not such a big deal.” But, in the potato world, mashers were big news.
Potatoes are native to the Americas, and were introduced to Europe in the 1500s where they became a mainstay of the poor. Mashers have been around for a long time, too. Probably the first one was a stone, followed by a piece of wood which evolved into a wooden mallet, flat on the bottom with an upright handle. By the late 1800s two types emerged – an S-wound wire and a round or square wire grid. Your grandmother probably had one of these. Today we make mashed ‘tators with a stainless steel S-wire or round disc with holes drilled in it… or you get out your electric mixer.
The humble masher has been known by several names: Masher, potato-beetle, press-puree, muddler. It can be anywhere from ten inches to a yard high, four inches to a yard wide (commercial) and used to smash more than potatoes… beans, rutabagas, guacamole, eggs, apples, hummus, and even moonshine mash! Our collection is located in the museum’s kitchen area along with an antique stove, vintage utensils, bottles from year’s gone past, pots and pans, and other kitchen paraphernalia.
Oh, by the way, did you know we have a still at the museum, too?
“Just like today, the kitchen was the hub of home activity,” Museum Director Dorothy Odom stated. “Our collection is small, but it’s growing. We gladly accept donations of vintage home-making, cooking and kitchen items or vintage photos of your family in the kitchen – especially if they are documented as being used in or by Washington County folks.”
Washington County Historical Society Museum is located at 685 7th Street in downtown Chipley and is open every Friday from 10AM until 2PM. The society monthly meeting/potluck luncheon is held the first Friday of each month at noon. Drop by for a free – FREE – cup of coffee, sit a spell, and check out our mashers.