Milk Can


A Mystery Tin Bottle?
by Judy Haynes


The Historical Society arranges a “What Is It?” game  for the third grade students from the Boylston Elementary School in May of each year as well as a larger-scale more challenging version of the game at Boylston’s Memorial Day festivities.  This week’s artifact falls into the category of trying to understand ‘what is it,’ and how this tin container was used, but unlike those displayed on Memorial Day, where we know what the item is and how it is used, this week’s artifact was at first a puzzle to us.

Speculation is not our forte, so our intense research began.  We searched through many antique books and websites using the established facts that we had on hand.  This item came from the estate of Lillian Vickery of Boylston, Massachusetts in 1980, and is best described as a can with handle and cover.  It is made of granite enamelware with a mottled grey finish and it has a tin cap.  The can itself is 7 ¼ inches tall without the cap and with cap it is 9 inches.  It has a diameter at the top (the narrower area) of 3 ½ inches, while at the bottom it is 5 ¼ inches.  The cap is three inches wide. 

Knowing the donor’s type of business led us to narrow the search to a container for a beverage – possibly cream, or milk, or perhaps a container for a favorite creation such as a milk shake or malted milk that would have been used in Mrs. Vickery’s ice cream shop or tea café.  What is it?  Well indeed, you are correct if you guessed it to be an antique granite enamelware milk pail with tin lid. This smaller version of a typical milk pail would have been used to hold cream or the milk from a small animal such as a goat. 

Mrs. Vickery lived to be 100 years old and was an incredible multi-talented lady and quite the entrepreneur.  She was listed as a dressmaker in 1910, operator of a country store while also serving as the first Boylston telephone operator in 1905, and served as our town treasurer from 1938-1957, but she didn’t stop there.  The attached article by Inga Milbauer: “Ice Cream Anyone” highlights her entrepreneurial spirt.  Mrs. Vickery sold ice cream, hosted an afternoon tea room and provided a place for social activities such as borrowing games and jigsaw puzzles.  These 90-degree days are perfect for a cold drink or everyone’s favorite dessert, ice cream!    Click here for Inga's article:  "Enjoy Ice Cream, anyone?"




Published 21 July 2022
Boylston Historical Society and Museum, Iinc.