This salt-glaze jug is covered with a lid likely made of lead or pewter. COURTESY PHOTO

A big part of the story is dealing with it.

Think about it – you went to a restaurant where the waiter or hostess propped up a wobbly table with a book of matches or packets of salt or sugar.

Those of us of a certain age might remember bunny ears from TV with bits of tinfoil or whole hangers on the ends to improve our signals or any number of Rube-like contraptions Goldberg that worked simply because it was easier for them to work than to fail. .

The same goes for this treasure shared by Naples reader Mary Ann Koeppel.

“I am contacting you today because I have what may be an artifact that I have cared about for many years because I do not know who to contact to identify its historical significance, if any,” she wrote. “I hate throwing away something that has value for someone’s culture. I would like your opinion, please. I read you in Florida Weekly and thought I’d start with you.

At first glance, Mrs. Koeppel has a 19th-century salt-enamel jug with a piece of metal on it.

She thought the lump might be clay.

But I think someone in the 19th century needed to cover a milk pitcher and used whatever was at hand – in this case a sheet of lead or tin.

The paper label on the bottom of the jug offers clues to its origins, mentioning the year 1848 and a farm in Pennsylvania. It also offers a clue as to its use – particularly in reference to a source house.

In the days before mechanical refrigeration, or even an icehouse, people built structures above a spring. The house has kept this spring water free of critters and debris. It maintained consistent cool temperatures, perfect for keeping food from spoiling.

It was also days before you could buy plastic wrap or foil by the roll.

What better way to keep things from falling into your milk or cream when you bring them home than a durable, reusable cover like this?

The jug itself is probably German, although it may have come from a local pottery in Pennsylvania – there were many German settlers there who brought their arts and crafts traditions with them.

This salt-glaze jug is covered with a lid likely made of lead or pewter.  The label at the bottom mentions a farm in Pennsylvania and a spring house, where perishable foods would have been stored in the days before mechanical refrigeration.  COURTESY PHOTO

This salt-glaze jug is covered with a lid likely made of lead or pewter. The label at the bottom mentions a farm in Pennsylvania and a spring house, where perishable foods would have been stored in the days before mechanical refrigeration. COURTESY PHOTO

I haven’t seen a photograph of the pitcher except its coating, but it appears to be decorated with a dark blue pattern typical of these salt glazes.

Is it of great value? That’s a question I can’t answer, especially not having seen the piece in person. It’s a beautiful piece and definitely a conversation starter.

He may have survived over 170 years.

And as a testimony to make do with and endure against winds and tides?

Well, to me, it’s priceless. ¦