A while back I came to appreciate the beauty and rarity of silver plated products produced by L. Boardman & Son of East Haddam, Connecticut. I’ve written a post on the history of Luther Boardman which you can find in this blog.
In one of my frequent searches of L. Boardman items on the internet, I came across a strainer that looked somewhat familiar:
The relatively short handle with star shaped cut-out attached to a relatively round strainer type bowl told me that this was some version of a julep strainer. I was familiar with julep strainers only to the extent that I had seen illustrations of them in the 1886-87 Meriden Britannia catalog:
In the photo above, Meriden Britannia showed three types of julep strainers in their 1886-87 catalog: a Star Julep Strainer with a scallop shell bowl, a Clover Julep Strainer without the scallop detail in the bowl and a Windsor Julep Strainer, Small. The back of the catalog also states that the julep strainer was also available in the “Olive” pattern. I was curious about that small Windsor Julep Strainer…was it really for straining juleps or smashes or was it a toddy strainer?
Noel Turner, in his book “American Silver Flatware”, shows illustrations of both a toddy strainer (on the left below) and a julep strainer (on the right). It looked to me that what he presented as a toddy strainer, with what appeared to be a flat bottom bowl, was very similar to the small Windsor strainer.
The toddy strainer in the above illustration is the Pairpoint 1894 “Essex” pattern.
I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. When were these strainers first introduced? Researching further, I found an illustration of the toddy strainer in the 1867 Meriden Britannia catalog:
You’ll note that the toddy strainer above has the scallop shell shaped bowl. From the illustration, it was impossible to tell what size it was.
F. A. Walker & Co.’s Illustrated Catalog circa 1880 has a similar illustration of a toddy strainer:
We know that “toddy strainer” is not mentioned in the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog…instead there is a small julep strainer. And in 1892, Rogers & Bro. continued with offering two sizes of julep strainers in their catalog, the smaller of the two having the same bowl shape as in the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog:
Was the term “toddy strainer” becoming less fashionable?
And in the 1903 Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson catalog, we have a “new” style julep strainer offered in addition to the scallop shell design, which was offered in two sizes:
I’ve seen ads for this Lindley’s Patent Julep Strainer as early as 1900; they were being offered by Holmes & Edwards at that time.
The use of the julep strainer being served in the drink itself, was mentioned in the 1888 book, ” by Harry Johnson. Following is an illustration from that book which shows the strainer being served in the glass:
As I mentioned in my post “The Victorian Bar”, I tried holding a glass with the julep strainer positioned as shown in Harry Johnson’s book. It was a natural…comfortable, no fiddling with it…made perfect sense to me!
I don’t know who came up with the idea of the julep strainer, like the one shown above, with the little bend in the handle where it meets the bowl. That little bend is the secret that makes the strainer sit in the glass at just the right angle so that you easily sip your drink. The man who invented the other type strainer, the Lindley strainer, was Charles Lindley, from Bridgeport, Connecticut. His patent was obtained in 1889.
You can find julep strainers, bar spoons and other bar related items here at my Etsy shop:
To me, antique julep strainers are examples of the brilliant design and beauty found in the late 1800s. Some have survived through the years still gleaming and shining and others show decades worth of use. And to me, these well worn strainers are just as beautiful (perhaps even more so) as those in pristine condition. To think that they started out in the Victorian era of the 19th Century and the “Gay ’90s”, on through World War I, then through the 1920’s (possibly in a speakeasy during Prohibition), and were still called into service through the Depression, World War II, Mid Century Mad Men era, on through the latter half of the 20th Century and are still ready to be used in the 21st Century. The stories these strainers could tell….