In my previous blog about the H. C. Reed Jr. & Co. julep strainer, I stated “I believe this is the oldest julep strainer that I have come across.” H. C. Reed Jr. & Co. was only in business from 1865 through 1867…three years. And, just a short while ago, that was the oldest julep strainer I had come across. But, guess what? I’ve found even an older one. And this one, I believe, is coin silver.
The strainer is marked “J. POOLEY” (the “J” is very faint) and is followed by three marks, marks that are referred to as “pseudo marks”. They look similar to British hallmarks. The three marks are a “D”, a bird and a bust.
The front of the handle is engraved “J. Baum” in a lovely old timey script.
It is designed differently than any other julep strainer that I have seen. It has the scallop shaped bowl, but the bowl is more flat and the sides curve up.
The handle is in the “Tipped” pattern. The handle bends up slightly but doesn’t have the up and down bend in the handle common to other julep strainers. It measures 5 and 1/2 inches long and 2 and 3/4 inches wide, typical dimensions for an antique julep strainer. The staining holes are not symmetrical, they were obviously made by hand.
I have been unable to find a patent for the scallop bowl julep strainer. Speculation is that early strainers were based on the scalloped sugar sifter design and modified to fit in a glass and strain liquids. This strainer has holes only about 3/4ths of the way across and definitely made to strain liquid from a glass or beaker. If it were a sugar sifter or tea strainer, the holes would be across the entire bowl. This strainer fits well in a glass and feels comfortable and secure in the hand when pouring.
So, having said all of that, who was J. Pooley? After exhaustive research, I believe I know. J. Pooley was James Pooley who was born in Scotland in 1825. He came to America as a young man and was traced to Amsterdam, New York in 1848. He married Ann Augusta Barnum in Amsterdam in November of 1849, and their first child, William, was born there in 1852. James Pooley was listed under “Watches and Jewelry” in the 1850-51 New York Mercantile Union Business Directory. See my following notes:
James Pooley and family moved to New Albany, Indiana around 1853. He continued in the jewelry and watch business there. Two more sons were born, James in 1855 and Edward in 1857. Notes and ads from New Albany follow. Note the last ad which states that Charles Bradford is the successor to Jas. Pooley:
In 1858, James Pooley turns up in Memphis and his son, George, is born in Memphis that same year. James Pooley is listed in the 1859 Memphis City Directory. His son, Frank is born in 1862. The 1865 Denson’s Memphis Directory lists his business as “diamonds, watches, jewelry, etc.”. And then James Pooley met an untimely death on March 25, 1865 as a result of a freak accident. His daughter, Martha, was born a little more than two months after he died. My notes follow:
James Pooley had been thrown from a horse on his way home in the dark. His brother and also his brother-in-law had been thrown from a horse before him in the same spot on their way home from work in the dark. Some say it was the same horse involved in all three accidents, some say not. But something spooked the horse (or horses) resulting in three deaths.
Here are some ads from Memphis:
The following ads are from after James Pooley’s death. His wife, Ann, (nee Barnum) and her brothers were involved in running the business at that point.
And there is an article from the Elmwood Cemetery Association about the Pooley brothers:
I have not been successful in finding another piece of silver with the J. Pooley mark. The three pseudo marks, however, are the same marks (“D”, bird, bust) that were used by James Mix. Jr. of Albany, New York on his coin silver. James Mix. Jr. was born in 1822 and a silversmith in the mid to late 1800s. All the pieces of his work show his name followed by those three marks. It is possible he made this strainer for Pooley, or perhaps some one else made it for Pooley, or maybe Pooley made it himself. Who knows?
So where does J. Baum (the name engraved on the strainer) fit in, you ask. Aha! This is the good part. This is the clincher. J. Baum & Co., doing business as a “saloon”, is in the same 1859 Memphis Directory as James Pooley. James Baum’s saloon was just around the corner from Pooley’s business. Maybe Mr. Baum had an idea for a julep strainer and asked Mr. Pooley to make or find him one. Or maybe it was a gift from Mr. Pooley.
J. Baum’s saloon is marked in red in the following map. James Pooley’s store was on the edge of the green a little to the right:
Here are some directories with John Baum listed. He was a wine and beer merchant in addition to owning a saloon:
James Pooley’s sign today hangs in the Tennessee State Museum:
I suspect this will be the earliest julep strainer I will ever find. Now if it could only talk.
This strainer is available here at my Etsy shop: