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Dumbwaiter Calamities of Crockery

Dumbwaiter Calamities of Crockery


The dumbwaiter used to come up through this cupboard on the second floor. It is now just a cupboard.

My home Springside Hall (aka the Hi Diddle Day house) was built in different eras. The Morphy’s were no nonsense Scottish folks and a sturdy stone house in 1867 was better than having luxury. So way before the Property Brothers existed the Crams decided to add an addition in the late 1800s early 1900s. A dining room and a galley kitchen was built as well as a servants quarters on the second level.
When we bought the house in 1981 there was still push button lighting, and we knew there had been a dumbwaiter in the galley kitchen. We noticed that a long time ago it went up to the former servants quarters and there was a wooden call button in the master bedroom at a height and location which would be within easy reach from their bed.



The wooden buzzer used to be a few inches from the Victorian photo on the wall.



In some older homes like ours there used to be a tiny lift intended to carry objects rather than people. Through the years they  became refined to where it could be hidden in a wall and discreetly move food and other small necessities between upper living floors and the kitchen and servants locations on the lower floor.
Apparently homeowners hated this ingenious piece of mechanism people and said the only people it benefited were the crockery dealers.  It was said that the action of the dumbwaiter was modelled upon that of s volcano, since it shot up the family’s crockery to upper levels as though by a convulsion of nature.


Of course others said the dumbwaiter was far less dangerous to crockery than at the hands of a living servant or waiter would be. The cat does not meddle in the upheavals of the dumbwaiter or a soup-tureen in order to investigate its contents in the back yard, are of comparatively rare occurrence in households where the dumbwaiter is in use.

The dumbwaiter was known to suddenly swallow up whole dinner service, and leave them in fragments, which  reduced the servants to despair. Apparently there was not an hour of the day that passed without bringing someone to utter a blood-curdling sound that announced that the dumbwaiter was loose, and that in another moment the crash of crockery mingled with the despairing cry of the head of household saying, “There’s that dreadful dumbwaiter again!”


Image result for old dumbwaiter broken dishes


Upon investigating a series of dumb waiter calamities in the newspaper archives the soup-tureen was always involved first, and one accident was more destructive than the first. Of course most times the accident was caused by the breaking of  the mode of transportation–the hand hoisted rope. Undoubtedly the broken rope was the main culprit and another hemp rope was uniformly prescribed by whatever carpenter they called. Of course his remedy was perfectly inoperative, as a more violent crash some months later  would occur.
In 1887 it was quoted that the only salvation for a man or family that owned a dumb waiter was to chop it into pieces, burn the pieces and to bury those ashes at least a mile from the house. “If they choose not to do it be forewarned that the dumbwaiter will slowly but surely bust all the crockery in your home. It will also destroy the nervous system of your entire family and send someone to the madhouse- leaving a bankrupt broken hearted lunatical family”.



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Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte