December 2021 Mystery Tools

Check out these gadgets, gizmos, and contraptions confounding us from the pioneer inventors.

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A: Piece measures about 4 inches long.

Answer: Device used to hold mail bags open in a post office sorting area. The eye opening slid over a horizontal pipe anchored to a wall or counter. The back side of the bag was hooked over the thumb-like prong, allowing the bag to hang fully open, making a larger opening in which to toss envelopes. Identified by Virgil Cassill, Drakesville, Iowa, and Vickie Henrichsen, Sioux City, Iowa. Photo submitted by Bradley Anderson, Albion, Neb.

B: Piece measures about 6 inches long.

Answer: Wrench-type tool probably used to turn a valve with a matching configuration stem as a wrench socket. Identified by Harold Kaufman, Porterfield, Wis. Photo submitted by Bradley Anderson, Albion, Neb.

C: Blade measures 19 inches long by 4 inches wide; handle measures 1 foot long. No markings.

Hay knife. Identified by Bill Bracy, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Harold Kaufman; P.T. Rathbone, Marsing, Idaho; Gil Mangels, Polson, Mont.; Erwin Fullerton, S. Woodstock, Vt.; Jack Simmons, Mt. Vernon, Ill.; and John Heath, Sullivan, Ohio. “When loose hay was harvested and stacked, it became very compacted and difficult to get small amount out to feed the animals,” Bill Bracy says. “Hay knives were made to cut long stems of hay into smaller pieces to get it loose from the stack.” Photo submitted by Ken Brein, Leonard, Minn.

D: Piece measures about 10 by 6 inches. Center receptacle measures 2 inches across.

Pole crab. Used to connect horses in harness to the wooden pole running between a pair of horses, from the front axle of a carriage to the head of the horses. Some crabs accept pole pieces (leather straps); some are made for pole chains. Identified by Harold Kaufman. Photos submitted by Marvin Ball, N. Ferrisburg, Vt.

E: Piece measures about 29 inches long.

Unidentified. Likely a sweat scraper used on horses Photo submitted by Steven Sylvester, Centuria, Wis.

F: Piece measures about 22 inches long.

No positive identification. Appears to be long-reach tongs, possibly for use around hot water, as in a laundry. Photo submitted by Steven Sylvester, Centuria, Wi

To submit photos:

Send prints to Farm Collector, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Send digital images to

• Photos should be taken in a well-lit area against a plain background. Include dimensions and markings on the piece, and your name, city and state. We cannot guarantee every photo will be published. No photos will be returned.

• Digital photos should be sent as .jpegs at a minimum of 300 dpi.

To identify an item:

Send answers (with your name and address) to Farm Collector, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.

Email responses may be sent to

Answers for new items shown in this issue must be received by Dec. 3, 2021.

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