What's It Wednesday #34
Today I'm sharing a rather tantalizing item, the tantalus. The tantalus is an open work rack that holds large cut crystal liquor decanters, usually in sets of three or two. (Mine is a single!) The tops of the decanters are secured with a locking mechanism so that the stoppers can’t be removed unless the tantalus is unlocked with a key.
The tantalus gets its name from the Greek mythological king, Tantalus, since tantalized means to be “tempted with something unattainable”. King Tantalus was condemned to spend eternity in hell, forced to stand in a pool of water that receded each time he bent to drink, never able to quench his thirst.
It was patented in 1881 by John Betjemann . It was once thought that it was designed to prevent household servants from stealing or sampling the decanter’s contents. However, it is much more likely that the ingenious device was just another novelty that became popular with the affluent middle-class of the late nineteenth century. Tantaluses were popular in England up through the early 20th century.
Hope I was able to tempt you with my tantalus! Thirty?
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