The thing I posted a picture of (under Anyone Know What This Thing Is?) is, it turns out, a STAMP-RACK. I learned this in two ways. First, a reader who keeps a really outstanding blog called Lord I Believe; Help My Unbelief wrote to say that, after a considerable bit of web research, he found this Most Outstanding page, where you can see the Actual Patent Submission for which one David S. Haines, of Sandy Hill, NY, was, on Feb. 2, 1897, granted a patent for the very object that over 100 years later someone donated to one of my wife's thrift stores. (He also once wrote a review of my book I'm OK--You're Not, which you can find on his site here.)
Then, yesterday, the most excellent and apparently freakishly patient Paul Tucker wrote in to say, first, "I know what this is. Do people really want to know or do they just enjoy guessing? It was invented by David Haines from Sandy Hill, NY. It’s patent number is 576450." A few comments from others later he wrote, "I didn’t want to spoil the fun if people liked guessing ... . It is a stamp dispenser. .... Mr. Haines designed this to dispense stamps when the post office handled postage stamps in long sheet like rolls. The numbers on the spindles were supposed to help keep count of the number of stamps dispensed and remaining on the spool. It doesn’t seem like it would work very well and I couldn’t find any evidence that it was actually used by the post office. I think this belongs in the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, which also has the old post office from my hometown Dillsburg, PA. [!!] I think we should send the photos and information to the museum to see if they want it." Man. How comprehensive an answer is that? Awesome.
A number of comments from others later, Mr. Tucker was next to write, "It really is a stamp dispenser. I’m not just guessing. You can look up the patent at http://www.google.com/patents?id=0-1LAAAAEBAJ&dq=576450 . And I really think it should be offered to the National Postal Museum."
And there you have it! And I will see if the National Postal Museum wants my/our stamp-rack! (Though if anyone else wants to look them up and forward them the photo off my blog and all, by all means, do. Just let me know, so that I can be sure to continue living the life of leisure I keep trying to live.)
I want to sincerely thank all of you for making this so much fun, and so informative. Some of those answers you guys gave just cracked me up.
For sure I'll do this again sometime, and probably sooner than later. You wouldn't believe the weird stuff people donate to thrift stores. Now I know I have a way of finding out what some of the weirder of that stuff actually is. This is very exciting news for me, my wife, and everyone who works with my wife at this nonprofit organization.
Hey, if I don't write again before Christmas, the very best Christmas/holiday to you all. Maximum love, respect, and gratitude.