The Tale Of The Victorian Muff Warmer

Favourite Finds


Ahoy there! Welcome to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

This week I stumbled across a little item that was labelled up as an "unusual flask", but I was sure I'd seen something similar before...  I raked through my brain and bingo, I remembered...! It's a damn 'Muff Warmer' I thought! I liked it's shape, the little handle and if you've got a muff, you could probably still make use of this today, so I bought it.  With it being such a fabulous invention, I thought I'd dedicate this week's blog post to it.

So, as always, get that kettle on, get your muffs out and let's see if we can't warm them up with this wonderful little invention which has evolved over time...



Over one hundred years ago, a lady going out in the cold of winter would tuck a miniature hot water bottle inside her fur muff to keep her hands warm, just like the one pictured above.  However, poorer people would have to find simpler ways of coping with a cold journey, using instead heated stones or potatoes in a pocket, perhaps.



Some later models were made of ceramic and can be found disguised as all sorts of novelty objects, like a book for example. They'd be filled with hot water by maids when their mistress was about to set out on a cold carriage ride or walk. Some would have carrying strings and optional fabric covers. 



However, hands could be cold indoors too.  People made good use of a hand warmer in a room or workshop that wasn't fortunate enough to have another heat source.  Other parts of Europe had other forms of portable warmth, from silver braziers (and, no, not the type you're thinking of!) to ceramic novelties, to heat-retaining bricks.



An earthenware pot with glowing charcoal was also a common source of portable heat. Put on the floor and used as local heating or as a foot warmer, or raised up to warm hands.  Portable containers for glowing embers were also sometimes called hand warmers.  Hinged cases with sticks of charcoal inside were in use in Europe by the first world war, when some officers carried pocket warmers.



However, you can’t discuss hand warmers without mentioning Eastern Asia.  Japanese homes might offer guests a small roundish ceramic pot with fuel in, called a 'Te-Aburi', to warm their hands.

And, in China, copper or bronze box-shaped hand warmers, called 'Shou Lu', were used.  These were portable and contained glowing coals.  China and Japan had used both metal and ceramic hand warmers for many centuries.



European travellers to the Far East in the later 1800s and early 1900s became interested in the little heaters they saw there and some were recommended for nursing and medical purposes.

In 1910, these were lit with a simple paper fuse, but it wasn't long before a more modern version of the metal box hand warmer was introduced to Japan.  It was ignited with platinum catalyst technology.  The 'Hakkin' hand warmer or 'Kairo', invented in 1923, looked almost like a cigarette lighter.



The example pictured is currently available to buy here

So, there you have it, the 'Muff Warmer', ladies and gentlemen.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, it's always a pleasure to hear from you.

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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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