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Can you Guess the Historical Object?

Ready for something new for 2022? Let's take a look at a historical object. The goal is to identify and research the item using the image and the clues I provide.

What sources should you use for your research? Familiar genealogical sources probably won’t help. Concentrate on websites with retail catalogs, periodicals, books, really anywhere you think you can find the answer. You can find these items by using Wikipedia, Google search, Google Patent search,  digitized book websites, and digitized newspaper website.

Once you know the answer, post in the comments what the item is and what sources you used. [Answers must be posted in the blog post comments (not various social media feeds) by Thursday, February 4, 2022 to qualify for the prize]. Feel free to add any other information about the item. We are all here to learn.

After a week, I’ll post the answer and more information about the item. Those who have posted the right answer will be put in a drawing to receive a 1-month subscription to Legacy Webinars. Already a subscriber? That’s ok, one month will be added to your subscription.


January item 1

January item 2

January item 3

Your clues are:

  • This item is made of a lightweight metal (aluminum or tin)
  • This was mostly used by women to complete chores in more than one room of the house.
  • You would find this for sale in catalogs in the early 20th
  • It could be used in the kitchen but it has nothing to do with food.
  • This item saved money
  • Though this item has a round "cage-like" shape, not all of these looked like this. 



  1. What is it?
  2. Where did you find the answer?


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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It looks like a vintage soap saver. A senior cleaning client of mine had one & still used it.

It's a soap saver. Scraps of bar soap were put in it and swished in water to make suds.

I say it is a towel holder that cost 8 cents in 1902.

I used Internet Archive and browsed a 1902 Sears Roebuck Catalogue

Another pertinent question should be, "Was this an item used in your country?" Because it wasn't used in mine.

The mystery item is a Soap Saver. I recognized it from one my grandmother had, even though there are various designs for these. It made it easier to save small pieces of soap to be reused for bathing, washing dishes or clothes.

1. A soap saver?

2. Since it doesn’t have a specific culinary use, it has to be related to housework. I did a Google search, so I think I found the right answer!

It's a soap saver.
Sources-my Granny had a square one, (apparently I am that old) Google image reverse lookup confirmed this.

It's a "soap saver" used to collect those little pieces of soap that are too small to use, but too big to throw away. Soap was put inside and it was swished around in water to make a soapy water solution for cleaning.

It's a soap saver.
A soap saver is a device with a very specific and very frugal purpose. When you use up a bar of soap, there is often a small sliver left. Today, you might throw that away, but when soap was more costly or required time to make, throwing away that last sliver was considered a waste. Instead, you could use a soap saver to get every last bit of cleaning power out of that little piece of soap. Housewives would put slivers of used-up soap inside the basket to save for laundry day. When they washed the clothes in a wringer washer or by hand, they could swirl the soap saver in the water, using up every last bit of the soap. It's not uncommon to find an antique soap saver still containing some slivers of decades-old soap.

Sorry, forgot to include where I found the info:
I used Google Lens to find items similar to those given & found a clear picture of the soap saver at

It is a metal soap saver.
I used Google Lens to search the image (new feature for image search) and found matches on Etsy.

Soap saver used to hold smaller pieces of soap for laundry, dish washing etc. I asked my husband and I remember my grandmother using one with ivory soap pieces inside. Also found on Etsy and Ebay.

I know what this is - my grandmother had one just like it, only square. She put scraps of soap bars inside and then swished it around in her sink of water to make soap to wash dishes.

Vintage soap holder (I have this on my wish list - still looking for one)

It’s an antique Soap-Saver. “Used to save money” was the clue that made me think of soap slivers, so after I tried Google Images, I Googled “antique soap device” & there it was! My grandma did it one better by making her own soap.

A cake of hard soap was inserted, and then “whisked” through water when washing - dishes, clothes, whatever. There were no liquid soaps back in the day, some powders. My grandmother washed dishes with a cake of soap and used one of these but hers was rectangular.

It is a tea ball - used before the invention of tea bags - I have one

This is a holder for soap that can be used to swish the soap around in the laundry tub thereby generating suds.

This is an old soap saver. You squeeze the handle to open the cage, and put in any small bits of leftover soap. Then you can use to create soapy water, swishing it in hot water, for laundry, dishes, etc.
I already had a vague idea, and a simple google search for "soap" "cage" "handle" brought up variations of the same item. The rectangular ones seem to be more common, probably because you could also put a bar of soap in them. They are occasionally called 'soap shakers'.
Some had a squeeze handle to open the cage, as in the picture, but others had a sliding clip to hold the basket closed.
They are still available new, in addition to the antique collectors market.

I have a square one. It is used to put your leftover bits of bar soap in and swish around in a tub of water for laundry suds. etc.
I did not have to research this as I am a collector of vintage laundry items.

This is a vintage/antique soap saver. I immediately thought it was as I have my grandmother's --- similar but the one I have is rectangular. A quick Google search for the item showed various images, including one just like your pictured one from

I’m not certain, but if if could be used in various rooms, maybe something to press soap bits together to make a “new” cake to use?

It is used to hold remainder of bars of soap. My grandmother had one.

Hi Gena,

I'm going to say that this item was used to hold bits of leftover soap and was shwished around in the water when doing dishes or cleaning clothes. My source is my head as my mother-in-law used to use one.

David from Vermont

It is used to pick up coal to place in a coal burning fireplace.

A soap saver. Personal usage!

It's an old fashioned soap saver. I just knew what it was; remembered my grandmother use to use one.

The item is a Tea Ball. I found the item on

It was used to hold tea leaves. I thought it looked like that but then double checked on google.

Soap Saver / swisher hang or kept beside sinks and tubs. Small pieces of soap were put in it. You could then swish it in the water.

Grandmother gad this.

It's a soap saver. Found it with Google Lens.

This is a vintage soap suds maker.
As a retired nurse, I remember using this to make soap suds enemas which were used long before the current fleet enemas. In fact I remember being the "victim" of one of these when my now 51 year old daughter was being delivered. The saying then was "high, hot, a hellava lot and hold it 'til it hurts". I am grateful for the progress of science and the development of an easier product to do the job.

I confirmed this doing a google search and seeing photos

this is a vintage soap saver

Antique Soap Saver.
I used Google Lens to take a picture, which then paired the image to an entry in You put very small remains of soap bars in it and swish it around in the wash.

I have a tea strainer that looks similar to this, but I believe it's for more frugal women to use the last of their soap for washing. I think my Grandma Gray called it a Soap Keep or Soap Save. I remember it being on the back of the kitchen sink in my Great-grandmother's house. I'm guessing this was to add soap to the water, possibly for hand washing or maybe for washing delicates.

I looked it up and found many rectangular, bar-sized keeps, but there was also a round keep here - .

My first couple of thoughts were a tea strainer or a soap saver. Obviously the holes were too large for a tea strainer. The clues suggest that it is more likely to be a soap saver/soap shaker. I have a rectangular one which I bought in the 1980's to use for washing the dishes with instead of using a liquid detergent. The one that I have will take a standard cake of soap. It can also hold small soap scraps, so that even the smallest pieces can be used. Simply shake the soap saver vigorously in water to produce suds.

I did a search for a soap saver or shaker and looked at the and also on the the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences at

Ash tray cleaner.

Soap press. Small pieces of leftover soap pressed into a larger piece.

I have one. It is a tea bag strainer. Cheers, Polly,

It is a tea infuser with a handle. I knew this anyway as my mother had one, but I looked it up on Google just to check that I was correct.

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