The rattles of the man

The rattles of the man

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1635, Artist Unknown, Girl with Coral Necklace and Rattle

Rattles are among the oldest toys in the world. Though a rattle was first and foremost a small toy used to distract the young child and calm the baby when teething, it was also believed that the object had exorcising and protective powers as well. It was thought to avert calamity and to help dispel evil. RM turns and designs baby rattles made of hard woods intended more to showcase the craft of wood turning than its original utilitarian use. He gives these little beauties as gifts to friends and colleagues who are new parents.  He often engraves a name or initials into the side of the rattle for a customized look.

In the past, hollow clay figures shaped like birds or dogs were made with small balls inside that would rattle.  Materials like coral, rock-crystal and wolf’s tooth were used for rattles not only because of their beauty, but also because of the special, supernatural powers attributed to these costly materials. Wolf‘s tooth, for example, symbolized power. It was supposed to transfer power from the animal to the child and in that way protects it against danger. Coral was widely known as a defense against evil, while rock-crystal was reputed to soothe wounds. In other words, a rattle was once much more than just a toy. By the 1800’s, the famous silversmith Paul Revere and others were making silver rattles that also could be chewed. In the early 20th century, Tiffany’s, the famous New York Company, made sterling-silver rattles as baby gifts.  RM’s wooden rattles are so much more than toys, not sure of the protective powers, but they are little works of art and timeless childhood keepsakes to commemorate the birth of a little one.

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“Two bar bells for mice”

Farewell then, verse, and love, and ev’ry toy, The rhymes and rattles of the man or boy; What right, what true, what fit we justly call, Let this be all my care for this is all.


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