Thursday, 5 April 2012

"No more mouse traps!" (Drummond 1.4.2012)

"No more mouse traps!", David Drummond told me during a meeting in Neroth, which is a small village in the volcanic Eifel (Germany) with a particular history of mouse trap making and marketing in the 19th and 20th century and one of cultivating this heritage since. With this unique proposition among the villages of the Eifel Hinterland, Neroth attracts enough tourists to sustain two hotels, where otherwise probably one could hardly survive.
Neroth village at the foot of a volcanic plug called Nerother Kopf

David Drummond returned to this remote village, because he will retire from research into mouse trap history at the age of 84. One of his last deeds was the repatriation of a considerable amount of antique mouse traps to the mouse-trap-museum in Neroth.
David Drummond and the secretary of the Neroth heritage club discuss how 'Irish' mouse traps got their name because they've been shipped thither - not made there.

The traps had been bought by a German collector in the late 1970s and after his death the collection went to an American collector in Pennsylvania. Now that the American collector deceased, David took the chance to acquire the German traps and donate them to the museum in Neroth. As the Eifel is close to France, he also donated some French traps as well.

Whereas collectors are often greedy about their precious, David's generosity stems from an urge to spread the knowledge of mouse trap history. Therefore I suggested that he could link PDFs of his publications to his website. If he will do that, hopefully, the knowledge about mouse trap history will not fall into another dark age with inane ID/creationist seizures.

That doesn't mean we live in an entirely enlightened age. While David covered USA, Great Britain, France, and Germany pretty well, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, and many other countries are still black spots - at least for international audiences depending on English information. After David is finished with mouse traps no other mouse trap expert with a scientific training seems to remain, at least among English speaking academics. 

Irish trap (Drummond 2008, p. 11)
This is the kind of trap known as an 'Irish' in England. As it turned out, however, these traps were never made in Ireland but in Germany and shipped to Great Britain. The mouse trap makers knew where their own produce came from and named them according to destination not origin. 

Looking at the right whole, you can see how these traps were set by means of a string running through tiny holes and binding the choker down. The mouse had to gnaw it through in order to reach the bait thus releasing the choker.
Souvenir tap from Neroth mouse trap museum

This kind of set-release mechanism was fiddly and improvements were invented. There's one woman left in Neroth, who still remembers how to produce an improved version from childhood. She produces them as souvenirs for tourists. Instead of tiny holes for the gnaw strings there are slits sawed into the back of the wooden block so that setting the trap with gnaw string is easier. 

Drummond D. (2008). British Mouse Traps and their Makers. Mouse Trap Books, Dorking, UK