Object Record

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Title Box with spider web frame for housing living spider & spider web harvesting; made & used by Keuffel & Esser Co., Hoboken. N.d., ca. 1950-early 1960s.
Object Name Box
Catalog Number 2010.064.0001
Collection Keuffel & Esser Company Collection
Credit Gift of a Friend of the Museum.
Description Box with spider web frame for housing living spider and spider web harvesting; made and used by Keuffel & Esser Co., Hoboken, N.J. No date, circa 1950's to very early 1960s. Two piece cardboard box, 17-1/4" wide x 6-1/2" deep x 1-1/2" high, with removable rectangular metal frame, 4-1/2" x 13", secured in lower half; worked wood blocks at each end of tray with plastic disk holders for frame. Lid and tray covered with green paper with the blind embossed 'K&E' logo pattern (same paper as used for product packages in this era.) Imprinted on top and inside bottom of tray with inkstamp.

Ink stamped on top of box lid (black) and inside tray (red):

Keuffel & Esser had a spider 'ranch' or farm on site for nearly three-quarters of a century where they housed spiders in boxes such as this one and then harvested the silk. The company used this spider 'hair' or silk as crosshairs in reticles as part of its many surveying and other optical instruments produced by them. The fineness and strength of the web silk versus other materials made them the preferred material for this important use. It was not until the late 1950s that other materials were developed that could replace this seemingly simple animal product. End date for K&E spider harvesting operations is not definitive.

A reference image from archives 2010.017.0001 is attached. It is a 1915 newspaper photo of K&E employee Mary Pfeiffer (Piper in the article) demonstrating the use of the metal web frame to harvest spider silk. The one she holds appears to be the same as the one seen in the box here. See the archives record for the full text which explains the harvesting technique.

Date 1950-1962
Year Range from 1950.0
Year Range to 1962.0
Search Terms K & E
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Caption box lid
Imagefile 078\20100640001-2.JPG
Notes Other names: spider cage; spider home.
Classification Manufacturing