A strange name for a sugar shaker, to be sure. Wherever did
it come from? It is not a word used much today. In fact, try
it out on a friend and after a puzzled look, she will ask, What
is a muffineer?
The dictionary definition states: (1) A utensil like a large
salt shaker for sprinkling sugar, cinnamon or other granular
condiments, over muffins (2) a covered dish for keeping muffins,
biscuits and the like, hot.
We all are quite familiar with muffins, but the suffix eer
refers to someone or some thing engaged in a specific activity.
Our Victorian ancestors did love their sweets and would liberally
sprinkle their muffins and many other edibles with sugar.
Muffineers were part of the Victorian tableware along with
so many other serving utensils that seem foreign to us now. Many
were quite elaborate and they are very collectible today. They
were made from china, porcelain, glass and/or silver.
With the change in life style after the First World War and
on into the 1960s, muffineers were referred to as sugar shakers
and were not quite as elegant or elaborate. The art deco era
brought great changes in design and character. Artists in England
such as Susie Cooper, Clarisse Cliffe and later,
Lorna Bailey, brought their brilliant colours to the new
era of painted china pieces, including muffineers.
The mass importing of articles
from Japan brought many cheaper knock-offs. Some were whimsical
and not well made. Noritake china is one of the exceptions as
this company produced many well made and beautiful porcelain
pieces. The Japanese influence is usually noted for the use of
brilliant lusters, and peony type flowers.
Muffineers became a part of spice sets and were used during
the ritual of the home- makers baking day and not set out
on the dining table. Some, however, were paired up with a cream
pitcher and filled with confectionery sugar and set out for desserts.
They were referred to as berry sugar and cream sets. At breakfast
time the set would contain sugar and syrup for waffles, crumpets
As well as the muffineer and the open sugar bowl, there were
two other elaborate articles for sugar in days gone by. One was
the sugar sifting spoon. It was shaped like a lading spoon and
had holes in the base. Sugar was lifted from the bowl and sprinkled
over the food or coffee/tea cup. One had to be very careful and
in a hurry with the transition.
The other article was a sugar scuttle. It was well named
as it was indeed the shape of a coal scuttle. A shovel style
spoon usually accompanied the scuttle.
Annette Morrissey in Gravenhurst,
Ontario, has inherited a collection of porcelain and glass muffineers.
Her in-laws, Fred and Marie Morrissey were well
known as antique dealers in the Flesherton area from the 1950s
through to the 1980s.
My mother-in-law enjoyed the muffineers so much,
said Annette, that she kept them as her own collection."
Annette has 25 from the collection and finds she can only
display a few of them along with other lovely items she has collected
over the years.
The Morrissey collection is all beauty and no whimsy. All are
either porcelain or glass. The tops either match the porcelain,
or are made of silver or white metal, depending on the quality.
You may come across a muffineer without the top and not recognize
it as such. The tops were easily broken or split when turned
too tightly. They also could become chipped when small granules
kept the lid from fitting correctly.
Muffineers range in size from a tomato or little shrimp size
of three inches to a tall tower of eight inches, but most range
from five to seven inches in height. Prices for muffineers vary
greatly according to the style, material, condition and age.
A piece made in Japan from the 1930s may fetch $30 to $40, while
an old European one of glass or porcelain and of a sought after
style may fetch over $400.
Pat Stott-Prince lives in Gravenhurst during the summer
months and Florida in the winter. She is still very active in
collecting egg cups and related articles and tries to stop at
as many shops and shows on the way to and from as time allows.
Pat produces a quarterly newsletter "Eggcuppers in Canada".
An interesting article Whistling
Cups for Eggs N' Milk is in the online archives.