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"Great Seal" Wafer Iron

ca.1798-1840
Origin: America, New England
Length: 27" Diameter of molds: 5 1/4" Depth: 2 1/2"
Wrought and cast iron
Gift of June S. Hennage
Acc. No. 2016-163
Wafer iron composed of a pair of circular cast iron molds affixed to a set of wrought iron tongs. The latter has long handles of rectangular to round section, one of which terminates in a knop, the other with a knop looped to retain a "figure of 8" shaped catch. A scissors-like joint held by a riveted pin articulates the piece. Rivets secure the mold disks to the flattened lower ends of the handle arms.

The disc-like molds are cast with the incuse cavity of the Great Seal of the United States, within a beaded border. This consists of an eagle with spread wings, a striped shield on its chest, a spring and arrows in its talons, and a row of clouds connecting its wing tips. Under the clouds is a field of sixteen stars, and a banner inscribed "E PLURABUS UNUM" is clasped in the eagle's beak.
Label:A relative of the beloved waffle and ancestor of the ice cream cone, early wafers were made from a variety of batter recipes often flavored with butter, lemon and sugar. Once heated to the right temperature, an appropriate measure of batter was poured on one face of the mold, which was then closed and returned to the heat of the fire. Well done wafers could be eaten like a cookie, while those sprung quickly from the mold could be rolled up into cones and filled with some other delicious treat. Either way, those made in cast iron molds were far more attractive than most baked goods the common person was used to eating.

This mold produced wafers emblazoned with a version of the "Great Seal" of the United States which first appeared on American silver and gold coins in 1798. Many molds were cast with this beautiful design, at it is thought they were made to produce wafers for the innumerable patriotic events which were held during the early nineteenth century.