By Gail Wurtele
Before the Civil War coverlets were often woven by professionals. After the hard work of making and dyeing yarn there had to be a way to know the length sent to the weaver. If you had a measurement you would know approximately the size of the finished coverlid and in that way would not be cheated. Over time a clock real, yarn winder or spinner’s weasel was put into use. This wheel measured a certain length of yarn with each turn. The large wheel itself had four pegs on which to fasten and hold the yarn. As it was turned manually a horizontal gear fit into the cogs of a flat vertical wheel. After a calculated number of turns a peg would pull back and release a long slat. This made the popping sound and hence one of the stories behind Pop Goes the Weasel!!
This old wheel was donated by Louise Coe Spiere back in 1970. It came from the grandparents of the donor, General & Mrs. Isaac Coe. He was engaged in the freighting business and also invested in land and cattle in the Nebraska City area. He also assisted in the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Recently Greg Arp of Arp Clock in Bennet, Ne. refurbished the yarn weasel that is part of the Wildwood Historic Center collection. Though it won’t be demonstrated during every tour as it is old and delicate, it can now be understood how the measuring device worked. And once again we can remember the rhyme: All around the mulberry bush the monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought ‘twas all in fun POP goes the weasel.