Doorknob baskets are an old fashioned idea loaded with charm–and a key to ancestor origins too. Since at least 1840 in New England, especially in Vermont and Nantucket, doorknob baskets have been used to organize little things that you never seem to have a specific place for. And you cannot find when you need them–like paper clips, rubber bands, spare change for the laundromat or the xerox machine, car keys, cell phone, sun glasses, treats for your favorite pet, or whatever.
These little baskets with wicker or leather handles can include a surprise gift for a favorite neighbor or family friend.
Mine hangs on the back door where the postman leaves the mail and where everybody comes–since I have a large sign on my front screen door directing people to the back door.
Actually, my front entry way is full to the brim with city directories, 90 volumes of Jewish history, more than 32 stacking chairs, a large love seat with matching pillows, and some antique appointments and equipment from my grandfather’s barber shop and beauty salon–waiting to be taken to the Genealogy Library Center downtown.
So there is no entry from the front door. Everyone is directed around through the breezeway to the back door.
My doorknob basket is filled with chocolate kisses and bonbons wrapped in silver and gold foil as a welcome nibble for visitors.
These little welcomers seem to originate, as near as I can determine, in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland and the Island of Skye off the west coast. They were handmade from Scots/Scotch Pine–the national tree of Scotland–which grew in great forests.
This pine struggles to grow in North America and often grows in stunted and twisted form. And the wood makes very nice baskets–even here.
There are pockets of early settlers from Orkney and Skye along the Cape Fear River valley in North Carolina. And in New England where they settled on the coast and then migrated inland to Vermont and New Hampshire.
I don’t know if descendants of these Scottish immigrants are the ones who made the baskets here–no one seems to know for sure. I just know that this charming custom has captured my heart–and the sweet tooth of my family members who come by (I suspect) just to sample the current chocolate treats. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://www.arleneeakle.com
PS Nampa and Boise Idaho were dressed for Spring, with leaves on the trees and birds singing. The Conference was great too!