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Counterweight Spit Jack Engine

Display: A Tasting Menu
Culinary Technique: roasting

Date: c. 1800

Location: England

Dimensions: 10.5" h x 7.5" w x 8" d

For ages, servants or caged animals turned meat-roasting spits before a fire. In the 18th century, clockmakers and blacksmiths invented gear-driven devices to replace the servant boys (commonly called "Jack") in aristocratic kitchens. A cook cranked such a weight-and-pulley wall-mounted mechanism, then, as the jack's weight descended, ropes turned gears that rotated the meat skewer. Notice the harp form on this rare example, which may be a maker's symbol. Bottle jacks, as displayed in Kendall's lobby, appeared later for smaller kitchens. In America, clockwork jacks can be seen in the kitchens of historic homes at Colonial Williamsburg and in New England.