Serendipitous learning (21)

Curiosity took me to the Commons explore page on Flickr this morning. I typed in ‘Amersfoort’, as one does when one wants to learn more about ones own city. Several images came up, but no too many. When clicking through some of them, I was amazed how much of these images were taken from sources located outside the country. England, the US. Amazing what mankind keeps in their archives.

One picture stood out. Two headless people standing next to a box. I couldn’t really see what was in or on the box.

The description told me this image was taken from a file in the National Agricultural Library from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The image can be found on page 172 of the “Seventh annual cataloge of Cyphers Incubator Company : manufacturers of the Cyphers non-moisture, self-ventilating and self-regulating incubators, the improved Cyphers brooders and a full line of poultry appliances, […]”. There was a link provided to the original digitized source. In the cataloge, both man and woman reveal their faces:

the source on

After reading the text accompanying the photo I now understood the box was an incubator for eggs. Aha! Chicks are walking on top of the box and eggs are inside. I’m not too surprised to find anything to do with chicken for this region. Barneveld, a village about twenty kilometers east of Amersfoort, is still known for its massive production of eggs.

Scrolling back through the document I discovered this is actually a very elaborate sales catalogue for the company called Cyphers Incubator Company from Buffalo N.Y. in 1903. Their products ranged from $14 for a 60-egg capacity incubator to a 440-egg capacity “Double Decker” for $58.

Many happy customers sent in their reviews for the catalogue, including a J. Kooiman, Hon. Sec. of the Netherland Utility Poultry club, based in Amersfoort.

So instead of learning about my city, I learned of a U.S. company making incubators for eggs. The catalogue is wonderful to scroll through as they included pictures of their production facilities. They shared a lot about the choices they made for their product, something you hardly see these days. All in all a wonderful document to get a glimpse how business was run over a century ago.