Starrett Food Chopper Artifact Highlight #48

This food chopper was donated to our collection in 1948. The hand-operated chopper has a ratchet mechanism to rotate the round container and a beam and crank mechanism to operate the chopper blade. The handle moves the blade up and down and rotates the container simultaneously. The machine is made of metal and is mounted on a wooden base. It was made around 1865-1900.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 11, 1867

This handy kitchen appliance, also called the “Steamboat,” the “Hasher,” the "American," the "Starrett," or the "Athol," was used for chopping vegetables and meat.

Manufactured by the Athol Machine Company of Athol, Massachusetts, it was invented by Laroy S. Starrett (1836-1922), a successful manufacturer of machinist tools.

Laroy S. Starrett

The food chopper was the first of over 100 inventions that he patented. In 1880 he formed his own company, the L. S. Starrett Co., known for producing precision tools and drawing instruments.

He purchased the Athol Machine Company in 1905. In 1920, Starrett became the world’s largest maker of precision calibrators and today continues to manufacture gages, measuring instruments and saw blades.

The 19th century was the age of machine tools, assembly lines and factory-produced goods. The Starrett chopper is a precursor to the electric food processor, and a great example of 19th-century ingenuity. It allowed thrifty Victorian cooks, who respected economy, self-sufficiency and living without wastefulness, to transform leftovers into pies, casseroles, or stuffing.

The Albany Register, November 6, 1874

The chopper sold for $5 in 1883 and advertisements promoted its use in the making of “sausage, mincemeat, salads, hash, fish, fruit and vegetables of various kinds.”

Background Image: 1897 Sears and Roebuck Catalogue, page 144

Mrs. Gilchrist, President of Placer County Historical Society, in front of the historical marker for Virginiatown at dedication ceremony. September 28, 1952. PCM Collection.

The chopper was donated by Guy L. Gilchrist (1891-1987) and his wife Adeline (1897-1963). Guy Gilchrist was an oil executive. He was the president of the Placer Union High School District board of trustees and a member of the board of trustees of DeWitt State Hospital. His wife Adeline was the president of the Placer County Historical Society in the 1950s. Both were dedicated to preserving history and worked on placing historical markers throughout Placer County.

The Gilchrists also donated the mustache cup (Artifact Highlight #27) and a pendant (Artifact Highlight # 47).

The chopper is on display at the Bernhard Museum.