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Deutsches Technikmuseum - April

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Exhibit of the Month April 2014

Photo: On the crescent-shaped blade are some dark brown rust marks. The grooves on the wooden handle are deep and clearly visible.

Sickle for topping beets © SDTB / C. Kirchner

Sickle for Topping Beets, Year of Manufacture 1926

At the beginning of the 20th century, the planting and harvesting of field sugar beets was still being done by hand. During the 1920s, for example, the beets were dug up by means of a hand-operated beet lifter and left lying out in the field or on a wooden bench.

The subsequent work procedure involved removing any remaining soil from the beets. Farm workers then cut off the crown and leaves by hand.

The finished beets were then heaped into piles and later transported to a sugar factory. The leaves and crowns were then used as livestock feed.

Photo: The sugar beet has a conical, white, fleshy root. The rosette consists of circa 15 leaves.

Sugar beet © SDTB / Archive Sugar-Museum

A field work tool as a wedding gift
The removal of the crowns was typically done by women or even children. The sickle displayed here was the tool used for that process. It was fabricated by a master blacksmith to serve as his wedding gift for Lina Barte (1899-1959), resident in Bockenem/Harz, and was thereafter in use for at least 26 years.

The sickle consists of a concave curved steel blade that is tapered towards the tip and never needs to be sharpened because it remains keen simply by being used.

The handle of this tool catches the eye because of the deep grooves on it. According to knowledgeable experts, these were probably made by a workman as places to put his thumb and middle finger so as to make the handle more ergonomic and thereby optimize the effectiveness of the sickle in action.

B/W-Photograph: A young woman dressed with warm work cloths and headscarf is working in a field of beets. Next to her three little children, one is looking into an old-fashioned pram with a baby.

In the harvest season the field is the nursery. © SDTB / Archive Sugar-Museum

The son of Lina Barte, however, is convinced that these markings are the result of changes brought about by the effects of dirt, sweat and moisture during the years of use by his mother.

The sickle was donated in 1980 by Lina Barte´s son Wilhelm Barte from the city of Vechelde.

It will be exhibited here on the occasion of the 2015 re-opening of the updated exhibition of the Sugar Museum in the German Museum of Technology.