This sugar hatchet from the 19th century may astonish modern consumers who are used to sugar cubes tidily arranged in a box, or powdered sugar. Yet until 1843 , when sugar cubes were invented by the Czech Jacob Christoph Rad (1799-1871), the sugar hatchet was an indispensable household utensil.
During that era, sugar in Europe often came in the cone-shaped loaves invented by the Venetians in the 15th century. Since pressed sugar was very hard, a metal hatchet was required. This example from the museum collection is about 30 centimetres long and easy to handle. The rounded blade on one side is for chopping off big chunks, and the flat square piece, which resembles the head of a hammer, is for smashing the chunks into smaller pieces. A sugar hatchet may also take other forms, such as a hammer, a pick, or pliers.