Dowry chests used to be an inseparable element of the furnishings of almost every house. They were often passed down from generation to generation, repainted, renovated, and in time considerably differed in the colour and ornamentation of their original appearance. Time, fashion, and also wardrobes which were cheaper and cheaper and consequently more accessible, were their enemies. Cheap chests were usually made of softwood, which was often attacked by insects.
The guild chest was also called the treasury, counter or mother. This one, belonging to the guild of millers and bakers in Kęty, is made of sycamore wood and comes from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the other guild chests from Kęty, it is simple in form; neither is there any hidden box nor decorative painting inside. What distinguishes it, are the beautiful fittings that make it appear very impressive.
Wooden forks, a popular simple agricultural tool, were commonly used until the first half of the twentieth century, when they were replaced by ever-cheaper iron forks. The type of fork used for spreading dung, displayed in the collections of the Museum in Kęty, could be found in southern Poland, as well as in the area of the present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia.
This guild sign, in the shape of a cross, from the guild of tailors in Kęty, was made in 1912. Such signs were called, among others: obesłania, bieguny, cechy . They served as messages, calling tradesmen belonging to the guild for deliberations. Obviously, the guild brothers were also informed about the funerals and ecclesiastical and secular holidays in which they were obliged to participate.
The guild sign belonging to the butchers in Kęty was used for summoning the craftsmen brothers to meetings and various celebrations. The information provided by carrying such a sign was very important, and it had to be recognised with due care and attention. A messenger walking with the sign — usually the youngest foreman — appeared in a workshop or craftsman’s house and informed the man of the order of the guild elders. If he did not find anyone at home, he would leave a sign written in chalk on the door or table.
Kęty and its surrounding areas had been inhabited by the Lendians for centuries. Female costume is one of the few examples of Lendian culture which have survived to the present day, n examples of which are presented at the museum in Kęty. Single examples of such costumes could still be seen on the streets of Kęty in the 1970s.
The main aim of the existence of guilds was to ensure that the associated craftsmen would have exclusive rights to practice their craft in town (craftsmen who did not belong to guilds were called botchers). But the role of guilds was not limited to administrative functions...
Guild chests were particularly valuable — they were also called counters or mothers and were treated with high respect. Particularly celebrated was the moment of raising the cover and opening the chest, which was always accompanied by an atmosphere of concentration and solemnity. Administrative and legal activities...
In the 19th century and up to the mid-20th century, Kraków was a major centre of the folk toy industry. This was because during winter (when bricklaying ceased), the masons of the suburbs of Kraków: Zwierzyniec, Krowodrza, Czarna Wieś, Ludwinów and Podgórze (which was a separate town until 1915) could earn extra money by building and selling cribs, as well as going carolling with puppet nativity scenes. They were also engaged in the production of popular toys to be later sold during annual spring fairs.