Did you? It's actually a tap for a beer barrel, just like the kind that occupied John Schneider's 1870s saloon at 97 Orchard Street, as featured in our forthcoming exhibit.
Unlike today's aluminum and metal kegs, the wooden barrels that occupied saloons and pubs used these wooden taps to dispense beer. A beer barrel was placed on its side in those days and the thin end of the tap was inserted into a hole on the top of the barrel. As the handle was turned, the spout would open, beer would then enter through a hole in the wooden filter and finally pour out into a bartender's glass.
Beer barrels and wooden taps lost favor in the twentieth century as metals and plastics took hold of the market. Today, some of these wooden taps are connected to barrels that hold wine and other beverages, though most modern taps, even those connected to wooden barrels, are metal. The vintage kind can be found on Ebay, like this 1930s tap found in a Kentucky warehouse.
-Posted by Joe Klarl