This dinner bucket was used by a working man to carry lunch to his job site. It is a rare surviving example of the oblong bucket produced by the National Enamel and Stamping Company (NESCO) of Granite City.
In the early 20th century, the typical workday began at 7:00 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. The half-hour lunch break was not enough time to go home to eat, so workers brought hearty fare such as meat, potatoes, and sandwiches with them. Many workers carried their lunches in repurposed coffee or tobacco tins. This dinner bucket is a relatively deluxe model that includes a coffee flask, pie tray, and cup.
The company that would become NESCO was founded in St. Louis by German immigrants Frederick and William Niedringhaus in 1859. In the 1870s, the company began producing graniteware (metal ware coated with an enameled surface composed partly of granite). In the 1890s, the company opened a plant in Madison County, Illinois. The excess land they sold off eventually became Granite City.