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Antique Host Cutter


Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.


It was patented as a "punch for cutting out shapes from sheets of plastic material," but ultimately its inventor, George A. Firnstein of Cincinnati, Ohio, intended for it to be used specifically for the cutting of communion wafers. Within the description of the patent (patent no.475,549), Firnstein explained that cutter related "...especially to punches for cutting mass wafers from thin sheets of showbread used for sacramental purposes." Because Firnstein also patented a "Folding Confessional" in 1893, and because he was employed by a publisher of religious reading materials for a period of time, all strongly suggests that the cutter was always intended for stamping out communion wafers, not simply "plastic material."

The two examples exhibited here came from the Benedictine Sisters of the Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon. The monastery was founded in 1882 by Swiss-born Mother Bernardine Wachter, OSB. The cutters were found tucked away in a wooden trunk in a room with countless other religious artifacts where they've probably been for decades.

Mother Bernardine Wachter, OSB
Firnstein Host Cutter Patent

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Host Cutter

These host cutters work very similarly to the notary presses of the era, but rather than pressing dies onto a surface, the dies cuts through the surface. One could also compare them to very large hole punches. The handles were spring loaded and made of nickel plated brass. The body of the cutters was cast of iron and embellished with Victorian inspired relief.

As noted, there are two cutters on this page. The larger model is capable of cutting a 2-3/4" diameter host while the smaller cuts a 1" diameter. The bolt holes on their bases indicated that both were intended to be affixed to a surface for regular use. Without any ads, literature, other patents or marks on the presses themselves, it is unclear how many models George Firnstein produced.

Antique Host Cutter

What is clear is that Firnstein did produce these commercially because the final products are too refined to be one-offs or prototypes. I also suspect that these cutters had very little commercial success based on the relatively limited amount of information currently available about them.

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