The answer to yesterday's mystery item is:
A children's toy called a "Jacob's Ladder!"
Quite a few of you knew the correct answer!
This folk toy is made from blocks of wood held together by ribbons. It was supposedly one of the only toys that frontier children were allowed to play with on Sundays because they could sit and play with it quietly. The name of the toy refers to Jacob's Ladder in the Bible (Genesis 28:12). This toy was mentioned in an 1889 article of Scientific America.
The following video shows how to play with a Jacob's Ladder: