This device is a dynamite thawer that was manufactured in the late 1800s by the Hendrie and Boltoff Manufacturing Company in Denver. The patent date is November 22, 1887. The thawer consists of an open ended tin box containing twenty cylindrical compartments. A swiveling handle is attached to the rim. This unit is attached to the top of a tin box water resevoir. This particular thawer is missing the top lid that extends down and over the open slots.
Dynamite freezes at about 50 degrees F (Du Pont Blasters Handbook, 1922) when frozen it may not detonate and may burn giving off very toxic smoke. So if frozen it must be thawed in order to explode. It can only be safely thawed by gentle indirect heating without direct contact with water or steam. If thawed by direct heating such as in an oven or on a stove or even in the sun it can easily become hot enough to explode (DuPont Blasters Handbook, 1922).
Dynamite to be thawed would be placed in the cylinders and hot water would be poured in the top of the thawer filling it. Hot water would then surround and warm the dynamite in the cylinders but not be in direct contact. The reservoirs above and below the cylinders would hold a volume of water (probably several gallons) that would provide heat to the cylinders for an extended period of time.