Friday, October 30, 2015

History of Souvenir Spoons

Above images from Sterling Flatware Fashions.

History Of Souvenir Spoons

Collecting souvenir spoons has been a popular hobby for many Americans since 
the late 1800s when this European fad swept the nation.
Souvenir spoons grew out of the birth of leisure tourism in Europe around the 
mid 1800s. Wealthy Americans on a Grand Tour of Europe brought home these 
souvenirs marked with the names of cities and some of the famous landmarks 
they had seen.
The first souvenir spoons produced in the United States were products of 
well-traveled silversmiths. The inaugural souvenir spoon was produced in 
1889 by Galt & Bros of Washington D.C. It featured a profile of 
George Washington and was created to mark the 100th anniversary of his 
presidency. It was shortly followed by the Martha Washington spoon.
A year or so later the most famous collector’s spoon was designed, sparking 
a national obsession that lasted until World War One. In 1890 jeweler 
Seth F. Low visited Germany and purchased several unusual spoons. Upon 
his return he designed the Salem Witch Spoon for his father’s company and 
it was trademarked on January 13, 1891. Low described the design as featuring 
"the raised figure of a witch, the word Salem, and the three witch pins of the 
same size and shape as those preserved in the Court House at Salem”. Several 
thousand were sold.
The interest in souvenir spoons suddenly exploded. At the end of 1890, there 
were only a handful patented or in production in America. Around half a year later, 
hundreds of souvenir spoon patterns were being produced to commemorate 
American cities and towns, famous people, historical events and significant 
events of the time.
In 1891 several books on collecting souvenir spoons were published and by the 
time of the Chicago World Fair in 1893, what is now considered the Golden Age 
of souvenir spoons had well and truly begun.
This grand world fair was also known as the Columbian Exposition, as it 
commemorated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the 
New World.  It lifted souvenir spoon collecting to a whole new level. At the time 
this was a niche hobby. Along with 27 million visitors, the fair brought spoon 
collecting national exposure.  Some reports say more commemorative spoons 
were produced for the Columbian Exposition than for any other event in history.  
But the 1893 Expo was not the only factor in creating this spoon collecting 
phenomenon. The 19th century was a time of immense growth in the United States' 
economy. It was the age of industrialization with the rapid acceleration of 
technology and the invention of mass production techniques. The production of 
souvenir spoons became more efficient and the volume of goods increased.
Further, the collapse of the silver market also in 1893 meant silver became 
affordable to many ordinary Americans for the first time, whilst retaining its 
image of being for the privileged and wealthy.
Over the next 30 years every expo, fair and event was an opportunity to 
create a souvenir spoon. But the mania was short-lived, by the advent of 
World War One the appetite for souvenir spoons had waned and by the end 
of the war it had almost disappeared.
Today it is once again a niche hobby. Embellished spoons at tourist 
attractions are a familiar sight and hundreds of spoons change hands at 
auctions around the world.
Text source is PBS. Link here

Link here to see more intricate designed spoons from various time periods. 

No comments:

Post a Comment