Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm feeling maudlin today about spoons

I'm pretty sure there is a whole sordid history to spoons, spoon production, and spoon usage but I'm really too tired to look it up. So I'll leave it to your imagination. Instead I'm going to show you some of the decorative spoons that JR's maternal family collected. Leave it to women to collect and preserve something as simple as a spoon. 

Or are they so simple?

 JR's ancestress' collected a wide range of stuff and spoons seem to be a big part of that stuff. 
They range in date from the late 1890s to about 1920. 
I surmise that during the Great Depression you couldn't afford something that didn't really have a useful purpose. Then World War II came along and while it broke us out of the Depression it also changed the way society thought about everyday life, collections and curating collected items.

 These are just some of the fancy spoons the women that make up JR's history collected.
They are souvenirs from cities, countries, and events.

 They are printed with months of the year. 
Which I presume were significant to the collector.

 I think this was from their Norway trip in 1914.
They went back to visit relatives.

Then there are the just plain fancy ones.
The ones you brought out only for company.
Special company that you wanted to impress.
I only have special fancy spoons left. 
Not sure what I'm going to do with a fancy set of 12 demitasse spoons but, oh well.

Let's put on our anthropologist hats for a minute.
When you think about the use that spoons got and still get, you can get an idea of what these particular spoons must of meant to survive. Spoons were tools. Spoons were the stuff of daily life. Anthropologist like to dig around midden kitchens (or the garbage heap behind the kitchens in layman's terms) for just such stuff.  Spoons got used. A lot! They were so common that when their usefulness expired you threw them out. Common tools are the hardest to find but the most coveted by collectors and anthropologists.
Because only the fancy meaningful ones survive. 
Makes me think I need to go hide one of my everyday spoons right now, so that some poor anthropologist or collector in the future can make the find of his or her century.



  1. If I had my everyday spoons maybe Hubby will let me get a new silverware set.

  2. My grandmother had a spoon collection. I was fascinated with it as a child. I think my cousin might have it.

  3. I love "regular" things and what they tell us about how people lived. Art History focuses on that a lot, too. My entire grad show was based on the idea of how we would appear to future anthropologists.

  4. I had a great aunt who collected tea cups and saucers. She had over a 100 of them when she died. She also had some decorative spoons. I remember looking at them when I was little. Great memory.

  5. Hmm, with the historian it's the hinge points. Like when they started to use spoons and when they finished. In the States it is amusing for you have something that we dont have in Europe, actual info as to when certain items arrived in any given area.
    You must have access to the catalogues from places like Sears or any of the Trade magazines that shopkeepers used for getting stock.
    Something else, teaspoons are in general womens fancies. In that they are something that men would never carry. I'll bet you that if you can read Louis & Clarke's manifest you won't find teaspoons.
    Anyhoos, teaspoons mark Sugar not tea. They also mark the start of Gin, the expansion of the cities. Really the killing of pathogens by boiling. They mark the start of miserable anti-alcohol movements which was used before boiling to drew in liquids.
    Oh, and teaspoons in some places were considered Quaker. Oh oh, rarely will you find teaspoons And wineglasses.

  6. There is a whole history to teaspoons and spoons in general that I find fascinating. I was just too tired to get into the whole thing this morning when I wrote this post. As Keely said it is the ordinary things that can be the most interesting.

    Vince, we do have catalogs and such. One of the things that we are digitizing here at work are about 100 or so product catalogs for the house building industry in the United States. Catalogs full of door knobs, hinges, and architectural stuff. I find that stuff interesting also.

  7. I have tons of common spoons (to say nothing of butter knives) I can squirrel away for future anthropologists. Hell, if I could get a nice new flatware set, they could have all the forks, too!

  8. Yes those things are the glue that ties a civilisation for the smallest window knob might have been forged in New Hampshire to open a light in Nebraska.
    Or like me I've a wood flute made 1885 in NewYork.
    What I was thinking though was the lists of product sent to people like Niels Olsen from the Little House on the Prairie. These would have everything from a Anchor to a Zube.