Jul 1st 2021.
Upcoming club meetings:
Monday 5th July 8pm.
Once again it has come to that time when we need to elect a new committee. The current committee members have been doing the job for far too long and could do with a rest. There are very few physical committee meetings these days, not due to Covid but because most of the work is done electronically, so the job should not take up too much of anyones time. A committee is vital to the running of the club and there will be no club if there is no committee.
John opened the meeting with eleven people in attendance and two apologies from Michael and Peter. Since last time, the Roadmap has been ripped up and rewritten to make it last longer, so there is NO possibility of a physical meeting in July. We will be including a very brief Annual General Meeting in July, postponed from June.
Following a short discussion on how to tell if a Maria Theresa Thaler is the real thing or not and the delights of Vienna and its museums, we came to Chris talk, called Sterling Silver Souvenir Spoons. Chris began by outlining the huge variety of souvenir spoons available. He showed a selection of nine spoons, ranging from the Canadian Mounted Police to a spoon made from a nineteen thirty-nine penny and halfpenny from Australia (not all silver spoons are silver!). One spoon had a model of the Portland Bill lighthouse, making it very impractical to use, one issued for the Nasa Challenger mission, a Welsh Love spoon, a cute horse (apparently a common motif), a Dutch drinking scene, a Toilet scene with the title stirrer and a spoon decorated with Fanam coins from Travancore.
Another set consisted of a Napal Pewter (?brass) spoon attachment one end, fork the other, Dubai Emirates Towers Hotel spoon similar to those issued by the Millennium Dome, a Greek spoon celebrating Hippocrates, one from New South Wales featuring a truck, making it very top heavy and unusable in practise, an enamelled map of Malta, Don Quixote from Spain, unusual since Spanish spoons more often feature images of coins, an enamelled image of Durham cathedral, a seal top spoon with a Tudor rose, a Dutch Windmill spoon and finally one from New Zealand with an Abalone stone inset.
Next we had Historical Souvenir spoons from the late 19th Century, costing anywhere between £10 and £2000 each. Most are around £30 but particularly important historical ones can go for £30,000. Souvenir spoons originated in Europe but the biggest centre for collecting is now the United States, though there were no souvenir spoons in the US before 1889. Nowadays there are many specialist dealers, auctioneers and websites (e.g. www.spoonplanet.com), mostly American. They cover a range of historical events and places, for example cities celebrating their foundation. Because the spoons were relatively expensive (a week or a months wages) there werent too many produced in silver. As well as historical places, spoons were also issued to celebrate famous individuals. They were sold at national exhibitions or at the foundation ceremony of major buildings.
As with coins, catalogues are printed regularly, historical data is available from older auctions and dealers keep lists of previous sales, so it is possible to research your spoons. This being 2021, naturally there are a number of websites and specialist blogs.
Chris maintains that spoons are more than just antiques, he believes they represent living history. Researching the spoons helps to bring alive the history, sometimes revealing historical events from the 1800s that would be shocking today. They also keep alive the memory of organisations that have long ago disbanded.
It is believed that Apostle spoons were the first genuine souvenir spoons, going back to the 1400s where they were presented as gifts at baptisms. The first written reference is in a will from 1494. A spoon from 1488 sold in the 1950s for £3,500, at a time when a house outside London would have cost about the same. It was much later in the mid 1800s that spoons became common in Europe. Wealthy Americans on their Grand Tour brought spoons back with them and started the American collecting craze. The first American produced souvenir spoon is of George Washington in 1890 but the craze really took off with the Witch Spoon designed by Daniel Low of Salem in 1891. Spoon collecting became a national hobby after the Chicago World Fair in 1893 but ended, very abruptly with the First World War.
Next, Chris moved on to a famous set of spoons from the time of Charles I. Only four early sets exist and are famous enough to have their own names, the Aster set, now in the British Museum, the Swettenham set, now in the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York, the Lambert set, now in Goldsmiths and the Jackson set now in the Museum of Wales. A later set from 1637 sold for $216,000 in 2005. After that we had an early German spoon which celebrated the Schloss Osterstein. The castle was built in the 1500s but came to be used as a prison/workhouse in the 19th Century and then as a concentration camp in WW2. Currently it operates as a care home. Two more spoons followed, celebrating famous people, Dick Whittington and the Lady of the Lake from the turn of the 18/19th Century. The next spoon commemorated the English St. Bernard Club founded in 1891, a rare spoon, Chris has only ever seen one. Another spoon was for the City of Manchester Special Constable with crossed rifles on the stem of the spoon, a common motif on WW1 memorabilia. Following on, we had an enamelled spoon of Glasgow cathedral. Chris pointed out that enamelling is less common in the UK than on the Continent. Also present were some engraved spoons of Canterbury Cathedral and the Landing Stage in Liverpool, Windsor Castle and Winchester Cathedral.
Turning to countries around the World, a souvenir spoon from South Africa from around the time of the Boer war came next with engravings of the Parliament and Table Mountain. Chris said it was likely to set you back about £100, spoons from Africa being unusual. A spoon from Quebec followed commemorating their tercentenary in 1908 before moving on to a spoon commemorating a building, for the Masonic Temple in Chicago, with various Masonic symbols on the handle. After that a spoon celebrating Philadelphia. Chris pointed out that some of the spoons were machine engraved, hand engraved ones being distinguished by minor variants in the engraving. Next were a set of skyline spoons for the US cities of New York, Chicago and Detroit and one for Cedar Rapids where the skyline was engraved into the handle rather than the bowl.
Next, commemorating famous events we had the Great San Francisco Earthquake and fire as a skyline, followed by the California gold rush, with prospectors on the handle and images of the Golden Gate which is thought to refer to the view of the suns effect on the river mouth, rather than referring to the bridge, built later. Also commemorated in spoons are various myths, with Chris showing us an example of Lelawala, from a Haudenosaunee myth, also known as The Maid of the Mist, which he believes is substantially hand carved and cost £250. Another myth was that of Phoebe, the grandmother of Apollo. Chris pointed out that forgeries of this particular spoon exist and are Russian in origin. Sadly forgeries in souvenir spoons is a common issue, buyer beware, even Chris has been caught out. Following a spoon depicting a North American Indian, we had the spoon that popularised the collecting of souvenir spoons in the States, from the Worlds Colombian Exposition of 1893. An image of Christopher Columbus is on the handle with a picture of the Santa Maria on the bowl. Controversially, the next spoon, from Norway, also commemorated the discovery of America, but by Leif Erikson rather than Christopher Colombus. A settlement in Newfoundland allegedly due to Erikson from 1000AD is being investigated as we speak! Other sorts of spoons that often turn up are spoons made of coins, they are common and popular in places like India, they are often handmade. We had an example from the Ottoman Empire. A rare spoon from Egypt followed, depicting Edfu, The Ptolemaic Temple of Horus.
Coming to a finish Chris gave us an example of a birth spoon, similar to the modern day christening spoon. At the end of the 19th C such spoons were common and recorded the names of the child and other personal detail, including sometimes, details of where they were born on the ribbon. They are still available today, costing about £300.
At the end of the talk we still had enough time left for a few questions. Chris was asked what other metals were used for these spoons and he said that sometimes they were made of pewter but they didnt last, brass ones (as we had seen) have been made and Welsh Love spoons were often made of wood. These days most souvenir spoons will be silver plated or perhaps a form of stainless steel, chromium plated. Chris maintained that since you can get souvenir silver spoons for not much above scrap value, they seem a better option. Silver spoons are all hallmarked though differently in different countries. Reasons for the hobby dying off after the First World War were discussed.
Thanks to Chris for a well researched and illustrated different but interesting talk.
June has traditionally been the month that we held the Annual General Meeting and the Annual Display Competition.