THE SOUVENIR SPOON CRAZE
About as completely crazy a craze as ever took possession of this craze-susceptible country, is that for souvenir spoons. It may produce one good result, however. People collect souvenir spoons who never collected anything before, and as the fancy for collecting is of progressive growth some of them will, doubtless, be prepared, by the time they have loaded themselves with these more or less appropriate and tasteful devices of the silversmith, to commence gathering objects of more interest and value. Meanwhile, one hears on all sides of the spoon collections of America, and the factories produce the material to be collected literally by the barrel. All the charm of rarity vanished from the souvenir spoon long ago. Very few of them possess any artistic merit. As a rule the designs are vulgar enough, and the execution is of that inferior order inseparable from machine worked metal. At the low rate of cost for material, and the figures at which the souvenir spoons are sold, the manufacturers and retailers must be reaping a harvest even richer in its percentage of profit than the trinket trade commonly enjoys.
It would scarcely be possible to fix the number of different designs of souvenir spoons now on the market. One authority claims that there are about 700 designs. They are turned out by steam, and their score will probably augment as long as there is a town or village in the country with sufficient local vanity to make their sale profitable. The collector who undertakes to keep a complete line of souvenir spoons, will in the end, succeed in amassing something like a ton of memorials of the folly. A list of those alone which are advertised, is sufficiently extensive.
The craze took its start in New England. Some years ago, the first of these mementoes were put upon the market by a shrewd tradesman of the old witch town of Salem, Mass., named Daniel Low. The grisly memories of the superstition which made Salem infamous, were symbolized by him in a decidedly ingenious way. His first spoon was comparatively plain. Its character was stamped upon the handle in the name " Salem " and a figure of a witch riding a broomstick down the shaft of the spoon toward a cluster of pins. The device made such a hit that he invented a more ornate pattern. In this, the handle of the spoon is a broomstick, down which turns a rope. A spitting tom-cat perches on the bowl of the spoon. On the handle is the name of the town and the date of dismal memory, 1692. At the top, perched on the besom end of the broom, is a witch, who grasps her broom and rides a crescent moon. The fatal three pins appear, stuck in the rope. The Salem silversmith got these contrivances* up in gold and silver, and in various sizes, and they found a sale all over the country.
Naturally enough, the rest of New England was not long left in the rear by Salem. The Pilgrim spoon soon followed the Witch spoons. The Pilgrim showed on the handle a ship under sail, a cluster of mayflowers, and the inscription " Plymouth, 1620.*' The Plymouth Rock spoon was a rival to the Pilgrim. Its device was a representation of the famous rock and the town's name, and the date of the landing. Boston came to the front with the Boston Hub spoon, which introduced the hub of a wheel as an emblem on the handle, and a representation of the Boston Tea Party at the top. The Midnight Ride spoon showed Paul Revere on horseback, galloping upon his historic mission, and the John Harvard spoon had a copy of the statue of the founder of the great college and a facsimile of his signature. Connecticut got out the Charter Oak spoon, as a special memorial of the city of Hartford, and the Nutmeg spoon, for the credit of the state at large. New Hampshires, not to be left in the cold, produced the New Hampshire spoon, and made a dash at the souveniristic privileges of other commonwealths with the Miles Standish, Priscilla, Evangeline, Hiawatha, Rip Van Winkle and Angelus spoons. Longfellow has a souvenir spoon all to himself, with his likeness on the handle. So, also, has Mr. George W. Childs, of Philadelphia Ledger fame.
An alligator among bullrushes adorns one Florida spoon. The California spoon has a head of a forty-niner, with his pick and spade crossed above a stream of coin. There is the Roger William spoon, dedicated to the pioneer of religious liberty in the New World. There are at least four Whittier souvenir spoons. They show respectively, the bust of the poet, his birthplace, his home at Amesbury, and Captain's Well, with a facsimile of his autograph on each handle. Springfield, Mass, has produced a souvenir spoon to Miles Morgan, the old settler and Indian fighter of the Seventeenth century, whose statue is a feature of one of the city parks; and Hartford, an Israel Putnam spoon of a very ornate character. The same jeweler who got up the Putnam spoon, has designed and issued an opposition souvenir spoon to the original Charter Oak. At Newport you may find souvenir spoons to recall the Old Stone Mill, the Lime Rocks, Fort Dumplings, and Narragansett Pier.
Chicago has an allegorical World's Fair City spoon. On the bowl you see Indians watching the approach of the Columbus fleet of discovery, 1492, on the stem the Columbian Tower, to be erected on the World's Fair site, Chicago, 1892, and on the termination of the handle a bas-relief figure of Columbus, with the Western Hemisphere as a background. Another Chicago spoon is the Phoenix. The top of the handle consists of the fabled Phoenix rising from its ashes; in the background is seen the rising sun, and the bowl is etched with a representation of old Fort Dearborn, erected on the present site of Chicago, by order of the general government in 1804 and demolished in 1856. Chicago also gives us the Lincoln souvenir spoon, with designs on it of Lincoln's home at Springfield, Fort Dearborn, and a quotation from one of the War President's speeches. The Christopher Columbus spoon is a Rhode Island invention. It is made in Providence. It shows the portrait of Columbus, his ship, the Santa Maria, flying the admiral's pennant, and on the bowl the great discoverer sighting the shore. Milwaukee honors her founder, Simon Juneau, with a souvenir spoon, and Saratoga has a very pretty memorial, on which one is shown Uncas. the last of the Mohicans, imbibing his primitive morning cocktail from the High Rock spring. The Fort Pitt spoon does justice to Pittsburgh. It has the arms of the city at the top, and the old blockhouse on the bowl. Syracuse issues two designs of Hiawatha spoons, in virtue of the fact that Onondago lake was the scene of that hero's exploits; and Albany has its Knickerbocker spoon, with sturdy Diednck at the top, and a sturgeon, the town's substitute for beef, upon the stem.
The St. Paul souvenir spoon is the old Fort Snelling, which is carved at the top of the handle, the falls of Minnehaha embellishing the shaft. Niagara's souvenir shows in relief Prospect Point, the American and Horse-Shoe Falls, and Goat Island between, and the rapids flowing down the stem. Alaska has the Totem Pole spoon, which is alleged to have been designed by Lieutenant Schwatka, andVirginia a spoon with a statuette of General Lee at the top and the State arms on the bowl. Philadelphia spoons show variously Willliam Penn, the Penn Treaty scene, and the most popular has the State arms at the top, and the Liberty Bell on the bowl. The City of Washington spoon has its bowl embellished with the dome of the capitol, a line of thirteen stars on its handle and the American eagle at the summit. There is another very elaborate National souvenir spoon. Two American flags entwine the Washington monument for handle and the tip of the handle is a Liberty cap, underneath which is shown the American eagle and shield. In the bowl, shown in relief is the statue of George Washington, by Greenough. Washington himself has a couple of souvenir spoons dedicated to him, with his portrait bust on the handle, and Martha enjoys one, showing her bust in the bone and the family crest at the top. There is a Mount Vernon souvenir spoon showing the coat-of-arms of the Washington family, full bust pictures of George and Martha Washington in Louis XV. frames, the Star of the Union and two furled National banners which lap into the bowl, partially embracing the home of the Father of his Country. A companion to this is a handsome Washington City souvenir spoon, with a perspective of the Capitol on the bowl, and the monument entwined with garlands for handle.
New York possesses an abundant assortment of souvenir spoons. One is the General Sherman, the handle being crowned by a bust of the old warrior. The Knickerbocker shows an ancient Dutchman, seated at his fireside, and the Peter Stuyvesant has a full length figure of the doughty governor on the handle. The Rip Van Winkle and the Anneke Jans are other New York spoons. Brooklyn has a Bridge spoon, with the statue of Liberty on the top. There is a North Pole spoon, with an iceberg at the top, for you to eat ices with; an Ethan Allen spoon, as a souvenir of Fort Ticonderoga, and quite a little collection by itself of spoons relating to the civil war. Quite naturally, theatrical souvenir spoons have come in. With the whole country from Maine to California to operate on, the possibilities of the souvenir spoon are almost limitless. Perhaps the burning question as to what to do with the surplus product of our silver mines, may find an answer here.
Source: The Art Collector - 1893