Souvenir Flatware in the U.S.
The making of souvenir spoons started in Europe in the mid-1850s. M.W. Galt and Seth F. Low (son of Daniel Low) are credited with bringing this idea to the U.S., launching a collecting craze that lasted for 30 years and continues to be popular today.
M.W. Galt Bro. & Co. made the first souvenir spoon in the United States in 1889. It was the George Washington spoon and it was shortly followed by the Martha Washington spoon.
But it was the Daniel Low Co. that really got the souvenir spoon industry rolling in 1890. Seth F. Low designed the Salem Witch Spoon for his father’s company, and it was manufactured by the William B. Durgin Co. The Daniel Low Co. then launched a huge sales campaign for the spoon, running full page ads in newspapers across the U.S. The spoon was an immediate success.
The Salem Witch spoon turned out to be so popular that other flatware pieces were made in the Witch design such as gravy ladles, butter knives, sardine forks – 15 pieces in all. The Salem Witch spoon was quickly followed up with a second pattern which Daniel Low had made for them by The Gorham Co. These two spoons are now known as the “first pattern” and “second pattern” designs.
By mid-1891, hundreds of souvenir spoon patterns were being produced, with designs commemorating things such as U.S. cities and towns, famous people, current and historical events, schools, animals, flowers – anything that could be imagined.
A Note on Looking up Place and Serving Pieces
The list of utensils and their descriptions is meant to be a guide, not a hard and fast rule.
Next to each type of utensil is a size or size range in inches. These sizes represent the average size found in that type of piece of flatware. The majority of patterns made will fall into the sizes listed.
However, pieces range in size from manufacturer to manufacturer and from pattern to pattern. Some manufacturers made both a long and a short version of a piece, such as the pickle fork and olive spoon, to best be suited to how these foods were served at the table, such as from a pickle castor or from a relish tray. Some even made three different sizes in a particular piece, again, to accommodate the needs of each individual hostess.
Keep in mind that if you have a piece which falls outside of the sizes listed that this does not mean your piece is something different simply because it doesn’t “fit”. For example, if you’re fortunate enough to own a pair of fried chicken tongs, you’ll probably note they’re a large affair, ranging in size from nine to eleven inches. However, if your fried chicken tongs were made by Tiffany & Co., most likely they’ll be a mere six inches long – yet they’re still fried chicken tongs regardless of length. The “business ends” of pieces can also vary greatly from maker to maker. Stieff’s bacon fork looks nothing like a bacon fork in any other pattern, yet it’s still a bacon fork because Stieff made it as a bacon fork and sold it as a bacon fork.
Some silver manufacturers also had a habit of remarketing their tableware as sales declined or as a particular type of food’s popularity came and went. What may have been offered one year as a croquette server may have been sold the next year as a poached egg server. Additionally, some different pieces are very similar to each other, such as sardine tongs and small sandwich tongs.
The best way to definitively determine what type of piece you own is to refer to old manufacturers’ catalogs.