A Silver Souvenir Spoon

By Cathy Chivers

According to Collins Concise English Dictionary:- Souvenir (Fr, orig info. to remember. L. Subvenire, to come to mind.) something kept as a reminder of a place, person or occasion; keepsake; memento. The Concise Oxford-Souvenir, Thing given, kept etc to recall the past….

Guernsey. One of the Channel Islands. Lies 12 kilometres west of France, and is 65 square kilometres in size. King Edward I in 1279 allowed his bailiffs in the Islands, by special act, the use of a seal bearing royal arms of England. These were never granted as a coat of arms until the reign of Edward VII in 1907. Guernsey became a fortified bastion. Today the Bailiwick has independent jurisdictions from the United Kingdom with their own government, currency, tax raising powers and Post Office. The capital is St Peter Port; the Island, which is governed by a Lieutenant Governor and an Assembly, is within the Diocese of Winchester. The Coat of Arms Gules, three lions passant guard ant in pale or, are those of the Kingdom of England and Normandy, surmounted by a bunch of Laurel leaves.

I began this research as I have just purchased a small silver souvenir spoon of Guernsey for a £1. It has the Coats of Arms and Island name. A 1975 Birmingham hallmark and the initials 'M.S.' are (double stamped) on the reverse of the bowl. This little spoon (10cm) is not the most expensive or remarkable in the world, but I began to wonder about the reason for souvenir spoons.

I returned to my computer and the internet, I am now more confident as a 'surfer' but not very patient for any results. I typed in spoon+silver+souvenier and waited. 156 sites came up on the screen, and I started to browse through them. The majority were from dealers in America from Florida through to California. Other hits were people promoting books which both related to the history of spoons as well as totally irrelevant topics .By adding the word +History only 42 site were shown. From one of these I found 'Spoons as commemorative items began with the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Spoon patented by Myron H Kinsley in 1881'. Was this the beginning?

Another source led me to believe that the Coronation of William and Mary in 1689 might have been the earliest commemorative spoon. Although crests had been used extensively on flatware the reason was not one of memento. The Victorians by 1890s had taken the fashion from America for souvenir spoons and a wide variety of innumerable designs were produced by 'celebrated silversmiths' Gorham & Company, of Broadway New York, Tiffany and Co as well as numerous smaller manufacturers. The spoon was a popular collectors item.

It is my experience that at any antique market you will find someone selling from a basket a wide variety of die stamped, sand cast, silver and silver-plated souvenir spoons from around the world, some having a colourful illustration of their most notable landmark. With the bowl being engraved/decorated as well as the terminal. These memorabilia help us to remember an enjoyable time, every conceivable event, person, place and occasion seems to be commemorated and the spoon became an ideal keepsake.

As yet I have not been able to discover "why spoons?" as a souvenir.


The Finial, April/May 2003

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