Souvenirs of an Age
A popular 19th-century way of remembering.
Thank you for sending me images of your souvenir spoons. They are terrific pieces that tell an interesting story. I have always been fascinated with souvenir spoons and remember helping my grandmother polish hers when I was five years old. She would tell me stories of the places that they represented.
The concept of manufactured souvenirs started with the Grand Tour in Europe. Wealthy Europeans would travel often for more than a year to different places around the world, purchasing and sending back items as remembrances of their trip and knowledge of new cultures.
Souvenir spoons also became popular for the tourist trade. The typical early Grand Tour spoons that started the craze in the 19th century were less obvious as to their country of origin. An elaborate silver spoon, chased and engraved with windmills, may have been from Holland, or an enameled set may have been from Russia.
It was the Columbia Exposition, at the 1893 World’s Fair hosted in Chicago, that helped to start the souvenir spoon craze in America. This Exposition, celebrating the 400th year of Columbus’ discovery of North America, featured many new innovations: electricity to light up cities, the first Ferris wheel, moving sidewalks, national pavilions and more. The 26 million people that came would take home items celebrating the Exposition, including pamphlets, medals and silver souvenir spoons.
Your spoons are from the late 19th century and were made by George Sheibler of New York, as noted by the hallmark with Sheibler’s winged “S” on the back of the spoon. The featured details of your New York spoon are the Statue of Liberty and another lesser-known New York motif – the windmills that harkens to the origins of New York City, which was once known as New Amsterdam where windmills were used to generate power. Your spoon from Boston proudly displays its capital building, the Boston elm tree, also known as the historic Liberty Tree, and a depiction of the Tea Party.
Sterling silver souvenir spoons were expensive when made, and soon became prized possessions for many. As they gained popularity over the next 50 years, many different less expensive silver-plated versions of spoons were produced.
As your spoons are wonderful examples from the 19th century and made in sterling silver and of desirable subject, I would value them at $175 for the pair.