May Question of the Month – An irregular series

ask_a_librarian_button.gifThe reference librarians at The Seattle Public Library are pretty darn amazing. They don’t know everything, instead they know where to find everything. As part of an irregular series of posts we salute the talented and dedicated reference staff at your local library. Names and other identifying information have been removed from the questions we showcase.
Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

“On antique cutlery dating from the 1600s-1900s, was it the convention to have the man’s family initials engraved or the woman’s family initials? “

     “We checked in several books including:
The story of cutlery from flint to stainless steel by Joseph Beeston Himsworth from 1953 and
The cutlery trades; an historical essay in the economics of small-scale production, by Godfrey Isaac H. Lloyd from 1913

But the Encyclopedia of food and culture by Solomon H. Katz, 2003 provided the clearest answer:

At that time (18th century), women could not legally own land or other property, so the scope of their lives was limited to home and family. For this reason, silverware was significant as a woman’s contribution to the financial part of a marriage, and it was often purchased for her one piece at a time and kept in what was called a “hope chest,” along with other household goods such as linens and quilts. Because it was bought with a woman’s taste in mind, most silverware was designed for women. Silver flatware, along with other household goods, has traditionally been monogrammed with the bride’s initials.”

2 thoughts on “May Question of the Month – An irregular series”

  1. The tradition continues; although, mine aren’t monogramed. In the early 70s my grandmother was a bookeeper for Sears, and every paycheck she bought me a piece of silverware. I had a complete 12 piece place settings plus the different servers before I was ten! ;D

  2. Maggie;
    Me too! My Mom bought mine while working at the Bon Marche. And I’ve now inherited my grandmother’s spoons – all monogrammed with her maiden name. My lucky kids will inherited a whole bunch of silverware – and my very lucky daugther will inherit her greatgrandmother’s mongrammed silver that just happens to have the same initials my daughter has. Pretty neat continuity!

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