The 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.”