“Progress of Aviation” Souvenir Spoon Artifact Highlight #51

This silverplated spoon was donated to our collection in 1978. It is a "Progress of Aviation" souvenir spoon commemorating the first solo flight around the world by Wiley Post aboard his Lockheed Vega aircraft, Winnie Mae, in 1931. The bowl of the spoon depicts the aircraft.

The handle features a bust of President Herbert Hoover, who was in office from 1929 until 1933.

The spoon was made by William Rogers Silverplate Company, which was established in 1865. In 1898, the company became part of the International Silver Co. The spoon is part of a Presidential Spoon Collection that was produced in the late 1930s to highlight the achievements and important events of each presidency.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 15, 1941

Our spoon has a bent handle and stem, possibly for use as a baby spoon.

Collecting souvenir spoons has been a popular hobby since the late 1800s. In 1890, jeweler Seth F. Low, inspired by his trip to Germany, designed a spoon with a figure of a witch for his father's silversmithing business. The “Salem Witch Spoon” is credited with starting the spoon collecting craze in the United States.

Its design, registered on January 13, 1891, was marketed in an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post that resulted in several thousand orders. Soon, hundreds of souvenir spoon patterns were being produced commemorating cities, famous people and significant events or anniversaries. The Sacramento Daily Record-Union reported on July 2, 1892, that those attending the production of “The Witch” at the Metropolitan Theatre would receive “a souvenir witch spoon, silver, with oxidized handle, and a cameo of the witch picture as preserved in the Town Hall, Salem.”

Another favorite among spoon collectors, who call themselves Spooners, are the World’s Fair souvenir spoons. The Columbian Exposition of 1893, also called the Chicago World’s Fair, raised spoon collecting to a new level. It is estimated that more varieties of souvenir spoons were created for this fair than for any other single event in history. 19th-century manufacturing innovations made mass production possible, resulting in increased production of affordable souvenirs.

Americans were enjoying travel in the United States and abroad. The establishment of national parks, and later, the popularity of road trips, gave people access to a vast number of destinations. Along with the sights came corresponding mementos as a reminder of these trips long after they had ended.

The spoon was donated by Mae Helen Prouty. She was born in 1897 in Illinois and was a charter member of the WWI Auxiliary of the VFW in Auburn, to which she belonged for 40 years. She died in Auburn in 1981.