Throwback Thursday: Silver Spoons

Image of wooden case with lid open,
 holding twelve silver spoons and a cake server
Image of one silver spoon with an ancient roman
coin decorating its handle
Located as we are right next to the Kentucky School for the Blind, our museum has a lot of great stuff from KSB.  Our object this week reminds us that the historic residential schools were more than just buildings, they were small villages and life there had its own rhythms.  The school’s second superintendent was Benjamin B. Huntoon.  His daughter, Mary Josephine (1861-1949), grew up living with B.B. and her mother Sara in the big building on Frankfort Avenue that the school built there in 1855.  Although sighted, she would have attended school there and been constantly underfoot both teachers and staff.  When Mary Huntoon married Dr. Ap Morgan Vance, a prominent Louisville surgeon, in 1885, the staff at KSB gifted her with this unusual silver desert set.  Evidently, it was briefly the fashion to decorate tableware with ancient coins.   Interest in archeology had been stoked by the pioneering work (some called it treasure hunting!) of the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Each of the twelve silver desert spoons and the cake server has an original Roman coin soldered into its handle.  Apparently, although they were thousands of years old, the coins themselves were not very valuable individually because so many had been minted.  They feature the heads of gods and emperors, mythical creatures like Scorpio, and mundane images of Roman ships.  The blade of the serving knife has the following inscription: "Mary J. Huntoon, From the employees of the KY. Inst. For the Blind. Thos. Lucas. Alex Lucas. Hannah Murphy. Kate Burke. Annie Kelly. Kate Henley. Annie Fahy. Mary Curry. Bridget Curry. Bridget Cain. Annie Cain."  I find this interesting. These eleven workers were the lowest paid members of the team at KSB in 1885:  the gardeners, the cooks, the maids, and the “dining room girls.”  The Vances went on to have eight children!


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