Theatrical Presentation Spoons

Spoons were often engraved for special occasions and then used as presentation pieces. These spoons represent a small piece of history which has often been forgotten. With a little research, however, it is sometimes possible to re-create the past and obtain a better understanding of life during the time of the great silver souvenir spoon era. This spoon is a good illustration.

Jupiter digby bell presentation spoon

An interesting spoon in the Medallion style (variation of the Gothic or Renaissance Revival era). 

The spoon is identified as having been patented on Dec. 29, 1868, but this spoon was probably actually made in the 1890's. The choice of this particular medallion spoon was based upon the play "Jupiter".

Neither the metal content nor a manufacturer is stamped --the spoon may not be sterling.

digby bell jupiter presentation spoon

The acid etched bowl  says:
"275 Performance
Mr. Digby Bell
in Jupiter"

Mr. Digby Bell was a well known , handsome and popular comedy actor during the 1890's. He was involved with the famous McCaull Opera Company which produced many plays starring most of the biggest actors and actresses of the "gay 90" era. 

This photo of Digby Bell is from an old postcard

The play "Jupiter" is based upon the Tragicomedy Plautus' Amphitruo. Plautus was a Roman playwright of the 2nd or 3rd Century BC. His two plays Menaechmi and Amphitruo (upon which this play is based) established the basis for the neoclassic plays in which all events must fall with a 24 hour period and all events must take place in a single location with only one plot (no subplots).

Mercury begins this play by saying "I will give the background of this tragedy. What's that? Did you make a face, because I said this would be a tragedy? I'm a god, I'll change it. If you want, I will turn this tragedy into a comedy, using the very same verses. Do you want that, or not? Silly me, as if, being a god, I didn't know that's what you want. I know what you desire: I will make it mixed: let it be a tragicomedy. For I don't think it would be right for it to be continually a comedy, since there are kings and gods in it. How about it, then? Since a slave also has a part here, I will make it a tragicomedy, just as I said."

Shakespeare's play, "A Comedy of Errors", is one of the great Bard's earliest and it is the only neoclassic play which he wrote using the guidelines established by Plautus and it is also based upon the Amphitruo. (A husband is locked out of his own house while an impostor inside is involved with his wife.)

Many popular productions of this era were based upon historical plays as the late Victorians considered themselves to be very sophisticated and learned in the ancient arts and history.

Performance Spoon


tar and tartan presentation spoon

This spoon was made by Gorham in a customized pattern ( as it is not in any of my books).

The bowl is embossed in fancy script and says "100th Performance Tar and Tartar Aug 18 th 1891". The script is really fancy and hard to read.

After much diligent searching I finally learned that this was a comedy opera performed at the 1200 seat Palmer's Theatre in New York City (30th street and Broadway).

In 1888 Albert M. Palmer took over the management of the Wallacks Theatre and turned it into one of the best playhouses in the city.

One of the leading ladies was the daughter of a Methodist preacher named "Elise Warren" who made her operatic debut  in this play.

I also found an advertisement in an old NY newspaper advertising a traveling company (Jules Grau's "Comic Opera Company") which did a performance at the Glen's Falls Opera House starting on April 16 (no year mentioned)

ticket prices were $1, .75, and .30. The ad mentioned that the play had run at the Palmer's Theatre for 150 performances.

Theater history:  February, 1881, Lester Wallack leased four lots of land on and adjoining the northeast corner of Broadway and Thirtieth Street. He subleased the land to Oliver Livingstone and Ground was broken May 1, 1881. A fancy  playhouse was built at a cost of $247,782.47. The dedication of Wallack's Theatre took place Jan. 4, 1882, and very appropriately, too, with a magnificent revival of The School for Scandal, which had an exceptionally fine cast." 

"Before the opening, The New York Times reported: "The building, which is erected on ground leased for 21 years, with the privilege of two renewals of 21 years each, has frontage of 105 feet on Broadway and 122 feet on Thirtieth-street. In due course, a nine-story flat-house will rise above the theatre [never built], and shops will environ it. The main entrance is on Broadway and is 30 feet wide, the visitor passing under a portico resting on six polished red granite columns. There are, besides, two gallery entrances on Broadway, an entrance on Thirtieth-street, and stage entrances on Thirtieth-street and on Broadway. The parquet and balcony contain 800 seats. The gallery contains 450 chairs. There are also eight boxes. Under the Broadway curbstone and the main entrance is a café. A magnificent chandelier of copper and brass, with a spread of 14 feet and 200 burners, depends [sic] from the dome. Electric lights will be used outside the theatre. The architect is Mr. George A. Freeman, Jr." 

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