There is a tremendous lore of fact and fiction regarding miners and mining. We can find spoons representing all sides in the debate. Spoons depicting miners and mining are not uncommon but they will command vastly differing prices depending on the sellers association with the lore of mining. The pieces presented here are merely meant to be representative and definitely not exhaustive.
Miners with pickaxes and gold nuggets
The rightmost spoon is engraved 10-17-04 on the back and the bowl is engraved "Grandma". Seems like a strange present to give one's grandmother. This spoon also has several Masonic symbols and a papoose on it.
This full figural spoon (front and back) has the words "struck it rich, at last" below the miner and an embossed bowl of the Denver State Capitol.
Miner exclaiming "millions in it" on a twisty stem
and bowl engraved Los
(I don't know why since L.A. doesn't do mining)
The pack mule was the miners closest friend. It not only carried his gear, but frequently was his only company. Furthermore it never gave away the claim location or demanded a share of gold.
The story of how I identified this spoon is quite interesting.
The spoon does not appear to identify where it is from.
The top picture is a log cabin which is followed by a winding train, then a mule and then a miner.
In the bowl is a picture of a mule and engraved underneath the picture is the word "bisbee"
First, I assumed that this was the name of the mule, as I have seen other spoons which have identified mules and horses by name.
But my research did not identify anything related to a mule named "Bisbee".
Tonight, I was watching the local news station and they reported a story about "killer bees" which took place in "Bisbee, Arizona". A little research quickly identified the spoon as being from that locality.
Apparently Bisbee is the home of the famous "Copper Queen Lode" mine (copper, gold, lead, silver) and is built at the bottom of "Mule Pass Gulch".
Another "mysterious" spoon solved! (The back of this spoon has an unusual picture of a cattle drive (shown near the bottom of the home page)
The C and A shaft, Bisbee, Arizona
Most mining spoons show miners or refer to placer mining (using a pan or sluice to extract gold from a river). This is a rare picture on a spoon that shows the interior of a hard rock mine.
The mining pan and the pickaxe were the miners most important tools.
crossed pickaxes with a "gold plated nugget"
Engraved picture Pennyslvania Mine, Grass Valley, California with miner pan and bear
engraved Parrot Mine, Butte, Montana
Full tea size spoon appears to be made from copper, and features the Anaconda Mine, Butte, Montana in the bowl. This is one of the largest copper mines in the USA. The back is marked "sterling". I suspect that an existing die was used, and they didn't correct the quality mark.
And of course the objects of the miners search.
These spoons have natural gold placer nuggets. The left spoon has a picture of a man in a canoe in a large lake. The right spoon has the word "Dawson" engraved in the bowl. Both spoons are from the Alaska gold rush ca. 1898
More Alaskan Gold nugget Spoons may be seen in the Yukon Exhibit
The land office is where the miner would file the "claim forms". This land office from Gregory, South Dakota is the only one that I have seen on a spoon. The wheat handle is quite appropriate for this area which depends on that crop.
engraved bowl "holding down a claim"
What the Miners did with the gold
Left: bowl is an engraved view of the Lexington Mine
Right: The famous "Bucket of Blood", Saloon, Virginia City, Nevada
(This old saloon is still operating as a tourist attraction)
The romantic lore is for a lone miner to pit his strength and wisdom against the elements and become a wealthy millionaire. In reality, the development of a gold mine is a major undertaking requiring the services of many technical and hardworking people and the infusion of millions of dollars of capital. This is why the Eastern Banking establishment eventually came to own most of the western mines.
Ophir Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
Mine, Webb City, Missouri
Gold mining receives the "romantic" parts of the mining lore, but in reality, much larger profits are obtained from mining other minerals. To burst the bubble even further, the largest source of gold and silver is not from gold mines, but as a "waste" product of copper mines. Coal mining, for example, has produced much greater profits than gold mining. But I have to admit that "coal mining spoons" are not as "sexy looking" as the miner spoons.
Coal Breaker, Scranton, Pennsylvania
A number of buildings in expositions and universities have been created to foster the study of earth sciences, rocks, minerals and techniques. These buildings usually have displays of rare ores and are interesting museums.
Exhibition Hall, Omaha, Nebraska
When the obvious is not obvious
Help: This handmade spoon features this miner or cowboy. I suspect that it is Will Rogers, but that is just a guess (He would probably be shown with a rope). I don't think that it is just a generic figure. Does anyone have any ideas? The spoon has several very tiny marks which I cannot figure out, It is sterling. I suspect that the little club or whatever it is will be the clue that tells us who this man is.
It has just occurred to me that this is probably
(Speak softly and carry a big stick)
This very well made and interesting looking spoon has been in my collection for a long time, but it was placed in an unknown category. The top of the spoon shows two miners working above ground, the entire stem is a rope into the gold plated bowl which shows two miners loading ore into a bucket. The bowl has been treated in an unusual way to make it look like rock.
The unknown quantity here is the very unusual markings on the back
It identifies the maker as Henry Bohm of Denver (Colorado). None of my books show any reference to this man. It also identifies the metal as "Colorado Silver". This is NOT a recognized marking and descriptions like this are usually an attempt to defraud someone into thinking that a silver plated spoon is sterling. The back also has the word "Denver" bright cut engraved in it which is not normally done on silver plated items.
I just tested the spoon with acid and it does appear to be sterling quality.
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