Oil drilling and refining was an important industry in the 1890's. The discovery of a new deposit of black gold was a key to instant riches. In spoon collecting we have two types of oil well spoons:
Souvenir spoons of a visit to an oil producing area
The joy associated with a new well was indeed momentous. A few spoons were engraved with a picture of the new gusher and the name and sometimes a date. These spoons are rare and unique collectibles. Of course, tourists visiting an oil producing area would often want a spoon as a memento of their visit. These are a little more common, but still fairly collectible. It is often difficult to tell the two types apart.
"Shooting Oil Well", Alexandria, Indiana
This gold plated bowl (reason there is so much reflection) is a memento of the actual discovery of oil.
The beautiful gold plated bowl on the left is believed to be a commemorative of the discovery of oil on January 10, 1903, however, the very similar looking demi (enlarged) spoon on the right with a very similar picture is believed to be a tourist spoon. It can get tricky identifying these spoons.
Believed to be commemorating the gusher pictured.
"Gusher", Sapulpa, Oklahoma
Exquisite floral handle on a pedestal base with gold plated bowl commemorating the gusher.
"Shooting Oil Well", Findlay, Ohio
Believed to be commemorating the success of the drilling.
Engraved oil well labeled only "oil well", Independence, Kansas on a flowered handle. I do not know if this is commemorating a particular oil well or is a tourist (or investor) souvenir.
engraved oil well from Warren, Pennsylvania identified as a "flowing oil well". I suspect that this was a tourist version of a visit to an oil field.
nice engraved spoon of an oil well in Bowling Green, Ohio. The handle is also engraved to "Nellie" thus I suspect that it was probably a gift to one of the worker's girlfriend or wife.
Most likely this nicely picture engraved spoon is a tourists view of this dramatic "oil boomtown " in Sistersville, West Virginia. It is marked "First Oil Well". I doubt that a new discovery would be labeled in this manner. Click for more info
This a a very well done engraved bowl with an unusual Art Deco handle and engraved October, 1900. I suspect that it is a memento of a tourist or an investors visit to the oil fields rather than a commemorative of a particular discovery, but am not absolutely sure. See next picture
This bowl has an impressed picture of a "flowing oil well". I am almost positive that this is a souvenir of a tourist visit to the oil fields and not a memento of a particular discovery.
Beaumont, TexasHouston, Texas
With these spoons, the silver manufacturers carried the concept of "one size fits all" to a new level. The oil well is generic and could be used for any oil producing region. Down the handle or on the bowl the city name is engraved, thus it could easily be modified for any area. The Beaumont spoon is a standard Watson state handle. Beaumont was the site of the first huge discovery of oil in Texas and was of immense significance to the development of Texas and the oil industry.
We normally do not associate Kansas with oil production, but during the 1890's there were oil fields producing the black gold. This embossed spoon is from Neodesha, Kansas. It also features corn.
When the souvenir spoon movement was going strong in the late 1890's, the small village of Valdez, Alaska was simply for eskimos and a very few brave gringo's who visited during the warmer weather. Of course 75 years later, a massive find of oil in the area generated a huge business. We are all familiar with the massive oil spill which occurred in this beautiful wilderness area. This spoon is not technically about oil production.
A very pretty spoon with a hand engraved picture of the Valdez village. The handle with a seal sitting on an ice floe and a miner pan was a popular choice for Alaska spoons.
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