George Sharp Ball Pattern Antique Sterling Silver Ice Spoon, Philadelphia, PA 1866-73
Ice spoons are quite rare today, and this is a special one in George Sharp's rare "Ball" pattern that he patented in 1866. It features a ball end, hexagonal shaft and floral decorated hand-engraved and hand-pierced gilt scalloped bowl.
One of the more exciting technical advances in flatware made during this period is the application of flexible manufacturing, where different parts could be exchanged with others to create different combinations and patterns. It is only through the improved machining and finishing techniques of the mid-19th century that this sort of fabrication was possible and its application gave rise to some wonderfully creative pieces - such as this server. There is no real comparable in European flatware; this is an American style of flatware.
Ice spoons are a wonderful symbol of American ingenuity.
It is easy to forget how important ice was in a world before the refrigerator. Unlike Western Europe, North America produced abundant supplies of clean ice. The clean rivers and lakes along with the cold winters allowed for bountiful ice 'harvesting' in the winter and early spring. Americans developed this resource and created markets for it by exploiting needs in tropical areas.
In the early 19th century, Frederic Tudor and his Wenham Lake Ice Company improved insulating techniques so his ice could be shipped afar to the West Indies and even Calcutta, India. Henry Thoreau mentions the 'harvesting' of ice from Walden Pond. (1) An appendix to the 1880 U. S. census notes that 8 to 10 million tons of ice were harvested annually in the United States. (2)
Wenham Lake Ice became popular in Europe because, unlike old world ice, it was actually clean enough to put in drinking water and other refreshments. Queen Victoria was so delighted with the clean ice in her drinks that the Wenham Lake Ice Company received a royal warrant! (3)
Provenance: Collection of Dale E. Bennett Spencer Marks
Literature: " Ice Spoons - Where Else But in America?" in Silver Magazine, September/ October 2011, illustrated p.15
This lovely server measures 11.5 inches long and is marked "PATENT 1866", "G.S." and "STERLING." It weighs 2.65 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition.
Gavin Weightman, The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), pp. 169-70