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Gorham Antique Coin Silver Figural Ice Spoon, Providence, RI, c. 1870

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Ice servers are quite rare, and this figural example by Gorham is exceptional. The leaf-shaped, fluted bowl is engraved with stems and leaves. The two central flutes incorporate piercings into the design. The cylindrical handle has a short, twist design near the center. The top of the handle features the figure of a young girl holding a bird. Ice was an essential commodity during this period, and the instruments to serve it are rare and usually quite interesting.

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
Dr. & Mrs. Charles Curb
Spencer Marks

Literature: " Ice Spoons - Where Else But in America?" in Silver Magazine, September/ October 2011, illustrated p.14

This stunning server is marked with Gorham's trademark. It measures 11.25 inches long, weighs 3.35 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.


  1.     Gavin Weightman, The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), pp. 169-70
  2.     Weightman, p. 231.
  3.     Weightman, p.184.