Metalwork Gallery Animations: Moustache Tablespoon

Moustache Tablespoon, around 1883

View an animation showing how the moustache tablespoon was made!

This Moustache Tablespoon was made from electroplated silver on nickel. It is unusual because a semi-circular piece of metal has been soldered onto the bowl of what is essentially a regular tablespoon. This feature is called a moustache guard. It would have been attached to the spoon to prevent a gentleman’s moustache from being soiled when he was eating soup. The guard is a decorative as well as a functional feature.

Soup was generally eaten as a first course during large formal dinners but around the 1860s, it also began to be eaten at late suppers. The 1860 advice manual, The Habits of a Good Society, gives stringent advice on the correct etiquette for eating soup:

Your soup you eat with a spoon...but I beg you will not make that odious noise in drinking your soup. It is louder than a dog lapping water, and a cat would be quite genteel to it. Then you need not scrape up the plate in that way, nor even tilt it to get the last drop. I shall be happy to send you some more; but I must just remark, that it is not the custom to take two helpings of soup; and it is liable to keep other people waiting, which, once for all, is a selfish and intolerable habit.

Moustaches were very fashionable during the 1800s. A passage from The Habits of a Good Society gives an indication of why moustache spoons might have developed during the late 1800s:

…now you have eaten, oblige me by wiping your mouth and moustache with your napkin, for there is a bit of the pastry hanging to the latter, and looking very disagreeable.

Although they are now commonplace, specially designed soup spoons were not introduced until around 1900. Before their introduction, tablespoons were used for eating soup.

The moustache table spoon is part of the Bill Brown Collection of Historic Cutlery, from which many objects are on display in the Metalwork Gallery.

To view other object animations click on the links below:

To find out more about objects in the Metalwork Gallery, go to the Metalwork Objects in Focus, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield learning journey. To find out more about the Metalwork Gallery, go the the Metalwork in Sheffield learning journey.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery | 
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