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The Story of a Silverplate Spoon

Have you ever seen the show American Pickers?  If you have, you'll know that searching for vintage goods isn't always about the age of the item, but rather the story that comes with it.  Today, I'm sharing the story of a spoon.  But first, I'll need to take you on a little history lesson...

The first lighthouse was built in America in 1716, in Boston Harbor to be exact.  Lighthouses were built to aid the navigation of ships and fell under federal administration beginning in 1789.  At that time, there were 12 existing lighthouses that had been built by the colonies.  Can you image traveling to the coast in the 1700's and seeing a tall lighthouse?  It must have been a sight in that day.  From 1789 - 1903, administration of lighthouses fell under the Treasury Department.  Yes, curious.  The Lighthouse Establishment (LHE) was an official agency created in the late 1700's and active until 1910.  After 1910, we see the term Lighthouse Service (LHS) popping up in documentation, however there was never an official designation or agency with this term.  With both the LHE and LHS, federal funds were provided to help maintain lighthouses and pay for those operating them.  Items can be found with US LHE or US LHS markings on everything from oil funnels, door insignia, uniform buttons, stationary, and, you guessed it, silverware!

Fast forward to 2018...   I visited a local garage sale a few blocks from my home and picked up a bundle of ten silverplate flatware for less than $20.  I love all things vintage tableware and you can find several of those pieces in our One of a Kind Collection!   I sorted through the usable pieces (sadly several of the knives had completely lost their silver coating).   The spoon was rather unassuming with no pattern on the handle, which is odd for silverplate.  I've searching through hundreds of patterns taking the time to date pieces for our One of a Kind Collection and had never seen one this plain.  Then I noticed the markings on the back of the spoon, "ISCO Triple," which means it was manufactured by International Silver and is triple plated, and "U.S.L.H.S."  Straight to google I went where I found only a small amount of information on the U.S. Lighthouse Service I mentioned above. 

After emailing a lighthouse magazine editor, who then put me in touch with an antique dealer specializing in lighthouses (never knew there was such a specialty), I learned more about the US LHS.  My newly acquired spoon is dated between 1910 and 1938 and worth quite a bit more than I'd paid.  In fact, it's worth about $300!   As happy as I was that I'd made a great investment (definitely not always the case!), I loved reading about the story behind the spoon.  Can you image being a lighthouse worker, living on the coast all winter and summer at the top of a lighthouse.... in 1910?  You can read about a day in the life of a lighthouse keeper here and how important their role was for so many years. 

I hope you've enjoyed this story and learned a little in the process. 

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  • Roger on

    I just read your article and was fascinated by your discovery. A while back when eBay was young I purchased a silver ladle with the same “USLHS” mark on it as yours for a few bucks. This was a relisted item with no other bidders. I also love lighthouses and this is a treasure for sure.

  • Andrew on

    I LOVE lighthouses. And I love this spoon that you picked! Are you intending on keeping it?

  • Paula on

    Go you! Very cool🌼

  • Crystal on

    I never find anything that cool at garage sales! Love the history lesson too. Imagine all that little spoon has seen!

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