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Marrow Spoon

Petrie, Alexander
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
LOA: 8-7/8″; WOA: 1-3/4″ (large bowl); LOA: 3-11/16″ (marrow bowl)
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver spoon with long-bowled marrow spoon on one end, and the other end has a regular tablespoon form. This particular marrow spoon is unique in shape. It has both the long marrow bowl, and a regular tablespoon bowl. Jonathan Trace, a well-respected dealer in American silver, says that this form–marrow spoon on one end and tablespoon on the other–is not seen in America, making this the only American example known.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved on back of the spoon bowl: “I*M / 1730” and the initial “K” on the reverse of the handle. The engraved initials “I*M” most likely represents Jacob Motte (1700-1770).

MARK: Struck three times on the reverse of the handle with “AP” in an intaglio rectangle. John Bivins noted that although the marks on this spoon are worn from polishing, the tool used to make them is the same one used on MESDA’s salver (Acc. 2024.48) and coffeepots (Acc. 2507 and Acc. 3996); however, the spoon was made later than the coffeepots because there is a slight damage to the tool. The Petrie stuffing spoon in the collection of the Charleston Museum is a different die. The salver in the MESDA collection has the clearest mark.

MAKER: Alexander Petrie (c.1707-1768) was first identified as a Charleston, South Carolina silversmith in the December 1742 will of Richard Woodard but he had probably been working in the city for at least a few years. Petrie first advertised as a goldsmith in a 1745 Charleston newspaper. He was married three years later to Elizabeth Holland, “an agreeable Lady, of great Merit.” Petrie made silver wares at his bench and also imported silver goods from London, advertising in 1761 that he had just received a “neat assortment of the most useful goldsmith’s, silversmith’s, and jeweler’s work.” Petrie retired in July 1765, keeping his silversmithing tools but selling the stock of his shop to fellow Charleston silversmith Jonathan Sarrazin (w. 1754-c. 1790). Petrie’s retirement was most likely due to the wealth he had accumulated through his craft and land speculation. He had begun to purchase property on East Bay in 1750 and in 1767 he purchased the entire property between Broad and Tradd Streets known as the “Orange Garden,” broke it up into twelve parcels and developed the area. After Petrie’s death in 1768, Jonathan Sarrazin purchased an enslaved man named Abraham for the large sum of £810, who was identified as a silversmith in Petrie’s estate sale. The fact that Petrie had kept his silversmith’s tools at the time of his retirement in 1765 may indicate that the tools were being used by Abraham, who could have been maintaining Petrie’s shop or was hired out to other silversmiths such as Sarrazin. A rare but not unique southern artisan, Abraham was among a small number of other enslaved silversmiths have been documented working in Charleston, Richmond, and Annapolis during the eighteenth century. See Brandy S. Culp, “Artisan, Entrepreneur, and Gentleman: Alexander Petrie and the Colonial Charleston Silver Trade” (MA Thesis, Bard Graduate Center, 2004) and E. Milby Burton, “South Carolina Silversmiths 1690-1860 (Charleston, SC: Charleston Museum, 1967).

FORM: This specialized spoon form was made with a long-bowl for digging inside of bones to extract marrow, considered a delicacy. Marrow spoons often featured a normal spoon bowl at one end and marrow scoops of different widths at the other. Spoons of this type were made from the early eighteenth century onwards. See John Fleming and Hugh Honour, “The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts” (New York: Penguin, 1977).

The engraved “M” could possibly be an “H” but a lack of potential owners with a surname beginning with an “H” and “I” or “J” proper names makes the most likely candidate for the intials Jacob Motte (1700-1770). The rarity of the marrow spoon form also points to Motte’s ownership: His probate inventory lists “20 Table Spoons, 1 Soap [sic] & 1 Marrow Spoon” (Charleston County Inventories, 1771-1774, p. 29). The date 1730 may commemorate a Motte family event as Alexander Petrie is not identified as working in Charleston until 1742.
Credit Line:
Purchased with a gift from Oscar Ryder Sr. in memory of his wife Dorothy