A Curious Piece of Flatware

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dognose
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A Curious Piece of Flatware

Postby dognose » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:31 pm

An example of a piece of flatware not often seen, a fork/knife made especially for an amputee.

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I've noted a couple of these unusual pieces over the years, but they have always been somewhat crude adaptations of regular forks with a sharpened tine. This is the first I have seen that appears to a factory made example specifically made for the task.

Probably the most famous example of such an item is the French gold and steel one used by Lord Nelson.

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This one, like Nelson's, is left-handed, but unlike Nelson's, this one is made in three parts, the steel blade being secured by a plated nut.

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The maker is Harrison Brothers & Howson of Sheffield, 8 1/2" (21.5cm) in length and made in the Kings Pattern with diamond heel.

Trev.
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admin
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Postby admin » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:25 pm

Great item, Trev. Went looking for Nelson's gold example but could not find an illustration of it. Learned it was sold at Christies in 1895 and was soon thereafter donated to a British museum.
Here is a link to another of Nelson's knife/forks, clearly one of his more utilitarian (what, mutton again!) examples.

http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/nelson ... =1#content

Regards, Tom
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dognose
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Postby dognose » Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:27 am

An image of Nelson's gold combined fork/knife, taken from Simon Moore's excellent 'Cutlery for the Table'

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"A steel cutting edge was occasionally added to the outside edges of fork blades to be used by handicapped or one-handed persons. One celebrated left-handed French gold example belonged to Lord Nelson."

You can't help thinking that by choosing to eat with such an implement, that Nelson may have added to his injuries.

Trev.
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Postby MCB » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:44 pm

Hello Trev,

Nelson lost his arm at Tenerife in July 1797 and died on 21st October 1805 which would date the pieces shown to a short 8 year period.
The wonder is that he had a French manufactured fork; also how he came by it.

Regards,
Mike
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dognose
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Postby dognose » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:42 am

Hi Mike,

I found several references that may be of interest. The gold knife/fork combination appears to be a gift from Lady Spencer, as detailed in the first two references:

It was probably at this time of her first intercourse with Nelson, when he had just lost his arm, that the enthusiastic Lady Spencer presented the Admiral with the combined gold knife and fork, manageable with one hand, which still exists.
Nelson in England: a Domestic Chronicle by Esther Meynell - 1913

The Lady at the Admiralty was Lady Spencer, formerly the lovely Miss Lavinia Bingham, eldest daughter of Lord Lucan, whom Gibbon described to Lord Sheffield after seeing her at Lausanne : " She is a charming woman, who with sense and spirit has the playfulness and simplicity of a child." The Naval Commanders who frequented the Admiralty during her husband's administration felt the influence of her superior mind ; they often touchingly referred to her in their letters as of one who would sympathise with them in their difficulties. She was all to them in England that Lady Hamilton was in Naples, and the gallant sea-officers valued and respected both women. Lady Spencer had the penetration to appreciate the genius of Nelson through the element of personal vanity which frequently enveloped him. When he lost his arm she presented him with a combined gold knife and fork.
Nelson's friendships ... By Hilda Gamlin - 1899

The same piece appeared at the Nelson Centenary in 1905

The cocked hat worn by Nelson at Copenhagon was given to the museum only a couple of years ago by Messrs. Widdowson and Veale of the Strand. It had been in their possession for many years and had figured prominently amongst silver statues and trophies. Mr. J. A. Mullens has been a liberal donor of Nelson relics both to this museum and to Greenwich Hospital, and the pair of ice-pails purchased at the 1895 sale at Christie's are particularly beautiful works of art. At the same time he also gave the gold combined knife and fork which Nelson used after the loss of his arm.
The Nelson Centenary Exhibition at the Royal United Service Museum, Whitehall. - 1905

And it would appear from the reference below that these pieces were commonly known as 'Nelson Knives':

Suggestions are made for improvements in Government limbs supplied to the army and navy ; and these are, mainly, that the wooden-pin leg should have a catch-joint for the knee to enable the wearer to sit comfortably, and in the case of the upper limb the useless unjointed stump of the whole arm should be discarded, and the 'stump arm below elbow' should have an artificial wrist-joint as well as the longer stump. Both should have at least three or four useful instruments given with them, and one of the instruments should be a Nelson knife, which is a combined knife and fork.
The London medical record, Volume 14 edited by Ernest Abraham Hart - 1886

Perhaps another one of Nelson's forks was exhibited at the Naval Exhibition in 1895:

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And take a close look at this image from 1895.

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Regards Trev.
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MCB
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Postby MCB » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:58 am

Well found Trev.
The good lady would probably have given the fork to Nelson in 1798 when he next returned to England having lost the arm. Britain still being at war with France and an embargo on imports from the latter still existing it seems the fork had been in this country for a while; whether in the form we see now or in its basic form later altered in the UK on Lady Spencer's instructions is open to question.
Regards,
Mike
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Re: A Curious Piece of Flatware

Postby echo801 » Fri May 20, 2011 1:37 pm

There's a fork very like this online at the moment, but I wonder if it is genuine or a later conversion.
How can one tell if it is a later adaptation?
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dognose
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Re: A Curious Piece of Flatware

Postby dognose » Sun May 22, 2011 8:07 am

It would be very difficult to tell if such a piece was a later adaptation, as although they may have been supplied by one of the large manufacturers they would not have been the usual part of the production line, but made as a special order and converted from a regular line fork. As this conversion would have all been done by hand there's really no way of telling when the work was done, except perhaps by comparison with other examples from the same manufacturer.

Trev.

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Re: A Curious Piece of Flatware

Postby dognose » Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:57 pm

Another example of a combined knife and fork, this time from Arnold & Sons of London in 1882:

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Arnold & Sons - London - 1882

The 'Desideratum'.

Trev.


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