Storeroom Stories: Souvenir spoon and machine dies

Fashion and Function: Bonnets

Souvenir spoon and machine dies James Allan & Company Charleston, 1900-1905

On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after surrendering Fort Sumter to the Confederacy, Union General Robert Anderson was back in Charleston reclaiming what was left of it for the United States. For Charleston, the long and disastrous war was over, and a long road to recovery just begun. For the next few decades, however, Charleston’s economy steadily improved, as did some of its agricultural and mercantile interests. James Allan, a Scottish-born silversmith, jeweler, and retailer who had established his Charleston firm just before the War in 1855, was one of several who actually flourished in the post-bellum period.

For years, James Allan’s company produced all manner of jewelry and silverwares for local consumers, and by the fortieth anniversary of the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, was producing souvenir spoons stamped from iron dies. These spoons – made in both table and tea size – depict iconic images from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. On the handle, a stoic Sergeant William Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment points toward the defeated British fleet after the 1776 battle of Fort Sullivan. Below on the spoon’s bowl are embossed the unmistakable blasted out ruins of Fort Sumter circa 1865.

-Grahame Long, Senior Curator, August 2019