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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Treasures: Did this fork come over on the Mayflower?

  • Dear Helaine and Joe: I have no idea how old this fork may be, but when I was a child, my mother told me it came over on the Mayflower. Could this possibly be true, and how much is it worth? -- B.R., Elk Grove, Ill.

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  • Dear Helaine and Joe: I have no idea how old this fork may be, but when I was a child, my mother told me it came over on the Mayflower. Could this possibly be true, and how much is it worth? -- B.R., Elk Grove, Ill.
    Dear B.R.: We love your Mayflower story. However, when we do appraisal clinics around the country, the claim that this or that item came over on the Mayflower is made rather frequently.
    To date, nothing we have been shown could possibly have come over on that storied ship.
    The Mayflower was dismantled in 1624, just four years after its historic voyage to the New World, and there is very little that is certain about its makeup. It was essentially a cargo vessel and is thought to have been a carrack with three masts -- square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast, but lateen-rigged on the mizzenmast.
    It is thought to have been an 180-ton merchant ship that was just 90 to 110 feet long and about 25 feet wide. It had a crew of 25 to 30 and 102 passengers on the historic voyage from Plymouth, England, to what became Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts. Each passenger was given very little room for personal belongings. Only the most vital items were taken along.
    We briefly discussed the utensil called a "fork" in a recent column and mentioned that the fork's popularity in England did not gain momentum until the 18th century -- several decades after the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic. The point here is that our Pilgrim forefathers likely would have viewed the fork as being "effete" and its use "unmanly."
    Pilgrims probably would not have considered using one. The term "fork" comes from the Latin word "furca," which means "pitchfork." It is thought to have been first used as a personal dining instrument in the Eastern Roman Empire; forks reportedly were common in the fourth century A.D.
    In Venice in 1004, the new bride of the Doge used a fork -- and was derided by the populace for her affectation. The first mention of a fork in English literature did not occur until 1611, when Thomas Coryat mentioned the device in his writings about his travels in Italy.
    Originally, forks were straight, two-pronged instruments used for spearing food. They evolved into three- and sometimes four-tined instruments that made it harder for food to slip off once it was speared.
    Eventually, a slight curve was added to the tines to make the fork a more efficient scoop. Unfortunately, the item in today's question was made far along in the evolution of the fork and is probably from the mid- to late 19th century.
    This three-tine version does not appear to be handmade and would be most valuable as part of a larger grouping of forks, knives and spoons. By itself, this single fork might have a value of $5.
    Page 2 of 2 - Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of  "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at treasures@knology.net.
    Scripps Howard News Service.

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