This month from our museum we’re featuring a delightful silverplate mustache spoon in the Florence pattern by Gorham Silver. The first mustache or “etiquette” spoon was patented around 1868, and was designed with a semicircular guard to accommodate the elaborately styled mustaches that were fashionable at the time. During the Victorian era, men commonly waxed, dyed, and curled their mustaches. This posed a problem whenever hot beverages or soups were served, as the steam could melt the wax, cause the dye to run, or make the curl come out. Mustache spoons served the same purpose as mustache cups (which were patented a few years earlier) in protecting the mustache.
Although the “Florence” mustache spoon in our museum wasn’t produced until 1939, Reed & Barton was one of the first silver companies to manufacture mustache spoons. The company got its start in 1822, when Isaac Babbitt opened a jewelry store in Massachusetts. Two years later, seeking to expand his jewelry business, Babbitt found a partner, William Crossman, and the two started a firm to produce Britannia ware (a metal alloy comparable to pewter). In 1826, Babbitt and Crossman opened a new factory in Taunton, MA. The following year, William West joined as a financial partner and the company was renamed Babbitt, Crossman & Company, but the new partnership would only last for three years before its dissolution.
A new company, the Taunton Britannia Manufacturing Company, was formed in 1830, and was composed of former employees of Babbitt, Crossman, & Company. During the new company’s early years, it experienced many financial difficulties, but the efforts of key employees like Charles E. Barton (Crossman’s brother-in-law) kept the business afloat. Barton slowly worked his way up to being a managing partner of the firm, and eventually brought in Henry Good Reed, a prominent businessman of the Taunton area, as an additional partner. Within one year of the partnership, the new company was well on its way to success.
In 1837, Charles Leonard was taken in as a financial partner, and the company’s name was changed to Leonard, Reed, & Barton. (Leonard’s share of the company was later purchased by Charles Barton and Henry Reed.) Throughout the next century, Reed & Barton grew steadily, shifting its focus from Britannia ware to plated and sterling silver flatware. In 1907, Reed & Barton released what would become the company’s most popular pattern: Francis I. Francis I quickly became a favorite of nobility and presidents (no less than four U.S. presidents dined with “Francis I” – Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford).
In 1928, Reed and Barton purchased the Dominick & Haff Company. Later, the company acquired the Webster Company and Sheffield Silver. Now well into its second century of operation, Reed & Barton is a leader in finely crafted sterling silver and stainless steel.
While the Reed & Barton Florenc” mustache spoon in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Reed & Barton pieces available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 390,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!