Friday, September 30, 2011

With this many spoons, there should be plenty of ice cream

Did you know that Paterson is home to the world's largest collection of spoons?

You read that right: the world's largest assembly of collectible spoons is housed in Paterson. I know! I had no idea, either, until Ivan and I visited Lambert Castle on Garret Mountain. We were there to check out the Civil War exhibit and while orienting us, the front desk volunteer happened to mention it. How could I have not known about this?

Just a small bit of the world's largest
spoon collection
How does the world's largest collection of spoons end up in Paterson? Pretty simple -- its original owner, Bertha Schaefer Koempel, started the hobby during her childhood in the city. Born in 1882, she'd amassed more than 5400 spoons (and a few matching forks) before she died in 1966. Friends and family members would give her souvenir spoons from their travels, and she knew some well-traveled folks. By the time she died, every state in the Union was represented in the collection, as well as a majority of of the world's nations.

Definitely nothing like the cheesy tin commemorative utensils I remember seeing at souvenir stands in my youth, these spoons are amazingly detailed and beautiful in their own right. Most of those on display right now are lovely silver with nice designs and paintings on them, representing local scenes or noted personalities. Some are even enameled in jewel tones. Others have interesting add-ons like the mummy 'entombed' in a compartment in an Egyptian spoon.

Mrs. Koempel donated the spoons to the Passaic County Historical Society in 1967, and with the exception of a few years during Lambert Castle's renovation, they've been on display there ever since. Only about 250 of the spoons are out at any given time, but the museum plans to rotate the collection occasionally so that all are eventually available for public viewing.

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