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tline3open  Mysterious strainer

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Author Topic:   Mysterious strainer
Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 07-12-2020 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm posting this in the American pre-sterling forum because the seller told me it was Colonial Pennsylvania Dutch, but I'm not at all sure that's right.

It's a straining or sifting spoon with a wooden handle. The interesting thing about it is the pattern of the pierced holes, which spell out "PETER + STEHELI [design] 1776."

What do you folks think? Is this spoon American or from somewhere in German-speaking Europe? Is 1776 when it was made, or does it have some other meaning? Is this a tea strainer? A sugar sifter? Something else?

With some other objects (including a teaspoon) for scale:

There's an early repair, a patch on the inside of the bowl where the handle attaches:

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Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 07-12-2020 03:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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ahwt

Posts: 2173
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 07-12-2020 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great piece. The design certainly has a Pennsylvania Dutch look. I would write to one or two of the Historical Societies that are familiar with like art work like this to see if they any ideas.
These can be frustrating as the piece was obviously made by a skilled silversmith who just did not mark it. Their skill at designing the strainer pattern I would think would mean they did many of these.

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Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 07-12-2020 10:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you, ahwt. Do you think it's a tea strainer? I'm having trouble figuring out when spoonlike tea strainers were first used, but I have a feeling it was later than 1776.

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ahwt

Posts: 2173
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 07-12-2020 11:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think your strainer may well have started out as a tea strainer, but if Peter was like me he would have used it for anything that needed straining. It is very pretty and would be hard not to use.
From my limited knowledge it seems to me that the more interesting patterns of holes are on the early strainers - before 1800. That may not be a good way to judge the time it was made as it really is just a feeling. The wooden handle would also indicate to me the it is before 1800.
In another post on your strainers I mentioned the Michael Clayton book. That book came out in a 1971 edition and a 1985 edition. The 1985 one has many more pages so I think I would get that one. When I brought my copy (1971) I did not know there were two editions.

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Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 07-13-2020 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you! I ordered the Clayton book, 1985 edition.

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 07-13-2020 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know the following as fact but over the years I've heard variations told several times.

During the time (before banking) when people turned their savings into ever day items that they could keep an eye on. It was important to be able to identify the object as belonging to them. Scratch engraving or hole pattern decorating was less expensive and more available.

Your object might have been a "picnic" outdoor punch/pot strainer. Used to removed to remove leafs, bugs and other stuff from a bowl/pot.

Also the "1776" makes me think about 4th of July "picnic". smile

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Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 07-13-2020 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I would be more confident that the date referred to the spoon's origin if it were any other year! On the other hand, if 1776 is a patriotic inscription rather than a date of manufacture/gift/whatever, that suggests the piece is American... Not knowing things is so frustrating--but I'm drawn to mysteries!

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1769
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 07-27-2020 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the + is just a decorative spacing element and that it reads "PETER STEHELI". A quick google search located one Peter Steheli christened in Switzerland...but in 1792. So I'm not sure if it's the same person (would somebody born in 1776 be christened 16 years later?). So maybe that's a dead-end, but to me the style of design looks more continental than American.

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