One-Armed Men, Knorks, the Civil War and Buried Folding Treasues

A military spoon, a long silver plate spoon and a matching long spoon which was buried for over a hundred years.

    June 2011 is taking its last breath, so I thought I should get this post up while I still have the time. 

   While June is traditionally the month to celebrate fathers, step-fathers, our grandfathers and those men in our lives who have made parenting easier for so many of us, 2011 also marked the 150 anniversary of the Civil War. 

   June 1861 in particular was important, as West Virginia was "born".  It seems that the residents of of Virginia's western counties did not wish to secede along with the rest of Virginia.  Thus, the western counties of Virginia were admitted into the Union as "West Virginia" on June 20, 1863. 

   Now... why my sudden fascination with the Civil War?  First off, there were only a few "civil" things about the war here in the U.S.  No war is ever civil,  for that matter.  The term "civil war" is an oxymoron.  Like "jumbo shrimp", "act naturally" or "books on tape", the phrase contradicts itself.  

   Also, having lived in Virginia once upon a time, and having sold on Ebay some Civil War relics like battlefield bullets found in Northern Virginia (little things that look like they are made of cement) for  a family member, I find the Civil War and its artifacts interesting.  While I know there were many causes contributing to the run up to the war, the issue of ending the abhorrent  practice of slavery was by far the most important reason in the mind of any civil and sane thinking person.  The sons, brothers and fathers who gave their lives and limbs to the cause of ending slavery are true heroes.  

   My last reason? Those men who lost their lives and limbs, along with how they ate during and after the war.  I may have found such a utensil.  I wound up with a new find that everyone seems to believe is a Civil War era relic.  I am not sure though, so I am posting it here to see if anyone has a clue as to its origins.  

   I found the odd folding fork and spoon a few months back.  I have looked all over for a patent or a mark and can find none.  I went through all of the patents of folding utensils from the mid to late 1800s and the early 1900s.  Nothing is like this one.  

   Many believe it to be Civil War era, from the metal and the design.  I have found some similar folding sets listed as "WWI military forks", but they are made of tin and much more simplistic in the design. The fork ends are just that; fork ends.  This fork end is more like a "knork", which is a half knife and half fork design.  The other folding utensils that are from WWI are also nothing like this one in color. 

   There was a fork designed for men who had lost an arm in the war.  The "One Armed Man Fork" was patented for Civil War veterans.  It was quite different, and not at all like the one created by Admiral Nelson of the British navy.  He designed a fork with which to eat after losing an arm in battle at Santa Cruz, Tenerife, in July of 1797.  The silver three-pronged fork has a separate steel blade attached along the side the tines by a screw. 

Admiral Nelson

A copy of a "Nelson Fork"

A Nelson Fork

Civil War Veteran with One Arm


Fork designed for a One Armed Man or Civil War Veteran






   My folding utensil set, unlike either of these shown, is of  an undetermined metal.  I have an "expert" on metals in the family who is usually really good at this sort of thing.  He has no clue as to what it is made  from without testing it, but I don't want to take any chances with it or ruin the patina.  My mother, who made jewelry as an off and on hobby for about 25 years, also is pretty good with metals. 
A variety of 19th & 20th Century "knorks" for pastry, pie and pickles, along with  modern one-armed dining knorks (with white plastic handles)- on the far right is a cheese knife
She is baffled as well.  I can't say for certain it was not originally silver plated, as silver polish did nothing.  But it is heavy.
   A few people suggested that if it was a Civil War era relic, it had been buried.  But I have a spoon which had been buried for over 100 years, and the color is different.  Maybe the soil type in the various states on the east coast and in the south would make a difference if it was Civil War period?  

   My spoon, that I know for a fact was buried for a hundred years or so, was dug up a few years ago here in Southern California at the Graber Olive House.  It  looks quite different in color.  The pipes at the Graber Olive House were put in when C.C. Graber was building his business and house in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  My son called one day and said, "I found an old spoon buried by the pipes we worked on today.  I saved it for you.  It's not in great condition, but you may like it."  He brought it over that evening after work and I was tickled pink.  I had a spoon just like it, which hadn't been buried under several feet of dirt for a century, and I take the set to talks that I do occasionally for kids, museums and such. 

   I am always surprised that so many people are really fascinated to find out what their flatware would look like to be buried for so long.  School kids, and their teachers especially, want to feel both of the spoons and really look closely at them.

    So here are the 3 items again.  The folding spoon is the one in question.  The unique fork end like a "knork" is what stumps flatware enthusiasts like myself.  Is it supposed to be a variation of a knife, fork and spoon combination folding mess utensil? 

Anyone out there got any info on this utensil?  Please let me know if you do.
The fork and spoon folds completely and is quite heavy.  Not only is the fork end different in design from WWI foldable utensils I have seen, but the bowl of the spoon end has a raised edge.



  1. These are cool. Nice job on this post! I am sending the links to my friends. One said your combination utensil could possibly predate the civil war. You need to get these photos out to collectors of militaria items.

  2. I arrived home to find this posted. I love the "buried treasures". Marvelous! I agree with the poster's comment above. Call in an expert before you find yourself in another Hitler-dish situation. We still shake our heads over that particular relic.


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