A close-up look at the lettuce fork monogram.
Arnolda von Oven's elaborate cursive monogram from a fork, c. 1881. Click the image to enlarge it.
Olga Jatho's monogram on a silver spoon, c.1920.
It's an unusual source but it's surprising what's revealed. We examined these pieces courtesy of one of our cousins, a descendant of G.W. Jatho's oldest surviving son George. The lettuce fork above reveals something interesting about our Jathos...and yes, once upon a time people really bought forks for lettuce!
The wide-spaced tines of the fork above come from a very old set of sterling silverware, used during the last half of the nineteenth century. The monogram is a single "J" (shown in a closeup at right), and there's another serving fork with a similar "J" (at left).
We know that G.W. Jatho of Charleston was a watchmaker and jeweler. It's also possible that he may have known something about engraving.
Is this his work, or that of one of his associates? Tempting to speculate! What's likely at least is that both these forks were used at the table of G.W. and Elise Jatho in Charleston. The single Old English initial on this fork is typical of a family set of cutlery.
Daughters putting together a wedding trousseau would more commonly use two initials representing their first name and maiden surname. If Elise Schuchmann had any silverware at the time of her marriage to G.W. about 1850, it has not survived.
Two examples of bridal monograms are at right. A very ornate fork shows the initial script letters A-von-O, for Arnolda von Oven. Arnolda's daughter Olga Jatho had her own set of silverware a generation later.
Can we learn from dishes? A little! In the same collection is a set of dishes of a unique and intricate pattern. Click the plate to enlarge the image, and please be patient while it loads---it's large to show decorative details.
The set was made by Limoges of Paris and was marketed in the United States by Haviland and Company. The design is concentrated along the rim of the plate and consists of sprays of lavender, pomegranates, grapes, floral buds, mixed with bands of leaves and a few fluttering butterflies for good measure.
Limoges manufactured over 30,000 patterns, so locating the exact name of this one would be problematical. But we have another resource. All china (from humble restaurant ware to the finest porcelain) has a backstamp on the underside of the dish. This plate's backstamp dates it to 1876-1880. At least two Jatho ladies were married about this time.
Arnolda von Oven married George Jatho in Charleston in April 1881. But an equally likely candidate is G.W.'s and Elise's older daughter Pauline Jatho, who married the lawyer Marcellus Foster in December 1875. China was a typial gift at this time for newly married ladies just starting their own homes. The widowed Pauline lived with George and Arnolda and their daughters until her death in 1926.
But whomever this set belonged to, this china and silverware has survived to give us a tantalyzing glimpse at the decorative tastes of our ancestors.