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Among the collection of things are several place settings and various specialized utensils: some butter knives, gravy spoons, fish knives, etc. They are of different sets and styles. Most are silver, some have bone handles, some have wood.

2021-04-10 Basement Archeology, 2023-05 Heirlooms, Content, Dark, Image type, Photography, Projects, Still life, Technology

The dominance of silver suggests an elevation in class. The families of both my father’s parents were involved in someway in the toy industry, and appear to have been quite successful. I will estimate that this affluence started in the 1890s, as their respective careers began, and if that is the case then these items might date back to that period.

Another possibility lies with my great-great grandfather, Jonas Hertha, who at one point was occupied as a Bierwirth[2] and then later as a Privatier [3] [1]. Having said that, both events point to the latter part of the 19th century.

I suspect each piece of cutlery has its own history, but I don’t know what it is. All I can say is they are from my father’s parents. They reflect a confusing background-noise of stuff, individually interesting, but almost senseless and unexplainable as a collection. Yet they are something I hold on to regardless, if not because of a tenuous connection, then because I’m afraid to let go.

[1]: A third option is that these things are from my grandmother’s side of the family, but of them I know very little, beyond my great-grandfather, Heinrich Schellhorn who owned and operated a toy factory at 4 Bahnhofstraße in Sonneberg
[2]: In late 19th century Thuringia, the term “Bierwirth” referred to an innkeeper or publican who owned or operated a beer tavern. The Bierwirth played a significant role in the local community as they were responsible for providing a space for social gatherings, serving beer and other beverages, and often offering food and lodging to travellers.
[3]: The term “Privatier” was commonly used in Germany to describe individuals who had achieved a level of financial success and could afford to live independently without the need for regular work or employment. It was a designation that highlighted one’s ability to enjoy a life of relative leisure and independence, free from the obligations of traditional employment. I think today we might use the term “retired”.


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