Category Archives: Artifacts – Heirlooms

Silver and Stones: New Use for Heirloom Silver

In the process of moving and de-accessioning a lot of my china, glass and silver heirlooms (Dec-accessioning sounds so much better than “getting rid of”), I rediscovered one of my favorite silver pieces. It will stay in my new home, because I found a new/double life for it.

Some Silver Heirlooms Are Not Favorites

I am amused at the way that Victorians had a piece of china, crystal and silver for every purpose you could think of. There was the dessert fork, the pickle fork, the olive fork, the fish fork. And besides the dinner plate, salad plate and dessert plate, there was a bone dish to delicately dispose of the bones from your chicken or fish. When it came to service pieces, you could get a glass and silver plate pickle castor, complete with tongs to grab a pickle. Note that the end of the tong is a little hand.  I don’t know whether this is clever or creepy.

Pickle Caster

Pickle caster–Hattie Stout. Late 19th century.

This pickle caster belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout. She gave it to Jenny McDowell King who gave it to her daughter Alice King who gave it to Vera Stout Anderson who gave it to my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser. (Alice King was a cousin of Vera Anderson’s husband Guy–not a blood relative of Hattie Stout, but apparently close to the family.)

Some Silver Heirlooms Become Favorites

But I digress.  The piece I want to show you today is a spoon holder.  And since it is too small, at 7 1/2″ at the very tip of the longest point, to comfortably hold regular teaspoons, I have to assume that it held demitasse or coffee spoons for fancy tea parties.  This silver dish belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout, passed down to my grandmother and then my mother. Unlike the pickle caster above, I have kept this one polished.

Hattie Stout’s silver spoon holder.

In the next photo, the maker’s mark shows lightly.  Even with a magnifying glass, I had trouble seeing the entire name of the maker, but could make out Van B—- Silver Plate Co., Quadruple Plate, Rochester New York, 350.

Silver Spoon Holder Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark on bottom of spoon holder

Dectective Work on the Silver Heirloom

A little internet detective work quickly revealed that the company name is Van Bergh Silver Plate Co.  They apparently used quadruple plate on many of their creations–making them more lasting than those with only one coat of silver plate.  The “350” is the catalog number for this particular design.  I could not find any matching pieces on line.

A site that helps people find missing pieces of silver or china is particularly helpful in getting information on companies–particularly those that have gone out of business or sold to another company.  Checking Replacements Ltd,, I quickly found the Van Bergh company and saw many of their beautiful creations.  From various other sources, I learned that Van Bergh Silverplate  Company of Rochester, NY was founded by brothers Frederick W. and Maurice H. Van Bergh in 1892. They incorporated as Van Bergh Silver Plate Company Inc. in 1925, and merged with Oneida Community Ltd. in 1926.

That means Great-Grandma’s silver piece was made some time during a 34-year period.  Since the number of the pattern is small (I saw numbers in the 8000 range), I assume that this was an earlier piece, which makes sense in that she was married in 1872, and her husband died in 1910.  Their greatest period of acquisition would have been between 1880 and 1900, when Doc” Stout had a successful medical practice. So I think a good guess is that this piece was manufactured in the 1890s.

From Ohio to the Tasmanian Sea

I have repurposed the spoon holder. (My guests would probably look at me strangely if I presented spoons for coffee in a fancy dish like this.)

The picture below shows Great-Grandmother’s spoon holder with rocks collected on the shore of the Tasmanian sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. So it becomes a reminder of my family past and my travels.  This little silver dish has come a long way in time and holds a collection that came a long way in distance.


Hattie Stout Silver Spoon Holder with stones from Tasmanian Sea

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)?  Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.

Heirlooms Introduce Stone Sisters and Create Mysteries

When I found my Grandma Vera and my Great Aunt Maude Stout’s autograph books, I did not realize that I would also discover a family of relatives that I was unaware of–the Stone sisters.

Will and Maud Stout

Will M. Stout and Mary (Maude) Stout, May, 1881 (Probably taken the day that Vera Stout was born.)

Maude Stout Autograph Book

Maude Stout autograph book cover. 1886. Signatures of the Stone sisters in this book.

I talked last week about Grandma Vera’s autograph book, and showed a picture of her book along with two that belonged to her older sister Maude.  Since the types of inscriptions, drawings, stickers, verses, are similar in both, I won’t share as many of the pages from Aunt Maude’s. The thing that seemed most obvious to me came in comparing the empty pages–one or two in Vera’s book and many in Maude’s book.  Maude seems to have a higher percentage of older people signing her book–along with the “signature” of her little sister Vera. You can see the effort of the 4-year-old Vera in the previous post. By the way, Maude spelled her name without the final “e” when she was younger, but came to use the “e” in adulthood.

Maud’s signature on inside cover of autograph book.

Maude’s smaller book (cover pictured above) measures 3 1/4 ” by 5 1/4″ and has 38 pages (76 writing surfaces). On those page, Maude collected just 18 signatures in 1886 and 1888. (none in 1887).

The larger book measures 4 1/2″ x 7″ and contains 45 pages plus a printed cover page.  In that book, Maude collected signatures in the years 1885, 1886, 1888, 1889, 1890 and 1892, and one in 1895, so from the time she was thirteen years old until she was twenty-three, she would get out her autograph book from time to time.

Autograph book cover

Cover of the larger of Maude Stout’s two autograph books.

The pages are intact with very little wear showing, which indicates to me that she used the book less, and perhaps went back to it less frequently than Vera’s book. In that book the pages are fragile and edges are torn.

Maude and Vera are the two Stout sisters of the title.  In Aunt Maude Stout’s book, I spotted signatures of two Stone sisters from Guernsey County–Mary A. Stone and Hattie (Harriette Stone). That sent me on an interesting search, because although there are many Stone relatives in my line, I was not aware that the Stout sisters were in touch with the Stone sisters of Guernsey County.  Huge thanks to a cousin, descendant of the family of Mary and Hattie for his shared research and many, many photographs.

These children were orphaned when Mary was 14, Hattie was 13, and their brother  just eleven when their father died. Their mother had died three years earlier. This picture of the Stone sisters and their brother could very well be from the day of their father’s funeral.

The Stone Cousins

Mary, Frank and Harriet /Hattie Stone, from collection of pearson1295 on

The Stone sisters were older than their cousins the Stout sisters. I find it interesting that Mary Augusta Stone, the older sister would have been 23 years old when she signed 14-year-old Maude’s book.

Cousin Mary Stone 1886,

Cousin Mary Stone 1886, Cambridge, OH, Autograph in Maud Stout’s autograph book

Dear Maud Remember that “Practice makes perfect.”  “Cousin Mary”. Perservere.  Cambridge, O. Oct 9th 1886,

This is interesting because I remember Aunt Maude playing the piano  in the 1940s and 1950s after she had moved back to Killbuck Ohio from Buffalo.  According to the census, she taught piano in Buffalo after her husband died in the early 20th century.

Mary signed the book twice on the same day..

Cousin Mary Stone, 1886

Cousin Mary Stone , Cambridge, OH 1886 in Maud Stout’s autograph book

 Elmwood.  Dear Maud

Great deeds are before you and great songs; If crowned or crownless when you fall , It matters not so God’s work is done.  Your loving cousin Mary A. Stone, Cambridge, Oct. 9th 1886.

Hattie Stone, just a year younger than Mary Stone, signed the book at age 22.

Autograph of Cousin Hattie Stone

Cousin Hattie Stone, Cambridge, OH 1886 in Maud Stout’s autograph book.

Maud “Be a good sweet maid and let who will be clever. Do noble things, not drum them all day long, And so make life, death, and that vast forever, One grand sweet song.”  Lovingly, Hattie Stone, Oct. 13th 1886, Cambridge, Ohio.

In Maude’s second book, Hattie signed again the following day:

“Let us press with free and willing fee along the King’s Highway of Holiness.” Lovingly, Hattie L. Stone.  Oct. 14th 1886.  In the margin it says Cambridge, Ohio.

The Stone sisters were not the only relatives to sign Maude’s books. Another cousin from Guernsey County, May Hays, also signed Maude’s book. The Stout girls were related to Lillie May Hays through her mother, the sister of their father Dr. William Stout. I was not surprised to see May Hays signature in Maude’s autograph book, since  I have written about the Stout family’s road trips to Guernsey County to visit their Stout relatives. I also wrote about May (Lillie May) and her mother here.  You may want to go back to read what I have found of the somewhat unusual story of May’s life.  May was 17 when she signed Maude’s book, and Maude was 14.

Mattie Stout's daughter

Mattie Stout Hays’ daughter Lillie May Hays McFarland -Cousin May Hays


Cousin May Hays

Autograph of cousin May Hays, Guernsey County, Ohio, 1889

Aug 14 ’99

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall. Your Aff Coz May Hays

“Remember our horseback ride”

Since the women were all older than Maude, herself nine years older than Vera, it makes sense that Vera did not have these cousins’ signatures in her book several years later.

Although Vera’s signatures almost all come from Killbuck, Ohio, several of Maude’s come from other places.  I am at a loss to explain that, because I don’t have information about her school years. She may have spent some of those years in a private academy away from home, rather than the public school.  These missing years particularly annoyed me when I read in one of the signatures, “Remember the winter of 91-92. Remember May 19 and the sights we seen.” The entry is dated May 20, 1892. And the signer, Lizzie Henderson is from Fredericksburg. (a town in a county neighboring Killbuck). Who is Lizzie?  What were those marvelous ‘sights we seen’? What was special about that winter?  I will never know.

But the page that mystifies me the most is this one.

Signature of Sula Webb

Cousin Sula Webb, Iowa

Who is this mystery cousin? I presently have no Webbs in my family tree, and so far have not been able to locate this Sula Webb.  There is a Sula Webb who is a physician in Iowa. Since she is an eclectic medicine doctor, the same as Maude’s father and her uncle George Stout, that hints at a possible connection. A preliminary search has not turned up very much information.  That is how it goes in research. Every new discovery opens up many new questions.

I am excited to learn about the Stone sisters, but so many new questions now face me in my research.

“Remember Me”–Heirloom Autograph Books

Some heirlooms really bring to life their owners and their time.  I am thrilled to have three autogaph books from the 1880s and 90s that belonged to my Great-Aunt Mary Emmeline “Maude” Stout (Bartlett) 1875-1963 and to my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) 1881-1964.  Every page is precious, but I only have space to share a few pages with you.

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books. That is NOT Maude’s photograph on the bottom left book.

Paging through the autograph books, I notice that my grandmother Vera’s is packed full, while the two by Aunt Maude have many blank pages.  Also, there are more boy’s signatures in my grandmother’s book.  This confirms my impression that grandma was always more sociable and probably more popular than her more serious sister.  The inscriptions in both range from religious in nature to silly verses.

My grandmother’s book seems to have been a Christmas gift in 1890 when she was nine years old. The first signatures in the book are from New Year’s Eve, 1890. The book is nine inches wide and six inches high. There are 34 pages in all, with signatures on both sides of all pages except the title page. The pages have become very brittle and edges are disintegrating.  Most pages are tan (presumably originally more white) but a few are pastel shades. While some pages seem as clear as the day they were written, some have faded considerably and are difficult to read.

The first entry is Vera’s invitation to her friends. She always had beautiful hand writing, but I am amazed that this was written by a nine-year-old.

Vera's Autograph Book page one.

Invitation to sign my book, written by Vera Stout

To All

My Album open! Come and see!

What! Won’t you waste a line on me?

Write but a thought– a word or two

That Memory may reverse to you.

Note:  The words in italic are added in a different hand as though someone was improving her poem.

Some of the entries are very plain, but some are quite fancy. In this case, decorated by the friend, Carrie Wood, who wrote a plainer entry later in the book.

Autograph Book fancy page

Artwork by Vera’s friend, Carrie Wood, 1892

Carrie’s embellished words say

Feb. 16, 1892, Killbuck Ohio From your true friend (___?) Dear Vera Remember me in the days of thy youth. Strive and you will win Strive + Diligence leads to Victory. From your true friend and schoolmate. Carrie Wood

Some adults signed the book, too–church and school officials.  Here are signatures by two adults with more artwork.

Autograph book adult signature

Art work by the Superintendent, S. D. Lisle and wife 1891

Dear Vera:

“A man that can tell good advice from bad advice, does not need advice.”  Mrs. S. D. Lisle

To be content with little is already a step towards greatness.”  S. B. Lisle, Supt. Schools.  Killbuck, Ohio, Jan. 12, 1891.

For those not confident of their artistic talent, the book apparently came with stickers from which the signers could choose.

Autograph book with sticker

Autograph book page with sticker 1891

Killbuck, Ohio, Jan 10, 1891

Friend Vera, “Do good deeds And You will be rewarded.”  Your friend, Lillie Wilson.

Every autograph book has to have some of these silly sayings, and the same ones might have shown up in my own autograph book fifty years later.  Boys, particularly, did not want to say anything mushy or religious.

Autograph book silly verse

Charley Lowe, silly boy May 1892

Killbuck, Ohio, May 12, 1892. Vera.  Remember me when far away If only half awake, Remember me on your wedding day, and send me a piece of cake.  Charley Lowe. (Bottom corner; “Remember”)

Most precious to me in these autograph books are the signatures of Vera’s brother Will (William Morgan Stout) and her sister Maude and other relative and friends I know.

Unfortunately, Will’s page has faded very badly, but I am delighted to say that he signed as “Bro” which is the way that my brother signs notes to me as well.

Autograph Book-Brother's signature

William Stout signature 1893

I am not absolutely certain of the year, thinking at first it was 1899, but by then he would have been in New York in School, so 1893 is more likely. He would have been 19 years old.

Feb. 9, 1893

Compliments of your Bro, W. M. Stout

Short message, but I love the sweeping hand in which he writes, full of confidence.

Maude, the 16-year-old sister, had advice to impart from her advanced age. Interestingly, she signs these pages as Maud (with no “e” on the end), but as an adult, she signed with an “e”–Maude, so that is the spelling I use.

Autograph Book -Sister

Message from Sister Maud Stout 1891

Killbuck Ohio, January 21, 1891

Dear Sister, “When the name that I write here is dim on the page and leaves of your album are yellow with age, still think of me kindly and do not forget that where ever I am I remember you yet”  Your loving Sister Maud Stout

The following year, Maud wrote another entry with an interesting P.S. at the bottom.

Maude’s autograph

Killbuck Ohio    Sister Vera

Ever keep in mind that the virtues of modesty candor and truth in woman exceed all the beauty of youth. Your sister Maud

May 20, 1892 [Grandma’s 11th birthday was May 23] Your last day of school in the old tin shop.

I have no idea what exactly that means, but apparently the town was building a new school. And this was the school in 1893. Grandma is to the left of the teacher in the front row.

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Finally, tucked away in the book is a piece of paper art with the initials of brother Will Stout, and a page from the man who made the art.

Autograph Book

Stencil W. S. (William Stout)

Autograph book Paper Art

Signed by makir of the paper art


J.R. Welker was a Floral Cut, Paper Artist. I imagine like penmanship teachers and photographers, Welker traveled from town to town, demonstrating and displaying his art for sale in a public place, and perhaps teaching the art while he was there.

Miss Vera  January 18th 1892/

Perhaps, some day on some far distant shore/like one bereft of friends, I’ll sadly roam,/Endearing charms of those I’ll see no more,/dictating thoughts of love, of joy, and home./Gay as the Butterfly that sips the morning dew/each graceful air shall be, my ____paints for you.

{In the white cut-out in the upper left corner} I love a little lady yes it is true/I think that little lady is one like you/ And I think no affection can ever love vain/For what one loses th eother will gain.}

Oh, my, I can just see little Vera begging her mother to buy all of Mr. Welker’s art work after reading that romantic message.

When I look at my autograph book from when I was about the same age, I can only remember a couple of those people pleading with me to remember them.  However, Killbuck, Ohio was a small town and people grew up together.  I recognize some of these names and know that they were life-long friends.

Oh, I cannot close without adding one more page–this one from Aunt Maud’s autograph book, where Vera, then 4 years old, added her signature.  The woman who would learn to write so beautifully, had not yet mastered the art. Fortunately someone, probably her mother Hattie Morgan Stout added the necessary information.

Maud's Autograph book--Vera

Vera at 4 years old New Year’s Day 1886 in Maud Stout’s book.