Object Record

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Object Name Spoon,
Subject Domestic Life
Food Preparation
Furnishings and Accessories
Category 10: Unclassifiable Artifacts
Sub-category Need to Classify
Accession Number 1973.035.129
Donor Anthony Taulbut
Description Scorpion for handle - made of brass - 19th to 20th century
Provenance This brass spoon is believed to be from the late 19th to early 20th century. The bowl of the spoon, which is held in the pincers of a decorative scorpion, is very round and wide. This suggests that the spoon's purpose was to measure out and serve medicine rather than be used for food consumption. The scorpion may also suggest a medicinal purpose as scorpion venom has a history of curing ailments such as mumps, tetanus and arthritis. As a late Victorian spoon, it may very well have held the medicine dubbed as "the aspirin of the 19th century", otherwise known as laudanum. Laudanum was a popular alcoholic and herbal mixture which was used as a painkiller and relaxant, and it contained 10% opium. It was a remedy for ailments such as coughs, rheumatism, "women's troubles" such as menstrual cramps and the pains of childbirth, and was even used as a "calming" sedative for babies and young children. The use of it is disturbing to consider nowadays as it was quite addictive. Laudanum addicts would experience a euphoric high which was followed by bouts of depression. Withdrawal included aches and cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but the substance was not truly recognized as addictive until the early 20th century. Aspirin was introduced around that time and the popularity of laudanum and other opium-based medicines eventually died out.