Friday, September 12, 2008

Silverware in the sky—what decade is this?


Metal cutlery seemed like such a small thing in the olden days of flying. Who even thought much about it until it went the way of water past the security checkpoint? Now you just feel grateful if you're served anything in the air that requires the use of a knife, chintzy plastic or otherwise. We'll be telling out kids "I remember when they served food on aeroplanes—with actual metal cutlery!" instead of "I remember the days before remote controls!"

In our thrifting sojourns, the Other and I have taken to scrounging out airline silverware. We have so many dishes we don't know what to do with them all, but our cutlery has been bog-standard Ikea or some ming thing with twisted-loop ends that the Other bought before I moved in and demanded veto power. Since we can't afford the Arne Jacobsen cutlery I once loving caressed (in stainless and silver!) at St Catz, these airline relics seem like a fun way to go. We came across a few bits randomly and have built quite a collection over the past months. I guess people nicked the stuff as trophies for a collection, 'cause when we find one logo sticking up from a silverware bin, some digging usually reveals several more.

airline spoons
L to R (click images to enlarge): SAS, Air Canada, Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, Western Airlines, Lufthansa, Korean Air.

We really splashed out for a few choice pieces that were $2 each—not bad consider most were got for 25¢ or less. The one piece that's actually silver, the Pan Am spoon, was one of these big-ticket items. It was completely tarnished when we found it, but I managed to make out the logo, and the Other cleaned 'er up nicely with a little toothpaste! Pan Am was definitely on our wishlist, since there just seems to be something glamorous about America's only real international airline. Really, all the defunct airlines are extra fun; the Eastern spoons came from the most recent dig, but Western I'd never even heard of till I identified the logo.

airline knives
L to R: Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, Northwest Orient, Cathay Pacific, UTA, United.

Air Canada is another favourite as a nod to my Canadian heritage (so glad I didn't pay $15 a pop for the ones we saw in San Francisco!), and we were also happy to find the Lufthansa forks and spoons for the Other, who has spent much time in Germany. The flag carriers/national airlines seem more distinctive somehow, though it's also been fun to track down airlines I didn't recognize, especially when presented with only a logo. My family will vouch that I've always had a logo fetish (which sits oddly with my refusal to wear branded clothing). Now I know we had a KLM fork or something. Where the fridge has it gone??

airline forks
Top to bottom: Lufthansa, Mexicana, Iberia, American Airlines, EVA Air.

Aside from the logos, some of the cutlery is quite elegantly designed. The Cathay Pacific knife has to be one of my favourites. The very geometrical Lufthansa teaspoons are nice too, and so is the curvier Lufthansa fork from a different period. It's also interesting to look at the manufacturer's stamps to see pieces were made in the country of the airline's registry and which were made in Asia or Japan despite being registered elsewhere. And sometimes cutlery that looks essentially the same (we have multiples of some of the pieces) were made by different manufacturers in different places.

I'm not offended if you've just looked at the pictures, but if you're not bored yet, I compiled some figures for my own curiosity:
  • Total countries: 11
  • Total continents: 3
  • North American airlines: 8
  • Asian airlines: 5
  • European airlines: 4
  • Defunct or absorbed airlines: 4

Our eagle eyes are out the lookout for more (hopefully the summer dry spell will end at our local thrift stores!), especially these choice numbers:
  • British Airways—even better, something with the BOAC Speedbird! And while we're at it, throw in British Rail—who says we have to stop at air travel?
  • Braniff, especially from the Alexander Girard years
  • Continental from the Saul Bass years
  • TWA, the other long-gone American international airline
  • Qantas, especially if it shows the kangaroo!
  • Aeroflot, especially if it shows the hammer and sickle!
  • something from Africa, South America, and Australia to round out the continents
I'd totally be pinching them the next time I flew, but a plastic spork just doesn't have the same appeal.


Anonymous said...

hello, i might have some flatware from airlines. if you are interested, drop me a line diatr2002(at)

Anonymous said...

Since you like airline flatware, check this eBay auction out:

Hundreds of pieces!

Anonymous said...


I collect airline spoons and have lots of duplicates to trade.
Please have a look at

and go to the contact page if you are interested.