Commemorative teaspoon, Sydney Harbour Bridge, silver electroplate/enamel, Australia, c. 1932
This commemorative teaspoon, made of electroplated nickel silver (EPNS), is thought to date from the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Perhaps the nation's greatest building project of the twentieth century, the Bridge became a well-known symbol that represented Australia to the world.
Construction began in 1923 and the Bridge was officially opened on Saturday 19 March 1932. The Sydney Harbour Bridge Celebrations Committee organised a week of 'pageantry and display that would advertise to the world the faith and pride we have in our State and Capital'. The state government declared the 19th a public holiday and so the official opening attracted thousands of spectators. An estimated 750,000 lined the city streets along the path of the pageant and gathered on Observatory Hill.
The Premier, the Hon JT Lang, made a speech but before he could cut the ribbon, Captain Francis de Groot of the New Guard rode up and slashed it exclaiming 'in the name of the decent and loyal citizens of New South Wales I declare this bridge open!' The ribbon was retied and Lang opened the Bridge.
The eventful day the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened became an important marker in many people's lives, and mementoes such as this teaspoon were treasured. The opening inspired the production of a range of souvenirs. A contemporary observer writing for the Melbourne 'Argus' commented 'For months every shop window has been filled with bridge souvenirs -- pictures, ash-trays, pintrays, tea-trays, cushions, handbags, brooches, paper weights, handkerchiefs, and even curtains. Street vendors have made money beyond their wildest hopes from bridge mementoes, and to-day everyone will want a souvenir' ('Argus' newspaper, 1932, quoted in Peter Spearritt, 'The Sydney Harbour Bridge', George Allen & Unwin, 1982, p113).
The lookout in the south-east pylon became a retail outlet for such souvenirs. Most of the metal products, including matchbox holders, ashtrays, plaques and teaspoons, were made in Australia. These products, once regarded as kitsch, are now sought by hundreds of collectors. Since 1932 the Bridge has continued to inspire more souvenirs that any other structure in Australia.
Spoons marking important national events first appeared at the time of Federation in 1901. The Powerhouse Museum's collection contains numerous other examples of silver and EPNS giftware.
Caroline Mackaness (ed), 'Bridging Sydney', Historic Houses Trust, 2006
Peter Spearritt, 'The Sydney Harbour Bridge', George Allen & Unwin, 1982