Friday, December 5, 2008

1874: the spork is patented

It is believed that the modern spork, a combined spoon and fork made of disposable plastic, was introduced by Kentucky Fried Chicken for eating coleslaw in the early 1970s; but this fast-food fixture actually goes back to Medieval times. Ancient sporks, however, were not called sporks, weren't made of plastic, and didn't look like modern sporks.

In England, the Folgate Silver Plate Company made sporks sometime between 1875 and 1900. In the US, various patents for sporks and proto-sporks have been issued over the years. A combined spoon, fork, and knife closely resembling the modern spork was invented by Samuel W. Francis and patented in 1874. Other early patents predating the modern spork include a "Cutting spoon", granted in 1908 and a spoon with a tined edge in 1912. These design patents do not prevent others from designing and manufacturing their own version of a spork. Modern US patents for sporks were granted in 1978 and 1998.

The word spork originated in the early 1900s to describe such devices. According to a December 20, 1952 New York Times article, Hyde W. Ballard of Westtown, Pennsylvania filed an application to register "Spork" as a trademark for a combination spoon and fork made of stainless steel. The Van Brode Milling Company registered SPORK for a combination plastic spoon, fork and knife in 1970, but abandoned the registration.

While the most common sporks are plastic throwaways, some are more durable, including lightweight titanium sporks for camping. Several recent spork-like utensils have the spoon and fork on opposite ends, and others have knife-like cutting edges. (some info from Wikipedia)

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