Mustaches flourished all throughout the Victorian years. Great gobs of wax were melted and then applied to the mustache to keep the curls intact.
And therein lay a problem that cropped up when steaming hot cups of coffee or tea were carried up to the mouth for sipping. The steam melted the wax and sent it right into the cup. Another problem soon became apparent. Sipping hot tea or coffee, moustaches often became stained.
Finally, Harvey Adams, an innovative Englishman, in 1860 made an unusual invention, “the mustache cup”. The mustache cup had a ledge, called a mustache guard, across the cup. The guard had one semicircular opening against the side of the cup. The pampered mustache rested safe and dry on the mustache guard sipping hot beverage through the opening.
A later addition was the mustache spoon, invented in the latter half of the 19th century to allow the man to consume liquids without spillage onto either the mustache or clothing.
The first patented mustache spoon was claimed in March 1868 by New York spoon designer, Solon Ferrer, and was a soup spoon with a guard to hold the mustache free and unsoiled of the liquid beneath it.
In the letter patent No. 135,141, dated January 21, 1873, a mustache spoon is described as:
“…the shield being such that, while it permits the user of the spoon to receive into the bowl by the usual dipping process a proper quantity of soup, the latter can be conveyed to the mouth without any portion of the liquid being brought into contact with the mustache… The shield extends longitudinally from the tip of the bowl to the point where the latter is united to the handle, so as to leave about one-half of the bowl exposed. The shield, however, is so cut away as to leave an opening of such dimensions that it can be easily overlapped and underlapped by the lips, and yet permit the contents of the bowl, when the latter is tilted, to flow freely into the mouth…”
Mustache spoons, known as “etiquette spoons”, were highly popular in the Victorian era and more than twenty patents were obtained in the US to improve and ameliorate their use. Mustache spoons were made for left and right-handed gentlemen and some have detachable guards.
The majority of mustache spoons date from the late 19th century through the early 20th century at which time the favor of mustaches began to decline.
Reed & Barton is one of the main American makers, with their late 19th century “Master Mustache Spoon”. Other known makers in the UK include George Adams and John Round and Son, Ltd. A later reproduction (20th century) of the original “Master Mustache spoon” was issued by Reed & Barton and offered in gift or collector’s box with a red flannel blanket.