A Brief History of The Spork

What the spork?

The Spork is a confusing utensil, that in theory has the scooping and liquid-holding properties of a spoon, combined with the food-stabbing features of a fork. However, with the spoon part too shallow to hold an acceptable amount of soup, and tines too short and stubby to properly penetrate anything firmer than a canned peach, the spork has become one of the longest standing jokes in culinary history.

But where did this malformed utensil come from? What was the reasoning behind this seemingly useless eating tool? And most importantly, who is ultimately responsible for inventing it? Foodiggity has the answer… sort of.

Spork, the early days

Utilty Patent #843,953 by George Laramy, 1907

Based on both filed and abandoned patents throughout the years, the origin and original inventor of the spork, is as confusing as the utensil itself. And the first versions of the spork date back further than you might think.

A combined spoon and fork appears to have been invented by Samuel W. Francis, and issued US Patent 147,119, in February 1874. George Laramy of New Hampshire, patented a ‘table utensil’ in 1907 (seen above), and probably the best example of the merger gone horribly wrong.

We were subjected to many different versions of the utensil over the next 50 years. Although these previous efforts laid the groundwork for the modern day spork, they were still overlooking one small detail, and probably the reason for the spork’s unexplainable longevity — the term ‘spork’ itself. But even the origin of this portmanteau is shrouded in mystery.

Don’t call it a ‘Foon’

The term ‘spork’ was apparently referenced as far back as 1909, in the Century Dictionary supplement. But it wasn’t until 1969 that the Van Brode Milling Co. in Massachusetts, first attempted to trademark the term — or so it would seem. According to a 1952 New York Times article, Hyde Ballard of Pennsylvania, had the mashup on the brain, and filed an application to register “Spork”.

Regardless, and not unlike those who have come before in spork history, both attempts to own the franken-utensil were left on the table. Thus, opening the floodgates for future ‘sporks’ and spork-like products.

Where are they now?

While receiving some reimagining over the years, modern day sporks still retain their original intent as a two-tools-in-one solution. But with advancements in technology and creativity, so are the liberties taken with the materials used to make them. From stainless steel to titanium, they are extremely popular with campers, and those who retain a strong sense of humor while they eat. And, if you’re into some virtual spork action, there’s of course an app for that.

So eaters, what is your experience with the spork? Does the concept still make you giggle, or have you found some practicality in the dual utensil?



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