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The History of the Spork

Combination utensils are surprisingly old! Medieval diners used double-ended utensils called sucket forks to eat candied fruits — each one had a spoon on one end for gathering the syrup and tines on the other end for spearing the sweetened fruits. In the 1800s, diners ate turtles using terrapin forks and enjoyed ice cream with ice cream forks — both utensils were made of silver and featured a shallow bowl that extended into tines. However, credit for the first spork generally goes to a Rhode Island doctor named Samuel W. Francis, who filed a patent for his creation in 1874. It was entitled “Combined Knives, Forks and Spoons” and featured a spoon with tines on the front and a blade attached to one side. However, Francis’ invention didn’t catch on. Later, another 3-in-1 utensil called the splayd was created by an Australian named William McArthur, who introduced it to the public at his wife’s Sydney café in the 1940s. It was later mass-produced in the 1960s and became a popular wedding gift because it was frequently used at buffets and barbecues. The word “spork” first came into the lexicon in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t trademarked by an American company until 1970. From there, the spork — this time manufactured from plastic rather than metal and featuring a simple spoon-with-tines structure — finally took off. It became popular at fast-food joints, school lunch counters, and even in prisons, in part because it was simultaneously affordable to produce, lightweight, versatile, and conveniently disposable. Today, the spork is a well-known utensil that most people have encountered, and interestingly, it has even come full circle, as metal versions similar to Francis’s original creation are now manufactured for camping and other outdoor pursuits.

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