Curator’s Corner” Wedding gifts

Pieces of history in the form of wedding gifts at the museum

Welcome to the second half of our wedding series. We hope you enjoyed part one on wedding dresses. This week we will be discussing objects in our collection that were given as wedding gifts. Scholars believe the tradition of wedding gifts originated with the dowry in ancient times. Typically a dowry involved a parent transferring property and goods to a daughter and her new husband (or even his family). While there are many variations and legal terms involving dowries, the spirit of nuptial gift giving is said to have derived from this custom.

One of the most popular gifts to give a bride and groom is fine china. Within the museum’s collection are two cake plates (1978.055.020a-b) given to Ed and Jean Robinson as a wedding gift from Mrs. Mary Poirier in 1939.  The plates have a squarish shape with scalloped corners. They are ivory coloured and have gold borders. Each plate has a different colourful picturesque scene in the middle. One plate has a picture of a mill wheel, cottage and stream with greenery. Written below the picture is its title “The Old Mill.” The second plate has a picture of a cottage with a stone path and garden. This scene is titled “Summer Time.” Stamped on the bottom of both plates is, “Princess cake plate made in England 22ct Gold” and “10/3.”

Another wedding gift we have is an iron trivet (1978.087.001). A trivet is a 3-legged stand that is placed over top of a fire for a pot or kettle to stand on. This particular trivet was made by Adolphus Poirier and was given to his sister Isabel and her new husband Andrew Davidson. This circa 1895 artifact has an iron base, a wooden handle and brass rivets. The handle is in poor condition as it has turned black and split in half lengthwise.

A recent donation to the museum is a very unique and personal gift. This donation is a remarkable wooden cutlery set (2014.015.002a-e) carved by Olof Frederickson for his bride-to-be, Violet Doran. Olof, born in Sweden, carved the set in Jordan River in 1926. The set comes in a wooden box with a lid and has cork stoppers inside holding the cutlery in place. The box houses five knives, five small spoons, five large spoons and five forks. Each utensil is hand carved and very delicate. On the handles of the spoons and forks are raised diamond shaped carvings. Aside from a few chips, the set is in excellent condition. It is believed the set is made from a local soft wood and it is unknown if the cutlery was ever used. This is perhaps the most unique donation the museum has received in 2014. Olaf also carved two wooden book covers for large scrapbooks on the history of the Sooke Community Association. The first scrapbook, Volume One, is on display in the museum’s All Sooke Day exhibit. Interestingly, the ancient Roman traditions of gift giving between engaged couples had strict rules. Originally, if a man were to give his prospective wife a gift, Roman law allowed it to only be received before the nuptials and not afterwards.

In First Nations culture, giving baskets as wedding gifts is quite common. On display in the museum’s basketry exhibit is a basket made by Agnes George and given to Bill and Edie Baker as a wedding gift in the 1920s (1988.026.001a-b). The circular basket is made of a fine cedar weave and has a matching lid. Around the sides of the basket are small images of two canoes and two ducks in varying shades of brown. On the lid are four small ducks as well. The inside of the lid has red, blue and green detail. The colours inside the basket are much darker than they are on the outside. This is likely a result of age and exposure to light.

Brianna Shambrook
Collections and Exhibits Manager

Sooke Region Museum

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