When I came across the following utensils with the “Napier” mark, I thought they were lovely… and unusual.
The pieces are only just over 6 inches in length and the bowls are 3 inches wide. What were they? Salad servers, a dessert or ice cream serving set? What? The “fork” tips are very sharp. So, being the snoopy sort of person I am, I got on the internet and searched, sure that I would find an answer. But I didn’t. I still do not know what the intended use was. But I did find some very creative Napier cocktail related ads.
Napier started out in North Attleboro, MA in 1878 under the name of the E. A. Blisss Co. manufacturing gilt men’s watch chains. The company moved to Meriden, CT in 1890. During World War I (and again during World War II) they ceased jewelry production and produced war related items such as medals and medallions. James Napier became president of the company in 1920 and the company was renamed The Napier-Bliss Co. In 1922 the company name was changed to The Napier Company. The company was bought by Victoria & Company in 1999, and is still manufacturing jewelry today under the umbrella of Jones Apparel Group.
Although most people think of jewelry when it comes to Napier, the company was very successful with their line of barware, much of which is highly collectible today. They manufactured “The Penguin” cocktail shaker, which was designed by Emil A. Schuelke and patented in 1936. This figural shaker is rare and very desirable as is their “Dial A Drink” shaker. But, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to concentrate on their cocktail related novelty line.
Shown above is the earliest Napier novelty ad I could find. It came from the November 1922 issue of Vanity Fair. Remember, the company was renamed The Napier Company in 1922 and this must have been one of their earliest ads. Actually, most ads with Napier products were retailer ads. I didn’t find that The Napier Company advertised themselves to any great degree. The ad above ran during prohibition. They show both New York and Paris addesses and call their flask a “flasque”. The top becomes a collapsible drinking cup. Creative, no?
There is quite a lag between the 1922 ad and the 1931 ad shown above for the three-in-one spoon. Again, this is still during prohibition and there is no mention of cocktails in the wording. They state “it is good for cooking as well as for preparing all kinds of beverages.” I believe Napier manufactured a sterling version of this spoon without the bottle opener. The Meriden Daily Journal, December 21, 1931 edition, ran an article about local pilots being given Napier “silver jigger spoons”. I’ve seen both versions of these spoons with “Patent Applied” or “Patent Pending” on them. I have never seen one with an actual patent number. It is interesting to note that a patent for a similar spoon was issued to J. A. Lavin on May 5, 1931.
Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933 and the words “jigger” and “cork screw” were being used in ads clearly related to alcoholic beverages. The Red Cap Caddy ad above dates to 1940 and this gadget was patented on April 11, 1939. I’ve never actually seen one of these; they must be very rare.
The 1947 Pittsburgh Post Gazette ad above shows the Napier “silver-plated valve jigger on stand” which “automatically releases liquid”.
The ad shown above is from a 1948 issue of the Milwaukee Journal. It offers two sizes of jiggers, the “jumbo jigger” and the “horse-and-pony”. I have a jumbo jigger for sale at my Etsy shop:
This jigger is truly jumbo in size. It is a double jigger with a two ounce measure on one end and a four ounce jigger on the other. It is over 4 inches tall and has a good weight to it.
The Shreve Crump & Low ad above is from a November 1952 Boston Symphony Orchestra Programme. Extremely creative design and only 4 inches tall.
The ad above is from a September 1953 issue of the Milwaukee Journal. The silver gavel like double jigger is for use by the “Chairman of the bar”.
I think the personal shaker shown above might be my favorite design. The base has a built in strainer and the top can be used as a drinking cup (that doubles as a cigarette urn as it says in the ad…yuck!). It holds only four ounces. But where do you get the teeny weeny ice cubes needed for this shaker? The ad came from an October 1953 issue of the Wilmington Sunday Star.
The ad above is from a February 1954 issue of the Joplin Globe. The graduated measuring cup shown is a classic design….very popular and reproduced today by another company.
And talk about popular! The “bottoms up” jigger shown in the 1958 Meriden Journal ad above has to be one of the most popular Napier products.
The article shown above starts out by discussing a Napier musical baby cup and segues into a musical jigger that plays “How Dry I Am”. For the “man who has everything”. Taken from an October 1959 Meriden Journal.
Taken from an October 1961 St. Petersburg Times issue, the ad above shows raised finger jiggers signifying one or two ounce capacity.
The “cat-nip jigger” shown above is another one of my favorites. I believe it also came in a chubbier “fat cat” version. Taken from a July 1963 Ocala Star Banner.
So lest we not forget, this post started with mystery serving utensils (which are available at my Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna). If anyone has any suggestions as to what these might be used for, I’m all ears.
Update: Those mystery utensils have sold.
Two of the three Jigger spoons shown above are Napier. One is a silverplated three in one jigger, spoon and bottle opener. The other is a sterling jigger and muddler. Both available at my Etsy shop.