BANCROFT WOODCOCK & THE DELAWARE ANTIQUES SHOW
For more than fifty years, the Delaware Antiques Show’s recognizable trademark has been the image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak. This stylized motif derives from the design on the underside of a spoon in the Winterthur collection made by Bancroft Woodcock (1732–1817), a Quaker silversmith who worked in Wilmington, Delaware, from 1754 to the early 1790s. But why decorate the underside of a spoon? According to Winterthur Curator Emeritus Don Fennimore in Flights of Fancy: American Silver Bird-Decorated Spoons, the reason stems from a technical issue. On silver spoons, the juncture of the bowl and handle is a potential point of weakness because of the softness of the metal. Silversmiths therefore thickened that juncture to provide increased rigidity. They then made the area more attractive by ornamenting it with a variety of decorative motifs, including scrolls, shells, and images of birds. As stated by Fennimore, “In a brief but intriguing period between 1750 and 1830, imagery on the backs of English and American silver teaspoon and tablespoon bowls soared on the wings of birds.” Although numerous varieties of birds appear on English spoons, silversmiths in America invariably chose the dove with olive branch—a symbol of renewal and regeneration that has been used for millennia in both a religious and secular context. The Bancroft Woodcock dove with olive branch design was registered as the official trademark of the Delaware Antiques Show in 1964, the first year of the show. Since that time, the familiar insignia has continued to symbolize the quality and professionalism exhibited at this annual event.
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