To the Moon on a Spoon

Very little documentation can be found regarding the origins of this curious memento from the early days of science fiction. This is what I have uncovered.

It is a small sterling silver collector’s spoon that commemorates Jules Verne’s 1865 novel De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon) in which a group of stalwart adventurers travel to the Moon after being launched into space by a monstrous buried cannon.

Jules Verne Spoon Horz

Verne’s choice of launch site – Tampa, Florida – has always piqued people’s interest because of its relative proximity to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center from which the first actual manned moon mission was launched just over a century later. I suppose they did not call Jules Verne a visionary for nothing.

The spoon itself is rather diminutive measuring only about 3 7/8 inches (10cm) long with the bowl being about 7/8 of an inch (2.1cm) wide. Made as previously stated of sterling silver, it bears the patent date of 1891 on the handles reverse side and a tiny hallmark that appears to be a striding griffin with its front paw on a round cartouche with a “W” inside. This hallmark belongs to the silver smithing firm Whiting Company of New York (which was later absorbed by the Gorham Company).

Jules Verne Spoon Vert

The front side of the spoon bears the real interesting stuff. The bowl depicts the violent muzzle blast for the buried cannon and also has “JULES VERNE” spelled out is relief. Curiously, though not all that surprising are the tiny, actually minute figures of people scurrying away from the canon’s erupting muzzle. These figures are so small as to be almost invisible except under magnification.

Jules Verne Spoon Bowl

The shaft of the spoon’s handle bears the inscription “LUNA VIA TAMPA •FLA•”. The upper portion of the handle shows the projectile/capsule hurtling towards the Moon which is appropriately adorned with a man-in-the-moon face.

Jules Verne Spoon Handle

Interestingly this spoon also appears to have been used as basis for other silver firm’s creative efforts as evidenced by the candy or nut spoon shown below.

Jules Verne Leonardi Spoon

Issued by S. B. Leonardi & Company sometime after the 1891 patent date, the original Whiting spoon’s bowl was removed by Leonardi and replaced with the larger pierced bowl characteristic of a nut or candy spoon. It still bears the original Whiting cartouche and patent date but is also counter stamped by the Leonardi firm.

The fully restored version of Georges Méliès 1902 film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) which was much inspired by Verne’s novel. The film is presented here in its original frame by frame hand applied color and a new musical soundtrack.  

Using Water Guns at Gallipoli

Gallipoli was one of the many unmitigated Allied disasters of World War One. An attempt to knock the Ottoman Turks out of the war in 1915, the campaign suffered from ill planning and a serious miss-judging of the fighting spirit and abilities of the Turks when defending their homeland. While the campaign was indeed a bloody fiasco – it in part cost Winston Churchill his post as First Lord of the Admiralty – there was no shortage of valour or even ingenuity amongst the British, Australian and New Zealand troops who took part in the effort. Lance Corporal William Charles Scurry of the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force was a remarkable case in point.

AWM_P03143_William_Scurry

Above: William Charles Scurry after his appointment to Temporary Captain. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Born on 30 October 1895 at Melbourne, Scurry was an architectural modeler by trade and was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in the 58th Infantry (Essendon Rifles) before the war. Eager to get into action, he resigned his commission and enlisted as a private in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. He arrived at Gallipoli not long before the Allied command had decided to cut their losses and begin an evacuation of the front.

Any retreat in the face of a determined and capable foe in fraught with the highest risks but the Allied withdrawal was probably the most successful part of the campaign and a rather remarkable invention by William Scurry contributed greatly to that success.

self-firing-rifle

Above: One of Lance Corporal Scurry’s so-called drip guns which bought much needed time during the Allied withdrawal at Gallipoli. With a mechanism similar to ancient water clock, modified SMLE rifles like this example fooled the Turks into thinking the allied lines were still occupied. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

Below is an interesting and well produced animation recounting Scurry’s “Drip Gun” and its use in covering the final ANZAC evacuation from Gallipoli.

Below: A documentary produced by ABC Australia on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign highlighting William Scurry’s invention.

They also served. Rifles with no attending riflemen would not have fooled to Turks, A key element in Scurry’s ruse were the dummies made to help complete the illusion of fully manned positions.

Gallipoli Dummies

Above: Some Scurry’s decoy dummies. History is silent as to their eventual – and probably grim – fate in Turkish hands. Photo: Australian War Memorial.