(click on photos to enlarge image)
ONE and ALL
Recently I acquired a very interesting 6" hand made
spoon which appeared to be a memento of a 100th
celebration. This spoon has led me on a far reaching
excursion into the development of modern medicine
including the founding of Johns Hopkins medical school,
the poetry of Walt Whitman, the cosmic consciousness of
Dr. Bucke and the ancient religious mystical
philosophies of the Buddha, Jesus and the Kabbalah as
well as Canadian history. The journey was interesting
and fascinating and ended up in quite a different place
than I originally expected
Around the turn of the 20th century, it was
fashionable to have 'souvenir' spoons to commemorate
certain events. Most of these spoons are wonderful
silver memorabilia of customs or events which appealed
to a wide variety of spoon collectors. Collectors of
these mementos occasionally discover custom made spoons
which were designed for specific individuals or to
commemorate family events.
This spoon had two engraved names, a date, a logo, and
other letters and it took extensive research to figure
it out. At the finial of the spoon is a stylized cross
which is often referred to as as a 'ringed cross'. This
type of cross has ancient roots in the Scottish, Irish
and Welch community and appears to have been adopted
into Christianity from its Celtic origins. 'The knotwork,
spirals and key patterns on the carved cross side of
[the] 7th or 8th century Pictish monument are usually
treated by scholars as a subject that can be described
and classified but is rarely interpreted. When the
meaning of the decorative elements are attempted the
academic scholar tends to be very cautious and will
often cite obscure references in ways that make their
text difficult to understand.'
Below the ringed cross is the date "14th Dec."
and below the day, the years "1806-1906". It was
immediately obvious to me that this was a 100th year
commemorative of something happening on Dec. 14.
The front of the handle is decorated with various
knots and patterns and the motto "one and all" is
The bowl is left unused on front and back.
Around the top edge of the ringed cross, we find the
words "Ellen Free Osler" deeply engraved in a plain
modernist style (unable to get a picture). On the back
of the ringed cross we find the words/letters "MeorRasdheDheu"
engraved in an older English style script. On the back
of the handle we find the name "Britton Vaughan
Abbott" in an engraving style popular at that time
The mark is an anchor, the letter "E" in a maple
leaf, and a rampant lion all of which are above the word
"sterling". Rainwater's "Encyclopedia of American
Silver Manufacturers" 3rd Edition identifies this
mark as belonging to J.E.Ellis & Co. of Toronto, Canada.
However this firm ceased operation in 1901 when the
contents were auctioned off, but we know this spoon was
created in 1906.
There was a 'successor'firm, P.W. Ellis of Toronto,
Canada which was incorporated in 1901 and I suspect that
this spoon was made by the P.W. Ellis company and they
used the 'old marks' for this commission.
Extensive research finally led to "Ellen Free Osler",
born to Rev. Featherstone Lake Osler and Ellen Free
Pickton Osler on Dec. 14, 1806 in England. Thus my
initial inclination that this was a spoon to commemorate
a 100th anniversary was confirmed. I later received
further confirmation that a major birthday celebration
was held to commemorate her 100th birthday.
At that time, a person living to 100 was a very rare
Mrs. Osler had nine children. The eighth, "William"
became one of the most famous doctors of all time.
"John S. Billings recruited William Osler in 1888 to be
physician-in-chief of the soon-to-open Johns Hopkins
Hospital and professor of medicine at the planned school
of medicine. Osler was the second appointed member of
the original four medical faculty, following William H.
Welch and preceding Howard A. Kelly and William S.
Halsted. He revolutionized the medical curriculum of the
United States and Canada, synthesizing the best of the
English and German systems.
Osler adapted the English
system to egalitarian American principles by teaching
all medical students at the bedside. He believed that
students learned best by doing and clinical instruction
should therefore begin with the patient and end with the
patient. Books and lectures were supportive tools to
this end. The same principles applied to the laboratory,
and all students were expected to do some work in the
bacteriology laboratory. Osler introduced the German
postgraduate training system, instituting one year of
general internship followed by several years of
residency with increasing clinical responsibilities.
William Osler’s book, The Principles and Practice of
Medicine, first published in 1892, supported his
imaginative new curriculum. It was based upon the
advances in medical science of the previous fifty years
and remained the standard text on clinical medicine for
the next forty years. In 1905 he accepted the Regius
Professorship of Medicine at Oxford University, at the
time the most prestigious medical appointment in the
English-speaking world. He left Maryland with warm
feelings for Hopkins knowing that his sixteen years
spent had laid a solid foundation for the future of
Hopkins medical education."
The Osler Library for the History of Medicine, based at
McGill University, Montreal, claims to be "Canada's
foremost scholarly resource in the history of medicine,
and one of the most important libraries of its type in
North America." The Library has at its core a collection
of 8000 works relating to the history of medicine
donated by William Osler.
I contacted the curator of that museum, Chris Lyons,
Assistant History of Medicine/Biomedical Ethics, Liaison
Librarian, Osler Library of the History of Medicine,
McGill University, and he answered some of my questions
about the spoon: "Thank you for your question[s]. I have
looked into the question of your spoon and discovered
that there were commemorative spoons made to celebrate
the 100th birthday of Ellen Free Osler on December 14,
1906. The birthday party was held in Toronto and her
living children, including Sir William Osler, and her
grandchildren and great grandchildren attended. Special
plates and spoons were given to all the descendents and
"have become treasured family memorabilia."
This information comes from Michael Bliss' biography of
Sir William Osler, "William Osler: A Life in Medicine"
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), P. 337.
Harvey Cushing's biography "The Life Of Sir William
Osler" (Oxford, 1925) says that Ellen Free Osler had
the spoons made. They had a Cornish cross for a handle
and came in three sizes for the 6 living children, 26
grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren (volume 2, p.
72). Britton Vaughan Abbott was one of the descendents.
She was the daughter of Georgina Pickton Osler and
Alexander Crever Abbott.
Britton was born on 15 January
1897. Georgina Pickton Osler was the daughter of
Featherstone Osler, who was one of Ellen Free Osler's
sons and a brother of William Osler, making Britton a
great granddaughter. This information is from "The
Descendants of Edward Osler(1734-1786) of Falmouth"
which was compiled by Paul McFarland in London, England
in 1993. I could not find anything on the significance
of "one and all" and "MeorBasoheDheu". I hope this helps.
Congratulations on obtaining such an interesting item."
This information tells us that spoons were distributed
to many of the descendents. Since this item is engraved
"Britton Vaughn Abbott", I suspect that she was
the recipient of this particular spoon.
was a famous dentist: "The study of bacteriology was
instituted as a new course for third year dental
students in 1896. Alexander Crever Abbott, M.D., Dr.
P.H., Sc.D. (1860-1935), the Pepper Professor of Hygiene
and Director of the Laboratory of Hygiene at the
University of Pennsylvania, was hired as the course
A. C. Abbott was one of the three founding
fathers of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now
the American Society for Microbiology) at a meeting held
at Yale University Medical School (December 27-29,
1899). He was instrumental in creating the first
graduate course in public health in the United States.
Several of his seminal works were The Hygiene of
Transmissible Diseases and The Principles of
Bacteriology which became the text for the dental school
course. This was the first textbook on bacteriology in
the United States. In 1897 a laboratory for
bacteriological work was included in the newly
constructed Dental Hall."
I was unable to find any information about Britton
Vaughan Abbott's life or any further information on her
Ellen Free Osler also had three other children who
became very important in Canada.
Britton Bath Osler is recognized as one of Canada’s most
distinguished trial lawyers. As a prosecutor he was
involved in numerous murder trials including the
conviction of Louis Riel, "the father of Manitoba", on
charges of treason following the North-West Rebellion of
1885. Riel was viewed sympathetically in the French
speaking regions of Canada, and his execution had a
lasting influence on relations between the province of
Quebec and the English speaking provinces of Canada.
Riel remains one of the most complex, controversial, and
ultimately tragic figures in the history of Canada.
Featherstone Osler (Jr.) was called to the bar in 1860
and made a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1879
and a Judge of the Court of Appeals in 1883. In 1880, he
had refused an appointment to the Supreme Court of
Canada because he didn't speak French. He retired from
the bench in 1910 and became president of the Toronto
General Trusts Corporation.
Edmund Boyd Osler started his career as a clerk at the
Bank of Upper Canada, where he stayed until 1867, when
the bank failed, and then as an independent financier
and stockbroker with different partners. He was involved
with many railroad projects and became president of the
Ontario and Quebéc Railway and later also director of
the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was also director of
the Toronto General Trusts Company and the Canada
North-West Land Company, and president of the Dominion
Bank. From 1896 until 1917, Edmund Osler was
continuously re- elected to the House of Commons as a
Conservative from West Toronto.
A google search turned up the phrase "one
and all" in one of Dr. Osler's many speeches.
He said: "to you who hear me now, and to you who
may elsewhere read my words, to you who do our
greatest work labouring incessantly for small
rewards in towns and country places, to you the
more favoured ones who have special fields of
work, to you teachers and professors and
scientific workers, to one and all through the
length and breadth of the land, I give you a
single word as my parting commandment. It is not
hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
not in heaven that thou shouldst say, ‘Who shall
go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us that
we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond
the sea that thou shouldst say, ‘Who shall go
over the sea for us and bring it unto us, that
we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very
nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,
that thou mayest do it [Dr. Osler is quoting
Deuteronomy] - charity."
I have not been able to determine conclusively
why the phrase "one and all" was used on a spoon
commemorating Mrs. Osler's centennial birthday
party, but assume that it was related to Sir
William Osler's relationship with Walt Whitman,
the famous poet.
The phrase, "one and all"
was also used by Walt Whitman in his most
important work, "Leaves of Grass": "The city
sleeps and the country sleeps, the living sleep
for their time, the dead sleep for their time,
the old husband sleeps by his wife and the young
husband sleeps by his wife; and these tend
inward to me, and I tend outward to them, and
such as it is to be of these more or less I am,
and of these one and all I weave the song of
I do not think this is co-incidental as Dr. Osler
was one of Walt Whitman's doctors and owned a signed
copy of "Leaves of Grass". According to Phillip
W. Leon in a treatise about an unfinished manuscript Dr.
Osler was preparing concerning his relationship with
Walt Whitman he stated: "William Osler served as one of
Walt Whitman's physicians from 1884, when he moved to
Philadelphia to become Professor of Medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania, until 1889, when he left
Philadelphia for Baltimore. Osler was introduced to
Whitman by a mutual friend, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke,
Whitman's avid disciple and biographer. After his stroke
of 1873, Whitman suffered from recurrent episodes of
illness (perhaps small strokes?).
Osler first paid a
call to Whitman's home in Camden at Bucke's request and
subsequently visited him on numerous occasions." Mr.
Leon also wrote "Whitman respected Osler, but did not
particularly like his sunny, optimistic bedside manner.
Osler respected Whitman, but for the most part did not
like his poetry. (Leon, however, discovered some
handwritten notes on Osler's copy of Leaves of Grass
that suggest Osler grew in his later years to appreciate
Leon's treatise and notes also
describe Osler's relationship with Dr. Bucke who was the
developer of a theory of "cosmic consciousness", and
this phrase certainly connotes such a consciousness
(note: the phrase is also used in a translation based
upon the Buddha's teaching).
The biggest mystery on the spoon are the engraved words/letters
Despite extensive investigation, I do not have a good
definition of these words. The words are not English and
I suspect that they are of indo-European origin and are
probably related to Dr. Bucke's theory of Cosmic
This part of the report is speculation as to the
meaning of these words.
Dr. Bucke's classic book, "Cosmic Consciousness: A
Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind", pub. 1901
(still in print) and is one of the leading books on
Briefly he contends "a third type of
consciousness among humans. There is, first, the simple
consciousness of existence and, second, a higher level
of self-consciousness. Bucke added a third and
profoundly higher level, 'cosmic consciousness', which
he believed to have been attained by only a few dozen
individuals by 1901. These include Jesus, Buddha,
Mohammed, Dante, Whitman, Francis Bacon, Blake, as well
as Bucke himself."
As far as I was able to determine, "meor" comes
from the old Kaballah mysticism of Judiasm and is
related to an elevated or redeemed position in cosmic
intelligence. I was not able to determine a meaning for
"Rasdhe" under this or various related spellings.
"Dheu" apparently has its roots from a spiritual
death and is related to the final separation of the
spirit/soul from the body which is a basic philosophy of
All of this somehow relates to the Hindu
cycle of rebirth [circle] re-interpreted into a modern
context of a spiral wherein time comes from somewhere
and goes to somewhere in a pattern which repeats (a
similar but not an exact repeat). Death and birth frame
the human life, but there is life before birth and life
after death. Death tells us that we, in life, are not in
control and Christ tells us that death is not in
control. According to the Buddha there is a unity in all
things thus the motto "one and all".
Thus, a simple spoon has the power to transcend
generations and give us a glimpse into the private
affairs of a thoughtful, productive family.
Wayne Bednersh - 2007 -
Wayne Bednersh is the owner of
SOUVENIR SPOONS MUSEUM website and author of books "Collectible
Souvenir Spoons - The Grand Tour" and "Collectible
Souvenir Spoons - Identification and values"
ADDENDA to ONE and ALL
After the publication of this article ASCAS members supplied further
information about this spoon:
NORMA YOUNG wrote:
No doubt a lot of people of Welsh, Scottish or Irish
descent will be writing.
The phrase "Meor Rasdhe Dheu" is an old phrase ---- it
means "The Great Grace of God" (ie be with you).
Another variation is Meor Ras Tha Duw (I'd think that is
a Welsh variation).
The Oslers indeed have links earlier to Swansea in Wales
before arriving in Canada.
The giveaway of 100% entirely British connection is the
Celtic crucifix. Its origin as a gift to celebrate Mrs.
Osler's 100th Birthday makes sense ------ a milestone
event for anyone to live that long in 1906.
As the Oslers were very "high Society", this would have
been something they would have commissioned to
distribute to all living offspring etc. as a memento
Will take argument with one bit of information: Britton
Vaughan far more likely be a male descendant (not female).
All the other early 20th century Osler descendants
having Britton as their first or 2nd Christian name were
male and continue to this date to be a male.
Georgina Pickton Osler, married the microbiologist
Alexander C.Abbott --- their son William Osler Abbott
was in the field of medicine with significant
association to Pennsylvania. There was a fair amount of
intermarriage between Canadians and Americans over that
1875-1925 period amongst Society.
My guess is that Britton Vaughan Abbott like so many
children died young and thus no track of his life exists
Georgina Osler Abbott would have equally dropped off the
radar screen as a lady in Society was only recorded for
events like birth, marriage, death and otherwise very
invisible. She died in the 1930s.
Its always easy to go into areas of exotic explanation,
sometimes they are plausible, but this spoon and its
simple clues over the design, motto and such tells us it
has far more to do with the old British traditions than
mystical or oriental association.
Norma L. Young
PS I have numbered, amongst my clients, descendants of
the Osler and other famous eastern Canadian families and
my father's mother was fluent Gaelic speaker.
Norma Young sent also another information:
just to say, Mr. Bednersh and I have been corresponded
more about my information also sent to him. The
difficulty with the motto translation is simply Gaelic
(as spoken in Wales, Ireland and Scotland) will have
many variations of spelling of words [in the written
form]. The Cornwall area of southern England has also
its own ancient language where a similar phrase was
used, but again the spelling similar but equally
DOROTHEA BURSTYN (President of The Silver Society of
On Wayne Bednersh' article some corrections about
Canadian firms have to be made:
James E.Ellis - was a Toronto firm which existed from
1848 to 1881. After that a son carried on a partnership
with M.T. Cain and the firm became ELLIS & Co., J.E. and
existed from 1881 - 1901.
The mark of this company is JEE, a lion passant and a
beaver mark. This company has no connection with
P.W.Ellis & Company, which was founded in 1879 and
existed until 1928, when it was sold to W.N.Stock - it
was one of the most successful Toronto jewellery and
silver company, a partnership of twin brothers Philip W.
and Mathew C.Ellis. Their mark was an E in the maple
leaf, an anchor and a lion passant.
In 1904 Gorham sued P.W.Ellis because their trade mark
was very similar to the one of the American firm. P.W.
Ellis also manufactured many flatware patterns
strikingly similar to Gorham patterns. The case was
heard in Toronto and P.W.Ellis & Co. won.
Mr. Bednersh takes his info from the third edition of
Rainwater, I want to mention that in the Fourth Revised
Edition of Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturer
by Dorothy E. Rainwater and Judy Redfield - most of the
erroneous information re J.E. Ellis and P.W. Ellis &
Co., have been corrected.