table forkThis two-tined table fork purports to have come from the dowry of Mary Digges (1745-1805), who married Thomas Simm Lee in 1771.  Both were from prominent Maryland families; Lee later was elected the 2nd Governor of Maryland.   This fork, a matching fork, and a bladeless knife handle (also matching), were donated to the Historical Society in 1963 by Caroline Loughborough in memory of her father, Henry Loughborough.  Their family lived at Milton, an estate in Bethesda which is one of the two oldest homes still standing in Montgomery County (Milton and Edgewood, in Spencerville, seem to have some kind of grudge match over who is older; I won’t get into that here.  Supporters of each, feel free to send me your evidence and/or irritable emails because I didn’t bother to do my research this morning).

Forks with two tines were common for centuries, and were still used in the 18th century although the smaller, four-tined fork had been invented by then.  The donor suggests that these pieces were made in England in the 1730s.  The pistol-grip silver handle has a coat of arms engraved on the side.  The donor noted “I am sure it [the coat of arms] is Digges – but maybe not.”  I haven’t been able to identify a Digges or Lee symbol similar to the one on the handle here.  In a letter to our then-curator, Miss Loughborough detailed the somewhat convoluted path the tableware took to get to her hands.  Apparently these three pieces (and probably more, with pieces being lost or broken along the way) descended through three generations of Mary Digges Lee’s daughters; the great-granddaughter gave them to someone unrelated, who then bequeathed them to someone else unrelated, from whom Miss Loughborough “obtained” (donor’s somewhat ambiguous word) the three pieces she eventually gave to us.  Follow that? 

For more on Mary Digges Lee, visit this history written by the Maryland State Archives.  Someday I’ll find that coat of arms, or some Lee family inventories, and work out whether Miss Loughborough was correct.

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