Counted among the items recovered from the SS Republic were over 200 individual tin spoons, including the smaller demitasse variety, as well as 22 additional concretions comprised of spoons stacked together in a solid clump. Artifacts recovered from the sea are generally impregnated with corrosive salts that can be very damaging. Saltwater in particular, accelerates the deterioration of many metals. Lying on the Atlantic seabed for well over a century, as many of the spoons corroded, they became a cohesive mass combined with seabed sediments, minerals and organic materials.
The spoon cargo aboard the ship was very likely American made and produced of Britannia metal, a hard alloy of largely tin combined with small percentages of antimony and copper. Around the time of the American Revolution, the pewter typically used for making utensils and other tableware was replaced by Britannia, which is harder than pewter and was favored for its silvery appearance and smooth surface. Spoons have always been cast in molds, so the manufacture of spoons was not changed after the introduction of Britannia, but the improved hardness of the metal enabled lighter cross sections and newer styles. The spoons recovered from the wreck site appear to be the “Fiddle-back” style, one of the most common spoon styles found on archaeological sites from 1800-1860.
Much like the tableware consignment aboard the Republic, the spoons were also presumably intended for a New Orleans wholesale merchant hoping to rebuild a former trade or launch a new business. It is also possible the supplies were bound for further trans-shipment up the Mississippi River to the towns and trading posts of the Western Frontier.