Fork, one of twelve

Fork, one of twelve

Louis-Julien Anthiaume, fork, one of twelve, 1784 (Thomas Jefferson Foundation)


Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolutions, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners (1991).

Barbara G. Carson, Ambitious Appetites: Dining Behavior, and Patterns of Consumption in Federal Washington (American Institute of Architects Press, 1990).

Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities.Vintage, 1992.

McWilliams, James E. A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America. Columbia University Press, 2005.

Fowler, Damon. Dining at Monticello in Good Taste and Abundance. University of North Carolina, 2005.

Shackel, Paul A. Personal Discipline and Material Culture: An Archaeology of Annapolis, Maryland, 1695-1870. Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1993. 


1. While a fork may seem quite insignificant, its presence is suggestive of a dramatic change in the dining habits of Americans. Discuss this transformation and discuss the ritual of dining at Monticello.

2. Using the Gunston Hall probate inventory database, survey a group of urban and a group of rural inventories looking for various forms of cutlery. Analyze how widespread fork usage was in the 1770-1800 period. What are forks made of? Is there a change over time? What conclusions can we draw about the refinement of Americans during this period?

3. While Jefferson was dining with a silver fork, the slaves living in the quarters at Monticello were dining in very different ways. Contrast the different dining experiences--manners and foodstuffs--of Jefferson and his slaves.

4. Put the fork in its material context. Using the Gunston Hall probate inventory database, discuss other dining implements that emerge over the course of the 18th century and how they relate to the development of the rituals of refinement.

Fork, one of twelve