Souvenirs aren’t what they used to be—brightly colored T-shirts, plastic key chains and snow globes have replaced dainty dessert plates, delicately engraved silver spoons, and glass paper weights bearing the image of East Hampton Village landmarks. Such fragile souvenirs are seldom found on the shelves of village stores like they used to be in the 19th and 20th centuries.
A small collection of these long forgotten items are now on display at the Home Sweet Home Museum for visitors and residents alike to see what mementos were like before mass production swept the country. East Hampton Village Historian and the director of Home Sweet Home Hugh King and Richard Barons, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, said this week that the collection offers a unique history lesson.
The display cabinet is filled with souvenirs that span 100 years, come from different countries and were sold in different local stores.
Saucers and platters picturing Town Pond and John Howard Payne, the writer of the “Home, Sweet Home” song, were sold at the Samuel A.Gregory & Co. store on Main Street. W.J. Hooper’s hardware store sold postcards and china pieces made in Germany around the turn of the century.
In addition to the many platters and saucers on display, there are hand-engraved teaspoons from 1900 and 1905 that depict the Clinton Academy and Home Sweet Home, and unusual mementos like a wooden cuff link box and a small Home Sweet Home plaque from the 1930s.
A glass paperweight with a fading picture of Home Sweet Home intrigues Mr. King the most.
“It’s probably one of the earliest images we have of Home Sweet Home,” he said, adding that it must have been made the late 1800s.
“People would take home a little bit of East Hampton,” Mr. Barons said at the museum on Friday. “Girls were given teaspoons for their birthdays and a number of people used to collect them.”
Mr. Barons said none of the items came to them from local sources. Many of them were found on eBay.com and were shipped from various places in the U.S., from Maine to New Mexico. Others were already in the Historical Society’s possession and sat behind cabinet doors in Home Sweet Home’s kitchen until recently, when museum officials decided to restore the kitchen and showcase them instead.
“More questions come to you than these souvenirs answer,” Mr. Barons said. “It was unusual to have souvenirs because East Hampton only had one big hotel and two small ones. It was always a place to build a cottage. There was no impetus to sell souvenirs.”
The Home Sweet Home Museum is open daily through September, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.