Day 13 – The Billie Possum Spoon

In 1908, William Howard Taft beat out William Jennings Bryan to become the 27th President of the United States. At the time, the popularity of the stuffed bear named “Teddy” after Taft’s predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, was helping mass toy manufacturing become a huge new market.

Despite the bear’s success, experts thought that the clamor for Teddy would die out when Roosevelt left office. Toy manufacturers, naturally, looked to the next president (Taft) for its replacement.

Enter Billie Possum.

Billie was born, oddly enough, at a banquet for president-elect Taft in Atlanta in January 1909. Taft requested that the main course of the banquet be “taters and possum.” After he ate the entire 18-pounds of possum (by himself, I assume), he was presented with a small, stuffed replica of the weird little marsupial and was told that this was Billie Possum, the answer to the Teddy Bear.

This spoon, made by R. Wallace and Sons of Wallingford, Connecticut, was one of the many pieces of paraphernalia created in attempt to make Billie Possum a “thing.” Unfortunately, the Billie fad proved to be almost as unpopular as Taft’s presidency and didn’t even last the year.

The bowl of the spoon is engraved with “Riverside,” which I’d like to think is in California, where my grandparents were married at the Mission Inn, but seeing as how there are 17 other towns and cities in the U.S. with that name, the origin of this spoon may be lost to time.

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