How Quirky is Berkeley? Ken Stein’s souvenir spoon collection

Ken Stein Berkeley Souvenir Spoon Collection. Photo: John Storey
Ken Stein’s souvenir spoon collection. Photo: John Storey

Ken Stein is pure Berkeley. Cut him and he bleeds Berkeley. He has lived here since 1969, working for most of those years as a disability-rights advocate. He is a collector, a storyteller, and an historian — he is co-founder and past president of the Berkeley Historical Society. For seven years he was a commissioner and chairman of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Ken Stein. Photo: John Storey
Ken Stein. Photo: John Storey

One of his several collections is of Berkeley-themed souvenir spoons. Souvenir spoons convey a memory of a place or event, or serve as a travel trophy. They can be made from sterling silver, nickel or steel. Most of the spoons in Stein’s collection are sterling and most date from the 1890s through the 1910s.

The Greek Theater is the single most popular subject for the spoons. The theater was designed by John Galen Howard, the first university building of his, built and dedicated in 1903.

Greek Theater spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Greek Theater spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Postcard courtesy of Ken Stein
Postcard. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Stein

Several spoons depict Douglas Tilden’s Football Players sculpture from campus. Tilden created the sculpture in Paris, using Frenchmen as models. He offered it to the team that won two Big Games in a row. Cal won back-to-back in 1898 and 1899 and so the sculpture is ours, not Stanford’s.


Tilden football sculpture spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Tilden football sculpture spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Postcard courtesy of Ken Stein
Postcard. Photo: Curtesy of Ken Stein

Always popular with tourists and locals, the Claremont Hotel opened in 1915.  The architects were Charles William Dickey and Walter D. Reed.

Claremont Hotel spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Claremont Hotel spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Postcard courtesy of Ken Stein
Postcard. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Stein

It is no surprise that there is a spoon honoring the Campanile (Sather Tower) at UC Berkeley. John Galen Howard designed it. It was completed in 1914 and it opened to the public in 1917.

Campanille spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Campanile spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Postcard courtesy of Ken Stein
Postcard. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Stein

California Hall was opened in time for the fall semester in 1905. It was an original classical core campus building, part of the Phoebe Hearst master architectural plan.

California Hall spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
California Hall spoon. Photo: Ken Stein
Postcard courtesy of Ken Stein
Postcard. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Stein

The collection also includes spoons honoring the original Berkeley High School, Hearst Hall, the Upper Campus, the original library and Berkeley in general.

Stein talks about the spoons and what they depict with fervor and humor. It’s a great combination. He can cite manufacturer and date with ease, but he doesn’t imprison them with cataloging information. For him, they are living reminders of a young Berkeley, a living history.


Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-plus-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller version of this post with many more spoon photos and a special collection of photos of Stein posing with statues, see Quirky Berkeley.