The Souvenir Mystery

While clearing out a chest on the screened porch, I ran across this small plaque. It belongs to Randy, and I have seen it frequently over the years. I had never paid it much attention and actually thought it was some type of old emblem for a Mac truck, since a passing glance made me think of the bulldog on the old Macs. The designs on the sides recalled to mind the ornate fins on hood ornaments or tail fins of the 50s. It was dirty, and had some type of oil or grease on it, and I could not tell there was an ornate design in the slightly indented oval center. I cleaned it up and for the first time, realized it was a lion, not a dog, and a scene of the canal in Venice. It is the Lion of Venice–a symbol of the city and patron saint Mark–with his paw resting on a book. Even without seeing Venezia, it was obviously a gondola on the water. On the flip side were words, written in Italian. Off and on Thursday and Friday, I searched for information that might lead me to identify its history. Rand and I have been married 40 years come September, and it has been in his possession since then.


Despositato can mean deposited, stored, settled, and in context, registering of a trademark or copyright. Although the letters are arranged in such a fashion as to look like single words, the actual words read: vietata la riproduzione meccanica which translates to “mechancial reproduction prohibited.” Venezia of course, is Venice. Using a variety of search terms, I eventually ended up with not this particular “souvenir pin tray” but enough examples to realize that is what it was.

Although true pin trays (that held the pins seamstresses used) have been around for a long time, the souvenir pin tray began in the early 1900s. Art Nouveau pin trays from New York City, England, and Paris are found in the 1910s. By 1930, Washington, D. C. and San Francisco had souvenir pin trays, and in 1933-34, many commemorative trays were produced for the World’s Fair in Chicago. I also located an undated example of a metal pin tray for Ricordo Di Roma: S. Pietro.

By Njsmith3 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0; retrieved from:

At some point, I realized the decorative pieces on the side were replicas of the prow-head of a gondola, rather than some Art Deco design. The above photograph is a different angle of the same scene as the tray. The bow iron at the front of the gondola is representative of:

  • Six metal lines : the 6 Sestieri di Venezia (the six districts of Venice)
  • Rear facing tooth shape: the Giudecca island area
  • All iron in the inverted “S” shape: reference to Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge
  • Upper part of iron: shape of the Doge’s hat (the ceremonial crown–corno ducale, a ducal hat worn by the chief magistrate and senior elected official)
  • Some more recent designs add three leaves: Murano, Burano, and Torcello, the famous islands of the lagoon (

Vintage post card views of the location:

When Rand got home yesterday, I asked him about the tray, and what he knew about it. He found it at his grandfather’s farm (the family homestead of his mother) and he did not know anything about it other than it was really old. I could only speculate as to how it might have ended up in Nimrod, Texas from Venice, Italy, but to my mind, someone brought it back from a tour of duty:

Mediterranean Stars and Stripes, February 16, 1944, p.

As it often is with me, the trail is sometimes the best part of the journey.

This entry was posted in Family, Statues and Memorials, Texas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Souvenir Mystery

  1. Beth says:

    Love this and the pictures that show the scene it depicts. Any remembrance of a family member serving in Italy or visiting there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Randy did not know about other family but his father was not there. I thought of him first. When I have a bit of time, I thought I would look at the service records, but there is no one left alive who would likely know by now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. socialbridge says:

    WOW, a fascinating tale. I hope you get to solve it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Betty says:

    What a wonderful keepsake and treasure! I don’t know if you’ll continue to pursue its origins, but if you do, good luck! And if you find out, be sure to write a post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Betty. I learned also while trying to find out that Randy’s great grandfather was born and raised in Mississippi, two counties over from where we live. He moved to Texas as a young man because land was cheap, which is also how my great-grandfather ended up in Texas from the next county over in Mississippi. Now that is a story! I will update this one if I learn anything new.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting indeed!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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