Horseshoe Plaque Trivets ~ Victorian Good Luck Mementos

Good Luck My Boy H.P. Trivet
Happy New Year 1888 H.P. Trivet
IOOF H.P. Trivet
Knights of Pythias H.P. Trivet
Good Luck H.P. Trivet
Example of a GAR Horseshoe w/Easel

Collecting Horseshoe Plaque Trivets is a fascinating hobby! It’s interesting to learn the history, practices and symbols of the different fraternal groups. And then there were the gift trivets … every year I find new examples: Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Home Sweet Home … the list seems endless.

Some Facts about Horseshoe Symbolism

? By the year 1000 AD cast bronze horseshoes, applied with nails, were being made in Europe.

? The number seven has long been associated with luck, so it’s not unexpected to learn that a horseshoe was commonly nailed in place (on the hoof) with seven nails.

? The original good luck Cast Iron Horseshoe was one lost by a horse. In order to be lucky it had to be discovered with the open end facing towards the finder. According to superstition it had to be hung by the same person who found it and with the open end up, in order to hold in the luck.

? The rules for purchased good luck horseshoes were a bit different. They could be hung as noted above or with the ends pointed downward, so that the luck would flow out to surround and protect.

? Horseshoes were thought to have the power to repel evil spirits. They were commonly placed over doorways and by chimneys to keep witches or fairies from gaining entrance to the home. A horseshoe nailed over the bed could protect against bad dreams and demons of the night. When used in this fashion the horseshoe ends had to point downward.

How to Identify a Horseshoe Plaque Trivet

Horseshoe plaque trivets differ from traditional trivets in that they are completely flat on the reverse … there are no feet: thus the designation plaque trivet. Some collectors claim that these horseshoe plaque trivets could have served the dual purpose of a sad iron stand: by turning them over, a hot iron could have rested on the flat surface. Is that true? I suppose we’ll never know for sure!

The majority of Horseshoe Plaque Trivets were manufactured from the mid 1800s through the early 1900s, peaking around 1890. They all share the basic horseshoe shape. Beyond that, designs varied according to the theme. Some were carnival prizes and might still bear traces of their original glitter. Others were fraternal emblems, lodge favors, commemoratives or were purchased as gifts. The American Eagle was featured atop many of these plaques, and Good Luck was a favorite sentiment.

Cast in iron, brass or bronze, most horseshoe trivets were six to seven inches in length, each weighing approximately one pound. Some had hanging rings attached to the reverse. Occasionally, larger ones were made for tabletop display, supported by a metal easel.

There were hundreds of different designs featuring fraternal symbols. Since many of those early organizations no longer exist, their histories, acronyms and symbolism can be difficult to research. A wonderful online reference is Richard Hartzog’s Complete List of Fraternal Organizations.

Searching for Horseshoe Plaque Trivets

The traditional place to discover these trivets has been the antique store/mall or flea market. Others would occasionally turn up at estate auctions. However, today the most convenient and efficient place to search is right here on the Internet. And, of course, the Search is half the fun! You’ll find them listed under various headings, such as horseshoe, horse shoe, plaque, paperweight, and wall hanger                                                       

 Lynn Rosack is a Worthologist who specializes in trivets and kitchenalia.